TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Mental Health Therapy Through Social Networking Could Soon Be a Reality

While still in the development stage, the peer-to-peer technology had "significant benefits"

An experimental social networking platform intent on helping users calm anxiety and reverse symptoms of depression has received positive feedback.

Panoply is a peer-to-peer platform jointly administered by MIT and Northwestern universities that encourages users to “think more flexibly and objectively about the stressful events and thoughts that upset them,” says a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Researchers found that the network, which is still being studied and has yet to be commercialized, produced “significant benefits, particularly for depressed individuals.”

Panoply works by teaching users a therapeutic tool called cognitive reappraisal, which tries to get people to look at a problematic situation from different perspectives.

When a person is stressed, they write what is causing the problem and their reaction. The “crowd” then responds by a offering a contrasting outlook. Comments are vetted to ensure the original poster is not abused.

The study involved 166 people over a three-week period. Researchers suggested a 25-minute per week minimum interaction to see results.

According to the published paper, the next step is to widen the net and see if the social media platform is as effective over a more diverse audience.

TIME Social Media

Facebook’s Gorgeous New Campus Has a ‘Green Roof’ the Size of 7 Football Fields

See photos of Facebook's expanded headquarters

Facebook didn’t hold back in its expansion of the company’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters.

The 430,000 square ft.-building, known as MPK 20, can hold up to 2,800 people and is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, according to sources familiar with the project. It includes a 9-acre green roof — that’s roughly the size of seven football fields — with a half-mile walking loop and over 400 trees.

The building, which Facebook announced in August 2012, was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry’s firm, Gehry Partners. Though Gehry’s name is tied to several elaborate landmarks including the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Calif., the Canadian-American architect said the Facebook’s new campus has a decidedly simpler design.

“From the start, [Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg] wanted a space that was unassuming, matter-of-fact and cost effective. He did not want it overly designed,” Gehry said in a statement. “This is the building that we created for him.”

 

TIME China

How Facebook Makes Money in a Country Where It’s Banned

It wants Chinese companies to advertise internationally

Not even Mark Zuckerberg speaking Mandarin Chinese could get China to loosen its seven-year ban on Facebook. But that doesn’t mean the social media giant isn’t monetizing the market.

Facebook is tapping local partners in China to help convince Chinese companies to advertise on Facebook, even if the site isn’t accessible within the country, the Wall Street Journal reports. The main draw for Chinese companies, according to Facebook, is the opportunity to reach the 1.39 billion active monthly Facebook users outside China.

Facebook has already seen success with Chinese companies that have advertised on its site. These include Youzu Interactive Co., a Shanghai-based online game designer, which said that the 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) it spent on Facebook ads resulted in a two-fold increase in registered daily players on its hit online game League of Angels.

Facebook is one of several Silicon Valley giants attempting to monetize the Chinese market despite being banned in the mainland. Twitter, for example, opened a Hong Kong office this month to tap China for its advertising revenue, the company said. Meanwhile, Google — also banned in mainland China — has continued its push into the country with the launch of a Chinese developers’ version of YouTube last month.

Facebook’s efforts in China arrive amidst another project to monetize countries where it has limited access. The social media company has been launching mobile ads tailored to low-bandwidth connections in emerging markets, including India and Kenya, while the company’s Internet.org attempts to bring connectivity — and carve out more business opportunities — to underserved regions in the world.

Read Next: 7 Famous People Who Surprised Us By Speaking Chinese

[WSJ]

 

TIME World

Here’s How a Germanwings Pilot Reassured Scared Passengers the Day After the Crash

A Germanwings Airbus A320 is seen at the Berlin airport, March 29, 2014. An Airbus plane of the same model crashed in southern France en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, on March 24, 2015 police and aviation officials said.
Jan Seba—Reuters A Germanwings Airbus A320 is seen at the Berlin airport, March 29, 2014. An Airbus plane of the same model crashed in southern France en route from Barcelona to Duesseldorf, on March 24, 2015 police and aviation officials said.

A woman on board explains a pilot's heartfelt message

The morning after Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps—before any real details were known about the state of the plane or co-pilot Andreas Lubitz’ mental state—Britta Englisch hesitantly stepped onto a Germanwings flight from Hamburg to Cologne.

As soon as she walked onto the plane, she and the other passengers were personally welcomed by the pilot, who assured them that he’d get them to their destination safely. Englisch praised the dedicated pilot and crew on Germanwings’ Facebook page Wednesday night, and her heartfelt post has since gone viral—accumulating some 300,000 likes in less than two days.

“This flight was the morning after the crash—at this time no details were known and everything was mere speculation,” Englisch, who lives in Hamburg, tells TIME via email. “Logically it was pretty clear to me, that Germanwings might have been the safest airline at that morning—they doublechecked every plane and pilots and crew were free to choose if they were feeling able to fly or not. Nevertheless I had this feeling in my stomach. Feelings are not logical, are they?”

But her worry subsided after the pilot personally welcomed people as they boarded the plane. “If someone made an uneasy impression, he talked to them,” says Englisch, a PR manager at Stage Entertainment.

After boarding was complete, rather than going into the cockpit, the pilot took a microphone and began to address his passengers.

“He introduced himself and his crew, talked about how he felt—that some of the crew knew someone on the plane, that he also had a slight uneasy feeling not knowing what happened,” Englisch recollects. “[The pilot continued that] he and the crew are there voluntarily, that the company didn’t force anyone to be on duty that day, that he double-checked the plane this morning. [He said that] he has family, kids and a wife who he loves, that the crew has loved ones and [that] he’ll do everything to return safely to them every evening.”

For a moment everyone was silent.

“No one was checking his phone for the last time or reading the papers,” Englisch says, noting that that is unusual for a commuter flight full of businesspeople. “And then everyone applauded.”

Englisch didn’t intend for her post, supporting the grieving airline, to gain so much attention.

“It was just one post amongst thousand others and it was meant to say thank you to the pilot for not hiding in the cockpit but letting us be part of his feelings.”

Here is her post:

Read next: Here’s What We Know About the Germanwings Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 27

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Why did Saudi Arabia lead airstrikes on the rebels who’ve seized Yemen? The answer isn’t as clear as it seems.

By Frederic Wehrey at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

2. Three black swimmers swept the 100-yard freestyle at the NCAA swim championships — and swept away a long-standing stereotype.

By Kavitha Davidson in Bloomberg View

3. Could a Facebook deal to host news content make news brands obsolete?

By Felix Salmon in Fusion

4. A new satellite study reveals the rapid breakdown of Antarctic ice. Low-lying nations should be worried.

By Robert McSweeney in the Carbon Brief

5. Here’s how reproductive health rights for women can help end poverty.

By Valerie Moyer in the Aspen Idea

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Customer Service

Comcast’s New Customer Service Strategy: More Tweets

Comcast skyscraper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Alamy Comcast skyscraper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The company is adding 40 new social media experts to help it respond to customers faster.

Comcast COMCAST CORP. CMCSA -0.25% seems to be following through on promises made by its CEO Neil Smit to make fixing its customer service woes a priority for 2015.

“The way we interact with our customers — on the phone, online, in their homes — is as important to our success as the technology we provide,” Smit wrote on a company blog. “Put simply, customer service should be our best product.”

The company has already put a respected company veteran, Charlie Herrin, in charge of repairing its broken method of interacting with customers. It has also created an app which lets people know when a technician is en route to their home, ending the previous practice of subscribers having to wait around during a four-hour appointment window.

Now Comcast is taking its efforts to fix its customer relations a step further by hiring 40 workers for its social media team. These new hires will join an existing 20-person group in providing “help with everything from scheduling appointments to troubleshooting Internet problems and setting up DVRs, CNN Money reported.

Why is Comcast doing this?

“We have thousands of people answering service calls on the phone, and for many customers that’s great. But some people would rather go online, and we want to make sure to give them that choice,” Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury told CNN Money.

The company explained in a press announcement about the hiring effort that it has been using social media since 2007, but the use of platforms including Twitter TWITTER INC. TWTR 0.38% and Facebook FACEBOOK INC. FB -1.24% has increased over the years. This has shifted some customer support needs from traditional call centers to the social media team.

With a much bigger team, we’ll be able to support customers across more platforms. And we’ll be able to get to them faster. A larger team also means that we’ll be able to increase bicoastal and bilingual coverage to make sure we are available 24/7 to customers who speak either English or Spanish.

The social care team has access to all the same advanced tools and training as our call center agents do, which means they can quickly jump in to solve problems. They also have a direct line to our tech teams so they can schedule appointments.

While this effort won’t solve all of Comcast’s problems, it will bring some customers immediate help. It’s not a complete solution to a customer service culture which has been built around retention at any cost, but it’s a solid incremental step that should take pressure off the system.

Adding 40 people to the @comcastcares social media team shows that Smit’s vows to revamp customer service have actual money behind them. This isn’t a token hire or a PR move; it’s likely a multimillion-dollar commitment to delivering actual improvement.

Comcast deserves credit

The media, myself included, has spent the past year shining light on Comcast’s customer service failures. Those woes went viral when a recording made by former Engadget editor Ryan Block where a “retention specialist” essentially refused to allow him to cancel his service. That debacle led to a flood of embarrassing customer service issues being made public — everything from bad service to names on bills being changed to derogatory terms.

Comcast probably deserved the scorn it got from the legitimate media and on social media. Now, however, the company deserves praise for not just saying it’s going to fix the problem but actually doing the hard work to turn around its culture, while backing those efforts with financial resources.

This is good business for the cable and Internet giant. A company can’t treat its customers poorly when they can easily leave for other alternatives. But, aside from the long-term business gains the company should make, Comcast deserves credit for publicly tackling what is a thankless problem.

Bringing the customer service battle to social media is a smart move. Twitter and Facebook allow for quick problem resolution. That should result in happy customers and less stress on traditional phone-based customer service.

There are almost certain to be more problems and humiliating gaffes before Herrin and Smit completely change the company’s culture. Still, adding 40 social media customer care reps is a win for customers, which is ultimately a win for the company’s bottom line.

TIME Social Media

Facebook Is Playing a Brilliant Long Game for Your Attention

Facebook Messenger Platform F8
Bloomberg via Getty Images Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Facebook F8 Developers Conference in San Francisco, Calif., on March 25, 2015.

Remember Facebook Deals? How about Beacon, the ad-sharing feature that collapsed in a privacy scandal? Did you ever use Facebook Gifts while it was around? And when was the last time you fired up the Flipboard-like Paper app, if you ever downloaded it at all?

Facebook’s track record in releasing new apps or features is spotty at best, with a trail of outright failures running through the company’s history. This week, as the company announces new initiatives at its F8 developers conference, you have to wonder which ones will end up falling by the wayside.

And yet, taking the long view, you also have to wonder whether any new crop of failures will matter at all. Because when Facebook conceives new ideas and turns them into apps or platforms, the company is taking the long view. Facebook isn’t trying to bat 1.000, or even have a .407 season. Even with its collective failures, Facebook remains beloved by investors, who have pushed its stock up 232% over the past two years.

From that perspective, it’s more important to see what Facebook is trying to accomplish with its newly announced offerings, rather than looking too closely at the announcements themselves. With that in mind, here’s a quick summary of what Facebook has announced so far at F8:

Messenger Platform, which features a compose window loaded with third-party apps (40 for now), and a new customer-support communication with businesses.

Parse. The mobile platform Facebook bought a couple of years ago will let developers build apps for the Internet of things, including wearable devices and smart appliances.

Embedded videos. In a clear threat to Google, videos uploaded to Facebook’s site can be embedded YouTube-like, on other sites.

LiveRail. Facebook is launching a mobile ad exchange that lets publishers sell display and video ads using Facebook data alongside cookies.

Spherical videos. Shot with 24 coordinated cameras, the immersive, 360-degree videos bring an element of virtual reality to the news feed.

These are only the latest announcements. On Tuesday, Facebook unveiled On This Day, a feature showing users archived posts as their anniversaries roll by. On Monday, Instagram announced Layout, a new app that combines multiple photos into a single image. Over the weekend, word leaked out that Facebook was talking with media companies about hosting content inside its platform. And last week, Messenger added the ability for friends to send payments to each other.

Tech keynotes have become like Christmas stockings, a grab bag of new goodies that, handled right, fill gadget lovers and developers with either glee or disappointment. Facebook’s stocking this week wasn’t as squeal-inducing as some of Apple’s have been. But again, that’s not the goal. The goal is to keep innovating, to keep iterating, until something gels with user behavior, gaining enough traction to become a part of their daily lives.

In fact, many of Facebook’s newer initiatives are largely do-overs of its past misfires. Beacon was re-engineered in Facebook Connect, which also shared user information on third-party sites–and AppLinks, a feature mentioned in the F8 Keynote, takes that integration a step further with deep linking. Facebook Places, launched in 2011 to kill off Foursquare and shuttered a year later, was reborn this year as Place Tips, aiming once again squarely at Foursquare.

In the weekly tech news cycle, these little revelations seem ephemeral, even trivial. Take a few steps back and look at the longer-term perspective and something more significant emerges: Facebook is mutating, virus-like, to adapt to how we interact with each other online. In conference calls with investors, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg repeatedly warn they won’t monetize products until they resonate with a large base of users. That was the case with Facebook’s original Web site, and it’s still the case with Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook’s own Messenger app is a clear example. After launching as a “Gmail killer” in 2010, the original Messages feature became a staple of the site and, eventually, a distinct app. When the company later bought WhatsApp, some worried Facebook would spoil it by turning it into an all-in-one messaging platform like WeChat or Line. Instead, WhatsApp remains largely unchanged, while Facebook is amping up Messenger from app to platform, with an ecosystem of third-party apps on top.

Of all the F8 announcements, Messenger is the most interesting. By letting users download apps directly inside conversations, Facebook is making it easy to distribute apps virally–a huge draw for developers considering Facebook’s platform. If this plan succeeds, Facebook would be hard to rival in the messaging space.

But Facebook didn’t stop there. Messenger is also becoming a line of communications with companies. Deals and Gifts were attempts to anchor ecommerce inside Facebook that largely fell short of Facebook dream of getting consumers to interact as closely with brands as they do their friends. If Messaging–which chronicles transactions from purchase to delivery inside a single thread, aiming to make ecommerce as personal as in-store buying–doesn’t achieve that original goal, it’s a big step toward it.

Not all of Facebook’s new efforts are very far along. In opening Parse up to the Internet of things, Facebook cited examples like push notifications when garage doors open or close, or reminders that a plant needs to be watered. These feel like applications that make people dread push notifications or wired homes in general. But Facebook is working with chipmakers to build Parse support inside processors, so there’s clearly a long-term game being played here as well.

Some of these new features may fall by the wayside, prompting snickers by observers. But the real question–as is usually the case in Silicon Valley–is how will Facebook respond? If you don’t love the new Messenger or embedded videos, Facebook is all right with that. It doesn’t need you to love them. It just needs them to be just useful enough among your friends that you start using it yourself.

And when it does, Facebook will have wormed its way that much more tightly into your daily life. Because at Facebook, it’s never been about being loved. It’s aways been about being used.

TIME Social Media

Facebook Messenger Is About to Get Way More Useful

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during his keynote address at Facebook F8 in San Francisco on March 25, 2015.
Robert Galbraith—Reuters Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during his keynote address at Facebook F8 in San Francisco on March 25, 2015.

Facebook is inviting developers to make apps specifically for Messenger

Facebook is inviting software developers to build programs that will greatly expand the capabilities of its popular Messenger app, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Wednesday.

Speaking at Facebook’s annual F8 conference, Zuckerberg unveiled Messenger Platform, which allows developers to build apps specifically for Messenger. The platform will open up Messenger’s 600 million monthly users to third-party developers while giving Messenger users a plethora of new features cooked up outside Facebook’s offices.

Messenger users will see two immediate benefits from Messenger Platform. The first is a series of new third-party apps that will let users communicate in ways beyond text. Two new apps Facebook showed off Wednesday, for example, included Ultratext, which sends “eye-popping GIF messages,” and “Ditty,” which makes “every message musical.” Messenger users who receive a message from one of these new third-party apps will also get an invitation to download and install the new app themselves.

Messenger Platform will also support business-to-user messages, which aim to make customer service more efficient and seamless. For example, if you purchase something online, the business could send you a receipt and shipping info via Messenger. You could also send a message back to the business if you need to make changes, like ordering a different size shirt.

“I don’t know anyone who likes calling businesses — it’s just not fast,” Zuckerberg said of the feature, called Businesses on Messenger. “Helping people communicate more naturally with businesses is going to improve almost every person’s life.”

Some of the new Messenger apps will be available immediately, while developers interested in the platform can start designing apps of their own beginning Wednesday. Businesses on Messenger will launch in the next several weeks. Zuckerberg also promised the new platform would bring more feautres to Messenger in the future.

“There are going to be a lot of things we can do with Messenger Platform over time,” he said.

Facebook’s move to open up Messenger to third-party developers mirrors similar steps it took with its main site, leading directly to the rise of Facebook games like Farmville and Mafia Wars.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 25

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. ISIS can be beaten. But we need to think and plan now for what happens after that.

By Robert Joustra in the Globe and Mail

2. Facebook is still experimenting on you. It’s time to bring back informed consent.

By Ilka H. Gleibs in Psychology@LSE

3. What happens when we pay elected officials better? They start caring about voters more than special interests.

By Ian Chipman at Stanford Graduate School of Business

4. How can we spur innovation in U.S. advanced industries? Think beyond our borders.

By Kenan Fikri and Devashree Saha at the Brookings Institution

5. To cheaply reduce carbon in the atmosphere, we can reforest the planet — using data and drones.

By Emiko Jozuka in Wired.co.uk

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME College Basketball

This Map Shows Which Sweet 16 Teams Are Generating Buzz Around the Country

The most talked-about teams on Facebook
Facebook The most talked-about teams on Facebook.

Kentucky has coast-to-coast support

While you’ve been keeping close tabs on your office March Madness pool, Facebook has combed through more than 32 million posts, likes and comments about the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament to find out which Sweet Sixteen teams have captured the conversation (or your trash-talking) between March 15-23.

Much of the chatter is regional—it’s no surprise, for example, that Wichita State has every county in Kansas talking and typing—but Facebook’s color-coded visualization shows the extent of coast-to-coast support for Kentucky, which is currently favored to win.

Read More: Now That Your Bracket’s Busted, Here’s Who to Cheer for in the Sweet 16

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