Is being accused of watching a bunch of sex workers urinate on an expensively-hired mattress more or less embarrassing than being accused of putting one’s penis into the mouth of a dead pig? It’s not a question I was expecting to pose myself this week, and yet here we are. Are the Russians controlling everything? Are the Russians simply working to make us think they control everything? Is Elon Musk right? Is this all just a simulation, some sort of pan-dimensional higher being’s version of The Sims (this being that point in the game when they’re so bored that they decide to just fcuk with the computerpeople; we could, in this reading of events, see much of what’s happened in the past week as their equivalent of removing all the in-game toilets)?
WHO KNOWS?! The only thing that’s been of comfort this week is that, whilst there may be a few dozen people currently alive on the planet with a reasonable grasp of what’s happening, none of those people are currently talking. Frankly, would you? Watching all the speculation would be TOO MUCH FUN.
Suffice it to say, gentle reader, that I am as baffled and scared by all of this as you - probably moreso, frankly, what with my legendary sensitivity. Thank the Lord, then, that I’ve spent the past week stitching together this poorly-woven comfort blanket of internet scraps for us all to cling to together; it’s ugly, fine, and please don’t ask me about the things you can see moving amongst the seams or why the smell simply won’t go however much you scrub it - just clutch it to yourself and think about how weird things must have gotten already in 2017 that this poorly-curated (ha! ‘curated’!) load of webspaff is sort of reassuringly normal and familiar. This, as ever, is WEB CURIOS!
And so it begins again. We return to our pens, fattened, bovine and docile after a fortnight’s enjoyment of the illusory promise of freedom, ready to once more face the uncertain future with a faltering smile and the deep-yet-unspoken hope that maybe this year will be the one in which it all just stops, just for a second.
But it won’t be. In fact, it’s all going to get faster and busier and more congested, more thick and clotted with signals and information and data and ephemera and news and anger and frustration. So, you know, deal with it. But don’t worry! Web Curios - part of the problem, definitely not part of the solution - will be here to hold your hand through what promises to be a truly interesting twelve months (in the most Chinese of senses).
Strap up, then, buckle in, and ready yourself as we start the long, slow descent into the very bowels of the information beast. IT IS ALL PROBABLY GOING TO BE FINE.
This is Web Curios.
And so, we come to the end. You don’t need to read another tired ‘wow, wasn’t that all terrible’ wrapup - we all know just how dreadful it’s been, so let’s not labour the point. Here’s hoping that we all manage to not get everything quite so wrong next year and that humanity’s signature ability to learn from its mistakes helps us out yet again.
Anyway, pretty much as soon as I hit ‘Send’ on this fcuker I am turning off the internet for the year - I suggest that as soon as you’re done clicking EVERY SINGLE LINK in here that you do the same thing. For now, though, get ready to put yourself through the webwringer one last time - let’s squeeze this bastard until the pips veritably squeak. For the final time in 2016, THIS IS WEB CURIOS - God bless us, everyone.
There's a new way to get your word's worth: by adopting one for a year on the dictionary site Wordnik. A US-based nonprofit, Wordnik raises funds by offering words for adoption, and they have more than 8 million words to choose from. For US$25, adopters get their name (and a link to their Twitter or website) on the word, a set of spiffy stickers in the post, and a downloadable certificate (suitable for framing).
Wordnik strives to include all the words of English, so you can adopt a word even if it doesn't have a traditional dictionary definition yet—and you can also give words as gifts. (Don't think you can pick some disparaging term and slap your least favorite politician's name on it: Wordnik checks with the recipient first for anything that seems prankish.) The site then turns off advertising on the adopted words for the year, so everyone wins. If you're curious about what words have been adopted, and why, Wordnik has interviewed some of their early adopters about their choices...
This past summer, The Lost Palace allowed people to explore the lost Palace of Whitehall, 300 years after it burnt to the ground, of which only the Banqueting House remains.
Historic Royal Palaces worked with Chomko & Rosier, and a diverse team of collaborators including theatre makers Uninvited Guests, sound artist Lewis Gibson and app developers Calvium, to create an experience that allowed visitors to uncover the lost palace on the streets of central London.
Oh look! Everything got magically better while I was taking a break and everything is fixed and the Lib Dem victory will set us on a course towards a political future which looks more like a light at the end of the tunnel rather than every single train ever invented hurtling down said tunnel towards us at 100mph!
HA! OF COURSE NOT! Everything is still awful, but frankly I’ve basically checked out for Christmas already and so I don’t care one iota. It’s almost literally impossible that the next month of my life can be any worse than the corresponding period last year, so on that basis I am going to declare 2016 officially DONE, and the remaining 29 days in this calendar month to be a weird sort of liminal space - consider this 2017’s waiting room, if you will.
And while you wait, you’ll need distractions and entertainment and FOOD FOR THOUGHT - consider the following, then, the yellowing, dog-eared Readers Digests of this particular antechamber - let’s not dwell on what exactly the appointment we’re waiting for entails, or indeed what’s making the sounds coming from the other side of that door which, now we mention it, is bulgingly unpleasantly with all sorts of dreadful portents. This, my children, is WEB CURIOS - it’s all probably going to be OK, I promise you.
I recently witnessed a chanting mob of disgruntled Deliveroo riders who had gathered outside the company's headquarters in London to protest against an intended pay cut that would reduce their hourly wage from £7 (€ 8.30) to £3.75 (€4.45) per delivery. The demonstration was the latest eruption of employee dissent within the on-demand economy as workers respond to severe wage cuts and other challenges to their employment rights.
Platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo operate at the forefront of the recently established 'gig economy'. As the popularity of on-demand apps increases, more and more young people are attracted by the short, flexible working arrangements offered by these platforms. Uber claims to have over 160,000 drivers globally, while the food delivery company Foodora has gone from 3 to 600 employees in the Netherlands in under a year. However, rapid expansion comes with hidden costs. Many on demand companies circumvent traditional employment rights by hiring staff as independent contractors on zero hour contracts that give employees little or no entitlement to holiday, sick cover or changes to pay. In addition, freelancers (or independent contractors) are required to possess their own insurance, complete their own taxes and encouraged to work on a fixed rate rather than an hourly or minimum wage.
Recent criticism of Facebook for removing a post containing the iconic image of a naked girl during the Vietnam War isn’t the first time it has been accused of censorship. Yet at the same time, it is regularly rebuked for failing to remove quickly enough hateful, illegal or inappropriate material, most recently by the German government.
The difficult job of deciding whether or not to publish something – or to withdraw it – used to fall to the human editors of print publications, broadcasters and websites. Now that so many of us access news and entertainment through social media sites such as Facebook, the forces that control what we do and don’t see have shifted. But Facebook’s increasing use of computer algorithms means it has more editorial responsibility, not less – despite what the company wants us to believe.
Africa’s mobile market, second only to that of the Asia-Pacific region, has huge potential for growth.
Figures published by the global GSM Association in Tanzania are breathtaking. Every five years, the group collects data from its 800 network carriers. Putting these figures together with research carried out in the Sahel region provides an illuminating picture of mobile use across the continent.
According to the GSMA report, by the end of 2015, nearly half of the 1.17 billion-strong African population (557 million people) had some kind of mobile phone plan. They now amount to 12% of all individual subscribers in the world, and make up 6% of global revenue – a 70% increase when compared to figures published by the same source just five years earlier.