All posts in “Social”

Skype’s much-debated redesign hits the desktop


In June, Microsoft introduced a completely revamped version of its Skype app, designed with a heavier focus on media-sharing, and other social expression tools, like emoji, reactions, and even a Snapchat-like stories feature. Now that new experience is rolling out to desktop users, but in a more limited fashion, Microsoft announced this morning.

The new desktop app introduces an updated user interface that’s meant to give Skype a more youthful feel. Group chats are multi-colored. Bright, squiggly lines are used to indicate when contacts are typing or to separate out unread messages, among other things. Chats are given more prominent billing. Emojis can be used to ‘react’ to what others are saying while in video calls or in text conversations.

These changes, when Skype’s update arrived on mobile, were too radical for many users. The app suffered from poor reviews on the App Store and Google Play, with many accusing the company of having Snapchat envy.

But there are some additions that will be useful in the new Skype desktop, despite all this social app envy. For example, a new media gallery can be viewed on the right side of a group chat, which makes it easier to locate shared files, like documents, spreadsheets, photos or other media, that had been posted into the group.

However, this gallery is a bit too jazzy…when it’s empty, it has a busy, squiggly line-filled background that seems entirely unnecessary.

Group calling has gotten a makeover too, with support for real-time screen and photo sharing, and of course, emoji reactions that pop up as a temporary overlay on the screen. (Which you probably should not use during work calls, okay?)

Skype is also adding support for @mentions – something that’s become a convention in social and communication apps, whether work-related or not. Most major apps today – like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Slack, etc. – support this functionality, so it makes sense to bring it to Skype, too.

When you first launch the new app, you can pick between a light or dark theme – the latter which has become a popular choice for social apps as of late, with dark themes appearing on services like YouTube and Twitter.

When you want to start a chat, group or call, you now do so from a plus button on the top left. Here, you can also find Skype’s list of available bots, like those for travel, work, entertainment and gaming.

One more prominent feature that was a key part of Skype’s mobile makeover, however, is missing: Highlights.

This was Skype’s Snapchat-like take on Stories. The idea is that users would snap a photo or video, decorate it with text and stickers, then share it by posting to Highlights, where your followers can view it at any time.

But don’t get too excited if you were hoping to avoid the Stories takeover of social media. Microsoft tells us Highlights is still in the works for the desktop app. It and other new features, will arrive in future previews, a spokesperson says.

The desktop app is rolling out today as a Skype Preview for Mac users and those with non-Windows 10 PCs. Windows 10 users already received some of the newer features in last month, Microsoft notes.

Android newbie HMD’s Nokia 8 flagship lets you livestream ‘frontbacks’


Rebooting the venerable Nokia smartphone brand has not been a rush job for HMD Global, the Foxconn-backed company set up for the purpose of licensing the Nokia name to try to revive the brand’s fortunes on smartphones.

But after starting with basic and mid-tier smartphones, it’s finally outted a flagship Android handset, called the Nokia 8, which it will be hoping can put some dents in Samsung’s high end. And/or pull consumers away from Huawei’s flagships handsets — or indeed the swathe of Chinese OEMs surging up the smartphone market share ranks.

With the Nokia 8, HMD is putting its flagship focus on content creators wanting to livestream video for their social feeds.

Competition in the Android OEM space has been fierce for years and there’s no signs of any slack appearing so HDM faces a steep challenge to make any kind of dent here. But at least it now has an iron in the fire. As analyst CCS Insight notes, the handset will be “hugely important in getting Nokia-branded smartphones back on the mobile phone map”.

Specs wise, the Nokia 8 runs the latest version of Android (Nougat 7.1.1) — which HMD is touting as a “pure Android experience”, akin to Google’s Pixel handsets. (There’s a not-so-gentle irony there, given Nokia’s history in smartphones. But clearly HMD is going full in on Android.)

On the hardware front, there’s a top end Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, plus 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal memory (expandable thanks to a MicroSD card slot). While the 5.3 inch ultra HD resolution display puts it on the verge of phablet territory — and squarely within the current smartphone screen size sweet spot.

Also on board: dual rear cameras, both 13MP (one color, one B&W), and a 13MP front facing lens — all with f/2.0; using Zeiss optics; and with support for 4K video.

The flagship camera feature — and really phone feature too — is the ability to livestream video from both front and back cameras simultaneously.

HMD is trying to coin a hashtaggable word to describe this: “bothie” (as opposed to a selfie)…

This split screen camera feature can also be used for photos — so they’ve basically reinvented Frontback. Well done.

“Content creators can natively broadcast their unique #Bothie stories to social media through the Dual-Sight functionality located within the camera app. Fans can also enjoy unlimited photo [<16MB in size] and video uploads to Google Photos,” HMD writes.

This could prove a sticky feature for social media lovers — perhaps especially the dual video option, which lets people share twin perspective video direct to Facebook and YouTube via the camera app.

Or it could prove a passing fad, like Frontback. Time will tell. CCS Insight describes it as an “interesting approach” but also cautions on whether consumers will take to it.

Commenting on the feature in a statement, HMD’s Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer, said: “We know that fans are creating and sharing live content more than ever before, with millions of photos and videos shared every minute on social media. People are inspired by the content they consume and are looking for new ways to create their own. It’s these people who have inspired us.”

Elsewhere on the device, there’s a spatial surround sound recording tech that uses three microphones and is apparently drawing on Nokia’s Ozo 360 camera division, plus USB type C charging port; a 3.5mm headphone jack; and a non-removable 3090 mAh battery.

The handset, which is clad in an aluminium unibody casing and has a fingerprint reader on the front for device unlocking and authentication, is described as splashproof rather than waterproof.

Global RRP for the Nokia 8 is €599, with a rollout due to start in September. The handset comes in a choice of four colors: Polished Blue, Polished Copper, Tempered Blue and Steel.

Run to the rock


The past week has been a tough one for lovers of freedom. Slippery slopes have been slid down and a side of the human mind that once remained in shadow has reared its head. Charlottesville is just the first step down a dark road.

In real life, on the public square, our support of freedom of speech and public assembly – a freedom that has long helped hater and lover alike – is in question. Do we open our squares to men who will fight equality? Do we unlock our school grounds so that fear can reign? Do we simply close our windows on loudspeakers calling out for genocide or do we act? I don’t have an answer, but sunlight has always been the best antiseptic and seeing most of these groups on a bare parade ground lays bare their insignificance.

But what do you about the Internet where everything is shadow hiding inside corporate iron? The Internet is a utility, to a degree, but not one whose sanctity is guaranteed to us by some holy writ. We send bits over corporate networks onto servers housed in corporate basements. We shout into corporate megaphones and write screeds – like this one – into corporate editor windows.

On that skein of wires there is no sunlight. We, the creators of that world, must decide. Do we let hate live alongside love? What is conversation when everyone yells? What is fair when everyone has the loudest voice?

I was once a free-love kind of Internet zealot. I still agree that DRM is wrong, that media wants to be free and that good media will be paid for by someone. I still agree that sex is far less egregious than violence and that visions of both help define the lines of our personalities and ensure we do not wander too far into some puritan desert. I was angry, for example, when Pinterest pulled sexual content but know I know things have changed. Pinterest runs is own servers. It is responsible for the contents. It deserves final say.

And that’s where we are now. If you hate, says Wired in a recent profile of Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, you will be shut down.

“Insta­gram is supposed to be a place for self-expression and joy,” wrote Nicholas Thompson in the profile. “Who wants to express themselves, though, if they’re going to be mocked, harassed, and shamed in the comments below a post? Instagram is a bit like Disneyland—if every now and then the seven dwarfs hollered at Snow White for looking fat.”

Or who wants to star in a Ghostbusters reboot and be called racial slurs? And who wants to live in a world where /r/aww lives next to /r/poli?

We, the curators of the Internet, have to decide. Some of us already have. We see Cloudflare and GoDaddy pulling their services from white power site Daily Stormer. Cloudflare’s CEO Matthew Prince agonized over the decision. He, like most Internet users, expects the web to be free as in freedom.

“Our team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, we’ve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare,” he wrote. “You, like me, may believe that the Daily Stormer’s site is vile. You may believe it should be restricted. You may think the authors of the site should be prosecuted. Reasonable people can and do believe all those things. But having the mechanism of content control be vigilante hackers launching DDoS attacks subverts any rational concept of justice.”

In the end this is where we must go. It’s folks like Rabbi Abe Cooper as well as Valley CEOs who will help us find a way forward. Freedom of speech in the public square is one right we all have. But there is no free speech in the walled garden if the gardener doesn’t will it.

Listen to Nina Simone. She sang an old spiritual and sang it beautifully.

“Oh, sinnerman, where you gonna run to? Where you gonna run to? All on that day,” she said. “We got to run to the rock. Please hide me, I run to the rock. All on that day. But the rock cried out. I can’t hide you, the rock cried out. I ain’t gonna hide you there.”

Haters are hiding. They run to the rock. The rock is cries out. It won’t hide them. They must stand, then, and face those they wronged. This is the way it has always been and always will be. We can’t let the Internet change that.

All the people (and things) Trump actually thinks are racist

"I am not racist, but all these other things are!"
“I am not racist, but all these other things are!”

Image: David Becker/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has had an especially hard time convincing Americans he’s not racist this week.

What with blaming “many sides” and the “alt-left” after this weekend’s deadly violence in Charlottesville — despite white supremacists and neo-Nazis being at the heart of the protests against the removal of a Confederate statue — he’s making it pretty hard to believe otherwise. 

Trump received a great deal of backlash for refusing to directly condemn white supremacists, the KKK, and neo-Nazis until Monday, and that statement was undermined by his off-the-rails press conference a day later that once again blamed “both sides,” emboldening the KKK and white supremacists. 

Trump has yet to denounce the hate groups that brought fear into Charlottesville’s streets, beginning with a racist, torch-lit march Friday night, on Twitter, his messaging platform of choice. Holding back on Twitter insults seems pretty unlike Donny Boy.

In fact, after searching through the depths of the Trump Twitter Archive, it’s clear Trump has no problem publicly decrying things and people as racist — so long as they’re not Nazis or white supremacists.

Barack Obama

First black president? Must be racist. So racist that he warranted another tweet.

Touré

This man wrote Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means To Be Black Now, so that makes sense? Right? According to Trump, Touré’s a very boring racist responsible for racist coverage on MSNBC and has bad ratings.

Jon Stewart

Is John Stewart racist? Well that YouTube video doesn’t work, so we can’t really say.

Danny Zuker

Zuker seems to have referenced an example of Trump being racist … but maybe he’s actually the racist one.

Bryant Gumbel

Another black man Trump accuses of being racist … Trump also called him a talentless, really dumb, man with a “long and deep record of failure.” But to be clear, Trump doesn’t think Gumbel’s stories are racist — just him.

Anthony Weiner

What do you even say to that?

Football coaches

Come again?

Black-ish

Forget the fact that the show is about a black man trying to raise his family in today’s society with a strong sense of cultural identity, Trump feels the title is racist.

Django Unchained

You know, the movie about a freed slave…

The Maryland Democrat Party

K.

Macy’s

Yes, the department store.

Bill and Hillary Clinton

You saw that one coming.

Elizabeth Warren

Ugh.

Tavis Smiley

How many black men does this make, Trump?

Turn the tables

While the archive shows many accusations from Trump, it also shows some of the many who’ve called him racist. Over the years big names like David Letterman, Al Sharpton, Donny Deutsch, and Mitt Romney have called the president racist — but he continues to assure us all he is not.

This all makes a lot of sense. Really.

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Pinterest users can now pinch-to-zoom on photos in the app


Pinterest is adding a new feature today that allows users to pinch a photo to zoom in and out on various Pins, matching a feature that’s available on a lot of other services, like Instagram.

Pinterest is trying to be a central hub of high-quality photos and videos centered around ideas and products, but this still more or less exemplifies that the ability to manipulate photos within the app has started to become table stakes for sites like Pinterest. It also has to refine its visual search product as more and more companies offer similar products, like Google (ironically also called Lens, the same name as Pinterest’s camera search product). As the company becomes increasingly focused on mobile and discovery centered around photos, users will start expecting the kinds of behaviors that exist on other services (like Instagram) to exist on Pinterest.

One of Pinterest’s core directives is to push people closer and closer toward a moment of inspiration where they act on some kind of idea they discover on Pinterest. That can include buying a product, downloading an app or even changing things in their closet based on something they see on Pinterest. If Pinterest is able to do that, it can go to advertisers and explain that it has a different kind of user behavior that they won’t find on Facebook or Snap — and get them to start spending a lot of money on Pinterest.

Zooming in on a photo to get a better look at something seems like a good feature for digging through cluttered photos in order to identify a product. Pinterest is giving users a way to take photos in order to search for products, but those kinds of amateur photos might not have the right products in focus. That might be especially true for rooms in homes and could hold true even for professional photos.

That might also help Pinterest fend off apps picking off certain use cases that the company has traditionally owned. Houzz, for example, is trying to become a go-to place for interior design and products you would buy for your home. That’s catapulted Houzz into a startup with a $4 billion valuation.

Pinterest is also making a small tweak to make the option to search visually on a Pin easier to find. All these kinds of tweaks may seem somewhat small. But the sum of these incremental changes may help Pinterest continue to show advertisers that it’s a company that deserves a big chunk of their ad budgets typically reserved for Google and Facebook. Pinterest recently raised capital at a $12.3 billion valuation, and if it’s going to justify that valuation it has to turn into a critical spend for marketers.