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Everything you wanted to know about Facebook’s F8

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Zuckerberg made a few big announcements at Facebook’s F8 conference.

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What you missed at Facebook F8

On Tuesday, Facebook kicked off its annual F8 Developer Conference. San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center was abuzz with innovation and I was abuzz with excitement — and perhaps a few too many complimentary espresso shots — as I learned what the social media giant has been working on recently.

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Here’s a brief breakdown of what Facebook’s unleashed:

Camera Effects Platform

Get ready to look through your camera with a whole new lens: founder Mark Zuckerberg describes this feature as “the first mainstream augmented reality platform.” Using the built-in cameras on mobile devices, the Camera Effects Platform allows developers to create interactive experiences by layering art and technology over the real world.

Right now, these effects range from fun, flowery frames and silly faces to more advanced animated masks and borders.

Eventually, however, the goal is for the platform to be able to recognize objects and layer relevant information or animations over the physical scenery. Zuckerberg’s example was children sitting at breakfast watching sharks swimming in the milk of their cereal bowls. While that idea actually sounds a bit frightening to me, I’m kind of into the idea of Cap’n Crunch himself sailing jovially through my late-night snack.

Facebook Spaces

Because “VR is better with friends”. The company’s new social virtual reality platform lets you hang out with your friends even when you’re far away, but here’s the twist: you’re all cartoons.

Think The Matrix meets The Sims.

You can call your friends with Messenger and video chat with them when they’re in VR, and you can even take selfies of your cartoon selves during a VR chill sesh. And you thought BitMojis were cool.

Messenger 2.0

This one’s maybe the most relevant, considering Messenger is already used by 1.2 billion people every month. The popular platform now has a few new features:

  • Discover helps users browse through bots to find the best ones, find nearby places they can message, and businesses offering support
  • Chat extensions let people bring bots right into their conversations to handle mundane tasks like splitting payments, create shopping lists, ordering food or sharing music
  • Parametric Messenger Codes let businesses see which bots are being scanned the most

Then for all you nerds, here are some technical enhancements to Messenger:

  • Hand-over Protocol lets businesses work with multiple developers to make different experiences in one bot
  • ID Matching API lets businesses personalize communication with customers by pairing ASISs and PSIDs between an app and a bot that belong to the same business
  • Open Graph Template allows bots to send open graph content to threads directly
  • The Platform Design Kit is a new library of components for designing bots
  • Bots have access to referral information when users enter through Messenger Ads
  • Business owners can make primary CTAs other than “Message Us” on Facebook pages with bots, like “Shop Now” or “Get Support”

Overall, the theme of Facebook’s new features is, not surprisingly, building connections. Who would have thought that posting on a friend’s wall would one day evolve into hanging out with them in your own private animated world? And this is just the beginning.

#F8

Helen Irias is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a degree in English Literature from University of California, Santa Barbara. She works in marketing in Silicon Valley and hopes to one day publish a comically self-deprecating memoir that people bring up at dinner parties to make themselves sound interesting.

Social Media

Zillow launches real estate brokerage after eons of swearing they wouldn’t

(MEDIA) We’ve warned of this for years, the industry funded it, and Zillow Homes brokerage has launched, and there are serious questions at hand.

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Zillow Homes was announced today, a Zillow licensed brokerage that will be fully operational in 2021 in Phoenix, Tucson, and Atlanta.

Whoa, big huge yawn-inducing shocker, y’all.

We’ve been warning for more than a decade that this was the end game, and the company blackballed us for our screams (and other criticisms, despite praise when merited here and there).

Blog posts were penned in fiery effigy calling naysayers like us stupid and paranoid.

Well color me unsurprised that the clarity of the gameplan was clear as day all along over here, and the paid talking heads sent out to astroturf, gaslight, and threaten us are now all quiet.

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Social Media

We watched The Social Dilemma – here are some social media tips that stuck with us

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Here are some takeaways from watching Netflix’s The Social Dilemma that helped me to eliminate some social media burnout.

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Neon social media like heart with a 0

Last weekend, I made the risky decision to watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I knew it was an important thing to watch, but the risk was that I also knew it would wig me out a bit. As much as I’m someone who is active “online,” the concept of social media overwhelms me almost more than it entertains (or enlightens) me.

The constant sharing of information, the accessibility to information, and the endless barrage of notifications are just a few of the ways social media can cause overwhelm. The documentary went in deeper than this surface-level content and got into the nitty gritty of how people behind the scenes use your data and track your usage.

Former employees of high-profile platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, and Pinterest gave their two cents on the dangers of social media from a technological standpoint. Basically, our data isn’t just being tracked to be passed along for newsletters and the like. But rather, humans are seen as products that are manipulated to buy and click all day every day in order to make others money and perpetuate information that has astronomical effects. (I’m not nearly as intelligent as these people, so watch the documentary to get the in-depth look at how all of this operates.)

One of the major elements that stuck with me was the end credits of The Social Dilemma where they asked interviewees about the ways they are working to eliminate social media overwhelm in their own lives. Some of these I’ve implemented myself and can attest to. Here’s a short list of things you can do to keep from burning out online.

  1. Turn off notifications – unless there are things you need to know about immediately (texts, emails, etc.) turn it off. Getting 100 individual notifications within an hour from those who liked your Instagram post will do nothing but burn you (and your battery) out.
  2. Know how to use these technologies to change the conversation and not perpetuate things like “fake news” and clickbait.
  3. Uninstall apps that are wasting your time. If you feel yourself wasting hours per week mindlessly scrolling through Facebook but not actually using it, consider deleting the app and only checking the site from a desktop or Internet browser.
  4. Research and consider using other search tools instead of Google (one interviewee mentioned that Qwant specifically does not collect/store your information the way Google does).
  5. Don’t perpetuate by watching recommended videos on YouTube, those are tailored to try and sway or sell you things. Pick your own content.
  6. Research the many extensions that remove these recommendations and help stop the collection of your data.

At the end of the day, just be mindful of how you’re using social media and what you’re sharing – not just about yourself, but the information you’re passing along from and to others. Do your part to make sure what you are sharing is accurate and useful in this conversation.

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WeChat ban blocked by California judge, but for how long?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) WeChat is protected by First Amendment concerns for now, but it’s unclear how long the app will remain as pressure mounts.

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WeChat barely avoided a US ban after a Californian judge stepped in to temporarily block President Trump’s executive order. Judge Laurel Beeler cited the effects of the ban on US-based WeChat users and how it threatened the First Amendment rights of those users.

“The plaintiffs’ evidence reflects that WeChat is effectively the only means of communication for many in the community, not only because China bans other apps, but also because Chinese speakers with limited English proficiency have no options other than WeChat,” Beeler wrote.

WeChat is a Chinese instant messaging and social media/mobile transaction app with over 1 billion active monthly users. The WeChat Alliance, a group of users who filed the lawsuit in August, pointed out that the ban unfairly targets Chinese-Americans as it’s the primary app used by the demographic to communicate with loved ones, engage in political discussions, and receive news.

The app, along with TikTok, has come under fire as a means for China to collect data on its users. U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stated, “At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”

This example is yet another symptom of our ever-globalizing society where we are learning to navigate between connectivity and privacy. The plaintiffs also pointed out alternatives to an outright ban. One example cited was in Australia, where WeChat is now banned from government officials’ phones but not others.

Beeler has said that the range in alternatives to preserving national security affected her decision to strike down the ban. She also explained that in regards to dealing with national security, there is “scant little evidence that (the Commerce Department’s) effective ban of WeChat for all US users addresses those concerns.”

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