Facebook has been tweaking News Feed content to play with our emotions

30.06.2014, 13:31

Proof: Facebook affects your mood

A Facebook News Feed packed with negative status updates from peers is more likely to spur individual users to follow suit, a news study carried out by the social network has shown.

Like/Dislike illustration (image via TechRadar)

Many are upset!

The company’s experiment artificially tweaked the feeds of 689,003 users to show more downcast or more positive updates from their friends over the period of a week.

The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science showed a direct correlation between the emotions conveyed in the users’ own posts over that period of time.

While it’s unsurprising that something sad or happy happening to a large number of close friends and acquaintances can affect our emotions, the study offers proof social media is affecting the mood of users, for better our worse.

The authors wrote: “In an experiment with people who use Facebook, we test whether emotional contagion occurs outside of in-person interaction between individuals by reducing the amount of emotional content in the News Feed. When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.”

While the study yields perhaps unsurprising results, it’s somewhat unsettling that Facebook is turning users into guinea pigs for psychological experiments without proper consent.

Naturally, as Gizmodo points out, the machine-based testing is all covered under Facebook’s privacy policy.

“We show, via a massive (N = 689,003) experiment on Facebook, that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness,” the study claimed.

Lovely.

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Facebook denies it has abandoned Home

30.06.2014, 13:06

Will continue decorating although houseguests aren't expected

Facebook has moved to deny reports it has all-but-abandoned the much-lauded Facebook Home suite for Android smartphones.

Facebook and Home (image via TechRadar)

Android users are Home-less

A New York Times report said the social network had ‘disbanded’ the team of engineers responsible for building the custom skin, which allows users easier access to status updates, photos, messages and more.

The software, which effectively turns Android devices into a ‘Facebook phone,’ has experienced little success among users and virtually critical acclaim since its high profile launch event back in April 2013.

The NYT said members of the team have now been moved to other projects like the new, Snapchat-a-like Facebook Slingshot app, while Facebook Home features like Chat Heads have gravitated to the main app.

However, following the report, Facebook told The Verge claiming that work on Home, remains ongoing, despite the absence of any sort of update since January.

All-in-all though, Facebook seems much more focused on pushing its standalone applications and services, rather than turning handsets into a Facebook only phone.

Instagram is now firmly in the Facebook camp, WhatsApp is now under its wing, Facebook Messenger is being pushed heavily, while Slingshot also recently joined the fray.

With regards to Facebook Home. Well, if a tree falls in the woods and no-one is around to hear it, does it really make a sound?

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What’s on your mind? | Video of the week

30.06.2014, 10:21

Sometimes appearances are just that

We all know that social media can be most helpful. For life, for work, for fun, it is an outstanding way of communicating with others. That said, we must be careful not to forget that there is, ultimately, a real life beneath all those posts, likes and shares. Sometimes, unfortunately, real life can be hard. This is what this video teaches us. To remember that sometimes social media really is nothing else than a cover that hides the challenges of life.

We cannot really tell you to enjoy this video. It is in fact a very sad video. Yet, be sure to watch it and think deeply about it because, albeit probably not you, chances are someone in your network is going through something similar.

Facebook wants you to play more games through its iPad app

17.06.2014, 12:44

Got game?

Facebook has released a new version of its iPad app, introducing a new sidebar that encourages users to check out popular games and trending news topics.

Facebook on iPad (image via TechRadar)

That’s the plan!

The latest update, which is available to download now, adds a column on the right side of that screen similar to the one which on the Facebook.com web browser site.

As well as games and news, users will also see calendar events and the weather within the sidebar.

Facebook said the update is being made to provide content relevant to how people use tablets today.

According to the social network, 70 per cent of all iPad owners used their tablet to play a game on Facebook over the past three months.

While those stats would be surprising, if true, it makes sense that Facebook would hope to capitalise by pushing titles from its developers, rather than users going elsewhere to download games from the App Store.

The update appears to be US-only right now. Let us know if it’s appearing at your end.

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Wimbledon 2014 goes social with near-live highlights on Facebook and Twitter

11.06.2014, 10:02

Watch Murray's title defence from the comfort of your Twitter feed

Catching the BBC’s live coverage of Wimbledon is often tricky during work hours, but organisers are hoping to ensure those important service breaks and saved match points can be viewed by anyone with access to their social media feeds.

Camera Filming Wimbledon (image via TechRadar)

That’s a lot of Social Media!

The All England Lawn Tennis Club has confirmed it has formed a formidable doubles pairing with social video firm Grabyo in order to broadcast “near-live highlights” on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

The partnership will see between 25-50 clips posted to the social platforms every day, chronicling action from Centre Court and Courts No.1 and No.2, with each video lasting between 30-60 seconds.

The idea is not just to keep those TV-less souls in the loop, but also to alert those who may be missing a five set classic while out in the garden to get themselves inside and chuck on BBC 2.

Grabyo already has partnerships with Sky Sports, Channel 5 and Setanta Sports, but the Wimbledon deal represents the first time a major rights holder has “delivered real-time video highlights to a global audience across multiple social platforms,” according to the start up’s CEO Gareth Capon.

Grabyo will also power extended highlights from the tournament on Wimbledon.com and YouTube, although that will be posted later in the day.

Wimbledon gets underway on June 23. Come on, Tim!

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Annoyingly, Flickr will block Facebook and Google sign-ins from June 30

06.06.2014, 14:52

Yahoo takes control

Flickr is the latest one of Yahoo’s services to remove third-party logins, as it confirmed today that you won’t be able to access the service with your Facebook or Google accounts from June 30.

New Flickr Stream (image via TechRadar)

Can you blame them?

Yahoo made the announcement earlier this year, but now we have an actual date – and even more reason to be annoyed.

This means you’ll have to create a Yahoo account if you want to keep using the service. But don’t worry about losing any of your precious pics: your new Yahoo login will be linked to your existing account.

Yahoo says it’s so it can offer “the best personalized experience to everyone” but it’s going to cause a lot of groaning. We’ve requested a response from Yahoo about why it’s made this change and will update when we get one.

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Facebook cuts down on Spotify and Instagram auto-shared spam

28.05.2014, 9:31

News feeds to favor personally shared stories

Facebook is changing the way everyone’s news feed to feature less auto-shared post like what songs on Spotify your friends are listening to and images they like on Instagram.

HTC Phone (image via TechRadar)

Less spam, always good news!

In a move to reduce auto-shared spam, the social network promises users third party apps such as Nike + will post fewer stories on their behalf. Additionally apps that auto-share your activity, such as Socialcam and Viddy, will need to prompt viewers with an option to opt out before apps can post the video to their timelines.

However, Facebook isn’t doing away with sharing from third-party apps. Instead the social network wrote in a developer update that it’s putting prioritizing explicitly shared stories over automated posts.

By doing this Facebook users will feel less confused by activity that show up on their own. Meanwhile, everyone can breath a sigh of relief knowing their news feeds won’t be flooded with “implicitly” shared posts all the time.

Automated sharing helped build Facebook into an aggregator let users post practically everything they saw and did online.

In the last year, however, the social network has been trying to reinvent itself as a more mature and conscientious social network with revised privacy controls. By combing down the news feed to promote explicitly shared content Facebook wants to pull only the most interesting and personal stories from the web.

“In general, we’ve found that people engage more with stories that are shared explicitly rather than implicitly, and often feel surprised or confused by stories that are shared implicitly or automatically,” Facebook’s Peter Yang said in a blog post.

While auto-sharing helped Facebook grow as the internet’s ghetto blaster, it’s actually hurt Facebook over the last year. Yang wrote that the number of implicitly shared stories has declined as people have come to associate these posts with spam.

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Virtual wars: Oculus and Palmer Luckey sued for allegedly stealing VR tech

22.05.2014, 9:42

What does this mean for Oculus Rift?

Oculus VR and its founder Palmer Luckey are facing a very real lawsuit for allegedly stealing and misappropriating virtual reality trade secrets as well as infringing on copyrights and trademarks.

John Carmack (image via TechRadar)

The one and only John Carmack!

The suit was filed by game publisher ZeniMax Media and its subsidiary id Software, the former employer of Oculus CTO John Carmack. ZeniMax had already started airing out accusations related to Luckey, Carmack and unauthorized code use earlier this month.

In a press release today, ZeniMax and id claimed Oculus VR and Luckey unlawfully exploited “intellectual property, including trade secrets, copyrighted computer code, and technical know-how relating to virtual reality technology that was developed by ZeniMax after years of research and investment.”

It’s ZeniMax intellectual property that “has provided the fundamental technology driving the Oculus Rift since its inception,” the release stated. Despite requests for compensation, ZeniMax said Oculus and Luckey have “refused” and continue using its IP without permission.

What the lawsuit means for the future of Oculus Rift isn’t clear, namely because none of the parties are talking specifics.

TechRadar asked ZeniMax, Oculus VR and Facebook (which bought Oculus for $2 billion (about £1.2b, AU$2.1b) in March) for comment on the lawsuit. We’ve yet to hear from ZeniMax and a Facebook spokesperson said the social network declines to comment. However, an Oculus spokesman sent us the following statement:

“The lawsuit filed by ZeniMax has no merit whatsoever. As we have previously said, ZeniMax did not contribute to any Oculus technology. Oculus will defend these claims vigorously.”

ZeniMax didn’t say what it’s seeking in monetary compensation but it has requested a jury trial in US federal court. We asked the firm whether it’s seeking a halt to development and/or eventual consumer sales of the Oculus Rift, but again, we haven’t heard a peep from them.

As for Oculus, it had nothing more to share outside its statement, including what the lawsuit could mean for its VR hardware moving forward.

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Facebook’s commercial interruption spreads to the UK and beyond in June

21.05.2014, 11:17

Your News Feed will be back after these messages

Facebook has confirmed its auto-playing video advertisements will spread from its U.S. homeland for the first time next month.

Facebook image (image via TechRadar)

Brought to you by FB!

The 15-second television-like spots, which are placed between posts within a user’s news feed, are scheduled to roll out in the UK, France, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Canada and Australia in June.

Although, the commercials haven’t proved too invasive, as they’re muted until clicked upon by the user, Reuters reports Facebook will proceed with caution so as not to “annoy” members too much.

The news agency claimed although the roll-out will begin in time for the World Cup, which could lead to a whopping influx of advertising cash for the publicly-traded social network.

Even if the commercials do prove a distraction from the business of viewing and commenting on status updates and photos, at least the content should be bearable.

All Facebook ads much pass a Facebook administered quality control test before being posted to News Feeds. Facebook also spends months working with marketing partners to ensure the ads are up to scratch.

The roll out will increase Facebook’s potential earnings from advertising, which were up 82 per cent year on year, for the first three months of 2014.

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Oculus Rift VR may be coming to a Chuck E. Cheese near you

21.05.2014, 9:54

Really?

Oculus isn’t taking a breath after being bought by Facebook. In fact, it looks like the VR company is continuing the push into mainstream society, or at least the ball pit of a children’s restaurant chain.

Oculus Rift (image via TechRadar)

Tasty VR!

Popular kid-friendly eatery Chuck E. Cheese’s announced that the Oculus Rift will be bringing virtual reality to 30 storefronts for a six-week testing period. The first is touching down in Dallas and “15 more locations in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, six in Orlando, Fla., and eight in San Diego, Calif.”

Dallas-based company Reel FX created “Chuck E. Cheese’s Virtual Ticket Blaster Experience” for the chain’s Oculus experience, where kids can grab virtual tickets to redeem for real prizes. The headset will also only be available for select birthday party packages.

“Kids today have unprecedented access to game consoles and tablets,” said Roger Cardinale, president, CEC Entertainment, Inc. “Our challenge is to deliver an experience not available at home, and there is no doubt virtual reality does just that. Oculus Rift technology is the next frontier in the gaming industry, and we’re thrilled to be able to say it’s part of the Chuck E. Cheese’s lineup.”

If successful in the test cities, the VR headset could very well arrive in your local Cheese chain soon.

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