PODCAST: The Rise of Messaging Bots

This week’s episode of Social Media Week’s Leads2Scale podcast features Kieley Taylor, Managing Partner, Global Head of Social at GroupM, as well as Mike Blake-Crawford, Strategy Director at Social Chain.

GroupM and Social Chain are in many ways very different, but in this episode, Kieley and Mike both picked up on a trend that has become too big to ignore — messaging bots.

Featured in this episode, they discussed:

  • The potential in messaging bots to reduce the cost of customer care
  • How messaging bot technology can create a huge opportunity for brands to develop meaningful interaction with customers

Listen and subscribe via the following platforms: Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Spotify, Castbox, Overcast, and Stitcher.

If you have suggestions for who we should interview or what topics you would like us to cover, please reach out to us at leads2scale@socialmediaweek.org.

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

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http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2018/12/podcast-the-rise-of-messaging-bots/

AI Researchers Warn of Urgent Need of Algorithm Supervision

It has been yet another drastic year for Artificial Intelligence. The public has applauded its achievements, but also couldn’t help but frown upon its faults.

Facebook has gone under fire for facilitating a genocide in Myanmar; Google was accused of building a censored version of their search engine for the Chinese government; not to mention the Cambridge Analytica data scandal which got under every Facebook user’s skin. The list goes on.

It seems like the public is in a blind spot, where they don’t know enough about AI, but are the victims of anything AI has done wrong. This is the focus of the annual report just launched by AI Now, a research group made up of employees from tech companies including Microsoft and Google.

The report elaborates on what the researchers termed as “the accountability gap,” meaning there are many social challenges of AI and its algorithms that are urgent to be addressed but remain unregulated because the public lacks the tools or knowledge to hold tech giants accountable. It also puts forward recommendations on the steps to be taken to address these problems.

The case studies showed in this report are nerve-racking. According to the report, throughout the year, it has been actual people who suffered from the fails of experimental AI systems. In March, AI-powered cars killed drivers and pedestrians; in May, an AI voice recognition system developed in the UK falsely detected immigration frauds, canceled thousands of visas and deported people; in July, IBM’s Watson system gave “unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations.” It’s horrifying to think that a lot more cases remain unreported.

Usually, AI software is introduced into public domains with the purpose of cutting costs and increasing efficiency. However, results from these actions are systems making decisions that can neither be explained, nor appealed. “A lot of their claims about benefit and utility are not backed by publicly accessible scientific evidence,” AI Now’s co-founder Meredith Whittaker told The Verge.

The report puts forward ten recommendations on securing a healthier future of AI, among them are the need to have more precise supervision systems, and matching marketing promises to reality.

First, sector-specific agencies need to be put in place to oversee, audit and monitor tech companies that are developing new systems. The report claims that a nationwide, standardized AI monitor model will not meet the specific requirements needed for detailed regulation, especially since domains like health, education, criminal justice, etc. all have their own frameworks, hazards and nuances. For marketers, when implementing AI systems to different clients, this should also be kept in mind so that technologies will not be turned against us.

Second, marketing promises should be accurate when it comes to AI products and services. This especially applies to consumer protection agencies to ensure “truth-in-advertising” laws to AI products. The reports warns AI vendors to be held to even higher standards for what they can promise, especially since the scientific evidence that are supposed to be backing these promises is still inadequate.

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

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http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2018/12/ai-researchers-warn-of-urgent-need-of-algorithm-supervision/

Facebook Watch Adds Cult Classics ‘Firefly’ and ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ to Attract Millennials Viewers

Last Friday, Facebook Watch made an effort to boost its video streaming service, by dropping every season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “Firefly” on the platform.

These three Whedonverse shows were added to the streaming service as a result of a deal between Facebook and 20th Century Fox Television.

Facebook launched Facebook Watch, its on-demand video service, back in August 2017 and become available internationally to all users a year later, but has yet to gain popularity among the majority of its users, especially among already existed competitors like YouTube and Netflix.

With these three new shows, Facebook Watch is also encouraging viewers to watch them with its Watch Party feature, which allows users to watch videos while discussing in real-time with friends.

“What we’ve been focused on Watch is building a people-centric video platform, creating a social viewing experience where you can connect with other people who love the shows, and even the creatives who worked on them,” Matthew Henick, Head of Content Planning and Strategy for Media Partnerships for Facebook, said in a conversation with Variety.

Watch Party is a feature launched to Groups in July 2018 and has now been made available to all Pages and users, meaning anyone can start a Watch Party with friends directly from the videos they are watching, or by sharing on their Timeline. Since Watch Party’s launch, more than 12 million Watch Parties have been streamed, according to Variety.

What makes it even more fascinating is in Facebook Watch’s choice of streaming these particular three shows, which dp have a cult following two decades ago but don’t seem to be the favorites of Millennials and Gen Z. It thus seems to be Watch’s effort to focus on attracting older Millennials.

“We are excited to bring iconic pop culture favorites like these series for their avid fan communities to experience them in new ways, and for new fans to discover these awesome 90s classics,” said Facebook’s VP of Video, Fidji Simo, in her Facebook post.

Although, as CNBC reported, it can also be the hint of Facebook’s new strategy in reaction to teens leaving the main Facebook platform, with a new focus on viewers in their 30s and older.

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

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http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2018/12/facebook-watch-adds-cult-classics-firefly-and-buffy-the-vampire-slayer-to-attract-millennials-viewers/

With Amazon Answers, Users Can Help Alexa With the Tough Questions

Anyone who’s ever played “Stump Alexa” already knows: while Alexa is extremely helpful, her information retrieving powers do have limits. A new information-sourcing initiative through Amazon is aiming to change that.

After an extensive test in-house that added more than 100,000 answers to the voice assistant’s database, Amazon announced this week that it’s opening up its Alexa Answers crowdsourced answer program to select users, via email invitation. “In addition to advanced technology—such as machine learning and natural language understanding—and our many trustworthy information sources, we’re involving the Alexa customer community to help us answer questions Alexa can’t quite answer yet,” they shared in their company blog this week.

Addressing this gap in utility is part and parcel of this evolving method for search. The South Florida Business Journal notes that this new challenge is grounded, in part, by how queries are framed to a voice assistant versus how they’re framed through a search engine. “Asking Alexa questions will make you realize that your voice searches usually include more than five words and start with ‘how’ or ‘what.’ It will also help you understand the growing need for pages on your website that have ‘conversational content’ that, when searched, can deliver understandable answers to voice queries.” Alexa Answers will aim to make answers available to Alexa that are framed in this easily accessible manner.

It’s worth noting that Amazon users are currently able to inform one another in a number of different ways. In their blog, Amazon reminds readers “for nearly 20 years, we’ve allowed customers to offer their input on Amazon.com products through customer reviews and community-based answers.” The fidelity of this input has been addressed through features like “Verified Purchase” reviews. For the time being, this important process is even more tightly controlled; at this point, editors are being invited via email, and the pool of Alexa users selected to inform the voice assistant is small. When these crowdsourced answers are shared, they will be prefaced by a disclaimer of sorts indicating them as having come from an Alexa user.

Although this approach has been tested heavily with sites like Quora and Wikipedia, there are still some risks to having humans provide information to AI. Recently, Google had to disable portions of its SmartCompose and SmartReply software after its challenges with gender and gender pronouns. Two years ago, Microsoft’s Tay had to be taken offline after Twitter users supplied it information that made it racist.

The email-invite nature of this project may prevent some of that, but Amazon would do well to pay close attention to the data supplied, and adjust as needed to avoid embarrassing or damaging gaffes. Nevertheless, a very real danger that exists for Alexa Answers is a danger that exists whenever data is supplied to AI tools, and The Next Web’s Vishwam Sankaran put it best in reference to the Google story: “AI is only as fair as the data it learns from.”

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

The post With Amazon Answers, Users Can Help Alexa With the Tough Questions appeared first on Social Media Week.

http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2018/12/with-amazon-answers-users-can-help-alexa-with-the-tough-questions/

Google Sunsets Allo, Struggles to Find Its Niche in Chat

Another Google messaging solution has bitten the dust.

Last week, Google announced via its company blog that its long under-utilized chat app, Allo, will be sunsetting operations in March 2019. “We’ve decided to stop supporting Allo to focus on Messages,” VP for Consumer Communications Products Matt Kleiner wrote.

Allo originally garnered interest for its use of AI-assisted messaging; this farewell announcement acknowledged, “we’ve learned a lot from Allo, particularly what’s possible when you incorporate machine learning features, like the Google Assistant, into messaging.” Kleiner’s message was reflective in its nature, noting how Allo’s brief time in operation had improved the Messaging product by providing insight into needed and popular features. SmartReply, GIFs, and desktop support all now exist as features of Messaging because of their initial success in Allo. But the product has otherwise struggled to gain a following since its launch in 2016. Google has struggled mightily in the messaging market; the discontinuation of its latest and flashiest effort signals that they’ve not yet solved this challenge.

Elsewhere in the Google messaging space, the video chat product Duo—originally launched in tandem with Allo—will live on, bolstered most recently with the ability to leave video messages. The Hangouts product will live on as well, but will evolve into a business-focused platform with its Chat and Meet functionalities. And yet, even with these apps, the question remains: given several unsuccessful attempts, where does messaging fit in Google’s goals now?

The shuttering of Allo leaves Google with a larger challenge: finding a messaging platform and protocol that can compete alongside messaging powerhouses like WhatsApp and iMessage. TechCrunch reports that its latest big bet is on RCS, or Rich Communication Services, but this bet will be challenged by carriers who will need to develop messaging services around the tech (thus far, only Verizon has agreed). Further, RCS is an unencrypted protocol, a feature that runs directly counter to market trends. With such major obstacles, it’s clear there is still more work to be done before Google establishes a clear foothold in the messaging space.

In the meantime, those using Allo will have access to the platform through March of 2019, and will have the option to download their message archive before it’s shuttered for good.

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

The post Google Sunsets Allo, Struggles to Find Its Niche in Chat appeared first on Social Media Week.

http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2018/12/google-sunsets-allo-struggles-to-find-its-niche-in-chat/

Instagram’s ‘Close Friends’ Feature for Stories Emphasizes Private Sharing

Had you recently noticed a green ring, instead of a pink one, around your Instagram friends’ Stories updates? Last Friday, Instagram announced yet another update for Stories, named “Close Friends,” which allows users to share Stories with a specific closed group of people of their choosing.

To add people to your close friends’ list, just go to your profile and tap on “Close Friends.” Once done, when you pose Stories, you can choose to post them either to all followers or just this specific friends group only. Nobody other than you can see your close friends list. They also cannot request to be added.

Instagram’s move is evidence of the trend that many other social media brands are following — investing in more private and personal conversations. Stats show that 85 percent of the messages shared on Instagram are distributed to the same three friends, according to Social Media Today. This further proves that users value Instagram for its function of private sharing.

On its announcement blog post, Instagram says that it hopes to make the platform a more comfortable place for the community.

“Instagram Stories has become the place to express yourself and share everyday moments, but our community has grown and sometimes what you want to share isn’t for everyone. With Close Friends, you have the flexibility to share more personal moments with a smaller group that you choose.”

In addition, The Verge reported back in June 2017, that Instagram had been experimenting with a potential new feature named “Friends Lists,” which, similarly, would allow users to share posts with a limited group of friends.

So what does this mean for marketers? If the same model would be available for business accounts, this feature can be a great tool for brands to share customized content to specific groups of audiences or groups that the brand expect could generate more profit.

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

The post Instagram’s ‘Close Friends’ Feature for Stories Emphasizes Private Sharing appeared first on Social Media Week.

http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2018/12/instagrams-close-friends-feature-for-stories-emphasizes-private-sharing/

PODCAST: Deep Social Listening w/ Michael (MJ) Paradiso, VP, EMEA, at NetBase

This week’s episode of Social Media Week’s Leads2Scale podcast features Michael MJ Paradiso, VP of Sales, EMEA, at NetBase.

Michael joined NetBase a year ago, and has more than eight years of experience in B2B sales, team management, and sales leadership. Previously, he has worked for Meltwater, P&G, as well as General Electric.

Featured in this episode, they discussed:

  • What does “deep social listening” mean and how that has helped their clients
  • How NetBase utilizes all sorts of data to drive social media strategies
  • How the company relies on innovation to brace for future challenges in social

Listen and subscribe via the following platforms: Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Spotify, Castbox, Overcast, and Stitcher.

If you have suggestions for who we should interview or what topics you would like us to cover, please reach out to us at leads2scale@socialmediaweek.org.

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

The post PODCAST: Deep Social Listening w/ Michael (MJ) Paradiso, VP, EMEA, at NetBase appeared first on Social Media Week.

http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2018/12/podcast-deep-social-listening-w-michael-mj-paradiso-vp-emea-at-netbase/

Stymied by AI, Google Removes Biased Smart Compose Suggestions

Earlier this year, a Google research scientist sent a message with the assistance of Gmail’s Smart Compose software: “I am meeting with an investor next week.”

The software responded, with no additional prompts: “Do you want to meet him?”

Smart Compose, at its best, is supposed to simplify the composition of emails by auto-completing sentences and sentiments expressed as the writer creates a new message. Smart Reply, a companion feature, offers a few possible responses to messages you receive. Both are powered by Natural Language Generation, an AI technology that takes in language relationships and patterns from emails, literature, web copy, and other information it’s fed to provide a type of predictive text. But as the example above shows, these processes are not immune to bias by any means. Now, while the features will stay on, neither will suggest pronouns for your messages—no matter what cues are presented in the text.

This assumption that an investor is male is based in large part on the data that its AI technology processes, but can present challenges when this data affirms bias. Even if finance, technology and engineering fields are predominantly male, the AI developed to communicate in these fields shouldn’t make assumptions about who is being spoken to or spoken of. The Next Web encapsulated the issue simply: “AI is only as fair as the data it learns from.” And recognizing the inherent unfairness from how the tool has learned, Google took the step of blocking pronoun suggestions outright.

“Not all ‘screw-ups’ are equal,” Gmail product manager Paul Lambert has said in regards to the announced change. “Gender is a big, big thing to get wrong.”

Reuters reports that eliminating this sort of suggestion wasn’t the company’s first choice to resolve the challenge. “The SmartCompose team of about 15 engineers and designers tried several workarounds,” they reported, “but none proved bias-free or worthwhile.” And yet, an elimination strategy has become relatively common when AI has failed or displayed bias.

In 2015, a photo-identification app incorrectly identified photos of a Black couple as gorillas; the company’s solution was to block the app from identifying gorillas in any form. And in 2012, women who searched topics like Computers and Engineering or Parenting were finding themselves identified as middle-aged men in their Ad Preferences. So although it is appreciated that Google understands the damage that incorrect pronouns can cause, simply disabling the functionality feels like an incomplete and short-sighted solution to a problem with far deeper roots.

Work continues, both at Google and at other companies, to identify potential points of bias and to combat them through more thoughtful machine learning. Google’s AI ethics team has aimed to start with the most hyperbolic examples. “A spam and abuse team pokes at systems, trying to find ‘juicy’ gaffes by thinking as hackers or journalists might,” Reuters reported. But the ease with which AI can deliver biased or potentially offensive predictive text proves we have a long way to go before these technologies can be deployed in an unassisted manner.

“The end goal is a fully machine-generated system where it magically knows what to write,” says Automated Insights’ John Hegele, whose company auto-generates news items from statistics. But this latest gaffe from Google proves there’s still a great deal of room for learning—for AI, but also (and perhaps especially) for the engineers that coordinate machine learning. “There’s been a ton of advances but we’re not there yet.”

The post Stymied by AI, Google Removes Biased Smart Compose Suggestions appeared first on Social Media Week.

http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2018/12/stymied-by-ai-google-removes-biased-smart-compose-suggestions/

BrainGate2 Helps the Paralyzed Access the Internet in New Ways

BrainGate came to prominence in 2017 when it allowed a quadriplegic man to move his arm through thought alone. Now, BrainGate2 is reportedly simplifying how paralyzed individuals navigate the internet, and their findings could affect how you present yourself and your brand online.

BrainGate is an array of strategically placed micro-electrodes that has been used to decode neural signals associated with movement. Previous uses of this technology have been localized to facilitate limb movement. But now, in a recent trial, three individuals were able to use non-modified tablets to use apps and explore the Web without adaptations.

The trio of participants, according to Engadget, “had electrode grids implanted over part of their motor cortex — the area of the brain that helps control movement — which picked up neural activity indicating they were thinking about moving a cursor on the screen.” Those neural activity patterns were sent to a tablet wirelessly paired with a virtual mouse. This process allowed subjects to stream music, text others, and browse the Web, even facilitating a real-time live chat between two of the study’s participants. The study’s findings brings new hope for intuitive web navigation for “people with spinal cord injury, brainstem stroke, and ALS,” among others, according to Braingate.

What’s important to note is that participants were able to navigate interfaces on the tested apps and utilities without having access to all the functions that a tablet typically demonstrates; click-and-drag and multitouch, for example, couldn’t be easily completed by these tools. For app developers, as well as companies considering hosting options for their content, knowledge of what would be easiest to navigate by modified systems is an important consideration. What’s more, this trial was conducted with Android devices, and the accessibility could be extended further by enabling the accessibility options that came standard with the device.

Although the report didn’t specify precisely what apps or utilities were used as the trio navigated the internet, any tools that employ accessible design to develop and position their content—and, by extension, any brands or organizations that prioritize accessible design—will extend the reach of their awareness and adoption. A few tips for designing or hosting content with accessibility in mind:

  • Accessible design, often, ends up being better for everyone. The avatars we develop content or platforms for often capture a narrow segment of who may actually use it. While we shouldn’t abandon avatars as a means to identify target populations, we should cast a wider net. Smart Design’s John Anderson recommends thinking about the most advanced and unencumbered user, as well as the user who may be highly challenged by our original impulse…and then advocating for a solution that serves both populations equally well.
  • Vary the formats in which you present information. Last month in New York, designer Marie van Driessche urged people to think of how many ways people could need to consume information, and then preemptively provide options. The solution, according to 99U? “Make sure your product or website includes multiple options for how to engage. For instance, when posting a video, include transcripts, video captions, and additional video of a person signing. That way, users can select the option that’s best for them.”
  • Prepare for your “fix” to evolve. van Driessche further shared, “Just as each human capabilities change over time—as they learn sign language, or lose mobility in their fingers—so too must accessible design evolve with them.” Paralysis can be temporary; similarly, those with degenerative diseases may need more assistance over time. Building products and utilities that can adapt with individuals over time will build the best loyalty as conditions evolve.

Although Braingate’s hardware is still far too cumbersome to be used in a widespread capacity, its miniaturization, and subsequent wider adoption is on the way. The best developers, designers, and brands, will be ready when the time comes.

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

The post BrainGate2 Helps the Paralyzed Access the Internet in New Ways appeared first on Social Media Week.

http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2018/11/braingate2-helps-the-paralyzed-access-the-internet-in-new-ways/

LinkedIn Protects Email Addresses in Latest Export Update

If your brand or company relies strongly on LinkedIn connections to contact prospective leads via email, your efforts have hit a roadblock in recent weeks…whether you know it or not.

A TechCrunch reader alerted the publication to this quiet change, in which exported data archives no longer feature user email addresses. The change can be traced back to a new default setting for user email. The platform asks, “Allow your connections to download your email in their data export? If no, your personal email address will not be included when your connections export data from LinkedIn.” The site defaults this toggle response to “no,” protecting the individual user’s contact information. This is good news for privacy-minded users, but presents challenges for businesses, recruiters, and other entities who depended on LinkedIn as a source for email addresses.

At a time when our personal data feels all too vulnerable, this should be a newsworthy announcement for the professional networking platform—especially given recent high profile breaches from competitors like Facebook and Google. However, two sets of circumstances may have impacted LinkedIn’s decision to keep this newest change secret. First, the company is embroiled in its own scandal. News surfaced of 18 million non-member email addresses used to target prospective LinkedIn users with Facebook ads, in an audit period ending just a day before GDPR took effect. This revelation, unearthed by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission and “amicably resolved” between the company and DPC, represents a data usage violation that paints LinkedIn in a bad light.

LinkedIn has since ceased the practice, and responded to the story with a statement from TechCrunch that stated “the strong processes and procedures we have in place were not followed and for that we are sorry. We’ve taken appropriate action, and have improved the way we work to ensure that this will not happen again.” One could wonder if the heightened protection of their own users’ addresses isn’t a reactive move to their own past transgressions.

Second, and closely related to the first revelation: few users are aware that their email addresses could have been accessed by their connections in that fashion. TechCrunch’s Josh Constine points out, “perhaps LinkedIn didn’t want to bring attention to the fact that it was allowing your email address to be slurped up by anyone you’re connected with, given the current media climate of intense scrutiny regarding privacy in social tech.” To bring such a longstanding practice up now, after news they’ve made others vulnerable, could prove even more detrimental from a PR perspective. And yet LinkedIn may find itself in an unwinnable position: by hiding this change to user privacy, they risk drawing the ire of folks who relied on this archive capability to build their customer bases or recruitment pools.

As it currently stands, the default setting for users is to protect this vital contact information from those seeking to collate it from their networks. To make your address available for such data collection (though TechCrunch correctly notes the LinkedIn help center provides little information for why one would want to do this), one need only toggle the setting by navigating to Settings & Privacy -> Privacy -> Who Can See My Email Address?

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

The post LinkedIn Protects Email Addresses in Latest Export Update appeared first on Social Media Week.

http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2018/11/linkedin-protects-email-addresses-in-latest-export-update/