Category Archives: Algorithm

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Facebook just became the ultimate dystopia

When constructing a dystopia, it takes some doing to be both Orwellian and Huxleyan at the same time. But with the changes he just announced to the Facebook News Feed, Mark Zuckerberg seems to have managed this extraordinary feat. 

The nightmare worlds of George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four) and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) are in many ways polar opposites. One is a surveillance state that controls what people see of history by literally rewriting newspapers. The other controls its citizenry by blissing them out on a dissociative drug called soma. 

SEE ALSO: Facebook announces a big News Feed change — and just wants you to be happy Read more…

More about Facebook, Algorithm, News Feed, 1984, and Dystopia Project

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Social Networks Are Bad For Your Mental Health – Can We Design Them To Help Instead?

There’s increasing evidence that social media contributes to poor mental health, particularly in younger people. It’s hardly surprising. Endless streams of new content drip-feed dopamine to the brain, which then wants more of it. Constant notifications remind us that life is happening somewhere else. And we’re at the mercy of unregulated content creators, shaping our worldview with everything from political outrage and fake news, to unrealistic body-image and lifestyle comparisons.

But it’s important to recognise the positive benefits too. Social media can be incredibly valuable by helping us with identity forming and self-expression. Staying connected builds stronger relationships with our closest friends. And the way people write and post – even the Instagram filters they use – can actually be used to predict the likelihood of depression.

Reduce harm, increase wellbeing

This opens the door to platforms that could help, rather than harm. What if social networks were designed to consider their impact? What if they took more responsibility for users’ wellbeing? Could we track our mental health the way we do physical health? Or count digital content ‘calories’ like nutritional calories?

In a small team at Studio Output, we challenged ourselves to find ways to reduce the negative impacts of image-led social channels like Instagram. Using platform, interface and content design we aimed to create less addictive interfaces that are still entertaining. To empower people to control what they see more consciously. And to use data and feed algorithms to detect poor mental health, then adapt content to reduce it.

A positive platform

Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) says, “As platforms mature it would seem logical that they embrace the need for responsibility and that the industry would begin to align itself, and indeed compete, around protecting users’ health.”

Our explorations helped us to identify what a more mindful social platform might offer. What do you think – could design make the difference?

Eight thought-starters for creating a positive platform:1. Mindful algorithm
A ‘mindful algorithm’ would consider mental health before serving content. It might look at human signals around stress, analyse past posting and interactions for signs of anxiety or depression, consider time spent online and the current time of day. Using this data it would select what to show in your feed, to improve emotional balance, promote close connections, mitigate over-use and encourage healthier sleep patterns.

2. Intelligent coaching
If depression can be predicted from social content, platforms could respond with relevant coaching. Using content patterns, machine learning and analysis, we could develop a suite of content for coaching digital skills. Posted from the platform to users at potential risk, this would provide hints to develop skills, promote helpful features and foster healthy habits.

3. Profile health
We’re used to a traffic light system on food packaging, but what about social accounts? Could we develop a profile ranking system for feed ‘safe modes’, with accounts marked on a health scale? This would consider factors like posting cadence, engagement, photo-manipulation, sentiment, content reporting and body image – then tailor follow recommendations based on a balanced diet of content, not just subjective association.

4. Inner circle
Research shows we can only hold close relationships with a small number of people. Social media helps to develop these connections, so why not help people prioritise posts from a small network of close friends? These would be given preference in feeds, helping to develop valuable, trusted relationships instead of mass follows.

5. Smart notifications
Endless streams of content can be addictive – there’s always more out there, so we keep scrolling. Letting people digest and snooze notifications for a period of time could encourage less addictive behaviour, improve concentration and promote healthier interaction. Smart notification settings could be based on time of day, geo-fencing and sleep windows.

6. Activity tracking
If we monitor our fitness and generate physical health goals, why not do something similar for social media or screen time? An app or platform could set goals, monitor use and provide contextual tips to help us make more informed, healthy choices.

7. Free your focus
Social platforms can lock us into habitual behaviour, with the routine of scrolling rewarded by the dopamine hit of something new. What if we replaced a potentially unhealthy habit with a more constructive one? Often we just need inspiration to shake us out of a routine, so an app full of randomly-chosen ideas could be just what we need.

8. Safe feed
Everyone wants to take back control these days, so why not offer customised control of these settings at your phone’s operating system level? This would help people decide how social apps deliver content and features globally. It could show profile ratings, usage tracking, notification controls, ‘catch-up’ digests, quiet zones and a night shift mode.

Read more about the experiment here.
Follow @StudioOutput on Twitter and Instagram.

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Algorithms are screwing us over with fake news but could also fix the problem

We’re living in an era of “new proximity” where information is readily available to make us feel more connected to each other and the world around us. In theory, this should also instantaneously make us more informed, right? Not so. The way we get news and information through the prism of algorithms in places like Facebook, Twitter, and Google is an oxymoron of sorts. 

This “new proximity” (a totally non-scientific term that I have coined for the purposes of this article) is simultaneously bringing us closer together and further apart. It’s also bringing us nearer and further away from accurate news and information.  Read more…

More about News, Artificial Intelligence, Algorithm, News Feed, and Misinformation

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A guy’s Twitter account got suspended after he made a death threat—against a mosquito

Twitter wants you to know it’s taking online abuse very seriously.

So much so that it’s blocked a user who made death threats against a mosquito.

SEE ALSO: Let’s all take a deep breath and stop freaking out about Facebook’s bots ‘inventing’ a new language

A Japanese user sent out a furious tweet after he was bitten by a mosquito, saying “Bastard! Where do you get off biting me all over while I’m just trying to relax and watch TV? Die! (Actually you’re already dead).”

He later received a notice from Twitter saying his account had been permanently frozen and could not be reactivated.

According to news outlet SoraNews24, this was the message the user received:  Read more…

More about Twitter, Japan, Mosquito, Abuse, and Algorithm

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Twitter’s algorithmic timeline is now live by default for everyone

A month after Twitter launched its new timeline, which sorts tweets in your feed according to relevancy instead of chronology, the company has quietly turned it on by default. It also appears to be live for all users. 

SEE ALSO: Here’s how to turn Twitter’s new timeline on and off

Originally launched in February, the new timeline was opt-in, and it was only available to some users. 

Now users are reporting getting a notification that the setting is now opt-out. 

Image: Stan Schroeder/Mashable

The Next Web also noticed that Twitter updated its FAQ last week to include the fact that the new timeline is on by default. It’s no surprise, given that Twitter announced the change would happen “in the coming weeks,” but it’s a big difference, since users now must actively disable the feature to go back to “old” Twitter.  Read more…

More about Feed, Timeline, Algorithm, Twitter, and Social Media

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Clever website turns Donald Trump’s bad tweets into poetry


Still can’t get enough of Trump’s Twitter account for some reason? Well, you are in luck, my friend. Reddit user Darby_Crash created a website called Poet in Chief that randomly generates a beautiful* poem out of the president’s tweets. 

SEE ALSO: Senate reveals detested health care bill, and LORDY Trump just tweeted about Comey tapes

While it is a far stretch to consider these poems art, it does cast Trump’s child-like writing in a new, refreshing light. I generated a few myself and was met with such classics as:


A humorous unintended effect of these poems is that each one has an ominous undertone, which is most likely unavoidable considering the source material it is working with.  Read more…

More about Watercooler, Twitter, Donald Trump, Trump, and Algorithm

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Netflix’s algorithm after a breakup is the absolute worst. Here’s how to fix it


Netflix and chill is great when you’re loved up. But, when that love dies, Netflix can serve as a constant reminder of your ex and the shows you once watched together.

That’s because of one big Netflix feature: its suggested viewing algorithm.

SEE ALSO: This New York City Airbnb listing takes Netflix and Chill very seriously

To come up with viewing suggestions, the algorithm behind Netflix’s “Recommended For You” section computes the films or programs you’ve watched, the ratings you’ve given those shows, and the ratings given by other members with similar tastes to yours. Meanwhile, the “Because You Watched” algorithm computes shows you’ve watched to recommend shows with similar metadata.  Read more…

More about Tech, Entertainment, Netflix, Netflix And Chill, and Algorithm

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Facebook accused of targeting ‘insecure’ children and young people, report says


Facebook has apologised for reportedly allowing advertisers to target emotionally vulnerable people as young as 14, as a 23-page leaked document obtained by The Australian revealed. 

According to the news outlet, the document prepared by two top Australian Facebook executives uses algorithms to collect data (via posts, pictures, and reactions) on the emotional state of 6.4 million “high schoolers,” “tertiary students,” and “young Australians and New Zealanders … in the workforce,” indicating “moments when young people need a confidence boost.” 

In other words, data says they feel “worthless” or “insecure” and are therefore well-positioned to receive an advertiser’s message.  Read more…

More about Algorithm, New Zealand, Children, Advertising, and Australia

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