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 8-5

Instagram Scheduling: This week Facebook added Instagram scheduling to its Creator Studio. Finally. However, “Instagram Stories” cannot be scheduled. Not yet!


The Housing Crisis is Driving a New Boom in Influencer Content: New Statesman has a compelling article about the paradox of millennial home ownership compared to how much home renovation content is being created and consumed. Key Quote: “Through reno-porn, influencers are able to show off their good fortune, their beautifully decorated homes, and impressive incomes. And while nearly all of these influencers take the time to acknowledge their extreme privilege, it doesn’t negate the fact that their reno-porn is monetizing the attention of a young audience for many of whom this will never become a reality. This masochistic trend has spooky parallels to 15 years ago. At the height of the financial crisis – when people across the world were having their homes repossessed and forced back into renting after years of home ownership – shows like Homes Under The Hammer and Changing Rooms were exploding in popularity.”


Why You Think Your Devices Are Listening to You: This week Shelly Palmer details the urban legend that our phones are listening to us. He details the truth about enriched data sets, predictive models and machine learning — all of which “results in advertisers having the uncanny ability to understand your behaviors well enough to put the right message in front of you at the right time in the right place.” It’s just good advertising. Worth a read.


Number Neighbor Game: “Number Neighbor,” also known as Text Door Neighbor, dates back to 2008 and involves texting the numbers adjacent to your cell number and striking up a conversation. This week the meme has been reinvigorated, with people texting their number neighbors and posting screenshots of the resulting conversation. The results can be hilarious, serendipitous, tragic and sometimes too good to be true. Do you dare to text your number neighbor?


Self-Driving Delivery Ground Drones Coming to California Neighborhoods: This week Amazon announced the introduction of Scout, a six-wheeled robot the size of a small cooler, that will begin delivering packages to customers in Irvine, California weekdays during daylight. Ground drones are going to be a thing. And yes, a worker will accompany the robots at first.


Instagram of the Week: @TheMonsterProject is an account where kids draw monsters and then artists from around the world recreate them in their own styles. Like this one from Berlin and this one from Uruguay.


Podcast of the Week: On this week’s episode of The Digiday Podcast, Brian Morrissey interviews The Atlantic’s Taylor Lorenz to discuss TikTok – including why it’s so important to marketers and some of the challenges. If you aren’t already, be sure to follow Lorenz’s curated TikTok account on Instagram: @GradeATikToks