Friday Five: Facebook tests cutting back on politics
Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. Facebook to test cutting back on politics
Fed up with seeing political content all over your Facebook page? Well, it plans to test how people respond to seeing fewer posts about politics as they scroll through their news feed (pretty positively, I’d have thought). The experiment is being done initially in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia, with a further test planned for the US.
Facebook says political content only makes up 6% of the typical news feed in the US, but that small percentage has had a big impact, prompting years of discussion about people being served up misleading information. Facebook has been widely blamed for stoking polarisation, so this move seems better late than never.
2. Behold the recyclable, self-healing wearable
In a breakthrough that could revolutionise wearable gadgets, scientists have created a wearable thermoelectric generator that’s stretchy, self-healing and recyclable. This is exciting because, theoretically, you could use thermoelectric tech to turn body heat into electricity that powers your smartwatch and eliminate the need for charging.
The self-healing part is pretty nifty, too. Because the device uses liquid-metal wiring, should it break, the two parts can be brought back into contact and re-establish electrical conductivity in about 90 minutes. And in addition to reducing reliance on batteries, the recyclable aspect is positive from an e-waste perspective too.
3. Viral sad cat filter is decades-old Dell software
You’ve probably seen the video of a Texan lawyer denying he was a cat as he appeared with a feline filter on Zoom during a virtual court hearing. But you may not be aware that, rather than being a sophisticated piece of kit, the filter is actually a decades-old piece of software that came pre-installed on some Dell laptops.
And it transpires that the sad-looking cat was catching people out many years ago, with one describing in a blog how he got stuck as the avatar during a job interview (which he didn’t get). Remarkably, it seems that the cat was the default setting on Dell’s webcam software, which is just asking for trouble, really.
4. User growth slows for Trumpless Twitter
In its first earnings report since it kicked Donald Trump out for good, Twitter has revealed lower-than-expected growth for the fourth quarter of 2020, and warned that growth will continue to slow this year. Nonetheless, daily active users still went up by 27% to 192 million, which is slightly below the 193.5 million analysts were expecting.
Twitter said that some of its recent changes meant to curb misinformation had a negative impact on user numbers, but said it was “well worth the effort to protect the integrity of the conversation around the election period in the US”. And advertising revenue, where Twitter makes most of its money, was up 31%, so no need to panic.
5. Video-gaming pigs having a swine old time
Pigs might not be able to fly, but they can play video games, it turns out. Scientists put four pigs — Hamlet, Omelette, Ebony and Ivory — to the test, training them to use an arcade-style joystick to steer an on-screen cursor into walls. And the study found that the swine understood the connection between the joystick and the game.
The pigs were given food for completing each level. But, interestingly, when the food dispenser broke during testing, the pigs kept playing just for fun. The research team said the fact the pigs could play video games at all — being far-sighted animals with no hands or thumbs — was “remarkable”. I reckon I could take them at FIFA, mind…