Friday 01 December 2017

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!

alban lecuyer

By Alban Lecuyer

FIRST UP IN THE MIXES, LET’S KICK OFF WITH MY FRIEND JONATHAN’S LOVELY SHOW ON LONDON FIELDS RADIO WHICH IS A LOVELY ECLECTIC MIX OF, WELL, STUFF!

THE SECTION WHICH ACTUALLY HAD TO BUY SOME TWITTER ADS THIS WEEK - HOW INFRA DIG! - AND WHICH, BASED ON THE QUALITY OF THE EXPERIENCE (POOR, SO AS YOU ASK), ISN’T REALLY SURPRISED IT’S HAVING ISSUES:

  • Facebook Reveals Ad Principles: Yes, that’s right, principles! Principles and advertising, go together like a horse and...er...glue, and yet here we are; this blogpost by Ron Goldman, FB’s VP of Ad Product, was actually promoted on FB’s own news site for a few days before it was actually published, meaning there were a couple of days where clicking on a button which read ‘read about our advertising principles’ took you to a 404, which is sort of cheaply funny. Now, though, it is HERE! It’s largely meaningless, reaffirming the commitments to transparency and non-discrimination we’ve come to expect from latter-day Facebook - I did very much enjoy the assertion that Facebook ads exist to “make meaningful connections between businesses and people”, which is a line I am absolutely going to try and say with a straight face sometime soon.
  • FB Trialling Messenger Broadcast: You know how people are getting a bit wise to online ads and how they’re starting to tune them out a bit, even on Facebook? Well NO MATTER, because here comes an exciting new way in which you can force them to consume your screaming incitements to BUY BUY BUY. Only on trial, but I’ll eat my nonexistent hat if this doesn’t become an actual product - Messenger Broadcast, at least in its trial form, will let brands fire promos at a wide group of people using Messenger; “As for who the message can reach, the interface outlines that a certain number of users will receive it at no cost to the business. It’s unclear whether businesses will be able to pay for more reach, but that seems like a reasonable direction for the product” - so, then, a classic Facebook ploy where they’ll hook you with a modicum of organic and then kill the reach and hike up the payments when you get hooked on that sweet, sweet engagement. WILL WE NEVER LEARN?
  • FB Watches For Suicide: Well, sort-of - the platform is going to use machine learning to scan posts for copy which could be indicative of severe depression and suicidal ideation, and then, when deemed appropriate, reach out to either the user or their friends and family. Which made me think two things: 1) we’ll be able to target people based on emotional state - on a sliding scale, and only on the ‘happy’ end of the spectrum, fine, but still - within a couple of years; and 2) I don’t know if I like the idea of a potential future in which the autonomy of the suicide is potentially compromised (and really, don’t @ me about this one).
  • New Facebook Tools for ‘Social Good’: A raft of (good) new updates to Facebook’s services for non-profits, including fundraising being rolled out to a wider number of territories, a fundraising API for the coordination of fundraising efforts on and off the platform, systems for organising blood donations...if you work in disaster relief or similar, this is all very significant and positive stuff. I’m really trying to fnd something cynical to say about it but I can’t. Onwards!
  • Instagram Testing Some New Features: I had some small experience of being a REAL JOURNALIST last weekend, when a fat, bloviating cokehead chose to send me a series of increasingly threatening emails for having the temerity to look into the fact that I have pretty good reason to believe he’s a crook. How nice it is to return to this sort of thing, where I can blithely report stuff about tech which may or may not be happening - to whit, a bunch of POTENTIAL changes to Instagram, including the opportunity to regram - that is, share Insta posts with one click - gif search in the app...basically a bunch of largely inconsequential stuff, though regram’s another lovely metric for you all to salivate over so there’s that I suppose.
  • You Can Now Scribble On Your Mate’s Messages In Insta: “When viewing a photo message from a friend, tap the camera icon at the bottom and capture a reply. Your reply includes a sticker of what you’re replying to. Move and resize it, and add your own twist with stickers, text and drawings. You can remix photos back and forth for a fun visual of your conversation.” SCRIBBLING THE WORD ‘DICK’ ON SOMEONE’S FOREHEAD OR DRAWING A SPUNKING COCK ON THEM IS NOT ‘REMIXING’ PLEASE CAN WE STOP USING THIS WORD TO MEAN ‘ANY ACT OF ALTERATION’? NO? I HATE YOU ALL.
  • The Snap Redesign: Watch Evan explain it to you in this charming video! Actually, as an aside, the Snap YT channel is a really good resource for Snap tips, worth looking at. This particular video is all about the SNAP REDESIGN, which is largely UX stuff to make it less daunting for new users, but which also presents two separate feeds within the app - one for one’s friends, the other for brands and publishers (much as Facebook trialled to huge flapping from media orgs earlier this year). Which seems like an excellent idea for users and potential growth but which, and I appreciate that Evan is the businessman here not me and all that, does strike me as a TOUCH risky; I mean, if one of your major hurdles is monetisation, surely saying to users ‘and look! If you stay in this half of the app you will never have to see stuff from brands EVER AGAIN!’ is a touch, well, punchy. I’m sure ad products will get around that, and maybe that will do the trick - there will be enough brands willing to pay to cross that CONTENT DIVIDE to compensate for those who abandon the platform - but will be interesting to see. ‘Interesting’ is, as ever in Curios, a hugely flexible term.
  • New Types of Snap Ads: New ads! “Promoted Stories which string together multiple Snaps into a longer-form slideshows openable from a tile on the Stories page that’s shown to everyone in a given country, and Augmented Reality Trial ads that let people play with an AR version of a product overlaid on the world around them.” I could continue with the descriptions, but they’re not very interesting and, based on the fact that one’s only available on a whole-country, 24h basis, and that the other requires coding of the 3d model and stuff, unless your budget’s 6 figures you probably will never have anything to do with these.
  • Snapchat Launches Image Recognition Filters: This is really interesting - basically Snap is rolling out stickers which activate when the app recognises that a user is taking a photo of a certain category of thing - dog, cat, ocelot, you get the idea. Impressive tech, but also a great opportunity for contextual advertising - if you’re a petfood manufacturer I imagine you’d give your eye-teeth to be able to get a promotional message inserted into a user’s eyeline as they’re snapping a cute image of their adorable cat’s GORGEOUSLY INDIFFERENT FACE. This is a huge opportunity for a distinct type of advertising which doubtless Facebook is going to copy by circa February 2018.
  • New YT Community Features: YT Community is the stuff available to its top-tier creators (I just typed that without inverted commas, which suggests I might have finally given up and be about to go native, God help me); this is an update to that suite of tools, now extended to people with 10k+ subs, and which includes YT’s very own version of Stories, because remember that all platforms must do exactly the same thing for THAT IS LAW. Worth thinking about if you’re doing any INFLUENCER work - in fact, the whole thing contains some quite helpful stuff at the brand/creator nexus (which is a shoo-in for ‘worst sentence I’m likely to write today’, no mean feat at 7:42am).
  • Alexa For Work Is Coming: Presaging another horrible wrinkle to the future fabric of our lives, Amazon this week made the totally reasonable and utterly horrifying (fine, ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but) announcement that Alexa For Business is now a THING - businesses can now build their own ‘skills’ for Alexa which can be deployed internally. If you’re a developer, this is a VERY nice little niche that you can get rich quick with, imho; knocking out simple Alexa integrations for, say, Salesforce should be a pretty lucrative gig, no?
  • The AR Metric: You know what we really need? That’s right, we need a metric of how ENGAGED people are with your VR CONTENT! You know what that metric is set to be? “Dubbed the “Gaze-At-Ratio,” (GAR) the algorithm determines the value of a user’s gaze in relation to a digital ad by factoring distance, duration, and depth of a user’s gaze as the object (advertisement) enters and exits their field of vision.” Yes, the extent to which our pupils dilate as we stare catatonically at a brand logo is going to be tracked so that you and I can feed our children and pay our mortgages. Fabulous.
  • Prongles: Cards Against Humanity are SO good at this. Their annual Black Friday promo, where the brand does something spectacularly pointless and expensive for the internet lols, this time saw them rebranding as ‘Prongles’, a new brand of stackable potato snack. Fine, not that funny per se, but it’s worth clicking the link to see how far they’ve taken the gag - the branding is real, the copy is spot-on, and even the theme song which plays as you browse is maddeningly catchy. Additionally, I can only imagine the flapping horror in the Pringles legal department when they saw it. There’s a nice interview with one of the company’s founders here where he talks about the lengths they went to; why isn’t my job this fun? WHY?
  • Content Strategist, Star Wars: I can only imagine how many millions of applications from sweating men these poor bastards have had to wade through - the bit in the spec about knowledge of the Star Wars universe, whilst totally fair and valid as a selection criteria, makes me think that there will be people sending in CVs handwritten in canonical Wookie script or something.
  • The State of European Tech 2017: I honestly have no idea what any of you think I do when I’m not sitting in my kitchen in my pants typing like some sort of hunch-shouldered marionette (cry, mostly, and worry at myself). Occasionally I have to interact with other human beings in exchange for drinks tokens - this project was one such occasion. The State of European Tech is a report published by VC firm Atomico which looks at the startup scene across the continent - how much is it worth, where’s the money going, what has the deal landscape been like over the last 12 months, that sort of thing. This year I persuaded them to make it a website, and then spent 4 months bitterly regretting that when I realised that I would actually have to do some work to make it happen; this is that website. I actually did fcuk all and the really hard work was done by the clever people at Studio Lovelock who built it; they’re lovely and really nice to work with, so, you know, throw them some work. Oh, and click the link as I’m probably going to angle for some sort of performance bonus here.

ron english

By Ron English

NEXT UP, A MIX BY ANNIE MAC INSPIRED BY THE WONDERFUL BLUE PLANET II!

THE SECTION WHICH IS CONFIDENT THAT THE MAJOR TALKING POINT OF THE ROYAL NUPTIALS NEXT YEAR IS GOING TO BE THE FAIRLY SPECTACULAR CODED RACISM EMPLOYED BY CERTAIN SECTIONS OF THE BRITISH PRESS, PT.1:

  • Inifinitown: To be honest, I probably ought to save this one til the end as it’s so hypnotic you may get trapped staring at it and miss all of the rest of the links and THEN where would you be? I KNOW! Take care, then, with this BEAUTIFUL little webtoy which each time you fire it up generates a little 3d city in WebGL with slightly tilt-shifted perspctive and TINY LITTLE CARS AND BUSES and STADIA and PARKS and CLOUDS and oh god everything looks so nice there, they don’t have Britain First or conundra over the firmness of borders please may I stay in your tiny little pristine digital playground I don’t want to do this any more please.
  • CyberCity: From one tiny little city to another, this is less immediately pleasing but probably more interesting. CyberCity is a “1:87 scale miniaturized physical city that features SCADA-controlled electrical power distribution, as well as water, transit, hospital, bank, retail, and residential infrastructures. CyberCity engages participants to defend the city's components from terrorist cyber attacks, as well as to utilize offensive tactics to retake or maintain control of critical assets.” Yep, that’s right, it’s a tiny model town which you get to try and defend from nefarious hacking attacks. HOW FUN WOULD THAT BE? It’s basically like Sim City when you turn all the disasters on, but with actual 3d models; look, if you’re looking for something innovative and fun to do with your next company awayday, may I strongly recommend that you give this a go?
  • Income Variance Along London Bus Routes: I mean, it’s not exactly a sexy title, fine, but this tool lets you choose any London bus route and then displays how average income varies along that route. Interesting as a Londoner both from a flat financial point of view but also as a window in the oddness of geography and demography that the city throws up every now and again. Will either be an interesting thing you fiddle with for a few minutes or yet another reason for you to throw your hands up in the air at the impossibility of ever owning property and to think dark, murderous thoughts about anyone who has the temerity to make another fcuking joke about fcuking avocados.
  • The Website of the Year Awards 2017: Some truly cracking pieces of webwork in this year’s selection, a few of which you’ll have seen here (unless you didn’t click on all of the links, but then frankly YOU DESERVE WHAT’S COMING TO YOU) but most of which were new to me - although it does include the majestic tomato website from last week,which really ought to win.
  • Amazon Deeplense: What’s that, Jeff? You’re going to continue releasing products and services until there’s not one aspect of human existence which Amazon doesn’t have a fundamental role in? OK! This was announced this week, and is an all-in-one videocamera/machine learning kit, letting anyone who fancies it mess around with image recognition, pattern recognition, training and the like, which is obviously very very cool indeed and which, it goes without saying, requires signing up to AWS so unless I’m very much mistaken it will automatically feed everything all of these cameras learn and see back into the AMAZON MEGABRAIN to make it learn and grow and look, guys, have we really thought this through, I mean really? Still, only $249!
  • Amazon Comprehend: Oh, and seeing as we’re here, here’s another new Amazon service which basically offers free language parsing services to businesses which use AWS, allowing mass-analysis of text outputs for sentiment, etc; the idea being that business can take, say, call centre log transcripts and feed them to THE MACHINE and THE MACHINE will help them extrapolate, er, STUFF from said corpus. Again hugely useful, again all the AWS stuff means that ALL OF THIS IS TEACHING AMAZON’S MASSIVE MACHINE INTELLIGENCE. Can we all be aware that, by using Echo and Home and Siri, we are basically working to bake in and cement the likely technological dominance of three of the four richest and most-powerful companies ever in history? We can? OK, good, just checking.
  • Icebox: This is a nice gimmick, actually - fine, it’s a PR stunt for, er, some crap price comparison site or another, but the idea behind this is solid. Icebox is a Chrome extension which, when installed, grants an automatic ‘consideration’ period for online purchases, effectively putting ‘buy’ buttons on a reversible cooldown to make impulse purchasing harder. There are all sorts of twists on this which you could imagine working, particularly for the charitable sector, but I’ll leave you to come up with those as I have 3 more pages of links to get through and oh god.
  • The Hunt for the Cheshire Cat: Long-term readers will know that I’m a sucker for a good immersive THINGY - this one, for those of you in London or near enough to do a thing between now and February, is a rather fun-looking Alice in Wonderland-themed ‘experience’ which has a charming website to entice you down the rabbithole.
  • Swonsong: Ah, Christmas - what better time to exploit people’s fear of mortality and loneliness and attempt to peddle them a needless app-based solution to the problem of how to communicate with loved ones beyond the grave? Here. then, is ‘Swonsong’, an app which has been designed specifically for people to leave a multimedia breadcrumb trail of communication, post-mortem; you can schedule messages to send IN THE FUTURE to various people, record audio and video, you get the idea. A few things, here: 1) The marketing! I particularly like the ‘for famouses’ option on the carousel, which appeals to their vanity and fear so beautifully - “YOUR FANS WILL MISS YOU WHEN YOU ARE COLD IN THE GROUND AND CLOSER MAGAZINE IS NO LONGER DOCUMENTING YOUR YO-YO BATTLE WITH WEIGHT!”, it screams; 2) the fact, never mentioned, that your ability to ACTUALLY avail yourself of the services of the app is entirely dependent on it not running out of cash and having to shut down, which seems pretty fcuking unlikely if you ask me. That said, MAN is this ia good way to fcuk with people should you feel particularly evil. DON’T DO IT!
  • In 5 Words: This is fun. A webpage which gives you a writing prompt and then asks you to write a short story to said prompt in 5 words, which then gets saved on the site for others to read at their leisure. Many are rubbish, but some are genuinely wonderful - to the prompt ‘your worst haircut’ someone has written ‘It was alive I’m serious’ which is rather great by anyone’s standards.
  • NYC Street Flyers: Photos of random flyers and posters, stuck up around NYC, taken by Ruthie Darling. This sort of stuff - found, outsider-ish - is so far up my street you have no idea, and made me want to spend tomorrow sellotaping sad/whimsical notes to lampposts across South London.
  • Substitute Phones: This concept by Klemens Schillinger was originally conceived as an art piece but given how it’s done numbers online all week I’m pretty sure that you’ll be able to buy these things in the real world before too long. The idea is that Schillinger’s created these beautiful, tactile objects (I actually hovered over the keyboard considering whether I could get away with ‘objets’, there, which shows you quite how little self-respect I have left here in the tail end of two kay seventeen) which are designed to act as a crutch for those moments when we really want that cold, comforting tactility of fingers-on-glass-screen which only our phones can provide. It’s art, it’s a fidget block, it’s a BITING PIECE OF SOCIAL SATIRE, it’s a hipster gift coming to a stocking near YOU, soon!
  • The Munich City Guide: I’ve only been to Munich once - it was nice, there were a lot of naked people - so can’t comment on how good or otherwise this city guide is, but I really rather like the webdesign and so here it is.
  • The Zium Project: WARNING: THIS REQUIRES YOU TO DOWNLOAD SOMETHING. Right, now that’s out of the way, for those of you willing to take those onerous extra steps (at least four more clicks!) there is a treat in store - the Zium Project is a digital zine/museum (hence the awful name) which presents a 3d environment filled with weird and wonderful 3d artworks and projects and...things by a series of digital artists from around the world. This is honestly FANTASTIC; I can’t stress enough how much it will reward you taking some time to explore it. Aside from anything else, you’ll come away with some pretty lysergic ideas around home decor - I for one very much desire a ‘fountain room’ in my house (you’ll just have to download it and see).
  • Finishing.com: Occasionally you’ll stumble across domains like this, relics of a gentler, simpler time online where one could buy finishing.com and populate it solely with information and Geocities-era webart about how to, er, apply different finishes to metal. Beautifully, wonderfully, THE COMMUNITY IS STILL ACTIVE! Who knew that in an era of Facebook Groups and WhatsApp groups and stuff that there would be room for stuff like this? I feel like I’ve discovered a hitherto-uncontacted tribe who I must be very careful to leave exactly as I found them. An aside, but kudos also to whoever owns the domain for not at any point thinking ‘Oh, fcuk it’ and selling it to a bongo network.
  • My Hotel Carpets: An Instagram feed featuringhotel carpets. Man, there are some ugly hotel carpets out there. One for those of you who’ve exhausted the ‘Spoons repertoire.
  • Best of Chrome: ‘Best’ is a pretty elastic designation here, but still. This page aggregates Chrome extensions from around the web in one place for you to browse; I can’t vouch for any of these, but it might be a good place to wander around if you’re after ‘inspiration’ for something.

not applicable

By Not Applicable

NEXT, A DEEP(ISH) HOUSE MIX BY JOE MUGGS!

THE SECTION WHICH IS CONFIDENT THAT THE MAJOR TALKING POINT OF THE ROYAL NUPTIALS NEXT YEAR IS GOING TO BE THE FAIRLY SPECTACULAR CODED RACISM EMPLOYED BY CERTAIN SECTIONS OF THE BRITISH PRESS, PT.2:

  • The E-Screen Protector: Prototype, fine, but there’s something simultanously laughable and sort-of-creepy about this tech demo, which shows how software could use your phone’s front-facing camera to determine if someone’s reading your screen over your shoulder and flash up alerts appropriately. The sort of thing which might perhaps be useful to the surprisingly large number of men who seem to be oblivious to the fact that other people can see what they can see whilst looking at stuff on Snap and Insta which is BASICALLY BONGO. Look, I know I’m old and that, but time was that even the sort of man who bought Nuts magazine would think twice before salivating over a the nipplecount on the 36. FCUKING MILLENNIALS! *shakes fist*
  • Wimpy Jeff: Thanks to the fabulous Mr Biffo for bringing this to my attention. Wimpy Jeff is a man who manages a Wimpy in Addlestone, Kent (for Americans and THE YOUNG, Wimpy is a burger chain which in the 80s was the UK’s very own homegrown competitor to McDonald’ and which was largely decimated by Burger King’s arrival on these shores; its signature dish is the ‘Bender in a Bun’, which has been the source of poorly-masked sniggering by schoolchildren for decades); his Twitter feed is an astonishing parade of photos of WIMPY LIFE (seriously marketing team, OWN that ironic hashtag!). I can’t tell if this is all some sort of hyper-arch knowing, sly wink to the hipsters or whether it’s the heartbreakingly sincere feed of a man who really, really wants to engage with customers and showcase his restaurant; if it’s the latter I might actually cry. Yep, there we go, actual prickling behind the eyeballs. LOOK I’M TIRED OK?
  • The Prado in VR: Stroll around the Prado, look at the art, quake at the Goyas. This is beautifully done, and the tiled movement system (you navigate the museum between fixed points rather than having ‘free’ movement) makes it a really relaxing browsing experience.
  • All I Possess: A live, constantly-updated collection of all the personal possessions of artist Simon Freund - Simon’s belongings are all listed in photographic form on the site; each time he purchases or discards something, that change is reflected on the site. I have just realised that it’s sponsored by Shopify and as such isn’t an artwork and is in fact a piece of marketing, which has made me irrationally annoyed and so I am going to stop writing about this now.
  • Home Biogas: Silly Kickstarter of the week! This time around we present Home Biogas, currently running at 6x funding with about 10 days left and which promises to provide you with a convenient domestic way of transforming your food waste and animal excreta into biogas which can be used to fuel your home. Which is a great idea, fine, but there are some QUESTIONS which the site doesn’t seem to address - not least, how much fcuking kitchen waste do you need to feed it to be able to, say, run your heating? Because if it requires a full load of 12 litres, you’re going to be asking the neighbours for a lot of carrot scraps. Still, judging by the comments from the mostly MAD SURVIVALIST backers, this is exactly the sort of domestic solution you’re going to need when civilisation collapses and you’re forced to go and live off-grid to survive.
  • WiFi Wars: I stumbled across this yesterday thanks to a friend (Hi Andrew!); basically WiFi Wars is a streaming show where everyone watching gets into two teams and plays collaborative games against each other using their phones as controllers whilst chatting and being amused by the presenters. That’s literally it - it’s, fine, a niche pursuit, but as a gentle collaborative online gaming EXPERIENCE it’s actually really rather cute I think.
  • Furlexa: If you have an Amazon Echo and an old Furby and want to create something genuinely horrifying which will cause your children nightmares for years, this is your link! Basically a series of instructions as to how to hack the two pieces of kit together, leaving you with a Furby which talks in the smoothly efficient tones of Alexa and which seemingly has control over your whole life; if you’ve ever read Luna Park, you’ll know how this ends (badly).
  • Afroart: Beautiful photographs of beautiful people with beautiful afro hair. Just, er, beautiful.
  • Codevember 2017: A series of little code toys, built throughout November, which range from ones which make you look like you’re on TV in 1978 in the middle of a thunderstorm to some cute dust effects and music visualisers. Cute.
  • Henry The Colorado Dog: Henry is a dog who also likes to go hiking, often alongside a cat. As with all these sorts of Instagram feeds, part of me wonders how much of the owners’ lives are taken up with attempting to corral these animals into these admittedly very cute poses; see that one of the cat sitting on the dog’s head like some sort of alpine hat? Superglue, that.
  • The Miss Universe National Costumes Rundown: Yes, obviously Miss Universe is silly and demeaning and retrograde and all that stuff. Sometimes, though, from weird sexist throwbacks can come magic - witness this AMAZING blogpost (and its followup - click the arrow at the bottom of the piece for part 2) in which Tom & Lorenzo, whoever they may be, go to town on the Miss Universe national costume outfits. I was CRYING as I read some of these, I promise you won’t be disappointed (personal favourite is Miss Panama on page 2 - “I love futbol so much my shoulders just came.” - but you find your own).
  • The Damaged Times: Shephrd Fairey of OBEY fame has made available for free download The Damaged Times, a zine of sorts which he’s produced and which features a combination of writings and artworks - luminaries included in the publication include Henry Rollins and Naomi Klein (you should get an idea of its perspective from those names), and the essays are surprisingly good; also, is sort of a work of art! For free!
  • Jackson Hole: For no good reason that I can determine, the town of Jackson Hole in Florida has a webcam set up at a crossroads in the middle of town; that webcam streams live to this link, and, as is the wont of the web on occasions like this, it has developed an odd community of people sitting and watching and having strangely heartwarming chats in the onscreen text window, getting all excited when, as is the case at the time of writing, it’s the dead of night in Florida and there’s nothing to see other than the occasional passing trucker. Tell you what, though, by the time Curios hits your inboxes it’s likely to be around 8am and WOW does it kick off then, let me tell you.
  • Planets on Google Maps: You can now explore a load of moons and planets using Google Maps. Venus, poor, non-planetary Pluto, several of Saturn’s moons...it’s truly incredible, really.
  • Academics With Cats Awards 2017: Are you an academic? Do you have a cat? Do you make a handsome pair, strolling the hallowed halls of academe together? YOU HAVE 24h TO ENTER THIS COMPETITION, THEN! All you need to do is to tweet them a picture of yourself and your cat (and, I would hope, some sort of proof that you are actually an academic as, well, it’s important to respect the integrity of the contest) and then wait for the plaudits to roll in. DO IT.
  • Ghost in the Shell VR: I think Laserquest, Quasar and the like might be making a comeback. Are they? I’m sure I’ve seen / heard of this as A Thing in the past 12 months after having not heard anyone talk about them for years (which isn’t surprising, really - the kit was crap, the venues always, always smelled weird, I was always terrible (possibly too stoned), and would inevitably get absolutely massacred by a bunch of kids a few years younger than me leading to much sniggering from everyone I was with...great days!). Anyway, this is a site promoting a VR version of the Laserquest format in Japan, loosely based on the Ghost in the Shell universe - this looks absolutely AMAZING, whether or not you care about the anime. The VR layer means that you can use a relatively small space and create virtual walls to funnel players within it without their knowledge; you can create pretty elaborate and labyrinthine scenarios in reasonably small spaces, and make them look far better in VR than you could with some polyfilla and UV paint. Expect this to be snapped up by Merlin and appear at Alton Towers in the next year.
  • JK Brickworks: Basically all the LEGO projects you are going to be doing with your kids over Christmas. This is a pretty incredible repository for LEGO modelling though tbh it all looks incredibly fcuking difficult to me.
  • Super Sympa: A site collecting and collating songs, 3-4 a day; nothing remarkable about that, but I really like the selection they post, and the interface is big and bold and simple and sometimes stuff doesn’t have to be complicated to be good, Jesus, leave me alone.
  • 3d Music Experiments: This is this year’s selection of interactive music experiments created in three.js by students from Gobelins ‘School of Images’ in France. There is some really gorgeous work in here.
  • Wolfenstache: Created as a complaint against the censorship of Nazi-killing videogame Wolfenstein 2 in Germany and Israel, this is a silly-but-fun waste of 5 minutes.
  • The Brexit Bus: Finally this week, a silly Us Vs Th3m-style game which you will end up playing for at least 15 minutes this afternoon and which you will see all over Facebook in about a week’s time. Drive the Brexit Bus along the rocky route determined by the economic performance of the UK since the vote. Satire! But fun! Also, is HARD.

sammy slabbink

By Sammy Slabbinck

FINALLY IN THE MIXES, AN EXCELLENT 2.5H MIX BY INTERNET ODDITY SADEAGLE!

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!

  • Adverve: A tumblr discussing and dissecting ads; sporadically updated, but there’s some reasonably interesting stuff in here.
  • Mid-Century Modern Design: Erm, a Tumblr collecting examples of mid-Century modern graphic design. Not really much else I can say about it.
  • Architecture of Doom: Archtiecture that, whether gothic or brutalist or whatever, share the common characteristic of just, well, boding pretty hard.
  • Accurate Pictures of Anthropologists: I don’t know who the person behind this is, but they are VERY ANNOYED about the apparently inaccurate portrayals of anthropologists online. THIS HAS TO STOP! To this end, here are a bunch of photos of ACTUAL anthropologists.
  • Revelocities: A Tumblr collecting the owner’s illustrations, which are fine but largely unremarkable other than the recent series whereby he has imagined all the characters from Thomas the Tank Engine as characters in a Japanese mecha manga and wow.

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:

  • Am I Part of the Problem: A superb piece of writing, using Twine’s interface for interactive fiction, which simply and calmly talks the reader through possible responses to their feelings about Me Too and Weinstein and all the rest, and which is specifically aimed at men who might feel, well, a touch uncomfortable about stuff they might have realised they might have done. Sounds like hard work, but isn’t - this is a really excellent melding of form and function here.
  • The Zuckerberg Review: Oh HOW DO I LOVE THIS? 6 essays on the semiotics of the Zuck - what is the visual language of MZ, what does he convey through his wardrobe and his press images and the tight little smile and all the rest, the writing here is intelligent and a bit pseudy and basically perfect. If you’ve done critical theory or anything like that you will absolutely LAP this up; the rest of you, read these because they are smart essays and you will benefit.
  • Britain and the Sandwich: You’ve probably seen this from the Guardian last week, but in case not it is a wonderful deep-dive into the sandwich industry in the UK, responsible for feeding us an unconscionable number of variants on bread+spread+protein; it’s got that fascinating vibe you often get from people taking a very close look at a massively complex machine, where the closer you get the more interesting the cogs look. I’m particularly a fan of the various men peppered throughout this whose lives are quite evidently entirely consumed by the conundrum of how to get Brits to consume MORE bread-handled foofstuffs and whose wives, one imagines, have a certain long-suffering air to them.
  • The Economy and the Crisis of Attention: An interesting perspective from the Bank of England blog, not something I regularly peruse, which discusses the question of whether there might be any practical economic impact to the fact that we’re now incapable of going more than 6 minutes without looking at our phones in search of the dopamine hit, and what that might mean.
  • The Inside Story of Grenfell: A wonderful piece of journalism in GQ, presenting stories from Grenfell survivors as author Tom Lamont takes the reader through the tragedy, from the first warnings to the post-frenzy aftermath. Heartbreaking, obviously, but such a brilliant piece; really deserves commendations imho.
  • Inside Etsy: Fine, yes, so this is a piece about BUSINESS, but I promise it’s still interesting, not least as it shows the unpleasant, grinding disconnect between a company that starts as a lovely, smallish web business and then grows up to have investors who really want it to make money pretty fcuking quickly and don’t care about the fact you used to have ‘massage fridays’ you haven’t actually turned a profit yet what is WRONG with you. I don’t envy the man having to do it at Etsy, which does rather sound like every caricature of a fluffy startup you’ve ever heard of, ever.
  • Search in 1996: Wonderful archive find from Wired two decades ago, when Yahoo! Was the only search game in town, Google hadn’t even been thought of yet, and you could still count the number of websites in numbers that you can say out loud. Fascinating look at how far we’ve come, and also an interesting insight into how smart Larry and Sergei (yeah, first name terms, what of it?) where when they built Google.
  • An Oral History of the Strokes, Libertines, etc: Included here mainly because everyone involved in the music scene in 2002 sounds like such a colossal, supporating arsehole.
  • The 4Chan Cult of the Cyberpunk Afterlife: Classic bit of weirdweb reporting, looking at the bizarre and, obviously, hard-to-unpick ‘cult’ of Systemspace, which is, from the outside at least, sort-of-fixated on the idea of killing yourself and then living on in a digital afterlife. Which is obviously mental - although, *ahem*, singularity fetishists can probably stop sniggering - and which doesn’t become and less weird and mental the longer you read. Great stuff.
  • Hanging with the KLF: This is LONG, but it is an IMPERICA EXCLUSIVE!! You want the inside story of what happened earlier this year when the KLF came BACK for their weird happening in Manchester? You want to read what it was like to be there and get a flavour for the anarchomadness of it all? You want to learn about the hitherto-unimagined ( by me, at least) relationship between the late Ken Cambell and the KLF? ‘COURSE YOU DO.
  • The Jay-Z Interview: It’s already been picked clean for quotes by the rest of the press, but it’s worth reading the full text of the NYT Jay-Z interview; it’s more interesting than I’d expected, he’s more interesting than I’d expected (although man does he get an easy ride on some of the questions, not least the ones about the drug dealing, etc), and it contains a genuinely wonderful line about being rich which I’m surprised didn’t get quoted elsewhere: on why getting more money isn’t the be all and end all (admittedly, a magnanimous position you can hold pretty easily when you’re already plutocratic), “Without people, being rich would be very boring.”. I really like that.
  • That Arnie Hammer Piece: I read this on Tuesday and instantly thought there was something off about it - I evidently wasn’t the only one, as it got lots of people very exercised, not least Hammer himself who then decided to quit Twitter as a result; which act then spawned this incredibly mean-spirited followup on Slate. I mean, look, I am as jealous of handsome, rich young people as the next hunch-shouldered keyboard gollum, fine, but these just seemed incredibly poisonous.
  • A Mostly Good Death: Watching someone die, slowly, as well as possible. Heartbreaking, but if you’ve ever watched someone slowly wither before you, and you’ve gotten to that point when they look like nothing more than a skeleton dipped in tallow then this will resonate with you powerfully. Sad, beautiful and lovely.
  • What Was Complexcon?: Brilliant essay describing the weirdness of Complexcon, an event run by style and fashion and culture brand Complex and bringing together musicians and brands and agencies and...for what? A superb dissection of exactly why it is that so much of packaged cool culture feels hollow (or at least that’s what it seems; I am comfortably of an age where I tend not to go to too many Supreme-branded warehouse raves anymore), containing some truly superb observations; ‘like being at a casino with people who’ve only ever done online gambling’ is perfectly evocative.
  • Look What UPS Made Me Do: Poor Tay-Tay, I feel that she might have jumped the shark somewhat - a factor in no doubt aided by things like this, the UPS tie-in which let ‘Superfans’ buy a special UPS-themed edition of her latest album. The writeup of this by The Hairpin, in which they go through and analyse each glorious UPS-branded component of Ms Swift’s ‘gift’ to her fans, is merciless.
  • How To Say You Don’t Want To Be Married Any More: A woman talking about wanting to leave her husband. I cried like a child at bits of this, and I’m not even divorced - caveat emptor and all that (but it’s a beautiful piece of writing).
  • Why You Left Social Media - A Guesswork: Last up in the longreads, the best prose of the week by miles. A series of notes and reflections, written to an unnamed author from a fan who used to enjoy them on social media. This is FULL of truly wonderful lines, the tempo of each is perfect - seriously, the commas in this piece, wow - and there were observations that really struck me, rare in writing about social which tends to the banal. “A party where you’re always simultaneously at the party and getting ready for the party. Did it exhaust you?” as both a descriptor of Twitter and a reason for leaving it is nigh-on-perfect.

Benjamin Sack

By Benjamin Sack

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!

  1. First up, appalling Barbie-faced Trump apologist Tomi Lahren (see Curios passim) gets her words and face fiddled with to create this genuinely superb pastiche of an 80s pop song created from her soundbites and sung as a proper track. Aside from anything else, the song is an absolute cracker:

 

2) Next up, a 30-minute skate video by LSD which is just so incredibly chill that I can only suggest you save it for next time you’re feeling a bit enervated. Simple but brilliant skating, and a really pleasing, shoegazey-type soundtrack here:

 

3) Next, another style-transfer video but look, honest, how cool is the cell-style effect here? VERY, is the answer. The music’s by NadjaLind:

 

4) HIPHOP CORNER! This is the barely-pronounceable BBNG x FLOCKEY OSCOR (look, HOW is one meant to say that?) with their excellent track which, er, appears to be unnamed. The piano used in this is just superb - more piano jazz in hiphop, please! That last is absolutely THE whitest thing I could have written, so well done me!

 

5) MORE HIPHOP CORNER! This is astounding, really. Stop, take 5 minutes, clear your head and watch/listen to this. It’s called ‘I’m Not Racist’ and it’s by Joyner Lucas and it is very, very good:

 

7) Trump vs Talking Heads. It’s GREAT:

 

6) Last up, a bunch of humanoid meatsacks bouncing around your screen. Put this on full screen and make sure some colleagues can see your monitor and then just walk off. GO ON, DO IT. Right, that’s it for this week (well, apart from the music and the pictures and the intro, but still) - THANKS FOR READING I LOVE YOU THANKYOU I LOVE YOU BE GOOD TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES TRY NOT TO BE SAD BYE!

 

 

Publisher's note 10/12/17: We have been asked by Simon Freund, producer of All I Possess, to clarify that he has not received any money from Shopify or indeed received any profits from the site, and it has no commercial relationship with Shopify.

Matt Muir

Matt Muir is interested in lots of different things, and as a result rather likes the internet. Web Curios is a weekly(ish) snapshot of what he has found interesting this week. You can find Matt on Twitter, where he's quite good. In his spare time, Matt tries to ignore the web as much as is humanly possible (not very much, it turns out).

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