Facebook is changing phone calling again.

A couple of weeks ago Facebook introduced “Hello,” an Android only app that will show users information about who is calling as well as allow users to block calls and search for businesses to call. Here’s a short video about Hello.

One interesting feature of Hello is that it will allow you block a number based on how many others have previously blocked it. This is an incredibly social move, truly using the “wisdom of the crowd” to make sure you don’t get any unwanted calls.

Over three years ago Facebook rolled out Messenger as a standalone app, allowing Facebook users to message each other without having to open the Facebook app. Along the way, Messenger added more social ability by integrating the ability to call other users running Messenger on their smartphone using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). And just yesterday, Facebook added video calling to Messenger also. This could be a serious competitor to Skype, Viber, Google Hangouts, etc.

Which brings me back to Hello. Hello ties into Facebook Messenger and allows you to quickly make calls to other Facebook users using Messenger’s VoIP calling. Hello may be a nice link bringing the social interactivity of Facebook to old fashioned phone calls.

Advertisements

Who Doesn’t Want to Take Better Selfies?

The Selfie. That quick photo that you take of yourself has become the social media craze. And it’s thanks to social media that the selfie has become such a huge phenomenon.

I remember back to my childhood (and earlier adulthood) using a film camera and trying to take a selfie. I would take the camera and turn it around to face me and try my best to line it up right and then snap the picture. But you’d have to wait until the roll of film was developed to see if it came out. And it was almost always blurry, and heads were half cropped out.

Then digital cameras came out and we would still try to take a selfie, the only difference being that we could delete each shot that wasn’t right and try again because we had instant access to the resulting photo.

Mostly we took (or tried to take) these selfies just because it was fun. Or maybe we were all alone in front of some landmark and we wanted proof that we had been there. And at some point, we wanted our friends to see these photos (not just the selfies but all of our photos). We’d put them in photo albums and show anyone who came over our houses. We’d make little photo albums and take them with us to show people.

When the internet came along we could email our photos to friends. If we were ambitious we could create a web page to display a few photos. Then along came online photo sharing which made it a little easier for us to share photos. We were not only viewing this online media, we were contributing to it as well.

And then came social media. Social took the ease of posting photos online one step further, allowing us to really include others in our photo sharing worlds, with tagging and commenting, etc. I will make the claim that social media made a huge impact on the photo sharing industry because, not only because of the immediacy of sharing your photos, but because of how many people you could show your photo to at the same time.

Oh yeah, throw in smartphones, now with front facing cameras. Taking a selfie was never easier… or was it? Not very long ago, within the last year, we start seeing “selfie sticks.” These are sticks with clamps on the end that hold our smartphones so we can now “hold” the camera out about 4-6 feet in front of us. We can get everyone in the picture with us, and the background. That’s cool and all… but a selfie stick is also fast becoming one of the most obnoxious gadgets in the world. They’re already being banned in museums because of the risks to the art.  So, if we’re not going to use a selfie stick, what other options do we have?

tag-it

Introducing the “Treasure Tag” by Nokia. Right now this only works on Lumia smartphones, but it may catch on and the market may expand.  First of all, you can use this “tag” on anything. You can tag your keys so you can always find them with your smartphone. But that’s not why I’m writing this post. The tag pairs with your smartphone using NFC technology and, using Lumia’s Selfie App (yes, there’s a special camera app just for taking selfies), you can remotely trigger the camera using the Treasure Tag.  Pretty neat.

Again, I contend that it’s primarily because of social media that selfies have become such a huge thing, and because of that, we’re now seeing technology to assist us in taking selfie’s more easily. Not just this Treasure Tag, but selfie sticks too. Who know what we’ll see next. Maybe someone will invent a smartphone with a built-in fold-out tripod. Hmmm… ‘hello patent office?’

Get your tweets better noticed

Everyone wants their tweets to get noticed. Maybe even retweeted? And what if, maybe, a movie star, rock star or other influencer notices your tweet and retweets it? That’s gold. What if there was way to increase your chances of that happening?

It seems like a lot of what I post about here on my blog is how people create new technology tools in order to better use popular social media networks. Well, this post is no exception. Chenhao Tan and other researchers from Cornell University studied the effect of wording on how well a message will propagate through social media.  They “collected thousands of pairs of tweets across many different accounts and analyzed the number of shares in relation to key phrases, online communities reached and other factors.” (Mashable, 2015)  I won’t summarize the whole Mashable article, which summarizes the researchers findings, but you can check it out and try it out for yourself. They’ve built an online demo where you can see which will determine which wording of a tweet will be more popular.  Pretty neat.

That Darn Dress…

What Color Dress

By now you’ve all seen “that dress” (pictured above). This dress took social media by storm over the last couple of days, with debates raging and technical arguments about what colors the dress really is. I know my Facebook news feed was loaded with it last night. We’ve seen things like this before too… memes or rumors or whatever, that bury our feeds on Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media outlet we choose to use.  And we get sick of it, right?  Well, if you can’t trust your friends to stop posting and sharing these things, technology can take over from there.

This post is not intended to teach you all of the ways to block memes or viral videos, etc. For that, you can find plenty of articles on the internet to help you with the “how-to” including this article on LifeHacker. This post is about how social media has impacted technology. This is similar to my post from a couple of weeks ago, where I discussed how many mobile apps have been created to allow users of social network sites to create photo memes so quickly. Although this time, I wanted to mention all of the technology that’s been created to block all of these memes, etc. The primary means to block anything on the internet is with browser extensions. Wikipedia described a browser extension as”a computer program that extends the functionality of a web browser in some way.”  Some browsers might call them add-ins or plug-ins also. These are typically written with HTML, javascript, or CSS code and in some way actually block specific code from being displayed in your web browser.

But what about mobile apps? Well, that’s a different story. Your Facebook or Twitter mobile apps aren’t using a web browser so you can’t install extensions to block content.  Android and iOS allow you to set parental controls, which blocks or restricts content based on ratings in their respective app stores. This isn’t great for blocking a specific viral meme but it at least allows some blocking on a broad scale. Mobile technology still has some more way to go in this realm.

Facebook reinvents targeted advertising

Last week Facebook announced a new advertising unit (platform?) called Product Ads. This new unit promises to make advertising much easier for companies looking to get more conversion out of the users of the #1 social network.  Companies were already able to target specific ads for specific products to specific audiences, but that takes a lot of work and doesn’t always provide the best results. Product Ads will dynamically adjust which ads you see based on a variety of factors including what apps you use and what your activities and interests are.

Advertising obviously isn’t anything new. And targeted advertising is probably as old as the internet, if not older. But until now, the technology available (tracking cookies mostly), only allowed for advertisers to market a specific product to a certain demographic. Facebook has taken the technology one step further. Because the social network knows so much about you (via likes, cookies, other ad clicks, etc.) they say they can allow an advertiser to upload a whole catalog of products and your social activity will allow what products you see advertised to change dynamically.  If there was one company that was going to figure out how to advance advertising technology in the face of social media it would be Facebook.  I’d say the ball is in Google’s court now.

The Most Social Car


The other day I saw this commercial on TV for the all-new 2015 Nissan Murano. I was struck with bewilderment when I heard, towards the end of the ad, that the 2015 Nissan Murano was “the most social car we’ve ever produced.” I realize that “social” is the buzzword of the decade thanks to the success of Facebook, Twitter, et al.  so I guess it’s no surprise that the elements of “social” make their way into automotive technology.

The major element of “social media” is allowing consumers to become producers, so how is it that a car can be “social?”  I would equate rear passengers in an automobile to consumers, in that they typically just sit there and take in the ride. The driver of the vehicle would be like the producer, making the car go where they want it to. And between the driver or front passenger, they would control the audio entertainment in the vehicle.  Enter the 2015 Nissan Murano. This vehicle comes with a rear passenger USB connection port for iPods and other compatible devices, thus allowing those backseat drivers to become real drivers… of audio entertainment.

Nissan also mentions ambient lighting and zero-gravity seats as part of what make the Murano a “social lounge” and while I think this is a weak attempt on Nissan’s part to capitalize on the phenomenon of social media, it made me take notice. It will be interesting to see how automotive technology advances in the next few years and how much “social” the automotive manufacturers try to cram into the vehicles.

The Explosion of the Meme App Market

I saw this photo, the latest popular meme, posted on Facebook and Twitter right after Super Bowl XLIX. It started to circulate via retweets on Twitter very quickly… “To the tune of nearly 20,000 retweets, nearly instantly,” according to Rob Pegoraro’s article on Yahoo! Tech. I’m an IT guy, but I thought that this meme was created very quick. I remembered that I have some friends that pretty much exclusively use smartphones post their own custom memes on Facebook. I figured there must be a mobile app to do these.

I took a look at the Google Play store and did a quick search for a meme creation app. Holy moley! There were no fewer than 75 different apps that quickly displayed in the search results. Many of them were free, but some of them were paid apps. I know that my personal Facebook news feed is filled with photo memes every day, so much so that I’ve started hiding shares from many Facebook accounts that only post memes.

Back in the days of sharing jokes and photos mainly via email, you would see one or two of these types of things maybe each year. Now, thanks to the easy sharing via social media sites like Facebook, these photo memes are everywhere. And if there’s tons of photo memes, there’s a market for meme creation apps. I haven’t been able to find any figures on the total of how many meme creation apps there are or how much money this market is raking in right now, but it appears it’s big business.