The current television advertising campaign for the Nationwide building society has been widely derided as incredibly irritating. Negative reactions to the adverts, which feature a pair of singing sisters called Flo and Joan, have been widespread on social media. There has been plenty of scorn, and shockingly, even death threats.
It is easy to see why, for many, the adverts are annoying. They can come across as smug, basic and too twee to be warmed to. The overly long songs grate. Even worse, the open ended skits have no coherent story linking them together, just a common air of prim pithiness.
Whether this makes these good or bad advertisements however, is up for debate.
So, look, I have some troubling news. You may want to sit down. Web Curios is taking a small break.
CALM YOURSELVES! STOP RENDING AT YOUR CLOTHES AND SKIN! STOP THE FLAGELLATIONS AND LET THE KEENING CEASE!
Compose yourselves, all of you, IT'S ONLY TEMPORARY. Paul, my editor here at Imperica, is going to have a bit of a rummage around the back end of the site over the next couple of weeks and do some other stuff to (read about it here); he'd be interested in hearing from you if you have any exciting ideas about what to do with the place and how to help out.
Whilst this is going on, I'm going to be catching up on my Friday sleep and possibly doing things like my laundry, or getting a haircut. It's going to be thrilling. Anyway, what this means is that Web Curios will be back in THREE WEEKS TIME - that is, on Friday 6 April. Until then, though, you will have to pass the time without it - WHAT WILL YOU DO? HOW WILL YOU COPE? Please feel free to tell us how much you'll miss this bitter, bitter shake of nihilism and ennui being forced down your gullet each week, even if it means you lying through your teeth.
Anyhow, this week's is a particularly mediocre edition in celebration of my impending break - during which I am going to be in part catsitting for my girlfriend, so there is the outside possibility that all my tendons will have -been shredded and I will never be able to type again, so chin up! = so without further ado let's pull the skin right back and take a look - it's probably fine, right? RIGHT! This, as ever, is Web Curios!
Coughing and spluttering, stumbling around in a mess of limbs, we made it to the finish line.
When we launched in 2010, the big idea was for Imperica to hit the sweet spot of creativity: between art and marketing, between digital and physical, between established and upcoming. There was a period, in around 2012 I think, when we were right on that.
We were interviewing “names”. We took some lovely photos.
We were being invited to things (although being in Oxford, we couldn’t attend them, perhaps creating a feeling of being aloof when in reality it was about not being able to afford the Oxford Tube).
Today, the world wide web turns 29. This year marks a milestone in the web’s history: for the first time, we will cross the tipping point when more than half of the world’s population will be online.
When I share this exciting news with people, I tend to get one of two concerned reactions:
How do we get the other half of the world connected?Are we sure the rest of the world wants to connect to the web we have today?
The threats to the web today are real – from misinformation and questionable political advertising to a loss of control over our personal data. But I remain committed to making sure the web is a free, open, creative space – for everyone.
That vision is only possible if we get everyone online, and make sure the web works for people. I founded the Web Foundation to fight for the web’s future. Here’s where we must focus our efforts.
My chronic inability to avoid needless verbosity (see? even when I am trying to apologise for it, FFS) means that this has once again gone LONG and gone LATE - that said. it's fair to say in passing that if this week has taught us anything (and by 'us' I mean 'you' - I am no longer capable of learning anything, mostly instead leaching knowledge from my ears at a rate of knots) is that YOU DO NOT FCUK WITH VLADIMIR.
(as an aside, I texted that to my girlfriend this week but misspelled his name with an 'f' rather than a 'd' - turns out, he's a lot less intimidating if you call him 'Vlafimir')
(as another aside, let me make it clear to any agents who may be reading this that my opening this week is making absolutely NO inferences whatsoever, ok? Good)
Anyway, we ALL have things to be getting on with, not least YOU dear readers who have...no, I'm not going to tell you the word count this week, it will only upset you. Rest assured, though, that as ever it dense, thick and packed with the sort of chewy infolumps of questionable origin that have become Web Curios very own indigestible trademark. GET THE WARMING FLUID DOWN YOU, CHILDREN, FOR WHO KNOWS WHEN WE SHALL EAT AGAIN (next week, same time, same place, for reassurance) - this, as ever, is Web Curios.
British artist and photographer Ben Buchanan worked at New York's AREA nightclub in the 1980s. During that time, an explosion of new art and music was happening around him, from people such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat as well as more established figures including David Hockney and Andy Warhol.
At the recent exhibition of his work at the Peter Harrington Gallery in London, we caught up with Ben to ask him about his work, and to talk about his memories of specific photographs from the era.
An ad network called Popad has not just been circumventing user's ad blocking software, but it has also been found to be mining cryptocurrencies through the placing of concealed malware on a user's computer.
It’s hard to win a battle you don’t realise you’re in. It’s even harder if you don’t know all of the armies on the field, their strategies and weapons, or even who’s a friend and who’s a foe.The same is true in software. We are all in a battle, multiple battles in fact, with a lot at stake: whether it’s the fate of the company we work for or for the product that we build.
In this battle, I’ve found a secret weapon hidden within one of our core engineering strategies, an idea called Run Less Software. As well as being a critical philosophy behind how we build software, it also represents how I feel about the software industry and technology in general.
Read more (Intercom blog)
Mindfulness is big business, worth in excess of US$1.0 billion in the US alone and linked – somewhat paradoxically – to an expanding range of must-have products. These include downloadable apps (1300 at the last count), books to read or colour in, and online courses. Mindfulness practice and training is now part of a global wellness industry worth trillions of dollars.
Mindfulness has its origins in Buddhist meditation teachings and encourages the quiet observation of habituated thought patterns and emotions. The aim is to interrupt what can be an unhealthy tendency to over-identify with and stress out about these transient contents of the mind. By doing so, those who practice mindfulness can come to dwell in what is often described as a more “spacious” and liberating awareness. They are freed from seemingly automatic tendencies (such as anxiety about status, appearances, future prospects, our productivity) that are exploited by advertisers and other institutions in order to shape our behaviour. In its original Buddhist settings, mindfulness is inseparable from the ethical life.
The rapid rise and mainstreaming of what was once regarded as the preserve of a 1960s counterculture associated with a rejection of materialist values might seem surprising. But it is no accident that these practices of meditation and mindfulness have become so widespread. Neoliberalism and the associated rise of the “attention economy” are signs of our consumerist and enterprising times. Corporations and dominant institutions thrive by capturing and directing our time and attention, both of which appear to be in ever-shorter supply.
I AM SO CHAPPED! SO CHAPPED!
I appreciate that it's pretty low down on the list of legitimate reasons to moan, but seriously, you really don't want to see my smile right now (plus ca change, eh?) (SO MUCH BLOOD!).
Have you been toboganning? Have you thrown a snowball? Have you, at the very least, drawn something puerile on someone's car windscreen? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??? (to those of you reading this outside of the United Kingdom, we've had some weather).
Anyway, whilst it may be COLD outside, in here, crammed in with all the internet, it's all cosy and not a little close. Snuggle up, warms yourselves on this week's BONFIRE OF THE LINKS, and watch the flames - see what shapes you can scry, what terrible futures are presaged, what dreadful auguries of the future coalesce. EVERYTHING IS AWFUL AND NOTHING IS GOING TO BE OK - it's WEB CURIOS!
Instagram has become a major player on the social media scene. And like any social media platform, major trends will arise that we all love to hate. The Facebook owned platform has around 800 million users worldwide per month, and it growth shows no signs of slowing down - not just because of us and our constant sharing, but because it’s now been established as a serious tool for marketing. Businesses with Instagram accounts are booming like never before.
Do you like Blockchain? Who doesn't, right? Companies are falling over themselves to Blockchain All The Things, with companies adding "Blockchain" to their names multiplying in value in one fell swoop. There is one problem with Blockchain, however, that hasn't gained much attention until now: the EU's General Data Protection Regulations, or GDPR.
Software is politics. I wrote that back in 2016, arguing that the digital services we all rely on should not just be designed for ease of use–they also need to be understandable, accountable, and trusted.
Viewing software as politics is about more than tech, and it’s about more than ethics. It’s about the idea that, if politics is about the distribution of power in society, then software is inherently political. How that power is managed and the choices about who it is put to work for are the political questions of our age.
If 2016 was the year it became impossible to ignore the power software exerts on society, then today, in 2018, we can start to identify some signals about what the levers of control might be. Are there reasons to be optimistic? Which companies are using trust as a competitive advantage? What organizations are showing how the power of tech can be held to account? Here are six themes that are emerging.
Read more (FastCompany)
Patrick Reames had no idea why Amazon.com sent him a 1099 form saying he’d made almost $24,000 selling books via Createspace, the company’s on-demand publishing arm. That is, until he searched the site for his name and discovered someone has been using it to peddle a $555 book that’s full of nothing but gibberish.
The phony $555 book sold more than 60 times on Amazon using Patrick Reames’ name and Social Security number.
Reames is a credited author on Amazon by way of several commodity industry books, although none of them made anywhere near the amount Amazon is reporting to the Internal Revenue Service. Nor does he have a personal account with Createspace.
But that didn’t stop someone from publishing a “novel” under his name. That word is in quotations because the publication appears to be little more than computer-generated text, almost like the gibberish one might find in a spam email.
Read more (Krebs on Security)
“If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what citizenship means,” the British prime minister, Theresa May, declared in October 2016. Not long after, at his first postelection rally, Donald Trump asserted, “There is no global anthem. No global currency. No certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag.” And in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has increased his national-conservative party’s popularity with statements like “all the terrorists are basically migrants” and “the best migrant is the migrant who does not come.”
Citizenship and its varying legal definition has become one of the key battlegrounds of the 21st century, as nations attempt to stake out their power in a G-Zero, globalized world, one increasingly defined by transnational, borderless trade and liquid, virtual finance. In a climate of pervasive nationalism, jingoism, xenophobia, and ever-building resentment toward those who move, it’s tempting to think that doing so would become more difficult. But alongside the rise of populist, identitarian movements across the globe, identity itself is being virtualized, too. It no longer needs to be tied to place or nation to function in the global marketplace.
Hannah Arendt called citizenship “the right to have rights.” Like any other right, it can be bestowed and withheld by those in power, but in its newer forms it can also be bought, traded, and rewritten. Virtual citizenship is a commodity that can be acquired through the purchase of real estate or financial investments, subscribed to via an online service, or assembled by peer-to-peer digital networks. And as these options become available, they’re also used, like so many technologies, to exclude those who don’t fit in.
Read more (The Atlantic)
When Donald Trump tweets, stock prices can tumble. Trump can wield greater influence with 280 characters than some world leaders can with entire economies. Reaching the public directly, Trump is able to personally attack an individual, agency, or company, and impact the news cycle for days, if not weeks, at a time. How can Trump’s attacks be so effective if the restrictions imposed by Twitter’s character limit leave so little room to formulate an argument?
Anyone who followed the bitter presidential race between Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 could be excused for thinking the evidence is already in. Trump and Fox spent months ceaselessly browbeating CNN and Clinton with attacks on their integrity, their associations, and their alleged motivations. Attacks ranged from accusations of corruption and criminality to anti-American intent. Clinton and CNN responded in kind, drawing parallels between Trump and Hitler, and painting him as exploitative and predatory in his business practices, narcissistic, sexist and racist.
Behind these shouting matches, various news channels were busily scrutinizing every statistic, accusation, and proposal, consulting experts and available data to ‘fact check’ these accusations on behalf of the American people. But, despite these attempts at accuracy, Americans’ trust in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” has reached its lowest level in polling history, with only 32 percent of respondents claiming they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the mass media. It appears that, armed with ad hominems and an insatiable blood lust, news organisations on all sides have engaged in all-out partisan warfare which has cost them dearly.
Read more (Quillette)