Facebook Will Fight Veteran Suicide With An App

Nick Ut / AP

Facebook is taking a new step in the direction of public social responsibility with a campaign to combat veteran suicides by making it easier for veterans to connect with each other and locate resources when they’re in need.

The goal is an old one — to combat suicide, depression, and alcoholism, and to smooth veterans’ transitions back into civilian life. And the tools are built into the social network, the people designing the new app say.

“Facebook can help because we understand the things that might tie you to other people in a community and can help find what’s best for you,” said Jake Brill, one of the Facebook employees working on the project.

The move is the latest in a gradual shift toward public engagement for the social giant. In 2007, Facebook launched its Causes.com platform to help grassroots groups organize, publicize their causes, and fundraise. It has helped register people as organ donors and has encouraged people to get out and vote with its “I voted” button. It continues to fight against cyberbullying, most recently with its reporting system that encourages victims to reach out to adults for help or talk to the bully directly.

And there’s no question of the need among returning veterans. According to a Department of Veterans Affairs report released today, approximately 18 to 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide each day. And nearly 19% of veterans who call the Veterans Crisis Line call more than once a month. The two-year study is the first comprehensive look at U.S. veteran suicide rates nationwide.

Currently there are thousands of Facebook pages for vet groups, but according to Brill, it can be hard to find the right information amongst the noise.

“There are so many organizations online, and you might happen on one serendipitously on Facebook,” says Brill. “The question is, how do you connect the dots and help people get to the right place?”

In collaboration with various experts who work closely with returning soldiers, Facebook is creating a curated list of vetted organizations and resources covering issues like mental health, job placement, and education opportunities for the Veterans App.

Facebook plans to include a specialized way for veterans to address posts and photos that indicate their fellow veterans are in immediate distress. They’re also given an option to send a message to a fellow veteran crafted by Facebook, suggesting specific resources for suicide, depression, alcoholism, or employment. Putting words in users’ mouths to help them talk to troubled friends might seem creepy, but it could also be life-saving. (Other Facebook experiments with crafting messages on behalf of users have been successful.)

There are already examples of veterans reaching out to each other on Facebook to help prevent suicides. One particularly startling example involved members from the Awesome Shit My Drill Sergeant Said group, where a soldier reached out for help when a fellow serviceman was attempting suicide. The group, while focused on humor, was able to mobilize veterans around the country who found the solider and saved his life.

“Since then we have taken that success, achieved by chance crowdsourcing, and have repeated it,” says Dan Cuddy, founder of the group, who served in Afghanistan. “We have saved 33 people and have engaged and connected with hundreds more.”

Since many veterans are hesitant to reach out for help, Facebook is using the Veterans App as an opportunity to test out some of their theories about how to encourage people to join groups. Working with social scientists, including psychologist Piercarlo Valdesolo, psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, it is looking at ways to increase empathy and compassion between people online. It all sounds touchy feely and academic, but Facebook is convinced that it will work.

One current plan is to place information next to the Veterans App page about mutual friends and shared likes between the viewer and people in the group. The idea being that if you see people that like the same TV shows, music, books, movies, or celebrities, you are more likely to check it out and think about joining.

Just as with Facebook’s Graph search, the Veteran App’s success relies on getting more people to “like” stuff. When Mark Zuckerberg was asked at the Graph launch how Facebook was addressing the problem, he admitted it was a challenge. “People have been asking a long time to see who in their network like things,” Zuckerberg optimistically told the crowd.

If the Veterans App is successful, Facebook hopes to expand the model to offer services for other groups of people, such as those dealing with bullying or coping with disease.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/justinesharrock/facebook-will-fight-veteran-suicide-with-an-app

Twitter To Remove Third-Party Image Services From Its Apps

Twitter will soon remove support for third-party image hosts, such as Twitpic and yfrog, from its official apps, according to a person who was briefed on the company’s plans. The changes will be coming fairly soon — likely in the next updates to each client.

Companies that will be affected by the change have been contacted by Twitter, perhaps in an effort to preempt a harsh reaction similar the one the company received from app developers after instituting a client user cap last month. At the moment, there are six upload options in the official Twitter app for iPhone. (Though one, Posterous, is owned by Twitter.)

Twitpic founder Noah Everett says he understands Twitter’s choice, though he wishes it were a different one. “They’re trying to control those eyeballs on their apps, they’re an ad-based company, they make money that way.” He says his site, the biggest of the bunch, gets a majority of its uploads from sources other than the official Twitter apps — a group, however, that includes uploads from 3rd-party Twitter clients, which account for about 23% of all tweets.

The change is consistent with Twitter’s gradual transformation into a sort of hybrid platform/media company, and brings the service in line with its closest peers and competitors: images uploaded in Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram’s official apps are hosted on the companies’ respective servers.

Shepherding people to an official image service gives Twitter more control over the user experience, of course, but it also helps address an issue that is deeply problematic for a link-centric service like Twitter: link rot. A theoretical future Twitter archive would undoubtedly be full of dead links, but at least, the thinking goes, the images will be there.

The developer community will rightly take this as a sign that Twitter is wresting yet more control away from it, but it also won’t come as a surprise. “It might be a big death blow to smaller companies,” says Everett, who is banking the future of his company in part on an alternative platform called Heello, which Twitpic launched last year. The news, he tells me, was “one of those things we thought was coming.”

Reached by phone, a representative for ImageShack, which operates the popular yfrog hosting service, declined to comment.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/twitter-is-removing-third-party-image-services-fro

37 People Who Say They’re Moving To Australia If Obama Wins

17 Questions Obama Was Wise Not To Answer During His Reddit AMA


For the uninitiated, he means Team Fortress 2.


I’ll admit, I am curious about that.

Watercolor courtesy of Reddit User Shitty_Watercolor


Considering all the bronies in the audience this one is actually pretty important…

Photoshop courtesy of Reddit User HardyParty


This is actually a pretty good question, to be honest.


Do not, I repeat, do not go to r/spacedicks [NSFW, NSFL].

Obama didn’t answer, but just in case anyone forgot.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/16-questions-obama-was-wise-not-to-answer-during-h

Twitter Gives A Little Gift To Its Oldest Fans

Twitter for Mac, the official app for people who don’t want the chaotic-wall-of-tweets experience of TweetDeck nor the I-just-started-using-Twitter experience of Twitter.com, hadn’t been updated for years — recently, it would often behave as if broken, had clunky image support and looked terrible on new Mac screens.

It was, however, the best free option for many people who had a specific, pure conception of what Twitter is supposed to be: a reverse-chronological, real-time list of posts from people you follow. It was the purest Twitter experience since Tweetie, the Loren Brichter-designed iPhone app that became Twitter’s official app for a short time before being replaced by something very different.

It’s refreshingly basic:

The new Twitter for Mac addresses users’ main issues but little more; it feels almost like a favor to the subset of people who enjoy Twitter for what it was, not what it’s becoming. You can download it here.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/twitter-for-mac-finally-updated

How San Francisco Tech Companies Justify Their Tax Breaks

Justin Sullivan / Via Getty Images

Twitter has received the most attention for receiving tax breaks from the City of San Francisco in exchange for promises of local charity and outreach work. But five other companies are also included in the program: Microsoft subsidiary Yammer, online retailer One Kings Lane, tech consulting firm 21Tech, online dating service Zoosk, and customer service firm Zendesk. Next year Spotify will join the list.

Last week, those five companies handed in their six-month progress reports to the Citizen Advisory Board overseeing the agreements. The companies, like Twitter, have focused on monetary and in-kind donations as well as volunteering. Most reflect their strengths: One Kings Lane has styled and furnished common rooms at homeless shelters and low-income housing; Yammer donated software; 21Tech offered organizations IT support.

But their reports also reflect an unusual, tech-centric interpretation of what it means to give back to a local community. Instead of job training, there are cocktail parties. Community engagement equals Yelp reviews written by and for techies. And some of the “giving back” initiatives conveniently double as employee perks, stretching the definition of charity. Yammer, for instance, hired a local ballet company to perform a private monthlong dance series for employees at its office. 21Tech and One Kings Lane consulted on ways to improve biking infrastructure by having the San Francisco Bike Coalition come to their office to provide a biking workshop.

Perhaps the most questionable effort is Zoosk’s Yelp campaign. The company reimburses workers $10 for going to 10 local businesses and following up with one Yelp review; this program is limited to 10 rounds, equaling a payout of $100.

From a tech worker’s perspective this may make sense: It’s vital advertising, and Yelp reviews have, in certain circles, replaced word-of-mouth promotion. For people who don’t search for lunch on smartphones, however, Yelping seems like an unhelpful, even presumptuous, way to help. When Zoosk presented this campaign at City Hall last week, one Citizen Advisory Board member took offense: Having companies new to the neighborhood tell [locals] where they should eat, when they have been here for years, is not helpful. His feedback: “I would advise, toss it out and ask [local businesses] about where their needs are.” Zoosk was unavailable for comment.

The Yelp reviews also tilt in the favor of places techies frequent, further insulating the neighborhood’s newest residents from its past. A new latte spot will get four stars; the corner store serving dollar coffee, not so much.

Zoosk also didn’t demand the reviews be positive. BuzzFeed interviewed one of the Zoosk employees who says he is “making the most” of the Zoosk Yelp campaign. “It’s a lot of hoops to jump through for less than $10,” he told BuzzFeed. He said, “I think some of my reviews were less than glowing,” adding, “lol.”

Yelp reviews written by an employee as part of the program:

Via yelp.com

Note the complaint about homeless people. Via yelp.com

When it comes to the companies’ pledge to participate in TechSF, the city’s tech training and hiring initiative for people aged 18 to 24 and 40 to 60, the companies are most excited about the cocktail parties. Yammer hosted a “Nerd Underground” monthly event; One Kings Lane encouraged employees to go. TechSF had suggested the companies help shape the curricula, guest lecture, or hire program graduates. But in the tech world it’s who you know, and networking parties, the thinking goes, build networks.

Nerd Underground party at Yammer. BAVC / Via Flickr: bavc

The companies did come through on the promise that they support local businesses, spending money on caterers, company get-togethers at local restaurants and bars, and client meals. Yammer alone spent almost $750,000 in six months.

These figures are promising for the local economy. But with that kind of spending power, these companies also shape the future of the neighborhood, where rents are skyrocketing. One Kings Lane boasted that it bought staff Valentine’s Day cookies from a local upscale cookie shop; 21Tech included Starbucks, Subway, and Walgreens on its list of “local” businesses it supports, as well as new high-end restaurants and cocktail lounges.

Of course, San Francisco places a high priority on luring tech companies within city limits, and collects revenue even with tax breaks. And, overall, more companies doing business in San Francisco improves the city’s general outlook in quantifiable ways.

But the intention of these agreements was to mitigate negative effects of rapid tech expansion, which has left many longtime residents with higher rents, unrecognizable neighborhoods, and little recourse. San Francisco has shown great hospitality to the tech world; perhaps, in exchange, the tech world could show a little back?

“These [measures] are to offset the impacts the companies have on the neighborhood,” said one citizen board member at the City Hall meeting. “Volunteering helps companies too, with team building and job satisfaction. People do it without the [tax breaks.] Don’t just use this to promote things that help your organization.”

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/justinesharrock/how-san-francisco-tech-companies-earn-their-tax-breaks

Everyone’s First Vine Is Boring As Heck

When the new video app for Twitter called Vine debuted this morning, many people rushed to test it out. This meant Vine videos of their coffee cups, cubicle walls, and even just a stream of their Twitter feed. Zzzzzzzzz

Let’s hope there’s something better to Vine out there.

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22. Hey, mine sucked, too.

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Here’s the only good first Vine:

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Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/everyones-first-vine-is-boring-as-heck

Beautiful Paintings Of History, Animated

Video available at: http://vimeo.com/83910533.

Via BoingBoing. Aside from the cool animation technique, there’s a nice little story woven here. NSFW, sort of? I guess??

Update, 1/17/14, 10:23 EST: Removed “Renaissance” from the headline, since it does not accurately describe all included paintings.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/beautiful-renaissance-paintings-animated

Which Social Network Is Taking Your Breakup The Hardest?

Desperation level: Low.

Human behavior equivalent: Awkwardly running into one another on the street — sort of on purpose maybe? — then enthusiastically talking about the weather until someone pretends to get a phone call.

Prognosis: LinkedIn will be fine, with time. He is used to being used and discarded. Relentless, terrifying optimism will prevail.

Desperation level: Low-medium.

Human behavior equivalent: Constantly sending postcards to your ex.

Prognosis: Twitter might sound chirpy, but its pain is real. It wants you back and doesn’t know how to say it. It will forgive you but it will never forget you.

Desperation level: Medium.

Human behavior equivalent: Sending all your exes Christmas cards every year for the rest of your life.

Prognosis: YouTube will never let go, but that’s the way YouTube is. YouTube may vlog about its experience. Do not watch it.

Desperation level: Medium.

Human behavior equivalent: Asking someone to come “pick up their old stuff” then breaking down in tears as soon as they arrive.

Prognosis: Facebook will not give up because Facebook feels like it has something on you. And maybe it does! Facebook, however, will pull through. We just hope it doesn’t debase itself too much in the process.

Desperation level: High.

Human behavior equivalent: Texting your ex pictures from a nightclub “accidentally.”

Prognosis: Fine, depending on what you mean by fine. Klout will be unaffected by the breakup, and may refer to you, to his friends, as a “sidepiece” or “booty call.” Klout has a history of successfully deceiving itself and will happily do so for the rest of its strange hollow life.


Desperation level: N/A

Human behavior equivalent: N/A

Prognosis: Google+ does not appear to know you are broken up, or that you never really dated in the first place.

1. Tumblr

Desperation level: Critical.

Human behavior equivalent: Leaving a drunk voicemail saying, “I want you back,” forgetting you left the voicemail, doing it again the next week and then every Friday for months.

Prognosis: Doomed. Tumblr is insecure and feels lost in this world. Future voicemails may contain threats to “do something crazy” if you don’t take Tumblr back. You should take these messages seriously, but accept that there is nothing you can do.

Just let it go, and hope Tumblr can, too.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/which-social-network-is-taking-your-breakup-the-hardest