Facebook Data & Analytics Event

I have been super lucky to get invited a couple of weeks ago to this amazing event on Tuesday at Facebook’s London HQ. Of course, I couldn’t say no. It was a mix of interesting talks and informal networking around data and analytics.

Also at this event, the Geekettes had their official re-launch, introducing their new London group leaders. Geekettes is a global organisation for women in technology, founded by Jess Erickson and Denise Philipp in Berlin. With 9 hubs around the world, I am very proud to have joined them as a member after this event.

The four talks of the evening revolved around the ways in which Facebook is handling its large amount of data for advertising, product quality and research.

Manohar Paluri, researcher at Facebook AI, offered a great talk about how they use AI to achieve the company’s mission – connecting everyone. He focused on computer vision and what role it plays in enhancing accessibility. For instance, blind users can benefit from great voice overs describing what a photo their friends have shared looks like. Recent research even goes into segmentation of images or videos, allowing users to hover over parts of the image and find out what is in that area: a lake, the sky, a person, a dog, anything! Last month, The Verge published an article exactly on these latest developments.

Another great project he talked about was identifying where people are in the world by using AI on satellite images. Wired wrote an article about it earlier this year. I particularly liked his view on AI, which concluded his presentation – the aim is to “provide super powers to humans with the help of AI”. It is amazing to realise that things we usually take for granted like our sight, voice or our hearing, represent for others super powers. And AI is great at doing that! This reminded me of another brilliant initiative a developer from Microsoft London, with whom I had the pleasure to work, had of using AI to help blind people understand their environment.

Serhad Bolukcu then discussed about bringing analytical discipline to marketing, as he is managing the department dedicated to empowering Facebook pages of small and medium businesses. He presented the way they use AI to help them analyse the vast amount of data they gather and what tools and algorithms they use.

I also really like Maya Bruhis’ talk on moving fast with stability, an analogy to Facebook’s mantra “move fast and break things”. As the Product Quality lead in Analytics, she is very much responsible for making sure the platform is working properly, the daily code releases don’t break anything crucial and they are preventing as much as possible any incidents (I had no idea people started calling the police when Facebook was down #facebookdown).

She briefly explained how they are achieving these goals and what are the data sources they use as signals. She compared really nicely the work that they do as making sure that Facebook’s “heart rate” is in a healthy condition at all times.

I’ll leave you with some photos I took during the event.

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Facebook Hackathon

This weekend has been an amazing experience! 24 hours of non stop coding and fun. The Facebook team offered us the most amazing time, with great food (all the time), drinks, snacks, music and raffles, everything you ever wanted.

I met my team on the day and we quickly brainstormed ideas before the hack officially started around 12:30 on Saturday. I was very keen on developing a project for social good. So I researched before the hackathon the internet.org initiative and their commitment to make Internet accessible to everyone in the world. Their guidelines for developers suggested eligible apps should not include rich data such as video, high resolution images or anything that would require large HTTP responses. As a result, we thought, what is text only and awesome? Code!

So we decided we should make an app to teach children in developing countries to code by sending them short challenges that they could solve, either via the mobile app or offline, through text messages. So if you would send a piece of code in a text message, it would compile on the server and a reply would be sent with the output of your code or an error message if something wasn’t right.

For that, we thought we should create a new programming language, easy to understand for children. We called it Lilo (from Lilo&Stitch) and it complies to Python on server side and also maps to JavaScript on client-side. We thought of a funny and childish syntax for our new language. A variable would be a box, since you can store “things” in a box. Boxes will be labelled with names, just as a normal variable, will be manipulated and they would be able to store any type of object – numbers, strings, boolean values etc. Boxes are also resizable and can store more than one object. In terms of commands, to output something we defined say ‘..’, as a natural command to allow your code to say something. Instead of functions, we decide to call them dogs. A dog is usually called and can return something you’ve instructed it to. A dog knows how to do only one thing and when required, it “fetches” you what you need in your program. Moreover, a dog is happy to get called by you anytime you need it. Loops and conditional statements would stay the same in Lilo, while a line end will be marked by a dot, as it is easier to type in a text message than a semicolon.

The Lilo to Python compiler was written from scratch during the hack. For the SMS processing we used Twilio, a cloud service that handles this sort of interaction with the server. We’ve tested the system from multiple phone numbers and it always works, just like in my screenshot below. The hashtags #bc and #ec just stand for begin code and end code, needed in parsing the content of the text message for testing purposes.

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On the frontend side, when Internet was available, we created the Ionic app, with a simple interface for 9 basic lessons and Facebook authentication. Since it addresses children, we also integrated a story, based on Facebook’s sticker character, Biscuit. It would teach children how to code through funny stories. For example, to explain the loops, we imagined the student and Biscuit are playing hide and seek, so the student had to come up with a program in Lilo to count form 1 to 10. When we introduced box assignment, we said Biscuit is giving the student 2 boxes and they have to fill them in with their name and phone number and label them so that they won’t forget what’s inside. The code would be syntactically checked in a live code editor inside the app, CodeMirror, based on JavaScript. Also, the code was mapped client-side from Lilo to JS, so little to no server-side requests had to be made.

In addition to all this, on the app’s Facebook page, users can post a snippet of Lilo code and receive the output of the compiled code as a comment to their post. This is making use of Facebook APIs and scrapes the page for new Lilo code posts every 30 seconds.

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Even though we didn’t win the hack, it was amazingly fun! My team was purely awesome and we had a great time hacking and sharing stories! The winning team developed a new Terminal experience for developers, enriched will all sorts of new features.

The project is available on GitHub and you can access the app here (it has bugs, we know, but it’s a hack!). Here are some screenshots and photos I took during the hackathon.

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The aftermath:

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The team:

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Facebook’s Updated News Feed

If this sounds familiar, don’t worry, you’ve heard it before. One year ago, Facebook promised a new news feed, with improved design elements, to make it look like a “personalized newspaper.”. Unfortunately, after user testing, many users felt confused and did not seem to get along very well with that version.

Consequently, Facebook decided to tweak it for the last months and bring something that would satisfy the vast majority of users. This time is for good. The updated news feed comes only with visual design changes, all functionalities remaining exactly the same. Mac users will see Helvetica, while PC users Arial. In this update, they were looking for something that felt more “like a system font”, notes Greg Marra, product manager.

I am truly glad Facebook cherishes so much usability and puts users first. It shows a great role model for each and every other web application, as they truly are a source of inspiration for anyone who wants to be ‘heard’ in the online world. Twitter is another great example of simplicity and good design features. Facebook follows the same lines now, putting great emphasis on visual elements, simplifying fonts and clearly separating the content.

Don’t panic if there’s no change on your news feed right now, they will be rolling it out for the next couple of weeks. You will soon get to experience the new ‘face’ of Facebook!

Find out more on the source: TechCrunch


Facebook buys Instant Messaging App WhatsApp

It looks like this is the ‘news of the day’! Facebook announced today that it will buy WhatsApp for the beautiful sum of $19 billion.

Some say it’s $16 billion, but in fact, there are to be paid $4bn in cash, $12bn in Facebook shares and also $3bn in vesting restricted stock, which all need to be paid in 4 years. An interesting fact about this story is the fact that WhatsApp’s co-founder, Brian Acton has been rejected by Facebook 4 years ago, when he was applying for a job there.

Moreover, this is the world’s largest acquisition ever of a venture-capital-backed startup. Who would have known WhatsApp was simply a startup looking for funds in the beginning? The ones who invested $8 million in WhatsApp in 2011 are the company called Sequoia.

The news comes, after WhatsApp’s CEO, Jan Koum, announced two months ago that they had “no plans to sell, IPO, exit, [get new] funding…We’re trying to build a sustainable company that’s here for the next 100 years.”

At the moments WhatsApp can pride itself with a number of 400 million users each month, growing each day by 1 million new registered accounts. It looks like instant messaging apps are quite popular at the moment. Just last week, another such popular app called Viber, has been bought by the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten for $900 million. Competition is tight in this sector and we’ll have to see who will manage to stay ahead of the game in the long run.


Happy Birthday Facebook on your 10th anniversary!

Today marks a decade since a couple of students at Harvard decided to launch a social network to connect their fellow colleagues. Since then, it has reached an incredible number of lives, connecting people all around the world, and to be more precise I think exactly 206.1 billion friend connections.

Other statistics display the fact that only in December 2013, there have been more than 6 billion Likes, not during the whole month, but per day! Since launching Facebook Photos in October 2005, there have been 400 billion photos shared. In his message on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, states that:

Today, only one-third of the world’s population has access to the internet. In the next decade, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to connect the other two-thirds.

This showcases the great opportunities the internet has to offer and I always strive to convince people that Facebook is not a harmful tool to use which is going to transform you into a robot and destroy all your real life social interactions. If they can all see the bright side of it, they would understand, it’s all about how you interact with Facebook as an individual. Over this past decade, it has helped people raise money for various causes and help those in need by arranging events and inviting people to attend. It has helped small businesses (over 25 billion small businesses Pages) become known to a great number of people and allowed marketeers to benefit from Facebook Advertising to promote their services or products. It helped people gather and support environmental causes and ease their way of expressing their political and social needs. It offers the right to free expression. It is able to connect you with childhood friends you’ve probably lost touch with for more than 20 years (7.8 trillion messages sent using Facebook).

As long as you know how to use your privacy settings and therefore choose who can view the content you share, there is nothing wrong in having your own Facebook profile. Below is a timeline created by Facebook which showcases their achievements so far:

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Here you can also view a wonderful gallery that walks you through the changes that occurred in Facebook’s design from 2004 until now. Later today, we’ll also see the release of LookBack, a way to relive your digital history on the network, depending on how long you have had a Facebook account for.

Facebook intends to improve each and every day, and just yesterday, they introduced Paper for iPhones in the US, a standalone application for reading and posting news. It is a product of the new Creative Labs department, and brings a new sort of Facebook experience tailored for smartphones. Check out this video to find out more:

https://vimeo.com/85421325

Infographic Source: Facebook

 


Will there be a Facebook Phone?

This question has been long-rumored and led people to make all sorts of presumptions around the subject. Well, recently, more exactly on 4th of April, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled more details about what is to be called Facebook Home.

This is not of course, an actual phone, but more of an interface for Android devices. The phone that will have this already integrated is created by the taiwanese company – HTC and its name will be HTC First.

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Image of HTC First with Facebook Home integrated

This extended smartphone integration, comes as a normal step forward from Facebook, a company which is more than aware of the traffic the mobile devices bring and more importantly, will bring, to their social media platform. They intend to make your customer experience as personal as it can be and different specialists which have seen Facebook Home running, say that it is not at all aggressive. Things such as notifications are beautifully integrated within your phone, while the major feature is the Cover Feed. This will replace your lock and home screens with your News Feed.

This interface will be officially launched at the end of next week, on 12th of April. All this changes may seem quite scary for some, maybe, as I have already heard a lot of people saying “I will soon delete my Facebook account”, because it causes an addiction we feel we can no longer control. What Facebook is trying to do is convince you in any way that it is normal at this time, in the 21st Century, to be connected as much as possible, to be part of this social network revolution. If all this will be just a trend, it’s a question to be debated. But in order to make it clear that this is not just a phase, Facebook works hard each day, improving and adding more to what they offer, making sure they stay up-to-date with everything the users want and need.

Source photo : Ars Technica


Send gifts through Facebook

Since September 2012, Facebook announced that they will promote a new feature – Give a gift. As today’s the birthday of someone really special in my life, I thought this post would be just perfect!

Any time one of your friends will post something that calls for congratulations – it’s their birthday, they passed a tough exam, they had a baby, they got engaged, they got married – you’ll have the option to send them a gift.You don’t even have to know their address. They’ll just receive a notification and they will enter by themselves the shipping details.

You can choose from a series of companies who have contracts with Facebook such as Target or Starbucks. The price of the gift will remain unknown for your friend, but he/she may choose a different size, colour or style for their present. They can even swap it for another similarly priced gift before the actual present is shipped. One can also choose to send digital gifts such as gift cards.

How to send a gift

Unfortunately, at the moment, this option is only available if you and your friend are located in the United States of America. Hopefully, they will consider to expand this service. Probably they are just testing it in the US, as it’ll be quite hard to manage such a feature worldwide, considering shipping costs and everything. Just another post to make you think how the future will be so much influenced by digital. I’m glad I can witness this transition from traditional to unconventional. Just hope we won’t forget the “good old days” when you actually surprised somebody face-to-face showing up with a gift and warm congratulations at their door.

For more informations and a lovely video access this source : Facebook Gifts


New design for Facebook

Last night, Facebook presented the next design for their News Feed. It offers a more tidier look, more white space, so it will be easier for us to read all our friend’s posts. If you want to, you can join here the waiting list, so you can be one of the first to experience this new design.

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People have always complained about the News Feed being to cluttered so here is the solution Facebook came up with! You’ll now have more choices to customize your feeds : All Friends, Music, Photos, Following, Games, and so on. This new clean look will be available to you everywhere you go, as it will be also implemented into the mobile and tablet versions.

So this is their “Spring Clean” for the News Feed. Hope you’ll like it!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=YaQQHYQHnMk

Source: Facebook