In 1973, I invented a ‘girly drink’ called Baileys

In 1973, I invented a ‘girly drink’ called Baileys

My dinner-party party piece for many years was to say, “Well, actually, I invented Baileys. You know, Baileys Irish Cream. I did that back in 1973.”

If one of the unfortunate listening group is a woman – and this is based on actual past experience - she is likely to respond something like this: “Oh-my-God. Baileys. My mother absolutely adores it. Did you hear that, Jocasta? This man invented Baileys. It’s unreal. I don’t believe it. He must be terribly rich. Baileys Cream. Wow!”

And it’s not as if these rather posh people really adore Baileys. Or even hold it in the same esteem as, say, an obscure Islay single malt or a fine white burgundy from Meursault. Not a bit of it. They might have respected it years ago but most people of legal drinking age regard Baileys as a bit naff. To my mind, they’d be very wrong.

On December 3rd, 2007, Diageo announced the sale of the billionth bottle of Baileys since it was first introduced in 1973. That’s a thousand million bottles. And they will have sold at least a further 250 million bottles in the decade since then bringing the total up to something in the area of 1,250,000,000. If we assume that every bottle of Baileys delivered eight generous servings that suggests that over 12 billion glasses of Baileys have been poured since it all began.

The initial thought behind Baileys Irish Cream took about 30 seconds. In another 45 minutes the idea was formed. Baileys was like that for me. A decade of experience kicked in and delivered a great idea. It wasn’t as instant as it seemed. This is the story of its creation.

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Web Curios 12/01/18

Look, whatever else might have happened in the world this week, it pales into insignificance when compared to THIS. Just enjoy it on a loop; you're welcome. 

Anyway, I'm in quite a good mood today and so am going to try not to ruin it by ranting too much at you. It's Friday! It's the weekend (practically)! This week's Curios contains an uncommon number of excellent links! Oh, ok, fine, everything's still AWFUL, obviously, but manageably so. Sit back, relax, let my words permeate your consciousness like those weird little brain-burrowing worms in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan - because what could be nicer than having a whole week's worth of web insinuated into your consciousness on a Friday afternoon? Well, yes, fine, but you probably can't get away with that in the office whereas this can legitimately be timesheeted as 'general internet research' - HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE WELCOME TO WEB CURIOS!

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Control: Publishing as Cybernetic Practice

Control: Publishing as Cybernetic Practice

Since 1965, British artist Stephen Willats has self-published Control magazine, a seminal forum for artists’ writings on art practice and social organization. With over 150 contributors throughout its 50-year run, Control has drawn on research from cybernetics, advertising theory, and behavioral science to develop models for how artworks operate in dialogue with an audience and society at large. Last year Willats published the 20th issue of Control, in which he continues to pose incisive questions about the ethics of information systems and networked artistic practice that feel more crucial than ever.

Cybernetics was famously defined by Norbert Wiener as “the scientific study of communication and control in the animal and the machine.” The models of feedback that cyberneticians developed were transdisciplinary from the outset, bridging the worlds of computation and engineering with those of design, art, and counterculture.

According to Anthony Hudek, “It is … Control’s function as a self-determining information network, instead of its content, that makes it truly cybernetic”: while being about networks, the magazine also represents a network in itself. Willats’ choice of title, Control, signals this departure from traditional models of editorial authority, seeking instead to develop a conceptual practice determined by the networked relationships of coordinating agents. Artists’ publishing served as a key means of actualizing these ideas. The magazine has always been self-published, self-funded, and free of advertising, while also attaining a broadly international reach.

The interview that follows focuses specifically on Control’s early years, notable for their iconic cover illustrations by designer Dean Bradley. Released between 1965 and 1970, Control’s first issues mark a period when cybernetic ideas resonated broadly within the visual arts, from Jasia Reichardt’s 1968 Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition at the ICA London, to Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog in California. Willats’ own practice deployed the frameworks that he and his collaborators devised across Control’s pages in a variety of ways, from computer simulations to social and educational projects such as the Centre for Behavioral Art (1972-73). Control is not only a key node within Willats’ body of work; it offers a fascinating toolkit for reconsidering the present status of social hierarchy and networked interaction.

Read more (Avant)

Embedding images: the legal way to steal

Embedding images: the legal way to steal

Ever wondered how to use protected images without permission, without payment of royalties or even giving credit to the creator? The European Union allows you to do exactly that, provided you do so via embedding. Rightly, creators and content providers refuse to accept this legal loophole. However, they are not just dinosaurs failing to embrace progress. This is a major problem where legislation is lagging behind.

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The seven deadly sins of AI predictions

The seven deadly sins of AI predictions

We are surrounded by hysteria about the future of artificial intelligence and robotics—hysteria about how powerful they will become, how quickly, and what they will do to jobs.

I recently saw a story in ­MarketWatch that said robots will take half of today’s jobs in 10 to 20 years. It even had a graphic to prove the numbers.

The claims are ludicrous. (I try to maintain professional language, but sometimes …) For instance, the story appears to say that we will go from one million grounds and maintenance workers in the U.S. to only 50,000 in 10 to 20 years, because robots will take over those jobs. How many robots are currently operational in those jobs? Zero. How many realistic demonstrations have there been of robots working in this arena? Zero. Similar stories apply to all the other categories where it is suggested that we will see the end of more than 90 percent of jobs that currently require physical presence at some particular site.

Mistaken predictions lead to fears of things that are not going to happen, whether it’s the wide-scale destruction of jobs, the Singularity, or the advent of AI that has values different from ours and might try to destroy us. We need to push back on these mistakes. But why are people making them? I see seven common reasons.

Read more (MIT Technology Review)

The empathy gap in tech: interview with a software engineer

The empathy gap in tech: interview with a software engineer

Last year I was working on an article about the tech industry when I decided to interview a software engineer who writes for Quillette under the pseudonym “Gideon Scopes”. Gideon had mentioned to me in passing that he had Asperger’s Syndrome (a mild variant of autism spectrum disorder) and I wanted to find out more about the industry from the point of view of someone who is not neurotypical.

I first asked him when it was that he knew he wanted to work in technology. He told me that he first knew it when he was five. His family got their first home computer and he was transfixed. Later, he would come across a brief introduction to the BASIC programming language in a book and proceed to teach himself his first programming language. He was only seven.

As a child he taught himself programming out of books, mostly alone at home. He told me that his family were not particularly supportive of his hobby. His mother was not happy to see him focus so intently on one interest and viewed his study of programming “as the equivalent of a kid spending too much time watching TV.”

Growing up in suburban New York, he told me that a compiler for a programming language would cost at least $100, and programming books generally cost $40-60 each. His only source of income was a $1 per week allowance, so it would take him a year or two to save for just one item. This was despite the fact that his parents were in a high income bracket, and could have easily provided resources to help him learn. He learned anyway.

Despite his cognitive ability, however, Gideon underperformed early on in his schooling. He thinks it may have been because he experienced the school environment as overly rigid and inflexible, and the work was just not challenging enough to engage him. It wasn’t until he was able to take accelerated math and science classes that his grades reflected his ability.

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How to fix Facebook - before it fixes us

How to fix Facebook - before it fixes us

In early 2006, I got a call from Chris Kelly, then the chief privacy officer at Facebook, asking if I would be willing to meet with his boss, Mark Zuckerberg. I had been a technology investor for more than two decades, but the meeting was unlike any I had ever had. Mark was only twenty-two. He was facing a difficult decision, Chris said, and wanted advice from an experienced person with no stake in the outcome.

When we met, I began by letting Mark know the perspective I was coming from. Soon, I predicted, he would get a billion-dollar offer to buy Facebook from either Microsoft or Yahoo, and everyone, from the company’s board to the executive staff to Mark’s parents, would advise him to take it. I told Mark that he should turn down any acquisition offer. He had an opportunity to create a uniquely great company if he remained true to his vision. At two years old, Facebook was still years away from its first dollar of profit. It was still mostly limited to students and lacked most of the features we take for granted today. But I was convinced that Mark had created a game-changing platform that would eventually be bigger than Google was at the time. Facebook wasn’t the first social network, but it was the first to combine true identity with scalable technology. I told Mark the market was much bigger than just young people; the real value would come when busy adults, parents and grandparents, joined the network and used it to keep in touch with people they didn’t get to see often.

My little speech only took a few minutes. What ensued was the most painful silence of my professional career. It felt like an hour. Finally, Mark revealed why he had asked to meet with me: Yahoo had made that billion-dollar offer, and everyone was telling him to take it.

It only took a few minutes to help him figure out how to get out of the deal. So began a three-year mentoring relationship. In 2007, Mark offered me a choice between investing or joining the board of Facebook. As a professional investor, I chose the former. We spoke often about a range of issues, culminating in my suggestion that he hire Sheryl Sandberg as chief operating officer, and then my help in recruiting her. (Sheryl had introduced me to Bono in 2000; a few years later, he and I formed Elevation Partners, a private equity firm.) My role as a mentor ended prior to the Facebook IPO, when board members like Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel took on that role.

Read More (Washington Monthly)

A tale of two philosophies (or, how philosophy saved me from the pressures of social media)

A tale of two philosophies (or, how philosophy saved me from the pressures of social media)

In September 2003, philosophy changed my life. I didn’t realise it then, but hindsight is 20/20. And, looking back, I now realise how important it would become for my future. I was entering secondary school in Portugal, and we were offered some optional classes. We could choose either French or German as our secondary languages; I chose German. We were also given a choice between Philosophy and Latin; I went with Philosophy. It’s not that I knew what was expecting me. To be honest, I think I just didn’t feel like learning two new languages in one go.

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Web Curios 05/01/18

Well that's disappointing. Despite all the end of year excitement and promises of a fresh start and OUT WITH THE OLD and the like, turns out 2018 is just like 2017. 

YES THAT'S RIGHT IT'S A WHOLE NEW YEAR! A whole new twelve months of Trump and war and corruption and idiocy and beef and snark and cant and sexism and cronyism and hatred and nazis and fools and influencers and brands and work and disappointment and indigestion and sleeplessness and anxiety and loss and tears and fear and and and and

And, of course, LINKS! That's right, whilst the pages on the calendar may turn and the seasons may cycle, some things remain inviolate, such as my ceaseless devotion to finding stuff on the web to share with YOU, my silent, faceless, tiny readership. I fervently hope that each and every one of had a time this Christmas (whichever sort of time you like best), and that you're facing the coming 12 months with a spring in your step and a twinkle in your eye. 

If you're not - if you're feelinng a touch tired and a touch jaded - then just dip a nostril to my mirrored surface, hold the note tightly and just inhale the linklines I lovingly present to you; these are guaranteed to perk you right up (don't mind the taste in the back of your throat). Welcome to 2018! WELCOME TO WEB CURIOS!

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Is Bauhaus relevant to 21st century design?

Is Bauhaus relevant to 21st century design?

The Bauhaus movement in Germany, roughly 1919-1933, marked a major turning point for design and its role in society. It exerted a powerful and influential role in the development of artist style. But today, for many designers, it is more of a historical curiosity than a role model. Why? What has changed?

The Bauhaus grew out of crafts and the fine arts. Its focus was style and form. Although it had a huge amount of influence, today that influence is muted by the heavy artistic emphasis. There was little emphasis upon the people for whom the objects were being designed, no discussion about practicality or everyday usage. Even in architecture, the emphasis was form, not the people who had to suffer living and working in the clean, sterile environment that the architects championed.

The Bauhaus movement provides an interesting paradox. Although it had a great cultural impact upon design as art, it failed to produce any single object that changed people’s lives in any fundamental way. Why didn't the Bauhaus rethink the nature of things, of the way that products impact people’s lives and activities? Today, designers relish the opportunity to invent entirely new ways of working, playing, and living. Instead, at the Bauhaus, the emphasis was on simplicity, which is fine as long as one is designing simple things, such as kitchen tools, tableware, and jewelry. But the world is complex, so too must be the things that enable us to work within this world (Norman, 2010). Complexity is a fact of life. Simplicity, on the other hand, is in the mind – it is the designer’s task to make the complex understandable and usable. And when a complex thing is easy to understand, we call it “simple.”

Read more (Don Norman, LinkedIn)

Invasion of the invasion: the most absurd and invasive tech screw-ups and contraventions of recent years

Invasion of the invasion: the most absurd and invasive tech screw-ups and contraventions of recent years

Chris Gilliard, a "professor and snowboarder" resident at Macomb Community College in Michigan, USA put an interesting question to Twitter over the Christmas period: "What’s the most absurd/invasive thing that tech platforms do or have done that sounds made-up but is actually true?". Our clear and present dystopia offered up hundreds of responses, to which we have summarised the best in this article.

All in all, it makes for some grim reading.

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A city is not a computer

A city is not a computer

“What should a city optimize for?” Even in the age of peak Silicon Valley, that’s a hard question to take seriously. (Hecklers on Twitter had a few ideas, like “fish tacos” and “pez dispensers.”) 1 Look past the sarcasm, though, and you’ll find an ideology on the rise. The question was posed last summer by Y Combinator — the formidable tech accelerator that has hatched a thousand startups, from AirBnB and Dropbox to robotic greenhouses and wine-by-the-glass delivery — as the entrepreneurs announced a new research agenda: building cities from scratch. Wired’s verdict: “Not Actually Crazy.” 2

Which is not to say wise. For every reasonable question Y Combinator asked — “How can cities help more of their residents be happy and reach their potential?” — there was a preposterous one: “How should we measure the effectiveness of a city (what are its KPIs)?” That’s Key Performance Indicators, for those not steeped in business intelligence jargon. There was hardly any mention of the urban designers, planners, and scholars who have been asking the big questions for centuries: How do cities function, and how can they function better?

Of course, it’s possible that no city will be harmed in the making of this research. Half a year later, the public output of the New Cities project consists of two blog posts, one announcing the program and the other reporting the first hire. Still, the rhetoric deserves close attention, because, frankly, in this new political age, all rhetoric demands scrutiny. At the highest levels of government, we see evidence and quantitative data manipulated or manufactured to justify reckless orders, disrupting not only “politics as usual,” but also fundamental democratic principles. Much of the work in urban tech has the potential to play right into this new mode of governance.

Read more (Places Journal)

Why openness, not technology alone, must be the heart of the digital economy

Why openness, not technology alone, must be the heart of the digital economy

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440 it was, just as the internet has been in our time, a revolutionary development. Before the printing press, it is estimated there were just 30,000 books in all of Europe. Fifty years later, there were more than ten million. Over the next 500 years Gutenberg’s invention would transform our ability to share knowledge and help create the modern world.

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Web Curios 15/12/17

Another year done, then. Almost 12 months of getting up and sometimes going to work and coming home and eating and shitting and crying and what have I got to show for it?

Well, 33 Web Curios, approximately 230,000 words of prose, some 6,000-odd links and incipient carpal tunnel, as it happens, so IN YOUR FACE 2017!

So that was the year that was. No recap, no recriminations, certainly no predictions. I am DONE with this, and I hope you nearly are too. For those of you who don't make it to my heartfelt message at the bottom, let me deliver it once again up top - thanks for reading, and I hope you're all ok. 

Take care, happy holidays, and try not to let anything bad happen. This, as ever, will be Web Curios. Happy Holidays.

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Web Curios 08/12/17

So, how was it for you? As you peeled the crusted lids from each other at the alarm's insistence this morning, gingerly ran the cracked, dried sponge of your dessicated tongue over the crenellated horrors that your lips seemed to have become, tentatively explored your nostrils to dislodge the lignocaine rocks obstructing the airflow, and took the first, sweet sup of the foul soup that was your morning breath, was it with a sense of fear and regret? WHAT DID YOU DO? WHO WITH? WHO SAW?

Yes, that's right, it is OFFICE PARTY SEASON! Last night was, as far as I can tell, the BIG ONE when it came to friends and acquaintances of mine having their annual ethanol celebration, so how was it for you? What tales, what gossip, what larks

I don't tend to go to office parties (this will no doubt shock you - "surely", I imagine you thinking, "surely someone with Matt's sunny demeanour and effervescent outlook on life is simply FIGHTING off the invites of a December?" well, readers, let me disabuse you of that notion) which is probably for the best; the first one I ever attended, in my second ever week of proper, full-time employment, ended with me drunkenly telling the MD of the company I'd joined that the whole industry was utterly vile and disgusting, potentially even morally  wrong, and I didn't think I could keep doing it (I lasted three years).

Anyway, I hope YOURS was fun, whatever you got up to. As we bask happily in the glory of a Brexit deal achieved (you know that Churchillian "This is not the end; this is not even the beginning of the end..." spiel? Yes, well, exactly), let me apply the following stinking poultice of words and links and images to your sweating brow - or, alternatively, maybe just head to the pub for lunch and DON'T COME BACK. 

THIS, AS EVER, IS WEB CURIOS!

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Most of the code on GitHub is non-original

Most of the code on GitHub is non-original

If GitHub has a mission, it would be to act as the world's repository for open source code. While that's an honourable position, it brings with it an element of exploitation. This has been proven, albeit indirectly, by a team of university researchers based in the Czech Republic and the USA.

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Web Curios 01/12/17

So, as we roll into the final month of 2017, punch-drunk and reeling and with the very real sense that whilst it's been a tough one this is not the final round, oh no siree, let's take a moment to consider that in 11 short months we've gone from a position of vague hope that it couldn't possibly be as bad as 2016 and maybe all the doom mongering is a bit much to a world in which the President of the US can actively endorse the message of a fringe bunch of racist lunatics and doesn't even have to justify himself. Meanwhile Bitcoin's wobbling like a fat trapeze artist and everyone's a wanker or a rapist - it's fair to say that things haven't panned out quite as we might have wished.

But! What is that light I see yonder? Is that the Christmas star, bringing joy and light and hope to all who bask in its nighttime glow? Or is the light at the end of the tunnel merely the headlamp of yet another train, careening towards us at unconscionable pace? WHO KNOWS? NOT I! All I know that this is the THIRD-LAST CURIOS OF THE YEAR, and as such is full of even more bile, spleen, fear and uncertainty than usual. The penny in your pudding, the cloves in your mulled wine, the coal in your stocking, the unwanted present under your tree, the knowledge that all of the material goods in the world won't compensate for that very real feeling that assails you in that weird hinterland time between Christmas and New Year that this, frankly, is it, this strange interregnum of drunkenness and indigestion, this is all you really want because it's the closest thing to being able to turn it all OFF that you will ever get...WEB CURIOS IS ALL OF THIS AND MORE!

Sorry, I'm a touch tired this week, I'm sure it'll pass. NOW TO THE LINKS!

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Talking about my graduation: a journey into the heart of the dark ages with the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu

Talking about my graduation: a journey into the heart of the dark ages with the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu

 

The JAMs were my first love.

Long before they became The KLF, and had massive worldwide hits with What Time Is Love?, 3AM Eternal and the rest, I fell in love with The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu through the pages of the weekly music press. Their records were impossible to find when you'd just turned 16 in a West Yorkshire village, but on Janice Long's Radio 1 evening show they sounded as funny, exciting and inspiring as those interviews with Rockman Rock and King Boy D in Sounds and Melody Maker would suggest. They were primitive sonic smash & grabs, blatant cut-ups that didn't so much use samples as huge raw chunks of other peoples' songs, mashed up and welded into lumbering impossible new beasts that should never have been born. They stole only from the best: The Beatles, Abba, Samantha Fox. The resulting crush collisions were shocking, irreverent, hilarious and simultaneously very dumb and very clever, like all great art should be. They were sound collages, making their points and creating new realities through juxtaposition: colliding different ideas to see what would happen.

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Web Curios 24/11/17

Gah! So much to do, so little time! This intro is necessarily going to be on the short side as I have STUFF to be getting on with and to be honest I imagine that most of you are going to be far too busy buying VAST QUANTITIES OF STUFF to be bothered with links today. 

Amidst the babble, clamour and NOISE of Black Friday, then, take a moment to lie back and let the soothing waves of webspaff wash over your beetled brow and troubled countenance - it's apparently great for the complexion. Web Curios!

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British emerging artists wanted for Brazil residency

British emerging artists wanted for Brazil residency

The British Council Brazil and People’s Palace Projects are offering a residency for emerging UK artists in Brazil.

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