By Hsiao Ron Cheng
THE SECTION WHICH IS SURE THAT IF WE JUST GRIT OUR TEETH ALL THIS S*C**L M*D** STUFF WILL BE OVER SOON, HONEST:
Facebook Goes Big(ger) On Live Video: I keep reading stuff about how one of the BIG THEMES of this year in terms of social is the mover from filtered and carefully created glimpses of our lives towards a more raw, untramelled glimpse at the fascinating nuances of our existence - less Instagram, more Snapchat. Obviously this is rubbish - noone, believe me, wants to see the unvarnished reality of my existence, let me tell you - and yet here we are. Facebook this week announced a whole load of tweaks to its Live Video streaming service, including the ability to include comments and interactions in Live Video replays, streaming to Groups, better discovery, the ability to scrawl doodles over your livestream (which you can also now do on Periscope, but), etc. Depening on your audience, this suddenly makes Live Video a really, really strong alternative to Periscope - certainly, if anyone says the word ‘webcast’ to you ever again, you can probably slap them - and people who have experimented with this have suggested that reach from Facebook Live Video beats that from Persicope into a cocked hat. Have a play.
Facebook Launches Video Search: Basically another great big landgrab on YouTube - you will now be able to search for videos and livestreams on Facebook, results showing both standard vids and stuff recorded as live. I could imagine this becoming really rather popular - and, let’s be clear, this is TOTALLY going to open up another ad revenue stream (what’s that? You want your videos to place highest in Facebook video search for ‘food’? That’ll be $millions, thanks!). Oh, and there’s a whole load of new video metrics too which you can use to track exactly how much more popular this makes your thrilling branded content moments.
Facebook Launching Video Ads In Instant Articles: This. It’s all about sodding video this week. I don’t like video. What’s wrong with reading, you PHILISTINES?
How Facebook Ad Auctions Work: A simple, clear explainer of an admittedly skullcrushingly tedious topic, this is a decent primer as to how ad targeting and buying on the platform works. Probably won’t be news to you, you clever thing, but others may benefit.
Instagram Gets Easier To Use On The Web: I thought this was reasonably big news, but noone else did which suggests my opinion may well be bunkum. Nevertheless, this is the ‘news’ that notifications, etc, have all been launched on the web browser version of Instagram, basically meaning that it’s now possible to get the full app functionality from desktop - which, by extension, means that it’s a lot easier for brands to manage an Instagram feed. Oh, not really related but I don’t think it warrants its own bullet; you can now also easily search through a user’s followers/following on the platform, which is useful when it comes to manual influencer mapping.
Instagram Launches 60-Secondd Videos: Have you seen the flurry of Instagram video ads and thought to yourself “you know what would make this advertising content I am happily consuming on Instagram even better? Yes, that’s right, MORE OF IT!” then truly, these are wonderful times to be alive. Ostensibly designed to make the platform more appealing to entertainment brands punting film trailers, etc, this is going to usher in some absolute HORRORS of self-regarding brandspaff, mark my words.
Snapchat Basically Becomes The ur-Messenger: Pretty punchy move from Snapchat, this, effectively turning itself into a very feature-rich one-size-fits-all communicator solution incorporating chat, video, photos, etc. The on-the-fly switching between video and audio calls is really impressive and quite scifi, although I think that most of this stuff is focused on the user-to-user experience rather than being automatically significant for brands (no, brands, most of you are not any normal human being’s idea of a favoured interlocutor, STOP TRYING TO TALK TO US). Oh, and it’s rolled out longer captions on pics (upto 80 characters!)! And here’s some information about how most users actually...er...use it (clue: most of it is people talking to each other rather than diving deep into the crystalline azure pool of exciting branded messaging via Stories or Discover or the like).
Twitter’s Going To Stream Some NFL Games Live: Interesting from a media point of view, It will be fascinating to see how this works - both in terms of how live broadcast optimised for social media actually works, but also how the monetisation / advertising part of it spins out, as this is where the real game is.
Twitter Makes It Easy To Add Alt Text To Images For Accessibility: Facebook does it with AI, on Twitter it’s manual. Sort of sadly indicative, really. Anyway, as it’s manual you need to know about it to take advantage of the feature if you care about the visually impaired being able to experience Twitter properly, which you ought.
Take a Tweet Straight Into DMs: Now with ONE CLICK you can move a Tweet from your main stream to a DM conversation - ostensibly designed to streamline the customer service experience (make a conversation with a customer private with just one click), but basically just the starting point for a whole LOAD of snidey shade as you all immediately take your snarky side-beefs into your DMs and slag each other off on the hush. I know what you’re like.
Tumblr Brings Back Replies & Improves Notes: I’ve literally just re-typed the article headline here as I can think of literally NO way in which I can gild this particular lily. Look, it is what it is. It basically brings back some of the community features which some recent updates had stripped back. Happy now? Christ.
Pinterest Launches ‘How To’ Pins For Brands: HUGELY interesting if you do foodstuff or interiorsstuff or DIYstuff or makeupstuff on Pinterest (and frankly what else is there?) - this is a build on existing Rich Pins, available to brands for a while now, which effectively helps them create tutorial sequences. Not open to everyone as yet, just BRAND PARTNERS, but I imagine this will be extended to other paying customers at some point.
Medium Gets Better For Publishers: LOADS of stuff in here which is beg news for publishers and which make Medium a significant option for all your content repository needs on the web. Integration with Facebook Instant Articles, ease of migration of archive content from old platforms to Medium, and, of course, the addition of new ad units - Promoted Stories, effectively shunting content from SELECT BRAND PARTNERS onto the end of select articles from select publishers, like a less single-mindedly turdy Outbrain (this may not be a great comparison, but), and the ability for publishers to set up a sort of members-only gated area to offer EXCLUSIVE CONTENT to paying punters. Makes Medium worth a serious look as a publishing platform for everyone, I think.
The KIK Bot Store: Look, I’m not suggesting that any of you need to get your brands on KIK (you don’t, really, probably) - this is just interesting as the precursor of things to come on Facebook in a few weeks. This is the page showcasing the bots which are currently available on the platform - automated content delivery and sales drones, all up in our chats, EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY. You watch how mental all this gets when Facebook really starts punting this hard to the public.
Etsy Pattern: If you sell ribbon-wrapped, glitter-adorned hand made artisanal STUFF on Etsy then this might be of interest - effectively it lets any user with an Etsy store turn said store into a simple, standalone website, all powered by Etsy. Really rather useful if you’re a small seller and want to synchronise your sales on and off Etsy - costs $15 per month, but that doesn’t strike me as a bad deal to be honest.
Reddit Launches Mobile Apps: On Android and iOS. Community Managers! Journalists of a certain stripe! YOU ARE SAVED!
Best Practice For Bloggers Reviewing Stuff, From Google: If you do influencer work with bloggers, you need to read this - a whole load of info about what Google’s current stance is on linking-for-goodies, basically, which if your clients are the sort of people who stand with spittle-flecked lips in update meetings repeatedly screaming “HOW MANY BACKLINKS THIS MONTH????” (they are, some of them, aren’t they?) is quite important to know.
Google Search Will Let You Vote In Talent Shows Direct From Search Results: Yep, that. I have nothing more to add.
KLM Launches Facebook Messenger Integration: This is the future. From the blurb: “KLM is offering a new way to receive your flight documentation: Facebook’s Messenger service. After booking your flight on klm.com you can choose the option to receive booking confirmation, check-in notification, boarding pass and flight status updates via Messenger. This makes your travel information easy to find in a single place, available at the airport, en route or at home. Any questions? No problem. Ask away and contact us directly through Messenger, 24/7.” Really rather smart, though it made me nostalgic for the days of Flynt.
ANOTHER Great KLM Site: Noone from KLM has paid me for these endorsements, more’s the pity, but this is a gorgeous piece of webwork and just a really nice experience. An online anniversary edition of KLM’s travel mag, this showcases 50 lovely places around the world, coincidentally all reachable with KLM flights, with photos and videos and STUFF, as well as links to get flights straight from the site. Not groundbreaking by any means, but just so nicely made.
Smart Use Of Preroll By Netflix: Really, really clever, this - creating preroll ads which contain clips from Friends, said clips relating to YouTube searches, and then delivered to users based on said searches. So, you search for “cat” and you might be served an ad featuring a Netflix preroll shilling Friends and showing that bloody character singing that bloody song (it wasn’t funny the first time around). Very nice idea.
Zurich’s True Love Maps: Included mainly because I find the idea of the link between insurance and love a pretty hard one to swallow - how did the agency rationalise this one? “Insurance is about security, yeah, and the foundation of love is security, so, you know, the Zurich brand equity is totally compatible with love!”. Or something - this is why I’m not allowed to work on anything proper. Anyway, this site lets you mark the location of your first ‘x’ (kiss, dinner, chat, etc) with a significant other on a map, play with some filters, and then send a short romantic video to said person commemorating the historic moment. The Google Maps integration is actually quite nice, but I just can’t get over the utter unromanticism of receiving a video commemorating your first kiss with your husband, say, emblazoned with the strapline “Zurich Insurance: For Those Who Truly Love”. I mean, really.
The Internet Marketing Workshop: A very smart and almost sickeningly selfless offering from Stephen Waddington of Ketchum, looking at how to use a host of free digital tools for campaign planning. The sort of ACTUALLY PRACTICALLY USEFUL stuff that you rarely see round here, so take the time to look through it as it’s very helpful indeed.
Photo by ME
THE SECTION WHICH HOPES THAT THE GLUT OF GENUINELY QUITE INTERESTING AND GOOD WEBSPAFF WHICH IS TO FOLLOW MAKES UP SOMEWHAT FOR THE MESS OF WORKSTUFF WHICH WENT BEFORE IT, PT.1:
Digging Into HipHop: A really rather nice timewaster which is worth playing with, this creates a browser-based recreation of the experience of digging through crates of vinyl in a record store devoted to old hiphop records - you can flick through them, play tracks, and generally have a gently exploratory meander through the stacks. Obviously a totally inefficient way of discovering music, but sometimes efficiency isn’t everything DO YOU HEAR THAT, ROBOT OVERLORDS? I DEFY YOUR ALGORITHMIC INSISTENCE ON EVERYTHING BECOMING FASTER AND MORE CONVENIENT! (I don’t, obviously).
Romesco: A slightly trippy and largely pointless webGL thingy which basically produces psychedelically coloured shapes that look a little bit like trippy cauliflowers. No, look, seriously, most of the stuff in here this week is better than this, honest,.
SonikPass: Basically tech which uses audio signals as passwords, the idea being that users will be given unique audio signatures whose playback will act as an access code. Designed to work in both physical and online worlds, this is quite an interesting idea I think.
The Interactive Punchbag: This is a really nice experientialidea for a Dutch Cancer charity, taking the ‘fight cancer’ idea and literalising it with a punchbag which, once it’s been told your age, gender, and some lifestyle details presents you with a visualisation of the cancer you’re most likely to end up getting offed by and, well, invites you to beat the sh1t out of it. You get shown how well you’ve done at the end and invited to make a donation - although the one slightly jarring note on the site is that suggesting that punters will be told if they’ve ‘won’ or ‘lost’, which makes me think that being told that you have failed to beat up the cancer which might one day kill you might be a somewhat sobering moment. Still, really nicely done.
Lipstrike: If you were a woman who enjoyed playing online shooter Counterstrike, what would be the BEST way of really, really irritating all the idiots who believe that your gender means that you shouldn’t play games like that? How about setting up things so that you can trigger shots in the game by applying lipstick in real life and then streaming the display over Twitch? Yeah, that’ll work. Generally applauseworthy, not least because I love stuff which turns unusual things into controllers.
The Panama Papers: So obviously we’ve spent all week getting really angry and uppity about this - and rightly so, if somewhat Cnutishly in my opinion (that’s a reference to the king of legend rather than a bowdlerisation, just fyi) - but I get the feeling that most people haven’t checked out the website containing all the materials. Well you should, it’s GREAT - not only because it’s full of interesting and infuriating stuff (click the ‘Power Players’ section), but also because it’s a textbook case of presenting an awful lot of dense info in a rather nice way, and even MORESO because it actually contains a small game-type element which shows that just because you’re participating in one of the biggest whistleblowing events of the new(ish) millennium you can’t have a light-touch sense of humour about it.
The History of Electro/Electronic Music, 1937-2001: A pretty astoundingly comprehensive archive of electronic music from throughout the 20th Century. Any DJs reading this, if you can somehow incorporate something from 1937 into your next set I will never know but be aware that I approve immeasurably.
Songbranch: Totally pointless website which does lyric visualisations; you plug in a song and it will create a weird little floaty flowchart of its lyrics, which is, strangely, much more appealing that you might think. Or at least it is to me as I type this at 751am, addled by lack of sleep and on the fourth cup of tea already.
Skakespeare’s Sonnet Generator: Cobbling together new works from the Bard’s existing oeuvre, this is included solely in the hope that one of you out there is in a new relationship and can use this to temporarily fool your paramour into thinking you can just knock out sonnets at the drop of a hat. Actually, why not try using these as opening gambits on Tinder and seeing how you get on? Please?
Hipster Sounds: Ambient sound generators are nothing new, but this one simulates the soundscapes of hipster-friendly destinations like Parisian cafes. Loses points for its lack of insistence that these are artisanal soundscapes.
Make A Song From Your Face:Traditionally, the best way to make music using ones face was to mash it repeatedly onto a piano keyboard, or to append a selection of small bells from one’s extremities and then violently shake one’s head - OH PROGRESS! This very neat site uses your webcam to scan your face and, based on a few simple datapoints like the distance between your eyes, the height of your ears and the like, cobbles together an algorithmically-determined piece of music which you can then download and keep forever. Impressive, not least because it managed to turn even my mangled features into a semi-pleasing piece of audio.
The Swedish Number: Such a nice idea, although it indicates a degree of confidence in their people that I’m not sure we could match over here; the Swedish Number is a project whereby anyone in the world can call the number on the site and be connected to an ACTUAL SWEDE who they can chat to about herrings or saunas being comfortable with familial nudity or any number of other lazy national stereotypes you care to mention. Such a lovely idea, and so heartwarmingly positive in its fundamental belief in human nature - let’s be honest, you know EXACTLY how this would probably work out if there was a UK version.
Data USA: A pretty incredibl collective of data and associated visualisations, encompassing all sorts of information about each of the US’s states - employment data, crime, civil engineering, the lot. Sort of an object lesson in how you might want to make this sort of stuff publicly available, and should you be reading this from the US or have US clients it’s also potentially a really interesting provider of ‘insights’ for planning. Maybe.
The Hong Kong Sky Project: We’ve all stopped being excited about large-scale projection mapping onto buildings, which is a shame as when it’s done well it’s still truly jaw-dropping. This is one of the best examples I’ve yet seen, a high concept art piece about TIME AND DEATH AND STUFF, all projected onto Hong Kong’s tallest building last month.
Meet Another Day: Want to look busy so that people don’t book up your time with FCUKING MEETINGS? Use this to fill up your Google calendar with fictitious appointments. Or, you know, just do it yourself, manually. Or say you’ll turn up, but don’t - just pop outside to the park and start walking and keep walking until you can no longer hear the voices in your head and the office is just a distant, bad memory. Go on. You can do it.
The Techies Project: Documentary project looking at issues of diversity in Silicon Valley, and profiling some of the people working there who are from non-traditional (ie not white and straight and male) backgrounds. Not just a nice idea, the interviews with participants are genuinely illuminating and (much as I hate the term) maybe even a touch inspirational. Oh, and the site’s nicely designed too.
Slidebox: Really, really easy to use photo organising app, ripping off the Tinder UI to excellent effect to allow you to quickly filter, delete, group and file pics off your phone with a few judicious swipes. Slick.
Claimdog: I was SO excited when I found this. Claimdog is a site which, if you type in your name, pulls up a list of people with your name who are owed ACTUAL CASHMONEY - if one of them is you, you can get the site to get it for you and they take a small fee once they’re returned the cash to you. Sadly, it transpires, this is only a US thing - there’s some weird stuff going with people being owed Government rebates or something that I don’t really understand, but imagine my chagrin when I realised that I wasn’t one of the Matt Muirs owed hundreds of dollars by the US state. Bastard other Matt Muirs.
Netflix Party: Lets you simultaneously watch stuff Netflix via the web client with other users anywhere else, so you can carry on streaming your favourite box set with your significant other even if they are on the other side of the world. I think there’s something in the idea of a large-scale variant on this, with mass-viewing parties around sporting events and stuff, but I’m too tired to think it through properly.
Tell Me Elliott: One of a number of really good projects I saw for Autism Awareness Day the other week, this one’s a French site which uses fullscreen video and simple gesture-based interaction to help communicate the experience of being - and dealing with - an autistic child. It’s all in French, obviously, but you should be able to get the gist of what’s going on even if you only vaguely remember who Claude LeClochard was.
Bomber Jackets: A great Flickr collection of photos of customised bomber jackets worn by pilots in WWII.
Articoolo: Is this a real thing? I honestly can’t tell, but it’s being presented with an entirely straight face, so let’s assume. You know how last year there was a whole raft of ‘robots will steal our jobs’ chat? Well this is the first step in that process for us CONTENT PRODUCERS, being as it is a service which purports to basically automatically write copy on any given subject given a few prompts and a bit of time. Unfortunately the output’s only visible once you’ve ponied up some cash and I was feeling a little tight at the time I found it so I can’t vouch for the quality, but judging by half the stuff you read punted out on corporate blogs and the like you might consider it worth a punt.
Beecaster: A wonderful-if-pointless/doomed idea to create entirely crowdsourced radio, Beecaster lets anyone upload audio files from anywhere on the web, or alternatively record up to five minutes of audio through a mic, and then upload it to the station, which plays a live collage of everything submitted to it. When I tried it the other week it was a weird sort of stream of consciousness of 4chan and memes and people sounding a touch confused, which was charming in and of itself, but just be warned that the likelihood of hearing something a bit iffy is reasonably high - a SAFE SPACE this is not.
Soundslice Licks: A different short bit of musical instruction every day, presented as audio and video and animated sheet music to help you learn the notes A really nice idea, and the fact that all the video tutorial bits are posted as Instagram videos each day is a good extension.
Is This Prime?: More diverting than any maths-based game about prime numbers has any right to be.
Smartwatch Sonar: So clever, this - using smartwatch (or phone, but the watch thing looks more impressive) microphones to effectively let you use your finger as a gestural interface away from the screen (so by moving it across your arm, or over any surface you care to mention). Yes, I know that that’s a rubbish explanation - click the link then, instead of complaining at me.
Gaze: Trippy little Chrome experiment which takes your webcam and mic and uses them to create psychedelic pictures. Pretty cool results - have a play.
JPEG Bot: Posting pictures of JPEGS which have been saved 100 times, with each save reducing the quality until they weird, bleached and pixellated and sort of ghostly and otherworldly. Webarty / new aesthetic fans will approve. Oh, and if you’re interested in the aesthetic theory behind digital picture degredation (and who isn’t, amirite kids?!) then you’ll like this piece too
Capsula Mundi: What would YOU like to happen to you when you die? If your automatic answer is ‘actually, you know what, I’d like to be scrunched into the foetal position and then buried in a strange little capsule thing with a tree planted on top of me so that my decaying corpse can provide much needed nutrients to a beautiful living organism and thereby contribute to the ineffable mystery that is THE CIRCLE OF LIFE’ then this will be WELL up your street.
Purristan: Almost certainly the best and most comprehensive website about a fictional nation state ruled by cats that you will see all week. I don’t really understand whether this is satire about the US election or whether it’s meant to be a means of interesting people in politics generally, or whether it’s honestly just a really, really extensive joke about what government by communist cats might be like, but there’s an awful lot of it.
Shootlr: This week’s “Really? You think people need or want this?” app comes in the shape of Shootlr, which takes the concept of the self-taken photograph and allies it with an in-no-way-annoying demand mechanism. The premise is that you can use the app to request a photo of someone at any given time - they get a notification, and the app automatically takes a snap of them and sends it back to the requester. WHY WOULD YOU LET THIS INTO YOUR LIFE?!?!? And, aside from anything else, when was the last time you thought “You know what I really want? A poorly-lit cameraphone snap of person X, that’s what!”? Well, quite. Stupid idea. Obviously it’s now going to be MASSIVE and I’m going to feel like the dumb one, but I’m going to enjoy the temporary feeling of superiority and righteousness whilst ignoring the fact that it’s not like I make anything so perhaps I should pipe down with the ivory tower criticism.
THE SECTION WHICH HOPES THAT THE GLUT OF GENUINELY QUITE INTERESTING AND GOOD WEBSPAFF WHICH IS TO FOLLOW MAKES UP SOMEWHAT FOR THE MESS OF WORKSTUFF WHICH WENT BEFORE IT, PT.2:
Sesame: An interesting addition to the messaging landscape, Sesame is a service which purports to let you closely manage people’s permissions through the platform - you can set who can save, forward, screenshot, etc, your conversations and who can’t, who you can share files with and not, all under encryption. The white labelling side of this is interesting if you’re after a secure corporate messaging solution, I think.
Cast: Potentially rather useful end-to-end podcasting solution, encompassing recording, mixing, editing and publishing, which comes at a cost of $10 a month which seems pretty reasonable if you do the podcast thing properly or with any degree of commitment.
Gendered Baby Foods: SATIRE about how kids are, you know, FORCE FED gender tropes from a young age. Nice design work here, in fairness, even if it’s a touch heavy handed. Reminds me of a conversation I had with my friend Ben about designing slogan baby clothes for parents who didn’t want to brag about their kids’ potential - “Probably Not Oxbridge Material”, or “Slightly Malcoordinated But Still Loved”. On reflection, that’s still a great idea, we should totally sell those.
Juicero: This...this has to be a joke, no? Juicero is basically Graze (you know, that service whereby you get sent a preposterously overpriced cardboard box full of snacks and fcuking goji berries which will then moulder on your desk until the next one arrives) but for juicing. Juicing. You’ll get a bunch of stuff to juice sent to you on a weekly basis, all packaged up to use with the SPECIALLY DESIGNED JUICING MACHINE you also have to buy. FFS WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE IT’S JUST FRUIT AND SODDING VEG BEING SOLD AT A REPELLENT MARKUP TO IDIOTS WAKE UP SHEEPLE TONY B LIAR NEW LIEBORE. Sorry, don’t know what came over me there.
Vivaldi: An actual new web browser! Vivaldi is designed for ‘power users’, which I think means ‘people with a tendency to have over 20 tabs open at a time’, and has all sorts of neat features around grouping tabs, bookmarks and the like which, having played with it a bit this week, are genuinely useful if you find yourself having to do lots of online research and the like. Worth experimenting with, and persevering with - once you get over the jarring shock of the new, it’s rather good. Obviously I’m still working in Chrome as I type this, though, so we’ll see.
Sayable: You know that service which has been knocking around for YEARS and which ascribes a three-word phrase to every single physical location in the world in an attempt to make postcodes redundant? You know, this one. Well this is like that, but for urls - plug in a web address and it spits out a three word phrase which, when typed into the site by someone else, will redirect them back to that website. Sort of largely pointless except if you REALLY like the idea of Famous Five-style password secrecy and intrigue, which is obviously totally fine with me.
Ridezum: A chauffeur service, a la uber, for kids. For parents who don’t have the time or inclination to pick their kids up but don’t feel comfortable with public transport and who for some reason feel an ordinary cab is somehow unsafe. Fcuk’s sake, everyone, really?
Linify: Turn any picture, from a file or URL, into a rather nice line drawing version of itself. Quietly aesthetically pleasing, I think.
Ostensibly Ordinary Pyongyang: A GREAT set of photos and commentary smuggled out of Pyongyang earlier this year. Better photos and a more interesting range and selection than your standard ‘OMG Kim Jong LOL’-type fodder.
Subdivision: Rather cool geometric imagery, available for download. The sort of thing that can make you feel a touch *funny* if you stare at it too long, just so’s you’re aware.
Paperback Paradise: My favourite Twitter account of the week, this Tweets out doctored images of imagined old paperbacks. If you’ve ever wanted to live in a universe in which the Sweet Valley High series contained such classic titles as “I Want This Date To End So Badly” then this is for YOU.
Profilehopper: I don’t imagine that this is goingto stay up that long as I’m pretty sure it violates the LinkedIn T&Cs; profile hopper basically automatically visits a shedload of people’s profiles on LinkedIn based on whatever critieria you give it, making it look to those poor, unwitting dupes that you were interested in them, and, based on their understanding of human nature, probably getting them to look at your profile. Personally speaking, my immediate reaction to anyone looking at my LinkedIn profile is “wow, you must be really, really bored”, but perhaps you feel differently.
Autonomous Track Day: Someone’s organising a race for self-driving cars in California. This is one of those harbingers of the singularity that we’re all going to really kick ourselves for not noticing at the time, isn’t it?
Podcasts In Colour: A decent repository of links to podcasts from the non-white community, should you desire such a thing. Very US-centric, but.
Daylui: A GREAT idea, this, currently in Beta, Daylio lets users rent out their stuff for cashmoney - basically a rental eBay. WHY DID I NOT THINK OF THIS? Although on greater reflection the potential to get really, really screwed over is pretty strong; still, I think the core of a decent idea exists here.
Typevoice: A nice gimmick by Ogily in the US for the Webby Awards, this takes your vocal patterns and turns them into a unique typeface JUST FOR YOU. Sadly the fonts look universally dreadful (or at least they do for me, no matter WHICH hilarious accent I affect), but your mileage may vary.
Design Facts: Er, facts, about design. Presented rather prettily, but still, there’s not really much more to say about this one. Christ, look at the state of me. Sorry.
The Champagne Gun: Coming soon to a Rich Kids Of Instagram-type thing near you IMMINENTLY (or possibly more accurately, to Geordie Shore), the champagne gun is a device which you attach to a bottle of champagne (or possibly more accurately Asti Spumante) which lets you press a trigger and spray the stuff all over the place. There will be exactly ONE music video in which these are used to spectacular comic effect and then they will be OVER.
Halo: Nice theoretical design project by MIT Media Lab which has created a portable self-lighting rig which you can place around your neck or head to give you whatever sort of nice warm glow you desire in your inevitable self-taken portraits. There’s probably some sort of low-rent gimmick ripoff the right makeup brand could do here for SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCER CONTENT CAMPAIGN purposes if you can be bothered to think about it a bit.
Thington: You know how in the future, right, all of our STUFF will be on the internet and it will all talk to each other and to us and the world will just be one jabbering cacophony of NOISE and DATA as fridges speak unto shoes speak unto supermarkets speak unto people? Sounds ghastly, doesn’t it? Well Thington cemented my belief that this is all AWFUL BUSINESS when I spotted it this week - effectively it’s selling itself as the ‘concierge for your smarthome’, creating a signle interface through which you can administer all your IoT gadgets. YES THAT’S RIGHT ANOTHER LAYER OF BETA-ISH SOFTWARE IS EXACTLY THE SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM. I want the world to stop.
Soundgifs: Can you imagine just how irritating an everlooping soundclip could be? You are TOTALLY RIGHT! Torment your colleagues with this, starting NOW.
These Memories Won’t Last: A truly beautiful webcomic, both in design and execution, about the author’s grandfather’s dementia. The way the scrolling works to tell the story is really gorgeous, as is the art style. Highly recommended.
Narro: This is potentially REALLY useful - Narro takes all your longread links (you know, the ones you save up from the last section of this and then never get round to reading, until they are all piled up and you just feel guilty for looking at them and so just go back to Tinder or Instagram again) and converts it to audio, so you can listen to them being read on the move. Obviously has all the limitations of stuff using text to speech engines, but if you can get past that then it is a GREAT idea.
Grime Writer: A pen designed specifically for you to scrawl stuff in the dirt on the back of white vans. May I suggest “I wish my dad was as dirty as this” for maximum headscratching pervolols? No? Ok.
Vintage Beauties On Postcards: No, I don’t like the term ‘beauties’ either, but that’s just what the collection is called. Questionable milady-ish titling aside, these are great - a collection of pictures of woman of all sorts of ethnicities and aesthetics taken from vintage postcards. Some great faces in here. Totally SFW, though there is the occasional glimpse of stocking.
Logoshi: Surprisingly really rather good logo generation toy - you scribble something in the appropriate box on the site, and it generates a logo free for you to use based on your hamfisted scribblings. Really quite impressive.
PowerPuff Yourself: So you too can create a PowerPuff Girls-styled version of yourself for use in your SOCIAL CHANNELS. TBH they all look the same to me, but I appreciate I may not quite be target audience here.
Phone Stories: I LOVE THIS IDEA SO MUCH. A project by Pop UP Magazine, whereby every few weeks they will record someone reading a contextually appropriate story for a particular event or situation - the idea is, you call a number when you find yourself in that situation (getting dressed, in a park, etc) and listen to the story and get TRANSPORTED BY ART. I think that this is a great concept which could easily be lifted for brand LOLs and joy.
Fukushima No GO Zone: A site collecting photography and audio captured in Fukushima since the disaster there by Carlos Ayesta and Guillaume Bression. Lovely, haunting shots and a nicely curated selection in the galleries - the audio layer really does add something, too, which isn’t always the case with these things.
Sound of Change: A really nice project. The idea behind Sound of Change is to help street musicians get their music out to a wider audience on the web - the idea being that anyone can upload footage of a street musician playing, including information about who they are, where they play and any contact details they have for them, thereby making them discoverable by the wider global community of music lovers. It’s really new and there are so far only 5 musicians on it, which seems a shame for a project which has obviously been put together with a lot of care - spread the word, it’s a lovely idea.
My Sharona: What would you do if you were the inspiration for The Knack’s hit single My Sharona? Why, you’d set yourself up as an estate agent in the US and have this rather wonderful website, is what.
The NRA Family: Another to file under ‘should really be parody but sadly for everyone currently living is actually real’, this is the National Rifle Association (you know the ones, they who think that you’re a fool and a communist if you think that perhaps there’s a causal link between easy access to lethal firearms and the depressing litany of gun-related deaths we see every single week across the US) giving it the whole FAMILY thing. It’s FULL of heartwarming things, by far and away the best of which are the fairy tales rewritten to feature MORE GUNS. Brilliant. Well done, everyone involved in this, you FCUKING IDIOTS.
The Most Incredible Phone Case Prototype You Will See All Week: Seriously incredible theoreticalfuturetech, here.
Luminescent Labs: A rather beautiful website letting you explore the glorious world of undersea bioluminescence. No, wait, come back, it’s GORGEOUS and will make you want to go night diving or at the very least to watch some ultra-HD sealife documentary type stuff.
Apollo 17: Space stuff is generally some of the best out there in terms of interactivity design and stuff; this is no exception. A brilliant site letting you explore the Apollo moon mission as it happened, using radio transmssions and photos and all sorts of other stuff. As an example of how to pull together a whole load of stuff and present it in an ‘as it happened’ sort of way this is pretty much peerless.
Pause: An app designed to help with relaxation and meditation and MINDFULNESS and stuff which does so by encouraging users to sit with their finger pressed against their phone screen, thereby encouraging CONTEMPLATION. I’m leaving this here without comment, but see if you can imagine the expression on my face as I’m typing this, go on.
Things You Shouldn’t Google: A GREAT Reddit thread which is full of temptation. Suggest that you send it round all of the people in your office as a tacit test of self-control; I guarantee that within ten minutes you’ll have heard a variety of strangled cries of revulsion, which cannot fail to satisfy.
Camera Club: Spectacularkly grubby photo series, capturing images of photographers who are in turn taking photos of young women who’ve been duped into posing in various states of undress by men pretending to be fashion photographers. Seedy as you like, but there are some great shots here.
Burner: An app to create as many fake, throwaway phone numbers as you could ever want or need. No idea why you might need such things, but just in case you ever do.
The Humanion: The best utterly mad website I have seen in a long time, this one sort of has to be seen to be believed. You think you’ve seen mad on the internet before? This is up there with Time Cube in terms of sheer force of weird. Oddly, despite the ‘straight out of Geocities’-style aesthetic, this was actually only made last year, which suggests that there’s possibly more going on here than meets the eye as it’s actually not that easy to make something this wonderfully bad-looking in 2016. Go on, lose yourself in it, it’s spectacular.
Blandly: The best spoof agency website I have seen in a long time. Your agency’s not like this, is it? Nah mate, course it’s not.
Next Rembrandt: The subject of much sniffiness from Jonathan Jones this week, I still very much like the concept and the output here. This is the website to accompany the recent project to 3d print a ‘new’ ‘Rembrandt’ painting, based on machine analysis of the painter’s extant body of work and the subsequent creation of a new work based on learned stylistic and aesthetic principles; leaving aside the art/not art question (fwiw, I say art), this is a lovely site for a fascinating project.
Vagina Beer: The only thing about this which I can feel positively about is the fact that it looks very, very unlikely to meet its funding goal.
I Can’t Make You Love You: This week’s single-serving music video website comes with a FRESH GIMMICK! To watch the video you need to sync your mobile with the site, and consistently double-tap your phone’s screen in the manner of a simulated heartbeat to keep the track going; you stop, it flatlines and ‘dies’. I have to say, there’s obviously a high concept here about the song’s themes and stuff but I got really bored about halfway through. Sorry, songpeople.
Life Is Life: It’s been AGES since I’ve seen a decent Facebook scraper - thisis like going back in time a few years to that era when people made all sorts of websites pulling in FB data. This takes EVERYTHING you have ever posted to Facebook - I mean everything - and presents it as some sort of overwhelming cascade of data and images and videos and comments and Likes and frankly it’s sort of dazzling and brilliant, even if, like me, you rarely actually say anything on Facebook. Great digiart, this (YES, ART I TELL YOU).
Every Single Issue Of Select EVER: I used to think I was WELL COOL for reading Select Magazine. So much so, in fact, that I occasionally responded to personal ads in the mag with a resounding 0% success rate, which fact really troubled me at the time (what was it about the poorly focused polaroid of myself that I included didn’t entice you, 15 year old Dodgy fan from Nuneaton? No, don’t answer that). This is every single edition, scanned and made available for your reading pleasure, which if you enjoyed this week’s #indieamnesty thing you will almost certainly find pleasing and comforting.
Future Sex: The BEST magazine archive, though, comes in the form of this selection of scans of the sadly short-lived FUTURE SEX magazine - basically a WIRED for teledildonics. There is SO MUCH great stuff in here - from the weird photoshoots that are like a cross between Hackers and Reader’s Wives, to the articles confidently claiming that there is a VIBRANT DIGITAL EROTIC UNDERGROUND exploding all over the UK, to the classified ads for CD Roms full of bongo...it’s all pretty much entirely NSFW, but I reckon you can pass this off to your boss as cultural anthropology or something. Immerse yourself in the neon latex world, which reminded me an awful lot of THIS great film incidentally.
Science Combat: Remember those lovely 8-bit gifs of scientists as Street Fighter-style game characters which did the rounds a few weeks back? Well this is the game they were designed for. Surprisingly fun for a 5-minute afternoon distraction - ENJOY.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
Samsara Termonucleara: Literally no idea AT ALL what this is about, but it’s wildly odd and very NSFW in a pleasingly all-inclusive sort of way.
Confirm Shaming: Examples of those really, really annoying ‘Would you like to sign up to our newsletter?’ Popups where one option is ‘yes’ and the other is something like ‘no, I actually prefer slavery to knowing stuff’.
The Gif Connoisseur: Really EXCELLENT gifs./
Video Game Densetsu: All sorts of interesting concept art and behind-the-scenes material from videogame studios, primarily Japanese.
Otomblr: Celebrating the art of Akira illustrator Katsuhiro Otomo.
Art, Innit: Exploring the idea of Rule 34 and imagining the sort of bongo mags you might have found in skips if there had been magazines about, say, chocolate fetishism back in the 70s and 80s. Totally SFW, honest.
90s HipHop, Rap & R&B: All SORTS of stuff on this from performances to interviews. If you’re into that era of hiphop this will be CATNIP to you.
Stephen King’s Boners: Apparently Stephen King talks about penises a LOT in his books; here’s a Tumblr collecting some of those mentions. Is this a horror writer thing? I remember once sneaking a look at Rats by James Herbert when I was about 7 and being VERY CONFUSED about one particular explicit fellatio scene, which for a few years had me convinced that urolagnia was a lot more commonplace than it in fact probably is.
Dating App Fails: Submissions from the horrible, grimy coalface of human sexuality.
The Sock Covers; Classic album covers, recreated with socks.
Animated Chronicles: Lovely animated gif illustrations. There’s a beautiful aesthetic to all of these, I think - really very pretty indeed.
Deadscripts: Scripts for adverts which for whatever reason never made it to production. Whether or not these are real or false, there are some actual proper gems in here.
Loopism: More stylised animated artygifs, these channeling quite a lot of the more surreal and trippy bits of the Sorceror’s Apprentics or that acid dream scene in Dumbo (you’ll get it if you click, honest).
Look Into The Lens: Photos of people being a bit rubbish at using their cameraphones for narcissistic purposes.
Men of Designer News: Collecting the heartwarming comments left by men under the articls on Designer News. Some top-quality meninist horror, right here.
One Week, One Band: This is GREAT - each week, a different author goes DEEP on a band they love, posting songs, essays, etc, about JUST that band and their music. A really great way of discovering new music as well as a lovely collection of paeans to favourite artists.
That’s Not Shakespeare: Quotations misattributed to Shakespeare. A bit depressing after a while tbh.
Of Sparrows: MORE gifed artworks. Again, lovely and distinctive style here - the cartoon of the tattoo blossoming is really rather nice.
Y2K Aesthetic Institute: Curating the turn-of-the-millennium aesthetic. So much great lookbook material here if you need that sort of thing.
Finals Fantasy: Speculative projects for game art students. There are possibly two or three of you who will like this, I think, but you sort of need to know a little bit about game design to derive any value from it, I think.
Prattle En Route: This is a GREAT idea. An Uber driver in the US interviews his passengers on a dashcam and posts the resulting clips here. It’s an EXCELLENT content idea - if I were a brand that regularly had access to famouses I would totally speak to Uber about getting an occasional driver ID that they could use for this exact purpose -imagine the excellent reaction vids you’d get from people getting into car and realising they were being driven by...er...some famous person. In fact, you could livestream the whole things. DO IT, SOMEONE, MAKE ME PROUD!
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
Day of the Dre: OOOOOLD piece from Rolling Stone interviewing Dre (and Snoop, a bit) just before Doggystyle dropped back in 1993. Great nostalgia piece about a very, very different musical landscape - also, LOOK HOW YOUNG SNOOP LOOKED!
On Genius and Text Annotation: Genius (you know, the lyric website) also lets people annotate any page on the internet, however they want. You only see the annotations if you choose to, which is why most people have no idea that it’s an option; this article looks at what the growing use of such annotations means for debate and freedom of speech online. Interesting as much for the theory as the practice here.
Branding in the Age of Social Media: Only really worth reading if you do this sort of thing for a livin (and seriously, you have my sympathies), but this is a pretty smart look at how brands might wish to consider themselves and what they do when trying to ENGAGE on the web.
The Weapons Bazaars of Facebook: Given the insane reach of Facebook it’s probably no surprise that there are all SORTS of illegal marketplaces on there; this is a look at the ones you can use to buy, say, rocket launchers. I do rather like the whole ‘hiding in plain sight’ aspect of this - reminds me of someone I found on eBay back in the mid-90s who was comfortably selling a LOT of weed over the site by pretending to sell GREEN laser pointers (cunning, eh?).
The Rest Is Advertising: A sort of poignant account of what it’s like being a sponsored content writer at a major publisher, and how the author comes to terms with the fact that he will never earn as much money doing proper journalism as he will for churning out a few thousand words of puffery which masquerades as editorial. Welcome to the glorious future of the written word, kids!
My Mum Ran My Tinder: Not mine - I’m not on Tinder, and my mum would not, I don’t think, enjoy the experience. No, some American bloke who decided to hand over the keys to his Tinder account to his mum. Funnyish, but actually more interesting in the way in which it lays bare the frankly slightly weird nature of the courtship dance when conducted over magical pocket internetboxes.
Why The Internet Of Things Is Going To Be A Nightmare: This might look techy, but that’s not the important bit. The important bit is the implication when you realise how easy it was just to hijack a bunch of printers all over the world, and then extrapolate that into a future in which everything is online. Just IMAGINE how much fun it will be when the script kiddies on 4chan work out how to fcuk with your home’s power supply from their mum’s basement in Delaware!
My Year In Startup Hell: A brilliant account of the lunacy of one man’s year working at startup Hubspot as a middle-aged former journalist. Ticks every single startup cliche in the book, and will make you quite glad that this isn’t your life.
Crowds On Demand: Inside the slightly odd and surreal world of paid-for crowds, hired to pretend to be paparazzi or journalists or fans or whatever else you might need. Part of me thought that it would be quite fun to do this; part of me then thought of all the wonderfully nefarious uses you could put it to. Does anyone know of a UK-based equivalent they could put me in touch with please? I promise what I have in mind is (broadly) legal.
Hunter Thompson On The Art of Journalism: Another piece from the Paris Review archives, this is a great interview with a surprisingly toned-down Thompson, focusing less on the myth and more on the works and the history. If you’ve ever read the Doctor’s output then this is pretty much a required companion I think.
Lost In Trumplandia: We’ve not been short of campaign trail and op-ed pieces on the Donald’s campaign, but this is one of the best that I have read.
How ISIS Is Winning The Social Media War: A fascinating analysis of how the group is harnessing digital communications platforms to spread their less-than-cheery worldview. I’m slightly disappointed that this has yet to spawn a raft of ‘10 things marketers can learn from so-called Islamic State’ thinkpieces on LinkedIn, but the year is yet young.
On Using the HTC Vive: It’s a standard product review from Kotaku, this, so not stellar prose by any means, but if you’re interested in what it’s like spending a lot of time hooked up to one of these new-fangled VR machines then this is a very comprehensive rundown of the pros and cons of the kit.
Pascal’s Cryonics: A REALLY interesting breakdown of the cryonics business - you know, freezing your head/body in the hope that one day people in the future will be able to unfreeze it and magically restore you to life - which rather effectively comes to the conclusion that you might as well give it a go if you can afford it, because, well, why not, right?
The Hatton Garden Heist: A truly excellent piece on the diamond robbers from Vanity Fair, which is so redolent of a 60s crime caper that you can almost see Michael Caine mugging furiously to camera in one of the lead roles. Read this, and save yourself the trouble of watching the inevitably disappointing film of the whole thing which I’m sure will be out in the next year or so.
The Voyeur’s Motel: The most astonishing thing I’ve read in a while, this - writer Gay Talese spills the beans on a secret he’s held for decades, about a motel owner in the US who for many years shared with Talese the stories he’d accrued from spying on his guests having sex. Astoundingly grubby, but perhaps the weirdest thing is the general air of authorial detachment about the whole thing - there will be many, many instances in this where your inner voice quizzically goes “and so this is when you went to the cops, right Gay?”, and where you don’t really quite understand how he didn’t. Great, great writing, though.
The Bridge to Sodom and Gomorrah: A brilliant piece of journalism about the slums of Accra and the people who survive there (‘live’ frankly seems like a bit of a stretch). Great writing and a picture of a city I knew next to nothing about, this one’s very much worth taking the time on.
The Ballad of George Galloway’s Campaign Bus: Finally, the semi-obligatory Joel Golby link; this thing about George Galloway and his mayoral campaign bus is the funniest thing I read all week.
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!
1) First up, this EXCELLENT and horrifying depiction of office life, cobbled togther from stock video and providing an excellent visual companion to the Tame Impala track ‘’Nangs’. THIS IS YOUR LIFE!:
2) Next up is this, by Emma Louise. It’s called ‘Talk Baby Talk’ and I adore the vocal. Video’s not bad either - he is very pretty, isn’t he?
3) This animation is called ‘The Old New World’ and it is SO CLEVER. Using old photos and smart editing, I’ve not quite seen anything like it before. One for the ideas scrapbook, probably:
4) Resolutely uncool but WHAT a great tune - this is called ‘Men Without Hats’ (no idea why) and it’s by The Burning Hell:
5) HIPHOP CORNER! This is A$AP Ferg, featuring ScHoolboy Q with ‘Let It Bang’. Doesn’t really get going til the second minute, so give it a chance, eh?:
6) This is a few months old, but I only heard it the other week and it TOTALLY stuck in my head and even now I’m listening to it daily because it is SO GOOD. It’s called ‘Your Old Man’ and it’s by a band called Partybaby and it is EXCELLENT:
7) I’ve got a real soft spot for work that combines projection mapping with dance, and this is phenomenally good. It’s called ‘Levitation’, and it’s beautiful (also, this was performed LIVE. Cripes):
8) This week’s helping of ARTPOP comes in the form of this, called ‘Human Female’ by Bloodboy. It’s rather good, and I do love the aesthetic of the video - oh, contains BARE BREASTS at one point, in case that’s problematic for you: