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Creative ways to host a virtual birthday party for kids

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Social distancing requirements amid the COVID-19 pandemic may have canceled kids’ birthday parties, but parents are finding new ways to take the celebrations online. While video chat apps like Zoom, Google Hangouts or FaceTime are an option for gathering kids together in the virtual space, there’s still the challenge of what to do once there. A few companies are working to solve this challenge for parents who are looking for ideas to make their child’s birthday special in the time of COVID-19.

Sky Zone

One business that’s been heavily impacted by government-mandated retail closures is Sky Zone, the indoor trampoline park that’s home to dozens of kids’ birthday parties per day. The company operates Sky Zone parks in more than 160 locations across the U.S. and Canada, mainly to franchisees, which have now temporarily closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

To help give back to families who still want a party while staying at home, Sky Zone has shifted its current focus to virtual birthday parties. The move not only offers parents the benefit of the hassle-free party planning that a typical events space provides, it also gives Sky Zone a way to keep employees working during the business closures.

The party, however, is not a new source to replace the business’s lost revenue or a way to make payroll. Instead, Sky Zone is offering to host the party for free to parents for up to 10 guests. Parents will have the option to tip the party host at the end of the event to support Sky Zone team members.

To request a party, parents fill out an online form with their information, then wait to hear from the Sky Zone representative who will schedule the party and create a digital invitation with a link to join the party room. Parents forward the digital invite to their friends and family however they choose. Then, on the day of the event, everyone joins the virtual party, which is hosted via Zoom.

The party itself is a 20 to 25-minute experience with the party host leading the kids through games and activities to get kids moving, like Simon Says, Dance Battles, Trivia and even teaching the kids a TikTok dance. They’ll also lead the group in singing Happy Birthday to the Guest of Honor while parents bring in the cake.

The offering was first launched on March 26, 2020 and already Sky Zone has hosted 30 parties and has more than 100 others scheduled.

The benefit of this party over a DIY group chat is that the staff hosting the party are already used to working with kids. Plus, it’s an easy way for overworked parents to get the party handled when they don’t have time to organize more time-consuming events, like a drive-by birthday parade, in-home scavenger hunt or the other alternative birthday party options some parents have turned to in this time of crisis.

Roblox

Another company venturing into the virtual party space is gaming platform Roblox .

Already a huge online hangout for kids in the pre-COVID-19 era, Roblox usage has been booming in recent weeks as kids stuck at home look for ways to socialize with both online and real-life friends in the virtual world. Today, Roblox claims more than 120 million monthly active users and is now No. 35 on App Annie’s 2020 ranking of the top 52 mobile game publishers by revenue.

The company says it was inspired by the stories of friends, family and classmates connecting on its platform during the pandemic, including those who were hosting in-game birthday parties.

Together, with its developer community, Roblox on Friday launched the new “Play Together” game sort, which makes it easier for players to find those games where you socialize with others — like visiting a virtual shopping mall, going camping or riding virtual water slides, for example. The games in the Play Together game sort also offer VIP servers for 10 Robux (10 cents). That allow users to play with family, friends, classmates and others they choose in a private virtual space — like a virtual birthday party.

To create a VIP server, you first visit the individual game’s page on Roblox, then click on the “Servers” tab and then the button “Create VIP Server.” Give your server a name, then invite others using the link provided. (Note that this is opting you into a subscription, so you’ll need to cancel it after the party ends — unless you want to retain the option to have private playspaces like this going forward.)

If you can’t figure out this process, trust me that your child can show you the ropes here.

While Roblox is popular with both boys and girls alike, a private match on Fornite is an alternative for some parents. The majority of Fornite players (roughly 73%) are male, so this could be an option for non-coed parties, for instance.

Caribu

For younger children and toddlers whose virtual party may only involve gathering together extended family — like grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, for example — there’s Caribu.

The family-friendly video calling app helps little ones get over their awkwardness about chatting online by offering a variety of in-app activities. For birthday parties, Caribu’s paint and drawing feature could be a fun, mess-free activity. The app also includes other simple games like Tic-Tac-Toe, interactive word puzzles and word searches.

To help keep families connected during the COVID-19 pandemic, AT&T is sponsoring 60 days of free access and unlimited use of the Caribu app, which offers in-app subscriptions for its full content library, which includes kids’ e-books.

Houseparty

For tweens and teens, the group video chat app Houseparty is another option that works across mobile and desktop.

Houseparty has also seen significant growth due to coronavirus-related lockdowns and home quarantines, particularly in Europe. During the week of March 21, Houseparty downloads surged at 423 times the average weekly number of downloads in Q4 2019.

What makes Houseparty an option for a virtual party experience is that it’s not just another way to group chat — friends can play online games in the chat, including Heads Up!, Trivia, Chips and Guac and Quick Draw. These are free to play, though there is an option to purchase more decks through in-app purchases for some games.

Evites with built-in video chat

Even if you do choose to go the DIY route to host a simple FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom or Skype video chat, there are ways to make the invite more special than just a text. For example, the digital invitations service Evite has updated its app and website to now allow party hosts to add a video chat link to their personalized invite.

The company is also beta testing its own Evite video chat, which is a more integrated option that allows up to eight guests to be able to join from a tab within the invite.

Hobnob’s digital invites app has also updated to make it easier for friends to send invitations for online-only events through Zoom, Facebook Live and YouTube Live.

Personalized Zoom invites

Another option for Zoom users is the newly launched service ZmURL.

This free online tool lets you customize your Zoom video call invite URL with a title, explanation, image and RSVP requirement. This latter RSVP feature means that only those you’ve specifically invited via email will be able to access the provided link and join.

Live streams

Some parents have turned to live-streaming as an option for virtual parties, like those offered by YouTube or Facebook.

While a Facebook Live stream may not have a party host like Sky Zone, or built-in options to play games like Caribu or Houseparty, it does offer an easy way to share a celebration happening at home with others. Though children won’t have their own Facebook account (hopefully!), parents can send out invites to the parents of the child’s friends or family members through a Facebook Group invite, for instance, or by posting a message about the virtual party on their own profile. Participants can then watch the stream together as the child opens gifts left on the porch (and wiped down) and celebrates at home with family.

While technology can help to facilitate these virtual events, parents can take extra steps to make a virtual party special. Some local businesses that used to send characters — like superheroes or Disney princesses — to kids’ birthday parties are now offering to record video messages or even join a virtual party the parent is hosting. Neighbors and friends can decorate the yard or leave chalk messages. Surprise balloon drops, car parades, scavenger hunts and other activities can make the party memorable for other reasons besides being the child’s first quarantine birthday.

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What can ChatGPT do?

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ChatGPT Explained

ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI that is trained on a massive amount of text data. It is capable of generating human-like text and has been used in a variety of applications, such as chatbots, language translation, and text summarization.

One of the key features of ChatGPT is its ability to generate text that is similar to human writing. This is achieved through the use of a transformer architecture, which allows the model to understand the context and relationships between words in a sentence. The transformer architecture is a type of neural network that is designed to process sequential data, such as natural language.

Another important aspect of ChatGPT is its ability to generate text that is contextually relevant. This means that the model is able to understand the context of a conversation and generate responses that are appropriate to the conversation. This is accomplished by the use of a technique called “masked language modeling,” which allows the model to predict the next word in a sentence based on the context of the previous words.

One of the most popular applications of ChatGPT is in the creation of chatbots. Chatbots are computer programs that simulate human conversation and can be used in customer service, sales, and other applications. ChatGPT is particularly well-suited for this task because of its ability to generate human-like text and understand context.

Another application of ChatGPT is language translation. By training the model on a large amount of text data in multiple languages, it can be used to translate text from one language to another. The model is able to understand the meaning of the text and generate a translation that is grammatically correct and semantically equivalent.

In addition to chatbots and language translation, ChatGPT can also be used for text summarization. This is the process of taking a large amount of text and condensing it into a shorter, more concise version. ChatGPT is able to understand the main ideas of the text and generate a summary that captures the most important information.

Despite its many capabilities and applications, ChatGPT is not without its limitations. One of the main challenges with using language models like ChatGPT is the risk of generating text that is biased or offensive. This can occur when the model is trained on text data that contains biases or stereotypes. To address this, OpenAI has implemented a number of techniques to reduce bias in the training data and in the model itself.

In conclusion, ChatGPT is a powerful language model that is capable of generating human-like text and understanding context. It has a wide range of applications, including chatbots, language translation, and text summarization. While there are limitations to its use, ongoing research and development is aimed at improving the model’s performance and reducing the risk of bias.

** The above article has been written 100% by ChatGPT. This is an example of what can be done with AI. This was done to show the advanced text that can be written by an automated AI.

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Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

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Survey says: Amazon, Google more trusted with your personal data than Apple is

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survey-says:-amazon,-google-more-trusted-with-your-personal-data-than-apple-is-–-phonearena
 

MacRumors reveals that more people feel better with their personal data in the hands of Amazon and Google than Apple’s. Companies that the public really doesn’t trust when it comes to their personal data include Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.

The survey asked over 1,000 internet users in the U.S. how much they trusted certain companies such as Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon to handle their user data and browsing activity responsibly.

Amazon and Google are considered by survey respondents to be more trustworthy than Apple

Those surveyed were asked whether they trusted these firms with their personal data “a great deal,” “a good amount,” “not much,” or “not at all.” Respondents could also answer that they had no opinion about a particular company. 18% of those polled said that they trust Apple “a great deal” which topped the 14% received by Google and Amazon.

However, 39% said that they trust Amazon  by “a good amount” with Google picking up 34% of the votes in that same category. Only 26% of those answering said that they trust Apple by “a good amount.” The first two responses, “a great deal” and “a good amount,” are considered positive replies for a company. “Not much” and “not at all” are considered negative responses.

By adding up the scores in the positive categories,

Apple tallied a score of 44% (18% said it trusted Apple with its personal data “a great deal” while 26% said it trusted Apple “a good amount”). But that placed the tech giant third after Amazon’s 53% and Google’s 48%. After Apple, Microsoft finished fourth with 43%, YouTube (which is owned by Google) was fifth with 35%, and Facebook was sixth at 20%.

Rounding out the remainder of the nine firms in the survey, Instagram placed seventh with a positive score of 19%, WhatsApp was eighth with a score of 15%, and TikTok was last at 12%.

Looking at the scoring for the two negative responses (“not much,” or “not at all”), Facebook had a combined negative score of 72% making it the least trusted company in the survey. TikTok was next at 63% with Instagram following at 60%. WhatsApp and YouTube were both in the middle of the pact at 53% followed next by Google and Microsoft at 47% and 42% respectively. Apple and Amazon each had the lowest combined negative scores at 40% each.

74% of those surveyed called targeted online ads invasive

The survey also found that a whopping 82% of respondents found targeted online ads annoying and 74% called them invasive. Just 27% found such ads helpful. This response doesn’t exactly track the 62% of iOS users who have used Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature to opt-out of being tracked while browsing websites and using apps. The tracking allows third-party firms to send users targeted ads online which is something that they cannot do to users who have opted out.

The 38% of iOS users who decided not to opt out of being tracked might have done so because they find it convenient to receive targeted ads about a certain product that they looked up online. But is ATT actually doing anything?

Marketing strategy consultant Eric Seufert said last summer, “Anyone opting out of tracking right now is basically having the same level of data collected as they were before. Apple hasn’t actually deterred the behavior that they have called out as being so reprehensible, so they are kind of complicit in it happening.”

The Financial Times says that iPhone users are being lumped together by certain behaviors instead of unique ID numbers in order to send targeted ads. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg says that the company is working to rebuild its ad infrastructure “using more aggregate or anonymized data.”

Aggregated data is a collection of individual data that is used to create high-level data. Anonymized data is data that removes any information that can be used to identify the people in a group.

When consumers were asked how often do they think that their phones or other tech devices are listening in to them in ways that they didn’t agree to, 72% answered “very often” or “somewhat often.” 28% responded by saying “rarely” or “never.”

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