October in digital: bots, AI and character count

Cold crisp mornings. Dark blistering nights. The changing of the clocks. Digital news updates. As we moved through October, it wasn’t only the seasons that changed. There were also plenty of exciting developments in the world of social and tech. Here are some of our highlights.

Snapchat debuts TV shows

Snapchat took a big leap forward in its bid to reinvent TV. This month, it introduced short, three to seven minute episodes to the platform. In the US, 12 original shows were heavily promoted in the Snapchat Discover section. While in the UK, it partnered with 17 British media brands, including the likes of Channel 4, Sky News, The Guardian and Vice to bring existing content to Snapchat users.

The episodes are being monetised by Snapchat’s six-second non-skippable ad format, Commercials. Both offerings are packaged up with with bright graphics and an episode queue – no doubt to encourage Netflix-style binge watching.

Twitter releases usage trends

It’s almost been a year since Twitter introduced its expanded 280-character limit. And it turns out, it’s been for the best. Despite what the naysayers predicted, the platform hasn’t morphed into a platform for essays. In fact, only 1% of tweets actually hit the 280-character capacity. Further still, only 12% of tweets exceed the original 140-character limit.

It’s even helped to make Twitter a friendlier place. The word ‘please’ has gone up in usage by 54% since the change, and 22% more tweets include the word ‘thank you’. There’s also been a decline in the use of abbreviations and an uptick in tweets with question marks. With the opportunity to use longer sentences, perhaps people are more likely to have civil conversations online. Just maybe.

Facebook introduces new AI features for Marketplace

To celebrate its second birthday, Facebook Marketplace rolled out a number of new AI features. While it was already using AI to improve image quality and translate listings, it’s now using AI to suggest price ranges and automatically categorise products. These features make use of AI-based computer vision and natural language processing (NLP) platforms.

For instance, if a user wants to sell a table, Marketplace can now suggest a price range based on similar tables sold and categorise the item under ‘furniture’ based on the photo and written description.

In California, bots must disclose they’re not human

This month, a law passed which will soon make it a lot easier for Californians to know whether they’re speaking to a human or a bot. The bill, which becomes effective from July 1st 2019, will make it illegal for bots interacting with consumers to pretend they’re human if they’re trying to sell goods, services or influence a vote in an election. Instead, bots will have to disclose they are, in fact, bots.

However, while the law is intended to stop bots which spread fake and misleading news, it may have a knock-on effect on customer chatbots.

Written by our Digital & Social team

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