In the past week, users were shocked to learn of a research project, secretly conducted by Facebook, into mood manipulation. In the research, the social media giant manipulated the contents of its users’ News Feeds to see how emotions conveyed in status updates affected its users’ moods.
Over at The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer runs through what is known about the research so far:
Few users expect that Facebook would change their News Feed in order to manipulate their emotional state.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
We now know that’s exactly what happened two years ago. For one week in January 2012, data scientists skewed what almost 700,000 Facebook users saw when they logged into its service. Some people were shown content with a preponderance of happy and positive words; some were shown content analyzed as sadder than average. And when the week was over, these manipulated users were more likely to post either especially positive or negative words themselves.
This tinkering was just revealed as part of a new study, published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Many previous studies have used Facebook data to examine “emotional contagion,” as this one did. This study is different because, while other studies have observed Facebook user data, this one set out to manipulate it.
Breaking a drone: When tech reviews go wrong
Lee Hutchinson at Ars Technicawasrecently given a new tech toy to review: A drone aircraft called the DJI Phantom 2:
DJI’s Phantom 2 Vision+ is an updated version of the Phantom 2 Vision. It’s a GPS-directed four-rotor quadcopter—more properly, it’s a legitimate drone, since it is capable of semi-autonomous flight. In fact, other drones in the Phantom 2 family can operate entirely on preprogrammed waypoints without any direct control (a capability which DJI tells us the Vision+ will gain within a few weeks with a software update).
Unfortunately, the review came to a horrible start when the drone hit a tree:
The stupidity of taking the drone up for its maiden flight in high winds in my crowded front yard suddenly hit me, full force, and in the time it took for me to sort out that and bank away from the tree, I needed to move the right-hand stick backward—no, wait, forward, because I’d yawed it around and its front was toward me—no, wait, crap, which way is—
BZZZZZZTWHAP. In a horrifying time-stretched second that seemed to take about ten million years, I watched the drone strike branches and leaves, the props stop spinning, and the whole $1,299 contraption drop out of the sky like a lead parakeet, smashing into the sidewalk. The battery flew off in one direction and the integrated camera in another. There was a moment of absolute stillness.
“Aw…fudge,” I said, mostly.
The digital divide in the US
Over at Science Mag, Xochitl Rojas-Rocha has some new research that will come as little surprise to anyone who has ever done tech support:
A new survey suggests that the digital divide has been replaced by a gap in digital readiness. It found that nearly 30% of Americans either aren’t digitally literate or don’t trust the Internet. That subgroup tended to be less educated, poorer, and older than the average American.
While looking at the US, it would not be too surprising to find a similar state of affairs in Australia.
According to the researchers, tech illiteracy has some important implications for how digital policies are formed:
Horrigan believes that policymakers have ignored the problem of digital readiness while concentrating on providing people with access to the Internet and the necessary hardware. Relatively little attention has been paid to teaching people the necessary skills to take advantage of online classes and job searches, he maintains.
Jerry Seinfeld’s guide to tech etiquette
It’s a little scary to think that Jerry Seinfeld’s eponymous US sitcom about a group of single 30-something professionals in New York was on the air 20 years ago.
Seinfeld looked at the unwritten rules of modern life, including when it’s worth grabbing that last marble rye or whether it’s worth behaving yourself around a soup Nazi.
Of course, the tech age has brought about a range of new etiquette questions around social media and smart devices. What would Jerry have to say to Kramer, Elaine and George about these pressing matters of modern life?
So Wired is presenting Jerry Seinfeld’s rules on not being a jerk in the digital age:
As technology pioneers, we are inundated with new gadgets, services, apps, messaging, games, and media. We’re dosing, vaping, and Lyfting. And that means there are new rules for how to behave. Is it OK to answer an email during dinner? Is Google Glass ever cool? We got some help from Jerry Seinfeld, keen observer of social mores and foibles, on how to cope with modern technology.
The feature covers everything from sharing streaming video accounts with cousins to Tinder and emojis.
Sending all your messages in calligraphy
In this age of mobile messaging apps and ubiquitous social media, getting in touch with someone and sending them a message has never been easier.
But has it left us in a state where we are constantly bombarded with gibberish? A state where people respond to tweets before we’ve had a chance to really think through what we’re saying?
If sending someone a message took more effort, would we be more thoughtful communicators?
It’s a theory The Atlantic’s Cristina Vanko puts to the test by writing out all of her messages by pen in calligraphy before sending them out:
I decided to blend a newfound interest in calligraphy with my lifelong passion for written correspondence to create a new kind of text messaging. The idea: I wanted to message friends using calligraphic texts for one week. The average 18-to-24-year-old sends and gets something like 4,000 messages a month, which includes sending more than 500 texts a week, according to Experian. The week of my experiment, I only sent 100. (I was 24 at the time.)
Before getting started, Vanko set out some basic rules:
Before I started, I established rules for myself: I could create only handwritten text messages for seven days, absolutely no using my phone’s keyboard. I had to write out my messages on paper, photograph them, then hit “send.” I didn’t reveal my plan to my friends unless asked, and I received a variety of responses.
There were certainly some amusing reactions to receiving a hand-written note. Here’s how the experiment panned out.