Alexa, turn on the tree: Amazon released a voice-activated, “smart” Christmas tree that works with Alexa to turn on/off, change colors and control via schedule. No word yet if it will play Jingle Bells or tell you the forecast for a white Christmas. It’s $300 and already out of stock.
Portal TV Launch: This week Facebook launched Portal TV, a $149 device that hooks to your TV and enables video chat, content streaming and more. Reviews so far are extremely positive. However, Facebook faces an uphill battle getting consumers to trust them to put microphones and cameras in their homes.
Share to TikTok: TikTok released its first-ever software-development kit (SDK) this week, which will allow users to upload video content to the TikTok platform through third-party apps. Although sharing content out of TikTok has been the norm, soon you may be able to share content to TikTok from other apps.
Tumblr Trying Some New Community Strategies: Tumblr’s active users tanked when they blocked adult content, but there are still more wholesome communities who love and use the platform. This week Tumblr is launching a new group messaging feature that will allow different fandoms on the site to chat more easily with each other instead of replying on re-blogs. Per The Verge, the “group chats” are public spaces, meaning that anyone can find and read them, though only approved members can send messages.
Snapchat’s Global Trending Topics: Each month Snap releases key insights from users on the platform, “Snap Chatter.” It’s not a great name, but the insights into its heavy youth base are helpful. The report includes global and US trending topics, entertainment, celebrities and slang. October’s slang of the month: “vibe check.” See the full report here.
The Content Authenticity Initiative: In the age of Google Image Search, Photoshop, web comics, memes and deepfakes, it’s never been more difficult to discern if content is “real,” let alone who owns it. That’s why Adobe, Twitter, and The New York Times Company are working on a new system for adding attribution to photos and other content. According to The Verge, “A tool will record who created a piece of content and whether it’s been modified by someone else, then let other people and platforms check that data.” So far there’s no release date, but Adobe debuted a prototype in Photoshop and this technology could be used proactively to help identify a photo’s source and ensure artists get credit for their work.
The 2010’s Broke Our Sense of Time: Katherine Miller has a longform editorial about the impact of digital and social media, TV and streaming content, politics and technology, busyness and digital detoxing are warping our collective sense of time.
Key quote: “The dynamic of overload and disorientation, and the final cathartic break from them, isn’t isolated to Black Mirror — it’s a dominant theme of the last five years of culture. In real life, in the wake of the election, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Instagram have talked about screentime limits, mute functions, preventing harassment and abuse — clawing back control. How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell’s case for reasserting yourself in the tangible world, has become the centerpiece for essays and takes about cutting back and seeing, again, reality free from the algorithmic commodification of the personal. There are the essays about quitting Twitter, or the inherent avarice of Instagram, or reclaiming the life beyond the external presentation of self. But people always seem to come back.” It’s worth a read.
Alexa of the Week: Alexa turns 5 years-old this month. Wish her a happy birthday to listen to her awkwardly interact with Marshmello’s “Run It Up.”
Screaming Roomba! This YouTuber modified a Roomba so that it curses and screams when it bumps into things. This is absolutely NSFW. And hilarious.