Tech News : Disinformation or Misinformation?

The new Online Media Literacy Strategy from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) is aimed at supporting 170+ organisations to improve media literacy rates in the UK, and thereby help young people to spot disinformation.

As an aside, misinformation is information that is simply wrong, inaccurate or misleading (without necessarily having any intention to propagate the misinformation) whereas disinformation is a subset of it, i.e. information that is deliberately wrong, inaccurate or misleading.

As aside to the aside, mistrust and distrust are roughly the same in meaning (i.e. not to trust someone or something) although, according to Dictionary.com, distrust implies having evidence to support that feeling.

Disinformation Problem

The Strategy, which was promised in the government’s online harms white paper, is intended to help tackle the problem that many young people in the UK are not able to distinguish between disinformation/misinformation and truth in what they read online.  For example:

Ofcom figures show that 4 out of 10 UK adult internet users don’t possess the skills to critically assess content online.

National Literacy Trust research figures show that only 2 percent of children have the skills they need to identify misinformation, half of teachers (53.5 percent) think that the national curriculum doesn’t educate children with the literacy skills they need to identify fake news, and 2 in 5 parents (39 percent) don’t watch, listen to, or read news with their child at home.

Pandemic Highlighted Problem

The fact that many young people may have been deterred from accepting the COVID-19 vaccine and/or have believed misinformation and conspiracy theories about the origins and causes of the pandemic have highlighted the problem. For example, popular stories believed by some in the UK, highlighted in University of Cambridge research (Oct 2020) include that:

– COVID-19 was engineered in a Wuhan laboratory (22 percent believed it).

– The pandemic is “part of a plot to enforce global vaccination” (13 percent).

– 5G telecommunication towers worsen COVID-19 symptoms (8 percent).

Who and Why?

Back in October 2020, Cambridge’s Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication + UK Cabinet Office: Go Viral!, studied correlations between certain beliefs and demographic categories and the perceived reliability of misinformation. They discovered that:

– High levels of trust in science equates to low levels of susceptibility to false information (across all nations). 

– Better Numeracy skills are a predictor of greater resistance to misinformation.

– Being older is linked to lower susceptibility to COVID-19 misinformation.

– Identifying as more right-wing /politically conservative is associated with a higher likelihood of believing COVID-19 conspiracies.

– With COVID-19, a tiny increase (one-seventh) in how reliably misinformation is perceived leads to a much bigger (23 percent) drop in the likelihood that the person will agree to get vaccinated. 

Ultimately, as summarised by the minister for digital and culture Caroline Dinenage last week, “False or confused information spread online could threaten public safety and undermine our democracy.”

Training Trainers

The newly announced strategy is to teach a wide variety of UK organisations to teach others to get a better understanding of the online world, and how to critically analyse the content they see, thereby helping them to spot misinformation.

Criticism and Challenges

Criticism or the strategy includes that:

– It is possibly an opportunity missed and is less of a strategy and more a shopping list of useful actions that mirror what’s gone before rather than charting new directions (says LSE’s Professor Sonia Livingstone).

– The strategy appears to blame the user for the problems of the digital world.

– The strategy may be weaker than it could be because it is linked to the Online Safety Bills, so focuses on reducing consumer harms rather than addressing the breadth and depth of the media literacy agenda.

Challenges for the strategy include:

– Exposure to misinformation and disinformation can be influenced by changes to algorithm design and content feeds, thereby meaning that tech companies have a part to play.

– Motivations for believing (and wanting to spread) misinformation are varied, can be complicated and, therefore, anti-vaxxer mentalities / ‘cult’ type and attitudes are difficult to break down and challenge, even with well-meaning teaching.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

In terms of tackling health emergencies effectively, education and tackling misinformation are vital. Many young people have social media as their main source of news, so giving many other organisations the means to educate young people in how to critically evaluate what they read is well-meaning and could have a value for young people and society as a whole going forward, which in turn will have a value to businesses. However, social media and other platforms use algorithms, which also influence what is presented to young people, which means that tech companies have an important role and responsibility to play in tackling the problem. The problem of misinformation is being tackled to a degree on social media using e.g., fact-checking, and curated news services, but the issue of misinformation is wide, and it is debatable how much of an effect the new strategy will have upon it.  One of the strengths of the new strategy, however, is that it is leveraging the power of many other trusted organisations to help deliver it.

Tech News : Google Provides Insights Into Search Rankings

Google has announced that (US first) Google Search users can click into details that show how their search-result matched certain search-terms (context), thereby giving a further tantalising glimpse into how specific rankings/search engine results are arrived at.

‘About This Result’ Panel

Google says that clicking the three dots next to most of its search engine results will now take users to the  ‘About This Result’ panel where they can see “useful context” about how Google returned results for the query, and find “helpful tips to get more out of Google Search”.

Google says that useful displaying of context is a way of showing searchers some more information about some of the most important factors used by Google Search to connect results to their queries.

Help With SEO?

Although Google has announced this latest addition to its search results as being something of value from a search engine user’s perspective in terms of relevance to “evaluate whether a result might be the one they’re looking for”, the implication is, of course, that this could possibly be reverse engineered to feed into SEO efforts.

Which Contextual Factors Are Shown?

Google says that the search ‘context’ factors that users can see by visiting the ‘About This Result’ panel include:

– Matching keywords: Used by Google to determine whether information is relevant is when a webpage contains the same keywords as a search. 

– Related terms: Google looks for terms that its systems suggest that are related to the words in a query.

– Looking at links: It appears that relevant incoming links are still important as Google decides that pages linking to a page using similar words as the query, is likely to make a page more relevant to a particular search. Google says that this can also be a helpful indicator of whether online content creators seem to regard the page as useful for a particular topic (i.e. the page appears to have authority and be trusted).

– Local relevance: Google’s systems (algorithms) and a user’s given country and location, plus the language used in a search help to guide the relevance of the content delivered in the search engine results for a user’s area, even if a user does not name their location/area in a query/question that is locally focused, e.g. ‘where is the nearest recycling centre?’.

Google has already stated that factors it considers in establishing a searcher’s location include the user’s device location, a user’s labelled places, the home address (set in the Google Home app for the user’s speaker, Smart Display, or Smart Clock), a user’s Location History, previous activity across Google products, and the IP address of the user’s Internet connection.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Clearly, getting a better understanding of just how Google decides upon its search engine rankings is of value to businesses, suppliers of digital marketing services, and even SEO software suppliers because of how it could feed into the improvement of SEO efforts. Higher rankings tend to translate into more clicks. If Google’s assertion that these new contextual insights are related to relevant choices is correct, then a better understanding of how to create pages that are relevant to specific queries (keywords and questions) could lead to more clicks, a greater likelihood of enquiries (conversions), and even more chance of getting a page in the coveted featured snippets/answer boxes at the top of the search results. For Google, this is also a tantalising new way to engage users, and even help retain them by giving them insights that may appear to be of value, and show Google to acting fairly and taking into account factors that appear to stand up to logical questioning.

Featured Article : Billionaire Space Race

In this article, we look at some of the lighter aspects of the technological achievement that was the recent Blue Origin rocket flight, and we look at the vision behind it.

Space Passengers

The recent flight of the rocket containing and funded by (richest man in the world and Amazon Founder) Jeff Bezos yielded pictures of the passengers enjoying an 11-minute space experience, an interesting back story about the oldest passenger aboard, and appears to have provided a source of comic material, criticism, and inspiration.  With this in mind, here’s a look at a few of the lighter and perhaps less-publicised stories about the flight.

Sorry, I’m Busy!

News broadcasts highlighted the story of how Blue Origin’s commercial space flight crew included Wally Funk, an 82-year-old woman who trained to be an astronaut in the 1960s but was overlooked for a space mission because she was a woman, and who has now become the oldest person to go to space. The reports also featured 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, who is the son of Joes Daemen, CEO of Dutch private equity firm Somerset Capital Partners and who has now become the youngest person to fly to space. Daemen paid for the seat on the flight, but what was not widely publicised in reports was the fact that the person who won the auction ahead of Mr Daemen by paying $28 million to go on the flight with Bezos, his brother, and Funk was an as-yet unnamed person who reportedly couldn’t go on that particular flight because they were ‘busy’ due to “scheduling conflicts”!

It has been reported that the unnamed busy person who appears to have double-booked themselves will be able to carry over their auction prize and fly on a future New Shepard mission instead.

Rocket Shape (and Jeff Bezos) Ridiculed

The Blue Origin rocket’s allegedly ‘phallic’ shape has also been mocked. For example, US comedian/host of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon joked that the rocket looked like “R2D2 took some Viagra”, as well as mocking Jeff Bezos for wearing a cowboy hat saying that he looked like a “mash-up between Buzz Lightyear and Woody”.

Moral Viewpoint

In addition to the comedy memes and videos doing the rounds on the Internet, others focused on how billionaires appeared happy to spend fortunes indulging in their own personal space races while the money spent could have solved some much bigger human problems on earth (e.g. hunger, disease, pollution, etc).

Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000 and funded the space tourism/exploration company using money through selling shares of Amazon stock. Mr Bezos has said that he’ll sell approximately $1 billion of Amazon stock each year to fund the Blue Origin company.

Wings Clipped?

Another part of the mission that may not have gone so well is the possibility that, due to changes in the rules of US Federal Aviation Administration (coincidentally, brought into effect the same day as the Blue Origin flight!), Jeff Bezos and his crew may not be eligible to officially receive their astronaut wings.  It may be this way because the crew were essentially passengers in a rocket that was controlled from the ground (i.e. the crew didn’t have any hands-on control of the rocket and may not have carried out activities during the flight that were essential to public safety or contributed to human space flight safety). It is also unlikely that this particular crew were involved in any science missions.

It has been reported, however, that some of those on board Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spacecraft (who also went to the edge of space shortly earlier) may have been assessing cabin hardware or conducting experiments related to suborbital flight which could mean that they would be eligible receive their astronaut wings.

Beaten By Richard Branson?

Although the world witnessed Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic’s space mission days earlier, tweets from the Blue Origin team appear to suggest that the Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane didn’t technically go high enough to make it into what is commonly understood to be space.

Why?

Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos (plus their passengers) are not the first commercial space travellers / ‘astronauts’, and these have not been the first commercial space flights.  Although these first missions may appear to have done little more than fulfil the ambitions and dreams of the company owners and a lucky few and test the ‘experience’ that future passengers will get for their money, the reasons for the flights are more serious with a vision in mind that’s linked to earth benefits in future.  For example, as stated on the Blue Origin website, “Blue Origin was founded by Jeff Bezos with the vision of enabling a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth. In order to preserve Earth, Blue Origin believes that humanity will need to expand, explore, find new energy and material resources, and move industries that stress Earth into space.”

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Whatever the arguments and criticisms, the flights by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are real technological achievements that appear to have more far-reaching and potentially beneficial visions behind them than simply billionaires offering expensive joyrides to other rich people. These two privately funded crafts are impressive, re-usable, and in a way, may make us feel that we are heading closer to a future that we have been watching in science fiction films for years, where getting beyond the boundaries of our struggling planet is possible for more people. As mentioned in the Blue Origin vision, the flight may be one of many early steps towards opportunities, resources, materials, energy and getting a different perspective that could be of benefit to earth and its inhabitants. Technology is also likely to be advanced as each new space challenge is met, and at the very least, the flights have provided some excitement and interest at a time when the world has been focused on battling some very serious earthbound challenges that have been making the future feel more uncertain.

Tech Insight : Why Is Printer Ink So Expensive?

After a recent ‘Which?’ survey found that some branded printer ink costs more than some champagnes, we take a look at the reasons why printer ink is so expensive.

The Recent ‘Which?’ Survey

The survey by consumer watchdog Which? asked more than 10,000 inkjet printer owners about their ink shopping experiences regarding both original-branded and third-party brands.  Not only did the survey find that there were (as has been the case for a long time) big differences between the price of branded and third-party printer ink cartridges, but also that “Branded ink from popular printer manufacturers is crazily expensive. Per millilitre, it’s more expensive than some of the most luxurious liquids, 32-year-old Scotch whisky and champagne included.” In fact, Which? found that Ink bought from the manufacturer can be up to 286 percent more expensive than buying third-party inks.

Reasons

Which? conducts annual surveys about printer ink prices and performance and third-party ink brands often rate at the top of their tables for factors such as ease-of-use (cartridges), print quality and value for money. If cheaper third-party ink cartridges are valued so much by customers, the question must be asked, why is printer ink, particularly branded printer ink, so expensive?

The reasons why some printer ink suppliers can successfully charge higher prices include:

– In buyer-behaviour terms, the general effect of brand-power on consumers perception, trust, and choice, plus the motivation to avoid negative reinforcement, and post-purchase dissonance are reasons why higher-priced branded cartridges may be purchased. Consumers are generally conditioned to believe that ‘you get what you pay for’ and are more likely to trust the ink which has the same brand as the printer and may assume that buying the same brand will give them a better chance of satisfaction and of avoiding a negative outcome and negative feelings about their choices and their judgement. 

– Some customers believe that third-party ink cartridges won’t work in their printer.  Which? found that although almost half of printer ink buyers (43 percent) have this concern when, in fact, only 11 percent of printer ink buyers have actually found this to be the case.

– According to Which?, unlike other inkjet printers, HP printers use ‘dynamic security’, which recognises cartridges that aren’t HP branded and stops them from working.  This effectively stops customers from buying cheaper, third-party cartridges, thereby allowing HP to maintain higher prices. It is worth noting however that HP says that customers have the option to use HP Instant Ink, which is a subscription service where, it is claimed, that customers could save up to 70 percent.

– As highlighted in the Which? survey, 30 percent of people think that third-party inks are more likely to leak and could damage their printer. This belief is another reason why higher-priced branded cartridges are often purchased instead of lower-cost alternatives that are equal in performance.

– Selling the printer as a loss leader (i.e. selling the printer at a low price and the cartridges at a high price) is another way of tying customers into buying the compatible ink at a high profit-margin.

– Using distribution tactics such as striking deals with big shops/supermarkets/chain stores could enable big printer (ink) brands to limit the sale of cheaper, compatible, third-party alternatives.

– Using pricing tactics such as price skimming (i.e. simply charging a high price to customers with price inelastic demand) is another way that printer/ink big brands could charge higher prices.

HP Says…

Taking HP as an example of a company that may charge higher prices for its ink, as highlighted in a reported presentation by Thom Brown, marketing manager at HP back in 2010, some possible reasons for the high price of ink are/were:

– The price of the technology involved in making the inks. For example, HP (at the time) was spending $1 billion a year on ink research and development to make inks that could withstand heating, vaporisation, and being squirted at 30 miles per hour/36,000 drops per second through a tiny nozzle to dry almost instantly.

– Each system having a different way of using ink or a different drop size could make it difficult to compare different types/brands of ink, solely based just on the volume of liquid.

– Industry methods for measuring page yield may be confusing to consumers and may not enable accurate price comparisons.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The Which? study appears to show that although some situations may lead some customers to believe that they must buy higher-priced branded inks e.g., HP’s ‘dynamic security’, performance between branded and third-party inks, according to those surveyed, is not different in many cases.  For example, people gave similar print quality ratings for original and third-party inks, with 16 non-branded inks coming out ahead of Brother, Canon, Epson, and HP.  This could indicate that many buyers may be confused by marketing messages and mistaken beliefs. It is, of course, difficult to dispute any claims about the technology of any particular inks pushing up the price but as Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert points out, which ink to put in a printer should be “a personal choice and not dictated by the make of your printer”. It may be fair for buyers to conclude, therefore, that the higher prices of branded cartridges compared to third-party are more based upon consumer-beliefs and marketing differences, although it is up to each customer to choose.  Which? provides its guide to the best cheap ink cartridges and where to buy them here: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/printers-and-ink/article/best-cheap-printer-ink/best-cheap-ink-cartridges-aaOXG7F0Tgol.

Tech Tip – Using The Windows Clipboard History

If you’ve copied and pasted several items today but need to quickly and easily go back and use something you pasted earlier, you can use the clipboard history in Windows 10. Here’s how:

– To open the clipboard history, press the Windows logo key + V (and then select Turn on if it’s not on already).

– Find the item in the list (most recent at the top) and select it. Once selected, this is automatically copied back onto the clipboard and can be pasted again.

– To remove any items from the clipboard history list, click on the three dots next to the item and select ‘delete’.

– If you’d like to sync your clipboard items to your computer and access them from any other Windows 10 device, select Start > Settings > System > Clipboard and then select ‘On’ under ‘Sync across devices’.

Featured Article : New 365 “Cloud PC” From Microsoft

Microsoft has announced its new hybrid Windows 365 cloud service where the operating system is stored in Microsoft’s Cloud and which securely streams each user’s apps, data, and settings to personal or corporate devices, acting as a full Windows desktop PC in the cloud.

New Era of Hybrid Personal Computer

Microsoft is calling the new subscription (SaaS) Windows 365 service (which is a simplified version of its Azure Virtual Desktop) as a “new era of hybrid personal computing” because it “draws on the power of the cloud and the capabilities of the device”.

Work From Anywhere, On Any Device, Pick Up Where You Left Off

The new Windows 365 service enables the streaming of a full Windows desktop from the cloud.  With the service, Windows 10 and 11 users can:

– Stream all their personalised applications, tools, data, and settings from the cloud across any device including a Mac, iPad, Linux device, or Android.

– Work from anywhere (e.g. a hotel room or a tablet from their car) and pick up where they left off because their individual PC in the cloud remains the same, even when switching devices.

Supports Business Apps

Windows 365 cloud service also supports business apps such as Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Power Platform, and Microsoft is offering to stand by its promise of app compatibility with App Assure, a Microsoft service that helps customers with 150 or more users fix any app issues they might run into at no additional cost.

Ideal For Remote Working

The fact that users can experience their whole, individual Windows PC streamed through to any chosen device from the cloud and saved/back-up in the cloud for whenever they log on makes it ideal for remote working and for the many businesses that look like continuing flexible working practices post-pandemic.  As Microsoft points out, “we’re seeing a new world of work emerge. Organizations everywhere have transformed themselves through virtual processes and remote collaboration. And as people embrace hybrid work—with people returning to the office, continuing to work from home, or some mix of the two—things will be different all over again”.

Microsoft also points to the finding of its recent Work Trend Index as proof of the need for a cloud-based hybrid solution of this kind.  The Index has boiled down a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries plus an analysis of trillions of productivity and labour signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn to arrive at some key statistics and 7 trends.

For example, the Work Trend Index found that 73 percent of workers now want flexible remote work options to stay, but 67 percent also want more in-person collaboration, post-pandemic. 

Analytics and Watchdog Service

The 365 cloud service also has built-in analytics that looks at connection health across networks to make sure Cloud PC users can reach everything they need on the network to be productive. The analytics are not only able to identify Cloud PC environments where a user’s performance needs aren’t being met, but also give recommendations and enable upgrades for users at the touch of a button, thereby saving time, simplifying problem-solving and quickly boosting productivity.

Zero Trust Architecture

The Zero Trust Architecture means that security needs can be met by storing and securing information in the cloud (not on the device) and using Multifactor authentication (MFA) to verify any login or access attempt to a Cloud PC through integration with Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD).

Solves Some Old Problems

The fact that the individual Windows desktop PCs are stored securely in (and streamed from) the cloud as and when needed could solve a lot of traditional IT management problems.  For example, this hybrid system looks likely to give business greater flexibility and scalability, help productivity and support innovation by making remote work and collaboration easier, tackle many of the hardware challenges (cost and maintenance), allow faster problem solving (watchdog and diagnostics), and help reduce security risks and threats. Microsoft is also keen to stress the simplicity of the service.

When?

Microsoft says that the new 365 cloud service will be “generally available later this calendar year”, although it looks set to launch for business users from August 2. 

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The new Windows 365 cloud service sees Microsoft adapting and building upon its existing, popular Azure platform and virtualisation technology to try and create a hybrid service that should appeal to business users, particularly at a time where effectively managing the challenges of flexible (hybrid) and remote working look like being ongoing trends. This service also enables Microsoft to expand its subscription model and will appeal to the large businesses that are now ready to commit more to the cloud. The power, control, flexibility, simplicity, and security aspects of the service are also likely to appeal to businesses that need to be able to manage their computing needs and maximise the possibility of improved productivity at a time which seems very uncertain and where there are already enough risks to cope with in the rapidly changing business environment.

Tech-Insight : What Is 2FA?

Two-Factor-Authentication (2FA) refers to another piece of information that users are required to provide (in addition to username and password login details) to access a website/platform/account. Requiring another piece of information protects against others accessing the account if they simply know the username and password.

Reasons

The reasons for 2FA include:

– A huge increase in cybercrime and data breaches in recent years, and increasingly sophisticated attack methods that are more widely available, many of which can be bought off-the-shelf for relatively small amounts.

– Simply relying on passwords has become less safe.  This is because passwords are frequently stolen or cracked (a computer recently set a record by guessing 100 billion passwords per second), and we can only successfully remember shorter, more uniform, or more memorable strings of characters, and consequently these often end up being partly words, names, dates, or a combination (i.e. easier passwords to crack). Many people also still choose really simple passwords.  For example, in 2019, a study by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) into breached passwords revealed that 123456 featured 23 million times, making it the most widely used password on breached accounts.  The study also showed that the second-most popular string was 123456789 and that the words “qwerty” and “password”, and the string 1111111 all featured in the top five most popular breached passwords.  Christian names and the names of favourite football teams were found to be widely used as passwords. Also, password sharing (using the same password between many sites and platforms) is an all-too-common high-risk strategy. Add to this Moore’s law (the idea that computer-processing power available at a certain price doubles roughly every two years) and the fact that cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated in their methods and can buy cyber-attack tools and lists relatively cheaply on the Dark Web, and the risks of weak passwords is even more clear.

– Legislation, compliance, reputation, and tightened security policies have meant that online sites and apps must offer tighter security (i.e. not just passwords).

Living With Passwords

Ways of making passwords more secure include basic specifications of what passwords must contain (how many and what characters), indications of password strength, and the use of password managers (as browser extensions).

2FA Types

2FA is usually based around something you know (e.g. a PIN or answer to a security question), something you have (e.g., a smartphone).  Multi-factor can also be based on something you are/something that’s inherent (e.g. biometrics). Popular types of 2FA include:

– SMS. Having a code texted to a phone number that has been linked with the account.

– Security questions.  Several answers to personal questions about the account holder are stored securely in the account and on login, the user is asked for the answer to one question.

– Hardware tokens. These are small physical devices (like a key fob) that generate a new numeric code every 30-seconds.

– Software tokens/ authenticator apps, such as Google Authenticator. These also generate a stream of new numeric codes that are valid for less than a minute, and the app is linked to an account by scanning a QR code.

– Push Notifications. Websites and apps send the user (to their device) a notification that an authentication attempt is taking place. The device owner can then view the details and approve or deny access. This can help prevent social engineering and/or human error-reliant attacks such as phishing, or man-in-the-middle.

– Biometrics. For example, this could be a fingerprint or face scan.

The Future

Although 2FA has gone a long way to making accounts more secure, the future is likely to be passwordless, based upon biometrics and, therefore, multi-factor e.g. fingerprint scans, face scans, iris scans, voice recognition and more.  Biometrics is, however, in its relatively early stages of development thereby making it vulnerable to a degree, and this in itself has led to it being tricked/faked (e.g. voice recognition). Also, biometrics can’t be remotely revoked, and if a fingerprint, for example, is compromised, it can’t be replaced (as a password can).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Most businesses are no longer able to remain compliant with data laws or to act responsibly towards staff, customers, and stakeholders by trusting just passwords. 2FA has added a valuable, additional layer of security, with the drawback being that it still relies upon human action and decisions, thereby leaving a possible human error element. The addition of biometrics seems more difficult again to get around, but the increasing sophistication and wider availability of attack methods are always threats to all security systems.

Tech News : New Lease of Life For Microsoft Paperclip ‘Clippy’

Following a vote of likes via Twitter and Instagram, Microsoft says it will be bringing back ‘Clippy’ the paperclip virtual assistant, but in as new, friendly-looking Emoji.

Clippy

From 1997 and until the mid-2000s, Microsoft Office users were used to seeing a paperclip symbol popping up on the screen to give help and advice about a wide variety of tasks. Unfortunately, ‘Clippy’ the paperclip was phased out after many users found the symbol’s constant appearances to be more annoying than helpful, and it was not included in XP. Users of Apple or Google smartphones, however, will still only be able to see the basic, old version of Clippy as a 2D paperclip.

Tweet & Insta Post

Microsoft’s Insta post and Tweet included a picture of the new, 3D emoji ‘Clippy’ with the massage “If this gets 20k likes, we’ll replace the paperclip emoji in Microsoft 365 with Clippy.”  As it turned out, that number of likes was surpassed within a day.

Part of Bigger Emoji Re-Design Push

The resurrection of the modernised ‘Clippy’ was, in fact, a way for Microsoft to help publicise a general upgrading of all its emojis to 3D versions ahead of last Saturday’s ‘World Emoji Day’. July 17 is the date of the annual “emoji day” which is reported to be the day chosen by the London-based founder of Emojipedia, Jeremy Burge.

Will Clippy Be Annoying Again?

Clippy was brought back for only one day back in 2019 as an animated pack of sticker freebies for Teams software users on Microsoft’s official Office developer GitHub page.

This now inevitable second return of Clippy has prompted many who remember the original Clippy to ask whether the emoji-fied version will be used in a way that could be as annoying as the first generation Clippy. It is, however, unclear how Clippy will be deployed and received this second (technically third) time around.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Microsoft has used World Emoji Day to introduce a branding element that it has been waiting to re-introduce for some time, and to give leverage to its promotion of the upgrading and modernising of all its emoji characters. This announcement, plus other recent Tweets from Microsoft, such as showing a screenshot of Tetris for Windows in 1990, helps to remind users of the brand history, nostalgia, and their connection with the brand over time, thereby, hopefully strengthening loyalty and triggering other positive memories about the Microsoft brand, which can only help as it steps up its competition with Apple.

Tech News : WhatsApp Without A Smartphone

Facebook’s WhatsApp is testing a new feature that will allow users to send messages without using just their smartphone.

Tied To A Phone

WhatsApp is currently linked to just a user’s phone, and to use the Web/desktop version, the user must select ‘Linked Device’ (formerly ‘WhatsApp Web’) mode to scan an on-screen QR code.

Multi Device Experience

WhatsApp is currently beta testing multi-device capability for WhatsApp which means that WhatsApp can be used on your phone and up to four other non-phone devices simultaneously, even if your phone battery is dead. This device-capability enables each companion device to connect with the user’s WhatsApp independently while still maintaining the same level of privacy and security through end-to-end encryption.

Smartphones Out of the Equation

Currently, a smartphone (app) is used as the primary device for WhatsApp with any companion devices maintaining a persistent (secure) connection with the phone and simply mirroring its contents on their own UI.

Removes Common ‘Hurdles’

Facebook says that the new multi-device architecture is a way of “taking smartphones out of the equation” and will remove “hurdles” such as avoiding companion devices getting slower or frequently disconnecting because the phone has to do all the work, may itself have a poor connection or low battery charge, or may be subject to the OS having problems.

Also, only having one companion device operative at a time means that people can’t be on a call in Portal while also being able to check their messages on their PC for example.

What About Security?

Facebook says that the new multi-device architecture will still be secure because the WhatsApp server will maintain a mapping between a person’s account and all their device identities. Also, extended security codes, Automatic Device Verification, QR code scanning plus biometric authentication will protect users from threats such as eavesdropping on communications.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Facebook sees this latest upgrade of WhatsApp as a way of solving a few issues, and making it even more appealing to today’s multi-device owning (business) users. Facebook has been working hard over the last year to cement WhatsApp’s place as the go-to free, secure messaging/chat platform and to retain the loyalty that it already has among business users. For example, in November, WhatsApp stepped up its security for users by introducing the “disappearing messages” whereby users can opt-in to placing a 7-day time-limit on read and unread messages before they are erased. Also, back in December, WhatsApp announced that it would be introducing voice and video calling to its WhatsApp Web desktop as part of its plan to improve the interoperability of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, and to help Facebook to compete with other messaging and cloud-based collaborative working /communications platforms. This latest update is another feature that will add value for business users and is another opportunity to remind users of the key benefits of the WhatsApp platform that haven’t changed which are that it offers value – it is free, it’s effective, it’s widely used by other businesses and customers, (and therefore compatible), and its end-to-end encryption (and new security upgrade) means that it continues to offer security.

Tech Tip – Help Improve Your Productivity With Microsoft’s MyAnalytics

If you’d like to get data-driven insights into your work habits to improve your productivity, you could try Microsoft 365 MyAnalytics platform. Here’s how:

– Sign into your Microsoft 365 account.

– Select MyAnalytics from the app drawer or click on the 9-dot square menu (top left) and select the ‘All Apps’ link and click on the ‘MyAnalytics’ link.

– Here you can get insights into (and address issues like) ‘Focus’ (time you typically have leftover to focus on your tasks outside of meetings, emails, chats, and calls), ‘Well-Being’ /’Quiet Days’ (days without interruptions), ‘Collaboration’ (the percentage of your time spent in meetings, emails, chats, and calls), and ‘Network’ (whether you are proactively managing your network of collaborators).

– MyAnalytics also shows what percentage of your week spent in meetings and what percentage of your calendar is booked when the week starts and makes recommendations to help.