Friday 09 March 2018

Web Curios 09/03/18

My chronic inability to avoid needless verbosity (see? even when I am trying to apologise for it, FFS) means that this has once again gone LONG and gone LATE - that said. it's fair to say in passing that if this week has taught us anything (and by 'us' I mean 'you' - I am no longer capable of learning anything, mostly instead leaching knowledge from my ears at a rate of knots) is that YOU DO NOT FCUK WITH VLADIMIR.

(as an aside, I texted that to my girlfriend this week but misspelled his name with an 'f' rather than a 'd' - turns out, he's a lot less intimidating if you call him 'Vlafimir')

(as another aside, let me make it clear to any agents who may be reading this that my opening this week is making absolutely NO inferences whatsoever, ok? Good)

Anyway, we ALL have things to be getting on with, not least YOU dear readers who, I'm not going to tell you the word count this week, it will only upset you. Rest assured, though, that as ever it dense, thick and packed with the sort of chewy infolumps of questionable origin that have become Web Curios very own indigestible trademark. GET THE WARMING FLUID DOWN YOU, CHILDREN, FOR WHO KNOWS WHEN WE SHALL EAT AGAIN (next week, same time, same place, for reassurance) - this, as ever, is Web Curios.


Lebowski, by the very nice Mushybees who takes commissions 



  • Voice Notes Coming To Facebook: Already available to WhatsApp and Messenger users, Facebook is trialing the ability for people to record short voice messages as Status Updates on the main platform. Which is nice. I’d imagine this will be prioritised in areas of the developing world where variable literacy rates and multiple written dialects make it most useful to have a voice option, but don’t doubt for a second that we will get it all too, ushering in an exciting new ERA OF STORYTELLING in which that bloke you went to school with and who now posts things on Facebook about how his kids are his life even if he doesn’t see them that much any more and he can’t talk about why because otherwise he’ll get into trouble but SO HELP HIM GOD will start leaving slightly drunk 1am ramblings about what it’s like being a father in 2018. Or, alternatively, people will experiment with INTERESTING NEW MEANS OF COMMUNICATION - you could, as the article suggests, do podcasts, or EXCITING CELEBRITY REVEALS or all sorts of things really. What fun.
  • FB Now Lets Publishers Label News As ‘Breaking’: Still in beta, and only rolling out to a select number of publishers initially, but we will of course all welcome another feature which makes the world even more colossally screamy and demanding of our attention. “Publishers in the test will be able to label Instant Articles, mobile and web links, and Facebook Live as breaking news. They can use the indicator once a day, setting how long the story is marked as breaking for (up to 6 hours). Publishers also have an extra pool of 5 indicators per month. The posts will appear in News Feed and there will be information in Page Insights so that publishers can track how their tagged posts perform. Readers will also be able to provide feedback when they don’t consider a story to be breaking news by clicking in the top-right drop-down menu of a post.” “LOOK AT ME!” screams the news, again; “LOOK AT ME! I AM VITAL AND NEW AND OF THE NOW AND YOU CANNOT MISS ME OR YOU WILL FALL BEHIND!” Can we all please be quiet, please?
  • Video Chat Coming To Messenger Lite: Literally that - users of FB’s stripped-back-for-2G variant will now also be able to do videocalls like users of the regular version. What’s remarkable about this is the coding required to make this possible - the compression and all the rest here is hugely impressive, and is one reason why Facebook is so miles ahead of all other networks globally; how can any other app compete in the developing world when they can’t possibly hope to compete when it comes to feature development and optimisation for low-connectivity? Rhetorical; it can’t.
  • Snapchat Launching Ability To Tag Friends: Slowly, slowly Snapchat begins to make itself marginally less obtusely awkward to use; you’ll soon be able to swipe up on a Snap you’ve taken to tag other users in your EXCITING CONTENT, which will give them a notification and, y’know, START CONVERSATIONS or whatever breathless social bromide Snap is peddling today. Useful for influencer networks, and will also doubtless usher in some sort of hideous 2018 kid’s version of NeckNominate or similar which will get the Mail into an autoerotic froth by end-April (any journalists reading this, this will TOTALLY be a story so, you know, GET STALKING). Sorry for the Mashable link, by the way - the original headline was on TechCrunch, but since its redesign only about half its urls actually seem to work any more (sort it out, Mike, in the unlikely event you’re reading this).
  • Snapchat Testing Hands-Free Mode and Full-Body AR Lenses: Yep, testing. Both will become reality soon - the full-body AR stuff is really interesting, or at least will be when implemented.
  • Google Maps Lets Businesses Self-Identify as ‘Woman-led’: Literally that - businesses applying to place themselves on Google Maps will, amongst other identifiers, be able to specify that they are a ‘woman-led’ business. Which is, on the one hand, A Good Thing and a pretty strong piece of marketing for a certain type of business targeting certain types of audiences, and which equally is the sort of thing which, depressingly, you can imagine being something of a red flag to a particular sort of online misogynist virgin.
  • YouTube Stories Introducing What Is Basically Photoshop For Video: YouTube Stories, lest you forget, is only in Beta at the moment to a select group of YT creators (but is exactly the same as all the other fcucking Stories products made be everyone else) , but for the lucky few who have it will now do the neat tech trick of being able to identify and separate the human subject of any video from the background, meaning you can effectively automatically greenscreen yourself within the app. Faceswap! Automatic greenscreening! Voice synthesis! Let’s be clear, we are about 18 months away from a brief, terrifying period whereby it is going to be very hard indeed to tell what is real and what isn’t, videowise. FUN!
  • Twitter Wants Everyone To Be Verified: Or at least for everyone to have the potential to be verified, according to Good Old Jack Dorsey; sketchy as to how, but reports suggest either linking to another online ID (FB, Google), or providing some sort of local government data like an NI Number - which would be a little like the adoption of a Universal Online Identity which I’ve been quietly wanging on about for about 8 years now and which is probably a terrible idea but which I’m too superficial a thinker to really interrogate properly at 723am on a Friday morning. Anyway, this may be forthcoming, perhaps.
  • How To Get Your Twitter Bookmarks On Desktop: Like so.
  • Kickstarter Patrons: This is an interesting idea. Patrons is a new Kickstarter initiative which allows institutions (and, I presume, brands) to donate units of $1,000 to campaigns which Kickstarter matches them with, based on their stated ‘values’ and ‘goals’ and stuff - effectively Kickstarter’s taking some of the hassle out of your latest cosmetic corporate responsibility initiative. Application-only, but, my cynicism aside, this looks like it could be quite a good idea.
  • 95 PR Tools: A really useful list of tools, some paid-for, some free, collected by Stephen Waddington and designed to be a comprehensive toolkit for your modern-day public relations drone. Whatever flavour of comms you do, this is very much worth bookmarking - with stuff broadly categorised into buckets based on their purpose, this is a very useful collection of links indeed.
  • Gucci Spring/Summer: I’ve featured these Gucci sites before, but I have no shame in doing so again - another season’s collection, another in their truly beautiful line of luxury, hand-painted websites. This is SO LUXE and silly and frankly I love it (also, it works - it persuaded my friend Jay that Gucci handbags were actually sort-of almost not overpriced, which is probably worth all the money they spent making the damn thing).
  • Premo Social: Thanks to Josh for bringing this APPALLING idea to my attention. Do YOU think your tweets are good? Do YOU think that someone might want to pay cashmoney to subscribe to them every month? No, you don’t, do you, unless you’re some sort of hubristic moron. And yet that is exactly the premise of Premo Social, which lets anyone create a ‘Premium’ version of their Twitter account which will sit behind a paywall and only be accessible to those paying your monthly vig. Sounds crazy - and, let’s be clear, it is - although according to something I read about it there are a few people (mostly idiot business thought leaders, peddling their ‘thought leadership’ to other idiots) making actual monthly cashmoney out of this, so perhaps (*GALAXY BRAIN*) I am the idiot here after all.
  • The Smirnoff Equaliser: An ostensibly nice idea from Smirnoff (thanks Nick), riffing off the fact that music and streaming is still largely male dominated; hook your Spotify account up to the site, and it will analyse the gender makeup of the music you stream and make suggestions to level the balance, thereby broadening your tastes and SMASHING THE PATRIARCHY IN THE FACE at the same time. Except, unfortunately, multiple users report getting repeated recommendations for the musical stylings of the lovable Chris Brown, who you will recall is more about smacking actual women in the face rather than the patriarchy. Proof, once again, that you have to think quite hard about these sorts of things here in the year of our Lord two thousand and eighteen.
  • DCMS’ VR Culture Report: By far and away the most stupid digital thing I have seen all week, though, comes courtesy of the UK Government, specifically the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which this week launched a report into DIGITAL AND THE ARTS, and which, as part of said launch, decided inexplicably to create this INTERACTIVE 360 EXPERIENCE to celebrate it. Click the link - it’s AWFUL, isn’t it? WHY IS IT THERE? Look around! Watch two awful low-res videos! Click some buttons! Get some pop-up stats! It’s laughably bad, vomit-inducing navigation, doesn’t explain what the actual fcuk it’s for, and goes no small way to undermine the digital expertise of everyone involved in the report. A quite staggeringly bad piece of comms, so well done everyone involved (and I say this is someone who is generally very pro-Civil Service, honest).

steve smith

by Steve Smith



  • Stand Up: The regularity with which I feature interactive dataviz stuff by The Pudding is slightly tedious, I know, but they keep on doing wonderful things with the idea - this, their latest piece which breaks down the elements of a standup routine by US comedian Ali Wong, examines the structure of the entire hour-long set, the callbacks and the setups and the punchlines, with SUCH style; not only is the whole thing interesting from the point of view of linguistics and STORYTELLING and stuff, but the interface and visualisation is just perfect. Noone better at this sort of thing at the moment, imho.
  • Mel & Kim: Thanks to Rishi for pointing this out - I don’t feel it’s gotten anywhere near enough credit, but that’s perhaps because, well, everyone is a child now and NOONE REMEMBERS the unique majesty of Mel & Kim. If you do remember them, though - and if not, or if your recollection is fuzzy, what better time to reacquaint yourself? - then this website will properly make you LOL. I don’t want to spoil the gag, but it made me want to stand up and applaud on opening.
  • Google Streetview Does Disney: A variety of Disney parks have now been immortalised on Streetview, meaning you can take a stroll down Main Street in Florida, visit Space Mountain in LA, and see the slightly surly Mickeys in Paris, all from the comfort of your desk. Parents! Why not cause your kids untold psychic damage and cost them years in therapy by telling them that that you are taking them to Disneyland and then just handing them this on an iPad? Please film and monetise the reaction for added parentpoints.
  • Google Song Maker: It’s been an excellent week for Google releasing fun things - this, the first I came across, is a REALLY nice synthtoy, with a beautifully simple interface - “To make a song, add notes by clicking the grid. Then, share your song with a link. You can also use a MIDI keyboard or sing a note into your mic. You can also use your computer keys. Press the arrow keys to move, enter and backspace to add and remove notes, and spacebar to play.” It’s that simple, and you can make some reasonably un-dreadful sounding things even if you’re a cloth-eared antitalent like I am.
  • The Google Art Palette: This, though, is next-level impressive. Using a bunch of works digitised as part of the Google Art Project, the Art Palette tool lets you pick 5 colours from the spectrum to create a palette - the software then automatically, and on the fly, pulls out classic artworks from its archive which match the palette you’ve selected. SO CLEVER and hugely interesting; it’s fascinating to see aesthetic commonality amongst styles and eras you’d never have expected, and whilst I’m sure there are art historical reasons why people shouldn’t necessarily draw inferences about influence from stuff like this, it’s an incredible timesink if you’re in any way interested in art and design. Oh, and if you’re an interior designer or the sort of person who somehow makes a living by designing colour palettes for wealthy women to build their wardrobes around then this is a GODSEND.
  • Bill The Patriarchy: A day late for IWD, but no less relevant, this little website lets you calculate the value of the labour an individual undertakes as primary homemaker. Beautifully, once it’s done that it also offers you the option of getting a formal invoice mailed to you for your records - part of me would love to see reactions of people being presented with an invoice by the partner they have relied on for their domestic comfort, but a slightly larger part of me worries that perhaps the sort of people most deserving of such an invoice might be those least likely to react well to the receipt of one.
  • Volume: I featured this a few weeks back as a video demo showing how the 2d dancing scene from Pulp Fiction could, using software, be rendered in shonky-but-still-amazing 3d; the tool’s now been updated to let you see how it works with any photo you choose to upload. Give it a go - it’s remarkable quite how good the tech is (whilst obviously still being a bit ropey). Time to being able to 3d print a mould for almost anything from a 2d photo? Couple of years, roughly, I think.
  • Grillbot: Useless ‘robot’ of the year so far, Grillbot is, basically, a Roomba for barbecues - you put it on your barbecue, turn it on, and it will spend 10-30 minutes scrubbing the damn thing to within an inch of its life. OK, so possibly if you’re Texan or something and you bbq every 15 minutes then perhaps this would make sense, but for the English, whose approach to bbq cleanliness as far as I can tell is to use the things once a year and then leave them outside for the remaining 11.9 months under the cleansing rains of Britannia, this seems, well, less essential. I love the fact that the website lists ‘fun to watch!’ as one of the device’s main sells - I mean, if your definition of ‘fun’ includes ‘watching a motorised scrubbing brush going to town on a rusting kettle barbecue’, then AIM HIGHER.
  • Shudu.Gram: After Miquela last month, 2018 has its second CGI superstar - meet Shudu.gram, the ‘first’ CGI supermodel to take Instagram by storm. The work here on the modelling really is incredibly good, as evidenced by the number of comments on the photos and videos questioning whether ‘she’ is real (she’s not). No indication as to what the long-term goal of the project is, but it’s fascinating to watch - the work is by British photographer and apparently self-taught CGI-wrangler Cameron James Wilson, to whom massive kudos.
  • AirCamera: A dedicated app for video, which rather than storing anything on your phone does so entirely in the cloud. If you’re someone who shoots a lot on your phone, this could be a godsend - whilst there are other services which do similar, this purports to be designed and optimised especially for videos.
  • The Twitter Demetricator: Do you feel that Twitter’s no longer PURE, and that people do things JUST FOR THE NUMBERS? Do you worry that you embody this dreadful trend? Would you like to stop? Well try the Twitter Demetricator, a Chrome extension which removes all the scoring numbers from Twitters - followers, likes, RTs, etc - leaving you blissfully unencumbered by the worry of how your Tweets are ‘performing’. Were I more of a cnut I’d make some godawful ‘tweet like noone’s reading’ joke, but a) I’m not (just); and b) anyone who’s ever checked out their own Twitter analytics knows that, really, noone is.
  • MOMAR: Interesting (although, as pointed out to me, not entirely original - this, from 2014, was a very similar idea) concept, this - taking an AR exhibition and attaching it in unofficial fashion to the canvases currently on display in a particular room at MOMA NYC. “An unauthorized gallery concept aimed at democratizing physical exhibition spaces, museums, and the curation of art within them. MoMAR is non-profit, non-owned, and exists in the absence of any privatized structures. The first exhibit: “Hello, we’re from the internet” consists of eight artists and will be overlaid on top of existing artworks hung in ‘a museum' of modern art in New York using Augmented Reality.” I would like to see more stuff like this, though til AR’s industry standard on phones then it’s too much of a pain to really quite take off.
  • Hold: This is an interesting idea - don’t think it’s new, but I only just stumbled across it. Hold is an app designed for students, to encourage them to spend less time on their phone during certain moments (primarily at school). The idea is that by launching the app, users are then prevented from using their phone’s other features til it’s turned off - the app tracks the time you spend phoneless, and converts that into points, which mean PRIZES! The idea being that this incentivises kids with the promise of, I don’t know, some crack if they can stop their sweaty-palmed redtube-ing for 20 minutes or so. Is this a smart idea or an acceptance that we have lost the attention wars? What do YOU think?
  • Polisis: This is a really, really good idea. Polisis presents simple, easy to understand visualisations of thousands of internet companies’ privacy policies, mapped out based on what data they collect, why and what they do with it. It’s a HUGELY useful project, but what I think is most impressive is the way the visualisation of the legalese actually makes sense - I think there’s scope for taking this method and applying it to other complex texts, should someone so desire (please, someone, desire).
  • Tonl: A diverse, high-quality stock photo service. Not the first I’ve seen, but the images look to be rather good, and it’s the sort of thing we need to see more of in general so, you know, more power to them. Would be nice to see a version of this that was a bit more Anglo - all these photos just look American, for reasons I can’t adequately articulate (what are the defining qualities of the American stock photographic aesthetic? DISCUSS?.
  • Fatberg: Not the forthcoming Channel 4 TV show, nor indeed the current exhibit at the Museum of London - instead, this is two blokes in the Netherlands who are attempting to grow their own pet fatberg. No really, it is - here’s an interview with them, where they come across as nice but also very much give the impression that if this were a comic or superhero film by the third act they would have been killed by the fat monster they created and which grew to the size of a mountain and is now terrorising Metropolis.
  • Jurassic World ALIVE!: Or, Dinosaur Go! This is a fairly naked cashgrab/promo for some new Jurassic film or another (SPOILER: THE DINOSAURS GO A BIT WRONG) which is essentially Pokemon Go but reskinned with CGI dinos. It’s probably going to be terrible, but if you have small children who like giant lizards then they may well be enraptured by this while they wait for the Potter version to come out later in the year.
  • Open Cat: This is AMAZING. If you have a 3d printer (on which note, someone reminded me this week of the Gartner report from a few years ago which confidently predicted that all shops would be 3d printing our goods for us by 2020 - wow, we, er, all got that one pretty spectacularly wrong, eh?) and a LOT of patience and some rudimentary engineering and programming skills then you might want to build this OPEN SOURCE 3D-PRINTED PROGRAMMABLE ROBOT CAT!!! This is incredible and SO FUTURE (and, weirdly, not uncute).
  • Overflow: Turn app or website designs into easy, simple user flow diagrams. Not sexy in the slightest, but potentially very useful indeed.
  • Big Tweeter: This is awful but sort of brilliant. You know those FB status updates that they introduced a few years back - big text on a coloured background? This app - iOS only, I’m afraid - lets you do exactly the same on Twitter, creating an imagefile with your text on a big coloured backround to stand out in the feed. Crass, but almost certainly effective. If you have a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT to make then this is one way of getting people’s attention (so of course is slashing your neck and writing it in your arterial blood whilst you expire; neither are good ways of getting attention).


By Shardcore



  • AI Punk: This is apparently the world’s first AI-composed punk album - a Neural Net was trained on NoFX’s ‘Punk In Drublic’ (a great album), and then asked to do a compose; this is what resulted. It’s either proof that this technique of developing machine learning really is powerful, or that punk composition is DREADFUL, but it sounds about 75% like most pop-punk records, but as though sung by a REALLY drunk Shane McGowan.  
  • Best Festival For Me: Clever tool which lets you plug in Spotify or Facebook or Songkick, and based on the data from your accounts will comb the festival lineups of 2018 and tell you which one will most chime with your musical tastes. Which sounds like the sort of thing which, frankly, if you’re a brand you could pay to badge - it’s a nice idea. Unrelated, someone was telling me last weekend about the Soho House group’s annual music festival, which is apparently great because “noone listens to any of the music because they’re all talking work and taking gak”; reader, a not insignificant part of me died.
  • The Scrying Pen: Interesting webtoy which uses the corpus of doodles built up by Google last year (you remember, when it asked us unwitting meatsacks to train our future robot overlords’ drawing / image recognition techniques by drawing millions of cats, places, cars, etc, for it to learn from) to attempt to autocomplete anything you sketch. Each line you draw, the machine tries to predict where the next should go, based on what you tell it you’re trying to draw. Basically you’re getting to watch a machine ‘think’, which we’ll look back on as a quaint throwback in a few years’ time when the machines compute in a manner so alien to us that even the word ‘thinking’ won’t quite be applicable.
  • You Think You Know Me: I’m just going to leave the description here: “Instagram, Twitter, Facebook... You know your friends through the photos, videos, and messages they post online, liking and favoriting them every day. But how well do you know your friends, really? You Think You Know Me is a conversational card game for 2-10 players that playfully tests how well you know your friends, family, partners, or coworkers — a set of 500 cards helping you learn more about what they love and who they are.” This sounds...this sounds awful, doesn’t it? “Come on everyone! Let’s all get together and throw our most intimate bits onto the table so we can roll around in the viscera of each others’ selves!” NO. NO. NO. This is not the British way.
  • Kinetic Art Watches: Funded with three weeks to go, this Kickstarter is peddling posh-looking watches which have faces featuring rather lovely moving parts which effectively look like kinetic sculptures. Not for everyone - something like this on my stick-thin wrists would not only be aesthetically ridiculous but also musculoskeletally ruinous, quite possibly - but some of you will doubtless love this.
  • Otter: Not, sadly, mustelid-related at all; Otter is instead a potentially-useful (and seemingly free) autotranscription tool which works a bit like Evernote; you let it record your conversations and it automatically creates searchable transcripts which you can share. Might be useful, potentially.
  • Reuben Wu: Reuben Wu is an irritating man - not only is he in world-famous, reasonably-trendy band Ladytron, but he’s also a really good photographer who takes these lovely, long-exposure photos of mountains at night; the ones which capture the drone tracers are just spectacular.
  • Crimereads: “CrimeReads is a culture website for people who believe suspense is the essence of storytelling, questions are as important as answers, and nothing beats the thrill of a good book. It’s a single, trusted source where readers can find the best writing from the worlds of crime, mystery, and thrillers—a literary culture that’s more robust than ever, but diffuse.”
  • Curious Fictions: Interesting site which is effectively like a Patreon variant but for fiction writers who want to be able to monetise their jottings, drafts, experiments and the like. “By invitation only, professional authors can sign up and create profile pages, publish their newsletters and story reprints, and start accepting payments from their followers in minutes”; authors own the rights to their work, face no charges for using the service, and can remove stuff whenever they like - in general, this seems like a really good idea.
  • Begin: A task manager for Slack. That’s it. Is it useful? It might be for you, I couldn’t possibly comment.
  • Voxel Disasters: Voxel art, in case you don’t know, is basically stuff that looks like Minecraft but a bit smaller and fuzzier and like it’s been tilt-shifted - it’s excellent for cute, building block-style aesthetic work. These gifs, showing disaster-type events occurring in little voxel worlds, are just MESMERISING. I could watch a whole film or play a whole game done in this style, no problem at all, so can someone please make one? Thanks.
  • More Than We: This is undoubtedly a good idea - it’s an app which is designed to replace the need for business cards, offering a digital rolodex of contacts which you can search and to which you can add contextual information to help you build a more intelligent network of business contacts and stuff - but, I don’t know, I suppose I find the whole desperate drive to IMPROVE THE EFFICIENCY OF YOUR NETWORK BUILDING vibe of it to be so hideously misery-inducing that it’s hard to be too enthusiastic about it. I think my problem is that I think effort is, well, just a bit vulgar, really. Which, now I’ve written it down, is both true and telling.
  • Shoot Your Name Into The Sun: “NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission launching in summer 2018. The mission will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and your name will go along for the ride.” SHOOT YOURSELF INTO THE SUN!
  • The Topiary Cat: I don’t really want to spoil this for you too much, so, well, just click and scroll and enjoy some of the best photoshop you’re likely to see all year. THIS IS ART, MOTHERFCUKERS!
  • The Parallax View: This is AMAZING. If you have a new iPhone, try this out - if not click the link and watch how incredible this illusion-of-depth tech is. Imagine being able to look at your phone and look down into a tiny 3d diorama. IMAGINE HOW GOOD THAT WOULD BE!! Not as good as, say, the people you love not dying around you as you inch, sadder and older, towards the grave, but still pretty good!
  • The National Snow and Ice Data Centre: “The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) supports research into our world’s frozen realms: the snow, ice, glaciers, frozen ground, and climate interactions that make up Earth’s cryosphere.” You can browse thousands of photos of INCREDIBLE icy landscapes and imagine that it’s last week again (this is not a ‘joke’ that is going to age well, fine, but like anyone reads the archives).
  • 100 Jewish Foods: As a goy, I’m not really up on Jewish foodstuffs beyond the basics - matzo, gefiltefish, pastrami, rye, schmaltz, fine, but I appreciate that there’s a lot more to the cuisine. This is a lovely interactive by The Tablet magazine, letting you spin a virtual table and explore the whole spread of Jewish goodies there laid out and presenting you with the cultural and religious history of each item on clicking. Really interesting for foodies and students of Judaic culture alike.
  • Krow: What could possibly be better than EMPLOYMENT ON THE BLOCKCHAIN! That’s right, a persistent and permanent record of your employment in every single job, with daily (hourly?) absences recorded in perpetuity, all your demerits on display for future employers to tut over...truly, the future really is shaping up to be a workers’ paradise, and you’ve have to be a traitor or a Communist to think otherwise.
  • Chicken PH: This is a SUPERB Instagram account featuring the best photos of the sexiest chickens you will ever see (‘sexy’ is very much intended in the figurative sense, to be clear - there is nothing bestial about my appreciation here) (am I protesting too much?), from this Kickstarter campaign. You WILL want to look at this chickens, and you WILL momentarily consider a life with a coop.
  • System Sounds: “Inspired by the discovery of the remarkable TRAPPIST-1 planetary system, an astrophysicist, a musician, and an astrophysicist/musician decided to explore what happens when the rhythms and harmonies of astronomical systems are translated into music so they can be heard by human ears. The result is SYSTEM Sounds, a collection of music and animations generated by numerical simulations, real data, and a little creativity.” Quite literally, the music of the spheres. This is rather wonderful.
  • DynaFlash 2: Without hyperbole, this is the best projection-mapping you will ever have seen, no question. Taking a small surface - someone’s chest - and mapping animated, high-res, full-colour models onto their movements, this is quite incredible, looks astounding and (as a bonus) features some of the very best geek dancing you will ever see.
  • 75 Women In Stem: Posted to celebrate IWD, this THREAD by Laurie Winkless (herself a physicist-turned-author) shares information about 75 current women working in STEM. If you want interesting people to follow on Twitter this is a good list, as well as being a celebration of some of the interesting people doing interesting work in science - regardless of gender.
  • Project Dirt: I’ve recently got back into mentoring again, a bit, after the last project I was working on ended last year; it was harder than it ought to have been to find volunteering schemes in general, though, which is why I welcome things like Project Dirt, which is a site connecting community projects across the UK and making it easy for people to search for things in their local area. The site’s a *bit* crap, but there’s plenty of activity on there so if you’re looking for local community work to get involved in, it could be a decent place to start.
  • Bones: A really, really big Flickr set of animal bones, all bleached and clean and arranged. No YOU’RE the weirdo macabre ghoul!
  • The Australian Newspaper Fiction Database: This is REALLY interesting - in common with papers in the UK, Australian periodicals often used to carry new works of fiction - in the late 19th and early-20th Century, this was seen by publishers and authors as the best way of promoting works to a mass audience. This database collects these writings, makes them searchable, and lets you get lost in story collections featuring over 21,000 stories, searchable and arranged by category. I would imagine that if you’re a historical novelist looking for period colour (in Australia, admittedly, but still) this is a potentially invaluable resource.
  • Cyrillic Clothes: An Insta account posting photos of clothing with Cyrillic writing on it, with translations of said Cyrillic. Disappointingly free of stuff which says things like “I AM VLAD’S FLESHY PUPPET, I FEEL HIS FINGERS MOVE WITHIN ME”, but worth a follow just in case the tone shifts anytime soon.
  • Microsoft Soundscape: This is wonderful and such a good use of technology. When my youngest brother was alive he was visually impaired, and watching him navigate the world made me acutely aware of how difficult it is to move around a city in anything other than the most functional fashion. Microsoft’s new Soundscape kit, whilst still prototypical, offers a vision of a future in which a user’s phone can give them sophisticated audio cues as to what’s around them - shops, traffic, people, anything you can imagine. I watched the video here and I did a bit of a cry - the potential benefits are huge.
  • Packets Please!: A SATIRICAL BROWSER GAME! Based on Papers, Please!, but instead taking aim at the Net Neutrality debate, this is actually quite a lot of fun but also a very good explainer as to why a future without an equal internet is, well, not necessarily a great prospect overall.
  • Five Hearts: A neat little Streets of Rage-style side-scrolling beat-em-up to accompany the new album by Super Beard Men (see the album stream elsewhere in Curios). Fun, and the music’s rather good in a chiptune sort of way.
  • The Flower Game: Last up this week, this GORGEOUS and meditative browser game where you draw flowers. Gentle and lovely and beautiful, this is a really nice way to spend 20minutes zoning out and forgetting about all the bad for a while, try it.




  • Xenophon Is Sad: Collecting all the times in which Xenophon is absolutely bodied by latter-day historians, all throwing shade on his legacy. Imagine your name and reputation surviving a few thousand years, but only as a ‘yeah, but at least he’s not Xenophon’ punchline - I’m grateful for my inevitable slide into forever obscurity (NO REALLY I AM).
  • Wild Variables: Quite hard to describe, this one, but I’ll take the copy from the Tumblr: “Still images extracted from the moving images of a digital film project entitled "of rioting, decently". The stills here represent a catalogue of unmediated images that have been shot for the project. This blog is intended to partially document the process of turning a shapeless inventory of images into a finished work - what one sees here versus what one will ultimately see in the film itself.” I chatted with one of the people behind the film earlier this week (you can find them on Twitter @Wild_variables) and they were very interesting and the project sounds worthwhile, so give it a follow if experimental filmmaking is your bag.
  • Hamilton Sunnydale: Buffy screencaps with Hamilton lyrics. These work very well indeed, though I have no idea what that says about either work.

lana prins

By Lana Prins


  • Hacking Monopoly: This is, to be honest, a bit late - could have done with being published just before you all went home to Christmas with your families so that you could cause a huge familial row by suggesting CHANGING MONOPOLY. This is a really interesting look at everyone’s least favourite boardgame (noone really likes Monopoly, do they?) and how some simple tweaks to the ruleset - namely, the introduction of CRIME - can make the whole thing immeasurably better. Interesting from the point of view of game and systems design, even if you know nothing of Monopoly (and I know how joyless that sounds, but growing up in a single-parent household of two people - that is, me and my Mum - you don’t get to play a lot of Monopoly).
  • Why Men Should Own Vibrators: This is a hell of a take, and one which I’m including mainly as I am intrigued as to whether it gives all of you the same slightly horrified ‘EW NO’ sort of feelings as it did me. I mean, I’m all for sexual openness and the DEMOCRATISATION OF THE ORGASM and all that jazz, but I can’t think that it would be anything other than, well, a bit creepy were some bloke to pull out a sex aid mid-coitus and offer to use it on you. “WHERE HAS IT BEEN???” is not a question I would find it easy to shift from my mind were I to be placed in this position, is all I’m saying.
  • Noma, Redux: Noma has reopened in Copenhagen; cue another flurry of breathless thinkpieces, worshipping at the temple of hipster gastronomy. Not that I have any bones to pick with Redzepi or the idea of Noma - Christ knows I like to yam some fancy chow whenever I can - but more that I always come away from these pieces with the distinct impression that noone who writes them actually has any fun during the experience, which I’d sort of hope for were I dropping £500-odd quid on some millennia-old moss.
  • The Mystery of Zach: This is brilliant and SO zeitgeisty, and made me think - perhaps uncharitably, fine, but still - of IBM’s Watson. Zach is a supposed AI tool, being peddled around the medical community in New Zealand as a real, actual, human-comprehension-grade AI - exactly the sort of thing that we’re regularly told doesn’t exist anywhere in the wild yet, and won’t for some time. Zach, though, is apparently real, writing patient notes and assessing ECG results, amongst other things. Any yet, things seem...well...a bit off; Zach’s behaviour, and the time he takes to produce results, seem suspiciously, well, human, and there are a few question marks over the fact that one of the main figures behind the supposed tech is 27 years old and is called ‘Alberic Whale’ and, well, read it for yourself but I am a touch skeptical here. Still, it’s a great read.
  • Notes on Being Very Tall: A lovely piece of writing which by the end will have you sympa-empathising with its author, who’s a pretty punch 6’8”, and who writes with a pleasant, resigned detachment about what the world looks like from up there. I had never really given much thought to the way in which that sort of perspective gives you an interesting, er, perspective (wow, even by my standards that’s lazy writing, sorry about that) on how crowds move and how people behave, and the imperceptible social ties that affect and define movement en masse. Fascinating.
  • Chinese Mistresses: I don’t mean to be, well, A DOWNER about stuff, but in the wake of another International Woman’s Day it’s worth remembering that progress in attitudes towards gender equality isn’t universal; this piece on the women from rural China who move to the big city to become kept mistresses of high-ranking government officials, for example, is a timely reminder that, well, equality is not equally distributed.
  • Facebook’s Political Nightmare Is Going To Get Worse: On how the regional election in the US later this year are likely to see a continuation of, rather than a reduction in, shady political practices on Facebook. It’s interesting to see how many candidates are already takings notes from the Trump playbook when it comes to this - setting up partisan news sites in their own names which they use for datagathering, audience matching and the linke. As an aside, this week’s Italian election is a case in point as to the damage this can do to an electoral system; you may have seen that the ‘populist’ (I don’t like the term, but it’ll have to do) 5 Star party won a significant chunk of the vote, significantly amongst the younger proportion of the electorate; the 5 Star movement’s online schtick is VERY Facebook-heavy, and as is a standard part of the playbook these days involves presenting complex arguments around economics as simple, common-sense issues that only THE OLD ESTABLISHMENT and THE MAN don’t understand and which they are trying to oppress, and which arguments should therefore be shown as being RIGHT and the opponent as being WRONG without any real critical explanation or examination of the tricky rigorous thinking needing to determine such value judgments, because tricky, rigorous thinking doesn’t lend itself to 60s attack vids or explainer animations. As of yesterday, lots (like, thousands) of people who voted 5 Star have been in touch with their local council administrations asking how they can sign up for universal basic income and getting increasingly angry when informed there is no such thing. Universal basic income was a Five Star manifesto promise; these kids don't understand that this hasn't now suddenly become reality, because Facebook doesn’t tell them about things like ‘parliamentary process’ and ‘drafting legislation’, or indeed ‘the difference between an election and being in government’. It would be funny were it not so profoundly misery-inducing.
  • The Venezuela Bus: An excellent piece of journalism, telling the stories of a group of people fleeing Caracas to try and find new lives in other countries which are less ruinously economically fcuked. The narratives here are heartbreaking, and offer frightening proof of exactly how close economies - and by extension societies - are to collapse at any given point. CAUTIONARY TALES, KIDS.
  • The Bullsh1t Language Of Education: If you’ve ever done postgrad education, this will resonate SO HARD. A brilliant essay admitting that, mostly, the sort of language you’re encouraged to write in in academia is unhelpful at best and wilfully obscurantist at worst, designed not so much to illuminate as to pull up an intellectual drawbridge to the ivory castle of KNOWLEDGE. The examples he uses - breaking down Zizek into what he actually means (which is very little, much of the time) - are lovely. It’s shameful that I managed to get an MSc in philosophy without actually understanding any real philosophy in proper detail, but it was absolutely facilitated by the fact that I am really, really good at writing wanky prose.
  • Black Superman: This is a hell of a basketball story. Meet Billy Ray Bates, a brief shining light in the NBA whose background and struggles with alcohol counted against him and who ended his career in the Philippines, where he briefly shone as their all-star player, their black superman. Fascinating and sad, and the sort of thing that gives you a degree of empathy with those kids from other sports who never seem to quite fulfil their potential because of factors outwith their control (Ravel Morrison, anyone?).
  • I Got A Story To Tell: A parallel story to the previous link, this is the tale of Steve Francis, told in his own words, about how he went from selling drugs to the NBA in just a few short years, and what that felt like. This is an awesome story, not least because whoever’s transcribed this - I’m presuming it’s drawn from conversation - has absolutely nailed the tone of voice; Francis talks about teammates and his own ability with candour and humour, and you don’t need to like basketball to enjoy this.
  • What Does It Cost To Be Big On Insta?: Along with last week’s piece about the crappy loneliness of the YouTuber, this is essential reading for any teen wannabe influencer. IT IS EXPENSIVE AND MISERABLE AND YOU WILL PROBABLY NEVER MAKE IT, KIDS! Which is exactly the sort of killjoy negativity that we are simultaneously telling our kids never to countenance, which I respectfully suggest might be part of the problem here.
  • How To Raise A Boy: Confession - I have only read a couple of these essays, but they were intelligent and interesting enough to make me think that this whole NY Magazine special, on the issues currently facing young men and those who raise them, was worth a look.
  • In Praise of Print: ANOTHER digital detox piece, fine, but this one specifically discussing the benefits of decoupling oneself from the supersonic pace of the 24h digital news cycle and instead making a conscious effort to get news from print media rather than social. The points the author makes are good ones - you don’t automatically get served algorithmically-promoted outrage, you read fact before opinion, you read more broadly and, oddly, more deeply - and as someone who tries to minimise all *this* stuff at least two days a week I can very much see their point.  As a companion piece, Faris Yakob’s piece on the balanced media diet is also worth reading here.
  • How Wetherspoons Conquered Britain: A really interesting history of the Spoons and its founder, which explains a lot of the business thinking behind many of the chain’s quirks. Warning, though, this is a p1ss-poor piece of actual writing - Christ alone knows how it got into Esquire, which is ordinarily reasonably good at longform prose, but some of the sentences are hugely clunky (and yes, I know, but I don’t command or pretend payment for this so WEVS).
  • Pooh-As-Told-By-Chandler: Lavie Tidhar is, if you don’t know him, a superb writer - try Central Station, a collection of short stories, to get a feel for his stuff. He went viral this week with this thread, telling the story of a hard-boiled gumshoe tracking down the honey mystery to 100 Acre Wood. This is golden, and pitch-perfect, tonally.
  • Inside The Amazon Alexa Prize: Last year, Amazon hosted the inaugural Alexa Prize, in which teams of programmers competed to create an Alexa bot which could sustain a natural conversation with a human for the longest period of time; this is a writeup of that competition. This is REALLY hard AI stuff; true conversation, as evidenced by the persistence of the Turing test as a point of judgment, is notoriously tricky to pull off convincingly, and even moreso when you factor in speech synthesis and voice recognition - the teams here are hugely interesting in their approaches, and the results are AMAZING, seriously. Also, though, let’s not forget, is that this is all helping Amazon train MECHA-BEZOS. ALL HAIL MECHA-BEZOS! WORSHIP MECHA-BEZOS! Look, you may think I’m being a dick now, but you WAIT until we are all forced to WORSHIP THE ALTAR OF MECHA-BEZOS in order to earn shopping credits for that week, eh?
  • Are You Ready To Have Friends With Kids?: I spend last weekend with some friends with kids, and some friends of theirs and their kids, and it was all very nice but wow does this ring true.
  • London At Night: A selection of essays and stories by young writers of their experiences of London by night and oh me oh my did these make me feel simultaneously old and young again. Includes a piece by Megan Nolan which is short but practically perfect, and it’s worth it for that one alone.
  • Meet Ichiro Suzuki: A good week for excellent sportswriting, this beautiful profile of Japanese baseball star Ichiro Suzuki is quite possibly the saddest sportswriting about a living, playing athlete I think I have ever read. How broken does this poor bugger sound? Raises all sorts of legitimate questions about what is a reasonable price to pay in pursuit of professional excellence in any field, whether sport or otherwise.
  • Targeted Individuals: A couple of years ago I featured a piece about individuals who were convinced, to the point of mania, that they had tiny worms burrowing under their skin and whose lives were being made intolerable by the itching and discomfort, despite their being no medical data whatsoever to suggest that they were anything other than perfectly healthy; this is like that, except for people who believe that they are being targeted by the government with secret laser rays. Obviously totally mad, but equally sort of bleakly fascinating.
  • 10 Years of Know Your Meme: Imagine it being your job to catalogue and make sense of meme culture - it can’t be healthy, can it? I mean, it’s unhealthy enough for me to read all this stuff and I don’t even try and ascribe significance to any of it. This is a really interesting look at the team (yes, team) of people whose ACTUAL JOB is to keep Know Your Meme running and current. As a piece of social history/archivism work it’s actually rather important, but three’s something so, well, internet about it all that it’s a bit hard to take seriously.
  • The Lotto Winners: Finally this week, the best story - as in tale, yarn, etc - I’ve read in ages, and so BEAUTIFULLY told that it’s almost filmic in construction, this is the story of how an unassuming middle-aged man realised he could game the lottery by legal means. If nothing else, this is a great rejoinder to your kids’ perennial whines of ‘BUT WHEN I AM EVER GOING TO NEED THIS IN THE REAL WORLD?’ when faced with maths homework. Such a good story, wonderfully written - this is a must-read.

loribelle spirovski

By Loribelle Spirovski


  1. ‘Dance Dance’ is the best video you will ever see of stuff happening to flowers. It is GORGEOUS:


2) This is a few months old, but it only cropped up this week so I hope you’ll forgive me the slight tardiness. This is called ‘Death Van’, and it’s the best animated stop-motion accompaniment to some psychedelic space rock you’ll see all week. This really is superbly done:


3) John Hopkins puts the ‘intelligent’ into IDM (a term which I’ve just realised literally noone has used for years and which was sh1t with, but hey ho), and this latest track is no exception; it sort of leans, which is an odd description, fine, but I promise it makes sense. Lovely accompanying animated short, too; this is called ‘Emerald Rush’:


4) This is ‘Frontline’, by Kelela - smart slice of ultramodern R’n’B with a video that’s part Sims, part Second Life, and almost TOO Curios for words; this is superb:


5) DRAG HIPHOP CORNER! I don’t watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, which I appreciate makes  me a cultural dullard and all, but I think all these people are from the show; regardless, this is fcuking ACE - a fierce, queer hiphop track with SUCH a fun fighting game-inspired video. Really, though, the song is legitimately ace; this is ‘Finish Her’ by Aja:


6) EPIC CONCEPT ALBUM AND VIDEO HIPHOP CORNER! I’ve been a fan of Watsky since wayback when he got YouTube famous for being able to rap very, very fast - this is an incredibly impressive culmination to his MUSICAL JOURNEY (sorry) - a full-album video for his new record ‘Infinity’; all the tracks and their accompanying videos as one seamless creative project. This is truly astonishing, especially from / by an independent artist - so, so impressive:


7) Would you like a video explaining a whole bunch of sex philias, from A-Z? YES YOU WOULD! This is ace, and fascinating, and a bit NSFW as it contains a few small cocks:


8) Steamed Hams! The BEST meme! (it’s not, but it’s certainly the most fcuking ubiquitous) This, taking that bit from the Simpsons and turning it magically into Feelgood Inc. by Gorillaz, is very, very well done indeed:


9) Last up this week, some ACTUAL ART. Marcus John Henry Brown is an artist who stopped making art for a while and did advermarketingpr instead. This is his long-awaited return to art - The Passing, part TED talk, part Black Mirror (a lazy description, fine, but it works), all scarily believable. This is the talk as delivered in Germany a few weeks ago - if you do influencer stuff, brand stuff, any of this crap, you really ought to watch this. There’s a book in the works too - I for one am rather looking forward to it. THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK! BYE! TAKE CARE AND HAVE FUN AND TRY NOT TO GET POISONED BY ANY NEFARIOUS FOREIGN ACTORS IF YOU CAN AT ALL AVOID IT! I LOVE YOU, ALL OF YOU, UNIQUELY AND INDIVIDUALLY AND OCCASIONALLY DAMPLY! SEE YOU NEXT WEEK TAKE CARE BYE!



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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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