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Creator Weekly: Google Bard AI, YouTube Shorts Replies, Twitter Blue Long Posts

Roses are red, violets are blue, there are a bunch of creator updates, Happy Valentine’s Week to you!

This week the hot topic of discussion was Google and Bing’s announcements about their AI chat bots for search. Plus improved Shorts replies on YouTube, Instagram Gifts for Reels, long posts for Twitter Blue subscribers and more.

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In the news this week

My heart goes out to the people of Turkey after the devastating earthquakes. While governments and aid organizations around the world have sent assistance, tech companies are also responding. Amazon is donating relief items and providing logistics for delivering aid packages, and both Google and Apple say they are supporting relief and recovery efforts.

Having trouble finding a gift? Make a Valentine’s Day movie in Google Photos to share with your true love (or your mom).

Super Bowl Online 🏈

The Super Bowl is Sunday, and social media is ready.

YouTube lets you watch Super Bowl ads before, during and after the game on their AdBlitz channel.

TikTok is partnering with the NFL for a TikTok Tailgate pregame party.

Twitter has guidance for brands to “break through”.

Reddit partnered with the NFL to create a collection of free collectable images.

Snapchat has free Lenses, Bitmoji outfits, and related Spotlight challenges.

AI and Search

This week Google announced Bard, a conversational AI bot powered by Google's LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications). Disappointingly, it is currently only available to trusted testers.

It’s off to a rocky start, with a promo that showed the bot providing incorrect information. That caused Google parent company Alphabet's stock price to drop.

Google also highlighted new AI-driven visual search options with Lens and multisearch that will be available in the coming months.

This week Microsoft also announced an update to their Bing search engine with a GPT-based chatbot. You can see how it works with sample questions and join the waitlist to try out the new Bing here. The results note up front that “surprises and mistakes are possible”, and that the AI is still learning. That may be enough to manage people’s expectations about quality.

The big unanswered question is whether integrated AI that summarizes information from the web will discourage people from visiting the sites that are the original sources of information.

There has also been concern that more websites will start using AI to churn out low quality content. Google announced that they don’t care how content is created, as long as it is “helpful, reliable and people-first” following the principles of E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness). They do recommend that use of automation be disclosed.

Google seems confident it can detect spam and low quality content, no matter how it was created.

Related: science fiction writer Ted Chiang wrote for the New Yorker how “ChatGPT is a blurry JPEG of the web”. He argues it is not a good tool for writing.
... but let me make the argument that starting with a blurry copy of unoriginal work isn’t a good way to create original work. If you’re a writer, you will write a lot of unoriginal work before you write something original. And the time and effort expended on that unoriginal work isn’t wasted; on the contrary, I would suggest that it is precisely what enables you to eventually create something original. The hours spent choosing the right word and rearranging sentences to better follow one another are what teach you how meaning is conveyed by prose.

YouTube and Video

If you have an iOS device, try YouTube’s improvements to replying to comments with Shorts. The Shorts will appear as replies in the comments feed and the comment sticker is tappable, making it easier for people to watch the video the Shorts comment was posted on. This feature is “coming soon” to Android. Learn more. Ask a question on the YouTube Creator Liaison’s Short to get a Shorts reply.

TikTok is adding new features to Promote, their service that lets businesses turn videos into ads. Among the changes are the option to drive traffic to the main TikTok page, promote creator videos and live streams, and location targeting of ads.

What’s new in Twitter land

There are reports that Twitter is having problems because they are understaffed and poorly managed.

CEO Elon Musk apparently orders a code freeze when there is a problem, like last Wednesday’s outage. But because there aren’t enough engineers to quickly investigate issues, code changes pile up during the freeze, and then can cause further issues when all those code changes are deployed at the same time. And that makes it even more difficult to find the underlying cause of a problem.

According to a new report from Zoe Schiffer and Casey Newton, Musk is very concerned that his personal account isn’t getting the expected engagement. After an investigation showed that the algorithm is not biased against his posts, one of Twitter’s two remaining principal engineers suggested that the reason is that he is not as popular as he was before his purchase of Twitter. That engineer was fired.

With Musk continuing to fire people impulsively, entire teams have been wiped out, and their work is being handed to other overstretched teams that often have little understanding of the new work that is being assigned to them.

And this sounds like a nightmare.
There’s times he’s just awake late at night and says all sorts of things that don’t make sense,” one employee said. “And then he’ll come to us and be like, ‘this one person says they can’t do this one thing on the platform,’ and then we have to run around chasing some outlier use case for one person. It doesn’t make any sense.
That said, Twitter is implementing new features.

Twitter Blue subscribers in the US can now post Tweets up to 4000 characters. Longer Tweets will only display 280 characters in the timeline, with the rest of the text hidden behind a “Show More” prompt. It’s a work in progress, with no way currently to save a draft or schedule Tweets for later. And people will only be notified of an @ mention if it is within the first 280 characters of the post. (More details) It’s lousy to read the long posts in the mobile Twitter app, so I’m not a fan. And if you want to post something that long, you can get a (free) blog instead, then link to it.

In last week’s update, I noted that Twitter would be removing free access to their API on February 9. Fun and useful Twitter bots being run without any compensation would be killed off. Since then Twitter has made some changes. Current free access has been extended to February 13, when they will launch a new form of free access that allows up to 1500 Tweets per month. For everyone else, the new base tier is $100 per month (including for academic access). At this point, it’s not clear if developers will be coming back, since changes seem to be implemented without planning or forethought.

There is yet another Twitter “killer” launched this week: Spoutible. There has been some concern that CEO Christopher Bouzy has been misleading about how it was developed and that there may be privacy or security issues. The landing page says you can “pursue your passions” and “stay informed with real-time news and insights from people you know, industry leaders, journalists and notable figures”. It will be interesting to see if it actually takes off.

As Twitter shifts to requiring payment for more and more features, I think it’s going to end up mostly businesses, celebrities and people using the platform for self promotion. It will be harder to find interesting discussions with people who are experts in their field and people interested in conversation will move elsewhere.  

For what it’s worth, I’ve really been enjoying Mastodon. I’ve found interesting people to follow and people seem more engaged in general. One of my original posts (here) has 64 re-shares and 48 favorites - that’s vastly more interaction than any of my recent Tweets have gotten even though I have 25x more Twitter followers.

But not everyone will move to the same spaces, so you may need to be active on multiple social sites to engage with your different social groups.

It will be interesting to see what the landscape looks like a year from now.

Other Social Media

Instagram is opening up its Reels tip jar - Gifts - to creators in the United States. Viewers around the world can send gifts. You can check your Professional Dashboard to see if gifts are available to your account.

Mike Masnick at TechDirt calls out “lazy reporters claiming Fediverse is ‘slumping’, despite massive increase in usage.

More reading

Darren Loucaides at Wired investigates how the Kremlin has access to supposedly private Telegram chats, seemingly even those with end-to-end encryption enabled. It could be malware on people’s devices, rather than Telegram itself. But there is evidence that the Russian government may be “exploiting Telegram’s API at scale”, infiltrating dissident groups, and just possibly gaining access to secret chats.

Clarissa-Jan Lim at BuzzFeed News looks into “what happens when you become viral content without your consent.”

Michael Hiltzik in the LA Times reports how one bad password caused someone to lose everything. In this case he set up the admin account for his website with the same password he used for his Yahoo email account, and hackers retrieved data from Yahoo accounts years ago. It was long forgotten that the passwords were the same. (Via Anthony Collette on mastodon).

A year ago Joshua Benton at NiemanLab compiled “an incomplete history of as a platform for scams, grift, and bad journalism”.

If you are using the Google app on your iOS device, have you played the secret pinball game?

Learn how to troubleshoot problems with Gmail on the web in this tutorial from Gmail product expert Somnath.

Google Meet n
ow lets you include captions in your recordings (if you have recordings available).

Google Maps immersive view is rolling out in London, Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo (and soon in more cities). This issues NeRF (neural radiance fields) AI to transform 2D photos into 3D images. That means you can explore like you are there in person. There’s also search in Live View in LA, NY, Paris, San Francisco and Tokyo, to make it easier to find an ATM or cafe as you alk down the street.

Codebreakers have decoded more than 50 letters written by Mary, Queen of Scots.

That’s all the updates for this week. Subscribe to get the Weekly Update in your email inbox or favorite feed reader every week. Miss last week’s update? Get it here.

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Photo of candy hearts by Emily Ranquist: