This Week In Digital
And the "word" of the year goes to: ????
In an attempt to be fashionable and "lolz", Oxford Dictionaries announced on Monday that this year's "word of the year" is the "face with tears of joy" emoji. I'm sure many of you are somewhat sceptical of what exactly the entry requirements for this "competition" are, who on earth is on the judging panel and why a pictogram is now classed as a word. It's a bit like dressing up your cat and entering it into the "best in show" category at Crufts. A cat is not a dog, an emoji is not a word. I digress.
The "Tears of joy" emoji was up against stiff competition this year. The shortlist included: Ad blocker, Brexit, Dark Web, Lumbersexual, On fleek (adj), Rufugee, Sharing economy and They (singular). It would be fair to say that the rest of the shortlist are words, definitely words, albeit some questionable ones.
So why does ???? deserve its accolade as word of the year, 2015?
Oxford University Press teamed up with mobile technology business SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emojis across the world. SwiftKey identified that ???? made up 20% of all emojis used in the UK in 2015, and 17% of those in the US. That's a pretty colossal share of the emoji market!
There's no doubting the impact emojis have had on our communicative fabric. A new messaging culture born out of a necessity to convey thoughts and emotions through image is a real social phenomenon. Whether it was a marketing ploy by Oxford University Press or a legitimate data driven result, for emojis to cross the line into traditional dictionary territory is still very much up for debate.
Google+ Gets A Facelift
Despite being at the brunt of many social media jokes since its release a little over four years ago, Google+ has just had a stylish redesign. In a blog post, Google said, "We've spent a lot of time listening to what people using Google+ had to say. There were two features they kept coming back to: Communities, which now average 1.2 million new joins a day, and Collections, which launched just five months ago and is growing even faster."
Google+ originally had ambitious plans to take on the social media world through innovative ideas which would mimic our own circle of friends, colleagues, and family. It failed to realise the mainstream success of Facebook and Twitter with innovative aspects like the Hangouts video chat feature soon being spun into a stand-alone service. Its integration with YouTube (which was supposed to take the SNS to new places) was soon dropped following public dismissal.
Criticised mostly by people who don't use it, Google+ does still have a strong amount of active users, no doubt down to its very focussed style of community based networking. The ability to post uncompressed high quality media is also something appreciated in the creative industries.
In an effort to look less like the confused Facebook clone it originally launched as in 2011, Google+ 2.0 appears to be a much more streamlined service, removing unnecessary features and encouraging new users by becoming the new go-to location for conversation around particular interests.
Facebook Testing "Break-up" Tools
In an effort to "develop resources for people who may be going through difficult moments in their lives", Facebook is trialling new software that will offer to hide your ex's social activity and just generally stop them from ruining your day and making you sad.
Facebook's new tool offers its users more flexibility than the standard "Unfriend" and "Block". The new "Take a Break" feature lets you "See Less of [Insert Ex's Name Here].", so when it comes to the heart-wrenching digital confirmation of returning your relationship status to "Single", Facebook will make sure that your ex doesn't appear in your News Feed.
Users can then choose to prevent their ex from seeing their activity and also review past posts with the option of untagging themselves from photos, videos and life events without the ex being notified.
Pro Tip: There is still the option to unfriend them, that works really well.
It's just another step in Facebook's quest to manipulate your thoughts, feelings and social interactions. It seems at first glance to be a pretty twisted way to break up, it could massively change relationships globally for better or for worse. Evidently, there are many ethical factors Facebook need to consider and research that needs to be carried out before it's implemented.
And Finally... Viral News
A puppy named Tumbles who was born without front legs has been given the freedom to walk thanks to a 3D printed wheelchair. Students of the Ohio University Innovation Centre constructed the custom wheelchair in a day's work. After a test play on the prototype, it was taken back to lab for adjustments; Tumbles should be receiving his new bespoke wheelchair soon!
On the topic of furry animals, here's a video of a chair that sounds like Chewbacca.