My Five #419

What is the ultimate cure to the tumultuous start to 2021? A sea shanty. Obviously.

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Five things worth sharing from the last week or so, brought to you by a different member of the Browser Media team every Friday.

This week’s My Five is by Joe.

1. Google My Business ‘improvements’

Google has been promising a revamped performance insights report within Google My Business (GMB) for some months now, but it looks as though it is finally making its debut across most countries.

If you log in to GMB now and click on the ‘insights’ link, you should see a prompt informing you that ‘Your insights are moving’ and you can click on a link to see the new profile performance page.

The new page gives you a nice monthly summary of interactions with your listing, so you can quickly see how many calls and messages you received, and you can still see a summary of the search terms that people used to discover your listing. The data now stretches back six months (versus the previous three month range), which is great, but there are several metrics that have not made it across from the existing Google Insights report, e.g. website clicks, driving instructions or the split between Google Search and Google Maps traffic.

I find it hard, therefore, to be too excited by the ‘improved’ data and it does feel a bit half-baked. This is not uncommon with the evolution of Google’s services and the legacy reports typically live until all data points are available in the new reports, but I just wish they would sometimes unveil new features that actually add value rather than take things away…

You can read about the changes at https://support.google.com/business/answer/10018786?hl=en&ref_topic=9674108.

2. WhatsApp updates privacy policies at the expense of privacy

This week saw quite a bit of online uproar about new WhatsApp policies that are being forced upon many users if they wish to carry on using the service.

The new terms affect “how businesses can use Facebook hosted services to store and manage their WhatsApp chats” and “how we partner with Facebook to offer integrations across the Facebook Company Products.” In essence, you are agreeing to WhatsApp’s right to share personal information across all Facebook owned services.

I am not entirely sure that this fits with WhatsApp’s claim that “respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA”? The WhatsApp updates follow on the heels of Facebook’s “privacy-focused vision” to integrate WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger together to provide a more coherent experience to users across its services, so it shouldn’t really be a surprise but the threat of having your account disabled without agreeing to the new terms has attracted attention and lots of cries to abandon the platform.

The new terms are not, however, global – Facebook issued a statement saying that there would be no changes in the “European region” – which covers the EU, EEA, and post-Brexit UK.

There can be no doubt that people are waking to the realisation that they are very much the product when using Facebook services. If you have seen The Social Dilemma, you will know about the value of the data you generate when using such services. It will be interesting to see how moves such as these new terms affect the messaging app’s popularity.

If in doubt, use an independent platform such as https://guild.co/ :-)

3. Social media and politics

We are living in extremely troubled times right now. I am doing my best not to mention the C word but this week also witnessed incredible scenes at Capitol Hill in the US which ultimately ended up with social media bans for a certain POTUS.

I have never met Donald Trump but he strikes me as a bit of a nutter and I felt that the insurrection in Washington was fairly inevitable following four years of systematic / inciteful propaganda that was amplified by his use of social media.

The bans are purely symbolic – the Twitter ban was only for 24hrs and the Facebook one may only be until the 20th this month – and many commentators are criticising the platforms for doing too little, too late.

I am torn. I am a massive believer in freedom of speech and have been hugely frustrated by the over zealous censorship of almost any social media posts questioning Covid strategies, so instinctively feel that the social media platforms should remain as technology companies rather than becoming political entities. That said, I have spent most of the last four years wondering why on earth somebody doesn’t ban Trump from Twitter.

I can feel a bigger blog post brewing, as it is an interesting area and there are some big questions to be considered regarding who actually wears the trousers, but I couldn’t avoid mentioning the ban as it really is fairly big news.

4. A tidal wave of shite

I remember watching an excellent presentation many moons ago that predicted a tidal wave of shite content that was about to swamp the online world. It was in response to ‘content marketing’ being the latest fad and how everyone was obsessed with quantity over quality.

I really enjoyed the presentation and have always thought that it is better to do a bit less, but do it extremely well, than to push out vacuous content simply to hit a target number.

I therefore thought that this was brilliant:

Who doesn’t love a good parody? Let it loop a few times (you will barely notice it restarting) and you have a great portrayal of a depressingly high percentage of podcasts…

5. Sea Shanty

This week has been tough. We all hoped that 2021 would miraculously cure all evils and life would be wonderful again but it has felt as though the adage about it being darkest just before dawn is playing out and there has been little cheer.

All is, however, not lost and I am very pleased to be able to end this week’s My Five with something that should warm your cockles.

Before this week, I had never heard of a ‘sea chanty’. I assume it derives from French (chanter = to sing) but a sea shanty is a song that used to be sung on board ships to make tedious labour more fun.

An excellent example is sung here by Nathan Evans:

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There is something mesmerising about it.  The equally excellent Luke Taylor has subsequently added his own touch to the ditty:

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This has subsequently triggered an avalanche of brilliant online sing alongs, e.g. :

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Not only is this great to listen to, but it is a welcome reminder that community spirit is strong and that this can exist online if not (currently) in the physical presence of others. The Trumps of the world make me wish social media didn’t exist, but the worm hole that you will find here is a timely reminder that there are some wonderful uses of social media. Just don’t click if you don’t have an hour to lose.

Have a great weekend folks.

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