Showing all posts tagged: social media

All day I dream about the Roman Empire, like many others

18 September 2023

All roads, even Roman roads, lead to TikTok. Take any topic, no matter how obscure, how antiquated, and the subject will, it seems, surface, eventually, on the FYP tab of the ubiquitous video sharing app.

Last week it was the turn of the Roman Empire to trend. The Roman Empire. Antiquated: for sure. Obscure: certainly not. But the talk of TikTok it was. This after women were prompted to ask the men they knew how often they thought about the Roman Empire.

Some of the responses indicated this happened often. Several times a day, in some cases, apparently. Not bad for an institution that hasn’t existed in any real form for centuries. I myself still think about the old empire from time to time. I spent time in Europe once, and often encountered its remnants, even though I did not (somehow) visit Italy.

As a boy I was fascinated, obsessed more likely, by Rome. History teachers at school taught us about the Empire’s contribution to the world we lived in today, a contribution that was quite significant. In a sense we live, to a degree, in a scion of Rome. Of course we therefore think about Rome often: it’s very much a part of the fabric of our lives, a point Tyler Cowan underlines at Marginal Revolution:

I travel in the former Roman empire fairly often, usually at least once a year. I see pseudo-Roman architecture almost every time I go to Washington, D.C., which is maybe once every two weeks. There is a copy of the new Ovid translation sitting in the kitchen, and it has been there for a few months because I do not currently have time to read it. I see periodic Twitter updates about a Nat Friedman-Daniel Gross AI project to read ancient Roman scrolls. Christian references to ancient Rome cross my path all the time. Does it count to see Roman numerals? To write the words “per se”? To notice it is the month of August?

But I was thinking about the old Empire just the other week. In particular, the story of a short story, titled Rome, Sweet Rome, written by American writer James Erwin. In 2011, Erwin briefly serialised a story about a unit of some two thousand United States Marines who find themselves transported two thousand years back in time.

The Marines turn up in Italy with all of their munitions and equipment. Rome, Sweet Rome speculates on the outcome of a battle between the Marines, and the legions of the Roman Empire. The result seems like a foregone conclusion until it is realised the Marines have no way of replenishing their arms. Once they fire their last bullet, they’re fighting the Romans with swords and spears.

It’s no surprise — given how much Rome is still on our minds — that Rome, Sweet Rome garnered quite a bit of attention. At one point Rome, Sweet Rome was even optioned for film, with US production company Warner Bros acquiring the movie rights. Unfortunately for fans of the story, there has been little progress with a screen adaptation, following a re-write of the screenplay in 2013.

But who knows. Perhaps TikTok’s current interest in the Roman Empire might get the ball rolling again. TikTok has a certain power to open doors, if it can excite the interest of enough people.

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Matildas social media followings skyrocket during World Cup

24 August 2023

Many members of the Australian women’s football team saw their social media followings jump exponentially as a result of the recent 2023 Women’s World Cup, according to data compiled by Australian football news and information portal Keepup.

Mary Fowler’s Instagram (IG) follower count soared by nearly 470% to — as of time of writing — about 281,000. Caitlin Foorde meanwhile saw her IG followers increase by 153% to about 208,000, while team captain Sam Kerr’s count doubled to over one and half million people.

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Have film influencers killed off insightful film critique?

3 August 2023

London based film writer Manuela Lazić, writing for The Guardian:

If the internet has paved the way for the devaluation of cinema via streaming platforms, it has also done the same for film criticism. The democratising effect is undeniable, but so is the cheapening one, literally and figuratively. With so many more people writing about cinema online, fees for reviews have fallen to shockingly low levels and the expertise supposedly required of film critics has been forgotten – knowledge of the film history and good writing skills are less and less valued.

Once, many years ago, during a regrettable stint working in the corporate sector, I was called into division wide meeting by my boss. The CEO, whom my boss reported to directly, wanted to conduct a staff survey. The CEO was — so he said — keen to learn what people thought about working at the company. My boss was clearly terrified at what might be said, and sought to steer our thinking.

“I think it’s great of the CEO to offer us this opportunity to speak our minds, and accordingly, I think we should be positive,” he said, trying, but failing, to sound as matter-of-fact as possible. Whether he missed my colleagues and I side-eyeing each other, or only pretended to, I don’t know. My frazzled boss though was able to rest easy. A few days later it was announced the survey was being delayed, and that was the last anyone heard of it.

But the takeaway was clear. When asked to offer honest feedback, always be complimentary.

Ten years ago, I was being invited to film preview screenings left, right, and centre. I was, according to a marketer at one of the promotions agencies I was “partnering” with, an influencer. But I wasn’t an influencer, and I certainly wasn’t a film critic, even though I wrote a bit about some of the films I saw. What I did have though was a website, the content of which, at the time, ranked quickly and well, on certain search engines.

There it was: I was an asset. If I were to write about a film, chances were the review would be near the top of the search results. Now if only I could write positively about that film. Perhaps the excitement, the extravaganza, of being at the local premiere, where food was abundant, the alcohol flowed, and the stars were in attendance, would entice me to say something nice. Well, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the hoopla of it all.

Generally though, I heard little back from the agencies, regardless of what I wrote. It was apparent, from my web stats reports, that some of them looked, but that was all. A bad write up didn’t see me struck off the invite list. But times have changed it seems. All a would-be influencer cum film critic can expect today when being asked to review a film, is a free ticket to the show. Gone is the red carpet, the bubbly, and the assorted “free” gifts. Gone also are tickets to the next event, if a favourable social media post is not forthcoming.

An incentive, if ever there were one, to be complimentary, and positive.

And that’s it. That’s the way film reviews roll in the third decade of the twenty-first century, particularly where the big budget blockbusters are concerned. Experienced film critics seem to no longer be part of the process, or if they are, their thoughts are relegated to the fringes where few paying cinema-goers venture. Social media, and influencers, and a world where negative reviews never see the light of day: what a boon that’s been for the blockbuster film industry.

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Twitter/X announces full time dark mode, then goes dark on idea

1 August 2023

A few days after Twitter rebranded as X, company owner Elon Musk announced the X interface would be permanently switched into dark mode. In the usual course of events, dark mode allows users of a website or app to temporarily swap light coloured backgrounds for darker ones.

It’s a feature intended to make looking at screens a little easier on the eyes in low light situations. Such as a dark bedroom, or heaven forbid, while at the movies.

In a tweet (if that’s what they’re still called) posted on Thursday 27 July 2023, Musk said dark mode is “better in every way”. Well, dark mode is better in some circumstances, but not all, and not all of the time either. For some people, far from being helpful, dark mode can present all sorts of difficulties.

I doubt Musk was interested in the comfort of X users though. The call to permanently plunge X into dark mode was probably more to do with the dark mode interface matching the black and white colours of the new X logo.

But the next, day news came that X was backtracking on the dark mode proposal. To a degree. In a follow-up tweet, Musk said light mode will still be available, “but the default will be dark”.

I flicked the email app on my laptop into permanent “dark mode” a year or two ago, and while I find it easier to view in the evenings, it just doesn’t feel right during daylight hours. Of course I could switch back to normal mode at any time, and no doubt there’s an option to automatically toggle light and dark modes anyway, if only I went looking.

If Musk’s intention, with his talk of a permanent dark mode, was to turn the conversation towards X, and away from, say, Threads, it looks like he succeeded, if only for a while. We can only wait to see what the next thing will be.

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Boost Threads engagement by making the platform more useful

31 July 2023

Photo of intertwined blue rope and threads, by Igor Ovsyannykov

Image courtesy of Igor Ovsyannykov.

The number of people using Threads, Meta’s micro-blogging app, together with the amount of time they are spending there, has continued to decline, according to Israeli web analytics company, Similarweb. It’s certainly not what a lot of people would have expected, given Threads’ awe inspiring debut in early July. Meta however maintain they are not surprised by the latest numbers, and perhaps for good reason.

While Threads signed on a record one-hundred million members in a matter of days, that could be largely attributed to the ease of joining. If you had an Instagram (IG) account, as do some two billion people, joining Threads was almost as simple as pressing a button. A person’s IG profile information was copied straight over to their Threads page, as were their followers, who had the option to follow back if and when they joined.

Aside from early adopters scrambling to score a low Threads badge number, numerous people already established on IG were keen to carry over their IG username and brand to Threads, lest someone else get in first. Threads also appealed to those disillusioned with the shenanigans of the micro-blogging platform formerly known as Twitter, who further were enticed by Threads’ ease of use, compared to alternatives such as Mastodon.

But once set up and ready to go on Threads, many Threaders were left wondering: what next? On looking more closely at Threads, members found a platform lacking not only in user options, but also a significant proportion of their friends and followers from other social networks. In addition, some users, particularly those with smaller followings, had expressed frustration at the low levels of engagement they were experiencing on Threads.

Many of these new users also had the existing social networks they were part of to consider.

Yet none of these problems are, I think, insurmountable. So long as Meta doesn’t overly Facebook-ernise Threads in the way they have IG, that is. Do we want Facebook and IG like “suggestions”, and other content we didn’t expressly opt-in for, clogging up our timelines and feeds? Not me. I’m not saying Meta shouldn’t be able to generate revenue from Threads through advertising in some form, but surely they can do so in a measured way.

What Meta needs to do is make Threads more useful. They could start by making topics of interest searchable. This was one of the highlights of Twitter/X. Finding out what’s happening elsewhere in my hometown, or why there’s a delay on the train line, was as simple as entering a phrase into the search box. Another urgently needed feature is making hashtags live. Being able to see what others are saying about the same topic was another feature that gave Twitter great value.

A list of trending topics would also be useful. As would desktop/laptop computer access to Threads. The current app-only access means I need to email posts I’ve written for other platforms to my smartphone, just to make the cross-post to Threads. And on the subject of cross-posting, how about the option to post photos and videos from IG — as we can to other Meta properties, such as Facebook — to Threads at the same time.

When it comes to boosting engagement on Threads, perhaps selected posts from users with public profiles, who are not influencers, nor have large following counts, could have more prominence in the “For you” column. At present the “For you” column seems to be the domain of the Threads rock stars, whom maybe I could refer to as the threaderati, were I to riff on that celebrated neologism from the blogosphere, bloggerati.

Threaders with modest profiles though might feel less disinclined to interact with someone closer to their level, rather than respond to an influencer who may not even see their comment. If nothing else, it might garner more interaction at grass roots level. But let’s see what eventuates. Meta have said new features are forthcoming. Now it’s a matter of waiting for them, and seeing what impact they have on the platform.

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The Twitter rebrand, an X shaped railroad switch to the wrong track

28 July 2023

Mary Winter, semiotics specialist at Australian branding agency Principals, writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, about the symbolism behind X, the new logo of Twitter, now known as X. The move possibly says a lot about what is going through the mind of Elon Musk, owner of Twitter/X.

Semiotics analysis tells us X is highly symbolic, triggering intense feelings and emotions. There are clear patterns around X in our culture signalling physical or moral danger. Case in point, X often turns up in pornography in the form of X-rated content. As something that signals moral boundaries, our minds are alert to it.

Semiotics, in case the term is new to you, is the study of the use of symbolic communication.

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Everything app killed the blue bird, an obituary for Twitter

26 July 2023

Oliver Darcy, writing for Reliable Sources, a newsletter produced by CNN:

Twitter, the text-based social media platform that played an outsized role on society by serving as a digital town square, was killed by its unhinged owner Elon Musk on Sunday. It was 17 years old.

A zombie Twitter, known only as X, reluctantly endures. A warped and disfigured platform, X marches on like a White Walker, an ugly shell of its former self under the command of a loathsome leader.

Twitter is to be transformed, apparently, into a WeChat like app, allowing users to do all manner of things, from messaging to making payments. But that can’t be what all Twitters members signed up for. It’s like paying to see Barbie, and instead being herded into a screening of Oppenheimer. Musk could’ve bought Twitter, left it alone, and used the user base to leverage his everything app.

Perhaps Musk took inspiration from Meta’s ham-fisted efforts to “transform” Instagram into a TikTok clone. A move all the more perplexing in the wake of Meta’s relatively successful launch of Threads recently, a Twitter-like clone. If Meta wanted a TikTok clone, why not create a stand-alone app, and leverage their Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc., members, to light a fire under it. In the same way they did with Threads. And leave Instagram alone.

But who’s to understand what goes through the minds of the mega-billionaire owners of these tech companies.

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X marks the spot, new Twitter logo soon, following name change

24 July 2023

Twitter owner, Elon Musk, says the present blue bird logo of the micro-blogging service will be changed to an X styled emblem, and that an interim logo could be unveiled sometime today. The new branding follows the recent name change, from Twitter to X Corp last April.

The changes are part of a bigger plan that will see Twitter/X transform into something similar to WeChat, an instant messaging, social media, and mobile payment app, that is popular in China.

Exciting times, no?

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Threads engagement declines, badges removed from Instagram

17 July 2023

The curious joined, looked around, and then returned to what they were doing before. Daily active users on Threads, Meta’s answer to Twitter’s micro-blogging platform, declined by twenty percent in the days following the app’s red-hot launch, while time spent by users on Threads fell from twenty minutes per day, to ten.

This is probably par for the course though. It’s not as if Twitter, and other social networks vanished, leaving Threads users more time to spend on the app. While not the most active on social networks, I’m on a few, and as much as I like Threads, there’s only so much time in the day that can (or should) be devoted to activity on social networks.

And although there might have been one-hundred million sign-ups for Threads, the people many of these new members follow may not be among that number, necessitating visits to wherever those followers are. And that might remain the case. For instance, Threads does not have the same news and politics focus as Twitter, meaning the platform won’t be for everyone, meaning some people will be spending their time on multiple social networks, not just one.

In other Threads news, member badge numbers, which I wrote about last week, are no longer visible on the Instagram app profile pages of those who are members of both Meta platforms. The badge, indicating what number member someone was on Threads, has been replaced by the Threads logo, linking to that person’s Threads page, and right now is only visible on the Instagram website.

How unfortunate. I had high hopes for those badge numbers, some of which were surely collectable (and subsequently worth paying good money for). It looks like I won’t be buying that villa in the north of Portugal, to summer at, after all…

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#BookThreads, a name for the book community on Threads?

15 July 2023

Threads banner promotional image, by Meta

Threads banner image, by Meta.

If Threads, Meta’s recently launched micro-blogging app, takes off and becomes as popular as the likes of Twitter and Instagram, a community of book readers and fans is bound to form. As was the case on Instagram, Threads’ Meta owned stablemate, where a thriving and lively book community interacts under the #Bookstagram hashtag.

But where there’s a social network, there’ll be an active community of book lovers. On rival micro-blogging network, Twitter, the bookish use the #BookTwitter hashtag to label their tweets, making them visible and searchable for fellow literary mavens, while on while on TikTok, BookTokers share book content using the #BookTok tag.

Presently hashtags are not functional on Threads, but they, along with a bevy of other features, are on the way. It’s therefore only a matter of time before book readers will be able to connect with bookworms on Threads. That’s good though, it gives the bookish time to devise a community name and hashtag to use on Threads. But that’s hardly going to be difficult.

The hashtags used by the book reading communities on Twitter, Instagram, and BookTok, are simple and to the point, and the same will doubtless apply on Threads. Which makes BookThreads the logical choice. I first saw the term used by Australian book publisher Pan Macmillan Australia on their Instagram page, though someone else may well have used the moniker before.

So #BookThreads it is, at least if you ask me. And just because hashtags still aren’t functional on Threads doesn’t mean you can’t use them. I’ve sporadically been including them on posts, probably through habit, as I imagine others have to, and I’ve used #BookThreads on at least one of my Threads posts. But by adding #BookThreads to your bookish Threads posts now, means you’ll be immediately be visible to the Threads book community, when hashtags become operational.

But what are your thoughts on a hashtag and title for a potential Threads book community? Does BookThreads make sense, or is it a terrible idea? Do you have alternative suggestion? Let me know in the comments below, which will be open for a week or so after this article is posted.

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