Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebook Announced New Ways to Watch Facebook Video



Facebook announced some updates that will give Facebook users new ways to watch Facebook video. It appears that the idea is to give users more flexibility on how and when they watch videos on Facebook.

Previously, Facebook users would have videos in their News Feed that silently played. Those that wanted to hear the sound had to click on an individual video. The new update, which is slowly being brought to users, will have sound automatically start playing on the videos in your News Feed. The sound will fade in and out as you scroll through videos in your News Feed.

If you don’t like that idea, there is a way to disable it. Go into your Facebook Settings and switch off “Videos in News Feed Start With Sound.” If you view Facebook on your phone, and your phone is set to silent, the videos will not play with sound.

Facebook is now offering a larger preview of vertical videos in News Feed on mobile. The larger format is now available on both iOS and Android.

It is now possible to watch a Facebook video and scroll through your News Feed at the same time. Users can minimize the video that they want to watch to a picture-in-picture view that plays in the corner of the screen. Users can drag the video to any corner of the screen they want to. People who view Facebook on an Android device can keep the video playing as they exit the Facebook app to do something else on their phones.

The biggest part of the update is the announcement of a Facebook video app for TV, which will roll out soon to app stores for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV (with more platforms to come.) This is an expansion upon an existing ability to stream videos from Facebook to your TV.

The Facebook video app for TV will let you watch videos shared by friends or Pages you follow. It will show you top live videos from around the world, and will recommend videos based on your interest. You can also catch up on videos that you’ve saved to watch later, or to revisit videos you already watched, shared, or uploaded.


WhatsApp Wants to Share User Data with Facebook



WhatsApp logoWhatsApp updated its terms and privacy policy for the first time in four years. Some of those changes are likely to turn off users. In short, WhatsApp wants to share user data with Facebook for the purpose of using it to show you targeted ads. There is a way to opt-out of it.

WhatsApp posted an oddly worded blog post that describes more about what it is about to do. It tries to reassure users that they will still be able to keep in touch with friends and loved ones on WhatsApp. Next, it vaguely suggests that the new terms and privacy policy is intended to benefit companies that want to show you adds. From the blog post:

People use our app every day to keep in touch with loved ones who matter to them, and this isn’t changing. But as we announced earlier this year, we want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam. Whether it’s hearing from your bank about a potentially fraudulent transaction, or getting notified by an airline about a delayed flight, many of us get this information elsewhere, including in text messages and phone calls. We want to test these features in the next several months, but need to update our terms and privacy policy to do so.

The wording implies that WhatsApp thinks that talking with your loved ones is an equally valuable experience as communicating with “businesses who matter to you”. I doubt many users are going to be convinced of that notion. No one joins a social media site or app because they simply cannot wait to connect with businesses and see more ads.

WhatsApp goes on to point out that they will share some user data with Facebook. It assures users that they have “rolled out end-to-end encryption”, and that user messages are encrypted by default.

WhatsApp also states that it won’t post or share your WhatsApp number with others, including on Facebook, and that it also won’t give your phone number to advertisers. Then, WhatsApp suggests that connecting your phone number to Facebook’s systems will enable Facebook to “offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads”.

If you are using both WhatsApp and Facebook, and you want to opt-out of this new change, you can. WhatsApp has instructions on how to do that directly from the app.


Facebook’s Recent Changes Are Bad For Low-Vision Users



FacebookNothing seems to get the internet’s collective ire up more than changes to Facebook. The social network has changed its layout and functionality many times over the years. Whenever it does this, my News Feed lights up with plenty of complaints. People even start special groups, pages, and petitions designed to convince Facebook to change things back to how they worked before. And while I guess all of that organized venting helps some of these users feel better, it rarely causes Facebook to do an about face (no pun intended). Every time one of these incidents becomes the meme du jour, I just ignore it and move on with my life. Because getting mad about Facebook is an exercise in futility. Facebook isn’t beholden to users since (despite commonly circulated rumors) none of us are paying to use Facebook, and the platform is now so big, it isn’t really concerned with the loss of a couple, or even a couple thousand, users.

But now the tide has turned for me. I’m legally blind. When I look at Facebook using Safari on my iMac, I use the pinch-to-zoom function available thru my wireless trackpad. This allows me to blow up the News Feed to a size that’s comfortable for me to read. I’ve done it this way for years without incident. Until yesterday. I logged in to Facebook and used the zoom function, just as I have been doing. The result was this:

Facebook zoom

The right-hand sidebar now “floats” to the left and partially covers the News Feed. Zooming in more increases the problem.

I posted about this on Twitter:

And I sent a message thru Facebook’s feedback form, which generated this reply via e-mail:

Hi,

Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback. We’re constantly trying to improve Facebook, so it’s important that we hear from the people who use it. Unfortunately, we can’t respond to your emails individually, but we are paying attention to them. We appreciate you taking the time to write to us.

If you’re having any problems with your account, please visit the Help Center (http://www.facebook.com/help) where you’ll find information about Facebook as well as the answers to many of your questions.

Thanks again for your feedback,
The Facebook Team

I don’t really expect to receive a response from Facebook thru either medium. But I do hope that at least one human actually sees the tweet and/or the feedback message, and that person is able to forward it to someone who will also look at it and at least consider it before tossing it away forever.

I don’t necessarily expect Facebook (or any platform) to make changes for me. I don’t expect them to make changes to suit what is assuredly a minority user base (low-vision users). But this change really has no merit. I understand that Facebook delivers a lot of ads thru that sidebar, and Facebook relies on these ads. I don’t have a problem with that, and I’m guessing they added the “floating” capability to the sidebar in order to ensure those ads would move with users who scroll thru their News Feeds. But there must be a way to set the sidebar so it doesn’t have to float to the left like this.

After all, it didn’t do this two days ago.


Facebook Will Allow Videos in Comments



facebook-logoFacebook is rolling out a new feature that will allow you to upload a video into comments and replies on posts. Apparently, the ability to respond to something with a link, photo, sticker, emoji, or a well written comment wasn’t enough. Soon, the post you make about … anything at all… could end up with a bunch of videos posted as comments.

Bob Baldwin, who works for Facebook and who has been involved in many Facebook Hackathons, is among the people to thank (or grumble at) for this. He points out that the ability to upload a video into comments and replies on posts was something he and others prototyped at Facebook’s 50th Hackathon (which took place earlier this year). That particular Hackathon was called the “Global Jubilee”, and had all Facebook engineering offices hack together.

The “Videos in Comments” ability is being rolled out worldwide. Those who are interested in, or amused by, this option can upload videos as replies to posts made by people and by pages, and also within groups and events. It is supported on desktop web, iOS, and Android.

Judging from the comment section on the Facebook post about “Videos in Comments”, it appears the feature is intended to be used by people who want to make short video posts of themselves expressing a particular emotion or sharing something – and to use that video as a response to someone’s post. To show how this works, Bob Baldwin added a short video of himself as a comment to a post he made. The video briefly showed people around Facebook’s new Seattle office.


Blizzard and Facebook Team Up to Empower Streamers



Blizzard Entertainment logoBlizzard announced that it is working together with Facebook to give gamers new ways to connect and share their gaming experiences, and to bring more high-demand content to Facebook’s global platform.

The collaboration between the two companies will begin later this month with the integration of Facebook Login in Blizzard’s PC games. (The console games are unaffected by this collaboration). The integration of the Facebook login will enable players to sign up for and log into Blizzard’s games – including World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, Diablo III, StarCraft II and Overwatch – using their Facebook accounts.

What do these two companies get from this collaboration? Blizzard gets a way to add new social functionality in their games. Facebook gets a means to highlight its platform for sharing, viewing, and discussing AAA game content.

Blizzard is in the process of incorporating Facebook’s Live API in order to create its own “Go Live” streaming functionality for its games. When that functionality is implemented, players will for the first time be able to livestream their Blizzard-gaming sessions directly through their Facebook timelines. The player’s Facebook friends will be able to subscribe and be notified when the player’s new streams are available.


Facebook and Twitter are Making Images More Accessible



image by Redd Angelo from StockSnapIt has been said that adding an image to your post in social media is a good way to get more people to look at it. People who are blind or visually impaired might not be able to see those photos. Facebook and Twitter have made changes that are designed to make the images more accessible.

Facebook posted a blog that explains the change they are making. “With more than 39 million people who are blind, and over 246 million who have a severe visual impairment, many people feel excluded from the conversation around photos on Facebook. We want to build technology that helps the blind community experience Facebook the same way that others enjoy it.”

Facebook has introduced something called automatic alternative text. It generates a description of a photo using advancements in photo recognition technology. People who use screen readers on iOS devices will hear a list of items a photo may contain as they swipe past photos on Facebook. The change is a big one. Facebook states that before, the screen reader would describe a photo as “photo”. Now, the screen reader might say something like “image may contain three people, smiling, outdoors.”

This change was made possible due to Facebook’s object recognition technology. Facebook has launched automatic alt text on iOS screen readers set to English, and plans to add this functionality to other languages and platforms soon.

This follows a change made by Twitter that was designed to improve accessibility. As of March 29, 2016, people who use Twitter’s iOS and Android apps can add descriptions (also known as alternative text) to images in Tweets.

Users can enable that feature by using the compose image descriptions option in the Twitter app’s accessibility settings. The next time you add an image to a Tweet, each thumbnail in the composer will have an add description button. Tap it to see the image, and then add a description (of up to 140 characters). Doing so will help people who use screen readers to “see” your photo.


Facebook Realizes Users Don’t Like Hoaxes



facebook-logoWhat do you want to see in your News Feed? Facebook is currently focusing on viral stories in an effort to show you more posts you are actually interested in (and less stuff that you don’t want to see).

One thing Facebook has figured out is that people don’t enjoy seeing News Feed posts that are hoaxes. Facebook defines hoaxes as follows:

Hoaxes are a form of News Feed Spam that includes scams (“Click here to win a lifetime supply of coffee”), or deliberately false or misleading news stories (“Man sees dinosaur on hike in Utah”).

What ends up happening is interesting. Someone posts an article that is a hoax. The person probably doesn’t realize that the story isn’t real. The post gets a lot of reshares (from people who also don’t realize it is a hoax).

A bunch of other people comment on that post to let the original poster (and everyone else) know that the story is a hoax. Some of those corrective posts include links to “hoax-busting websites”. Eventually, most people delete the hoax post (and feel foolish for posting it, I suspect).

In the meantime, all those comments and shares are making the Facebook News Feed algorithm think that a whole bunch of Facebook users want to see that particular post. It ends up going viral – for all the wrong reasons. That post is getting tons of attention because people don’t want to see it.

As a result, Facebook is asking users to take quick surveys where they are shown two posts and are asked which one they most want to see. Ideally, the result will be that the hoaxes that have gone viral will be placed lower down in people’s News Feeds in the future.


One Billion People Used Facebook in One Day



Facebook logoToday, Mark Zuckerberg took to his verified Facebook account to announce that Facebook had passed an important milestone. For the first time ever, one billion people used Facebook in a single day.

Part of his statement read: “We just passed an important milestone. For the first time ever, one billion people used Facebook in a single day.

On Monday, 1 in 7 people on Earth used Facebook to connect with their friends and family.

When we talk about our financials, we use average numbers, but this is different. This was the first time we reached this milestone, and it’s just the beginning of connecting the whole world.”

TIME points out that the one billion number is the total number of people who used Facebook on that one day. That number is different from the Daily Active User figure the company posts with its financial earnings that reflects a 30-day average.

Gizmodo notes that if one billion people used Facebook in one day, it means that over six billion people did not use Facebook at all that day. How you present things is important. Put one way, the one billion milestone sounds huge. Put the other way, it gives you some perspective about what that number really means.

What were the six billion people who didn’t use Facebook that day doing? One can only speculate. They might have used a different social media website instead. Or, they could have been spending time with their loved ones “in real life”. It is summer right now for half the planet, so it’s entirely possible that people were on vacation, going outside, and enjoying the weather.


Facebook Gives You More Control Over What You See



Facebook Newsfeed PreferencesFacebook has made some changes that will let you improve your News Feed experience. Surprisingly, it is going to let people select what they want to see first. Pick the friends who create posts that you actually want to see.

Product Manager Jacob Frantz wrote a post on Facebook Newsroom about this change. Part of it says:

We’re always working to improve and personalize your News Feed experience. We know that ultimately you’re the only one who truly knows what is most meaningful to you and that is why we want to give you more ways to control what you see.

There is now an option to “Prioritize who to see first”. This gives you the opportunity to put the people, or pages, that are most important to you at the top of your News Feed. Who are you hoping to read posts from when you go on Facebook? Those are the people you should prioritize. No more scrolling through a bunch of stuff you don’t care about before finding what you came there to see.

The same post by Jacob Frantz mentions the Unfollow option. It is as though he is reminding users of that option (since it isn’t new). Use the Unfollow on that person who keeps posting political articles that you are tired of seeing. You can Follow them again later, after they calm down. To do that, just select them from your list of people you have Unfollowed.

The new ability to prioritize your Facebook feed is available on iOS and will be rolling out on Android and desktop over the coming weeks.

I find these changes interesting, even though I don’t use Facebook myself. I cannot help but wonder if the ability to pick what you want to see first, and to Unfollow people – without Unfriending them, or giving them any way to know that you have stopped Following them – is a form of triage.

Giving people more control over what they see could make a person’s Facebook experience more pleasant and less aggravating. It might be what prevents people from getting tired of, or frustrated with, Facebook and quitting it forever.


Is Your Facebook Feed an Echo Chamber?



facebook-logoFacebook recently did some research in order to discover exactly how much individuals could be, and are, exposed to ideologically diverse news and information in social media. People are increasingly turning to social media for news. Is it your selection of friends, or Facebook’s algorithms, that have the most influence on what you see in your News Feed?

The Facebook researchers looked at individuals who use Facebook and who self-identified as either a liberal or as a conservative. They found that 9% of Facebook users in the United States classified themselves as either a liberal or a conservative.

The researchers wanted to find out how much people were being exposed to “hard news” (articles about politics, world affairs, and the economy), rather than “soft news” (stories about entertainment, celebrities and sports). They also wanted to know whether the information in the articles were aligned primarily with liberal or conservative audiences.

The researchers found that, on average, 23% of people’s friends claim an opposing political ideology. They found that 29% of the hard news content that people’s friends share cuts across ideological lines. It turned out that 28.9% of the hard news that Facebook users saw in their News Feed cut across ideological lines. The researchers also found that 24.9% of the hard news content people actually clicked on cut across ideological lines.

What does all this mean? Facebook says that the composition of a person’s social network is the most important factor affecting the mix of content encountered on social media. Individual choice also plays a large role. Facebook says the News Feed ranking has a smaller impact on the diversity of information a person sees from the opposing ideological viewpoint than does who they have selected as friends.

In other words, Facebook says that the friends you choose have more of an influence on what you see on Facebook than does the News Feed algorithm. You could be, intentionally or unwittingly, creating an echo chamber by only friending people who match your ideological viewpoint.

On the other hand, there’s an interesting article on Medium that takes a look at Facebook’s study. Eli Pariser points out that the Facebook research was done on just 9% of Facebook users (a small number of overall users), and that those users could behave differently on Facebook than people who don’t identify themselves as either liberal or conservative. He also notes that since this was done by Facebook scientists, the study is not reproducible – at least, not without Facebook’s permission to reproduce it.