Friday 09 February 2018

Web Curios 09/02/18

HI EVERYONE! I have a confession to make - this week’s Curios, due to my having really screwed up my timings this week, was in part written in advance, hence you may miss the slightly breathless, race-against-time-oh-god-my-fingers-are-bleeding intensity of the usual offerings. Or, more likely, you may not. We will see.

Anyhow, I have places to go and people to see and thus NO TIME to ruminate on the CAR IN SPACE or the rest of the world’s madness and insanity. Instead I ask that you wish me luck and that you enjoy this week’s Curios which I lay before you now much like a cat might lay the freshly-gutted viscera of a small animal at your feet in hopeful supplication; hold your nose, hide your distaste and try at least to pretend to be grateful. This, as ever, is WEB CURIOS!

bo bruegelmans

By Bo Bruegelmans




  • The Snap Earnings Report: Week two of the BIG EARNINGS ANNOUNCEMENTS kicked off with Snap, which surprised everyone by doing much better than expected. Other notable insights from this were notable by their absence, but it’s worth noting that a) all those US punters who used Facebook less last year have to do something with their itchy thumbs; b) a lot of this growth in Snap’s numbers seems to come from emerging markets, which is an interesting development. Want to know what this means long-term for the future of MEDIA AND THE WEB and indeed humanity? So do I, mate, so do I, but I’m banjaxed if I have a clue.
  • Snap Showing Live Video Snippets For The Olympics: Interesting move, this - Snapchat will broadcast short livestreamed snippets of action from the forthcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea through the app, in partnership with broadcaster NBCUniversal. The ability to feed footage from broadcast into Snapchat has lots of potential executions in tellyland - just imagine the kids’ excitement when they can get that week’s live musical performance on The One Show pinged straight to them to watch as-it-happens in Snap! Truly, we live in a golden age.
  • Snap Opens Face Lenses To All: Yep, you can make your own riffs on the fcuking dog ears! This is interesting - prior to this the Lenses Studio only allowed for the AR-ish superimposition onto a shot without all the fancy facetracking gubbins - will be interesting to see how flexible this is, but the fact that they are time-limited means they could be useful for events and the like...There’s a minimum cost of $10 to make one, which rises based on the length of time you want to make them available and the geographical range within which they’ll be usable, but in theory at least this is worth a look for all your location-specific Snapchat engagement needs. Oh, and here’s another site collecting examples of Snap lenses made by the community, should you want one.
  • Spotify Spotlight: This passed me by when it was announced a few weeks back, possibly as it’s US-only and there are literally NO DETAILS, but this appears to be a followup to the ‘Spotify might do something with video!’ rumours which were swirling around last year; Spotlight is effectively a means for creators to, er, create audiovisual stories on Spotify. “Spotlight gives fans a deeper insight to their favorite artists, playlists, books, publishers and more by offering contextual visual elements, such as photos, video and text, that appear as users move through each episode”, burbles the release excitedly - sadly this is all I’ve got, as there’s nothing else I can find online which actually shows what this looks (or at least not that I can find as a non-US user). Still, worth keeping an eye on as part of the STORYTELLING MIX.
  • Facebook Testing ‘Downvote’ Button: IT IS NOT A DISLIKE BUTTON! It’s actually really not - this is only being tested on a small subnset of Android users in the US and there’s no guarantee we’ll ever see it in the wild, but it’s being trialed to allow users to flag posts or comments as being, well, a bit rubbish. As things stand FB suggests that the button wouldn’t affect post rank or similar, but, frankly, WHO KNOWS? Anyhow, it’s all speculation, and tedious speculation at that, so let’s leave it here and move on.
  • Twitter Done A Profit: You can read all of the details here - note, though, this isn’t driven through massive user growth; much as I love it personally, Twitter is no nearer being a ‘thing’ for most of the world than it ever was.
  • Patreon Introduces ‘Stories’ For Creators: Except they don’t call them ‘Stories’ - no, they call them ‘Lenses’, but the principal is the same; this is an in-app camera for Patreon whereby all those people currently coining in £3k+pcm for drawing massively-cocked dragonkin spaffing all over their already jizz-matted belly scales (you know, I was talking to someone this week about the fact that Curios is, well, a niche pursuit - I think my insistence on penning phrases like “massively-cocked dragonkin spaffing all over their already jizz-matted belly scales” possibly contributes to that) can send Stories-style updates to their patrons. To be honest this is of very little interest or relevance to any of you as far as I can tell, but it’s a slow news week here in platform land (thank the Lord).
  • Hype Auditor: How long, do we think, until the bottom absolutely falls out of the ‘influencer marketing’ business, or at least the top end of it? I’m torn - on the one hand, anyone with half a brain knows that it’s mostly absolute bollocks and that equating ‘influence’ with ‘reach’, as often tends to be the case, is fundamentally stupid; on the other, as long as people like me can keep getting paid by idiots with budgets to say “But look at the number of engagements [insert floppy-haired soul-vacuum du jour here] gets with millennial audiences!” then the bandwagon will keep rolling indefinitely. If you ARE going to do the influencer thing on Insta - which, let’s face it, you probably are - then you might find Hype Auditor useful - it basically does the same job as similar services on Twitter, trawling an account’s followers and determining what percentage of them are likely to be ‘real people’. Obviously take all of this with a pinch of salt, but it’s not a bad way of running some basic due diligence on whichever identikit Instamoron you’re about to pay five grand to share a picture of some cufflinks (that’s how it works, right?).
  • Wikipedia Pageviews Analysis: This is, potentially, hugely useful, especially if you do the sort of work which involves keeping people out of the papers as much as keeping them in it (and who doesn’t, what with all these fabulously dodgy contracts kicking about in the post-Bell Pottinger world?). This tool lets you plug in any Page(s) you like from Wikpedia and tells you how many views they’ve been getting over a set date range - you can run comparisons against other Pages, see where the traffic’s been coming from, and generally get an idea as to how interested people are in any given thing. Seriously fascinating, even just to play around with - I just found out that on average 6,500 go onto Wikipedia to learn more about Jacob Rees-Mogg, presumably in the general spirit of ‘who the fcuk is this sentient antimacassar?’.
  • Chaingers: This is superb, and absolutely the best campaigny thing I have seen all year (yes, ok, it’s only February, but all the work I’ve done so far in 2018 has been complete crap so it’s nice to know that someone, somewhere is doing something good) (NB should any of my paymasters be reading this, note that this is a classic example of Curios’ trademark ‘unreliable narrator’ in action). Chaingers is an appallingly-named but super-smart campaign from Unicef, targeting the pro-gamer and surrounding communities and asking them to donate the processing power of their high-end graphics cards to mine bitcoin in aid of the organisation’s efforts to help children and mothers in developing nations. It’s very much OF THE NOW, turns a scare story (the hijacking of processor power by unscrupulous miners) on its head, and the whole presentation of the thing - the aesthetic, the language, the targeting - is just spot on. Hugely impressive by French agency BETC.
  • Pepsi Go Back: Another week, another 6-figure sum spunked on a marketing website AND FOR WHAT? I would be fascinated to spend a month or so in the rarefied professional atmosphere of a world in which this sort of stuff happens: “I want to make an interactive web-VR website which takes users on a time travel journey to 1992 to explore the HERITAGE OF PEPSI! It will reference Back to the Future and have Cindy Crawford’s image in it and will cost over £100,000 and it will serve no discernible purpose whatsoever other than showing off the fact that we can afford a really shiny website and that we know that webVR is a THING”. Pretty, though.

clara mercader

By Clara Mercader




  • Suffrage 100: Marking the centenary of women’s suffrage with this superb collection of materials and resources is the National Archives, comprising documents, photos, rare audio collections and assorted reading material on the movement, its struggle and its impact. Also let us take time to acknowledge the Daily Telegraph who, in a week in which it demonstrated its continued commitment to high-quality journalism, managed to trump even its own sky-high journalistic standards by enquiring why we don’t spend more time remembering men’s suffrage. WILL SOMEBODY THINK OF THE POOR, HISTORICALLY-OPPRESSED MEN?
  • Excellent Gay Art: Upsettingly I discovered this just too late for it to be any use for the Hallmark Holiday (unless you’re in the Central or North America, in which case my timing is PERFECT and I can pat myself on the back for my cleverness) - nonetheless, this Etsy store run by Mexican Felix D’Eon, is full of really gorgeous depictions of non-het romance. Here’s the blurb - take a look, his style is charming: “Felix d'Eon is a gay artist based out of Mexico City who makes watercolors and drawings in a style distinctly reminiscent, and quite convincing of, a 1920's children's book, golden-era American comics, and Japanese Edo printmaking. He paints fauns, knights, sailors, mermen, dashing young rakes, top-hatted gentlemen. His paintings are delirious fantasies, like fairy tales in the most exuberant book. With the one startling catch that, for all their convincing illusionism, they represent images of young gay love.
  • Photo Roulette: This is a GREAT idea, and the sort of thing which could usefully be repurposed by basically any institution with a large and moderately interesting archive collection. The premise is simple - the site presents you with a selection of photos from the US Library of Congress and you, gentle webmong, must guess to the best of your ability the year in which said photograph was taken; getting it right, or near enough, unlocks some additional information about the image. Simple and clever and really a lot more fun than I was expecting to find the process of dating some 18C pictures of Iowan cornfields.
  • The Centre for Humane Technology: Much like Zuckerberg’s recent ‘pivot to humanity’ and newfound sense of responsibility for what he may have wrought, I am finding this initiative...well...a touch problematic. The Centre for Humane Technology is a new initiative set up by a bunch of Silicon Valley folk, many of whom have been significantly involved in the development of exactly the technologies and systems they’re now suggesting might - and you may want to sit down for this bit - might not being doing us a power of good. What’s that, inventor of the ‘Like’ button? Creating an actual, digital version of the famous experimental ‘FEED ME’ dopamine switch so beloved of the lab rat MAYBE HAD SOME NEGATIVE EXTERNALITIES??? MAYBE YOU SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT WHEN YOU WERE TAKING 6 FIGURES AND SOME HEFTY EQUITY TO BUILD THE THING, YOU DISINGENUOUSLY POST-FACTO-REMORSEFUL SCHMUCK. Leaving aside, though, what I might think of the people behind it, the principles the Centre is espousing are of course good and sensible - human-centric product design, a rejection of the dopamine-loop addictive model baked into so much digital product design over the past decade, etc - but I can’t help but think that the conflict between ‘making stuff that isn’t addictive’ and ‘delivering massive shareholder value’ might require a little more than some well-meaning principles to resolve.
  • Words of Heart: Ordinarily I feel rather sorry for people who get their passwords nicked - on this occasion, though, I’m finding it rather harder to muster sympathy. Words of Heart is an astoundingly brazen phishing scam masquerading as a dating site - the idea is that, er, your choice of password for a website is a WINDOW TO YOUR SOUL, and as such, should you find anyone else who chooses the same password as you, you are destined to be together forever. So, er, this site takes your password and attempts to match it with other people’s to find your PASSWORD SOULMATE. Or, if you’re of a more cynical disposition, to go on a rampant quest to compromise every single login you’ve ever used online. Who knows, though, maybe it’s totally legit and all the people who choose PASSWORD123 will end up in some sort of crazy, happy, polyamorous lovematch. We can but hope.
  • Algotransparency: A fascinating tool showing exactly how...odd some of YouTube’s recommendations can be. Algotransparency lets users choose from a variety of search terms (politicians, ‘conspiracy’ triggers like 9/11, etc) and shows which other videos are most likely to be recommended in the right-hand sidebar by the site’s algorithm. You may not be surprised to learn that the algorithm’s predisposition towards content that keeps people watching tends also towards the frankly lunatic, which is why you can get from Angela Merkel to Ickean-lizard-warlock territory in about three steps. Hugely interesting, and the sort of thing it might be worth talking to your kids about if you have any of age - it’s actually a really useful exemplar of how and why automated content suggestion works the way it does (and why it is occasionally A Bad Thing, and why, for the aforementioned shareholder/virtue conflict reasons cited above, it’s probably here to stay).
  • Pixchart: I can’t quite conceive of a use case for this, but I love playing with it. Plug in any image you like, and it will sort it into its constituent colour ‘buckets’ by pixel - not only that, but it will present you with a lovely little animated show of the image deconstructing itself as the pixels rearrange by colour. You can change the speed at which the transition occurs and various other variables, should you so desire, but the main appeal here is just how spectacularly soothing it is to watch the image separate into motes of colour. Glorious.
  • Weekcap: Ostensibly a productivity tool, this strikes me as being the sort of thing which will either be a great motivational tool or the sort of thing which finally sends you to bed for a 9-month stretch of hiding your head under the covers. Weekcap encourages you to write a, er, weekly recap (look, it’s their stupid name, don’t look at me like that) of what you’ve achieved over the past seven days, along with a look ahead to what you might want to accomplish in the coming week - the idea being that this chunks time into manageable segments which you can then TACKLE WITH VIGOUR. Honestly, though, if you’re anything like me your recaps are likely to be existentialist howls of dread, so you may want to skip this one unless you’re very much a sort of Muskian-alpha-type-A-go-getter (and if you are, what are you doing reading this? Fcuk off out of it, we don’t want your sort round here).
  • Lee Kang Bin: An Insta feed of very much the fanciest fancy coffee art you ever will see, although I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr Bin’s output, whilst beautiful, would result in coffee that is TOO COLD (although if he, in difference to every single fancy coffee place in London, can manage to brew a coffee which doesn’t taste of FCUKING LIQUORICE then I don’t care what temperature it comes at. WHY DOES ALL COFFEE NOW TASTE OF LIQUORICE???
  • A View From A Hill: This is very much a musical oddity, but it’s a hugely charming one. It comprises over one hundred two minute sound snippets, ambient noises and short pieces from artists from all around the world, submitted around the titular theme. The feel of the whole thing is wonderful - pastoral and occasionally sinister, and often surprising in scope and scale. Really rather wonderful indeed.
  • Magilight: Light painting! Something we’ve all tried at least once when someone we knew figured out how to use the exposure settings on their camera and so we all get some sparklers and write our names and then, basically, just all end up drawing cocks in the air because, really, when presented with the opportunity who wouldn’t choose to create a giant sparkling dong hanging in mid-air and immortalised forever in an image? NO FCUKER, THAT’S WHO! Anyway, this is light painting WITH KNOBS ON - Maglight has a week or so to go on Indiegogo but has already smashed its target, and is a massive programmable bit of plastic with all sorts of lights on which, if the promo video is to be believed, will let anyone create the most incredibly rich and multi-layered light paintings with ease. Obviously for most people it won’t do that at all - I’m going to guess that, whatever fancy gizmos this kit maintains, you need a modicum of skill to make anything good - but if you work in vfx or something it might be worth a look.
  • Sheboard: A nice idea by Finnish charity Plan International - this is a downloadable keyboard for Android devices which seeks to highlight the different language used when writing about men and women, and to offer more positive linguistic choices to some of the standard tropes used - prompting alternatives to ‘cute’ or ‘pretty’, and suggesting the language of empowerment. I’m always sceptical about how much use these sorts of things will ever get, but I very much like the thinking behind it.
  • Voicegram: Potentially useful little tool which lets you make recordings of your interactions with any Amazon Echo programme you’ve made - so if you’ve developed a ‘Skill’ for Alexa, say, and want to create a short demo of how it works for potential users, you can record the interactions customers can have with it using this site and then whack an embeddable copy anywhere you like online. Yes, I know it’s not hugely interesting but if you’d all listened to me over the past few years you would all be off making MILLIONS of Echo integrations and would find this invaluable so, you see, it’s actually you who is at fault here.
  • Pornographic Mouse Taxidermy: I can but quote: “We are delighted to introduce a whole new class of taxidermy to the world – pornographic taxidermy. In this class you will learn to skin and prepare two mice and then pose them in the most erotic, delightful, delicious poses imaginable. Give your loving imagination free reign and place the mice in YOUR favourite position.” THIS IS AMAZING. There is a class tonight and a couple next weekend, so, you know, GET YOUR DEAD MOUSEY KINK ON.
  • Meet Miquela: Or, more accurately, gawp at her Insta. Miquela is a VIRTUAL INFLUENCER - she is, seemingly, a CGI creation from Brazil who exists on Instagram in a series of a few hundred curated shots in which her beautiful CGI face gazes at you while the rest of her is clad in streetwear. Miquela is the world’s first ‘virtual influencer’, who as far as I can tell gets paid to shill stuff for real brands in CGI for real money (or at least the artist behind her does). You can read more about this very bizarre and SO 2018 phenomenon here, and if you like you can even listen to Miquela’s new single (lyric video only at present, but rest assured there will be an intensely-creepy Uncanny Valley effort dropping soon enough, mark my words) - does this feel like a normal and good thing? doesn’t, really, does it?
  • Hash2ash: This is a short video of an art piece recently presented at the National Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw as a part of its TEEN AGE exhibition - viewers take a photo of themselves and send it to the artwork, which then presents them with their portrait recreated in what looks like suspended ash. Before their eyes, the portrait then slowly disintegrates, showing them their face just sort of collapsing into dust. Which, if I could get this effect on my mirror at home, would be the best ‘GOOD NIGHT MATT!’ ritual I could ever imagine.
  • Refined Twitter: If you are one of those MONSTERS who insists on plain old twitter dot com for your desktop Twitter usage rather than using Tweetdeck or even Hootsuite, then at the very least you should consider this slightly tweaked version - the Refined Twitter Chrome extension makes the whole experience of using the site marginally less awful, down to killing that infuriating ‘Click to see 4 more Tweets’ button at the top LOOK JUST SHOW ME THE THINGS I CAN HANDLE IT OK?? Also lets you save images from Tweets which is a HUGE boon imho.
  • Art Books From The Met: It’s astonishing quite how much incredible stuff is now available free online from cultural institutions - witness this from the Metropolitan in New York which has 500+ full art books from its collections available to peruse. Want to spend an afternoon familiarising yourself with The Art of the Samurai from 1156AD - 1858AD? Download the PDF and get right to it. This is a truly astonishing resource.
  • Natural Melody Autocompletion: Welcome to a future in which a machine can play piano significantly better than you can. Really interesting project which uses a neural net to carry on a melody that you the user start. Hit a key, or selection of keys, on the keyboard and the program will pick up the slack and do a bit of light improv based on the preceding note(s) and its knowledge of scales, keys, etc. This is exactly the sort of thing that is going to sound the death-knell for mediocre jazz improv trios, and secretly deep down inside part of me thinks that this is probably A Good Thing.
  • Hello World: While we’re on the subject of AI music, this was pointed out to me by Nick Walker - it’s the ‘first ever’ (salt, we have lots of it) AI album! “Hello World is the first album composed with Artificial Intelligence by SKYGGE, aka Benoit Carré. It started as a scientific project: Flow-Machines, led by François Pachet. Flow-Machines generated many scientific results,  as well as the first AI-composed pop song, Daddy’s Car.
    Then many musicians – among them Stromae and Kiesza – met in the lab and under the artistic direction of SKYGGE took control of the Flow Machines tools, giving birth to 15 songs. Hello World, released on January 2018, is the result of this adventure.” It is surprisingly really quite good - Nick’s assessment was ‘like AIR done by robots’, and I can’t improve on that description.
  • Pixelsnap: Simple but super-useful (potentially) tool which lets you quickly and easily see how big any screen area is in terms of pixels by simply dragging and dropping. You have to pay for it, but if you do design / illustration stuff I think $15 isn’t really very much for something this handy.

Mona Kuhn

By Mona Kuhn



  • 3d Video Calling In-Browser: OK, so this is a link to a very tech page but it’s worth a quick look to see quite how future this tech experiment demo thingy is - basically these people have managed to use an iPhoneX’s motion-tracking camera software to create a 3d model of a caller in-browser, so you could Skype someone and have a 3D MODEL OF THEM IN YOUR WINDOW! Christ alone knows why you’d want this, of course, but the fact that you might one day be able to is another glorious reminder of the fact that our futures are being shaped by people who really, really liked Star Wars. Oh, and seeing as we’re doing techyfuturestuff, this is by Facebook and will in theory let you map a whole body from a 2d image/video - and therefore to reskin said body on the fly. The potential here is HUGE, particularly for live performance.
  • Writing Boot Camp: Let me be clear - I HAVE NO IDEA IF THIS IS ANY GOOD. However, it’s totally free and it’s by a published author, and on that basis alone it might be worth a look if you’ve got ‘fail to make any money out of a writing career’ on your list of 2018 GOALS - it’s an 8-week course spread over 48 episodes of audio, and there’s exercises and homework and stuff, and if any of you ending up getting a massively lucrative book deal as a result then you probably ought to bung this bloke a few quid (and, er, me too for bringing this to your attention).
  • Humans Not Invited: A Captcha designed to be impossible for humans to solve; the idea is that its creator wants to invite YOU to design a bot which can solve the Captcha puzzles, just for the hell of it. A really interesting idea, this, and the sort of thing which could be adapted for all sorts of ARG-type pursuits for the techgeekcoder community.
  • The Museum of Public Art: Images of beautiful murals and street artworks produced by the Museum of Public Art and hosted by Google; it produced its first mural in the Bronx in 2011 with King Bee and James Top, and is now one of the leading mural producers in the southern part of the United States. There is some lovely work here.
  • Your Garbage Pail Kid Name: Every few years the nostalgia train stops at the Garbage Pail Kids and I’m drawn to look at whatever the latest archive of the cards that has sprung up is. Each time, without fail, I am struck by quite how badly these would have gone down had they been published now; I mean, ‘problematic’ doesn’t even begin with some of these. Still, if you can overlook the fact that the GPK series did seem to, well, punch down just a little bit then this is a great site listing all of the cards by name - so you can find one which shares the name of every single one of your colleagues and then create a new office seating plan featuring their Garbage Pail aliases. There are some workplaces where doing something like this would make you a BANTER KING - why not find out whether yours is one?
  • Supermedium: Supermedium is a VR browser - whilst it won’t (yet) let you navigate the entire web in scifi Oculus Rift-interface fashion, it will make any webVR site compatible with high-end VR kit, meaning you can experience it with a full headset rather than a crappy Cardboard rig. If you’ve got a proper headset, install this and then try out that Pepsi website from the top section again. Amazing, isn’t it, how it’s STILL SHIT?
  • Canzone Italiana: I am not really sure who this is for, but I live in hope that one of you will discover, through this wonderful repository of Italian music from the 20th Century, a hitherto-unimagined love for appalling balladry and overwrought synths. It always staggers me that Italy, a nation which for several hundred years was pretty much at the top of the game, musically speaking, basically just decided to give up on the medium for the past hundred-odd years: “Yeah, I mean we gave the world Puccini and Verdi and stuff; let’s spend the next few decades making ballads for lonely teens to crywank to”. Lots of themed Spotify lists here, in any case, if want to explore the horror.
  • Monthly Mix: A fresh mix of brand new music streamed here each month, with an archive that goes back a couple of years; interesting not least to see which of the ‘best tracks of the month’ from a few years back have stood the test of time (or indeed which you’ve never heard of again).
  • Zencastr: I can’t believe I haven’t featured this before, and I’m sure all of you who do podcasts know about it already, but nonetheless - this is a hugely useful recording tool which basically lets anyone participating in a podcast make their own native recordings of their audio through their device’s mic, which recordings then get shared with the podcast host for subsequent editing and mixing down. Simple and easy and idea for the aspirant bedroom podcaster in 2k18 (which is all of us, right? Having a podcast is the new ‘being a DJ’!).
  • Prosthetic Photography: A lovely, sinister art project which I would like to see adapted to be an app, please, thanks. Prosthetic Photography is a hack for any mirrorless camera which basically gives the photographer an electric shock whenever it determines that a scene is ‘beautiful’ enough to warrant being photographed; the shock stops when the photographer hits ‘shoot’. Obviously there’s a high concept of the tyranny of the aesthetic and all that here, but I also quite like the idea of surrendering your agency as artistic arbiter to a machine (though that says more about me than anything else).
  • Genmo: This is a fun toy. Genmo “is a visual effects process that recreates any video or photo using an entirely separate set of images. It uses neural networks to regenerate your videos and pictures in near real-time”, which basically means you can create trippy, neural-net-style images in seconds. Sadly it doesn’t create hyperlinked versions of said images, otherwise I’d share with you the beauty that is ‘Matt’s face, in flies’ - still, use your imaginations.
  • VG Erotica: A Twitter bot which mashes together copy from erotic fiction and ‘dank videogame memes’. Leaving aside my total intolerance for the term ‘dank’, this made me snigger more than it probably ought to have done.
  • Pill Identifier: We love a good pill, don’t we? Big ones, small ones, uppers, downers (but mostly downers)...the trouble, of course, with pills, is that when you buy them through *ahem* unofficial channels it’s often not 100% certain what you’re getting, which is why this site is so useful. Specifically for pills of the Official Pharma rather than the ‘Lab in a Scottish bunker’ variety, Pill Indentifies lets you specify the parameters of the pill in your possession and then presents you with photos of ones which might potentially match that description, showing you the chemical composition and the like. Not comprehensive, and certainly not a guarantee of safety, but if you’ve got some MYSTERY TRANQS knocking about your Xanax box then you could do worse than check them against the stuff on here before downing them all in a fit of potentially misguided chemical exploration.
  • Horrornoise Generator: Want to make some terrifying, grinding, howls from the abyss? OF COURSE YOU DO!
  • Shoes In Books: An Insta feed consisting exclusively of illustrations of shoes taken from books. No context whatsoever is given, which makes this infinitely better than were there any explanation.
  • Cold War Steve: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to follow a Twitter account which seemingly at random mashes Steve McFadden, big potato-faced Phil from EastEnders, with, variously, Cold War figures including Reagan and Gorbachev, Andrew Neil, Trump, Putin, Kim Jong-Un and Anthony Worral-Thompson? No, I hadn’t either, but turns out that it’s a wonderful trip (thanks to Swindon Paul for the tip).
  • //[email protected]/">Do Not Disturb: Part X in the almost-infinite series of things which prove that there is literally a place for EVERYTHING online, this is a truly incredible collection of photos of ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs from around the world. You’d think, perhaps, that a collector’s passion might wane, particularly in the face of what is, let’s be honest, a pretty homogenous object set - not so for this collection’s owner, one Edoardo Flores, who’s managed to amass a frankly alarming 12,000+ images of these signs. PERCHE, EDOARDO, PERCHE???
  • JumpSuit: Reject fashion! Reject the hegemony of BIG STYLE! Er, buy a $200 monochromatic jumpsuit to protest all this boring conformism! This is either art, or a big scam, or both - you decide!
  • Flourish: This is potentially a REALLY useful tool which will let you create nice interactive data visualisations using nothing more than an Excel sheet full of data. My friend Josh who understands this stuff seems to think it looks quite good, and I trust him so perhaps you ought to as well.
  • Politics ‘97: I wasn’t quite old enough to vote in 1997, much to my chagrin, and was at international school at the time meaning that I spent election night forcing a bunch of confused Mexicans, Brazilians and Spaniards (and one bloke from St Croix who was called, wonderfully, RonDave, who had a quite incredible collection of bongo that he’d imported from the Caribbean) to watch Armando Iannucci’s Election Night Armistice and attempting to explain to them why the Mr Tony Blair Humpty Dumpty was funny. Anyway, amazingly and magically the original BBC Politics Special Election website STILL EXISTS with (mostly) working links - enjoy exciting content commemorating The Queen of Hearts (for some of you it may yet be TOO SOON), and looking at the big policy questions that were going to decide the contest. This is either an interesting piece of web history, a comforting / saddening reminder of how much better everything was then and how much worse everything is now, or a signal example of how NOTHING EVER FCUKING CHANGES - you decide!
  • Cryptofeels: All of the crypto market graphs in one place, with sad strings overlaid. Not that it’s funny to laugh, but, well, it sort of is funny to laugh.
  • L’Abbeye Des Morts: This was unexpectedly one of the more fun browser games I have played in a while - it’s basically a browser-based riff on an old ZX Spectrum title - it plays perfectly, requiring pixel-perfect jumps and with exactly the sort of limited colour palette you remember from 1986. For added retro joy, make the old cassette-reading sound when it loads.
  • Stir: I love this. Long-term readers will be aware of my longstanding crush on NFB Canada and all their digital interactive works - they are to my mind the most consistently interesting outfit over the past few years when it comes to experimenting with form in digital storytelling (sorry). Stir is a GLORIOUS little art project - it’s a really simple aysmmetrical relationship between you and a stranger, whereby you can sign up to receive, or record, a morning wake-up message for a stranger somewhere in the world. That’s it - you get some rough analysis of your listener’s personality type, based on some textscraping of their Tweets, if you’re leaving a message, but otherwise that’s it. Try it - it’s honestly such a glorious, simple concept and (much as it pains me to say so) you could turn this pure piece of art into something filthy and commercial and MARKETING-LED (I hate myself) really rather easily.
  • Roast Me: Let this website take a photo of you and it will analyse that photo and hit you with what it believes to be some appropriate insults based on what it thinks you look like. Amongst others I got ‘Dobby’, which considering what I look like right now, all knackered and pasty and sleep-creased, is upsetting accurate enough that I am now feeling quite breathtakingly insecure about myself. THANKS, COMPUTERBASTARD.
  • The Disconnect: From the brilliant brain that brought you that ‘you can only see this webpage when you’re offline’ site last year, Chris Bolin has expanded on that idea to produce a whole magazine which is only readable when the device on which you’re browsing doesn’t have web access. This is SO CLEVER, but as an added bonus the writing I’ve read in the first edition is also rather good. Seriously, KitKat, WHY ARE YOU NOT PAYING THIS MAN MILLIONS? Other, less horribly tawdry and commercial ideas for use include some really cool stuff you could do with immersive theatre/gaming - ooh, actually, there’s a nice tension-building execution you could use here, placing ‘players’ in a situation where they have to decide whether it’s more valuable to use WiFi to get clues or to turn it off and learn more get the idea, you do some thinking for a change you lazy fcukers.
  • Fafswag Vogue: BEST SITE OF THE WEEK! No question, hands down, this is ACE. Fafswag, I just learned, is a New Zealand LGBT+ arts collective, and this is a website celebrating the Auckland Vogueing scene, and it is SO well done. Pick you character from the roster of fabulous dancers, pick a location for them to face off in, and then get treated to a wonderful dance-off, in glorious hi-res video, which you can slow and speed up at will to really enjoy the moves. You choose the winner of each bout to access video diaries outlining their backstories, and there’s a SPECIAL FINAL BATTLE in there too. This is SO well made, and just so much fun - if it doesn’t make you feel happy and a bit gay then, frankly, you’re past helping.
  • American Mall Game: Bloomberg’s digital team. Ah, Bloomberg’s digital team. I imagine them, long-forgotten in a basement, fat and drunk on Bloomberg’s billions and left to their own devices to churn out increasingly baroque pieces of interactive which seemingly have nothing whatsoever to do with anything else the business does. This is their latest - an actual, 80s-style game demonstrating the plight of the American shopping mall. Pick a character and a few other variables and then try and keep the mall alive - give it a go, it’s fun and will make you think “hang on, why can a company as ostensibly boring as Bloomberg make something this fun and good when supposedly ‘fun’ brands never do anything this good?”.
  • Monster Breeder: A game in which you capture and breed monsters. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen in Dracula and Slender Man mated, this is for YOU - even if you haven’t, I promise you it’s worth playing this for the truly delightful puns it rewards you with.

james stanford

By James Stanford, about whom you can read a profile elsewhere on Imperica



  • Lutz Go Crazy: In anticipation of the coming festival of gravity that is the Winter Olympics, here’s a Tumblr celebrating figure skating which, weirdly, I am now sort of strangely compelled by (must be the sequins).
  • Grow A Brain: This is...odd. This Tumblr celebrates “Adora Levin, 8 year old author, and "The most painted girl in the world”. I've been documenting Adora's life here since her birth. Every single day I post a new photo of her as well as a new artwork of her by a different artist. Adora is a regular girl living in Southern California. Still, her photos inspires thousands of artists & musicians to create magic.” it’s not just me, is it? This really is quite weird.
  • Synths Called Beast: Celebrating the surprisingly large number of people who like to refer to their synthesiser as a ‘beast’ in listings.



  • The CRPG Book: Look, this is VERY niche - if you’re not into, er, role-playing videogames then you can probably skip this. The rest of you - my beautiful, beautiful children - enjoy this incredible labour of love, four years in the making, which charts the history of the genre with reviews and retrospectives and loving tributes and screenshots. A collaboration between over 100 people from across the world under the editorship of one Felipe Pepe, this is a labour of nerdlove and quite incredibly impressive. But, you know, videogames.
  • The New Dating Requirement: Is this a thing? Apparently it’s a thing. This piece looks at the new mine in the already-fraught field that is modern dating, cf the ETIQUETTE OF CONTENT. Must you like all of your new partner’s Insta posts? What if you don’t watch their stories? WHAT DOES IT MEAN??? For what it’s worth, my TOP TIP for dating is to just refuse to follow each other or engage on any social platforms whatsoever. It’s why I’m so successful in love.
  • The Chicago Newspaper That Bought A Bar: Significantly more impressive than VICE just buying the Old Blue Last so they had somewhere to do coke after work, this is the story of the Chicago Tribune’s incredible feat of investigative reporting, whereby they bought and ran an actual bar to expose the city officials’ corruption when it came to shaking down bribes in exchange for licenses and certification. If you’ve ever done any journalising, this will quite possible make you want to wear a hat with ‘PRESS’ tucked into the band.
  • The Manual Operators: All cities have their idiosyncratic professions which exists somehow out of time - London still has chimney sweeps (although, as I learned over Christmas when there was unaccountably a feature on Italian lunchtime news about chimneysweeps in the UK, they’ve all moved out to do the mansion belt in Surrey these days), and New York still has a hundred or so people who operate the city’s old manual elevators which still require someone to make sure they stop at the right point to let people in or out. Lovely stories, and - to my mind - this sounds like one of the best jobs in the world. You’d get through a novel a day, it would be superb.
  • Intel Vaunt Smartglasses: Despite the lack of any sort of lamentation for the late Google Glass (I’ve just been reminded of all the fears about the Google Glass bongo epidemic, which is funny from the point of view of 2018 where we now now that in the future we’ll just be able to AI any bongo we want into existence at the press of a button), Intel is apparently also looking at making Smart Glasses - this is an interesting look at their version, tentatively named ‘Vaunt’, which is currently searching for a manufacturing partner. Note that there’s no camera in these - we really care about the illusion of privacy in the here and now, eh?
  • Donald Glover: I’ve featured profiles of preposterous creative polymath Donald Glover in here before, but they are always good value - here he discusses his rising fame, the creative process, race, art, Me Too, and then, right at the end, slightly loses me when he calls himself ‘The New Tupac’. Still, can’t fault the man’s self-belief and talent.
  • Why Paper Jams Persist: File under ‘sounds boring but really isn’t’, this is an explanation of why paper jams happen in printers and how they get fixed, and oh me oh my it is FAR more interesting than you might think, honestly.
  • A Kingdom From Dust: As is this - it is VERY LONG, but absolutely worth the time. The story of farming in California, through the prism of Stuart Resnick who is the ‘largest’ farmer in the entire country. You can’t, I promise you, even begin to imagine the scale of what farming like this looks like - the numbers mentioned in this piece are utterly mindboggling, and overall it tells a really fascinating and not a little troubling story about modern agricultural methods and dependency and, obviously, money and power and control. This is basically the spine of The Great American Novel in article form, and I can’t stress enough how good it is.
  • Doing The Superbowl Audio: Concluding this week’s trinity of ‘articles about stuff that sounds boring but, honestly, is really interesting I promise’ is this profile of Patrick Balzell, who for years has had the job of designing the sound setup for the Superbowl halftime show. It sounds like a terrifyingly massive job - I mean, it is a terrifyingly massive job - not least because of having to deal with the performers. Impressive in the way that only the stories of people doing jobs you don’t totally comprehend can be.
  • His Colours, They Were Fine: A review by Lee Randall of the Modigliani exhibition currently showing at the Tate Modern, which is not only a good on the artist and his work but also the woman who, in common with many male artists, functioned as his mistress, his nanny and his muse. I love writing about art which illuminates the work through the use of the unseen.
  • Is Poppy The New Warhol?: Poppy’s been a THING online for about 18 months ago, and I featured a profile of her about 8 months ago, but she’s starting to get proper famous and be on actual telly and stuff so it’s worth another look at this very 2018 form of performance art. Is Poppy a critique of modern ideas of fame and representation? Is she a joke about our critiques of modern ideas of fame and perception? Is she a critique of our jokes about our critiques of modern ideas of fame and perception? You get the idea.
  • The Third Trimester Abortion: This is very much not an easy read, unsurprisingly considering the subject matter, but considering the increasing limitations on women’s reproductive rights being imposed in certain US states it serves as a useful and painful reminder of what it forces people to go through when they are denied the necessary medical treatment which ought to be their right. I’d barely even considered how much of a frightening job it must be to be a doctor offering abortions in certain parts of the US, and the extent to which that affects access - what a country!
  • Failure is Golden Too: I don’t really do ‘inspirational’, but this piece by former child gymnast Michelle Kaeser about coming to terms with not quite being good enough. This line in particular struck me as rather good: “In a society that is obsessed with success, that worships high-achievement, of course we’re horrified to be failures. It only makes sense that we would encourage each other to dwell on our puny little successes and inflate them out of all sense of proportion. We are coerced into propping up illusions of our excellence.”
  • New Erotica for Feminists: McSweeney’s on typically fine form here. Totally SFW.
  • Beacons For Future Civilisation: This is a DENSE and LONG but superbly intelligent piece of writing/thinking by Steven Wolfram, looking at the peculiar habit we have of leaving messages in our spacecraft for potential alien civilisations to find, pore over and, we hope, decipher - see Elon’s in-no-way-hubristic gift to the cosmos this week (I saw him referred to by someone yesterday as Elon Partridge which made me laugh a LOT) by way of example. Are we sending the right things? And how might language and concepts translate across unknowable linguistic barriers? Mind-bendingly smart.
  • The House That Spied On Me: What’s it like having a superconnected smarthome? If this is anything to go by, it sounds AWFUL. The piece is ostensibly about all the data which can be gleaned from a household by relatively simple monitoring of data traffic from its connected devices - which it does cover - but the more interesting element is the author’s increased irritation at the supposedly convenient devices adding layer after layer of busywork to her day as she struggled to manage them all. There’s a point where tech becomes more convenient than it is noisome to set up, but we’re not quite there yet with IoT.
  • Quincy Jones, Again: He’s doing the rounds of the interview circuit and he has stories for DAYS. Following up last week’s GQ piece here he is talking to Vulture about Marlon Brando’s sexual appetites, Ringo’s inability to drum, who killed JFK and, once again, briefly mentioning how guilty Bill Cosby is. This man is RIDICULOUS, and in the past few weeks has rocketed to the top of everyone’s fantasy dinner party list.
  • A Style Guide For Writing About The Super Rich: This person really, really doesn’t like Elon Musk. There’s a lot of this I agree with - the criticisms of the almost completely uncritical acceptance of Musk’s benevolent genius, for one - but there are several lines in here which, even as a fairly unrepentant pinko, made me do a bit of a choke and double-take, not least “to get to Musk’s level of wealth, a person must do unspeakably evil things” - call me a quisling billionaire’s apologist, but I’m going to have to call bullshit on that one. Nonetheless, it’s a pleasingly splenetic read.
  • Porn Literacy: A look at teens taking bongo literacy classes in the US and how they think watching scutflicks has impacted their thoughts about sex and consent. Simultaneously really quite saddening and oddly hopeful - the conversations the kids have when directed to think a little more about what they are watching on their phones are, happily, intelligent and nuanced. Maybe there *is* hope! Or maybe the future is just sex robots all the way down. Who knows?
  • Do Not Mention The Orangutan: This is a true story, albeit with the air of a possibly apocryphal one, from the world of Edgar Allen Poe scholarship - I won’t spoil it for you with any details other than to say it’s short and the last line is honestly a proper killer.
  • The White Darkness: Finally, a truly superb piece of journalism and writing. The account of Henry Worsley’s doomed attempt to reach the South Pole in a solo expedition in 2016. Wonderfully written, this is a brilliant portrait of the sort of (frankly) mental person who decides that dragging a 300lb sleigh across frozen ice flopes for a few hundred miles is a reasonable way to spend a couple of months - a proper ripping yarn of obsession and endurance and bloody-mindedness and, without wishing to sound all HARD BREXIT about this, a peculiar kind of very English persistence (or madness).

samantha french

By Samantha French


  1. First up this week, whack this hi res and fullscreen and just WATCH - if you manage not to feel a quite incredible sense of vertigo at this drone footage of the alps, you’re a stronger person than I:


2) Next, this is SUCH fun and will, I promise, make you feel ace. I tweeted a link to the fertility idol gifs used in this video at the beginning of the year - here they are, animated and included in a full video for the Pointer Sisters’ ‘You Gotta Believe’. Seriously, try watching this without a smile on your face - IMPOSSIBLE DREAM!


3) This is by Fcuk Art, Let’s Dance - the song’s called ‘Vicious Circle’ and the video tells an ACTUAL STORY which we don’t see enough of imho. Also, the song really weirdly reminds me of that period of time circa 2002 when every band in the world had, by law, to sound like The Bravery and Editors. Enjoy!:


4) Now the latest from Portugal, The Man, whose video features gimp suited CGI people and which is pleasingly odd. This is called “Keep On”:


5) HIPHOP CORNER! Specifically, the sort of hiphop that sounds like Sad Boys from a few years back - this is by 6 Dogs, it’s called, unforgivably, “Buttcheeks”, and it really is very good indeed:


6) Next, the first of two lo-tempo lo-fi London tracks - first this, by Puma Blue, which I am absolutely in love with and have been listening to on a loop for much of this week; it’s called ‘Only Trying 2 Tell U’:


7) Second up in the lofi London selection is this one by Jamie Isaac - it’s called ‘Going Nowhere’, and I think it forms a really nice pairing with the Puma Blue track. Can someone make me a mix of stuff like this, please? Thanks!:


8) Shardcore pointed this out to me saying it was ‘a very Web Curios video’. He is write - this is a track by MJ Cole called ‘Pictures In My Head’ and the video is that wonderful sort of CGI which you just want to reach out and lick:


9) Last up this week, have a hitherto-unimagined fusion of Bollywood and Brazilian metal, as Latin American headbangers Bonde do Metaleiro cover old-school viral smash Tunak Tunak Tun - this is just AWESOME, and will set you right up for the weekend. Right, I have to go, BYE I LOVE YOU BYE BYE BYE REALLY I DO CARE ABOUT EACH OF YOU AND I HOPE YOU ARE HAPPY OR AT THE VERY LEAST NOT IN PAIN BYE!!!


Matt Muir

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

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