Hashtag Trending Jul.24- Google’s Bard expands coverage almost everywhere but in Canada; Reddit war gets uglier; Shopify employee breaks NDA to speak out on layoffs

Is it ChatGPT that’s getting dumber or is it us? Bard expands its coverage to almost everywhere but Canada. The moderator/management war at Reddit continues to escalate, Shopify employee breaks an NDA to speak out and Elon Musk flips us the bird. 

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These are the top tech news stories on today’s Hashtag Trending.  

I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and Tech News Day in the US.

Last Friday we reported on a study conducted by researchers from Stanford University and UC Berkeley that sparked a debate about the performance of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The study appeared to find a decrease in the AI’s performance in areas such as math, code generation, problem-solving, and answering sensitive questions. However, some experts have questioned the methodology and conclusions of the study, suggesting that it may misrepresent the capabilities of GPT-4.

Critics are arguing that the observed changes are more related to the AI’s behavior rather than its inherent abilities. Simon Willison and Arvind Narayanan, both respected figures in the tech industry, have voiced concerns about the study’s methodology and conclusions. They argue that the study oversimplifies the complex nature of AI performance and doesn’t accurately reflect real-world use cases.

The key takeaway here is that while AI performance can be a complex issue, users can potentially improve their interactions with AI systems like ChatGPT by learning to create better prompts. There are multiple online courses available that guide users in formulating effective prompts for specific tasks. Simple practices such as being specific, asking for step-by-step explanations, and providing context can significantly improve the responses from AI systems.

If you’ve got questions on how to deal with prompts, why not drop into our August workshop where we’re going to cover how to use AI in business including some case studies and ideas of how to prompt for better results. You will find a link to the workshop on the text version of this podcast. Since I record on Sunday night and I may not get the registration link until sometime later Monday, check back and watch for an update.

Sources include: Analytics India Magazine

Google’s conversational AI, Bard, has recently expanded its availability to more regions, including Brazil and the entire European Union.

The expansion places Bard closer to other AI systems like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Anthropic’s Claude, and Inflection AI’s Pi.  

In addition to being more widely available, Bard has introduced several new features. It now supports more than 40 languages, providing a broader linguistic reach. Additionally, it offers users the ability to refine its responses, with options to adjust length and tone.

Bard has also implemented features to pin and share conversations. Pinning conversations allow users to easily return to specific discussion threads, while the sharing feature enables the creation of public links to Bard chats.

One notable update is Bard’s ability to process uploaded images with prompts. This feature, which currently only supports English, allows users to ask Bard to identify elements within an image, extract text, or search for related information.  It’s interesting, but in the small testing we did, we aren’t sure how much better this is than simply using Google’s image search capabilities.

And we aren’t hurt that Google hasn’t made it into Canada. Anthropic’s Claude 2 is also US centric. To which we reply, “only not in Canada, pity” And that VPN you use to get Brit-Box? You can also use it to get Bard and Claude.

Sources include: TechRepublic

The ongoing conflict between Reddit and its  moderators and users, which started as a protest against Reddit’s increased charges for use of its API, continues to get uglier. Despite some signs that Reddit was trying to reach out to tamp down the conflict with its moderators, which was for the most part greeted with suspicion and sometimes total derision by the moderators

The initial wave of protests, which saw many subreddits go private, was supposed to last only a day, has continued on in some large subreddits. 

Reddit’s response has been to start to take control of subreddits, removing the moderators who refuse to reopen them. One of the largest subreddits affected is r/malefashionadvice, which has over 5 million members. The only moderator now listed for this subreddit is “modcodeofconduct,” a Reddit account run by the company to facilitate the transfer of subreddit moderator privileges.

Other large subreddits now controlled by Reddit include r/homeautomation and r/ShittyLifeProTips, which have over two million and one and a half million members respectively. The “modcodeofconduct” account currently controls 11 subreddits and has posted in 14 different subreddits looking for new mods.

The subreddits that are affected by both moderator resignations and forced removals include some of the most popular, with tens of millions of users affected. How much damage this will cause to Reddit is still an open question.

Sources include: Mashable

A recent Twitter thread from a Shopify employee, who broke their non-disclosure agreement (NDA), claims that although Shopify promised job security to its staff, it too carried out massive layoffs in July of the same year. 

According to the same employee, these layoffs were not related to a sudden change in market conditions or bad strategic decisions,” but rather a shift towards replacing full-time employees with cheaper contract labour and an increased reliance on artificial intelligence (AI) support. Shopify recently announced the upcoming launch of an AI assistant called “Sidekick” for merchants using its platform.

Reports claim that these changes have led to significant delays in customer support and a potential increase in the number of scam businesses on the platform. Remaining staff members have reportedly faced increased workloads without proportional compensation or benefits, leading to burnout, anxiety, and stress leave.

Previously known for supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs, it’s claimed that Shopify now seems to prioritize larger players, as its revenue model relies heavily on payment transactions rather than subscription software.

Despite these issues, Shopify’s leadership has assured employees there will be no further layoffs. However, the company’s secretive handling of layoffs under the veil of NDAs has caused employees to doubt these promises. 

As employee and public scrutiny grows, Shopify, a company that once touted its focus on employee and customer relationships, has a challenge to restore trust in its decisions and strategic direction.

Sources include: The deep dive 

And finally, Elon Musk has announced plans to replace Twitter’s iconic blue bird logo with a new logo featuring an “X”. This move is part of Musk’s ongoing efforts to rebrand Twitter, which he renamed to “X” in April. Musk’s vision is to transform Twitter into a “super app” that houses multiple functions, including direct messaging, payments, and video streaming.

In a series of tweets, Musk stated, “Soon we shall bid adieu to the twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds.” He further explained that the “X” will “embody the imperfections in us all that make us unique.” Musk also encouraged Twitter users to submit their own designs for the new “X” logo.

However, these changes have not been without controversy. Advertisers have been leaving the platform due to erratic changes to Twitter’s content moderation policies, Twitter’s ad revenue is reportedly down by more than 50 per cent. Furthermore, changes to the number of posts users could view per day led to the early debut of Meta’s copycat app, Threads.

It’s not clear how getting rid of one of the most iconic and recognizable brand images in history is a great marketing strategy. But then, flipping the bird to us all is time honoured Elon Musk tactic.

Okay, I tried. I just couldn’t resist. But sometimes he just makes it too easy.

Sources include: Axios

These are the top tech news stories for today.  Hashtag Trending goes to air 5 days a week with a special weekend interview show called “the Weekend Edition.”

You can get us anywhere you get audio podcasts and there is a copy of the show notes at itworldcanada.com/podcasts where you can get the podcast and instructions on how to put us on your smart speaker.

We’re also on YouTube five days a week with a video newscast only there we are called Tech News Day and we’re part of the ITWC channel. 

If you want to catch up on news more quickly, you can read these and more stories at TechNewsDay.com and at ITWorldCanada.com on the home page.

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Here’s the link to the AI Workshop in case you missed it.

I’m your host, Jim Love. Have a Marvelous Monday!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Love
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO and Chief Digital Officer of IT World Canada - Canada's leader in ICT publishing and digital marketing.

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