Friday 02 June 2017

Web Curios 02/06/17

A hand, pale, slim and with appallingly-bitten fingernails, gingerly slips between the curtains, fingers curling to pull back the material just enough to afford a glimpse onto the stage and to the empty seats beyond.

The vaudvillian slinks disconsolately onstage and addresses the silent, deserted house.

HI THERE! I’M BACK! DID YOU MISS ME?? No, no, you didn’t, did you? And yet, like the proverbial bad penny, the slinking cur which returns after each kicking to receive another dose, here I am again.

So, what’s been going on? Well, Imperica’s had a bit of a wobble but it is STILL STANDING - normal service, or what passes for normal service, will be resumed at some point over the summer, so HANG ON IN THERE, kids. To be honest, I wasn’t really planning on writing anything until everything was all sorted out but then I found myself staring at a 12-page Google doc full of links and knowing that I basically wouldn’t be able to delete them unless I’d filed a Curios out of some weird, damaged info-OCD.

So, here we are then - a BUMPER Curios! Full of the very best - and indeed much of the worst - of the past month or so’s web. Christ alone knows when you’ll get the next one - but you will, rest assured, it seems I can’t stop doing this even if I try - so enjoy this; use it as some sort of distraction from the current malaise. So lie back, close your eyes, let me draw the hood over your head and set the tap running; I promise, this is non-fatal. LET ME VOID MYSELF OF WEB! This, as ever, is Web Curios.

By Evgenia Arbugaeva




  • Facebook Making Canvas Ads Easier To Make: Noone really seems to like Canvas as an ad product, mainly due to the fact that they are such a colossal pain in the backside to put together and require loads of ASSETS and stuff to populate them. Now, though, you can autogenerate much of the content required to make them just by plugging in a url  - the ad-builder will automatically pull all images from the webpage into the ad editor, in theory at least making it really easy to create a Canvas from them. Except, of course, this relies on the images actually being good, and the right size/shape, and all sorts of other things, but points to them for at least attempting to take the pain out of the creation process.

  • Facebook Rights Manager Gets Better: Christ, it’s only when you’ve not done this for a few weeks that you truly realise quite how stultifying much of this crap which passes for ‘news’ is. Still, this is probably quite important to those of you who are tasked with the VITALLY IMPORTANT task of ensuring that your branded content isn’t misappropriated by unscrupulous videopirates - I could keep writing, but let’s instead take Facebook’s own word(s) for it: “With Rights Manager, rights owners can find matches of their video content on Facebook; these matches are surfaced on a dashboard. Previously, the rights owner would review these matches in the dashboard to take action. To help make management more efficient for rights owners, we’re now enabling them to automate more of the process, and providing more options for what happens to matched content. This means that the rights owner can decide to set an action to happen automatically when a match of their content is found on Facebook, simplifying the process”. GOOD, EH? Oh.

  • You Can Run Ads For Your Newsletter Through Facebook Now: Mailchimp lets you buy ads through Facebook now, which is exactly the sort of thing I would do if a) I had the money; and b) I thought there was an actual audience for this crap out there; and c) if Mailchimp hadn’t suspended Imperica’s account for reasons they don’t seem keen on divulging, the bstards.

  • Reactions In Facebook Comments: Yes, you all know about this, I know; I am mainly doing this section so that I can clear the insane backlog of links in my head and commit this stuff to memory (it doesn’t seem to work if I don’t write it down). Anyway, this is mainly interesting in terms of the way it extends the number of data points that FB is collecting around users’ interactions with content; I’ll be AMAZED if before too long brands aren’t being offered the opportunity to target ads at people based on which reactions they most use on posts, in comments, etc.

  • Facebook Groups Can Now Set Admission Questions: So now your public Group all about the brilliance of cranes can establish some questions to determine whether or not an applicant for membership has the requisite cranepassion. Obviously mainly of use to, you know, ACTUAL PEOPLE rather than brands, but the combination of this and the ability to attach Groups to brand Pages makes me think that there’s some quite interesting stuff you could do with focus groups here, although to be honest I am too bored to think on that any more.

  • FB Rolling Out ‘Deliver Food’ Function in US: In partnership with a couple of US Just Eat equivalents, as far as I can see; will over time inevitably come to the UK, as we move ever closer to a world in which you need never, ever leave the safe, blue-tinged walled garden that is Facebook. Why are there spikes and broken glass atop the walls? Oh, to protect us and definitely not to keep us inside? Oh, great, ok then!

  • Facebook Fundraising Rolls Out To All (In US): I...I don’t know about this. On the one hand, fundraising is GREAT and philanthropy is WONDERFUL, and all of us fortunate enough to have some spare pennies should where possible give at least some of said spare pennies to assist those less fortunate. Totally. Erm, but, I get the horrible feeling that the ability for people to set up fundraising for themselves on Facebook is, in pretty short order, going to lead to some pretty egregious trolling of the system, not to mention some SPECTACULAR online fights and stuff. Actually, on reflection, this will be ACE, bring it on. Oh, really bad news if you’re JustGiving, obvs.

  • Facebook Live Social Chat Is Here: If you’re one of the people who actually enjoys watching livestreams of exceptionally mundane things on Facebook, rejoice in that you can now open a chat window to discuss it separately with your FB ‘friends’ as you do so. Oh, and the ability - previously only granted to famouses but now available to peons like us - to do a side-by-side livestream with a friend is also rolling out, so expect to see your most BANTEROUS mates doing their two-header hot takes on the news SOON. God this all sounds awful, doesn’t it?

  • FB Apparently Testing Video Cover Images For Pages: Because everything must be video, it is the will of Zuckerberg. This seems relatively fine and benign until you begin to consider the future reality of your banking client demanding that you make them a ‘really sexy’ video header - because that is exactly what will happen.

  • Instagram Adds Lots Of New Features Which Makes It More Snapchatty: Face filters! The ability to make video in reverse! Hashtag stickers! Whilst the face filters thing has limited relevance to brands, unless of course you’re a brand so plutocratically rich that it can afford to negotiate with Facebook around building you your own variant, I think the hashtag stickers thing could be rather useful - much like the feature Twitter launched last year, which noone seems to use, this works as follows: “Just tap the sticker icon at the top right of your screen, select and customize the hashtag, then add it to your story. As with mentions, you can also add hashtags using regular text. People watching your story will be able to tap the hashtag sticker or text to visit the hashtag page and explore related posts.” It’s potentially a nice, easy way of encouraging and collating/curating UGC around a brand campaign if that’s the sort of dreadful thing that floats your professional boat.

  • Instagram Testing Direct Response Ads: Literally this. Testing. Direct. Response. Ads. Christ alive. You know, when I was a little kid I briefly wanted to be in the RAF; imagine kidMatt’s disillusionment were he to know that instead his future self is writing ‘content’ about the possibility of a new type of advertising platform being introduced on a social network he doesn’t even use. Poor kidMatt.

  • TWELEVISION!: YEAH THAT’S RIGHT. Twitter has seen the future, and the future is, er, telly! Yes, Twitter’s planning on bringing 24/7 broadcasting to the platform, because there isn’t enough utter crap being pumped into our faces ALL THE FCUKING TIME; early announcements suggest Bloomberg are on board, as are a whole host of other partners; it remains to be seen whether anyone actually wants to watch tv on Twitter (oh God, calling it ‘TV’ is going to become a really old person thing, isn’t it? Are we just going to start to have to refer to this stuff as ‘video content’ all the time?), but there’s obviously a huge potential boost to them in terms of ad revenue when they start selling in-broadcast inventory.

  • Twitter Now Lets You Promote Your TwitterChatBots With DM Cards: If anyone’s actually using Twitter bots to any extent I am yet to see it - which may explain why they’re taking another punt at improving uptake with this new feature, which lets brands promote their bots at users through DM cards. These create promoted Tweets which prompt users to start a ‘conversation’ with said bot, which then slides right into their DMs like the SLAG it is. “The cards are not about pushing people to bots that help solve customer service issues or encourage purchases from the brand in question, as is the focus of many Facebook chatbots. Instead, they’re about getting people to interact with the brand through a private messaging experience that’s meant to be fun, not transactional”, witters the article. Does that sound like something that any sentient human being would actually want to do? No, no of course it doesn’t, and yet here we are.

  • You Can Now Search Twitter For Emoji Use: This serves no actual purpose whatsoever, but it is quite interesting to see what comes up if you plug in some of the really obscure, technical-looking ones.

  • Twitter Lets You See Which Advertisers Are Targeting You: ...and, by extension, shows exactly how appalling its ad targeting options are. Oh Twitter! I wrote this for ANOTHER PUBLICATION (bonus points to anyone who can guess/find out which) and so am going to reproduce it here as, frankly, I am feeling incredibly lazy and getting through the rest of this is currently looking like my own personal Everest, so: “As confusion continues to reign in the mainstream media over how social media ad targeting works and what effect it can have on democracy, credit to Twitter for injecting a welcome dose of transparency into the debate. In an unusual move, the social network recently updated its privacy settings to grant all users with an account the ability to see the information advertisers can use to target them (something which Facebook, for example, doesn't offer with anywhere near the same degree of clarity), as well as a list of all those advertisers who have targeted an individual. Laudable in its transparency, this move had the side-effect of exposing some of Twitter's assumptions about its users can be, and therefore how accurate - or otherwise - its ad targeting is. Although it affords advertisers the opportunity to target by age, most Twitter users seem to be categorised as 'between 13-54'; hardly the laser-guided targeting some might expect. Interest categories available to advertisers include such insightful, granular options as 'Politics', 'Politics and Current Events' and 'Political Elections' and, er, 'Politics', with no indication as to what, if anything, differentiates each from the other. UK users were in many instances bemused to find that they were grouped into categories suggesting they might be interesting in purchasing financial services products from brands such as Geico, Aetna and Suntrust - none of which in fact operate in the UK, and who would find the ability to market to people here useless. It seems clear that, on Twitter at least, the promised ability to apply 'laser guided' targeting of customers hasn't quite manifested itself. There may be a reason Facebook is less than keen to avoid a similar degree of transparency…”

  • LinkedIn Now Lets You Do Matched Audiences Like FB & Twitter: You know that thing where you can give FB or Twitter a list of email addresses or website visitors and target them with ads on the platform? Yeah, you can now do that on LinkedIn also, which is thrilling.

  • Snapchat Launches Custom Stories: This is a really interesting idea (which I seem to recall reading this week that Instagram has already basically ripped off, but I can’t find the link to that right now); Custom Stories lets any Snap user create a Story, and then invite any number of Snap users they like to contribute to it - effectively making it a collaborative storytelling platform (sorry). You can also geofence the stories, meaning this is PERFECT for doing stuff at concerts, festivals, conferences, etc; in fact, this is potentially hugely useful to broadcasters in terms of pulling together Stories from multiple reporters covering one particular event. LOADS of options here if you could only be bothered to THINK about them.

  • Snapchat Basically Adds Photoshop: Well, sort of - this is its new ‘Magic Eraser’ feature which basically lets people erase stuff from images and video shared on Snap and which also does some really clever stuff around replacing all the background imagery after you’ve erased something, which, I can confidently predict, is going to lead to both some excellent Vine-style creative work and also at least one news organisation with poor image-checking skills being absolutely taken in by some FAKE NEWS.

  • Pinterest Launching Visual Search Ad Targeting: Or at least they will be, soon. Their clever tech which lets users take photos of stuff and then use said photos to search Pinterest for similar-looking things will soon let advertisers target people based on the things they’re conducting visual searches for; so you can, for example, target people taking photos of red hats with Pins linking to the purchase page for YOUR red hat. This is also going to come to Google, with all the announcements around Lens at the recent I/O Conference, at which point this will become REALLY interesting. Oh, and Facebook will almost certainly do it to because THEY DO EVERYTHING, eventually at least.

  • Pinterest Launches Autoplay Video Ads: I have literally nothing else to say about this.

  • Google Launching ‘Exciting’ New Tools To Track Offline Spend Against Online Ad Exposure: In case you didn’t feel that enough of what you do in your day-to-day existence is being monitored by sinister agents of the gigantic capitalist superstructure, welcome to a new series of services from Google which will enable advertisers to track exactly how exposure to ads correlates to purchase behaviour, OBVIOUSLY this will all be anonymised - don’t worry, kids! - but it makes me feel distinctly uncomfortable, much like nearly everything else so far this year.

  • Quora Launches Ads: Quora’s an odd place, seemingly populated exclusively by really Alpha valley-type people, slightly strange monomaniacal single-topic experts and a LOT of swivel-eyed loons (these audiences often overlap). If you want to advertise at people like that, GREAT! The ad offer seems pretty standard, although the targeting is limited to location, topic interest and platform which is pretty shonky when compared to almost everything else out there. Still, my facetiousness aside, the user profile is interesting enough that it might be worth considering.

  • Telegram Launches Chatbot Payments: Telegram’s pretty niche, fine, but this is interesting if only in terms of an indication as to how this will work on every single other messaging platform under the sun. Potentially a reason for brands to take an interest in Telegram too, though I imagine that the audience in the UK is so vanishingly small that it’s not quite worth the hassle (oh, and also the payments thing is, as ever, US-only as yet, so, er, probably not even really worth talking about. Sorry).

  • Dominos Does IFTTT: This is a simple idea but such a clever one, and SO on-brand when it comes to their whole ‘we are the masters of tehnology gimmicks’ PR schtick.

  • IPSOS Global Trends: ALL of the bullsh1t trend analysis essays you could want, in one place. It’s actually presented pretty poorly, but there’s a lot of useful stuff in here which those of you who have to pull together planning stuff might find useful for the preparation of your TISSUE OF LIES.

  • Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report 2017: I bet, as you limp tiredly to the end of this section of Curios, you’re thinking “God, what I’d REALLY like now is to wade through 355 slides of internet trends data”. YOU LUCKY PEOPLE! This is Mary Meeker’s annual datadump, as comprehensive and ugly as it always is; as I type it was only published yesterday, so there’s no decent deep analysis of it online yet, but I’m sure by the time you’re reading this there will be LOADS. Haven’t read it all yet, but the stat about voice search was interesting to me; does anyone know what voice recognition tech is like at identifying gender and regional accents? I reckon that sort of tech is going to be HUGELY useful in ad targeting around this - you know, targeting ads at people doing voice searches for a certain thing, and attempting to hit, say, men from the North of England. Hang on, this is an ACTUAL great business idea, someone go off and become a billionaire and chuck me some monies.

  • The Airman Challenge: Last this week in the boring section noone really wants to read but which I know some of you do and I salute your indefatigability, this is a really shiny and well put-together site for the US Airforce, all about persuading young men and women that a life in the skies is FUN! And, er, presenting you with a series of chillingly entertaining little games about killing, basically. Makes you feel excited and really guilty at the same time, like the EXACT instant of masturbatory orgasm.


By Frank Hertford




  • The Lyttle Lytton Prize 2017: So this is REALLY old - a whole month or more - but it’s too good not to kick off with. In case you don’t know, the Lyttle Lytton prize is given each year to the person who can come up with the best, worst opening line to an unwritten novel - cliches are encouraged, mixed metaphors abound, and each year it’s one of the most joyful celebrations of creative writing you will see. I shan’t spoil the enjoyment of reading these yourself and finding your favourites, but my personal one is the following GEM: “Thornmill Greyeyes was a proud elf. His ears stood proud, his cock stood proud, but most of all his heart stood proud as he watched his bride mince down the isle with her ravishingly good looks.”

  • Webby Awards 2017: The latest batch of award winners from the annual celebration of good stuff on the internet, this is a useful place to check out some decent webwork and ‘get inspiration’ (nick other people’s ideas and pass them off as something halfway original). Lots of this stuff has already featured in Curios, turns out, which suggests either that I have an eye for GREAT CONTENT or that I spend far, far too much time on the web.

  • THE HISTORY OF THE INTERNET: Hyperbole sort of justified here, as Yahoo! Japan presents the whole history of the web and the tech and culture around it as one, immense, vertically-scrolling animated illustration. It’s VERY dense and if you, like me, are some sort of web culture aficionado you are going to find a lot to love in here. You can click on bits of the image to get popup explainers, but it’s all in Japanese so I am no wiser as to knowing what much of this stuff is. WHO WAS GREE??? Anyway, this is ace and really quite fun, do check it out.

  • Mail Me To The GOP: Er, are you allowed to do this? This website, created in protest at the Republican Party’s work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, is designed to help people pull together the correct paperwork to have their ashes mailed to a Republican congressperson on death, the message being “YOU KILLED ME BY YOUR ACTIONS, NOW STARE AT MY DUSTY REMAINS IN GUILT”. It’s, er, a strong message, not going to lie - it’s quite tempting to set this up in the UK, even as a joke, just to watch the Mail get into a frothy tizz.

  • BotBot: Smart little tool which lets you quickly and easily make rudimentary bots on Facebook based on a few basic templates - answering questions, selling stuff, ordering food, etc. Uses integration with Zendesk et al, so may not be for everyone, but it’s a nice illustration of how simple these things can be to put together. Oh, and as we’re doing chatbots, this is a service building them specifically for music artists to ‘interact with fans’ and, more importantly, push notifications at them about tickets and merch. SO AUTHENTIC!

  • Twitch Does Investment: Remember Twitch Plays Pokemon, where a bunch of people on Twitch tried to collaboratively play through Pokemon using crowdvoted commands? Well someone’s doing the same thing with $50k of REAL MONEY, letting Twitch viewers vote on what to buy or sell, one transaction every 5 minutes. Quite mental, not least because if you described how this works to someone 5 years ago they would likely have just BOGGLED at you.

  • Pipes: The geekier among you (ha!) will recall Yahoo! Pipes, a rare instance of Yahoo! doing something genuinely innovative and useful which they obviously then went and killed. Pipes was basically a really smart way of filtering information and data from all over the web in a variety of ways; it let you do all sorts of clever things in terms of pulling info from a range of sites and then fiddling with it and spitting it out elsewhere - which is a really dreadful explanation, but anyway it’s sort of been resurrected and oh god it turns out that doing all this writing is really HARD when you’ve not been doing it for a while, eh?

  • Fireflies: This is an interactive simulation of fireflies, and how their lighting systems work - it is simultaneously REALLY relaxing and also revealing as to how incredibly fireflies operate, and I could basically stare at it for HOURS.

  • The Rosetta Wearable Disk: Ignore the appalling webcopy here - the upshot of this is that, for a donation to the Rosetta Project of $1000 or more (the Rosetta Project, in case you don’t know, is devoted to the archiving of human language in perpetuity), you can get a TINY LITTLE NANOFICHE which you can wear around your neck and which is covered in 1000 pages of microscopic information in hundreds of languages. WHY NOT, EH? If anyone has a spare grand they’d like to give me so I can get one of these that would be ace, thanks.

  • Where’s Wallace?: Where’s Wally?, but redone with characters from The Wire. It is HARD.

  • Dog Names of NYC: See, THIS is what public data is for. In New York you obviously have to register your dog with the City; they’ve taken all the registered names and mapped them by frequency, so that you can learn that Max, Bella and Coco are the most popular, and that there are some very, very strange choices lurking when you get down to the low frequencies. Shout out in particular to the wonderful idiot who has chosen to name their dog ‘Playboy’, and for whom I slightly fear a life of perennial singledom.

  • Talk Obama To Me: Type in anything you like into the textbox and watch as it’s spoken back at you by the much-missed ex-POTUS Barack Obama, in a word collage stitched together from his speeches and TV appearances. It’s a touch shonky but pretty impressive, and I personally got more enjoyment than I probably ought admit from getting Barry to tell me he wanted to ‘woof me right in the dirtbox’.

  • Cold War Simulator: Looking a LOT like 1980s classic War Games in aesthetic, this little site lets you model a two-combatant nuclear conflict complete with missiles and bases and, cheerily, with little mention of any of the pesky side effects like ‘fallout’ and ‘a ravaged planet’.

  • WebVR Experiments: Google’s collection of little WebVR toys, all gathered in one place for you to enjoy. There are some lovely ones here - you’ve probably seen the ping pong game before, but it’s worth exploring all of them as there’s some glorious design there and some really clever executions and explorations of what you can do with the (really impressive now) tech in Chrome. One of my favourites is this one, which uses speech recognition to let you tell the programme to take you wherever you like in the world using Google maps - SUCH fun and the sort of thing I imagine it would nice to play with with your kids.

  • Lighthouse: Lighthouse is ‘the interactive digital assistant which tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on at home”; or, as a less-optimistically-minded person might have it, a home surveillance system for the evil or paranoid. It’s an always-on, always-recording camera which uploads footage of what it sees to the Cloud and which can report stuff to you based on what you ask it - so, at least it claims, it will be able to answer ‘was the dog walked today?’ by recognising the question and then scanning that day’s footage to ‘see’ whether anyone took the dog out. Or, maybe, “did my teenage son leave his room today?”, or “what time did my husband get home last night and was he drunk?” and oh god this is going to be the end of so many families, and will lead to so many parents seeing their kids masturbating, won’t it?

  • A World Without People: A beautiful collection of photographs of places abandoned by people. Stuff’s often so much better without us really, isn’t it?

  • Night Lotion: I’d not noticed that this was a thing, but apparently there’s a TV/film trope about women applying lotion to themselves before they go to bed; this is an Instagram account collecting those instances. Hey, Dove, why not do something fun with this sort of thing rather than making increasingly patronising wishy-washy noises about physical diversity which are nothing more than an increasingly transparent attempt at woke marketing? Eh? Oh.

  • The Pregnancy Pause: This is a brilliant idea. Pregnancy Pause is a US initiative looking to address the issues surrounding maternity leave in the US and the fact that CV gaps are often used to stigmatise working women on their return to the workplace; the simple gimmick here is that the campaign has set itself up as an employer on LinkedIn, meaning now mothers can have an official-looking ‘Pregnancy Pause’ entry on their CV covering any maternity gap, which then links back to the campaign and explains its objectives. This is SO SMART, and has the benefit of being easily translatable across other experiences/issues - if you’re a charity reading this, you ought to think on your own variant as it is CLEVER. MIND for mental health, perhaps, or anyone really. GO!

  • Amazing Style Transfer Video Thingy: Yes, ok, fine, but YOU try describing this in 6 words. Anyway, watch the video and be STAGGERED - there’s no sound for some reason, and this is still very much theoretical as there don’t seem to be any details about how it actually works, but if it’s real it’s incredible; this is basically a video of a bloke talking; as he does so, some software applies a visual effect to his face in realtime based on a variety of sources - paintings, a’s genuinely astounding, take a look.

  • Make Your Own Data Gifs: Neat little Google tool which lets you automatically make gifs comparing different datasets. It’s VERY simple, and if you’re some sort of datageek you can almost certainly do better than this in your sleep, but for those, like me, who are crap at both numbers AND making stuff, this is a godsend.

  • The Infinite String Quartet: This is a very, very soothing little webtoy. The spheres at the top correspond to different strings; where you place them on the landscape determines pitch, etc. Just play and listen to what happens and imagine that you are somewhere far, far away from all the electioneering and madness and despair.

  • Searching For Syria: It’s important that we occasionally get reminded just how fcuked much of the world is, and that it continues to be fucked even when we decide to ignore it because we’re doing a democracy. This site, put together by UNHCR, is a nicely-built and tells the story of the conflict and its impact in simple, clear fashion; it’s also obviously a bit heartbreaking, as you’d expect.

  • Virtual Cities From Photos: I am pretty much entirely baffled by how this works, but nonetheless. It’s basically tech which, although it’s obviously in its infancy, works to stitch together 3d models of cities from photos of said cities, automatically modelling features like road width, building height and even traffic density through interpretation of images. So, in theory, we’ll soon be able to point it at all the photos on Flickr tagged ‘London’ and BOOM, hello virtual capital. Or at least that’s what I imagine will happen; perhaps someone with a better grasp on actual real technology can correct me.

  • The Paleobiology Database: It’s a resource for people interested in paleontology, OBVS - it’s also, if you click on the ‘Explore’ button, an interactive map of where all the known fossils in the world are, which if you have a small, dinosaur-obsessed child is probably a pretty wonderful thing to let them play around with.

  • Neural Network Illustrations in Allo: Allo, which you will recall is Google’s messaging app which has all the fancy (creepy?) Google Assistant stuff built in, recently launched this feature which noone really picked up on but which I think is sort of amazing; you give it a photo of yourself and it uses Neural Network tech to spit out a series of cartoon stickers of yourself; seriously, this is REALLY impressive and were I a cartoonist would have me looking nervously over my shoulder.

  • The Manhoff Archive: I’m just going to quote the site here: “Major Martin Manhoff spent more than two years in the Soviet Union in the early 1950s, serving as assistant army attaché at the U.S. Embassy, which was located just off Red Square at the beginning of his time in Moscow. He took full advantage of his post, using his gifted photographic eye to capture hundreds of images of everyday life in Moscow and across the U.S.S.R. When he left the country in 1954 amid accusations of espionage, Major Manhoff took with him reels of 16 millimeter film and hundreds of color slides and negatives he shot during his travels – including of one of the Soviet Union's pivotal events, Josef Stalin's funeral. But after his return to the United States, the trove of rare images lay forgotten, stored in cardboard boxes in a former auto body shop in the Pacific Northwest until its discovery by a Seattle-based historian.” This is a really wonderful collection of photography and a proper timesink.

  • 100 Days Of Secrets: 100 secrets, one a day for 100 days, illustrated by Filipino designer/illustrator Terence Eduarte.

  • The David Rumsey Map Collection: You want maps? HE GOT MAPS. All the cartography you could ever want.

  • Scrb: Autotranscription service which lets you upload an MP3 and get back a transcript in what they promise is a matter of minutes. Which, frankly, even if it’s a tiny bit shonky is basically miraculous and so useful and oh, what’s that, another industry being slowly crushed by the advent of machine learning? OH YES INDEED! Sorry, transcribers.


By Raymond Depardon




  • Airwaybill: This is a really smart idea. Airwaybill basically lets people use airline passengers as couriers - you say what you want taking from where to where; and the system matches you with someone willing to take it with them for a few quid. Obviously this isn’t designed to be used to ferry kilos of cocaine across the Pacific - that still needs to be hastily swallowed inside a condom - but for small things (gifts, documents, etc) it’s a really useful concept which I would totally use.

  • Moments: A series of small, pointless webtoys which I absolutely adore. Just look at this cat! Look at his little face as he plays with the string! God, I could die.

  • The Best Time To Visit Anywhere: If you’re a travel brand, STEAL THIS. Plug in your desired temperature range for a holiday destination, when you want to go and press the button - the site will spit out a list of places where the average temperature for that time of year suits your requirements. It doesn’t take a genius to work out how you could link this to sales, right?

  • VR Gluv: Stupid name, but a cool piece of kit - I have banged on for ages about how I think it will be the haptic accessories that make VR as a tech; these are the first gloves I’ve seen which seem to offer the ‘grasp a virtual object and it will feel like you’re actually holding something’ experience which is crucial to giving the illusion that there’s a ‘there’ there; sadly, though, their line about being able to feel things that are ‘hard, or soft, or somewhere inbetween’ took my brain straight to the creepy techsex places it tends to go when confronted with stuff like this and I had to stop looking at the page, but maybe you’ll fare better.

  • YouTube DJ: Plug in any two YouTube urls and this site lets you mix them on virtual turntables, crossfader and all. Fun, but I can personally vouch for the fact that it is impossible to create a pleasant-sounding mashup of Diamanda Galas and Miley Cyrus however hard one might try.

  • 100 Million Books: I LOVE THIS. Publishers, please take note - a really simple Chrome extension which each time you open a new tab suggests a book you might be interested in reading. The books are plucked at random; there are no genre filters or anything like that, just pure, unfiltered BOOK. Let me repeat, I LOVE THIS. Oh, and there’s another thing just like it but for art from the Europeana project, if you prefer images to words. CHROME EXTENSIONS ARE ACE MORE PEOPLE SHOULD DO THEM.

  • Lost & Found: Striking collection of photos by Michael Joseph of kids in the US living their life on the freight trains which cross the country. It’s worth selecting the thumbnail view as there are lots of these; some of the faces are just beautiful, captured as though through tintype photography.

  • The Positive Lexicography Project: A lovely idea, this, presenting an “evolving index of 'untranslatable' words related to wellbeing from across the world's languages.” Browse words relating to joy, aesthetics, tastes and much more, from all around the world. I have just been reminded of the word ‘Petrichor’ which has made me inordinately happy; if you’re any sort of linguist this is going to be like catnip for you.

  • Women Who Design: A filterable directory of women working in design (in its broadest sense) across the world, with links to their Twitter profiles, etc. Literally NO excuse for having an all-male team anymore, really, in pretty much any industry.

  • This Is Your Jam: Pick a song, and then see whether you can remember all the lyrics within the time limit. Simultaneously really annoying and startlingly addictive, and the co-op play element is a nice touch.

  • The Searcher: I love stuff like this. Did you know that there’s a dedicated magazine for metal detection enthusiasts? OF COURSE THERE IS! Explore its wonders here.

  • Fonts From The 90s: Yes, ok, so this is a marketing thing for some font platform or another, but tell me you don’t want access to the fonts used on the Fresh Prince.

  • Every Single Word In Icelandic: An intensely lovable and very Nordic Instagram account, presenting simple illustrations of every single word in the Icelandic language, one by one. If you don’t want to learn stuff like this: “Remember the word for earth, jörð, from yesterday? If you add the word for berry to the end you get jarðarber, meaning strawberry” every day then frankly you are a MONSTER.

  • Cheeky Exploits: Another Instagram feed, this time of photos of people flashing their bottoms. Not exactly erotic unless you have some sort of latent exhibitionist tendencies, more sort of cute and slightly whimsical (can bottoms be whimsical? They can, yes).

  • [email protected]: I don’t have a better way of describing this than ‘Shazam for plants’. So, er, that’s it - Shazam for plants. Such an excellent idea/project/resource, and the sort of thing that would make country walks for city idiots like me who can identify literally NO nature whatsoever.

  • Down and Out in Los Santos: GTAV was an excellent game though I think I’m done with the series’ ‘edgy’ humour and fratboy ‘satire’; what’s been amazing, though, is its longevity through its online incarnations, and the number of art projects which have spun off out of it. This one documents the ‘homeless’ characters within the game, presenting photos of them as if from a real-life documentary; it’s ace, and if you can be bothered to think of it this way raises one or two interesting questions about our relationship to actual, real life homeless people.

  • Trollcakes: Sadly this is a US-only service at the moment, but definitely deserves recreating over here; Trollcakes lets people submit a mean tweet they were sent, which content gets iced onto a cake and delivered to the troll in question. They also do all the donkeywork of tracking down the postal address of the troll in question to deliver it, which is the most impressive part of the whole thing imho.

  • Subtle Dildo: ANOTHER Instagram account, and another thing that’s like Where’s Wally? - except here, every photo has a dildo artfully hidden within it which you have to find. Well, you don’t have to, but frankly what the fcuk else are you going to do with your time on this planet other than look for veiny, sculpted cocks on Insta?

  • Pictooptics: No idea why this exists but it’s rather nice; type in any word you like and it will spit out a weird kaleidoscopey pattern-thing (my descriptive powers, it would appear, have survived the hiatus unscathed) made out of icons associated with that word. Trying it with ‘penis’ yields some interesting results.

  • The Guggenheim Archive: A load of old exhibition guides from the Guggenheim, digitised and online for all your art historical needs.

  • Crytch: This is a BRILLIANT way of sending encrypted messages online, and it’s fun. I can’t be bothered to explain it, but I promise you it’s really good, honest.

  • Spellfcker: The MACHINES read everything (even Web Curios). They read the web, they read your emails, they will soon read your minds if Zuck has his way. Small cheers, then, for stuff like this - Spellfcuker takes any text you give it and scrambles it in such a way as to make it impossible (or at least very hard) for machines to read whilst still letting humans have a reasonable shot at working out its meaning. Yew kan unnahstannd this, ckan'ed yu? Told yew ead whohrked.

  • Orphe: SMART SHOES! Actually these are more of an art/music/dance project than practical footwear, but - Orphe is footwear which contains LEDs in the sole which are programmable, which tracks your movement, which can be used to create music using in-built motion sensors...frankly it looks mental. They seem to be claiming that they can be bought, and there are store links to Amazon, but nothing in stock...HM. Still, looks cool even if it might just be vaporware.

  • Fontmap: “This interactive map of more than 750 fonts has been organized using machine learning”, burbles the website. Yes, it has! Really interesting to see affinities between different font design; you get a real feel for the way designs evolve from each other looking at it this way.

  • Vinylpost: SUCH a nice idea, this. Subscribe to this service and each month you’ll receive a floppy vinyl postcard, each etched with a playable song from that month’s featured musical artist, and designed by that month’s featured graphic designer. Fine, OK, it is, I concede, almost beyond parody in terms of its hipsterness, but it’s lovely and cute and so I don’t care (also, as an INFLUENCER MARKETING gimmick this is super-stealable imho).

  • Highlight: This is basically magic. These people have invented tech which lets you highlight, clip, copy, etc, text from ACTUAL PHYSICAL BOOKS. I mean, it will never take off, at least not in this incarnation, because the unit cost of each book must be absolutely insane, but it’s an incredibly interesting idea. Actually you could probably do something like this with smart glasses recognising text and using gestural interfaces to track your finger moving along a line, so perhaps this isn’t that smart after all and will be totally redundant. WHO KNOWS? Certainly not me, I’m just some webmong.

  • The Real Story: “The Real Story is a writer development project and journal devoted to promoting the form of nonfiction writing in the UK.” It publishes work and supports writers - if you do this sort of thing, it’s worth a look.

  • The Food Memory Bank: This is a wonderful collection of short stories, memories, vignettes, whatever, all centred around people’s memories of food. Long, short, happy, sad, there’s a whole world of human life in here, all of it underpinned by that Proustian idea linking food, powerfully, to memory. There’s some great writing too; a lovely site.

  • Privat: Launching soon on Indiegogo, this is a really interesting-looking smartphone for those concerned about privacy and surveillance. You can read a full list of features on the site, but the ability to have the camera and microphone disabled as the default setting is interesting, as is the inclusion of a second, separate camera which in theory would prevent anyone spying on your pics. If you are a VERY paranoid person this is your new top-of-wishlist toy.

  • Learn Music With Ableton: This is a simply brilliant series of tutorials by Ableton on making electronic music - from the basics of how grid-based music programming works to more complex elements, all presented in simple, friendly fashion. Would be perfect for kids just getting into the idea of making music, digitally or otherwise.

  • The RompHim: I first found this hideous thing right back at the start of its crowdfunding journey, before over 3000 IDIOTS decided to back the project and contribute over £300k to making a male romper suit a reality. WELL DONE LADS WELL DONE YOU HAVE JUST PAID £100 FOR SOMETHING WHICH, AT BEST, YOU WILL WEAR ONCE AND WHICH WILL MORE LIKELY ARRIVE A YEAR LATE BY WHICH POINT YOU WILL BE TOO FAT TO FIT INTO IT ANY MORE BECAUSE OF ALL THE CRAFT BEER YOU CONSUME AT YOUR IRONIC BANTER SESSIONS OH CHRIST I HATE YOU sorry but.

  • Skinmotion: Have you ever thought “You know what I’d like? I’d like a tattoo of a waveform which I can scan with an app and which when I do so will cause my phone to play a particular piece of audio, up to a minute long, associated with that waveform”? No, of course you haven’t, YOU ARE NOT A FCUKING MORON. Well DONE, Skinmotion people, you have invented a very specific, very pointless variant on the QR code! Jesus.

  • Unsung NYC: This is a very nice project indeed which I would love to see replicated in London in some way. “Immersive soundscapes compare today's urban cacophony to the island Henry Hudson encountered in 1609. History unearths wonder in the green heart of New York”. A really gorgeous audio history project, this.

  • Amputee Love: In 1975, this comic was published to attempt to break down prejudices against amputees; in the words of its author, “ We are probably all crooked or bent in some way. Limited is what I mean. We all have limitations.” He attempted to break down these prejudices by, er, producing a really rather racy comic about having sex with amputees. Which gives me the only excuse I need to link to this EXCELLENT song.

  • Dank Big Meme Hunter: A game by the ever-excellent Adult Swim, which basically rips off Duck Hunt and lets you use your phone as a controller to shoot stuff on your desktop. Reasonably fun, but it’s the phone/controller execution I really like here.

  • The Service Droid: THE worst thing (I mean, not the WORST thing, but certainly the worst thing I feel comfortable sharing on here) that I saw in the whole month of downtime was undoubtedly this; now, revisiting it, I am not only horrified by the premise but also by the fact that some 30 people have seen fit to back it on Indiegogo to the tune of £6k. WHY? WHAT SORT OF MONSTERS ARE YOU. The Arlan Service Droid will, the man behind it claims, be “the first robotic droid sex toy capable of recreating intimate human oral interaction”. Now, take a moment to think about that and (sorry, but it’s worth it) to imagine for a second what a blowjobbot might look like. Got that probably distasteful image in your head? Hold it there a second. Now click on the link - I’ll wait ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….SEE?! IT’S WORSE THAN YOU COULD POSSIBLY HAVE IMAGINED! Why is it designed in the foetal position of someone being beaten? What is wrong with the faces? WHO HAS BACKED THIS HORROR. Seriously, men, however lonely you are THIS IS NOT THE ANSWER.

  • Stained Glass: A beautiful interactive music video to finish with, which will hopefully cleanse the palate after that last horrorlink - colour it in as it plays and make something beautiful and soothing to share with the world.


By Honey Long





  • Is It Better Than Emotion?: Tracking review scores of supposedly good albums on Pitchfork and comparing them to their review of Carly Rae Jepson’s album ‘Emotion’ with often surprising results.

  • Sonic The Hedgeblog: All Sonic, all day.

  • From Another Room: “A blog dedicated to the "from another room" effect: an auditory recreation of music that sounds muffled as though it were playing from another room. it can have one or multiple contexts, depending on the listener (examples: wandering through an apartment building, being upstairs from a party, or getting murdered behind a club)”

  • Marvel NYC: Where Marvel Comics and New York City intersect.

  • Buble Raptor: Michael Buble being stalked by a velociraptor.

  • Pubcats: Cats! In pubs! Pubcats! Not technically a Tumblr but I DON’T CARE.

  • Goths Up Trees: Largely self-explanatory tbh.

  • Sh1tty Car Mods: All nicked off Reddit, but reasonably funny if you understand anything about cars (I don’t).

  • Subject-28: Original production art from Akira. Awesome stuff in here.

  • James Curran: AMAZING gifs and animations by this very talented designer.

  • Find The Woman: Dedicated to pointing out the fact that adland is often really, really bad at gender diversity. FFS, adland!



  • The Loneliness Of Donald Trump: We’ve not exactly been short of long takedowns of THAT MAN, but this, by Rebecca Solnit on Litbub, is an astonishingly good piece of writing, as enjoyable for the prose as for the way she deconstructs the manchild.

  • I Didn’t Want A Parrot: I unexpectedly found this on Reddit a month or so ago and was enticed by the title, and then got sucked in - this is a genuinely great tale, about finding a parrot and, in part thanks to said parrot, stopping being a raging alcoholic. A really good piece of writing, if an unusual one.

  • When Your Child Is a Psychopath: Like ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ but real and therefore infinitely more chilling, this is a look at methods used to treat kids who display psycopathic tendencies. I’m sure your kids aren’t psycopaths, though, honest.

  • When KISS Went To Moscow: KISS are a ridiculous band in almost every sense, more marketing machine than musicians; this is a brilliant profile accompanying them to a gig in Moscow and touching on the oddities of personality required to be in a world-famous rock-and-roll band for several decades, what the makeup means, Gene Simmonds enormous tongue, groupies and all the rest. It’s ACE, and makes being a superstar musician seem exactly as strange as it ought.

  • The Amazing World of London Clerks: Brilliant peek into the very, very odd and intensely traditional world of the clerks of the legal profession, who keeps the wheels of justice oiled and spinning and effectively act as brokers between barristers and the legal profession. Fascinating, and an excellent reminder as to quite how queerly anachronistic the legal profession seems in 2017.

  • Meet Missy: Superb piece for the cover of this month’s Elle, chatting with Missy Elliott about her music, her life, her peers, black culture and identity and loads more. A really thoughtful piece, talking to a really thoughtful artist who’s largely kept out of the public eye.

  • How To Murder Your Life: I featured an excerpt from Cat Marnell’s memoir ‘How To Murder Your Life’ a few months back, and described it thusly: “I found the style to be a huge Easton-Ellis-pastiche, and the ‘I’m so crazy and damaged yet living in NYC and somehow amazingly successful despite being a total carcrash of drink and drugs’-style narrative a touch on the cliche side, and yet it has stayed with me all week in a manner little else has done, which suggests either that my subconscious has terrible taste or that it’s better than I at first gave it credit for.” This is a profile of Marnell herself, and whilst I’m no less ambivalent about her as a person, I now really, really want to read everything she writes.

  • Who’s The Real Cunt?: On the Daily Mail. It is WONDERFUL - seriously, you must read this piece for lines like this: “In my weeks of reading the Mail in the wake of Addison’s book, I found no real humour but many hundreds of sneers, which is what passes for humour in that whispery world of frightened men who don’t know how to talk to women and wish they knew bigger words.”

  • A Nasty Name for a Nasty Thing: Segueing nicely on from the last piece, this is an excellent history of the word ‘cunt’ - it’s etymology, usage and position as the worst word in the English language. Scholarly and exhaustive, this is a wonderful read for people who like words and the politics of language.

  • Why I Don’t Trust Batman: Finally in this section, a brilliant short story written from the point of view of one of Gotham’s nameless denizens, a blue-collar everyman who doesn’t quite feel as warmly about the mildly-sociopathic caped crusader as perhaps his creators might have expected. Superb subversion of your standard comic book hero narrative, this.


By Alina Cara Oswald




1) First up, this is absolutely the most relaxing this I was able to find over the past month; I suggest you watch this pretty much on a loop between now and the moment when you have to come to terms with the crushing reality that the wrong people won:

2) Next, an INCREDIBLE piece of black and white animation called ‘Caverna’ - this really is exceptional, and very clever indeed:

3) This is by the fabulously-named Otoboke Beaver. It is called ‘Love Is Short’ and it is short and shouty and Japanese and it is GOOD:

4) This might be terrible; in fact, I’m 99% certain it is terrible, and yet I really, really quite enjoy it. No idea why at all, maybe it’s a mid-life crisis. Anyway, it’s called ‘Meow’ and it’s by Cherie and Renno - ‘enjoy’:

5) CHINESE HIPHOP CORNER! This is called ‘Made in China’ and it’s by Higher Brothers x Famous Dex and it is ace:

6) This is beautiful. It’s by Francis & The Lights, I think, and features Chance The Rapper, and it’s like something from the closing scenes of an 80s movie, in the very best way. It’s really gorgeous, I hope you like it - it’s called ‘May I Have This Dance’:

7) Last this week, a truly OUTSTANDING vocal on this track by Algiers; it’s called ‘The Underside of Power’ - enjoy! BYE ENJOY THE ELECTION I HOPE YOUR FAVOURITE TEAM WINS AS LONG AS IT’S NOT THE BLUE ONE SEE YOU SOON(ISH) BYE!:



Web Curios will return. That is all.

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).

Twitter, Facebook
Terms & Conditions, Privacy, Cookies