Social Pulse, Week of 10-5

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology and consumer habits that impact the social web. These are summed up in a round-up called Social Pulse. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday here.

Get Your Instagram Birthday Icons: To celebrate its 10th birthday, Instagram added an Easter egg to the app that lets you change its home screen icon to the classic Polaroid-style camera icon, Pride rainbow, monochrome, and more. The app update also includes a private map and archive of your stories from the past three years. To unlock these icons, go to Settings and pull the whole menu DOWN. Here’s a quick video demo.

Stories and More Stories: From Snapchat to Instagram and Facebook to Linked, the “Stories” content vehicle format continues to grow in popularity. It’s an ephemeral, accessible, and vertical first format that’s easy to share and easier to consume. This week both Google Search and Slack added Stories to their platforms.

Triller Paying Big $ to Grow: TikTok-cloneapp Triller is bolstering its quality and reach by offering notable creators big bucks to make content dedicated for the platform. Key quote: “Triller offered the creators a deal: Tell your audience on TikTok that you’re moving to Triller, and we’ll give you equity and roles within the company. You can still post on TikTok, they were told, but only if you post on Triller more frequently.” The platform is quite popular with Trumpers, QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theorists, although it picked up lots of new users when folks thought TikTok could be banned.

Nvidia Maxine Sets Out to Fix All the Problems With Video Calls: You know when you’re in a video call and the person on the other end isn’t looking directly at the camera, has really bad audio and video quality, steps out of frame completely, or overall it just feels like maybe you should just do a phone call? Nvidia has announced a new videoconferencing platform for developers named Nvidia Maxine that claims to fix all of these problems, and more. Watch a demo here.

A Social Network Rooted in Kindness? A team of former Quora employees are using lessons learned from Twitter in an effort to make social networking fun again, launching an invite-only social network called Telepath. Telepath threads combine the urgency of Twitter with the ephemerality of Snapchat (posts disappear after 30 days). The key differentiator is you must use real names and the network hosts an in-house content moderation team that enforces kindness. Key quote: “Telepath is ultimately in a tug-of-war: Is it possible to encourage lively-yet-decent debate on a platform without seeing it devolve into harassment? Most users assume that being online involves taking a certain amount of abuse, particularly if you’re a woman or from a marginalized group. Ideally, that doesn’t have to be the case.” Join the waitlist here.

Forecast is Public: Facebook is opening its experimental predictions app Forecast to all users. It’s pretty fun to make predictions – and bet – on trending news or world events, or add your own. For example, I added a forecast asking if you believe if the President would pardon a turkey this year or not. What do you think? Download it here.

Happy Birthday @HydraulicPressChannel! It’s been 5 years of publishing videos of a hydraulic press crushing things like gummy bears, duct tape, basketballs, and more. Of course, the channel celebrated by smashing lit birthday candles. So satisfying.  

Quick hits:

Social Pulse, Week of 8-24

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology and consumer habits that impact the social web. These are summed up in a round-up called Social Pulse. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday here.

SocNet Updates:


The Event Industry’s Napster Moment is Here: Before Napster (then iTunes and Spotify), the music industry didn’t see the digital paradigm shift that would disrupt its industry. In the same way, Rafat Ali writes you can see parallels with the event industry not being prepared for our move to digital events, networking and even dating. Will we ever meet in person again? Definitely, but it will look different. Key quote: “It is important to point out that neither the music nor radio nor the news industry nor the TV/film industry died, it’s that the incumbent players were simply shunted aside by new companies without the institutional bloat and interests that nearly always keep incumbents from advancing to the next thing.“ Of note, Spotify has launched a virtual events feature already!


Touchless Shopping Adoption: In the COVID-19 era, we’re seeing a massive rush of adoption of touchless interaction including mobile payments at retail checkouts, QR codes being rapidly adopted for everything from restaurant menus to hotel check-ins, and “pay by face” being tested in LA this week. Will Whole Foods start piloting their whole hand scan technology to checkout? We’ll see.


The New Celebrity: The life of a paparazzo is informed by trends and “who’s hot” versus “who’s not.” And in March, the A-listers hid while Gen Z’s rising social media stars stayed in plain sight. That may be why you (and certainly your kids) know more about Charli D’Amelio’s love life than Ana de Armas’. The NYT writes about what’s happening in Hollywood, as shelter-in-place redefines “influence.”



Machine Learning to Help You Make a Sandwich: This week saw the launch of the world’s first end-to-end computer vision program for building optimal peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It’s potentially the best worst use of machine and deep learning I’ve seen so far. Certainly the most delicious.


Facebook is Building a Robot to Walk Around Your House: This week Facebook Labs shared the progress its AI research team has made in the realm of household robotics, including one that roam your house. Key quote: “To accomplish a task like checking to see whether you locked the front door or retrieving a cell phone that’s ringing in an upstairs bedroom, AI assistants of the future must learn to plan their route, navigate effectively, look around their physical environment, listen to what’s happening around them, and build memories of the 3D space.” This reminds us of the Samsung Ballie demo I saw at CES, where a little robot ball can detect a spill, direct your Roomba to clean it up, and even tattle on who did it.


Brain-Control Interface Demo is Today! Will we soon be writing this email by just thinking it? Elon Musk’s Neuralink neural lace company will be demonstrating a working brain-machine interface at 6PM ET today! Tune in here. 


Tweet of the Week: You know those horrifying robot dogs that can climb stairs and haunt your nightmares? This week Unitree Robotics shared a video of one wearing a cute hat and dancing. Which is honestly just as haunting.


PSL Season Makes Trends: The pumpkin spice latte hit Starbucks for a release earlier than ever, and it took the social world by storm per usual. Here’s an updated #PumpkinSpice launch history timeline. And Last Week Tonight did its hilarious annual supercut of local news commenting the arrival of PSL season. Watch here: “Jill, you have to try it. Jill!” (note, some NSFW language here – who knew pumpkin spice was so… spicy?).


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Social Pulse, Week of 7-20

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology and consumer habits that impact the social web. These are summed up in a round-up called Social Pulse. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday here.

SocNet Updates: Instagram shared the top hashtags from the past couple of months related to social justice on Instagram, and is adding Personal Fundraisers to stickers on Instagram Stories. Facebook is creating teams to study racial bias on Facebook and Instagram. Twitter is testing new iOS app icons and animated open screen that help reinforce the real-time news aspect of the platform. TikTok announced a $200M creator fund. Snapchat rolled out the first of its Snap Minis, an integration with meditation app Headspace.

Amazon’s Ground Delivery Drones Introduced to the U.S. Amazon’s Scout robot has started making deliveries in Atlanta, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee. It’s the size of a cooler and rolls at walking pace. And yes, even though they are autonomous, “Amazon Scout ambassador” will be shadowing them at first to be sure they don’t roll into traffic or humans don’t mess with them.  

COVID-19 Social Media Behavior Watch: This week Pinterest shared new research that shows more people than ever before are turning to Pinterest for wellbeing and self-care. In fact, Pinterest has recently seen the highest searches ever around mental wellness ideas including  meditation (+44%), gratitude (+60%) and positivity (+42%) that jumped from February to May. Read the full report here.

Deepfake Watch: MIT released this deepfake video of President Nixon breaking the news that NASA failed and astronauts died on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission using “real” footage of Nixon, a voice actor reading the contingency speech, and deepfake technologies to make it believable. Partially because there’s a lot of forgiveness of 1969-era recordings, the result is extremely believable. And the latest indicator this technology is becoming more accessible and thus more dangerous for our digital future.  

On Demand + Pickup Comes to C-Stores: 7-Eleven has expanded its delivery app to offer customers the option to order and pay for items ahead of time. Now you can finally order some beef jerky and a Mountain Dew at the gas station and cut the line. 🤠

Spotify Adds Video to Podcasts: This week Spotify announced creators can add video to their audio podcasts. To start watching, just press play on your desktop or mobile app. The creator-made videos will start automatically and sync immediately with your audio feed. If you’re multitasking between apps or want to lock your device during the episode, no worries: your audio will continue to play in the background with no interruption. And this is your reminder that Michelle Obama’s podcast comes out on July 29.  

Weekend Plans: Comic-Con is virtual this year. Check out panels, the online exhibit hall, and more online. You can still dress up. You’ll just need to do it from the comfort of your home.

Save this for 1 a.m. Here’s what we’ve been waiting for… Endless Doomscroller. An endless stream of fear-mongering headlines, without all the specifics. And it never ends. Perfect for those late nights when you know you should put your phone away, but you just can’t. (note: this sarcasm. Please take care of yourselves!)

TikTok of the Week: Me in 2038 in my kids’ junior high production of Hamilton Jr.

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