Unriddled: The Tech News You Need, SXSW Edition

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Unriddled”: the HubSpot Marketing Blog’s mid-week digest of the tech news you need to know.

This week, we’re coming to you live from South by Southwest (SXSW), a festival of interactive events where we’re positively drowning in a sea of bots, music, and some of the best tacos around.

But fear not: if recent current events have you scratching your head and wondering, “What just happened?”, we’ve got you covered.

It’s our Wednesday tech news roundup, and we’re breaking it down with Amanda’s dance move of the week: none other than The Robot.

Unriddled: The Tech News You Need

1. SXSW Kicks off With Mixed Sentiments on Tech

In Austin, TX, the annual SXSW celebration of tech, film, and music kicked off with mixed sentiment and messaging around tech.

Each year, SXSW polls attendees for the Trust Barometer: a measure of how much faith the crowd has in things like media, institutions, business, and technology. And despite the interactive presence at the event, this year’s survey found that attendees have quite a low level of trust in emerging technology.

Attendees seem to have the lowest level of trust in blockchain technology, coming in at only 27%. That’s followed by autonomous vehicles at 33%, and the same percentage of attendees reporting trust in virtual reality (VR) platforms.

The Trust Barometer results for technology echo an overall key change in an outlook of technology that’s been discussed in several sessions at SXSW. According to certain expert panels, it seems that users are generally looking to revisit a more human element in the technology they use, from social media to smart speakers and digital assistants.

In the realm of social media, for instance, some predict that the trend is moving toward a greater emphasis on communities.

“Sometimes, it’s easier to share more intimately in a group,” said Facebook Product Design Manager Tutti Taygerly during a panel discussion — suggesting a move toward “smaller, more intimate social networks.” 

Panel at SXSW 2018 with technology experts discussing social media

That suspected widespread need for more personal communication among consumers also came up during a panel discussion on the next wave of communication with technology like voice assistants and bots.

“What about emotional attachments?” asked moderator Shara Tibken, a senior reporter with CNET. “Do you see a day when these become our therapists, or our friends?”

“People do ask the bots if they’re a boy or a girl,” responded Dashbot co-founder and CEO Arte Merritt, adding that users also ask these technologies for their names, and whether or not they’re real.

People send images into these chatbots,” he continued. “It turns out people treated a weather bot like a person, and sent it pictures like it would to a friend.” 

2. Twitter’s CEO Held a Live Broadcast to Discuss the Network’s Health

As we reported in February, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced in a series of tweets that the social network would be enlisting the help of outside experts to determine the relative health of Twitter. That decision, it seems, was largely a response to user demand for Twitter to resolve the use of its network to engage in negative, often hateful conversation on the platform. 

Last week, Dorsey and other leaders at Twitter took a further step in those efforts when they hosted a live stream to answer questions about the social network’s health.

Admitting that Twitter has taken on serious issues it must resolve, Head of Product Health David Gasca remarked that the network has to overcome them and examine health “in such a way that is public and accountable,” but goes beyond such basic figures as retweets and followers.

The live stream took place a day after Twitter issued a statement emphasizing that it would be taking measures to prevent cryptocurrency scams on its network, noting that it’s “aware of this form of manipulation.”

To address it, the statement said, Twitter will be able to detect certain “signals” that indicate an account might be engaging in this activity.

Both Facebook and Google (as of this morning) have completely banned any advertisements related to cryptocurrency — and while Twitter has not issued a complete ban on this type of promoted content, it seems trickier to enforce on that particular platform. For instance, the live stream coincided with the release of new research from MIT that found false news to be 70% more likely to be retweeted.

Dorsey noted that Twitter is likely to host future live streams on the topic. Check out our full coverage of this one here.

3. Messenger Could Be Issuing Updates to Emulate Snapchat (Again)

Over the weekend, messaging blog WABetaInfo released new information indicating that Facebook has plans for major changes to Messenger — which could include disappearing photos and videos. 

According to the post, the rumored update not only includes an overall new design and features like auto-translate, but also may allow users to send disappearing — or ephemeral — visual content.

Mobile screen of Facebook's new disappearing content feature

Source: WABetaInfo

If true, this move would be the latest in a Facebook’s long history of attempting to emulate Snapchat’s features since its failed attempt to acquire the platform in 2013.

“The Facebook platform saturated the market with stories on its portfolio of products — Facebook, Instagram, Messenger,” said Connor Cirillo, HubSpot’s conversational marketing manager, when the story first broke. “And now, with its emphasis on things like video calls and filters, Messenger continues to push to be the way users build one-on-one relationships.”

The sentiment of Messenger being leveraged by individual consumers and brands alike has been echoed throughout SXSW during a number of conversations about the platform and how businesses are — and should be — using it.

“Over time,” said Niveus CEO and co-founder Tim Cutting during a panel discussion, bots should be built “so that it’s more of a dialogue back and forth.”

“Folks are letting this into their lives,” he continued. “It’s a train moving toward comfort, and feature, and benefit.”

4. Speaking of Snapchat … 

Last week, it was reported that the somewhat troubled ephemeral content app would be cutting over 120 engineers from its staff.

According to Reuters, the app’s parent company, Snap Inc., has a staff meeting scheduled for today to discuss a reorganization, as well as answering lingering employee questions.

The announcement came after disappointing results and revenue a year after the company’s IPO. 

For many, the sustainable value or monetization potential for an app like Snapchat remains unclear. While it was a pioneer in the realm of ephemeral content — and certainly attracted the attention of Facebook, as per above — it’s lingered behind other social networks in terms of providing tools for analytics and measuring ROI for marketers and brands.

Discussions at SXSW also implied that it even causes some confusion for best use cases among consumers.

“One core problem on Snapchat is deciding what should be shared just with friends and family, and what should be public,” Taygerly said. “What is the demarcation between those two worlds?”

5. YouTube Will Add Information From Wikipedia to Conspiracy Videos

At a Tuesday night SXSW panel, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the video-sharing platform will be adding topical information to videos about conspiracies.

The goal of this move is to provide additional information around controversial topics — the soure of which will be Wikipedia.

“When there are videos that are focused around something that’s a conspiracy,” Wojcicki said, “we will show a companion unit of information from Wikipedia showing that here is information about the event.”

There’s an issue, however: Wikipedia is thought by many to be a less-than-reliable source of information.

Its content is crowdsourced, and much of the time, entries can be edited by anyone without requiring citations. That’s one reason why, for example, when I was in graduate school, Wikipedia was not a permitted source of information for research.

But as Wired reporter Louise Matsakis pointed out, floating Wikipedia as a source of information isn’t new for Google.

Information from the site is often used in featured snippets, or some of the highest-ranking pages in its search engine results. After all, here’s what a search for the query “moon landing” yielded:

It’s possible that YouTube could face a backlash from this move — but as for whether or not it will reconsider its sources of information for such content remains to be seen.

That’s all for today — but we’ll be at SXSW all week. While we’re here, feel free to weigh in on Twitter to ask us your tech news questions, or to let us know what kind of events and topics you’d like us to cover.

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