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Discord shuts down alt-right server and accounts for ToS violations

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Popular voice chat platform Discord has shut down several servers and accounts associated with the alt-right for violations of the terms of service. The company announced the enforcement action on Twitter, emphasizing that it is “about positivity and inclusivity. Not hate. Not violence.”

Predictably, this was quickly followed by accusations of censorship and political bias, and the near-universal assumption that the accounts in question had been banned for ideological reasons. One could, of course, just as easily claim (as some do with Twitter and Reddit) that by tolerating the accounts for as long as it did, Discord supports the ideologies in question.

The company cleared things up in a statement: “We unequivocally condemn white supremacy, neonazism, or any other group, term, ideology that is based on these beliefs. They are not welcome on Discord.”

“While we don’t read people’s private servers our Terms of Service explicitly forbid harassment, threatening messages, or calls to violence…The public server linked to AltRight.com that violated [the ToS] was shut down along with several other public groups and accounts fostering bad actors on Discord.”

In response to calls for counter-protestors’ Discord servers to be shut down as well, the company invited people to report them (email abuse at discordapp.com with details) and they would be investigated just as altright.com’s was.

Hate speech like that proudly employed by those organizing, participating in and discussing the horrifying events in Charlottesville is unwelcome on many platforms. In fact, discouraging hate speech is an ideological stance common to nearly all internet services, with the marked exception of services created specifically to circumvent that stance.

Different companies’ efforts and success in combating it vary widely, but just today GoDaddy revoked neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer’s hosting and Google kicked it off the domain registry — both for pretty clear ToS violations. Airbnb has been pretty clear about what’s allowed on its platform, as well.

We can certainly expect more actions like this, and for similar reactions as neo-Nazis and their like are removed from services to which they have forfeited their privilege to use. It seems likely this will lead to a pitiful, parallel Internet of Hate as the excommunicated communities coalesce and organize. Sad!

Here’s the full statement, for the curious:

Discord was built to bring people together through a love of gaming and our mission is to connect positive communities who share this appreciation. We unequivocally condemn white supremacy, neonazism, or any other group, term, ideology that is based on these beliefs. They are not welcome on Discord. While we don’t read people’s private servers our Terms of Service explicitly forbid harassment, threatening messages, or calls to violence. When hatred like this violates our community standards we act swiftly to take servers down and ban individual users. The public server linked to AltRight.com that violated those terms was shut down along with several other public groups and accounts fostering bad actors on Discord. We will continue to be aggressive to ensure that Discord exists for the community we set out to support – gamers.

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Business

LinkedIn rolls out its Career Advice mentoring program to US, UK and India

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LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social platform for the working world with some 530 million members, has made a big push in the last couple of years to position itself not just as a place to look for new jobs and network, but as a place for professional development — including services for online learning; steady streams of news and other content to expand your knowledge; and most recently help with building your resume. Today, it’s taking the wraps off the latest product in that effort: users in the US, US and India will now be able to use LinkedIn to connect with mentors to help coach them on how to steer themselves in their careers, free of charge.

Career Advice, as the new product is called, is the full roll out of an online mentoring service that LinkedIn launched in a limited format this past summer, in San Francisco and Australia. The idea is to connect users with mentors who can help them figure out anything to do with their career, whether it’s ideas on how to find a new job, feedback for why they are not getting ahead or feeling satisfied at work, and maybe even to pivot to a new career altogether.

If you are in the three countries in the first wave of the rollout, to start using the service, you can click on this link, or go to your own LinkedIn Profile and look for the Career Advice tab on your dashboard (which sits about halfway down the page and in my opinion is not immediately easy to find).

You then go through a short script of questions to set out what it is that you are looking for — for example, in terms of goals, or whether you want someone in your geography or from your alma mater — and then you start to get recommendations of people who might fit the bill, who are presented to you in a series of Tinder-style swiping screens for you to choose as a potential match.

  1. Dashboard

  2. Expanded Card

  3. Hub

  4. Preference

On the mentor side, LinkedIn also asks them to indicate their preferences for what kind of mentoring they would like to provide. For the limited release of Career Advice, LinkedIn has been proactively selecting mentors, although the longer-term plan is to make mentoring an option to anyone on the platform, Hari Srinivasan, head of identity products, told me during the test run.

Once you and a mentor match, you can then message each other, and either side can terminate the communication at any point.

For LinkedIn, launching this product is important for a few reasons.

First and foremost, it is filling a gap in the wider world of career development online. Today, job hunting has almost completely gone digital, as have many other aspects of our professional careers. While some people and workplaces are very proactive in developing mentoring relationships ‘in real life’ for the vast majority of us, this doesn’t exist.

And ironically, we’re probably now at a point as a working society where mentoring and getting advice on how to steer your career needs to exist more than ever before. The idea of a career for life, let alone a job for life, is not the norm for many people in developed economies, due in part to the pace of technological development, and in part to other economic factors like globalization.

LinkedIn’s own survey of 6,000 people aged 25-33 found the majority of them have faced a “quarter-life” crisis, and job anxiety is the number-one reason for this, with 61 percent putting this at the top of their list above financial or social woes. This is what LinkedIn believes it can address with its online mentoring service.

On a pure business level, the mentoring service is also a key development for LinkedIn in its wider strategy as a social network. When the company was still independent, its user growth had been slowing down in its mature markets.

The company has, of course, been ramping up its efforts to expand in developing countries (including — at long last — the launch of a pared-down Android app), but to grow in another way, it’s been tinkering with many more ways to improve engagement with the users it already has. LinkedIn, at its core, still feels like the kind of platform that most people only use when they have to — that is, when they may be changing jobs. And this is another way of trying to get those users to come to LinkedIn because they want to.

Last but not least, the third reason LinkedIn needs to start getting a little more creative with its services is because its competition is not sitting still. We reported earlier this year that Facebook, which has been doing a lot more with job ads, also seems to be looking at ways of matching up mentors with those in need of career guidance.

With the Facebook network much more geared at people conversing with each other, and already successfully luring people in to look at their Timelines on a regular basis — it now has over 2 billion monthly active users, and nearly 1.4 billion daily active users — LinkedIn needs to lock down its place here, before someone else takes on the role for them.
Featured Image: Michael D Brown/Shutterstock (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED) Readmore

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Gadgets

Essential Phone can now stream live to Facebook from the 360 camera add-on

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The Essential Phone just got a camera software update that will allow owners of the device to broadcast live, 360-degree video right from the native camera app, provided they have the Essential 360 Camera, too. The update requires no extra software, and live streaming becomes available soon as you snap the 360 camera onto the magnetic accessory port on the back of the Essential Phone.

Snapping on the camera will boot up the camera app as before, in 360 mode, and then you can either tap the 360-degree Live option, or just swipe left to switch to that mode. On first use, you’ll have to tap that red “Live” camera button to login to your Facebook account, and then enable permissions for posting to your account.

After that, you can choose the reach of your broadcasts, including the standard Facebook sharing options of “Only me, Friends, Friends of Friend and Public.” Users can also fill in a description of their stream if they want to, and then tap that red icon once again to get to actually streaming. After this initial process, you’ll be authenticated for future streams.

Essential clearly has a strong belief in the potential of 360-degree media. I spoke to the team about it being their debut accessory for the modular connector on the Essential Phone’s back, and it’s clear they think that getting ahead of the curve for creating and sharing 360 content quickly and easily will position them well in future. The Essential 360 Camera and Phone combo now probably also represents the easiest possible way to get streaming live in 360-degrees with Facebook, so we’ll see if that strikes a chord with users.
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Apps

Why Snapchat Spectacles failed

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How come only 0.08% of Snapchat’s users bought its camera sunglasses? Hundreds of thousands of pairs of Spectacles sit rotting in warehouses after the company bungled the launch. Initial hype and lines for its roving, limited time only Snapbot vending machines led Snap to overestimate demand but underdeliver on quality and content.

Massive piles of assembled and unassembled video-recording sunglasses sit unsold, contributing to Snap’s enormous costs and losses, says The Information. Internal Snap data shows less than 50 percent of buyers kept using Spectacles a month after purchase, Business Insider’s Alex Heath reports. A “sizeable” percentage stopped after just a week, with a source calling the retention rate “shockingly low”.

What was the problem? Snap generated huge hype for Spectacles, but then waited 5 months to openly sell them. Once people actually tried Spectacles, few kept wearing them, and word of mouth about their disuse spread. Snap never got visionary video markers onboard. And as Snapchat’s popularity waned in the face of competitors, the fact that Spectacles only interfaced with its app rather than a phone’s camera roll became a burden.

Snap did some things right with Spectacles. The fashion photo spread announcement felt classy and surprising despite clues and photos of CEO Evan Spiegel trickling out ahead. The initial launch was a marketing extravaganza, with multi-hour lines of cool kids waiting on the Venice Beach boardwalk to buy them. And the Snapbots being dropped in random locations was exciting and made people feel special if they got ahold of them. But once people put them on their face, the excitement died off.

Karl Lagerfeld’s photo of Snap CEO Evan Spiegel donning Spectacles for their September 2016 reveal

Here’s a breakdown of the major flaws that emerged with Spectacles in the year since their debut, with a focus on the stilted launch strategy:

Botched Roll Out

Snap first announced Spectacles with some Karl Lagerfeld photos of Spiegel wearing them on September 24th 2016. Hype was high despite the beachey color options that turned some people off. It took until November 10th for the first Snapbot vending machines to launch. While the hype had cooled slightly, demand was huge as people wanted to be the first on the block with Spectacles, and lines stretched down streets.

But Snap whether it was because Snap wanted to milk the Snapbot promotion, couldn’t tell if Spectacles should be exclusive or widely available, or it had supply chain problems, it took until February 20th for Snap to start openly selling Specs online.

Waiting five months after the initial announcement was an eternity in the fast-moving teenage fad cycle. They weren’t cool by the time they were buyable. Everyone had already seen the sunglasses and circular video all over the Internet, most owners had long since stopped using them, the holiday season had passed, and few people wanted to buy so late. It took until June, 8 months after their debut, for Spectacles to become available in Europe.

If Snap had instead made its announcement, quickly outfitted some lucky normal users and celebrities with Spectacles, then launched a giant Black Friday sale at the peak of its hype, all those people fascinated with the gadget might have bought immediately. Everyone would have paid before word got out that people weren’t going to wear camera glasses all that much.

Alternatively, Snap could have gone the path of exclusivity lit by its fashion-focused debut. Rather than ever selling Specs openly, it could have gotten them into runway shows and magazines while sticking with the limited-edition Snapbots. Then after a few months it could have ceased all sales, turned existing pairs into fought-over collector’s items, and saved the mainstream rollout for an eventual v2 launch. Unfortunately, Snap seems to have got stuck between these exclusive and mass-retail strategies.

Where Were The Spectacles Influencers? – To drive demand, Snap needed to demonstrate all the creative things you could do with Spectacles, and the cool people who wore them. Yet at the time, it still had a very hands-off approach to dealing with traditional celebrities and web influencers. Snap didn’t make outfitting creators with Specs and training them to use the camera glasses a priority. Instead of top Snappers constantly posting circular videos and encouraging fans to do the same, Snap effectively left the gadget out to dry. Snap let random Spectacles buyers, often over-enthusiastic social media amateurs, define the image of the product, similar to how Google’s core mistake was allowing geeky developers to become the face of Glass.

TechCrunch’s video host Tito Hamze became a de facto face of Spectacles as there were so few influencers using them

Few Examples Of Great Content – Stemming from Snap’s failure to foster a Spectacles creator scene, it did a terrible job of showing off how Spectacles could be used beyond the initial commercial. Neither Snap’s in-house team or independent social stars were recruited to make videos exposing the creative opportunities of the device. It did little through event marketing or in-app promotion to encourage Spectacle content creation. Karen X. Cheng was perhaps the only Spectacles influencer lighting the path, with her first-person mirror dancing video and Spectacles-on-babies ad she helped Brawny make. But Snap should have ensured the Internet was flooded with these videos proving what you can’t do with your phone’s camera, and why you should buy Spectacles.

People Are Still Freaked Out By Camera Glasses – Google Glass tainted the market with its “not sure if you’re recording me” design. Even though Snap put more obvious recording signal lights on Spectacles, people would still question you about whether they were on camera. That not only made people uncomfortable being around Spectacles, but made you feel like a bit of a creep just wearing them even if you never tapped the shutter button. Their appeal was further limited by their polarizing  “fashion-forward” design (some would call ugly), while the only non-black colors were aggressively bright teal and coral.

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