All posts in “Apps”

Tinder tests ‘Swipe Surge’ in US to connect users during peak times

Tinder today announced the test of a new in-app experience it’s calling “Swipe Surge,” that will send notifications to users when there’s a spike in Tinder usage in their area. The feature is designed to allow Tinder to better capitalize on real-world events that drive increased usage – like music festivals, parties, or spring break holidays, for example.

The company says that it tested out sending push notifications to alert users about surge periods in its app back in 2016, and found that it resulted in users forming 2.5x more matches during a swipe surge.

Users also received nearly 20 percent more right swipes during these events, and they were 2.6x more likely to receive a message, Tinder noted.

Now it’s turning these push notifications into a real product with Swipe Surge.

In addition to the alerts designed to draw Tinder users into the app at the same time, the app will include “Swipe Surge” branding during the event. People who already joined the surge by responding to the push notification will then move to the front of the match queue, and Tinder will show you who’s currently active in the app.

Tinder says that activity during a surge is 15x higher overall, and increases matchmaking potential by 250%.

The company has been working to promote Tinder as a dating app for the younger demographic in recent months, with its marketing campaign focused on the “single lifestyle,” media publication “Swipe Life,” and a test expansion of Tinder U, its college student product.

The Swipe Surge test is underway now in major U.S. markets, says Tinder.

Facebook will pass off content policy appeals to a new independent oversight body

Facebook doesn’t want to be the arbiter of decency when it comes to content policy decisions, similar to how it looked to third-party fact checkers rather than becoming an arbiter of truth. Today on a press call with journalists, Mark Zuckerberg announced that a new external oversight committee would be created in 2019 to handle some of Facebook’s content policy decisions. The body will take appeals and make final decisions. The hope is that beyond the influence of Facebook’s business imperatives or the public’s skepticism about the company’s internal choices, the oversight body can come to the proper conclusions about how to handle false information, calls to violence, hate speech, harassment, and other problems that flow through Facebook’s user generate content network.

“I believe the world is better off when more people have a voice to share their experiences . . . at the same time we have a responsibility to keep people safe” Zuckerberg said. “When you connect 2 billion people, you’re going to see all the good and bad of humanity. Different cultures have different norms, not only about what content is okay, but also about who should be making those decisions in the first place.” He cites how use of a racial slur could be hate speech or condemning hate speech as the kind of decision Facebook could use help with.

Zuckerberg explained that over the past year he’s come to believe that so much power over free expression should not be concentrated solely in Facebook’s hands. That echoes his sentiment from an interview with Ezra Klein earlier this year when he suggested Facebook may need a “supreme court” to decide on controversial issues. Zuckerberg says he sees Facebook’s role as more akin to how a government is expected to reduce crime but not necessarily eliminate it entirely. “Our goal is to err on the side of giving people a voice while preventing real world harm” he writes. “These are not problems you fix, but issues where you continually improve.”

How The Independent Appeals Body Will Work

Zuckerberg describes that when someone initially reports content, Facebook’s systems will do the first level of review. If a person wants an appeal, Facebook will also handle this second level of review and scale up its systems to handle a lot of cases. Then he says “The basic approach is going to be if you’re not happy after getting your appeal answered, you can try to appeal to this broader body. It’s probably not going to review every case like some of the higher courts . . . it might be able to choose which cases it thinks are incredibly important to look at. It will certainly need to be transparent about how it’s making those decisions.

Zuckerberg said Facebook will be working to get the oversight body up and running over the next year. For now, there are plenty of unanswered questions about who will be on the committee, which of the many appeals it will review, and what ensures it’s truly independent from Facebook’s power. “One of the biggest questions we need to figure out in the next year is how to do the selection process for this body so that it’s independent . . . while giving people a voice . . . and keeping people safe. If the group ends up too tightly decided by Facebook it won’t feel like it’s independent enough.” Facebook plans to query experts and start running pilots of the next year to determine what approaches to codify.

Facebook launched an internal appeals system this year that let users request a second review when their content is taken now, and Facebook plans to expand that to allow people to appeal responses when they report other people’s content. But the new independent body will serve as the final level of escalation for appeals

[Update: Since we published this report, Zuckerberg has released a 5000-word letter describing his thoughts on Facebook policy, and the oversight body. You can read it below:]

Here’s the passage about the oversight committee:

In the next year, we’re planning to create a new way for people to appeal content decisions to an independent body, whose decisions would be transparent and binding. The purpose of this body would be to uphold the principle of giving people a voice while also recognizing the reality of keeping people safe.

I believe independence is important for a few reasons. First, it will prevent the concentration of too much decision-making within our teams. Second, it will create accountability and oversight. Third, it will provide assurance that these decisions are made in the best interests of our community and not for commercial reasons. 

This is an incredibly important undertaking — and we’re still in the early stages of defining how this will work in practice. Starting today, we’re beginning a consultation period to address the hardest questions, such as: how are members of the body selected? How do we ensure their independence from Facebook, but also their commitment to the principles they must uphold? How do people petition this body? How does the body pick which cases to hear from potentially millions of requests? As part of this consultation period, we will begin piloting these ideas in different regions of the world in the first half of 2019, with the aim of establishing this independent body by the end of the year.

Over time, I believe this body will play an important role in our overall governance. Just as our board of directors is accountable to our shareholders, this body would be focused only on our community. Both are important, and I believe will help us serve everyone better over the long term.

Avoiding Or Acknowledging The Weight Of Its Decisions?

The past year has seen Facebook criticized for how it handled calls for violence in Myanmar, harassment and fake news by conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, election interference by Russian, Iranian, and other state actors, and more. Most recently, the New York Times published a scathing report about how Facebook tried to distract from or deflect criticism of its myriad problems, including its failure to prevent election interference ahead of the 2016 Presidential race.

The oversight committee could both help Facebook make smarter decisions that the world can agree with, and give Facebook a stronger defense to this criticism because it’s not the one making the final policy calls. The approach could be seen as Facebook shirking its responsibility, or as it understanding that the gravity of that responsibility exceeds its own capabilities.

[Update: We’ve updated this story with information from Zuckerberg’s Blueprint letter.]

7 creative ways to organize your mobile apps

Try to find the Notes app on your phone — without using Spotlight search.

If you’ve spent more than a minute hunting for this across your home screens, you may want to consider organizing your iPhone for easy access.

With thousands of apps at our fingertips, they can quickly overcrowd our screens. Apps are designed to improve our lives and make us more efficient, but trying to find them in a mishmash collection of colorful icons can be time consuming.

Solve this problem by taking 15 minutes to clean out the jumble of app clutter, and find a homescreen organizational structure that works for you. After all, no one wants to be an app hoarder.

Here are seven creative ways to arrange your smartphone apps.

1. Verb-based folders

How to organize apps on iPhone: Folders labeled based on what you can do with those apps.

Image: screengrab / mashable

For some people, default category names such as “Productivity,” “Reference,” and “Utilities” are too vague.

Instead, take a second to think about what you use your phone for. Do you watch videos on YouTube? Listen to music? Read the news? Labeling folders with verbs such as “watch,” “play,” and “learn” can help you jump to the app you’re looking for infinitely faster.

2. Color coding

How to organize your phone: iPhone apps arranged by color.

Image: screengrab / raymond

Color coding isn’t just for notes, emails, and closets.

An app icon’s visual elements are specifically designed to be easily identified and memorable. Your mind associates colors much quicker than black and white name labels, and colors can help you navigate your phone faster.

The end result may be a smartphone with a rainbow color scheme, but you’ll see that color filing in your app organization may make your life run a little more smoothly.

3. Alphabetical order

Ways to organize your phone: ABCD...

Ways to organize your phone: ABCD…

Image: screengrab / ray wong

If you find comfort in an A-to-Z world, this method may be for you. Instead of manually alphabetizing your apps, here’s an easier way to sort them on the iPhone:

The icons that came with your Apple phone will be placed into their default locations, and your other apps will be sorted alphabetically.

If you like placing your apps in bins, another option is to create an “A” folder, “B” folder, etc.

4. How you hold your phone

How to organize iPhone apps: Think about how you (and your thumb) use your phone.

How to organize iPhone apps: Think about how you (and your thumb) use your phone.

Image: screengrab / steph bradley

Think about how you hold your phone. If it’s easier for you to open an app on the perimeter of your phone, then it may be best to place your frequently used apps strategically around the phone’s edges.

However, if you like to file away apps in folders, this may not be the ideal method for you.

5. Themed rows

Each row is for communications, photos, getting, around, or just similar-looking apps, like all the birds in flight in the fourth row.

Each row is for communications, photos, getting, around, or just similar-looking apps, like all the birds in flight in the fourth row.

Image: screengrab / GABRIEL SANCHEZ

If you aren’t a fan of using folders, you can use the themed row method to place related apps together.

Assign a specific genre or theme to each row, like “day planning.” By grouping similar apps, you can easily identify which row to navigate toward.

For example, your first row can be dedicated to day planning apps such as your calendars, to-do lists, and reminders. The second row could be dedicated to your favorite reading apps, and so on.

6. Frequency of app usage

This organizing of apps puts everything you frequently use center stage in a minimal layout.

This organizing of apps puts everything you frequently use center stage in a minimal layout.

Image: screengrab / Elliot Ronen

Organize apps on different home screen pages in order of how often you use them. To keep your iPhone clean and easily accessible, the goal is to have no more than three home screens.

Place the apps you use most on the first page of the home screen. This is also a great section to include apps you need to get to quickly, like your camera.

On the second home screen page, you can organize folders by categories and subjects. This can be home to apps that you don’t access as regularly as the apps on your dock or home screen.

The third screen can consist of apps you use the least. You can also put apps that distract you (like games) or apps that you’re trying to use less in this space.

7. Emoji folders

Headphones, cameras, paperclips, money-mouths, brains, airplanes, and more emoji let you know what's in those folders.

Headphones, cameras, paperclips, money-mouths, brains, airplanes, and more emoji let you know what’s in those folders.

Image: screengrab / lyzi diamond

You don’t have to label your app folders with just text. Instead, dazzle up your homescreen folders with emoji-themed labels.

For example, use the music note symbol for your music apps like Spotify and Pandora.

If you don’t want your emoji to stand alone, an alternative is to mix emoji pictures with words. The possibilities here are endless.

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fvideo uploaders%2fdistribution thumb%2fimage%2f86822%2f1166e58d cd52 4f7f b446 b68d73e0e579

Additional reporting by Sasha Lekach. Originally story published in 2014 and updated in 2018.

Spotify alums create Canopy content suggester that won’t steal your data

Personalization comes at a steep price. All your data gets sucked up into a company’s servers where they can do whatever they want with it. But Canopy is a new content discovery startup that’s invented impressive technology that lets it learn about you anonymously while all your data stays on your device. Built by the co-founder and CTO of Echo Nest, the music data startup Spotify acquired to power its recommendations, Canopy wants to turn privacy into a competitive advantage. It plans to equip any content app with its tech that crunches your biographical and behavior data on your phone or computer so all it sends along are clues to what you want to see or hear next.

But first, Canopy will launch its own proof of concept app early next year that suggests long-form articles and podcasts based on your taste and activity. “There hasn’t been a great solution to private discovery. We think the reason people haven’t been excited about privacy is that they haven’t seen the opportunities” says Canopy founder and CEO Brian Whitman. “We are totally changing the value exchange of the internet” adds Canopy’s head of product strategy and former Spotify Director Of Music Publishing Annika Goldman. Matrix Partners is betting on Canopy’s privacy-safe vision for the future, leading a $4.5 million seed round for the startup.

That seems wise considering Whitman built one of the world’s most beloved content recommendation engines: Spotify’s Discover Weekly. “I’ve been doing music recommendation stuff since 2000” Whitman tells me. He left in 2015, and started to become disallusioned about “how much power we had put in algorithmic decision making and personalization. All your information goes to their servers.” Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal only confirmed his views. “All this data is now being used against people. You’re getting bad recommendations, bad ads, and people are being radicalized.”

A year or two ago he started discussing the idea of building a content recommendation engine that didn’t require your actual data as inputs. He came up with a solution where “Instead of sending thousands of data points to the server we can keep all that personal data on your phone” Goldman explains. “Take Spotify for example. You listen to a song. It knows where you listened to that, it know how long you listened to it, it knows what you did next — all this stuff they don’t need to know to make music recommendations. We condense and summarize all that information and send it as a single vector – a effectively a summary of things you might like and we make it impossible to reverse engineer the vector to understand the data behind it.”

She likens the system to a model of the content world on Canopy’s servers. Rather than sending it your past activity, personal info, and intentions, it just sends a set of coordinates of where you want the recommendations to go next. The 11-person Canopy team is now building out its app that will ask you questions and watch your consumption behavior to tune its suggestions. Since podcasts and longer articles aren’t owned by any one service, they’re an easy starting point for Canopy, though it eventually hopes to be content agnostic. And since it never has to suck up your data, there’s no risk of it being stolen in a breach.

That’s a big selling point for Canopy’s software-as-a-service it plans to license its tech to other apps.”Being able to build a platform that can understand your data without the liability of user data is gamechanging” Whitman declares.

Still, the biggest question facing the company is “Do people really care about privacy?” Every day we learn of a new hack attack, data exposure, or company selling our private info, but we go right on surfing. Even Facebook’s growth rate has only dipped slightly in the wake of all its privacy troubles. But Goldman believes that’s because it’s become so overwhelming that people “have a head in the sand view on privacy. ‘Hh my god, all my data is out there. I’m at risk. What do I do about it?’ Well I want to give people a way to do something about it”. Namely, trust Canopy instead of the data grabbers.

But if people can’t be tought the value of privacy, it’s hard to see partners going to the trouble of buidling in Canopy’s system. Whitman admits that services would take a modest hit to their recommendation accuracy if they adopt Canopy. He’s hoping the long-term goodwill of users will offset that. On the horizon, he predicts “there’s a great awakening of awareness.”

Bunch scores $3.8M to turn mobile games into video chat LAN parties

The best parts of gaming are the jokes and trash talk with friends. Whether it was four-player Goldeneye or linking up PCs for Quake battles in the basement, the social element keeps video games exciting. Yet on mobile we’ve lost a lot of that, playing silently by ourselves even if we’re in a squad with friends somewhere else. Bunch wants to bring the laughter back to mobile gaming by letting you sync up with friends and video chat while you play. It already works with hits like Fortnite and Roblox, and developers of titles like Spaceteam are integrating Bunch’s SDK to inspire longer game sessions.

Bunch is like Discord for mobile, and the chance to challenge that gaming social network unicorn has attracted a $3.8 million seed round led by London Venture Partners and joined by Founders Fund, Betaworks, North Zone, Streamlined Ventures, 500 Startups and more. With Bunch already cracking the top 100 social iOS app chart, it’s planning a launch on Android. The cash will go to adding features like meeting new people to game with or sharing replays, plus ramping up user acquisition and developer partnerships.

“I and my co-founders grew up with LAN parties, playing games like Starcraft and Counter Strike – where a lot of the fun is the live banter you have with friends” Bunch co-founder and CEO Selcuk Atli tells me. “We wanted to bring this kind of experience to mobile; where players could play with friends anytime anywhere.” 

Bunch Team

Atli was a venture partner at 500 Startups after co-founding and selling two adtech companies: Manifest Commerce to Rakuten, and Boostable to Metric Collective. But before he got into startups, he co-founded a gaming magazine called Aftercala in Turkey at age 12, editing writers twice his age because “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” he tells me. Atli teamed up with Google senior mobile developer Jason Liang and a senior developer from startups like MUSE and Mox named Jordan Howlett to create Bunch.

Over a year ago, we built our first prototype. The moment we tried it ourselves, we saw it was nothing like what we’ve experienced on our phones before” Atli tells me. The team raised a $500,000 pre-seed round and launched its app in March. “Popular mobile games are becoming live, and live games are coming to mobile devices” says David Lau-Kee, general partner at London Venture Partners. “With this massive shift happening, players need better experiences to connect with friends and play together.”

When you log on to Bunch’s iOS app you’ll see which friends are online and what they’re playing, plus a selection of games you can fire up. Bunch overlays group voice or video chat on the screen so you can strategize or satirize with up to eight pals. And if developers build in Bunch’s SDK, they can do more advanced things with video chat like pinning friends’ faces to their in-game characters. It’s a bit like OpenFeint or iOS Game Center mixed with HouseParty.

For now Bunch isn’t monetizing as it hopes to reach massive scale first, but Atli thinks they could sell expression tools like emotes, voice and video filters, and more. Growing large will require beating Discord at its own game. The social giant now has over 130 million users across PCs, consoles, and mobile. But it’s also a bit too hardcore for some of today’s casual mobile gamers, requiring you to configure your own servers. “I find that execution speed will be most critical for our success or failure” Atli says. Bunch’s sole focus on making mobile game chat as easy as possible could win it a mainstream audience seduced by Fortnite, HQ Trivia and other phenomena.

Research increasingly shows that online experiences can be isolating, and gaming is a big culprit. Hours spent playing alone can leave you feeling more exhausted than fulfilled. But through video chat, gaming can transcend the digital and become a new way to make memories with friends no matter where they are.