The Shift: Issue #20

Big Tech: The House antitrust committee report; Instagram at 10; No Filter; The rise of the Meta Me; Microcopy + UX writing.  

This week, the House Antitrust Subcommittee released its long-awaited report into online markets – how Big Tech (Google, Amazon, Apple & Facebook) have developed monopoly and are abusing their power to stifle the competition. It’s a brick at 400+ pages (+ 2,540 footnotes) and evidence-based – conversations with previous and current employees, users & sellers – a greatest hits of bad behaviour. Amazon has been described as “a data company that just happens to sell things.” An inside look at the acquisition of Instagram by Facebook - here are the most revealing bits. There’s more focus on Google than the other three with some notable omissions: Microsoft, TikTok and Spotify. TikTok is Chinese owned and a baby, so doesn’t yet have the size and breadth…
It’s striking that Republicans and Democrats are on the same side, even if they are offering different solutions on how to deal with a monopoly of power. They’re not talking about breaking companies up (too simplistic and a step too far in the current climate – they have enough on their plate!!). But offering recommendations to make Big Tech easier to compete with. It also gives us a broader understanding of what the anti-trust law should exist to protect – perhaps the most important line in the report: “The Subcommittee recommends that Congress consider reasserting the original intent and broad goals of the antitrust laws, by clarifying that they are designed to protect not just consumers, but also workers, entrepreneurs, independent businesses, open markets, a fair economy, and democratic ideals.”
So, what next? They have to read & digest it and come back with what changes they will make…

Happy 10th birthday, Instagram!

To celebrate, Instagram has brought back its retro icons for one month only and launched several new features – a Stories Map to highlight stories you’ve shared over the last three years, two wellbeing updates to discourage trolling and abusive remarks, and an IGTV shopping update (given it’s our shopping channel of choice these days).
Key trends:
More than 1m posts mentioning ‘memes’ are shared daily
50% of users see a video posted on insta every day
900m emoji reactions sent daily
We send 3x more DM’s than comments
Love it or hate it, Instagram is a cultural phenomenon and has rewired society for good and bad. Here’s beauty writer Sali Hughes on meeting the woman who trolled her online (it’s really not about you…) I’m reading No Filter – Sarah Frier’s excellent book on the history of Instagram and how Silicon Valley works.
The history, characters and themes revealed themselves through hundreds of interviews, not just with current and former employees and executives, but with influencers, teens, celebrities and business owners whose lives have been changed by Instagram.
I’ve not been posting much lately, but I’ve been drawn into the wonderful world of dogs (thanks sis 😍 @samloutalbotmusic). I’m getting regular updates from mr_vili_and_the_westie_boys, the maltipoosociety, & jackrussellwrld. It’s a new subculture – dogs as babies, the personification of animals – first-person accounts of their adventures. It’s made me laugh and cheered me up. Watching animal footage can make you happier – here’s a list of round-the-clock camera footage. It’s also a community of animal lovers ❤️ – they follow each other and like & comment on each other’s posts.
If you’re looking for a way to build company culture remotely and connect your employees, here’s an excellent way to do it ;-)
As adorable as animals are, as my sister said, it raises questions about the ethics of pimping our pets online – they’re being filmed when they’re asleep, their funerals - and making us money 24/7 - lots of dog merch. In years to come, kids may take action to have their pics removed from social media, but our beloved pets can’t do the same.
And then we have Trump with his toxic list of dog tweets, using them as a vicious insult against his enemies, who have been “fired like a dog.” He’s the only president in 100 years in the White House NOT to have a dog and he’s not doing himself any favours. America is a nation of dog lovers; it could cost him the election…🐕

5 things I’ve enjoyed this week:

No Filter: How Instagram transformed celebrity, business, and culture by Sarah Frier. Curious to know how Silicon Valley works? Read this. “Silicon Valley looked like it was run by geniuses,” but “from the inside, it was clear that everyone was vulnerable, just like he was, just figuring it out as they went along.” More hot tub and fire pit than boardroom… it’s a great read. Sarah spoke to Platformer about what’s next for insta.
Smile, You’re Speaking Emoji – the rapid revolution of a wordless tongue
(New York Times magazine) – emojis are an optional written language, just like any global language. We’ve even got Isis recruiters using them in their comms… and 217 new emojis to look forward to in 2021.
The Rise of the Meta Me: social isolation has given new urgency to how we manage our digital identities. (Aiga Eye on Design) “You can instrument your digital self to be the very thing you need to be at any time: the funniest guy at the party, the best conversationalist in an interview, the most charming version of yourself on a first date.” How a fully formed Meta Me, working for you, could be a beautiful and useful extension of our humanity. 
Writers of Silicon Valley 🎧 – a new podcast hosted by Patrick Stafford featuring interviews with the best UX writers and content strategists. I listened to Gordon MacRae (UX Writer Jobs) talk about trends impacting the industry in 2020, what hiring managers are looking for, and recommended reads. There’ll be a lot of good writing coming out about Silicon Valley over the next few years.
#CopyCon2020 – ProCopywriters’ annual conference (full report coming next week) – I did a walking Zoom as this was a full day (just figured out how to take a screenshot on my phone, very handy – see tweet thread). Overall theme: Minimalism – keep things simple and ‘good enough’ – death to perfectionism. I’ve been down the rabbit hole with UX writing/design lately – loving it! It’s a growth industry with well paid, interesting work and a supportive community. I like the idea of a conversation between product + user rather than giving someone the hard sell – and collaborative working from the start of the design process. There’s a lot more to it than writing funny error messages…
I’ll be sharing more UX writing resources over the coming months. As @RellyAB said, "It's a great market to be in, there's a lot of work." If you’re working in this field, I’d love to connect.
Photo: Sarah Frier
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