Happy Monday! 💃 Here's what everyone was talking about last week...

🎶 Spotify has tons of data on us. But instead of complaining about it, we're sharing it.

Spotify Unwrapped is an interactive story that gives Spotify users a rundown of their Spotify audio consumption for the year (I can't help but wonder what the reaction would be if Google decided to do this. Is tracking more acceptable if your stats are made into a shareable story with lots of bold colours?).

Apparently, the idea to turn the Spotify Wrapped email and playlist into an interactive user experience was first suggested by Jewel Ham as part of an intern project back in 2019.

This isn't the first time a large corporation has taken an intern or student's idea -- it actually seems pretty common. Back in 2017, fashion company Viktor & Rolf was accused of stealing their runway looks from an internship application. Yikes.

🙂 Slack recently removed their passive-aggressive smilie. It's a small change, but it makes a big difference.

Working from home has brought many challenges. One of the biggest has been transitioning from face-to-face meetings to online text-based chats.

In 2017, Dr. Ella Glikson released a paper titled: The Dark Side of a Smiley: Effects of Smiling Emoticons on Virtual First Impressions -- her results were surprising.

"People tend to assume that a smiley is a virtual smile, but the findings of this study show that in the case of the workplace, at least as far as initial 'encounters' are concerned, this is incorrect," Dr. Glikson said in a news release about the paper. "For now, at least, a smiley can only replace a smile when you already know the other person. In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender."

✔️ Life hacking with Instagram gadgets.

Over the past few years, Instagram has sneakily been finding new ways to show us ads (at this point, it kind of feels like my entire Instagram feed is just a hodgepodge of ads). To see whether any of the products in any of these targeted ads actually work, Guardian Audience Engagement Editor Max Benwell put some of them to the test.

Some of the most bizarre products included 'the Jawzrsize', which promises to chisel your jawline for $25, and the Somnifix, which stops you breathing out of your mouth when you go to sleep, for $20.

The strangest one of all was 'Manly', an app that will let you make your topless photo ripped for only $2.99 per month. "My verdict on Manly is that we could probably do with fewer apps that try to exploit people’s body insecurities, especially given the trying circumstances we’re all facing at the moment," said Benwell.

🤖 Is Apple turning us all into cyborgs?

The pandemic has made us more reliant on tech than ever before, and Apple’s gadgets are increasingly becoming extensions of our minds and bodies. In August, Apple became a $2 trillion company.

But it's about to get even more dystopian. And as soon as 2022, Apple could release a new pair of smart glasses that will essentially put a digital lens between us and the world.

“We won’t be able to opt out from wearing AR glasses in 2035 any more than we can opt out of owning smartphones today,” developer Adrian Hon, who was called on by Google to write games for their smartglasses a decade ago, told The Guardian. “Billions have no choice but to use them for basic tasks like education, banking, communication and accessing government services. In just a few years time, AR glasses do the same, but faster and better.”

🐕 Meet cyber Pomeranian.

Google's 3D objects displays life-size models of animals wherever you are to get an idea of their scale and presence. The feature has been out for a few months now, and I'm not sure exactly what it's supposed to be used for, but it somehow seems to get even weirder every time you look at it.

Back in June, Google released a blog post titled 'Travel back in time with AR dinosaurs in Search' to announce a new partnership that brought 10 dinosaurs from Jurassic World to Google Search.

"Watch the massive T. Rex stomp in your living room or gaze up at a majestic Brachiosaurus as it towers above a neighborhood tree," wrote Archana Kannan, the Group Product Manager at AR Experiences.

I guess it's...something to do?

🦜Duolingo needs to chill.

As it turns out, people are growing tired of being guilt-tripped by an imaginary crying owl. And instead of caving to its demands, they're just deleting the app.

"While guilt can be effective for nonprofits and charities, making people feel guilty about products, apps, and games can be less effective," says Raji Srinivasan, a professor of marketing at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business.

What's more some language experts have said that language-learning apps don't even work well.

The apps allow users to quickly and easily practice and reinforce the words they have learnt, while encouraging users with virtual rewards.

But "communication is key," says an article published by The Conversation. "When using the app to learn, say, Italian as a beginner, you are drilled on sentences like “I am the child”, or “I have a bowl”. This is audio-lingual drilling: there is no communication happening. Instead of basic communication, the users are drilled again and again in decontextualised, effectively meaningless sentences."

Have a great week!

Today's newsletter was written by Aimee Pearcy.

Have feedback? Want to chat? Get in touch at [email protected]

Otherwise, see you next week!