Here’s a new feature for Fridays, a concise roundup of the most interesting digital stories of the week.

Some you may have already read about, others will have passed you by.

N.B. Cats are included.

1. Facebook could sway the UK’s EU referendum

A fascinating piece in the FT this week posited that the effect of Facebook’s ‘voter megaphone’ (reminding users of polling day) and its “I voted” button could be significant.

A study in Nature in 2012 analysed the use of similar features during the 2010 congressional elections in the US.

60m US users saw the message “Today is Election Day” along with a link to polling place information and the “I voted” button (the button included a counter showing how many of your friends had also voted, and how many in total on the network). Crucially, a control group of 600,000 saw no notification.

When who voted was tallied with who got the Facebook reminder, the researchers saw it as responsible for 340,000 additional votes across the US.

Factoring in users whose Facebook names don’t match the electoral roll (nicknames etc.) and it’s possible that Facebook could have increased turnout by 0.6%.

That’s not small fry at all.

facebook polling day

2. Does ASOS have a Facebook customer service bot?

The brand denies it. The Facebook page suggests otherwise.

asos bot

asos bot

3. US nuclear forces still use floppy disks

And not just any floppy disks – eight-inch floppies from the 1970s.

The most astonishing fact reported this week was that the US spends $61bn maintaining ageing tech, three times the amount it spends on new I.T.

And you thought you had legacy infrastructure…

As a side note, the old ‘X still uses floppy disks’ story seems to be a journalistic staple over the last few years (see below).




4. Microsoft backs out completely from mobile hardware

Microsoft announced a $950m writedown of its smartphone business (formerly Nokia).

Though the loss of Nokia/Lumia was effectively accounted for last year with a $7.6bn writedown, this latest action, including the loss of 1,850 jobs, is being seen as the final nail in the coffin.

This follows on from the sale to Foxconn of the old feature phone side of Nokia for $350m.

Nokia’s former director of strategy was unimpressed.

5. Thomas Cook is the latest brand to use cats in an ad

6. The Co-op has rebranded

If you’re not reading this in the UK, The Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer cooperatives, operating businesses in food retail, funeral care, legal services and running a bank (which itself is not co-operatively owned).

The reason the Co-op is of interest to digital types is that its chief digital officer since late 2015 has been Mike Bracken, former chief data officer and executive director of digital for the British Government.

Mike and some other former members of the groundbreaking GDS are amongst those spearheading an effort to recreate the Co-op for the digital era, defining what membership can mean in this age.

Rebranding this week has been one part of recovering from past controversies, with membership benefits also changing later this year. Check out the sexy lorries below.

In the spirit of transparency brought over from GDS, you can read all about what the Co-op’s digital teams are doing on the Co-op digital blog.

7. Google wants to get rid of passwords

Google I/O took place on Friday last week, but I thought it worthwhile flagging one feature that wasn’t as widely reported as Assistant, Allo or Daydream.

Daniel Kaufman in his talk mentioned the Trust API, a way of securing Android apps. Trust API will use facial recognition, typing and even walking patterns to confirm your identity.

8. Angry Birds is killing it at the box office

Okay, this isn’t vital for marketers to know, but it surpised me that The Angry Birds Movie is taking lots of money, particularly in America where it tops the box office and is set to become the biggest computer game adaptation ever.

Here’s the trailer. It’s not bad.

9. Twitter ditches the Buy button just as Facebook tries shoppable video

Yep, that nine-month silence from Twitter about the success of its Buy button spoke volumes. The feature was effectively cut this week.

The Information reports that Facebook is close to trialling shoppable video ads. It will be interesting to see if the network’s reach and undeniable success with video will pay dividends.

Shoppable video hasn’t exactly set the world alight elsewhere.

10. Twitter changes cause predictable grumbling

Twitter has relaxed the character restrictions that thus far have made it the home of both wit and dimwittery on the web.

Usernames will no longer count towards the 140 character limit, nor will photo or video. The faux outrage from Twitter users seemed to revolve around the prospect of being included in spammy tweets with up to 50 usernames added (they should be so lucky).

The .@ is also disappearing, as Twitter will show everybody the first tweet in your conversation with another user (regardless of whether your followers also follow your interlocutor).

Probably a good thing, all in all.

11. Changes to Google AdWords

More text will be allowed in PPC ads for the first time since launch. Maps also joins Google inventory, with more sohisticated branded pins and business listings with promotions and local inventory enabled.

For the full detail, read: What do Google’s expanded text & local search ads mean for marketers?

expanded text ads