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Gillmor Gang: Zoom Normal

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary, and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Brent Leary joins the Gang as we blend streaming, Zoomcasting and sheltering from the storm.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

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Clubhouse voice chat leads a wave of spontaneous social apps

Forget the calendar invite. Just jump into a conversation. That’s the idea powering a fresh batch of social startups poised to take advantage of our cleared schedules amidst quarantine. But they could also change the way we work and socialize long after COVID-19 by bringing the free-flowing, ad-hoc communication of parties and open office plans online. While “Live” has become synonymous with performative streaming, these new apps instead spread the limelight across several users as well as the task, game, or discussion at hand.

The most buzzy of these startups is Clubhouse, an audio-based social network where people can spontaneously jump into voice chat rooms together. You see the unlabeled rooms of all the people you follow, and you can join to talk or just listen along, milling around to find what interests you. High-energy rooms attract crowds while slower ones see participants slip out to join other chat circles.

Clubhouse blew up this weekend on VC Twitter as people scrambled for exclusive invites, humblebragged about their membership, or made fun of everyone’s FOMO. For now, there’s no public app or access. The name Clubhouse perfectly captures how people long to be part of the in-crowd.

Clubhouse was built by Paul Davison, who previously founded serendipitous offline people-meeting location app Highlight and reveal-your-whole-camera-roll app Shorts before his team was acquired by Pinterest in 2016. This year he debuted his Alpha Exploration Co startup studio and launched Talkshow for instantly broadcasting radio-style call-in shows. Spontaneity is the thread that ties Davison’s work together, whether its for making new friends, sharing your life, transmitting your thoughts, or having a discussion.

It’s very early days for Clubhouse. It doesn’t even have a website. There’s no telling exactly what it will be like if or when it officially launches, and Davison and his co-founder Rohan Seth declined to comment. But the positive reception shows a desire for a more immediate, multi-media approach to discussion that updates what Twitter did with text.

Sheltered From Surprise

What quarantine has revealed is that when you separate everyone, spontaneity is a big thing you miss. In your office, that could be having a random watercooler chat with a co-worker or commenting aloud about something funny you found on the internet. At a party, it could be wandering up to chat with group of people because you know one of them or overhear something interesting. That’s lacking while we’re stuck home since we’ve stigmatized randomly phoning a friend, differing to asynchronous text despite its lack of urgency.

Clubhouse founder Paul Davison. Image Credit: JD Lasica

Scheduled Zoom calls, utilitarian Slack threads, and endless email chains don’t capture the thrill of surprise or the joy of conversation that giddily revs up as people riff off each other’s ideas. But smart app developers are also realizing that spontaneity doesn’t mean constantly interrupting people’s life or workflow. They give people the power to decide when they are or aren’t available or signal that they’re not to be disturbed so they’re only thrust into social connection when they want it.

Houseparty chart ranks via AppAnnie

Houseparty embodies this spontaneity. It’s become the breakout hit of quarantine by letting people on a whim join group video chat rooms with friends the second they open the app. It saw 50 million downloads in a month, up 70X over its pre-COVID levels in some places. It’s become the #1 social app in 82 countries including the US, and #1 overall in 16 countries.

Originally built for gaming, Discord lets communities spontaneously connect through persistent video, voice, and chat rooms. It’s seen a 50% increase in US daily voice users with spikes in shelter-in-place early adopter states like California, New York, New Jersey, and Washington. Bunch, for video chat overlayed on mobile gaming, is also climbing the charts and going mainstream with its user base shifting to become majority female as they talk for 1.5 million minutes per day. Both apps make it easy to join up with pals and pick something to play together.

The Impromptu Office

Enterprise video chat tools are adapting to spontaneity as an alternative to heavy-handed, pre-meditated Zoom calls. There’s been a backlash as people realize they don’t get anything done by scheduling back-to-back video chats all day.

  • Loom lets you quickly record and send a video clip to co-workers that they can watch at their leisure, with back-and-forth conversation sped up because videos are uploaded as they’re shot.

  • Around overlays small circular video windows atop your screen so you can instantly communicate with colleagues while most of your desktop stays focused on your actual work.

  • Screen exists as a tiny widget that can launch a collaborative screenshare where everyone gets a cursor to control the shared window so they can improvisationally code, design, write, and annotate.

Screen

  • Pragli is an avatar-based virtual office where you can see if someone’s in a calendar meeting, away, or in flow listening to music so you know when to instantly open a voice or video chat channel together without having to purposefully find a time everyone’s free. But instead of following you home like Slack, Pragli lets you sign in and out of the virtual office to start and end your day.

Raising Our Voice

While visual communication has been the breakout feature of our mobile phones by allowing us to show where we are, shelter-in-place means we don’t have much to show. That’s expanded the opportunity for tools that take a less-is-more approach to spontaneous communication. Whether for remote partying or rapid problem solving, new apps beyond Clubhouse are incorporating voice rather than just video. Voice offers a way to rapidly exchange information and feel present together without dominating our workspace or attention, or forcing people into an uncomfortable spotlight.

High Fidelity is Second Life co-founder Philip Rosedale’s $72 million-funded current startup. After recently pivoting away from building a virtual reality co-working tool, High Fidelity has begun testing a voice and headphones-based online event platform and gathering place. The early beta lets users move their dot around a map and hear the voice of anyone close to them with spatial audio so voices get louder as you get closer to someone, and shift between your ears as you move past them. You can spontaneously approach and depart little clusters of dots to explore different conversations within earshot.

An unofficial mockup of High Fidelity’s early tests. Image Credits: DigitalGlobe (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

High Fidelity is currently using a satellite photo of Burning Man as its test map. It allows DJs to set up in different corners, and listeners to stroll between them or walk off with a friend to chat, similar to the real offline event. Since Burning Man was cancelled this year, High Fidelity could potentially be a candidate for holding the scheduled virtual version the organizers have promised.

Houseparty’s former CEO Ben Rubin and Skype GM of engineering Brian Meek are building a spontaneous teamwork tool called Slashtalk. Rubin sold Houseparty to Fortnite-maker Epic in mid-2019, but the gaming giant largely neglected the app until its recent quarantine-driven success. Rubin left.

His new startup’s site explains that “/talk is an anti-meeting tool for fast, decentralized conversations. We believe most meetings can be eliminated if the right people are connected at the right time to discuss the right topics, for just as long as necessary.” It lets people quickly jump into a voice or video chat to get something sorted without delaying until a calendared collab session.

Slashtalk co-founder Ben Rubin at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2015

Whether for work or play, these spontaneous apps can conjure times from our more unstructured youth. Whether sifting through the cafeteria or school yard, seeing who else is at the mall, walking through halls of open doors in college dorms, or hanging at the student union or campus square, the pre-adult years offer many opportunities for impromptu social interation.

As we age and move into our separate homes, we literally erect walls that limit our ability to perceive the social cues that signal that someone’s available for unprompted communication. That’s spawned apps like Down To Lunch and Snapchat acquisition Zenly, and Facebook’s upcoming Messenger status feature designed to break through those barriers and make it feel less desperate to ask someone to hang out offline.

But while socializing or collaborating IRL requires transportation logistics and usually a plan, the new social apps discussed here bring us together instantly, thereby eliminating the need to schedule togetherness ahead of time. Gone too are the geographic limits restraining you to connect only with those within a reasonable commute. Digitally, you can pick from your whole network. And quarantines have further opened our options by emptying parts of our calendars.

Absent those frictions, what shines through is our intention. We can connect with who we want and accomplish what we want. Spontaneous apps open the channel so our impulsive human nature can shine through.

Too-real video captures the awkwardness of all your glitchy FaceTime calls

Too-real video captures the awkwardness of all your glitchy FaceTime calls

As more countries go into lockdown due to the coronavirus, people are substituting video calls for face-to-face human interaction in an attempt to maintain both social distancing and their sanity. Unfortunately, video calling is a laggy, pixellated mess even at the best of times — and these are definitely not the best of times, what with everyone stuck bingeing Netflix indefinitely.

Dealing with the problems of these dystopian times, comedians Eva Victor and Alyssa Limperis have released a short clip demonstrating the irritating struggles of chatting on a video call, complete with cut-off sentences and misheard words.  Read more…

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Twitter will suspend repeat offenders posting abusive comments on Periscope live streams

As part of Twitter’s attempted crackdown on abusive behavior across its network, the company announced on Friday afternoon a new policy facing those who repeatedly harass, threaten or otherwise make abusive comments during a Periscope broadcaster’s live stream. According to Twitter, the company will begin to more aggressively enforce its Periscope Community Guidelines by reviewing and suspending accounts of habitual offenders.

The plans were announced via a Periscope blog post and tweet that said everyone should be able to feel safe watching live video.

We’re committed to making sure everyone feels safe watching live video, whether you’re broadcasting or just tuning in. To create safer conversation, we’re launching more aggressive enforcement of our guidelines. https://t.co/dQdtnxCfx6

— Periscope (@PeriscopeCo) July 27, 2018

Currently, Periscope’s comment moderation policy involves group moderation.

That is, when one viewer reports a comment as “abuse,” “spam” or selects “other reason,” Periscope’s software will then randomly select a few other viewers to take a look and decide if the comment is abuse, spam or if it looks okay. The randomness factor here prevents a person (or persons) from using the reporting feature to shut down conversations. Only if a majority of the randomly selected voters agree the comment is spam or abuse does the commenter get suspended.

However, this suspension would only disable their ability to chat during the broadcast itself — it didn’t prevent them from continuing to watch other live broadcasts and make further abusive remarks in the comments. Though they would risk the temporary ban by doing so, they could still disrupt the conversation, and make the video creator — and their community — feel threatened or otherwise harassed.

Twitter says that accounts that repeatedly get suspended for violating its guidelines will soon be reviewed and suspended. This enhanced enforcement begins on August 10, and is one of several other changes Twitter is making to its product across Periscope and Twitter focused on user safety.

To what extent those changes have been working is questionable. Twitter may have policies in place around online harassment and abuse, but its enforcement has been hit-or-miss. But ridding its platform of unwanted accounts — including spam, despite the impact to monthly active user numbers — is something the company must do for its long-term health. The fact that so much hate and abuse is seemingly tolerated or overlooked on Twitter has been an issue for some time, and the problem continues today. And it could be one of the factors in Twitter’s stagnant user growth. After all, who willingly signs up for harassment?

The company is at least attempting to address the problem, most recently by acquiring the anti-abuse technology provider Smyte. Its transition to Twitter didn’t go so well, but the technology it offers the company could help Twitter address abuse at a greater scale in the future.

Gillmor Gang: TV Dinner

Gillmor Gang Artcard The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Denis Pombriant, Kevin Marks, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Saturday, March 10, 2018. G3: Fear Factory — Mary Hodder, Elisa Camehort Page, Halley Suitt Tucker, Maria Ogneva, and Tina Chase Gillmor. Recorded live Thursday, March 8, 2018. @stevegillmor, @kevinmarks, @kteare, @DenisPombriant, @fradice Produced and directed by Tina… Read More

Gillmor Gang: Smart Speakers

Gillmor Gang Artcard The Gillmor Gang — Doc Searls, Frank Radice, Denis Pombriant, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, January 12, 2018.
G3: Last Hope — Mary Hodder, Halley Suitt Tucker, Francine Hardaway, Tina Hui, and Tina Chase Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, January 12, 2018.
@stevegillmor, @dsearls, @fradice, @kteare, @DenisPombriant
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor… Read More

These apps will help you keep your New Year’s resolutions

 Almost half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Far fewer stick to them.
“Losing weight” and “exercising more” are among the most popular goals. A sizeable percentage of Americans also aim to “be a better person.”
TechCrunch reviewed apps that are designed to help people stay on track with these plans. Here are a few that will help you remain… Read More

Facebook’s Workplace, now at 30,000 orgs, adds Chat desktop apps and group video chat

 It’s been once year since Workplace, Facebook’s social network designed specifically for businesses and other organizations, came out of beta to take on the likes of Slack, Atlassian, Microsoft and others in the world of enterprise collaboration. Now, with 30,000 organizations using Workplace across some 1 million groups (more than double the figures Facebook published April)… Read More

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Kellyanne Conway as Pennywise is everything you’ve ever wanted from ‘Saturday Night Live’

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Maybe you see it. The resemblance. Kellyanne Conway. Pennywise from IT. Kellywise the Dancing Clown.

The writers at Saturday Night Live sure did.

Tonight’s offering in the ongoing cinematic saga of Kellyanne vs. Anderson Cooper featured Alex Moffat’s Cooper (clad in a yellow raincoat, natch) finding a reason to peek down a storm drain — while everyone and their brother shouted at home, “DON’T GO NEAR THE STORM DRAIN, COOP! 

Hiding inside was the disturbingly clownish Conway, played expertly as always by Kate McKinnon. Read more…

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SanDisk just released the world's biggest microSD card

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SanDisk just announced its biggest microSD card yet—but it doesn’t come cheap. 

The world’s first 400GB microSD starts shipping in September, and will set you back $249.99

The new microSD with adapter is good for 35 hours of full HD video. So it makes sense that SanDisk is marketing this microSD toward action camera and gaming console owners. 

This could be a game-changer for drone owners, GoPro enthusiasts, and Nintendo Switch fans. 

The 400GB microSD card is tiny but packs a punch.

The 400GB microSD card is tiny but packs a punch.

Image: western digital

This microSD has up to 100MB/s transfer speeds. For those of you who aren’t aware of what that means, here you go: You’ll be able to move up to 1,200 photos in a single minute. That’s pretty impressive.  Read more…

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Crunch Report | Benchmark vs Kalanick Goes Sour

Reddit is rolling out its own video platform, VR adtech company Immersv raises $10.5 million and Benchmark versus Kalanick goes sour. All this on Crunch Report Read More

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