Twitter leaves its nest

Twitter has changed (again). It seems as though with every recent interface update, Twitter glided away from its original path. First, the favorite star was replaced by a heart, then the egg avatar was cracked and abandoned, only to be replaced by a generic profile icon and now literally everything else has changed! There’s no more perch on the birdhouse for the bird to sit on, the quill has completely vanished, and the reply is a generic speech bubble.

 

Why it’s hot:
Twitter’s interface was intriguing because it was different. But change is inevitable and supposedly the new interface is meant to drive more user interaction by making it easier to use. But is it really easier? Or are things just now unnecessarily bolded, rounded, and strangely thin? Has Twitter completely destroyed it’s nesting ground or is this just a migration towards something better?

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the new layout – I feel as though they’re telling me to get my eyes checked because of all the unnecessary bolding going on. But I guess that’s the least of my worries when there’s an orange man with very tiny hands who thinks his 140 character Tweets about “alternative facts” are life changing.

Article: https://www.wired.com/story/twitter-redesigned-itself-to-make-the-tweet-supreme-again/

The Incredible Weed Whacking Robot

Tertill Cutting a Weed

The ‘Tertill’ by Franklin Robotics is an autonomous robot that takes care of those pesky weeds growing in your garden. It’s solar-powered and waterproof, so you can leave it outside without worry.

Created by roboticist Joe Jones – inventor of the Roomba – Franklin Robotics’ Tertill is designed to live in your garden and take care of the weeding, come rain or shine.

Tertill patrols the garden daily, avoiding plants and obstacles while looking for weeds to eliminate. Tertill has a very simple method: weeds are short, plants are tall. A plant tall enough to touch the front of Tertill’s shell activates a sensor that makes the robot turn away. A plant short enough to pass under Tertill’s shell, though, activates a different sensor that turns on the weed cutter. A guard placed around smaller plants keeps them safe from Tertill.

Tertill has raised over $78,000 of its $150,000 goal on Kickstarter.

Why Its Hot

Just another way robots are changing the way we work. With AI and robots already replacing humans in everything from factories to bars and restaurants, soon we won’t even be doing our own gardening at home.

 

Insta leans into Influencers

Today, Instagram rolls out a new feature that will now tell you who’s getting paid to post. I.e. You see your favorite Instagram model is going to a music festival in the Bahamas, and the post itself will have a call out to the sponsorship.
 
WHY IT’S HOT:
In addition to contributing to the suite of ad products Instagram currently provides to advertisers, this feature will explicitly note partnerships, sponsorships and paid product placement– and will hopefully mark the beginning of the end of the #ad hashtag. influencer marketing tends to be covert and transparency has at times been an issue. But instead of trying to fool consumers, Insta is leaning into its place as the natural outlet for bloggers and brands alike to reach their audience.

Amazon Goes Offline with a Physical Bookstore

After helping drive many U.S. bookstore chains out of business, Amazon has been opening its own retail stores recently.

Its first Amazon Books location in New York City opened in Manhattan’s Shops at Columbus Circle, which was previously home to a pretty large — and now closed — Borders Books and Music.

A customer review, the number of total Amazon.com reviews and a star rating are displayed under each book on the shelf. All the books in the store either received four-star ratings and above on Amazon.com, or come from lists of best sellers or a hand-curated selection of new, yet-to-be reviewed titles.

The brick-and-mortar locations aim to provide a “mecca of discovery” for book lovers, according to Jennifer Cast, vice president of Amazon Books. The books all have the covers, not the spines, facing out, to encourage browsing —even though the store could have fit as many as 5,000 more titles if books were displayed the conventional way, Cast said.

Why It’s Hot:

Though it’s possible to check out like a regular bookstore, Amazon Books offers significant discounts to Amazon Prime members. This provides a strong incentive for customers to join Amazon Prime — a program that analysts say prompts more spending on Amazon.com.

Experts say that by converting just two or three dozen customers a day to Prime would result in a tremendous growth in revenue. Customer lifetime value for most Amazon customers is in the low thousands of dollars.

No One Lies to Google

Recently Vox came out with an article interviewing Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. Who said that polling that predicted Hillary Clinton’s win might have been up ended if pollsters had been exposed to data from Google.

Stephens did a deep dive into Google Trends under the hypothesis that people lie to pollsters, but they don’t lie to Google. He saw trends in increased searches of racial epithets and analyzed area data to find intent to vote (searching for polling places, researching candidates, etc.)

“There was a darkness and hatred that was hidden from traditional sources,” Stephens-Davidowitz says. “Those searches are hard to reconcile with a society in which racism is a small factor.”

When asked what he sees as his most startling finding…

I’m pretty convinced that the United States has a self-induced abortion crisis right now based on the volume of search inquiries. I was blown away by how frequently people are searching for ways to do abortions themselves now. These searches are concentrated in parts of the country where it’s hard to get an abortion and they rose substantially when it became harder to get an abortion. They’re also, I calculate, missing pregnancies in these states that aren’t showing up in either abortion or birth rates.

Why It’s Hot:

We are at a point of crisis in polling and electoral faith, if we have Google data to help us match results this might restore confidence in our system. This also can help point us to where people are under served or suffering in our country. By keeping anonymity, this lie free data collection keeps users protected but could use data for good…. or bad, I guess.

Source: https://www.vox.com/conversations/2017/6/13/15768622/facebook-social-media-seth-stephens-davidowitz-everybody-lies

Instagram has no shame.

Instagram has added lenses and father’s day stickers, similar to Snapchat.

The new lenses include a road trip filter, old man filter, dog filter (cough cough Snapchat rip off), a bear filter, sleepy time filter, and rainbow filter. Most filter are animated and bring the 2D lenses to life.

This is me as a dad, driving through my hood.

The update is available now! So hope on Instagram stories and take these new features for a test drive.

Why its hot?

  • Its only a matter if time before they start offering sponsored filters/lenses to brands.
  • It’s pretty crazy how much Instagram stories copies features from Snapchat but no one really cares because Instagram stories is doing so much better. Brands are going to be where their fan base is and a majority of brands have grown their following on Instagram.
  • It will be interesting to see where Instagram takes this with brands.

BONUS! Eater NYC justput out some really great article that I thought you could all benefit from…

  • Where to get $1 oysters (heck yes!): https://ny.eater.com/maps/dollar-oyster-deals-in-nyc-mapped
  • 27 Best Happy Hour specials in NYC (dont have to tell me twice): https://ny.eater.com/maps/happy-hour-nyc-best
  • Best ice cream in NYC rated. (you scream, ice scream): https://ny.eater.com/2017/6/15/15808630/new-york-ice-cream-ranked

4 Reasons People Watch Gaming Content on YouTube

Gaming videos are a head-scratcher. Why watch someone play when you could just … play? To find out, we asked gamers directly. This new research uncovers four key reasons people watch gaming content. For brands marketing to gamers, knowing these motivations can enable more meaningful connections.

1. For the community—to be part of something larger than oneself

2. For the inclusion—to feel accepted

3. For the fun of it—to escape

4. For the desire to improve—to learn new skills

Why It’s Hot: The implications for brands are real. Gamers are a highly influential audience with major purchasing power. But to truly connect requires knowing a bit more about why people are tuning into game-related video content.

Related article: Why Gamers Should Be Part of Your Audience Strategy 

 

Prepare to be a dog parent with Lola the AI mutt

AI isn’t just for setting reminders and asking general questions like with Alexa. We’re starting to see talking bots that specialize and focus on narrower tasks.

Not sure if you’re ready to have a dog? Get Lola on Google Home and see if you’re up for the task.

The whole point of Lola is to make people aware of what it’s really like to be a dog owner — random non-stop barking and all — before they take on the full responsibility. The bot will even throw in a joke every once in a while to keep you entertained.

The bot is not about selling stuff, it’s about training adults and kids before they adopt a dog. Lola will tell users it is going to run around in circles and chase a butterfly while they try to go for a run, and details other weird things dogs do on the regular.

Why It’s Hot: 
  • This bot shows us that bots can/will become more task-specific in the way apps have become more tailored to individual needs.

Bonus: Watch this video of a goldfish controlling a hammer.

OR this orchestra covering Daft Punk

Not Hot: Amazon’s ironic patent

Amazon’s long been a go-to for people to online price compare while shopping at brick-and-mortars. Now, a new patent granted to the company could prevent people from doing just that inside Amazon’s own stores.

The patent, titled “Physical Store Online Shopping Control,” details a mechanism where a retailer can intercept network requests like URLs and search terms that happen on its in-store Wi-Fi, then act upon them in various ways.

The document details in great length how a retailer like Amazon would use this information to its benefit. If, for example, the retailer sees you’re trying to access a competitor’s website to price check an item, it could compare the requested content to what’s offered in-store and then send price comparison information or a coupon to your browser instead. Or it could suggest a complementary item, or even block content outright.

You can read the entire patent here.

Why it’s not hot?
Amazon’s patent also lets the retailer know your physical whereabouts, saying, “the location may be triangulated utilizing information received from a multitude of wireless access points.” The retailer can then use this information to try and upsell you on items in your immediate area or direct a sales representative to your location.

It’s the very sort of thing that Amazon itself protests. Amazon is among companies that signed ‘day of action’ against FCC’s planned rollback of net neutrality rules
https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/6/15745974/net-neutrality-day-of-action-tech-companies

Increasing Organ Donation With a Check Box

Over 22 people die everyday in the United States as they wait for an organ transplant. This area of medicine is a particularly tricky version of supply and demand. But what if a simple check box was all it took to help increase the supply to the thousands on waiting lists?

Enter Libertarian Paternalism. Initially coined by economist Richard Thaler and legal scholar Cass Sunstein, this is the idea that ones behavior can be affected without removing ones freedom of choice.

“it tries to influence choices in a way that will make choosers better off, as judged by themselves”

Many countries have used this method to increase organ donation with a simple check box. They have moved to an “opt-out” method – meaning citizens must choose to NOT donate. This is  behavioral economics in practice. Law makers can influence behavior, but citizens still have the freedom to chose.

So what difference does this slight wording make? In Austria who employs an “opt-out” method, has over a 97% rate of citizens sighed up for organ donation. Neighboring Germany? Only 12%. One can assume that cultural attitudes and customers between these countries have similar feelings on organ donation. The only difference? Opt-out vs. opt-in policies.

Using the theory of Libertarian Paternalism to set “defaults” can be a powerful tool and should be used with respect. We must remember that as problem solvers we hold the ability to not only work through complex issues, but also “nudge” people in one direction or another.

Amazon is rolling out a Dash Wand with Alexa to make you buy everything

ake Amazon wants its Prime subscribers ordering from its online store all the time, so it just cooked up a new device to help them do exactly that — and it’s essentially giving it away for free.

The company just launched a new instant-ordering gadget, the Dash Wand, that lets you fill up your Amazon shopping cart by using voice commands or scanning barcodes on the packages you have sitting in your kitchen cupboards.

The Dash Wand is essentially an updated version of the OG Amazon Dash wand that debuted in 2015, but this newer version crucially adds Amazon’s artificially intelligent assistant, Alexa, to help out. The digital assistant can sync your shopping list across Amazon devices, convert units of measurement, and search for recipes.

This is a huge upgrade for Amazon’s instant-ordering devices. The original Dash was significantly bigger, cost more than twice as much as this new one, and only worked with AmazonFresh orders.

Amazon’s really pushing the Wand, offering a similar deal to previous promotions for its instant ordering Dash buttons. If you buy a Dash Wand for $20,  you’ll qualify immediately for $20 credit for your next purchase after registering the device. It literally pays for itself — and you can opt-in for a free 90-day AmazonFresh trial, which typically costs $15 per month. It’s actually a pretty great deal for anyone with a Prime subscription.

The Wand is also magnetic, so it can live on your fridge close to all of your most frequently ordered foods, and its Alexa access makes it more useful than the Dash buttons, which are restricted to one item instant ordering.

You don’t get the full Alexa experience here, though. The Wand can’t play music, and its press-button functionality means it won’t automatically respond to the genial “Hey, Alexa” wake command.

It might sound ridiculous that the company is essentially giving the Wands away with all the discounts and incentives, but it’s a savvy business move. Making the shopping experience easier and offering a new Alexa toy to play with will only drive up orders, as if Amazon needs any help to keep its business afloat.

Source: Mashable

Why It’s Hot

Connected AI experiences make the virtual assistant craze more useful. Amazon is pushing forward on many different ways to connect Alexa with other platforms, and this is a great example of a type of utility that in a few years we will wonder how we lived without.

 

This App Has Moved Over 333 Million Pounds of Food

Americans toss out, on average, 72 billion pounds of safe, edible food each year. Around 52 billion of those pounds flow from manufacturers, restaurants, and grocery stores into landfill. Feeding America is a nonprofit that reaches the 42 million people in the U.S. who struggle to afford food through managing 60,000 partner organizations and efforts. They have developed a new tech platform called MealConnect to streamline food donations from stores and restaurants to those in need. They have facilitated 737,000 pickups and moved over 333 million pounds of food–enough for 278 million meals.

MealConnect officially launched in early June after a 3-year pilot period. It is a platform that acts as a dashboard to manage the flow of excess food in the communities around Feeding America’s food banks. Accessible in both website and app form, MealConnect allows business donors—whether it’s a retail chain like Chipotle, a local shop, or a farmers market—to create a free account, where they can upload information about excess food they have to donate, and select a date and time they’d like it to be picked up. On the Feeding America side, an algorithm sorts through the available donations and matches them with a partner organization, like a soup kitchen, based on need and timing. Once a donation is matched with a partner, someone from the partner agency will drive to collect the excess food from the source.

Before MealConnect, if a restaurant offered leftover food, they’d have to call the food bank, and the entire process might take a long time through a series of phone calls. On the app, donors snap a picture of the food, and fill out the reason for donation, ingredients, and sell-by data, if possible (for retailers who tend to consistently have the same type of food to donate; they can also include instructions for pickup logistics. For each donor account, their donations live on a dashboard they can access to view past transactions.

So far, the platform has facilitated 737,000 pickups and moved over 333 million pounds of food–enough for 278 million meals.

The platform was developed with a $1.5 million grant from Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org; another $1 million grant from General Mills will help it scale out to more communities and organizations. Feeding America is hoping to make significant progress in solving hunger – its goal is to save around 2.8 billion pounds of food each year and end “food insecurity” by 2025.

Why it’s hot: This is an awesome example of using technology to simplify a dated process, and works towards getting wasted food into the hands of people that need it. Hopefully this platform is able to work towards solving a fundamental problem in the U.S.

Source: Fast Company

Spray-On Skin

While spray-on tans have been around for years, spray-on skin seems to be on the horizon. RenovaCare has developed a “Cell Mist” that sprays stem cells onto burn wounds. This process is more effective in regrowing skin that functions as the original skin did and is much less painful and faster.

 

Why it’s hot:

  • It’s less painful, faster and more efficient than skin grafting. Overall a great development for burn victims.
  • We tend to focus on tech gadgets made of metal and microchips, but this example reiterates what advancements in medical tech can do.
  • It’s interesting that they chose a spray gun to dispense the stem cells. I wonder what the design process looked like and what other options they considered. What other types of designs will we see and this type of technology evolves?

A Small Lesson in Listening and Content Strategy

Sometimes repurposing an asset for social isn’t as cut and dried as a quick video edit. 

Care.com, a website for sourcing home help like childcare, senior care, housekeeping and pet care, ran a video ad on Facebook. To the audience they served it to [twice] it came off tone deaf. It’s a Facebook spec-friendly version of a longer length commercial. The captions that appear over the video read, “Look at Mom and Dad. Cleaning the house on a Saturday, instead of playing with me.”

  

What did they do wrong?

  • The ad appears to tactlessly leverage a pouty, sad little girl to guilt parents into hiring a housekeeper. Does guilt really inspire action and create a positive brand connection? It’s a risky gamble, especially in social.
  • The Facebook edit fails to consider how the content comes off without the context of of the longer-form commercial. Repurpose with care.
  • They ran the same ad before, and got the same response. Then changed nothing, and ran it again (without responding to community comments). Maybe they targeted the wrong people?
  • The ad goes against the advice and values they push in their own web contentas directly pointed out by viewers of the ad. 
  • There’s also a typo. Oops.

Why it’s hot: It’s not that hot, but I saw this ad twice and it bugged me enough to keep me thinking about it. It annoyed me as a parent, sure. But it annoyed me more as a content strategist. Not sure how much was spent on this, but the investment could have had way more impact and positive feedback.