1. Good Monday Morning

It’s March 14th. Happy π day. Chances are good that you’re enjoying this morning more than the football memorabilia collector who paid $518,000 on Saturday for the football used for Tom Brady’s last career touchdown pass only to learn Sunday night that Brady had un-retired.

2. News To Know Now

Quoted:“The spread of biometric surveillance tools like palm scans and facial recognition now threatens to [transform] these spaces into hot spots for ICE raids, false arrests, police harassment, and stolen identities.“— An open letter signed by Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave’s Tom Morello to the parent company of Colorado’s Red Rocks. The iconic venue scrapped plans to use Amazon’s palm scanning technology.

a) Autonomous vehicles no longer need human controls such as a steering wheel, according to new regulations from the U.S. government. The request was made by GM subsidiary Cruise which argued that its Origin podlike vehicle going into production next year does not have human-centric operating features.

b) Google announced plans to purchase cybersecurity firm Mandiant for $5.4 billion. The acquisition of the Reston, Virginia, based company is Google’s second largest purchase ever and is expected to become part of the Google Cloud division. Google parent Alphabet began the year with more than $139 billion in cash on hand.

3. Search Engine News — Google & The Importance of Internal Links

No, more than that. Seriously. Build a strategy. Google search exec John Muller confirmed last week that internal linking is “super critical” for search purposes. And he says that your normal navigation linking is fine and all, but doesn’t replace an internal linking strategy.

Part of Mueller’s comments during SEO office hours last week:

“You should really have normal HTML links between the different parts of your website. 

And ideally, you should not just have a basic set of links, but rather you should look at it in a strategic way and think about what do you care about the most and how can you highlight that with your internal linking.”

4. Spotlight Explainer — 2022 Social Media Trends


Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

The short form social media channel is the world’s buzziest platform when you account for the fact that journalists hang out on Twitter.  eMarketer summarized their 2022 social media video report this way, “The percentage of young US digital video viewers who watch video on Instagram and TikTok is within shouting distance of YouTube.”  

In a broad sense, YouTube still owns the viewership crown for audiences over the age of 25 with 68% market share, but Instagram and TikTok are now watched by two-thirds of audiences between the ages of 18 and 24.

There is a huge generation gap
Only 6% of Boomers and 18% of Gen X are watching TikTok. More than 60% of Gen Z is on TikTok. 

But that gap cuts both ways because half of kids 12 and under are on YouTube.

Video rules
It’s not just TikTok. Instagram’s Reels was a hit and moved to Facebook even though Facebook truncates many of the videos there. Statista data for the 2022 social media landscape shows that YouTube remains a close second behind Facebook with 2.5 billion active users, but Instagram is 4th and TikTok is 6th with 1 billion monthly active users. That’s more than twice the monthly user base of Pinterest, Twitter, or Reddit.  Business platform LinkedIn doesn’t even make the top 15.

From pariah to prestigious guest
The Trump administration detested TikTok’s presence. The former president signed a now-revoked Executive Order banning it from operating in the U.S. After the company’s assurances that U.S. data is only housed in the U.S., backed up in Singapore, and not shared with China, the company has been allowed to continue operating in America.

The importance of TikTok’s audience reach was highlighted last week when Biden administration officials shared an online video briefing with several dozen popular TikTok creators. This followed similar outreach last year around the administration’s vaccination drives.

Specialists are necessary
Social video is different from other social media. There’s a very different style and flow to those videos. The platforms are not interchangeable. A client last year didn’t budget for different versions of a video and found themselves having to use hastily re-edited video to advertise on TikTok and other video channels.

The TikTok audience is also not a casual one. U.S. Android users are on TikTok nearly 20 hours every month. That’s up from 13 hours per month just the year before. A brand trying to engage that audience should have experts who do the same.

Special resource: here’s a nifty Hootsuite report with optimal video specs updated for 2022 social media for each platform.

5. Did That Really Happen? — Little Girl With Lollipop and Gun

You may have seen an image of a young girl sitting in the window of a dilapidated building. Her clothes are neat. She has a lollipop in her mouth and a gun cradled in her arms. Her hair is tied back with ribbons and her jeans run into boots that nearly extend to her knee.

She looks like a model.

And she is. The photographer is her father, a hobbyist who staged this and other photos to draw attention to the then-impending war in Ukraine. You can read his statement here.

GMU Professor Shaun Dakin and I tried hard to find the origin of this image as it went viral. One tip-off: despite its virality with hundreds of shares on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, not one well known news organization ran the image. 

Here’s the lesson: ignore the photographer and his family. As the image swept throughout the world and trended on many sites, prayers were offered and people were searching for places where a 9-year-old girl might reasonably be expected to defend a place with a gun more than half her own height. 

None of those people meant any harm, but all were guilty of spreading wartime propaganda.

 6. Following Up — The EU & UK Investigating Google and Facebook’s Jedi Blue

We’ve told you before about Jedi Blue, the Google and Facebook agreement to work together on advertising platforms in exchange for preferential rates. A consortium of U.S. states are suing Google over the agreement and now the EU and United Kingdom have announced parallel antitrust investigations into both companies.

7. Protip — Blurring Images Might Not Work Well

Some privacy advocates wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to un-redact an image. And now Unredacter software is available for anyone to download free. Read this to learn how to best remove information from files that you share.

8. Screening Room — Cheetos Hands Free

Frito-Lay leans hard into the rap against Cheetos, that icky orange stuff on your fingers, in a funny, smart way.

9. Science Fiction World — Tricorders for Cars

Who doesn’t dig watching Dr. McCoy wave a salt and pepper shaker over someone while gravely announcing a medical condition? Now Volvo is doing that for cars at U.S. dealerships. The camera-based AI system checks the underbody, tires, and creates 360-degree scans looking for body damage or rust.

10. Coffee Break — Rating Fictional Professors

Now that anyone can see how previous classes have rated instructors from the unofficial but popular Rate My Professor, perhaps we should check in on the creative writing of people who have rated their favorites from movie and TV history. 

Here is Dr. Indiana Jones at Princeton, Professor Xavier, Professor Minerva McGonagall of Hogwarts, and Professor Charles Kingsfield of Harvard Law (Mr. Hart, Mister Hart…)

11. Sign of the Times

1. Good Monday Morning

It’s March 7th, almost exactly two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In America, we’re now about 2 months away from reaching the horrific milestone of one million deaths. In Mississippi, 1 out of every 245 residents has died. In Vermont, the number is about 1 out of every 1,000 people. Every state falls in between those two extremes.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,415 words — about a 5 minute read.

2. News To Know Now

Quoted:“I am an artist who was raised by an accountant and a businessman … My goal in all of this is to see what’s possible.“— Science fiction author Brandon Sanderson to The New York Times after he raised $1 million on Kickstarter in 35 minutes. By last night with more than 3 weeks to go, the author had raised $25 million from fans for four new books.

a) Samsung is throttling more than 10,000 apps on phones that it has produced since the S10, according to The Verge. The tech site points out that popular performance benchmarking apps are not throttled. The company says it slowed down the apps to manage the amount of heat the phones generate, and that it would ship software to allow consumers to disable the function. That stunning revelation led Ars Technica to ask why they would create software to turn off something needed for the phone to operate.

b) Wordle cheating is a big thing around 7 to 8 a.m., and especially in New Hampshire. That’s the word from word search site WordFinderX. They called out all of northern New England and Washington, D.C. as “the biggest cheaters.” The word most often searched outside New England was “tacit.”

c) U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is issuing a Request for Information about Health Information Misinformation during the pandemic. The deadline to submit comments is May 2. No entities, including technology companies, are required to respond at this stage.

3. Search Engine News — Google Releases Search Trend Insights

The Think With Google team released a set of 16 new search trends in four distinct categories: Sticky Trends, Seasonal Things, Reopening Continued, and Rising Expectations.

Rising Expectations are trends with big growth. They include late night searching, 24/7 customer service, next day flower delivery, and dog friendly restaurants (a thing I didn’t know until now that I wanted).

Sticky Trends were influenced early by the pandemic and remain a high volume search category. This is the group where you’ll find makeup games (literally games about cosmetics), best movies to stream, nursery plants near me, and hair trends for females.

Reopening Continued reflects changing attitudes around socializing as the Omicron wave diminishes. They consist of spring break, cinemas near me, seating charts, and unique things to do in a city.

Seasonal Trends reflect February as only these can: Valentine’s Day nails, figure skating, Winter Olympics, and winter vacation in different locations.

4. Spotlight Explainer — Tech Blocks Russia

Russia’s attack on Ukraine is the first time that many people have seen a war and all of the attendant suffering in streaming media and 24/7. That’s despite years of American combat in Afghanistan, the Yemeni Civil War aided by Saudi Arabia, and conflict in Ethiopia with Eritrea. All three trouble spots experienced more than 10,000 casualties in the last year.

This war has captured American attention for reasons of race, status, and position that are far too complex for a newsletter to tackle. But because of the heightened interest, tech companies are responding in unprecedented ways to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine instead of, say, to Russia’s military incursions in the Syrian Civil War during which Russia has attacked civilian targets for years.

Social media cuts new content and monetization

Every major social media platform has stopped making new content available from Russia including Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube. This follows reports in the world’s media that Russian propaganda was flooding social media.

Facebook, YouTube and others have also cut the ability for Russian companies, including government controlled media, to earn advertising revenue on content. A consensus of too little too late has sprung up around those initiatives.

No major fintech companies are offering payment processing

Mastercard and Visa have suspended operations in Russia and Belarus. They were followed by PayPal, and on Sunday, American Express.

Meanwhile, an inspiring Ukrainian moment came when the country’s Digital Transformation office issued a plea on Twitter for cryptocurrency donations and received more than $50 million in days. Reports this weekend came out that half of the funds have been spent on bulletproof vests, night-vision devices, food packages, and bandages.

That Airbnb meme is accurate, but tread cautiously

Western social media lit up on Friday when memes began circulating that people could buy an Airbnb stay in Ukraine and the money would be transferred to the individuals who were renting out the property. That’s true, and Airbnb quickly waived fees for Ukraine bookings. The big caveat is that you can give money directly to the Ukrainian government or to relief organizations. It’s a sweet story about direct giving, but seems pretty inefficient.

Entertainment and news options are disappearing in Russia

News organizations have stopped reporting from Russia after the Russian government said that journalists printing what it calls “fake news” could face imprisonment for up to 15 years. Among the organizations halting news from and in Russia are CNN, CBS, ABC, the BBC, and probably many more by the time you read this.

Faced with a requirement to carry state-sponsored programming, Netflix has also ceased operating in Russia. They’ve been joined by Apple and Microsoft, who are no longer selling devices or apps in Russia. Meanwhile, Russian teams have been banned from participating in international soccer competitions related to the World Cup. Of all the actions, that one generated immediate and urgent appeals from the Russian government.

5. Did That Really Happen? — Can You Spot Fake News Stories?

With news about the Russian invasion occupying so much attention, there are a constant flurry of news hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation being published. We have previously told you about First Draft’s excellent interactive training that lets you check your news verifying skills.

There are all sorts of resources and quizzes you can use for free. This is worth your time to visit. They also publish a nice, free newsletter and have a free app.

6. Following Up — Nukemap is Popular Again

For a world that didn’t often have nuclear meltdowns or bombings top of mind, the richly detailed Nukemap is a return to decades of Cold War horror. Creator Alex Wellerstein launched the site 10 years ago, and it’s enjoyed surging popularity since the Russian invasion. 

You can target anywhere in the world and control for different factors. It’s macabre, but also fascinating.

7. Protip — Chromebook Expiration Dates

That’s right, Chromebooks, the tablet/laptop hybrid, have an expiration date. Once they reach that date, they won’t update their software. The current time frame is 8 1/2 years, but was previously 5. That’s the period from its release date, not when you activated it. This great WSJ explainer has details, including how to find out your device’s date.

8. Screening Room — Apple Card & Chocolate

A note-perfect short spot from Apple Card about what might happen if you enjoy that candy bar before you get to the register… and can’t find your wallet.

9. Science Fiction World — Google Can Read Your Body Language Without Cameras

This very cool story is an example of how a device can use radar instead of cameras to determine where you are and what you’re doing. Imagine getting a snack or going to the bathroom while watching a movie — and your TV pauses until it senses your return. There are many more applications from driving to sleeping and everything in between.

10. Coffee Break — Heardle

You know about Wordle, and you may have even heard about Quordle, a game that tests you with four words at once. There’s also Worldle for geography, and brand new: Heardle for music.

11. Sign of the Times

1. Good Monday Morning

We’re back. What a busy week ahead. Don’t forget that Lent starts Wednesday. Take solace in Easter being six weeks away if the weather is too cold where you are. 

Today’s Spotlight is 1,329 words — about a 5 minute read.

2. News To Know Now

Quoted:“This was a poor choice of imagery for an NFT. It has not and will not be put up for auction.“— Associated Press spokesperson Lauren Easton after the famous news organization canceled a planned NFT auction showing a boat overcrowded with refugees in the Mediterranean. It was not even the weirdest NFT story lately. Keep reading. We unpack some strange ones in Spotlight Explainer.

a) Facebook and YouTube will no longer allow Russian state media organizations to receive advertising money on their platforms in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both companies continue to receive withering criticism about what is allowed to be monetized. One of the most recent was this post from Harvard’s Neiman Lab about Facebook allowing climate change denial content.

b) Walmart may be in their boat one day soon. The retail giant announced during its quarterly earnings call that it generated $2.1 billion in advertising revenue last year. Walmart is jumping into the deep end of the digital pool with augmented reality, gamification of retail, and yes, NFTs. 

c) What seems to be a coding shortcut made the Mecklenburg County (NC) Registrar of Deeds the target of some highly virulent memes. Counties in the state are responsible for making birth, marriage, land, and death records available online. As part of the same online order flow, people requesting birth certificates or marriage license records were asked if they were named in the record or if it was for someone else. Unfortunately, that code was left in place (although grayed out) for visitors who wanted to purchase death certificates.

3. Search Engine News — Google Acknowledges Cutting Traffic To Pirate Sites & Faces Conspiracy Theories

Google reported this month that a website that receives too many copyright violation notices can expect to experience their search visitor traffic to decrease an average of 89% after Google demotes the website. The data came from a Google report to the U.S. Copyright Office.

Google received an editorial recommendation from The New York Times last week after the newspaper analyzed search results from Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. The analysis was conducted after conservative commentators including Ben Shapiro and Joe Rogan told audiences to use non-Google search engines. The Times says that “Bing and DuckDuckGo surfaced more untrustworthy websites than Google…” while saying that some untrustworthy sites showed in Google results, but less prominently.

4. Spotlight Explainer — NFT Marketplaces Go Bonkers

NFTs Defined

Our first in-depth issue about NFTs was one year ago this week so it was serendipitous to see seemingly the entire NFT marketplace go off the deep end in February.

An NFT is rich content (think image, audio, or video) that has been placed on the same blockchain used by cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Think of them as numbered items sold to collectors. They’re not exclusive and may be already well known in other areas.

For example, the NBA helped pioneer video clips of famous basketball plays that it sold to collectors. The buyer doesn’t own the rights to anything except that copy of that highlight. They’re often compared to buying a baseball card or record album. You own your copy, which you can sell, but you have no rights to the content and pay premium prices.

Yes, really.

The Associated Press Steps In and Jumps Out

The AP watched rights holders making serious money and decided to wade into the NFT waters given their deep news libraries. On Thursday (yes, the day Russia invaded Ukraine), the AP tweeted that it would be minting a new NFT the next day. In their own words, that NFT would be a video “of migrants drifting in an overcrowded boat in the Mediterranean.”

Despite the smell of money in the air, the AP hastily canceled their plans after the backlash they should have seen coming.

Sotheby’s and the CryptoPunks

The AP’s egregious behavior happened one day after posh auction house Sotheby’s reported that a sale of 104 CryptoPunks NFTs had been withdrawn only 25 minutes before its start. That collection was created by one of the NFT’s pioneering design firms. The entire collection is 10,000 pieces, and many have sold for more than $1 million each.

People Are Really Buying These?

Yep. Lots.

  • Chick’nCone, a 24 restaurant chain based in Florida, is selling 933 NFTs of their logos in different US markets for $14,500 each. If a buyer then franchises the chain, they get $22,500 off the fee.
  • Brands selling NFTs now include McDonald’s, Estee Lauder, Coca-Cola (and right after, Pepsi), and Budweiser.
  • In typical Nike fashion, they’re not just selling NFTs. They bought one of the top design studios.

Missteps And Weirdness Are Common in this Land Rush

Like every bubble from tulips to Beanie Babies, this crazy NFT marketplace has all the makings of a greater fool’s market that requires new buyers to keep coming in and elevate prices. Former first lady Melania Trump has sold three NFT collections although the latest sold for $170,000 to what appears to be herself. Experts say that shill bidding is common, and no one is really quite sure who is buying what since the sales are in typically anonymous cryptocurrency.

Meanwhile, Snoop Dogg just closed his acquisition of pioneering hip-hop record label Death Row Records. He says that the new company will be NFT-focused. He then sold $44 million worth of NFTs in five days.

5. Did That Really Happen? — 10 Photos and Videos That Are Not From the Russian Invasion

Amazing stories sprung from the first few days of the resistance of Ukraine to Russia’s invasion. This is the first streaming war we’ve experienced, and while disinformation and propaganda are long-used tactics, the tools used to create realistic hoaxes are better than ever. Here is a gallery of videos and images falsely attributed to the invasion.

6. Following Up — COVID Algorithm at the Pentagon

We’ve written a lot about different predictive algorithms that can be used to detect COVID-19. Now the Pentagon has announced that it has awarded a contract for work to continue on a project that uses trackers in a watch and ring to monitor personnel. An algorithm then receives the data from the trackers and predicts COVID-19 two days before the person shows symptoms.

7. Protip — Uber Driver Ratings for Passengers

Today some of you learned that Uber drivers rate passengers. Some of you already knew that you could see your average rating. Hopefully more of you are now learning that you can see how many ratings you’ve received at each level. Here’s how.

8. Screening Room — Drew Barrymore & Her Chicken

Meat substitute maker Quorn calls Drew Barrymore their Chief Mom Officer and offers this spot about her frolicking with her friend, ChiQin. I liked her better in E.T., but I’ll take it.

 9. Science Fiction World — DNA Sequencing Cut to 5 Hours

A Stanford lab has shaved hours from the time needed to sequence a genome. They’re being feted now for shattering a Guinness World Record by shrinking the time from 14 hours to 5 hours. Team leader Dr. Euan Ashley offered even better news, “I think we can halve it again. If we’re able to do that, we’re talking about being able to get an answer before the end of a hospital ward round. That’s a dramatic jump.”

10. Coffee Break — World Photography Winners & Shortlisted Photos

Who doesn’t like to look at stunning photos? Now you’ve got access to this year’s winners and shortlisted photos plus galleries from the past ten years to occupy many coffee breaks.

11. Sign of the Times