Archive Monthly Archives: October 2018

Why so many tech companies are creating shows

Editor’s note: Jay Acunzo is the author of the new book Break the Wheel, which explores how the world’s best creators break from conventional thinking to think for themselves. He’s a former digital media strategist at Google, head of content at HubSpot, and VP of brand at the seed VC, NextView.

The deep tones of synth music begins to play. A crackling sound emerges, as if from static electricity, followed by a single strum from an electric guitar that shatters the silence. A man’s voice booms.

“I really didn’t get fascinated with design until I learned what it was and what it could actually do.”

These are the opening moments of InVision’s “Design Disruptors,” a now-famous film within the design community. This hour-long video features some of the biggest and brightest names in software design today, hailing from companies like Google, Lyft, Netflix, Dropbox, and more. The film launched in the summer of 2016, and although it was never aired online (the company debuted the film in 1,500 offline screenings worldwide), “Design Disruptors” helped InVision generate more than 70,000 leads and double its user base in a single year, according to sources within the firm.

While this may seem like an outlier project, it’s become part of a larger marketing trend we’re seeing proliferate around the tech world today: marketers creating films and shows. Why?

“Optimistically, I’d hope it’s because marketers are realizing that impressions and pageviews are BS metrics, and it’s a lot more valuable to get a smaller group of consumers hooked on a show that they’ll watch for a really long time,” said Joe Lazauskas, executive editor and head of content strategy at the marketing tech firm Contently. A journalist by background, Lazauskas now consults clients like Microsoft, IBM, and Autodesk for Contently, and while he clings to his optimism, he knows there’s a downside to any trend. “Pessimistically, I’d say that it’s because marketers still fall in love with big vanity projects without much thought to the return on investment.”

So what’s causing this trend, anyway?

Ultimately, Lazauskas concludes that the rise in branded shows is a combination of both his optimistic and pessimistic views. On the one hand, films and series are indeed strategic for some companies, enabling them to reap certain rewards that disparate pieces of content can’t provide. On the other hand, plenty of companies continue to glom onto the trend because, well, “it’s a thing.” Those in the former group, however, have identified a fundamental shift currently affecting how companies go to market. Most of us talk about the industry’s reaction to that shift: things like content marketing, influencer marketing, and similar experience-based approaches. The shift itself, though, is far more revealing. You see, the marketing mandate has changed. The goal is no longer to acquire attention. The goal is to hold it.

It used to be sufficient for marketers to describe the value of their products in a few disconnected interruptions. Marketers would leap out in front of the content a consumer actually wanted to consume in order to grab just a few seconds of their attention and deliver the right message, with the right promotion, at the right time. Of course, we all know what happened to that old marketing playbook: (insert mushroom cloud GIF). Along came the internet. Buyers of both B2C and B2B products now face seemingly infinite choice, from content to competing products, all accessible on multiple screens, whenever and wherever they want it. Additionally, technologies whose sole purpose is to block advertising signal a larger trend: As consumers, we don’t want to be interrupted. We control what we consume because we have all the choice, and we only choose experiences that create value in our lives, like content–not advertisements, which are messages that merely describe value. (I’m painting with broad strokes, but we’re all part of the technorati after all.)

If you’re a marketer today, and you’re stuck in acquisition mode, it’s like digging a hole in dry sand. Nothing you do sticks. The very best in our world are winning on customer experience, not brute-forcing their way into customers’ lives. We need to embrace the new marketing mandate: The job isn’t to acquire attention. The job is to hold it.

“If you’re willing to make the investment in some serialized, engaging content, rather than a bunch of disconnected pieces, you can start thinking in terms of hours spent with your company as opposed to ideas like impressions,” said Dan Mills, creative director at video software company Wistia. This fall, the company announced a new documentary series called “One, Ten, One Hundred,” a partnership with video agency Sandwich, which boasts clients like Facebook, Slack, Uber, and Square. The series explores the effects of constraints on creativity when creating videos.

Said Wistia’s cofounder and CEO, Chris Savage, “What’s interesting about a more substantial project like this is that instead of just moving on to the next piece of content to push out the door, we have the time and space to really invest in exploring all of the different angles and nuances of this complex topic.” First, the company asked Sandwich to create three videos to promote the same Wistia product (a Chrome extension called Soapbox): One ad for $1,000, one for $10,000, and one for $100,000 (hence the name “One, Ten, One Hundred”). Those videos launched in mid-September. In October, Wistia will release a four-part documentary series going behind-the-scenes of the entire process to examine exactly how changes in budget alter the quality of the videos. They believe that budget is a major reason why more marketing teams don’t prioritize video (and thus, buy Wistia). More specifically, they believe this is a perception problem and that teams don’t really need more money to create better videos in most cases. But it’s a messy subject.

“A blog post or a two minute video just wasn’t going to cut it,” Savage said. “We wanted to create something that was deeper and lasting. The most valuable thing that we learned through this process, and what we explore in “One, Ten, One Hundred,” is the complex relationship between money and creativity.”

InVision’s CEO and cofounder, Clark Valberg, seems to agree that holding significant audience attention means focusing on depth, not breadth. Like Wistia, InVision used its documentary, “Design Disruptors,” as well as its newer film with IBM called “The Loop,” to illuminate a large problem facing designers in their work and to rally the community around their brand to solve it. For Wistia, their customers struggle with budget. At InVision, they realized that product designers wanted a better sense of identity as a profession, as well as a seat at the proverbial table.

“We went out and talked to our best customers,” he said. “They had a lot more to tell us than just what they were doing with our products. There was a movement [in the field of product design], and they all felt it. They all understood their role within the company and their company’s role in the formation of this new market called digital product design. It was evolving here and now, and they had a lot to say about it.”

Wistia and InVision are not alone in creating shows and trying to spark movements in doing so. Other companies creating video series include Fuze, which will partner with CBS to create a new series about tech later this year, and LinkedIn’s sales and marketing solutions team, which debuted “B2B Dinner for Five” late last year. In audio, dozens of brands are breaking from the conventional wisdom of what a podcast has to sound like (namely, Q&A with experts) to create documentary series instead. These include Zendesk’s “Repeat Customer“ (created with the agency Pacific Content), Adobe’s upcoming “Wireframe” (Gimlet Media’s branded content studio Gimlet Creative), and “Exceptions,” a series exploring why high-growth SaaS companies are betting so heavily on brand marketing (which, full disclosure, I host and produce for my client Drift).

These companies all seek benefits from their shows that the usual marketing campaign or “piece” of content doesn’t offer. By holding attention for hours on end, shows develop a level of intimacy and trust similar to a one-on-one meeting that scales far better. Shows provide endless amounts of marketing efficiencies, too, allowing marketing teams to mine each episode for excerpts, lessons learned, and new ideas, all of which can fuel company blogs, newsletters, and social media profiles. At some point soon, I expect to see a brand-sponsored book with material pulled exclusively from their company’s show, there’s that much source material bottled up in episodes. Lastly, shows create customers through both word-of-mouth and thriving subscriber lists. After all, it’s far more powerful to say to a visitor, “Get the next episode,” than, “Subscribe for alerts” or “more of our content.”

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual report measuring consumer trust in big institutions like government and business, trust in companies continues to fall. To get any individual, let alone an entire audience, to spend 10, 30, or even 60 minutes with your company each week is more powerful than ever. But that’s the benefit these companies seek.

What would cause this trend to stick?

It’s hard to ignore Lazauskas’s pessimism about brands adopting this approach. After all, most companies barely know how to market a single blog post well, let alone build and promote an entire series. For example, in many B2B niches, competing shows feel like copycat programs. They’re all effectively “Talking Topics With Experts!” (If everyone claims to have the smartest show in a niche, does anyone?) Additionally, many shows lapse after a season or two, even after a public victory lap over their first few episodes. Slack’s “Work in Progress” hasn’t aired an episode since October 2017, despite being widely loved and even syndicated to satellite radio. But while Lazauskas hints at the potential negatives, Wistia’s Savage sees it differently. His company is investing heavily in serialized content, but he believes marketers need to shift how they track results to justify doing so.

“It starts with qualitative results: Are people talking about it, are they engaging and spending time with the content? Over a longer period of time, we expect to see that content like [“One, Ten, One Hundred”] brought in totally new and different audience that helps expand our customer base.” If most marketing focuses on reach with a broad group of people, then shows are all about resonance with the right people.

Additionally, as Clark Valberg of InVision told me, it has to be a “portfolio approach.” Brands shouldn’t aim to be purely Netflix any more than they should act exclusively like Don Draper in “Mad Men.” Some things are directly measurable, some things are not. Some marketing looks like a piece of content, some like a series. Finding the right mix for your business is what matters most.

Shows have long been a vehicle for holding attention, and marketers are finally catching up to what media companies realized long ago. Call it the Curse of Conventional Wisdom. As tech companies invent the future, marketers at those very same companies need to constantly question older norms and even the most tried-and-true best practice in order to keep up. After all, we may be at the start of something positive for companies and consumers alike—that is, if you’re optimistic.

“We definitely think this is the beginning of a trend,” said Savage. “It’s clear that companies are making investments in engaging their audiences with things like podcasts. We see video series content and storytelling as the next logical step for companies to connect at a deeper level.”

I’ve been a content marketer for a decade now, which makes me a grizzled vet in a relatively new career path. (In marketing, “grizzled vet” is code for “jaded as hell.”) But for once, I’m bullish on a trend. It’s not because the hype won’t fade. It will. But, refreshingly, this is an approach to marketing that can’t be gamed. When the goal is to hold attention, not merely acquire it, there’s no faking it. You have to earn that level of attention. Trust, influence, and hours of someone’s time aren’t things you can purchase or hack. Eventually, this wave will go out, and all who will be left will be companies like InVision and Wistia who truly dug into the ground, with real foundations of creativity and customer-focus. Those merely riding the wave will be washed away. When it comes to holding long periods of our attention, the hucksters and system-gamers have no power. Because fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice—can’t get fooled again.

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Wing Shya: The photographer who immortalized Hong Kong’s cool

Hong Kong (CNN)Few artists are lucky enough to work for legendary Hong Kong film director Wong Kar Wai. Even fewer are brave enough to defy him.

Wing Shya has done both. The first time he worked as Wong’s exclusive set photographer, he became so entranced by scenes that he shot entire rolls of film that were unfocused, off-center, or riddled with technical errors.
    “Of course Wong Kar Wai yelled at me,” Wing recalls. “Imagine some guy coming to photograph Leslie Cheung and everything comes out blurred. You’d wonder, what’s this guy’s attitude?”

    A

    Recently he’s been shooting conceptual art videos. In an upcoming piece, he films over a hundred topless men brawling in a Beijing warehouse at a frigid 21 F (-6 C). The idea is that in letting the conflict discharge and defuse, he’ll be able to convey the “meaning of love.”
    Meanwhile, he teaches art workshops and crawls social media, hoping to discover emerging talent who will create something completely novel to reflect the changing times.
    “The fall is the fun part. I’m waiting for the moment — after we pass a certain point, that’s when the new things blossom.”

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    Iraqi PM orders arrest of protesters who stormed Baghdad’s green zone

    Haider al-Abadis comments come as thousands of demonstrators remain in the green zone demanding political reform

    The Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has ordered authorities to arrest and prosecute the protesters who attacked security forces and legislators and damaged state property after breaking into Baghdads heavily fortified green zone to protest delays in reform plans.

    Abadis statement came a day after hundreds of angry followers of the influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr tore down blast walls and poured into the parliament building, exacerbating a long-simmering political crisis.

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    Here are 25 of the most innovative new projects using tech to help refugees and NGOs

    From humble beginnings as a simple Facebook group I posted in September 2015, Techfugees has come a long way. It was conceived as a vehicle to enthuse technologists about the plight of refugees by waking them up to the idea that their innovation, startup mentality and design-led thinking could potentially bring new, scalable new solutions to the plight of displaced people. Today, Techfugees is an international non-profit with its own CEO, Joséphine Goube and a team based between London and Paris. Not bad for a handful of posts on social media…

    What’s fascinating about the project as it’s developed is that, at the time, it was considered quite radical, perhaps even odd, to bring tech people into the equation. But simply watching the footage of refugees clutching smartphones as they fled war-torn regions and natural disasters made the tech world realize it can be part of the solution to many of the seemingly intractable problems refugees face.

    Techfugees has grown into a community of around 18,000 innovators all over the world, supporting by way of their own projects or companies, via social media and taking part in hundreds of dedicated events around the world. This includes more than 30 hackathons and an annual Global Summit, the second of which happened over the last two days in Paris. The Summit had over 500 participants, such as social entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, humanitarians, policymakers, researchers or impact investors, a large number of whom who have a refugee background. Speakers discussed and debate the different uses of technology for displaced people during the time of migration until arrival to their new host societies.

    The impact of climate change will cause the migration of 143 million people by 2050

    This year’s program looked at four main topics: Access to Rights and Information; Data Ethics; Social Inclusion; and Climate Migration. The last issue is now of even greater urgency in 2018. According to a study by the World Bank published earlier this year, the impact of climate change will cause the migration of 143 million people by 2050, bringing with it looming humanitarian challenges.

    Just like at your typical tech startup conference, Techfugees has a similar programme: The Techfugees Global Challenges Competition. This showcases projects responding to the needs of displaced populations and building technological products or services for them, based on Techfugees’ 8 guiding principles and addressing one of Techfugees’ five focus area: access to rights and information, health, education, employment and social inclusion. The applications went through an international Jury of experts who selected the 25 finalists from hundreds of applications, from 52 countries across the world, which pitched their project in front of an international Jury and Summit attendees.

    The 5 winners (described in their own words) were:

    Integreat (Germany)

    “Integreat is an information app and website tailored to the specific needs of both newcomers as the users of the app and municipal administrations as the content providers. It’s a mobile guide for newcomers. Multilingual. Offline. Free. Can we provide the people arriving in our city with all relevant information in their native language as quickly as possible? Even without internet access and without confusing red tape? The result is an app called Integreat which passes on all relevant information in multiple languages to the newcomers. It is a holistic service ecosystem for cities, districts and organizations for the integration of people with a flight or migration background.”

    Shifra
    Australia / USA
    “Shifra is not only a life-saving mHealth intervention, it is also a research project which aims to explore the social, cultural and geographic barriers to quality healthcare access many refugees experience, as cited by the refugees themselves. The Shifra web app is designed to improve access to quality sexual and reproductive health care. It provides local, evidence-based health information in multiple languages for communities with varying levels of language and health literacy. Shifra also directs users to trusted clinics where they can access respectful and safe care. We work with local health networks to improve their existing services based on the self-identified health needs found in Shifra’s anonymous user trend data.”

    Antura and the Letters
    (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt)
    “Antura and the Letters is an engaging mobile game that helps Syrian children learn how to read in Arabic and improve their psychosocial well-being. Considering that most refugees have old smartphones and connectivity is always a challenge for them, the game runs on old devices (from 2010/2011), it’s very small to download (less than 80Mb on Android) and it does not require internet connection. Antura and the Letters is completely free and open source… and it has been designed in order to be easily adaptable to other languages! That’s exactly what we want to do next with the goal to reach and help as many children as possible around the world.”

    TaQadam
    (Lebanon)
    “In the era of machine learning and artificial intelligence, the data workers and annotators are the new programmers. From robots, drones, self-driving cars or e-commerce, the markets need for vision technology for artificial intelligence is extraordinary. One of the major building blocks of such AI-powered recognition systems is image annotation delivered with a human input – data training. Today’s data is driving tomorrow’s AI products. To be competitive in AI, innovation depends on having data-edge often more than a technology-edge, but 80% of data engineers’ time is spent on sourcing and preparing quality image data for AI models. TaQadam optimizes image annotation for data-driven companies with visual AI and delivers on-demand, vertical-specific, high-quality image annotation. With an API and a cloud architecture, we ensure a simple and secure way to build image data set with a high accuracy and precision, while simplifying the process of sourcing human insights from dedicated and trained teams of TaQadam. TaQadam is a unique service on the market that brings a specialized on use case teams that are building AI together with the client. With gamification and mobile accessible work on TaQadam Android App, we transform the experience of annotation to fit the younger generations. We create work of the future: accessible, flexible, allowing fluidity, community building and fun.”

    Refugees Are
    (Worldwide)
    “Refugees Are map the public opinion around refugees in the news by:
    1- Extracting daily news related to refugees from GDELT (open source news dataset)
    2- Extracting location from the article
    3- Applying sentiment analysis to classify it as positive, negative or neutral article
    4- Extracting topics related to refugees using LSA (Latent Semantic Analysis)
    5- Extracting most common words occurring with refugees
    6- Visualizing it in an easy way for the public to understand
    7- Let the public help identify negative news around refugees”


    And finally The Mohajer App won a special jury prize for its outstanding work assisting Afghan refugees in Iran in incredibly difficult circumstances:

    The Mohajer App
    Android / IOS
    Iran, US, Canada and UK
    “The Mohajer App was created with the support of Afghan communities inside Iran to address their needs. The app was completed with a group of paid and voluntary refugee-rights attorneys, advocates and technologists. Mohajer has two features: – The “Get Informed” section provides information for users concerning Iran’s immigration policy, the rights of Afghans in Iran, and resources that are available for concerns such as health, education, combatting from discrimination and more; the list continues to expand as users share their needs. The section also provides a list of support groups that our team has verified directly. The “Submit Report” feature enables users to share their everyday experiences as Afghans in Iran and support the larger community in addressing challenges by sharing information on events and experiences. The information on the app is also accessible offline, so as to support those without regular internet access.”

    Here’s a run down of the rest of the 25 that pitched, in their own words:

    Challenge #1 – Access to rights & information

    TikkTalk (Norway)
    “Tikk Talk is an open marketplace for interpretation services for everyone who is in need for interpretation assistance. So far the platform handles 80% of all assignments automatically, limiting the overhead costs which traditional agencies have. The platform also gives all parties full transparency which empowers them to make better decisions. Because of the tech, interpreters are in the forefront deciding on their wage and which assignments they would like to take. Before, Helse Førde (Hospital partner) switched to TikkTalk they only received 24% qualified interpreters now they receive 99% qualified interpreters.”

    Refugee Info Bus
    (United Kingdom, France, Greece)

    “Refugee Info Bus’s mission is simple. Operating at the frontlines of Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis, we provide good quality multilingual legal information and free Wifi to refugees on the move in, or having just arrived, in Northern France and in Greece. Our first Refugee Info Bus began life as an old horsebox, purchased, stripped-out, cleaned-up, and converted into a mobile office and Wi-Fi hotspot for refugees and asylum seekers living in northern France. Within a year, we facilitated over 91,000 Wi-Fi logins and delivered more than 1,000 workshops to 50,000+ individuals on the UK and French asylum systems.”

    Refugee.Info
    (Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia

    “In mid-2016, Refugee.Info pivoted to focus on social media to better serve the needs and preferences of users, which had drastically changed after borders closed in Europe in March of that year. Refugee.info hired local journalists to obtain and verify news and other up-to-date information about the context, as well as content professionals to optimize the information for social media, applying private sector content marketing principles to increase ROI. Now, refugees in Greece, Italy and the Balkans can message the page and receive a quick answer from a moderator who will work with the journalists and lawyers to provide accurate information, often sourced from their website or blog.”

    Challenge #2 – Health

    Connect 2 Drs
    Mexico
    The platform of Connect2Drs was initially built to strive the private sector as a target market, and it still is. However, with the injustice and lack of a good health insurance for mexicans – deported or refugees – people with disabilities and people who need medical attention at home with palliatives became their main goal.

    Doctor-X
    Jordan
    “Doctor-X is a multi-language medical history mobile application and website with, for each refugee, a private account that the doctor can update when he does an operation on the refugee, in the language the doctor speaks. The program will make it available in 5 languages in case the refugee goes to a new country and needs medical help.”

    Iryo
    Jordan
    “Until now, medical workers in camps used Excel spreadsheets to make notes about patients. On top of that, medical workforce turnover is high, bringing additional confusion and inconsistency to Excel records. Iryo enables accurate medical history recording. Because data storage is decentralized with a copy on a local server, a second one on the patients mobile phone and a third one in the Iryo cloud, even if a patient arrives at a new refugee camp where the Iryo system is already in place, the doctor there will be able to access the patient’s record.”

    MedShr
    UK/Worldwide
    “MedShr has been developed to enable doctors and healthcare professionals to share and discuss clinical cases for peer-to-peer learning and medical education. It is a private, professional, verified network for clinical case discussion between medical professionals. No patient information is visible, all cases are anonymous and members can use the mobile app to get consent from patients to share images. Beyond that, all images and media are securely cloud stored with no images stored on the user’s device. Importantly, MedShr members are also able determine who can see and discuss their cases.”

    Challenge #3 – Education

    edSeed
    (United States, Gaza, Lebanon)
    “Edseed is about narrating stories of youth and bringing them closer to donors in the USA; participating in networking; and building a network for higher education of refugees to address policy issues, mentor students.”

    Paper Airplanes
    (United States / Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, KSA, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine)
    “Paper Airplanes (PA) is a nonprofit that uses video conferencing technology to provide free, peer-to-peer language and professional skills instruction to young adults and teens affected by conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. PA works to support these individuals to pursue their educational and employment goals and ultimately rebuild their lives. PA teaches English and Turkish to youth and adults, journalism to citizen journalists, and beginners’ coding skills to women. By using virtual communication technology to provide live instruction, PA is able to reach internally displaced and refugee youth as well as underserved populations who may be otherwise difficult to reach, including those inside Syria (approximately 50% of our students), young women and girls, and individuals in rural areas across the MENA region. Additionally, PA supplies computer tablets for select Youth Exchange Program participant recipients and scholarships to defray the cost of the IELTS and TOEFL exams for qualified PA graduates.”

    Power.Coders
    (Switzerland)
    “Powercoders’ solution is to offer intensive computer programming classes to refugees over a three month period and then place them in an IT internship. As a result of the comprehensive training and subsequent placement, within a little less than a year our refugee graduates are exponentially better positioned to find and keep an IT job in Switzerland, and many do just that. The program is fully customized to address the challenges and issues that refugees may face when trying to integrate professionally and the courses enjoy an almost 100% internship placement success rate and subsequent 80% integration rate.”

    RefgueeEd.Hub
    (Greece)
    RefugeeEd.Hub is an open source online database that promotes promising practice in refugee education globally. RefugeeEd.Hub aims to raise the quality of education for refugees and displaced people by generating knowledge and fostering collaboration among global and local stakeholders working to provide education to refugees. RefugeeEd.Hub will support education innovators, multilateral institutions, global development actors, education funders and government and policymakers to inform practice on the ground.

    Challenge #4 – Employment
    Bitae Technologies
    (United States, Jordan)

    “Bitae Technologies aims to help global, mobile talent, like refugees and migrants, carry their skills and experience with them in a secure, verified digital CV, addressing the lack of access to formal education and employment faced by refugees and other vulnerable populations. Bitae transforms non-formal learning and achievements into opportunities for refugees. We provide a platform to track, store and verify refugees’ non-formal learning and skills, creating a “digital backpack” of classes, workshops, internships and skills that together, can help a refugee move forward with education and employment. Bitae leverages mobile and blockchain technology to ensure that governments, international organizations, NGOs, educational institutions and employers are able to document non-formal learning and skills in the most inclusive, secure and transparent way. The Digital Backpack focuses on four key functions: creating badges and verifying skills, requesting and sending references, skills matching and skills assessment. Using existing tools, the platform makes it possible to create blockchain-backed credential badges that can be stored and shared.”

    Human in the loop
    Bulgaria – 2017
    “Human in the Loop is a social enterprise which employs and trains refugees to provide image annotation services to computer vision companies. It is a niche market that currently requires manual human input in order to train ML models to recognize images in a way that a human would, and Human in the Loop is part of a growing community of “impact sourcing” enterprises that is dedicated to providing employment to vulnerable groups in this sector. The opportunity they are seizing is that image annotation is a very accessible type of labor that does not require previous education or professional skills, but which can open the door to more advanced tech jobs and freelancing skills, which are especially useful for migrants. In this way, they are empowering refugees to earn a living in a dignified way and gain skills, and they are turning them in “digital nomads” who are able to make use of the opportunities that remote digital work provides to people who are on the move. Human in the Loop works as an outsourcing business with B2B sales. Their clients are companies from the computer vision, self-driving cars, drones, and satellite imager industry, which are training machine learning models.”

    Rafiqi
    (United Kingdom, Germany, Jordan)
    “Rafiqi is a matching tool that leverages artificial intelligence to connect refugees in real-time and in a customized way to the opportunities that are the most suitable to his/her profile and that would lead to lifelong employment. Currently, there is no single platform where resettled refugees can access and filter the wide range of opportunities available to them, including jobs, trainings, mentorships and degrees, and where any organization (company/NGO/university) can seamlessly access and filter refugee talent. Refugees lack of knowledge of opportunities and of the right opportunities is resulting in them being unemployed or being overqualified for what they are actually doing. Despite the existence of some refugee to jobs matching programs supported by governments and NGOs in countries like Germany and the Netherlands, these matchings remain largely manual and limited in terms of intelligence. These matching efforts cannot scale well given the high number of refugees and the diversity of their profiles, as well as the diversity of opportunities available to them.”

    Transformify Rebuild Lives Program
    (Worldwide / EU, Iraq)
    “The Rebuild Lives Program by Transformify exists to provide access to jobs and secure payment to displaced people as well as access to targeted eLearning to improve their skills by using recruitment CRM leveraging HR-tech, fintech and AI to connect refugees with employers and provide access to secure payment even if the refugees have no permanent address or a bank account.”

    Challenge #5 – Social inclusion

    PLACE
    (France, Germany, United Kingdom)
    “PLACE runs Innovation Labs for migrants and refugees in Europe. These labs transform the people from migrants and refugees into Innovators – creators of solutions for European societies. The labs are 1 to 3-day immersive experiences that apply design thinking methodology to enable Innovators to identify problems, understand their users, develop solutions and then rapidly test and prototype these solutions with a diverse community of local stakeholders. Beyond the Labs, the Innovators have the opportunity to develop their projects through the network of the PLACE collective – actors in the private, public and civil society that see the value of diversity in migrant-led innovation and who want to be a part of it. In addition to innovative solutions, the labs also produce a new leadership model for Europe. Innovators who demonstrate motivation and willingness to take on a role as a leader in migrant-led innovation are trained to be PLACE Catalysts. The Catalysts are trained in interculturality, sourcing, public speaking, networking and lab facilitation. They are then given the opportunity to apply these learnings as facilitators in Labs throughout Europe.”

    Register of Pledges
    (Ireland)
    “The Register of Pledges project workstream are: Humanitarian Database of Pledges (Accommodation, Goods and Services) administered by Red Cross with back-office capabilities for pledge management and workflow and reporting capabilities; Open-source version of the technology is available on Github, a humanitarian data capture system with APIs and a translation interface; Evolve and open-source our Case Management System, to optimize Service User outcomes.”

    SchoolX
    (UK/Turkey)
    “SchoolX envision a shared economy model with volunteer teachers which include university students, educated refugees, retired teachers and other local volunteers, who will teach refugee students. Due to the challenge of limited access to education that these displaced people face, our solution is to recruit teachers within the refugee community and local community, and connect them with refugee students who are eager to learn. The talents of these teachers are then harnessed to deliver rigorous and certified education to the students. Through this, volunteers, including refugee teachers, will also receive an allowance for their efforts as well. The solution, in a form of an online platform, will provide training packages that involve not only fundamental tenets of teaching, but also pedagogical and psycho-social training for the volunteers to prepare them to approach refugee children in the most appropriate and empowering manner, The online platform will also serve as a database which will be utilized to match teachers and students based on their needs, skills, availability, and geographical proximity in order to arrange flexible, face-to-face lessons.”

    SPEAK
    (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany)
    SPEAK is a crowdsourced language and culture exchange network, based on an Online2Offline model. All processes are managed online, through a platform developed in-house, while the learning and sharing experience happens offline, allowing participants to establish a close relationship with one another. This model ensures a greater efficiency and minimization of fixed costs, allowing SPEAK to be sustainable at scale while charging only a symbolic fee for its program. SPEAK empowers its participants by expanding their language and cultural skills, all the while becoming part of mutual support networks. Through a language and culture exchange, SPEAK connects migrants, refugees and locals living in the same city. In creating bridges between migrants and locals, members often help each other with job offers or renting their first house in a new city thanks to the power of SPEAK communities. These networks are home to a multicultural community, based on equality and where cultural heritage is validated. In other words, SPEAK’s networks nurture unity in diversity.
    SPEAK’s volunteer Buddy system empowers anyone with the willingness to share their language and culture, allowing for an “everyone a changemaker” attitude, which encourages an even greater participation in local public life. he sustainability of the initiative relies on the community and willingness to promote SPEAK’s values of an integrated and inclusive society.”

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    Parkland Conspiracies Overwhelm the Internet’s Broken Trending Tools

    It takes a special sort of heartlessness to create a conspiracy video about a teenage survivor of one of the deadliest school shootings in US history. But it takes a literally heartless algorithm to ensure that thousands, or even millions, of people see it.

    For a brief period on Wednesday, YouTube awarded the top spot in its Trending section to a conspiracy video claiming that 17-year-old David Hogg, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that killed 17 students, was in fact an actor. The prime placement of the video, which has since been removed, shocked YouTube users and members of the media alike. It shouldn't have. YouTube's screwup is only the latest to highlight the fundamental flaws of the algorithms that decide what gets surfaced across all social platforms.

    On Trend

    YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter all have a section designed to surface the most newsworthy, relevant information in the midst of a vast sea of content. But time and again, they have utterly failed. In the worst cases, the algorithms backing these trending sections drive bot-fueled hashtag campaigns promoting gun rights to the top of Twitter Trends, and fake news stories about former Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly into Facebook's Trending Topics portal. Human curation hasn't worked out much better. Reports that Facebook's curators suppressed news from conservative outlets in trending topics set off a two-year cascade of crises for the social network.

    But even at their most benign, these algorithmically derived trends rarely serve their expressed purpose. Based largely on conversation volume, trending tools naturally drive the public consciousness toward topics of outrage; an outrageous topic trending only adds to the outrage. How many times have you clicked on a trending topic on Twitter, only to see an endless scroll of Tweets decrying that the topic is trending in the first place? The conversation about the trend becomes the trend itself, an interminable loop of outrage that all started because some line of code decided to tell millions of people that topic was important.

    The Parkland video topping YouTube's trending page seems especially galling because it appears to have gotten there not by accident but as the result of an attempt on YouTube's part to fix fake news. YouTube says its system “misclassified” the conspiracy video “because the video contained footage from an authoritative news source.” Whatever minimal nuance was needed to block the Hogg conspiracy, algorithms lack it.

    Though YouTube got most of the blame on Wednesday, Facebook ought to have shared it. David Hogg's name also appeared in the company's Trending Topics section. As of Wednesday afternoon, the first story that surfaces when users clicked his name was a news clip debunking rumors Hogg is an actor. But just three results down sat another video, showing a visibly nervous Hogg stumbling over his words with the caption, "This one is David hogg, the video that keeps coming down on YouTube. Seems like he's been scripted #davidhogg #actor #falseflag #censorship #floridashooting #florida."

    Top videos under the trending topic "David Hogg," as seen on Facebook on February 21, 2018.

    Facebook

    Below that, Facebook ranked another conspiracy post by former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Amber Smith as the top Public Post on the topic, above legitimate news sources like the Toronto Star and CBS Boston. Smith’s post reads in part, “Fascist-Book will take this down soon so view quickly.. David Hogg just 6 months ago was in an anti-gun rally (pictured, gee, no kidding!), he is not a student at the recent false flag event in Florida that was staged to take away your rights. Please, fight for your rights!”

    Top public posts under the trending topic "David Hogg," as seen on Facebook on February 21, 2018.

    Facebook

    In a statement, Mary deBree, head of content policy at Facebook said, “Images that attack the victims of last week's tragedy in Florida are abhorrent. We are removing this content from Facebook."

    It's a standard response that does little to prevent future disinformation campaigns from spreading on the platform, and does nothing to mitigate the damage that has already been done.

    Half-Measures

    The system is broken. It directly contributes to the spread of fake information that has plagued social media platforms for years. So why not scrap it? Why have a trending module at all? It's largely because of money, says Dipayan Ghosh, a fellow at the think tank New America who recently left his job on Facebook's privacy and public policy team. "The Facebook of 10 years or five years ago isn't the Facebook of today," says Ghosh. "This Facebook has grown tremendously in its size and influence around the world, and part of that is because of the promotion of particularly engaging content that attracts eyeballs and keeps them on the screen for long periods of time."

    Facebook and YouTube's best answer so far, other than vague promises of algorithm improvements, has been for each to pledge to build a team of 10,000 moderators to take down problematic content. But more than 400 hours of content gets uploaded to YouTube alone each minute. Ten million humans would have a hard time keeping up, much less 10,000.

    Twitter, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that it was making changes to the way automated accounts, or bots, are allowed to operate on the platform, which could have important repercussions for Twitter Trends, arguably the most easily gamed of all of the platforms. These coordinated networks of bots sync up to promote the same hashtag in rapid succession in order to get a given topic trending.

    'The Facebook of 10 years or five years ago isn't the Facebook of today.'

    Dipyan Ghosh, New America

    As Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a former FBI special agent, recently put it during a congressional hearing on terrorism and social media, "The negative effects of social bots far outweigh any benefits. The anonymous replication of accounts that routinely broadcast high volumes of misinformation can pose a serious risk to public safety and, when employed by authoritarians, a direct threat to democracy."

    Twitter has stopped short of banning bots entirely, but it will drastically limit the ways in which they can interact with each other. In a blog post, the company detailed a number of new limitations for third-party developers designed to stop users from posting or liking simultaneously from multiple accounts, or to rally multiple accounts behind a single hashtag all at once.

    It remains to be seen how effective any of these changes will be at cleaning up these trending tools. Hoaxers and trolls have, after all, found a way around almost every obstacle these platforms have put in their way up until now. Why should this time be any different?

    By introducing the concept of what's trending, tech companies told their billions of users they were going to show them the news they needed to know. And yet at a time when social platforms have repeatedly fallen down on the job, it's worth wondering whether the public really needs their help.

    Trending Machine

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