Facebook has revealed that it has been working on a 'sympathise' button to replace the 'like' function we've all become so familiar with.
During a Q&A session at a Facebook Compassion Research Day, the firm attempted to find out how to better engage users emotionally and increase harmony on the social network between friends who may not be getting along.
For example, one presentation showed how reminding a user how long they've known a friend for and the interests they share reduces the likelihood of them following through with a complaint about a post.
Another, the BBC reports, involves taking into account the mood of a post and to then display a sympathise or like button accordingly. There are, however, no plans to launch this feature at the moment.
It is an interesting idea, although Sneak thinks it would be much better to give users the choice to 'sympathise' with any post. For example, the most common life events for Facebook users this year were new relationships, engagements and marriages. Want to subtly show your disapproval? 'Sympathise' with someone who's got married. Checked in at a bad venue? Sympathise.
Speaking of check-ins, the UK's most popular destination for users tagging themselves is The O2 in London, while the most discussed topic of the year globally was Pope Francis. The royal baby only ranked third, with Facebook users seemingly following the papal story more religiously. Bizarrely, in the UK the royal baby ranked even lower, fourth behind Andy Murray, Margaret Thatcher and the UEFA Champions League final.
Sneak offers his sympathy to Borussia Dortmund.
15 Jan 2013
As the pizza boxes pile mounting by the bin can attest, Sneak's New Year diet is not going to plan. Of course, Sneak knows only too well that his lack of self control hasn't helped matters, but this inability to ignore the alluring call of a 15in stuffed crust deep pan with extra mozzarella and sausage is not proof of a personality defect. As it turns out, Sneaks complete lack of willpower is entirely Facebook's fault.
At least that's the interpretation Sneak had from reading a newly released piece of research from the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia Business School.
Researchers Andrew Stephen and Keith Wilcox studied 1,000 Facebook users to see how their experience of using the social networking site impacted their lives. They found users that had strong ties with friends via Facebook were more likely to experience an increase in self-esteem, which is nice for them.
“We find that people experience greater self-esteem when they focus on the image they are presenting to strong ties in their social networks," said Wilcox. "This suggests that even though people are sharing the same positive information with strong ties and weak ties on social networks, they feel better about themselves when the information is received by strong ties than by weak ties."
But the researchers discovered this was a double-edged sword. So while users felt better about themselves after using Facebook, they also showed far less self control after doing so.
“The results suggest that greater social network use is associated with a higher body-mass index, increased binge eating, a lower credit score, and higher levels of credit-card debt for individuals with strong ties to their social network," they wrote.
The research has been published by the Journal of Consumer Research.
Given Sneak's Facebook habit and the advent of online pizza ordering, little wonder the diet has gone for a burton.
It may only be a few days in to 2013, but it looks like being another year where Sneak will spend it desperately trying to pay off embarrassingly large bills. For once though, this isn't the result of festive largess, but purely because Sneak was trying to be helpful.
For the past few years, Sneak has been sending sage advice to social networking wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg via his Facebook site. After all, being a young billionaire, and lacking experience of the world outside Silicon Valley, can be hard.
So Sneak is pretty sure his advice – on sartorial matters (gentlemen are allowed to wear garments other than hoodies), interior design (spray painting may look edgy, but a nice frame with a poster featuring a motivational buzz phrase does more for office morale, and is easier to change when you tire of it), and relaxation techniques (bikram yoga can soothe away stress and is likely to get you in to less trouble with Peta than butchering animals) – has been well received.
Indeed, after polishing off the left over brandy sauce from Christmas recently, Sneak was inspired to send Zuck scores of messages, advising the young pup how to make social networking less creepy and intrusive.
Trouble is, Sneak has only recently been alerted to the fact that it now costs $100 for Facebook users that don't follow Zuck to send him a message – and Sneak has to be careful about who he lets see his timeline.
Apparently the charges have been introduced as Facebook explores ways to cut back spam. It's a worthy effort, but one that means Sneak will spend another January glued to eBay, watching to see how much the unwanted Christmas pressies might raise. Pair of tiger-print lycra yoga shorts anyone? How about a onesie?
Sneak was overjoyed to see Facebook pass the one billion user milestone this week - what a happy community of people all updating and clicking and posting and liking and poking we are.
To celebrate this event Facebook commissioned its first ever advert and the results are, well, interesting to say the least.
In a bizarre piece of pseudo-intellectualism the advertising agency charged with the task of making Facebook seem cool again, Wieden and Kennedy, hit upon the intriguing notion that Facebook is like a chair, or a doorbell, or a dancefloor.
This is, you see, because these things help us connect, as Facebook does - give 'em a kipper! How many latte-drinking, designer-beard-wearing, suits-and-Converse wearing muppets did it take to make that connection?
The advert then goes on to say that because the universe is so big we often wonder if we're alone - which is true, with regards the universe itself, but not life, where we're surrounded by other people - but Facebook, like doorbells, reminds us "we are not" alone. Brilliant logic.
Sneak's favourite bit comes about half way through, though, when the advertising copy writer clearly forgot to think of a third thing that people share, but never got around to updating it and the agency probably though it was genius by its idiocy.
"Doorbells, airplanes, bridges...these are thing that people use to get together, so they can open up and connect about ideas and music and other things that people share."
‘Other things that people share?' Couldn't they thing of one more thing beyond "music" and "ideas". And "ideas" is a fairly nebulous concept anyway.
Sneak could have done a lot better. Here, have a read of this:
"Facebook - bringing people together to share drunken photos, write grammatically incorrect statuses and portray a life far more interesting than it really is to people they don't really like."
If your one big investment to date had been at the outset of social media trailblazer Facebook then Sneak reckons, chances are, you'd back your business acumen.
So it's of little surprise that the infamous Winklevoss twins are once again in the business-backing game.
They've been briefing the Wall Street Journal on plans to sink $1m into a online investors community SumZero – mere pocket change for the minted duo, enriched by Facebook's success.
Of course, when that one big investment has also led to headline-grabbing court cases and less-than-flattering films, some investors might want to keep a lower profile. Not so the twins.
Sneak has long since concluded that it takes a special sort of person to get in to a battle with Mark Zuckerberg and come out looking the less likeable. But if any professionals know what it's like to be unpopular, it's the bankers and brokers.
So it may just be that the Winklevoss twins may have found kindred spirits in an online community for hedge fund managers and private equity investors.
Sneak has long been an admirer of the satirical cyanide that drips from the pen of Armando Iannucci, although thanks to office politics, Sneak has been forced to tone down the expletives when doing our best Malcolm Tucker impressions.
But while Sneak has been an avid view of series such as The Thick of It and Veep, it's hard not to have a few misgivings about Iannucci's next project after Iannucci told The Observer he has already penned a script for a show set in Silicon Valley.
Obviously, there's no shortage of juicy material for Iannucci to get his fangs into, with the likes of Apple and Facebook ripe for tearing into while the ridiculous marketing babble that splutters from some executives is almost beyond parody.
But Sneak can't help wondering if Iannuci's famed eye for detail might need a little fine tuning, when dealing with the denizens of the Valley.
“Microsoft, Google, Facebook: you have these twenty-somethings who have a way into billions of households,” Iannucci told the Observer.
Well, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg might still be a bit fresh faced. But Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page are pushing 40. As for Microsoft, Sneak doubts either Steve Ballmer or Bill Gates can remember the last time they were mistaken for twenty-somethings.
24 Jul 2012
The world of technology patents can be profoundly confusing, where people seem to channel their inventiveness in to coming up with the most ludicrous things to patent rather than, you know, useful inventions.
Sneak has often pondered the need for urgent global patent reform, but usually got distracted by more pressing matters like the latest batch of cookie dough being cooked to buttery perfection.
But we were reminded once again upon seeing the confirmation that the one person that has done their most to erode people's privacy – by turning them into compulsive online 'sharemongers' – has been awarded a patent for privacy protecting technology.
So with gritted teeth, Sneak's congratulations go to Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
As it transpires, Zuck has already snaffled a handful of patents, but the significance of this one it that the patent for Dynamically Generation a Privacy Summary, was actually the first one he applied for.
Never mind that the US Patent Office had previously rejected it for being too obvious – the billionaire Zuckerberg has a fitting boondoggle for all his privacy work.
Sneak meanwhile has a similar method of generating privacy summaries for those in thrall to Facebook. It's just a piece of A4 paper enscribed with the words “You don't have any”. Being a fair-minded individual, Sneak should point out that the inspiration for the system, came of course, from Zuckerberg's own proclamations.
13 Jul 2012
Given the rampant success of Google's attempt at a social network, Google+, it's good to see that the search giant is feeling munificent.
A handful of its researchers will take to a conference stage today to let erstwhile rival, Facebook, know just where it has been going wrong all along on the issue of user privacy and engagement.
Sneak can't help but wonder whether next up Google will be dishing up advice to Roger Federer on winning tennis matches, or even to Granny Sneak on egg-sucking.
Delegates at the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security in Washington will today be treated to the presentation from Jessica Staddon and her colleagues at Google on whether privacy concerns are a turn-off for social network users.
Having a had a peek at the paper, Sneak is happy to warn those delegates: hold on to your hats. The intrepid Googlers have found, from speaking to more than 1,000 Facebook users (or about 0.0001 per cent of its user base) that those that had privacy concerns shared less on the social network than those that didn't.
With insights like that, it surely can't be long before the social network that came to redefine the phrase "lack of user engagement", Google+, catches up with Facebook?