My feed is currently littered with hashtags I’ve never seen before. Iberia (the Spanish airline) tweeted with #ttot (Travel Talk on Twitter), Al Gore used #CRinBrazil (Climate Reality in Brazil) and Verizon posted something with #MobileBKsweeps (no clue). Things can get even more confusing during evening hours on the East Coast, when tags like #TWD (The Walking Dead), #AHSFX (American Horror Story) and #HIMYM (How I Met Your Mother) might appear. A quick trip to Google typically clears things up, but most of the time it’s simply not worth the hassle. According to #WSJ, Twitter’s now testing a tool that would help bring some clarity to those cryptic tags, in an attempt to make the service more user-friendly. The Wall Street Journal noticed expanded hashtags in Twitter’s iOS app, and while reps declined to comment, it appears that the new feature is beginning to roll out. #itsabouttime.
Filed under: Internet
Source: The Wall Street Journal
The web was supposed to be the great equalizer. But, it turns out, the haves and have-nots exist online too. And they’re separated by a mark of distinction: verification.
A month ago, William Shatner got into an unfortunate public spat on Twitter with John Colucci, our social media manager, over why he was verified on Twitter. Shatner argued that recognition should only be given to public figures who are in danger of being impersonated. In Shatner’s words, “nobodies should not be verified because it shows a huge flaw in the Twitter system.” This spiraled into a big kerfuffle involving several other Twitter users. When our Editor-in-Chief Michael Gorman stepped in to defend Colucci by saying he was verified because he’s good at his job, Shatner interpreted that as an abuse of the verification system. Things died down eventually, but Shatner held tight to his belief that verification is a privilege for a select few.
- William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) June 21, 2014
Of course, Twitter isn’t the only social network that offers verification. Facebook, too, has a verification system for certain public figures and popular brands and so does Google+. Facebook even released a Mentions app specifically tailored for verified celebrities such as Shatner, who recently posted a rather thorough review of the app on his Tumblr (in sum: He wasn’t a fan). These social networks are ostensibly open to all members of the public, allowing us to connect with politicians and celebrities directly. But verification is a reminder that just because everyone’s using the same network, that doesn’t mean everyone’s treated in the same way.
In Shatner’s words, “nobodies should not be verified because it shows a huge flaw in the Twitter system.”
The concept of verified accounts is fairly recent. Twitter implemented it in 2009, Google+ in 2011, while Facebook only started it in 2012 with verified pages appearing in 2013. It began initially as a way to curb account impersonations by authenticating certain individuals and brands — essentially a way for people to know that you are who you say you are. And for the most part, it works. For example, I know that @MayorEmanuel is a parody account and not really Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Not only because he likely would never tweet, “Fuck you, you motherfucking time vortex. I fucking love dancing with my friends,” but also because it doesn’t have an identifiable blue check icon next to his name.
Twitter says it focuses its verification efforts on “highly sought users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business and other key interest areas.” Similarly, Facebook and Google+ verify profiles and pages that include celebrities, journalists, government officials and popular brands and businesses. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ don’t accept verification requests from the general public. We’ve asked all three for more information as to the exact requirements for verification, but none were willing to cough up much detail, instead pointing us to their respective FAQ pages.
But being verified is more than just having your identity authenticated — it’s also a status symbol. Verified accounts on Twitter get special “perks,” like the ability to filter their Mentions and access to analytics like how much “engagement” a particular tweet gets. The aforementioned Facebook Mentions app provides the verified “celebrity” more tools to engage with their fans like Q&A posts, for example. Of course, these perks aren’t terribly useful to the average person, but it’s certainly an indicator that verified users are somehow more special than everyone else.
… Being verified is more than just having your identity authenticated — it’s also a status symbol.
“Verified accounts were created to solve a practical matter, especially as people couldn’t tell if celebrities were the celebrity or someone pretending to be the celebrity,” says danah boyd, a social media researcher at Microsoft Research and author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (she prefers her name to be written in lowercase). “Needless to say, this quickly became a status game and people begged to be verified. Unlike followers, which could easily be purchased by third parties running bot networks, verification required Twitter.”
The whole idea of a different tier of Twitter or Facebook reserved just for the elite runs counter to the idea of the internet as a democratizer. Similar to how the printing press enabled the mass dissemination of ideas, so too has the internet, but on a much wider scale. Social media in particular has been upheld as a bastion of democracy, as in the case of the Arab Spring, where ordinary citizens used Twitter and Facebook to organize rallies and spread awareness of government atrocities.
Cartoon by Peter Steiner for The New Yorker
But more than that, the reason the internet is seen as the great equalizer is because no one can see what you look like. There’s a famous cartoon in The New Yorker with a caption that simply states, “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” It’s emblematic of this idea that the internet breaks down real-world barriers like gender, race and class, so that all of us are on equal footing. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case.
“It’s a complete myth,” says boyd. “The internet reinforces many inequalities, hierarchies and existing social divisions. … This technology simply mirrors other aspects of life back at us.” After all, our brains are not separate from our bodies — when we go online, we bring with us a whole host of pre-existing prejudices and preconceived notions of how the world works. In It’s Complicated, boyd writes this about inequality on social media: “Social media magnifies many aspects of daily life, including racism and bigotry. Some people use social media to express insensitive and hateful views, but others use the same technologies to publicly shame, and in some cases threaten, people who they feel are violating social decorum.”
“No site does the work of democracy. It is people who do that through technologies, not technologies in and of themselves.”
When we ask boyd if anonymous forums like Reddit offer a more even playing field than other social networks, she says, “No site does the work of democracy. It is people who do that through technologies, not technologies in and of themselves.” Jen Schradie, a sociologist at UC Berkeley, adds to this, telling us that the poor and working class are much less likely to be online in the first place, so there’s already a built-in class disparity. “What we are left with is a digital production gap,” she says. “The internet in general, and social media in particular, is dominated by the elite. … The verified/non-verified divide is just the tip of the iceberg.”
As is evidenced by Shatner’s reaction to some of us being verified, he certainly believes in that divide — that those who are verified are somehow more privileged than those who are not, and they should be deserving of that privilege. As a verified user on Twitter myself, I’ll admit that it’s nice to be deemed worthy of the status, if only because it adds legitimacy and credibility to what I do.
- William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) June 22, 2014
But being verified doesn’t make me special. It doesn’t make me better than anyone who’s not verified — I don’t get preferential treatment at restaurants and I don’t get to skip ahead in line at the airport. Further, you don’t need a verified checkmark to have credibility. Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, does not have a verified account. I was unverified on Twitter for years and I’m still unverified on Facebook. Not having that little checkmark did not and does not impact how I do my work. I’m sure the majority of people I interact with on a daily basis have no idea what in the world being verified on Twitter means. As Colucci himself mentioned in a response to Shatner, the verification status is “just for work, and outside of that it really means nothing.”
And yet, the prestige associated with that silly little verification icon persists. At least among the elite few who know what it means.
Filed under: Internet
Being hip to PR is certainly part of the job description for NASA astronauts, but some are especially social media-savvy. Take fresh ISS resident Gregory “Reid” Wiseman: the man knows he’s in a privileged position to take photos and videos, and holy crap has he shared. Via Twitter, Reid has provided nearly 500 stunning images of Earth, the ISS, his fellow astronauts and even a prosaic toilet repair — sorry, space toilet repair. Wiseman was also the first astronaut to post a Vine in space, and has so far posted subjects like a massive lightning storm over Texas and the sun going around in a circle and never setting. Wiseman isn’t quite as chatty as Canadian colleague Chris Hadfield yet, but he’s only been aboard for 45 days. Anyway, if we had his view (as shown in the gallery and Vines below), we’d be speechless too.
Filed under: Science
Source: Reid Wiseman (Twitter)
One of Twitter’s primary concerns is that the number of active users — those who use the network at least once a month — continues to grow at a healthy pace, and its latest quarterly earnings confirm that the social network has been eating its vegetables. After reporting a solid growth of 14 million active users last quarter, the service brought in 16 million this time around, reaching a grand total of 271 million. This is an increase of 6.3 percent, which is an improvement over last quarter’s 5.8 percent (though not quite as good as the ten percent growth the company saw a year ago). Not bad, given that it had to admit a slowing number of new users earlier this year in its first earnings report as an IPO. Of this number, Twitter acknowledged that 78 percent of them are actively using the service on mobile devices (this is reflected in the fact that 81 percent of advertising revenue comes from smartphones and tablets).
Twitter also impressed by reporting revenues of $312 million (up from $250 million last quarter and $139 million this quarter last year) and a non-GAAP net income totaling $15 million. While the company hasn’t discussed exactly what’s led to this spike in revenue and user base, it specifically brought up new product experiences based around the World Cup, much of which took place during this last quarter; it also continued its international expansion efforts for advertising.
[Image credit: Getty]
It’s time for the latest edition of Feedback Loop! We discuss the dark and sometimes disappointing side of crowdfunding, ponder whether passwords are dying, look for point-and-shoot camera suggestions, share the cheapest ways to get HBO and talk about overly hyped gadgets. Head past the break to talk about all this and more with your fellow Engadget readers.
The perils of crowdfunding
For every great product that comes out of crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo or Kickstarter, it seems there’s an conversely horrible story about something that never shipped or lived up to expectations. Our own John Colucci discusses the darker side of this phenomenon and readers chimed in to share their own experiences. Do you have any crazy Kickstarter stories to tell?
Is the password really dying?
After enabling two-factor authentication on his personal Twitter account, a Wall Street Journal reporter shared his password with the public. He argues that “the password is finally dying.” Is he crazy? We discuss whether this is actually the case. Are passwords really dying? And what happens to two-factor authentication when you share one of your factors? Head over to the forums and sound off!
Point-and-shoot camera suggestions
Engadget forums user Baileylo recently welcomed a new member to his family. Congrats, Logan! He’s looking for a new camera to properly capture those special moments. What’s a good point-and-shoot under $500 that can work in a variety of lighting situations? Let him know!
What’s the cheapest way to get HBO?
HBO is basically the Holy grail of premium cable TV. Everyone wants it, but not everyone wants to pay for all the packages needed to get it. Is it possible to get access to HBO without subscribing to a ton of unnecessary channels? Or are we stuck sharing our parents’ HBO Go access? Share your tips and tricks right here.
Over-hyped gadget sightings
There have been a number of gadgets that have received tons of hype and press, only to end up forgotten and unloved. Things like the Microsoft Kin One, the Kin Two, the Nexus Q and even more recent examples like the Lytro and Samsung Galaxy Gear. Frank talks about seeing some of these “gadget unicorns” out in the wild. What are some surprising and unloved gadgets you’ve seen when you’ve been out and about?
Other discussions you may also like:
- What do you want to know about the Destiny beta?
- With new power restrictions on portable devices, how will TSA handle battery packs?
- Halt and Catch Fire S1E7: There’s a sucker born every minute
- Today is the 4th Anniversary of the 1st Instagram
That’s all this week! Want to talk about your favorite gadget or have a burning question about technology? Register for an Engadget account today, visit the Engadget forums and start a new discussion!
If you’ve been on Twitter long enough, chances are that you’ve sent at least one or two direct messages (DMs) that you’d rather not see again. Deleting any regretful conversations in one fell swoop should you use the service across multiple devices isn’t as simple as it should be, though, and as of now, destroying a private-picture thread from your phone might not mean it’ll be missing when you load Twitter.com from your laptop. Well, the microblogging giant knows how much of a pain this is and is working to address it. The company issued a tweet (naturally) saying that it’s rolling out an update to make deleting DMs “more consistent” across web and mobile over the next few weeks. What’s more, Twitter says that it’s working on an update to bring your entire DM history to the Android and iOS apps as well. Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on your messaging habits, we’d imagine.
[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images]
Over the next few weeks, we’re rolling out an update that makes deleting DMs more consistent across web and mobile. http://t.co/VNtDXzwuvp
- Twitter Support (@Support) July 18, 2014
We’re also making an update to the Twitter iPhone and Android apps that will allow you to access your entire DM history.
- Twitter Support (@Support) July 18, 2014
We put a ton of trust in technology everyday, but are you confident enough in two-factor authentication to give out any of your passwords? Christopher Mims of The Wall Street Journal is. In a post on the site proclaiming that passwords are “finally dying,” Mims extolls the virtues of the secure login method immediately after giving out his Twitter password. He says that he’s confident he won’t be hacked because, among other reasons, the second authentication step (a text message containing a numerical code that’s sent to the user’s cellphone, or an app that generates a code should you be outside of cellular data range) is apparently difficult to intrude upon. As Forbes has spotted though, Mims’ Twitter account has since been slammed with people trying to login to it, his phone blew up with authentication codes as a result, forcing him to associate a different phone number with the microblogging service.
The lesson here? If you’re willing to put your online identity up for grabs, prepare for the consequences. It could’ve been a lot worse for for Mims, though — it’s not like he gave out his Social Security Number or anything.
Do you trust two-factor authentication enough to try something similar? Head over to our forums and sound off.
@jonkeegan like 2 a minute since it went up…
- Christopher Mims (@mims) July 14, 2014
Filed under: Internet
The numbers speak for themselves: This year’s World Cup has been setting records all over the place. Not only did it keep folks in the US tuned into their team with services like WatchESPN, but who could forget the most tweeted-about sports game ever in that 7-1 thumping suffered by host nation Brazil — Sad Brazilians, anyone? Yesterday’s final, meanwhile, which ultimately saw Germany beat out Argentina for football’s biggest prize, set great numbers for social media and TV networks alike. For its part, Facebook reports that the 2014 World Cup Final was the biggest sporting event in its history, with comments, likes and posts combining for over 280 million interactions. Twitter, on the other hand, says the match produced a total of 32.1 million tweets and, in the process, broke the record for any event with 618,725 tweets per minute.
As for the streaming front, Spanish network Univision had 456,408 unique viewers total on the Univision Deportes website and apps. To put this in perspective, the Mexico vs. Brazil Group Stage game nabbed 1.6 million unique viewers, though that was before Univision started requiring a cable login to use its service and, granted, included a team whose fan base speaks Spanish. Comparatively, ESPN revealed much better numbers through WatchESPN, scoring 1.8 million viewers for the final match. This, combined with the rest of the World Cup matches, made the event the most viewed in WatchESPN’s history. Whether it was through Twitter, Facebook, ESPN or Univision, it’s safe to say FIFA made its mark Stateside, and globally, in 2014.
Oh, and how could we leave out this great selfie, courtesy of German world champion Lukas Podolski.
- Lukas-Podolski.com (@Podolski10) July 13, 2014
[Image credit: Associated Press]
Members of the United States House of Representatives and Senate — or, more likely, their interns and aides — spend an awful lot of time editing Wikipedia entries. Not just entries about themselves, either: the list ranges from autobiographical changes to this crucial edit involving President Barack Obama shaking hands with a minotaur. We’ll spare you the obvious, “so that’s what the United States Congress spends its time on!” joke (or was that it?), and jump right to the credit. A new Twitter account named “congressedits,” set up by self-described “web developer/armchair activist” Ed Summers, scans for Wikipedia edits across a variety of IP addresses associated with Congress. Summers got the idea from a similar robot in the United Kingdom. Other versions have since sprouted in Canada and Sweden.
“There is an incredible yearning in this country and around the world for using technology to provide more transparency about our democracies,” Summers wrote on his blog this week. While the tracking hasn’t revealed any bombshells thus far, we’re all for free, easy ways to make our elected officials’ actions even a smidgen more transparent. Summers is hoping for more from the project than more transparent government. Here’s his “thought experiment” take on the project:
“Imagine if our elected representatives and their staffers logged in to Wikipedia, identified much like Dominic (a federal employee at the National Archives) and used their knowledge of the issues and local history to help make Wikipedia better? Perhaps in the process they enter into conversation in an article’s talk page, with a constituent, or political opponent and learn something from them, or perhaps compromise?”
High-minded and idyllic? Sure, but that’s how we like our internet-based political action.
[Image credit: Shutterstock]
Today’s Digg is a completely different beast from the one we used to know, and that’s thanks to a new team that basically brought the brand back from the dead. Before that resurrecting act though, those folks worked on a social news app called News.Me and now they’ve another stab at that old formula with a feature called Digg Deeper. Here’s the formula in a nutshell: in addition to employing humans to curate the best stories from across the web, Digg Deeper will mine your Twitter feed (and eventually other social streams) to find content appreciated by people you actually care about. Yeah, yeah, you’re right — that sounds really generic. The Digg team elaborated on its secret sauce just a bit in a blog post, noting that the amount of Twitter attention needed to bring a story to your attention in Digg Deeper is based on how many people you follow. Alas, you normals can’t take it for a spin just yet — it’s currently only open to a handful of old (and loyal) News.Me users for now.
Source: Digg Blog