Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Facebook Hashtags Lack Engagement

Posted by JenThorpe at 6:05 PM on July 28, 2013

HashtagFacebook added hashtags as a new feature a little more than a month ago. How is that working out for them? Not quite as well as they hoped it would. Somehow, this does not surprise me.

It seems that the idea was that adding hashtags would allow Facebook users to add some context to their posts. It would also allow other users to “discover content” by searching for a particular hashtag. Facebook was hoping that people would choose to post things like “I love #Starbucks”. The point was to encourage people to engage more with the brands that advertise on and through Facebook.

What happened? Part of the problem is that many of the brands on Facebook aren’t good at using hashtags across social media platforms. In other words, they might have used a particular hashtag on Facebook, and a different one on Twitter. Or, they use hashtags on Twitter, but don’t use them in Facebook. It is a lack of cohesiveness.

I think another problem is that people who are on Facebook don’t necessarily think to add a hashtag to their posts. If they don’t use Twitter, they may not have a context for using a hashtag in the first place. Also, just because Facebook adds the ability to use a hashtag doesn’t automatically mean people are going to use it to emphasize a brand that they like. They could be posting things like #Friday instead.

Simply Measured put together a lot of data about the effectiveness of the brands on Facebook. The top 10 most engaging brands average 19.9 million fans. Those brands post something 2.5 times per day. The top three most liked brands are: Facebook, Coca-Cola, and MTV. However, the group that has the most engagement with fans on Facebook is the automotive industry.

The study also found that brands that do not allow Facebook users to post onto the brand’s timeline end up with a 15% dip in engagement. The brand may be trying to avoid negative posts. The result is people stop engaging completely. Those brands probably need to improve their use of hashtags.

Facebook Admits 6 Million Users Affected by Bug

Posted by JenThorpe at 5:38 PM on June 21, 2013

FacebookFacebook made an announcement on the Facebook Security page that a bug has affected approximately 6 million Facebook users. This bug allowed user’s email and/or phone number to be accessed by people who “either had some contact information about that person or some connection to them”. From the Facebook post:

We’ve concluded that approximately 6 million Facebook users had email addresses or telephone numbers shared. There were other email addresses or telephone numbers included in the downloads, but they were not connected to any Facebook users or even names of individuals. For almost all of the email addresses or telephone numbers impacted, each individual email address or telephone number was only included in a download once or twice. This means, in almost all cases, an email address or telephone number was only exposed to one person. Additionally, no other types of personal information or financial information were included and only people on Facebook – not developers or advertisers – have access to the DYI tool.

The “DYI” tool is the “Download Your Information” tool. The short answer about what happened is that people were using it to download an archive of their own Facebook account. When they did this, “they may have been provided with additional email address or telephone numbers for their contacts or people with whom they have some connection”.

Facebook says it confirmed the bug, then immediately disabled the DYI tool. They turned it back on after fixing the bug. According to Reuters, the data leaks from this bug began in 2012 and were a “year long data breach”.

Facebook Photo Comments: Let the Photobombing Begin…

Posted by J Powers at 7:25 AM on June 20, 2013

Yesterday, Facebook announced they have added photo functionality to comments on their social network. When you go to Facebook.com, you will see a camera icon in the comment box. It only allows you to attach an image – not take a picture directly from your webcam. This functionality only shows up on the webpage, but is expected to be in the iOS and Android apps for the next major update.

Photo comments now available in Facebook

Photo comments now available in Facebook

Facebook lead engineer Bob Baldwin announced it on his Facebook page. He also brought Emoticons to the Facebook timeline a few months back. They developed it during a hackathon with several others.

When I’m talking with a friend, sometimes showing a photo helps me tell a story much better than words alone. If we’re hanging out in person, I can show a photo from my phone, but on Facebook I’d have to post a link to a photo. Now, you’ll be able to attach a photo directly when posting a comment. I hope this will make threads with friends more expressive and engaging.

Photos fall under the regular terms of service, so go ahead and photobomb away, but be respective.

Update: If you log in to Facebook via your web browser on your mobile device, you can upload or even take a photo. 

 

Facebook Adds Hashtags

Posted by JenThorpe at 5:27 PM on June 12, 2013

HashtagFacebook has launched a new feature that will help users to quickly get a larger view of what is happening in the world or of what topics people are currently talking about. The social media giant has decided to make use of the hashtag. According to Reuters Facebook has rolled out the ability to use hashtags to about 20% of its users today. There will be a more global launch of the new feature in the next few weeks.

Of course, to most of us, the use of the hashtag is not actually new. We have been using them on Twitter for years. Facebook has decided to now make use of the hashtag in the hopes of attracting younger users and keeping them interested in continuing to use Facebook. A recent study from Pew Research Center shows that teens have “waning enthusiasm” for Facebook.

Soon, people can post something on Facebook and include #Apple or #Android or #E3 or a hashtag of whatever else they are talking about. Other users will be able to click on those hashtags and see what other people (who also typed #Apple) are saying about it. You know… like we’ve been doing on Twitter for years.

Click “Like” for a Second Opinion?

Posted by JenThorpe at 9:29 PM on May 2, 2013

FacebookThere are many reasons why you might be asked to click “like” on a Facebook page. You usually cannot access a coupon that a company offers until after you “like” their page. Bands might ask fans to click “like” to show their support. Political parties (or groups that favor a particular one) may want you to “like” their page or a post that is on it. Overall, this is fairly harmless.

Things get a little fishy when a health care provider asks you to do things on Facebook in order to be given a free second opinion. I’m not talking about those posts that get shared that tell a story of a child who needs surgery and who can get it after that post receives enough “likes”. I think most of us know that, in reality, there isn’t a surgeon frantically refreshing his or her Facebook page so he can dash into surgery the instant that last “like” is clicked and save a child’s life. Things just don’t work that way.

That being said, New Times SLO reports an odd story where Facebook and health care have collided. The Templeton Institute for Neurology has a Facebook page. They are offering a free second opinion, if you do the following things: “like” their main Facebook page, “like” their post, share their post, comment on their post, “like” their video, or share their video. Why? Here is their explanation:

Why your likes are so critical is that because this “one of a kind program in the world” depends in its funding and success on advancing name recognition of this free service measured by our “Facebook likes”.

The website for Templeton Institute for Neurology says:

Second Opinion is free at our institution, in excahnge (sic) for the “good will” of 50 of your firends (sic) liking us on Facebook. No insurance needed even if you have insurance.

According to the article from New Times SLO, a patient who does not want to use the “Facebook Free Program” that Templeton Institute for Neurology offers can still get the second opinion that they are seeking. However, it will cost them $2,500 for the initial consult and then $600 per hour for follow up through a place called Neurology Second Opinion Inc., (which is part of their practice).

Updated Facebook app coming to Windows Phone

Posted by Alan at 11:26 AM on April 30, 2013

Microsoft is now seeking beta testers for a new and updated version of the Facebook app for Windows Phone. Version 4.2.1 is still the current iteration on the mobile platform, but a new one is on the way. “Today we’re launching a new program designed to help speed up delivery of new features in the official Facebook app for Windows Phone and need sharp-eyed, energetic volunteers to download a beta version of our next release and tell us how to make it better” announces Microsoft’s Michael Stroh.

Users will find that the app is undergoing a major redesign and now includes several much-requested features, including new support for high-res photos, post sharing, and Facebook Timeline.

facebook beta for windows phone

Before you get too excited, Stroh cautions that if you “don’t like it when apps crash? This probably isn’t the program for you”. The good news is that you do not lose the current Facebook app if you decide to take the plunge then the beta will not replace the existing Facebook app, but instead run side-by-side with it.

EA is Retiring Some Facebook Games

Posted by JenThorpe at 8:41 PM on April 16, 2013

EA LogoGamers who got really attached to their Sims games on Facebook are in for some sad news. Electronic Arts (EA) has announced that it will be retiring some of its games that are currently accessible through Facebook. EA is encouraging gamers on Facebook to check out titles by PopCap, instead.

What games are being retired? The announcement by EA states that The Sims Social, SimCity Social, and Pet Society will go offline on June 14, 2013. The games will no longer be available for play after that date. Why is EA doing this? According to their announcement:

After millions of people initially logged in to play these games, the number of players and amount of activity has fallen off. For people who have seen other recent shutdowns of social games, perhaps this is not surprising.

A quick glance through the EA website shows that there are several other Sims games available. There are some for iPad, iPhone, Android, or Kindle Fire. Unlike the ones on Facebook that are being retired, it looks like very few of the Sims games that are offered through the EA website are free to play.

Why is EA suggesting players check the games from PopCap? It makes more sense if you know that EA acquired PopCap in 2011. Specifically, EA would like the gamers who are sad about the loss of the games that will be retired to try Bejeweled Blitz, Solitaire Blitz, and Plants vs. Zombies Adventures. These titles will be available through Facebook. The announcement from EA says that the company will be making a “special offer” to help players make a smooth transition to PopCap.

Alas, your Sims and Pet Sims will soon disappear, forever. Perhaps shiny jewels and creepy zombies will help you to get over that loss.

KillSwitch Makes Break-Ups Easier to Cope With

Posted by JenThorpe at 6:36 PM on April 14, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 5.57.55 PMWhat happens when a person starts a new relationship? They share it on social media! They make it clear they are no longer “single”. Photos of the happy couple, at the places they visited together, clutter up both parties Facebook pages. Suddenly, each person’s Facebook page is filled with lovey-dovey comments, (which at least one of them will “like”).

What happens if that couple breaks-up? At least one of them is going to be really upset and emotional about the loss of the relationship. Unfortunately, when the newly broken-up visit Facebook, they are instantly confronted with photos, comments, and status that are painful reminders of what once was. Ouch!

A company called ClearHart has created an app for this exact situation! It is called KillSwitch. The app seamlessly and discretely removes all traces of your ex from your Facebook profile, including pictures, videos, wall posts, status updates, and anything that has been tagged with your ex. You won’t have to deactivate your Facebook account, and it doesn’t require de-tagging. Tell the app who your ex is, and it will do the rest.

What if that couple decides to get back together? No problem! The app stores all the deleted pictures from when life was lovely in a hidden album on your Facebook page. They can be put back.

The purpose of KillSwitch is to help people who have ended a relationship to move on. A portion of the proceeds from the app are being donated to the American Heart Association of New York. The ClearHart website says this is “So broken hearts can help broken hearts”. I highly recommend you check out the KillSwitch website (even if your relationship is going well) because the graphics are delightful!

Zynga No Longer Requires Facebook

Posted by JenThorpe at 3:27 PM on April 4, 2013

ZyngaThose of you who have wanted to play Farmville2, Chefville, Hidden Chronicles, or several of the other Zynga games, but who do not have a Facebook account, are now able to play them. You can create an account at Zynga.com with your email address. Facebook is no longer required.

This update which was announced in March, has now taken effect. Zynga posted a blog a few weeks ago to let current players of their games know what to expect. To me, the best part of the update is that I can play Zynga games again even though I do not have a Facebook account. (I do not want a Facebook account).

Gamers who were already playing Zynga games through Facebook, or who created an account at Zynga.com that was connected to their Facebook account, need not worry. You will not have to start your games from scratch, you won’t lose the friends you play with through Facebook, and your game will continue on as expected. The difference is that you now have the option of choosing to start from scratch. Which, as Zynga notes, can be a good thing! Either way, the games are free to play.

Players who live in the UK may be interested to hear that Zynga has recently released Zynga Plus Poker It offers online poker, slot machines, blackjack, and other gambling type games. You cannot play these games for free. Part of the fine print at the Zynga Plus Poker website reads:

Play for real money, win for real at our poker tournaments and cash games with your mates and meet new friends who share your love for poker along the way.

Clearly, Zynga has taken a step towards “real money” gaming with its Zynga Plus Poker. It my understanding that you cannot participate unless you are in the UK. I expect we will see more types of “pay to play” games from Zynga in the near future. Could Farmville2 one day require a paid subscription? We will have to wait and see.

Zynga Will No Longer Require Players to Use Facebook

Posted by JenThorpe at 3:55 PM on March 21, 2013

ZyngaThis is exactly what I’ve been waiting to hear from Zynga! As you may recall, Zynga and Facebook changed their relationship status in November of 2012. It marked the beginning of changes between the two companies. To make a long story short, it appeared that there was potential that there would come a day when people who did not have a Facebook account could access Zynga games through the Zynga website.

Today, we get more details how that is going to work. Zynga wrote a blog that describes the update. It reads:

So what’s new? Starting next week, when you visit Zynga.com you will see a streamlined setup that lets you create your own account just for playing games. We also wanted to make sure that existing Zynga.com players continue to have the best experience possible so you don’t have to start from scratch. All players will have the option to connect with Facebook and keep your game friends and game progress, while deciding what you will share with your gaming community.

Basically, this means that next week, players who do not have a Facebook account will be able to play Zynga games through Zynga.com. It also means that people who have a Facebook account and have been playing games both at the Zynga website and on Facebook won’t lose access to their fellow gamers on Facebook once this change starts.

As someone who has gotten quite tired of Facebook, I have to admit I am excited to start playing Zynga games again. I’ve been wondering if Farmville 2 is as fun as the original version. Looks like I will soon have the opportunity to find out! You cannot log in without a Facebook account just yet (I checked) but it will happen soon.

This change matches what Playdom has been doing for quite some time – allowing players to access their games through Playdom.com without requiring them to have a Facebook account. Since leaving Facebook, Playdom has gotten all of my attention when I was seeking a quick, simple, game to play. Zynga wasn’t getting any, as I could not access their games. It will be interesting to see what happens after next week.