Monthly Archives: December 2014

10 Social Network Blunders Of 2014

Social networks had a big year in 2014: Facebook celebrated its 10th birthday, closed its third billion-dollar acquisition, and renewed its focus on user privacy with a number of updates and changes.

Twitter, though it struggled to meet investors’ expectations in the first half of the year, ramped up activity in the second half, launching new analytics, a buy button, and a handful of other improvements set to debut in 2015.

Curious about what else made our list? Here’s a look at the other top social media disappointments of the year.

1.Facebook splits Messenger

One way to rile your users: Remove a popular feature from your app. This year, Facebook announced plans to drop its built-in chat and instead require users to download a separate application, Messenger, to retain chat capabilities.

The decision was wildly unpopular and wrought with misconceptions. Months later, after Messenger has clocked more than 500 million downloads, much of the moaning has subsided. In a recent Q&A session, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the social network could have handled the switch better.

“Asking everyone in our community to install a new app is a big ask,” Zuckerberg said. “Asking folks to install another app is a short-term painful thing, but if we wanted to focus on service.

2.Yahoo ends third-party logins

Yahoo announced back in March that it would gradually phase out third-party logins for all of its web properties. This meant that users who signed into Yahoo services using their Google or Facebook ID now would need to sign up for a separate Yahoo account to continue to access their Yahoo services.

In June, Yahoo extended this policy to the popular photo-sharing site Flickr, which caused problems for users with multiple Flickr accounts. According to Yahoo’s policy, users could link only one Flickr account to a given Yahoo account. Users with multiple Flickr accounts needed to sign up for additional Yahoo accounts to access them.

3.LinkedIn’s blocking feature

LinkedIn users complained for years that the social network needed a better way to deal with stalking, going as far as to start a petition on to drum up support. In February, LinkedIn responded by launching a blocking feature.

“We know members have requested a blocking feature on LinkedIn,” said Paul Rockwell, its director of safety at the time. “We built this feature not only because it was a feature our members requested, but because we also knew it was the right thing to do.”

Though the petitioners applauded LinkedIn for adding a blocking feature, others said it doesn’t do enough to prevent stalking. LinkedIn users still can browse profiles anonymously, which makes blocking stalkers impossible.

4.Twitter adds app tracking

It’s no secret that social media sites collect droves of data about you and your actions. This month, Twitter upped the ante on its data collection practices and announced it would also track the apps you install on your mobile devices. The company said this would help it do a better job of targeting content and ads.

The data that Twitter collects is limited to the names of the apps you’ve installed, it said on its Support page. Other information, such as what you share or how often you use the apps, won’t be collected.

5.Facebook’s mood manipulation experiment

Facebook found itself in hot water in June when the results of an experiment it conducted on users’ feeds were made public. Facebook published research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March detailing how it tinkered with the news feed algorithm of nearly 700,000 users for one week in early 2012. Researchers found that, in instances where Facebook showed users more positive posts, users were more likely to share positive updates. Conversely, when Facebook showed negative posts, users were more likely to share negative status updates.

Experts and users voiced their outrage, calling the experiment unethical and even illegal. The Electronic Privacy Center, a privacy watchdog group, filed an FTC complaint against Facebook in July, alleging that the social network deceived users and violated a 2012 consent order.

In October, Facebook apologized and outlined new guidelines that covers internal work and research that gets published.

6.Google+ opens access to Gmail addresses

In January, Google announced that it would allow users who have Gmail and Google+ accounts to email anyone who also has both accounts, even if the user didn’t know the person’s email address. The company said the change would be useful for people who know one another but haven’t yet exchanged email addresses.

The problem: Google automatically turned on this option for all users, which opened people up to a surge of unwanted emails. Users quickly took to Twitter to voice their disapproval, and they called out the company for opting all users into it. Graham Cluley, an independent security expert and former consultant at the security firm Sophos, said in a post that, even though Google does let you opt out, the new feature would be a nuisance for users — and even potentially dangerous.

7.Facebook’s organic reach drops

Businesses struggled to reach their Facebook followers this year after the social network changed its news feed algorithm. According to a Socail@Ogilvy report, organic reach dropped from 16% of followers in 2012 to just 6% in February 2014 — a 49% drop from peak levels. The report advised community managers to expect organic reach to approach zero by the end of 2014.

8.LinkedIn faces privacy violation

A federal district judge in June ordered LinkedIn to face a lawsuit that alleges it violated users’ privacy by accessing their external email accounts and downloading their contacts’ addresses.

According to the plaintiffs, LinkedIn routinely sent multiple emails endorsing its products, services, and brand to potential new users whose email addresses LinkedIn “surreptitiously obtained” as part of its effort to acquire new users. They also claimed that the social network sent additional emails to those addresses when those users didn’t sign up for a LinkedIn account.

9.Facebook’s app push

With the exception of Messenger, the standalone apps Facebook launched in 2014 tanked. In February, Facebook debuted the news reader app Paper, the first app to launch from Creative Labs, its initiative to develop and design apps for mobile devices. Though Paper managed to give users a new way to experience Facebook, it never caught on. Facebook has limited Paper downloads to iOS devices and hasn’t released an update to it in months. The same is true for Facebook’s Snapchat competitor, Slingshot, the interest-based app Rooms, and its latest app, Facebook Groups.

10.Silicon Valley’s diversity problem

Google was the first company to release workplace diversity statistics in June, followed by several other high-tech companies. The numbers told a sobering tale: Silicon Valley has a diversity problem.

Seventy percent of all Google workers are male, the company said, with women holding just 17% of the technical jobs. Leadership roles at Google tell the same tale: 21% are held by women, 79% by men. Sixty-one percent of jobs at Google overall are held by white people.

Of LinkedIn’s 5,400 global employees, 39% are female, and women hold 27% of executive roles in the US, according to the company’s EEO-1 filing. On the ethnicity front, 53% of US LinkedIn workers are white, followed by Asian (38%), Hispanic (4%), black (2%), two or more races (2%), and other (<1%).

Facebook and Twitter revealed similar statistics. Facebook employees are primarily male (69%) and white (57%). Asians (34%) and Hispanics (4%) were the next two most-common ethnicities. Twitter's staff, too, is mostly male (70%) and white (59%), with Asians (29%) and Hispanics (3%) rounding out the top three ethnicities.


Tarun Vijay honoured by Malaysian Tamils

Kuala Lumpur, Dec 28 (IANS) Malaysia’s Tamil community has honoured BJP MP Tarun Vijay with the “Thirukkural Thuthar” award for promoting the ancient work of Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar.

Malaysian Indian Congress leader S. Samy Vellu presented the award to Tarun Vijay at a function here.

Samy Vellu described the Bharatiya Janata Party leader as “a warrior king for all Tamils” for taking up the cause of Tamil, Thiruvalluvar and the latter’s classic, “Thirukkural”.

“Thirukkural” dates back to Sangam literature and is considered one of the greatest works ever written in Tamil. It has 1,330 couplets.

In his speech, Tarun Vijay said the love of the Tamil diaspora was a life changing experience for him.

“I shall do all I can to promote Tamil and the great icons of literature for the unity of north and south (India).

“It is unfortunate that the icon … Thiruvalluvar was not introduced in (northern India).”

He lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani for announcing a Thiruvalluvar birth anniversary celebrations in northern India.

The programme was organised by a Tamil writers group, Persatuan Penulis Penulis Tamil Malaysia.

“India is not just Tulsidas and Valmiki unless we include Thiruvalluvar, Subramanian Bharathi and Andal,” Tarun Vijay said to thunderous applause.

“We cannot have an India represented by Ashoka and Vikramaditya alone unless we include the great Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas also.”

Missing AirAsia flight: India puts 3 ships, plane on standby


India has put on standby three ships and a maritime surveillance aircraft for assistance in the search operation after an AirAsia flight with 162 people on board today went missing en route from Indonesia to Singapore after losing contact with air traffic controllers.

Indian Navy sources said one ship in Bay of Bengal and another two in Andaman Sea have been put on standby.

Along with these, a P-8I aircraft has also been put on standby. The aircraft is used for maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare operations.

“The assets have been put on standby in view of the gravity of situation. They will be rushed into service as and when any order is issued,” the sources said.

A Singaporean transport official said Flight QZ8501 lost contact with Jakarta Air Traffic Control just after 07:24 hours local time.

The aircraft was in the Indonesian Flight Information Region (FIR), more than 200 nautical miles southeast of the Singapore-Jakarta FIR boundary, when contact was lost, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said.

Contact with the plane was lost 42 minutes after takeoff. No Indian national was on board.


Floods, landslides kill 17, maroon 1 million in Sri Lanka

Floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains in Sri Lanka have killed at least 17 people and marooned nearly a million in the past four days, officials said today.

Lal Sarath Kumara, a top disaster management official, said 980,095 people from over 270,000 families are affected in 17 districts in the country.

“There were 17 deaths with 15 more disappearances. Twelve more are wounded”, Kumara said.

Of the 17 deaths, nine died due to landslides at worst-hit Rilpola in the central Badulla district.

Kumara said more than 4,200 homes have been completely damaged while another 13,000 have been partially hit.

The Meteorological Department has predicted weather conditions to get worse with more rains likely to lash the eastern, south eastern, central, northern and north central districts because of depression 400 kilometres east of southern Hambantota district.

At least 38 people were killed in October when mudslides buried homes of tea plantation workers in the country’s central hills.


Sony’s PlayStation Offline, Micosoft’s Xbox Restored in ‘Hack’

WASHINGTON: Microsoft’s online network for its Xbox gaming console was restored to nearly full service after an alleged coordinated Christmas Day hack brought it and Sony’s PlayStation network down.

The PlayStation network remained down yesterday, while Xbox’s service returned to all except three of its applications during the day.

The disruption started Christmas Day, PlayStation and Xbox said on their Twitter feeds, adding that they were working to restore service.

A message posted to the Xbox status page early Friday upgraded service to “limited” — a sign that support teams were making inroads in fixing the problem.

A new Twitter user going by the name “Lizard Squad” took credit for the disruption, claiming it had the “nation on strings.”

The name is the same used by a group of hackers that has targeted Sony in the past, though it was not possible to verify the Twitter account’s authenticity.

The account did not return requests for comment and only became active Wednesday.

Sony was hit by a sophisticated hacking attack this month that stole massive amounts of data from its servers.

The US has blamed North Korea for the attack, with the reclusive state seen as furious at the release of Sony film “The Interview,” which parodies leader Kim Jong-Un.

After initially canceling the film’s December 25 release, Sony backtracked and brought it out to a small number of US theaters.

The film was also made available online – including through the Xbox console and, soon, the PlayStation.

On its @PlayStation Twitter account, Sony said: “We’re aware that some users are having issues logging into PSN – engineers are investigating.”

A day after the difficulties began, @AskPlayStation posted: “Our engineers are continuing to work hard to resolve the network issues users have experienced today. Thanks for your continued patience!”

Analysts said a direct connection with the Sony Pictures attack was unlikely, and that the latest hack was probably the work of fame-seeking amateurs.

“The timing suggests that this is an attack that we can put in the category of adolescents who are looking for a bit of glory,” said Pierre Samson of the European Circle Security and Information Systems.

“There is a very small probability that there was a direct link with the attack on Sony Pictures, you can order an attack to online services fairly easily with few resources.”


Oil prices rise following attacks on Libyan oil terminals

Singapore, Dec 26: Oil prices rose in Asia today as dealers reacted to a surprise Islamist attack on Libya’s main oil terminals that left 22 soldiers dead. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for February delivery rose 28 cents to USD 56.12 in mid-morning trade, while Brent for February gained 13 cents to USD 60.37.

Trading volumes in Asia were thinner than usual with major regional financial markets including Hong Kong and Australia closed today. US and European stock markets will also be shut for the Boxing Day holiday.

The attack in Libya’s oil-rich region yesterday, saw militiamen belonging to the Fajr Libya, or Libya Dawn, target Al-Sidra port by firing rockets from speedboats, setting an oil tank on fire, security forces said. Soldiers damaged three of the vessels before clashes in which the militants were eventually repelled. Witnesses said the attack was launched overnight, and reported seeing smoke from the burning oil tank.

Military and medical sources said 18 soldiers and a Fajr Libya fighter were killed yesterday in fighting in Sirte, and another four soldiers slain in Al-Sidra. Al-Sidra is located in the country’s “oil crescent” region that has been the scene of recent fighting between government forces and Fajr Libya. Since fresh clashes between government forces and the jihadists erupted on December 13, Libya’s oil production has dropped to nearly 350,000 barrels per day compared with 800,000 previously, according to industry experts. Production in Libya, a member of the OPEC oil-producing cartel, has only just started to rise following a prolonged disruption due to civil unrest.


Play Station, Xbox under ‘hacker attack’

Washington, 26 December: The online gaming networks for Sony’s Play Station and Microsoft’s Xbox consoles ~ hot gifts this Christmas ~ have gone dark in what hackers said was a coordinated attack.

The outage started on Christmas Day and went into Friday, Play Station and Xbox said on their Twitter feeds, adding that they were working to restore service.

A new Twitter user going by the name “Lizard Squad” took credit for the disruption, claiming it had the “nation on strings.”

The name is the same used by a group of hackers that has targeted Sony in the past, though it was not possible to verify the Twitter account’s authenticity. The account did not return request for comment and only became active Wednesday.

Sony this month was hit by a sophisticated hacking attack that stole massive amounts of data from its servers. The US has blamed North Korea for the attack, with the hermit state seen as furious at the release of a Sony movie comedy, “The Interview”, which parodies leader Kim Jong-Un.

After initially cancelling the 25 December release of “The Interview”, Sony backtracked and brought it out in a few US theaters and made it available online ~ including through the Xbox console and, soon, the PlayStation.
Sony’s @Play Station Twitter account said today: “We’re aware that some users are having issues logging into PSN – engineers are investigating.”

An online support page ~ ~ showed that the Play Station network status remained offline early today, a day after the difficulties began.

Meanwhile, Microsoft on a site for its Xbox customers pleaded with its customers to be patient.

“We’re aware of this issue, and we’re working to find a fix ASAP! We appreciate your patience in the meantime, and we encourage you to retry signing in when you get a chance. We’ll update you as soon as we know more,” the message said.

Xbox said on Twitter it could not estimate when service would return, while users vented their frustration with the outage online.

“After this christmas, #lizardsquad id forever on the naughty list,” one frustrated gamer fumed on Twitter.

A major cyber attack on PlayStation in 2011 saw personal details from 77 million customers stolen, preventing customers from playing online and forcing Sony to disable the network for more than three weeks.


Your Biggest Social Media Fans Might Not Be Your Best Customers

If you think your careful attention to social media analytics, monitoring, and customer relations means you know your customers better than ever before, think again. Rather than enlightening you about your customers, all that social media data may actually be misleading you-because it’s only showing you a narrow and atypical slice of your social media audience and your customer base.

That’s the key insight in a new report my coauthor Vision Critical President Andrew Reid and I released last week, What Social Media Analytics Can’t Tell You About Your Customers. The report provides long-overdue context about who you are actually hearing from when you tune in to your social media audience. Our big finding was that even if your social media audience is largely made up of people who are also your customers (which in itself can be hard to ascertain), those customers who you actually hear from on social media are not representative of your customers as a whole.

In fact, almost 90% of what you hear on social media comes from fewer than 30% of social media users. That 30%-the people we call enthusiasts-are the vocal social media users who post 5 times a week or more. And they’re fundamentally different from the quieter social media users who make up the vast majority of your social media audience (and potentially your customers): the dabblers, who post two to four times per week, and the near-silent lurkers, who post once a week or less. But don’t mistake quiet for irrelevant: even though they are barely posting, the vast majority of lurkers and dabblers peruse Facebook at least once a day.

Understanding the differences between these three kinds of social media users is crucial not only to your social media strategy, but to the way you approach customer intelligence. Whether you’re trying to understand how to serve, market to, or engage your customers, you need to understand the expectations and attitudes of all of your customers.

We were able to uncover the blind spots of social media analytics by working with three global brands to combine detailed feedback from their customers with Facebook profile data from those same people. This effort revealed a massive asymmetry between the fans and customers who get heard through social media dashboards and analytics, and the reality of who’s on Facebook. Even more important, it allowed us to develop the first data-driven picture of how vocal and quiet social media users differ from one another, in ways that matter to your business.

Enthusiasts are the people that social media analytics do a good job of capturing-because they (OK, I’ll admit it: we) are actively participating on social media sites. Those enthusiasts tend to be eager shoppers. They’re more likely to be looking for that next great buy, and to make that purchase in a big box store. They are also avid users of their mobile devices – they’re more likely to whip out their mobile phones to comparison shop while they’re inside a store. They’re also selective about the types of TV programs they regularly view, and are likely to consult friends and family in their purchase decisions, and more likely to share their own opinions in turn. These are the people that you will most likely see represented in your social media intelligence.

But’s what’s missing is the data on your dabbler and lurker fans and customers – that’s much less likely to show up in your analytics. Lurkers tend to be more reluctant shoppers, and social media is less likely to have spurred them to make a purchase. And unlike enthusiasts, you’re unlikely to find them shopping at a big box store. They’re less interested in their mobile devices than in their TVs; they watch more types of TV programming, and follow fewer topics on Facebook (though, interestingly, they’re just as likely to play online games). They’re less inclined to turn to friends and family for shopping advice offline, and less interested in sharing their own views with online friends.

Dabblers fall squarely between these two extremes. But like lurkers, they’re often missed by social media analytics: because they post so much less than enthusiasts, they account for only 10% of what you hear on Facebook, even though they make up almost 20% of the Facebook audience.

These differences mean that you can’t use enthusiasts as a proxy for your customers as a whole. Particularly when the signals you pick up on social come from customers who disagree, you need to find ways to contextualize what you’re hearing on social with every other source of customer insight you can get your hands on: transactional data, customer feedback, click tracking, and so on. Not to mention actual conversations with as wide a range of customers as you can possibly engage.

It’s only when businesses combine all of these sources of insight that they really will know their customers better than ever. Social media analytics may remind companies why it’s crucial to understand their customers-but the differences between enthusiasts, dabblers, and lurkers means that social media can’t deliver that understanding.


‘So many tears this Christmas’, says Pope Francis


Pope Francis called for an end to “brutal” religious persecution, killings and hostage-taking in the Middle East and Nigeria as well as violence against children in his annual Christmas “urbi et orbi” message.

Denouncing conflicts in Ukraine, Libya and elsewhere, and noting last week’s deadly attack against school-children in Pakistan, the pontiff also lamented the thousands of victims of the Ebola apidemic in West Africa.

“Truly there are so many tears this Christmas,” he said.
Delivering his second Christmas blessing, the popular Argentine pontiff, visibly moved and departing from his text, said vast numbers of children “are victims of violence, made objects of trade and trafficking”.

He asked Jesus to “give comfort to the families of the children killed in Pakistan,” referring to the 149 people, including 133 schoool-children, killed in Peshawar by the Taliban.

Speaking to a large crowd massed outside Saint Peter’s Basilica, the pope urged Ukrainians to “overcome tensions, conquer hatred and violence and set out on a new journey of fraternity and reconciliation”.

He turned too to the violence wrought by Islamic State fundamentalists this year in Syria and Iraq.

“I ask him, the Saviour of the world, to look upon our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict, and who, together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, are suffering a brutal persecution.”

There were “too many displaced persons, exiles and refugees, adults and elderly, from this region and the whole world,” he said.

He called for peace in “the whole Middle East” and continued efforts towards “dialogue” between Israelis and Palestinians.

The pope too urged peace in Nigeria “where more blood is being shed”, as well as in Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Reublic of the Congo.
He noted the victims of Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and in Guinea and thanked those were “courageously” assisting the sick.


Merry Christmas, NASA astronauts say from space


Washington, Dec 25 (IANS) The stockings are out, the tree is up and Christmas celebrations are on in the zero-gravity nest of astronauts in space.

As astronauts continue advanced space research to benefit life on the Earth and in space, the team including Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is in the holiday spirit. The International Space Station (ISS) is decorated with stockings for each crew member and a tree in the Christmas week.

A wide array of research work took place this week on the space station with scientists on the ground, working in conjunction with the astronaut lab assistants, exploring different fields.

The behavioural testing for neuromapping study assessed changes in a crew member’s perception, motor control, memory and attention during a six-month space mission.

The results will help physicians to understand brain structure and function changes in space and how a crew member adapts to returning to the Earth and develop effective countermeasures.

Another study is observing why human skin ages at a quicker rate in space than on the the Earth.

The experiment will provide scientists a model to study the ageing of other human organs and help future crew members prepare for long-term missions beyond low-earth orbit, the US space agency said in a statement.

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