Social Pulse, Week of 7-13

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: This week everything was cake on the internet. Twitter experienced its largest hack ever. Twitter also rolled out a new DM experience. Byte, aka “new Vine,” is seeing a huge surge in downloads as young people look for TikTok alternatives in case it’s shut down. Download it here. Facebook is preparing to launch officially licensed music videos on its social network in the U.S. next month, in a direct challenge to YouTube, and is introducing new image modes for more users. Snapchat launched branded profiles. Pinterest is updating its algorithm. Amazon announced a shopping cart that knows that you’re buying. Zoom announced a $600 standalone video conference gadget. Microsoft Teams is introducing a “Together Mode” to reduce on-camera fatigue, including auditorium mode (coming in August).

The Mobile World of Coronavirus: New data shows that Q2 of 2020 was the largest ever for mobile app downloads, usage and consumer mobile spending. Mobile app usage grew 40% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020, even hitting an all-time high of over 200 billion hours during April. Consumer spending in apps, meanwhile, hit a record high of $27 billion in the second quarter. And app downloads reached a high of nearly 35 billion.

Virtual Road Trip: A Harvard sophomore is “driving” across the country on Google Street View and live-tweeting his progress while he clicks the forward, left and right arrows. He crossed through Minnesota last week and is headed southeast.  Follow his “drive” here.

Cat Video Film Festival Goes Virtual: Cat lovers across the globe can rejoice, because the annual Cat Video Festival hosted in the Twin Cities each year is moving virtual—which means anyone can tune in on Thursday, August 20. Originally curated by the Walker Art Center, the Cat Video Festival has become an annual tradition to gather and celebrate our feline friends. And it’s not too late to enter your own cat videos here.  

How Afrofuturism Can Help the World Mend: This week Wired wrote about “Afrofuturism” and the importance of imaging the Black futures through the lens of technology to accomplish social justice and equity. Key quote: “Black Lives Matter and related hashtag activist movements are strikingly Afrofuturist: They utilize existing technology to amplify their signal and build coalitions. Even more, the use of cameras on mobile phones to record acts of violence is also Afrofuturist. Even though the cameras weren’t designed to fuel civil disobedience, we wouldn’t be having discussions about how to dismantle corrupt systems in law enforcement without them… Afrofuturism predicts that the events of 2020 will breed new techno-political movements (as it already has), new artistic forms, means of expression, discoveries, and philosophies.”

TikTok of the Week: Seventeen year-old Aidan Caroll has been creating rollercoasters imitating the graphs of coronavirus cases by country — or “Roner Coasters,” as he calls them. The U.S. coaster is the best because it goes SO HIGH! Ride along here: Part 1, Part 2.

App of the Week: If you miss the social and competitive nature of HQ Trivia, you have to download and play Tetris. That’s right – the old Tetris app has updated itself into a nightly social competition, complete with a live host and cash prizes. And it’s basically the same game play as when it was introduced, in 1984. Download here: iOS, Android

Stream of the Week: Amazon Prime Video has 1 hour and 15 minutes worth of vintage drive-in movie theater ads you can watch at home. And then head into your kitchen for an ice cold Coca-Cola and some hot, buttery popcorn.

Viral Video of the Week: Houston-based artist Tobe Nwigwe created the 44-second song “I Need You To” reinvigorate calls for justice for Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain, and it’s spreading fast this week. Watch here.

Weekend Inspiration: I made a robot to cut my hair with scissors

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Social Pulse, Week of 4-20

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 for these weekly emails here.

Starlink Satellite Spotting: That’s not a string of UFOs flying above your house in the night sky. Those are Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites that will soon be bringing high-speed internet to the world (albeit really frustrating astronomers). Find out when they will be visibly passing overhead your home next at

SocNet Updates: Facebook is rolling out a seventh Reaction – it’s called Care but it looks like a hug, and will start rolling out next week globally. Facebook is also adding animation tools to still photos in Facebook Stories. TikTok added more web tools outside of the mobile app. Google now lets you add TV and movie searches to a watchlist on mobile. Twitter is testing new ways to display Retweets with comments. Instagram is fast-tracking account memorialization and is testing ways to syndicate Instagram live streams to Facebook.  

Embracing the Chaotic Side of Zoom: The New Yorker’s Naomi Fry wrote a longform ode to the background noises, bathrobes, and other bloopers that are part of our collective workstyle today.

Facebook Gaming: This week Facebook launched a dedicated gaming app to compete with YouTube and Twitch. It offers a similar experience to the Gaming tab on Facebook’s desktop, which lets users broadcast themselves or watch a streamer playing games instead. It’s in the Google Play Store now and iOS soon.

Alexa Finds Her Voice: Amazon is introducing a new long form speaking style for Alexa, which can be used in Skills for a more natural sounding experience when reading long pieces of content, like articles or podcasts. See what you think – short style, long style.

Is Fortnite the Metaverse? No, but it has a good start. For those looking for the next frontier in interactive engagement (the next web!), Fortnite is the place. And if this week’s Travis Scott concert that competed with NFL draft night is any indication, it’s well on its way. Key quote: “Fortnite is a game… But ask that question again in 12 months.” If you missed it, the Travis Scott Astronomical event will repeat on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.

Drunken Website Testing: Your website should be so simple, a drunk person could use it. And now you can pay a drunk person to test your website. And he will record a video for you, with hilarious results. Here are examples of his reviews of Gizmodo and Hubspot (note: please consume and surf responsibly).  

App of the Week: Chatparty is videochat without audio. Finally, you can interact with people around the room without having to hear them. Try it on your desktop here. Be sure to invite some friends. To videochat. Without audio.

You Have 4 Minutes to Dial That Phone Number: Watch these young people struggle to dial a rotary phone.