TikTok Newsletter 25

Text-to-Speech-to-Text. Confuse TikTok. TikTok TV. TikTok 2021


this is Understanding TikTok your weekly infusion of TikTok related news. My name is Marcus.

2020. We are nearly done. 2020. The year when everyone from Google to Facebook wanted to be TikTok (The Times of India, December 14). Read more about how TikTok changed the world (BBC) by Sophia – who did a great job this year building up to more than 150K followers on TikTok. Read more about TikTok's Extraordinary 2020 (Vice) by Chris – who did a great job this year writing approximately 150K articles. And here is a 2020 TikTok Trend Recap in 55 seconds, found by Kalhan.

Today let´s talk about:

🆒 Text-to-Speech-to-Text
🍭 Confuse TikTok
📺 TikTok TV
💫 TikTok 2021

🆒 Text-to-Speech -  Speech-to-Text

TikTok has a new feature: We’ve introduced a text-to-speech feature that allows people to convert typed text to voice that plays over text as it appears in a video (Tweet). Here is a How-To. Here is an example.

And here are some thoughts. TikTok and accessibility has been a topic right from the start and ever since: The lack of accessibility and usability is especially stark when compared to Google, Apple, and Microsoft interfaces which strictly follow web accessibility best practices and guidelines (TikTok Accessibility). TikTok had to improve here in order to become a global social media company.

The functionality leads to more memes but it also allows not only users who can not but as well those who do not want to produce videos with their own voice to use a computer generated voice.

I, for one, dream of a global platform that allows direct translation of TikToks from all over the world. Not only 40 languages that are currently available but even more. On a technical level this is doable and even easier if you have a text-script.

Besides text-to-speech the other way round has been a thing on TikTok too. You can use various apps to do that. Apple Clips has a clever way to add live subtitles. And since late October it finally supports vertical videos (Apple’s Clips app finally supports vertical video). Of course there are many apps for that on Android as well. 

🍭 Confuse TikTok - Not For You

The TikTok algorithm is a black box. Despite TikTok’s PR campaign during the summer that led to articles with headlines like this “TikTok Explains How Its Algorithm Really Works” (Independent, June 19) there are literally no people outside ByteDance who have seen the entire code. This was a huge discussion during the whole Trump/TikTok story weeks ago.

There are a lot of self-proclaimed experts who produce videos, texts and TikToks in order to explain how the algorithm works. I’d rather check out the interactive infographic The Psychology Behind TikTok’s Addictive Feed based on observation.

Or you can check out artist Benjamin Grosser who has built an automated confusion system for TikTok. I love the idea!

Not For You is an ‘automated confusion system’ designed to mislead TikTok’s video recommendation algorithm, making it possible to see how TikTok feels when it’s no longer made ‘For You.’ The system navigates the site without intervention, clicking on videos and hashtags and users to find the nooks and crannies TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t show us, to reveal those videos its content moderators suppress, and to surface speech the company hopes to hide.”

📺 TikTok TV - Hello YouTube. Hello Netflix

Do you own a TV? Well, if it is a Samsung Smart TV you will be able to check out TikTok on a big screen soon. Why is this interesting? The move shows TikTok's attempts to move into the longer-form video space, writes Chris.

TikTok has been testing longer, three-minute videos (The Verge) - a length that feels more in line with YouTube videos. Maybe TikTok does a better job than Instagram targeting YouTube with IGTV.

TikTok's entrance into the TV world could signal new competition for Netflix, Disney, and Amazon. It could. Another interesting take here is the discussion around “passivity” and the “mission to eliminate search”.  Let´s wait and see how this plays out in 2021. 

💫 TikTok 2021

Let´s predict the future. A bit. According to app analytics provider App Annie TikTok will exceed one billion users over the course of the next year. Oberlo has top ten TikTok trends “with a forward-looking focus on ... 2021” including some obvious observations like brands and influencers are embracing TikTok, more celebrities to jump on, remixing the new user-generated content and memes will be very important. I’d like to add that TikTok literacy is therefore key. What else? More drama, more mainstream, more age (TikToks my mum has been sending me), more features, more rip-offs, more known unknows. 

For a broader view, i recommend a great article by Louise Matsakis: The year of TikTok. Quote: “the company faces three related problems, all of which will be familiar to anyone who has followed Google or Facebook over the past decade. The difference is that TikTok may be less equipped to handle them.” Number one is moderation and trust (“the company spent much of 2020 trying to move away from China and remodel itself as a global social media company”). Interesting enough TikTok has been stepping up the game here lately, e.g. here or here or here.

Besides that the algorithm based model “may be inadvertently pushing its users into separate spheres” something that could very easily be tackled by throwing in more random stuff on the For You page. See “Confuse TikTok” above.

“The most obvious challenge TikTok must confront is that governments around the globe simply don’t like it”, writes Louise. Indeed this is something to observe in 2021: “TikTok will need to navigate thorny relationships with leaders from a slew of other nations where it’s quickly gaining millions of new users. Its stated values will likely be tested.” Another aspect of that discussion is mentioned here: TikTok: A new digital Cold War?

So in the end very much depends on your personal take. Wether idealist or realist, wether optimistic or pessimistic or somewhere inbetween – i hope you have some relaxing days. Be kind. See you in 2021. Thx. Marcus