Saturday, August 20, 2016

Twitter parody accounts need their own identifying symbol

Twitter has a lot of problems right now: from sluggish user growth to people using the online platform for harassment.
Twitter also is making changes to its micro-blogging service: from including more non-linear tweets in users’ feeds to not counting links and photos in its 140-character tweet limit.
Twitter users would like to see more changes, such as the ability to edit tweets once they’ve been posted.
I’ve got another suggestion: Twitter should have an identifying mark on parody accounts. This symbol would be much like the checkmark that appears next to user names on verified accounts.
Currently parody accounts must mention that they are parodies in the user description on their page. But if a tweet shows up in your Twitter feed, you wouldn’t know it’s a parody account unless you first check out the user’s Twitter page.
A symbol like a laughing mouth would be useful to helping people instantly recognize parody tweets.
Last week, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump criticized the New York Times for its reporting and First Amendment protections.
In a tweet, @realDonaldTrump said, “It is not ‘freedom of the press’ when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!”
A parody account, @realDenaldTrump, which uses the same photo of Trump that he has on his Twitter page, followed up Trump’s rant with this tweet: “I’m not running against Crooked Hillary, Folks! I’m running against the 1st Amendment. VERY BAD! @realDonaldTrump.”
That sounded like Trump, who is no supporter of the free press.
I saw that tweet on my smartphone and retweeted it with my comment, “Unbelievable.”
I was quickly alerted to the fact that it was a parody account with a misspelled Donald. That was hard to see on my small smartphone screen.
A parody symbol would be a small but important improvement to the Twitter experience.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Fitbit should make a strategic alliance with ‘Pokemon Go’

I don’t usually offer suggestions on possible business deals. The last time I did was in August 2012 when I said Lego should buy the developer of the video game Minecraft. (Ultimately Microsoft stepped up to buy Mojang, developer of the hit virtual world-building game, in September 2014 for $2.5 billion.)
Now I’m convinced that Fitbit, the maker of wearable fitness devices, should strike a strategic partnership with Niantic, developer of the hit “Pokemon Go” augmented-reality smartphone game. I don’t think Fitbit should attempt to buy Niantic, but I wouldn’t rule out a strategic investment.
Here’s my reasoning:
I’ve owned a Fitbit wrist-worn activity tracker for a few months now. But it wasn’t until the release of “Pokemon Go” came out on July 6 that I was motivated to go for walks. Measuring steps taken, stairs climbed and calories burned wasn’t much motivation for me.
But now that I can catch digital creatures called Pokemon while out on walks and hatch Pokemon eggs by walking. It’s a lot of fun and something I can share with my two kids who also play the game.
Fitbit should cut a deal to be the official fitness tracker for “Pokemon Go.” They should work with Niantic on special perks for Fitbit users. For instance, Fitbit users could hatch Pokemon eggs with steps taken instead of the inaccurate distance measuring tool Niantic now uses.
Or perhaps Fitbit fitness bands could be set up to vibrate when a Pokemon is in capture range. Fitbit could add a special app for its Blaze smart fitness watch devoted to “Pokemon Go.” It also could sell Pokemon-themed wristbands for the Blaze and Alta fitness band.
I’m not the first person to mention that “Pokemon Go” has positive fitness aspects. Other people have had similar experiences with the game.
That’s some free advice for Fitbit and Niantic to use as they please.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Lying click-bait articles with inaccurate photos

Examples of online content promotion services using inaccurate photos with their click-bait stories never cease.
The other day I documented a bunch of times recently that Revcontent and other services have used photos of live celebrities to promote articles on “celebrities you didn’t know were dead.” This is a deceitful practice that their customers should object to.
What follows are some more recent examples of lying click bait.

An article titled “‘The Brady Bunch’ After 40 Years: Jaw-Dropping!” used a photo of TV personality and fashion designer Lauren Conrad, who is too young to have been on the sitcom.

In a similar fashion, an article titled “29 Photos of Star Wars Cast Like Never Before!” used a photo of actress and cosplayer Maitland Ward dressed as slave Leia. Ward was not in the Star Wars movies.

Another article, titled “11 Popular White Celebrities Who Have Black Spouses!”, used a photo of TV personality Maria Menounos and former NFL player Michael Strahan. The two are not married to each other.

An article titled, “50 Rare Photos of The Middle East When People Had Freedom,” used a photo of U.S. pin-up model Bettie Page. The photo was taken in Miami Beach, Florida, according to AnOther magazine.

Another article, titled “20 Celebs You Never Knew Are Muslim,” used a photo of actress Angelina Jolie, who is not Muslim. She has been photographed wearing an hijab when she travels to Islamic countries as part of her duties as a U.N. goodwill ambassador.

Finally, here’s an article called “28 Stars You Forgot Were Transgender,” that implies that child actor Lee Norris is now actress, rapper, singer and model Chanel West Coast. Again, not true, they are separate people.

Other stories in the series:

The rise of lying click-bait photos with promoted articles (May 16, 2016)

More lying click-bait articles (June 5, 2016)

Lying click-bait articles: transgender celebrities and what actors look like today (June 22, 2016)

Lying click-bait articles: Dead celebrities edition (Aug. 10, 2016)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lying click-bait articles: Dead celebrities edition

Facebook recently announced that it is going to crack down on click-bait articles in its news feed. Other websites should do the same thing with the click-bait articles in the link-sharing services they use.
I’ve written several times about the scourge of lying click-bait articles promoted by link-sharing services like Revcontent, Outbrain, Taboola and Adblade. They use attention-grabbing headlines with inaccurate photos to get curious internet surfers to click on their articles.
These are much worse than the articles Facebook is cracking down on that use language like “you’ll never believe what happened next” or “this will shock you.”
In recent weeks, I’ve been presented with promoted links to articles on dead celebrities that use photos of living celebrities. The dichotomy is designed to get people to click after they say to themselves, “I didn’t know (so-and-so) was dead.”
Revcontent is the worst offender of this shady trick. (See example at top of Robert Redford, who is still alive. In fact, his latest movie, Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon,” is opening this weekend.)
What follows are some other recent examples of lying click-bait articles that allege that living celebrities are deceased.

Actor Sean Penn is still around to annoy us.

Actress Alyson Hannigan is still bringing joy to our lives.

The fat lady has not sung yet for singer Susan Boyle.

Actor Tom Selleck and South Korean musician Psy are alive and kicking.

Actor John Goodman also is still very much alive.

Actress Melissa McCarthy lost some weight but not her life.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Modern pentathlon not modern enough

With the 2016 Summer Olympics underway in Rio de Janeiro, it’s time for me to go on my every-four-years rant about how the lineup of sports in the Summer Games needs to be revamped.
First, I’m against having sports in the Olympics that already have a world championship equivalent or major professional analog. Therefore, I’d scrap the following sports: soccer (the World Cup is enough), basketball, rugby, tennis and golf (the Olympics canceled this one, but brought it back). The same goes for baseball, which is set to return to the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo.
Second, I’d dump equestrian events from the Olympics. Those sports are as much about the horse as the athlete. Plus, that would mean one less venue a city would have to pay to construct.
Third, I’d get rid of sports that look silly today or that likely wouldn’t exist anymore if not for the Olympics keeping them alive. In this category, I’d eliminate race walk (an oxymoron if ever there was one), badminton, fencing, rhythmic gymnastics, field hockey, synchronized swimming and table tennis.
Along the same lines, I’d scrap the following games from track and field: discus throw, hammer throw and shot put. Of course, the decathlon and heptathlon would have to be modified as a result.
The International Olympic Committee is more likely to add sports than eliminate them unfortunately.
In June, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee supported adding five sports for the Tokyo 2020 games: karate, skateboarding, sports climbing, surfing and baseball/softball. The event program for the 2020 games will be finalized in mid-2017.
Finally, one sport I’d like to see modernized is the modern pentathlon.
The modern pentathlon has been a core sport of the Olympics since 1912. It comprises five very different events: fencing, 200-meter freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, and a final combined event of pistol shooting and a 3,200-meter cross-country run.
The contest was created to simulate the experience of a 19th-century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: he must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight enemies with pistol and sword, swim, and run to return to his own soldiers, according to Wikipedia and the New York Times.
I say modernize the sport for today’s audiences. Make it more like a Jason Bourne competition to find the most bad-ass warrior.
Keep the swimming, cross-country run and pistol-shooting. But replace the horse jumping with a motorcycle race and swap out fencing for hand-to-hand combat of some type, such as mixed martial arts. I'd bet sports fans and TV audiences would eat that up.