45 minutes reading time (9082 words)

Web Curios 01/03/19

Web Curios 01/03/19

First up, an apology from me to you for screwing up the html quite so spectacularly last week; hopefully this week the links should work and the words should be readable and the only issues you ought to encounter are the ones born of authorial inadequacy rather than the peculiar strain of CMS-luddism I appear to be infected with.

ANYWAY! How are we all? Did we enjoy the Summer? Are we read for Autumn and Winter, which the weather forecast seems to suggest are about to come careening round the corner with chilly abandon? GREAT!

It doesn't matter how cold it gets, anyway - WE CAN WARM OUR FINGERS ON THE BURNING EMBERS OF CIVILISATION! I jest, of course - this is the best of all possible worlds, as the Panglossion Pinker-disciples like to tell me on the reg, and anyone who doesn't agree is a miserable enemy of progress! So, then, tell me why it doesn't feel like that for anyone I or you know? IS THE PROBLEM INSIDE US?

Oh I don't know. Neither do you. Noone knows ANYTHING, which is part of the problem - at the very least generations past were kept inured from the foibles and failings of those putatively in control, meaning they were able to maintain a blind faith in the illusory superiority of the people at the wheel; now, though, with not only the curtain peeled back but also the first few layers of epidermis, we get to see EVERYTHING and we can see that just like us they are scared and frightened and incompetent and unhappy, and that what we might once have mistaken for conviction and zeal in their eyes is instead the same glazed expression we see in each others', fruit of late nights trying to drink the care away.

Still, no matter - we may be heading to hell, but the handcart's roomy as you like! Snuggle in, settle down and allow me to set you careening on your way through the swiss-cheese passageways meandering through this weeks SOLID BLOCK of congealed webspaff like some sort of fetid and unpleasantly-suppurating equivalent of Space Mountain. This, as ever, is Web Curios - WHITE RABBITS, EVERYONE!

By Lola Gill



  • Facebook Introduces 'Showcase' For More Tellylike Ads: This is literally creating a TV-style ad-buying market for Facebook Watch - only in the US so far, but I imagine that the buying/targeting options here detailed, which involve buying inventory across a specific set of premium shows, the ability to reach viewers watching 'contextually-relevant' content, and single-show sponsorship, will eventually be rolled out to other major markets. Thrilling stuff.
  • Instagram Planning Public Collections: I'm trying to avoid reporting on conjecture in this section, not least because if I do it means I have to write this tedious crap up twice when speculation becomes reality. This is interesting, though - indefatigable codedigger Jane Manchun Wong (the person single-handedly responsible for seemingly 90-odd% of all current 'x social media platform is working on y' scoops, which is hugely impressive) has discovered that there's code within Instagram's existing 'Collections' feature (where you can collect 'grams into your own personal scrapbooks, a la Pinterest) to turn said Collections public, thereby meaning that any individual or brand could in theory use the platform for pulling together themed collections of stuff, just like on Pinterest. Of course, Insta doesn't have all the nice shoppability stuff built in, but, well, it will, won't it? Poor Pinterest.
  • A Detailed TikTok Playbook for Creators: Or indeed for anyone else who wants to use the GLOBAL PHENOMENON (it passed 1bn downloads recently, and whilst downloads obviously aren't necessarily users that's still a hell of a number). If you're still yet to give it a go then this is actually a very simple and straightforward guide to the app's usage and features - equally, I find it hard to imagine anyone over the age of 20 feeling at home there (not for any Snapchat like reasons of interface horror, more to do with the fact that it's hard not to feel a bit like that classic Steve Buscemi meme when surrounded by video of brilliantly-yet-bafflingly creative children doing dizzying quick-cut edits of in-jokes that you will never fully understand).
  • Pandora Stories: Only in the US (again) - sorry. This is an interesting idea, though - streaming service Pandora is launching its own version of the Stories format, but this one's moderately more interesting than the standard 'chunked-down photos and videos stitched together with little or no skill'-type thing. The idea here is that creators can stitch together playlists of songs with their commentary or explanation stitched between the tracks - so you could have an artist talking you through their album track-by-track, say, or someone doing their own Desert Island Discs-type show. This is SUCH a nice idea and I would expect Spotify to thieve this very soon.
  • Amazon Personalise: I don't imagine this will be of any practical use to any of you, but it's an interesting little bit of Amazon news regardless. Amazon Personalise is a new offering from MechaBezos, which offers app developers to use Amazon's machine learning technology to build a layer of personalised recommendation within their apps. "With Amazon Personalize, you provide an activity stream from your application – page views, signups, purchases, and so forth – as well as an inventory of the items you want to recommend, such as articles, products, videos, or music. You can also choose to provide Amazon Personalize with additional demographic information from your users such as age, or geographic location. Amazon Personalize will process and examine the data, identify what is meaningful, select the right algorithms, and train and optimize a personalization model that is customized for your data." This is potentially hugely powerful, and another example of why Amazon is eventually going to win advertising and possibly everything else.
  • C'est Parti: It seems that 2019 is the year of the cutely-pixellated branded browsergame, and I am ok with that. This one's French, again, and is a simple-but-diverting vertical scroller in whichyou climb ladders, collect coins and avoid peril. I think it's made to promote the French equivalent of John Lewis but, frankly, who cares? We're done with the tedious s*c**l m*d** stuff in record time, and YOU deserve a reward!

By Lizzie Gill



  • Play With GPT2: A full two weeks since OpenAI's scaremongering press release about how AI writing was going to DESTROY our last remaining scraps of faith in the integrity of journalism with its magical fake news generation properties (congratulations to the UK press for noble work in reminding us that, occasionally, the media can do quite well without any AI help at all, thankyou very much), we can now ALL play around with it (or at least a dumbed-down version of it). Chuck in a fragment of seed text, set the output length, crank the lever and see what results. It's...patchy - I read somewhere that this was rather like linguistic impressionism, doing an excellent job of communicating the rough vibe of sensical (is that a word? Fcuk it, it ought to be) prose at a glance whilst without on close inspection really meaning much at all - but doubtless impressive. See what it makes of your last Whatsapp message for a creepy glimpse into how easy it is to mimic your writing 'style'.
  • This Startup Does Not Exist: ANOTHER machine learning toy, this time using ML to generate an infinity of webpages for nonexistent startups; refresh the page for a new company. I just got 'Circumer - Using the blockchain to create AI chatbots', which were this 2017 would be pretty plausible; admittedly it does fall apart as you scroll down the page, though I would personally invest in any real-life company which listed one of its qualities as 'jocundity', but overall this is a nice addition to the pantheon of sites which show us quite how well the machines will be able to fool us in about 2 years.
  • Drivetime: Ok, you won't be able to use this unless you're in the US, but it's still interesting, promise. Drivetime is a REALLY clever idea - an app designed for car commuters which every day will pair you with another player, driving to or from work (or anywhere really), and present you with a series of questions across 7 categories; the doubtless cheery and HYPER-AMERICAN hosts ask the questions, the app uses voice recognition to register your answers and, er, that's it! You answer questions, you win / lose, and come back the next day to do it all again. The game will match you with contacts or strangers, but as far as I can tell there's no person-to-person interaction so you don't have to worry about people being pricks (small mercies), and overall this just seems like a great idea (ignoring any potential road safety implications - I don't drive, so have no idea whether concentrating REALLY HARD on trivia is the sort of thing that might prove dangerous).
  • NoClip: Many of you I know read this while at work in what I presume is a sort of minor act of rebellion which you deep-down know you might sort-of be able to pass off as 'general internet trend research' if noone looks too closely at the timesheets; presuming you ARE at work, and presuming you wish you weren't, then enjoy this amazing site which lets you select from a range of old-school Nintendo games (and a few other titles), load up the game maps and then navigate weightlessly in three dimensions, floating around through the virtual space in weirdly-relaxing fashion. You can spend the rest of the day floating through MarioKart64's courses or you can spend it pretending to care about yet ANOTHER pitch for a client who will make your life a living hell before sacking you unceremoniously when you yet again failed to make a 'viral' (honestly, in the past month I have seen at least three briefs that are basically just that - we're regressing, I swear) - which do YOU prefer? Well, quite.
  • European Tree of the Year 2019: It''s the most wonderful time of the year - when we get to choose Europe's BEST TREE!!! This year's field is pretty strong, and whilst part of me feels a patriotic duty to tell you to cast your vote for 'Nellie's Tree' (could our entry be any more stereotypically British? You can just imagine that being read out in a wavering, paper-thin voice which then goes on to ask you if you'd like 'a nice cup of milky tea from the little shop next door') it's clear that the standout arboreal contender here is France's Bird Tree. Look at it, it's MAGNIFICENT. Oh, and seeing as you're here, have some BONUS TREE ENTHUSIAST CONTENT in the shape of this charming site which collects loads of stories an anecdotes about trees.
  • Kanopy: How did I not know about this?! Kanopy is an AMAZING service which offers literally thousands of films to stream, for free, if you're a member of select libraries or academic institutions worldwide. It's got a truly insane selection of international films, covering all the bases that you wish Netflix would but which it never will - international cinema, arthouse stuff, old movies...honestly, this is wonderful. As far as I can tell, in the UK you need to be a University student to access it - but, well, if you know anyone who's at University then maybe they could lend you their ID...NB WEB CURIOS IN NO WAY ENDORSES IDENTITY FRAUD.
  • The Gyllenhaal Experiment: Blah blah blah The Pudding excellent dataviz and interactive blah blah blah. Yes, that's right, it's ANOTHER great piece of interactive datawonkery from The Pudding, which for its latest hit interactive exploration of numbers and stuff decided to build a site to track the most popular misspellings of the names of famouses. It's really nicely built - it shows you a series of famouses, asks you to type what you think they are called, and as you type shows you how many people offered the same spelling as you, along with visual details of the various spell-splits along the way. Which, I've just realised, is an awful description. Anyway, try it! It's fun! Though I have to admit I didn't recognise about ⅓ of the people as I am crap at famouses and they are all American.
  • Glass Leaves: Oh this is lovely. Glass Leaves is a small text toy which lets you plug in any copy you want and then manipulate it in a variety of ways; cutting up the text, removing adjectives, etc. You can stack manipulations, reverse them, and generally mess with the text in all sorts of fun ways; as a means of doing literary experimentation it's not bad, and you can probably add an entertaining layer of inefficiency to your working day if you decide to run all your emails through several layers of this before sending them.
  • The Music Burner Archive: Burning Man's done a quite spectacular job of turning from 'genuinely interesting-looking cultural/artistic experiment, albeit one populated by people who I'd probably cross mountain ranges to avoid' to 'literally THE worst example of the ridiculousness of Valley VC faux-hippy wankery', which is pretty impressive in a way. Still, they're making noises this year about attempting to take it back to its roots and remove some of the 'founders on safari' vibe from the whole thing, so good luck to them. This site collects seemingly every single musical set from the festival from each of the past 20 years - if you dig through there's a pretty incredible and eclectic range of mixes, though there's a slight tendency towards what I like to term 'dog on string music' (which, I now realise, will mean next to nothing to you - oh well).
  • Portmanteau and Rhyme Generator: Another excellent and fun little wordtoy, this one letting you plug in a couple of words of your choosing and then spitting out attempted puns and portmanteau words based on what you gave it. It's interestingly oblique - I just entered 'car' and 'sheep' and it responded with, amongst other things, 'yakcident' which I am slightly in awe of. This is really rather magical, if you're the sort of person who likes wordplay and linguistics at least.
  • Politiscope: This is a really clever idea. A US app, Politiscope exists to offer a quick, easy to access and clear database of elected officials in the US, offering you an at-a-glance look at their voting record, stance of specific issues, etc. through a simple and clear interface. SO useful, this - wouldn't it be helpful to have something similar in the UK, with the ability to do your own quick and easy checking on this stuff rather than having to take the partisan infoslices fed to you on Twitter as gospel (obviously you can check this stuff already, I know, but presenting it like this seems to me like a genuinely sensible idea).
  • King Charles I Return: Thanks Dan for this BEAUTIFUL piece of webwork - I don't pretend to fully understand what's going on here, but I'll just leave the description here and suggest that you ensure that you visit this on a desktop and with the volume up: "Welcome to the website of King Charles I Return—the definitive character re-enactment of the 17th Century Stuart Monarchy faithfully brought to you by Daniel Williams. Join Daniel as he follow [sic] in the footsteps of Charles from his time." This is sort-of lovely.
  • Killiii: Beautiful photography of Inuit people and the landscape they live in, by native photographer Killiii Yuyan. Regardless of how much you think you might not be interested in this, I promise you that these are glorious and you will absolutely fall in love with the polar bears.
  • Hypercard Adventures: If you had an old-school Mac (one of the grey boxes, pre the Steve Jobs pastel revolution) then you might well feel a strange pang of almost erotic nostalgia at this - if you weren't, though, this will probably mean nothing to you. Sorry. "HyperCard was a piece of application software and a programming tool for Apple Macintosh and Apple IIGS computers. It was among the first successful hypermedia systems before the World Wide Web. HyperCard combined a flat-file database with a graphical, flexible, user-modifiable interface.HyperCard also included a built-in programming language called HyperTalk for manipulating data and the user interface." This is an emulator for that. Literally no idea what you might want it for but, well, not my problem.
  • Goatse: This is sad - Goatse, classic internet shock site which I am going to presume I really don't need to explain at this point in March 2019 but which if you're unfamiliar with used to contain nothing more than a large and violently technicolour image of a man opening his anus to startling dimensions from an angle that can best be described as 'photographic colonoscopy', has PIVOTED TO BITCOIN. I think it's safe to say that the time to HODL might have passed, lads.
  • Expensive Chat: Fair play to the kid behind this, who's managed to put a new spin on what I thought was a played-out idea - to whit, the 'pay small amounts to promote something on a briefly trendy url' thing. Expensive Chat is a chatroom platform - you go there, you type, stuff appears onscreen, lots of users can use it simultaneously - with the gimmick that each character posted on the platform costs $0.01 and you have to pay to post. At the time of writing it's raised over $130 - if it reaches $1,000 I am giving up and going to live in a bin because, honestly, it's NOT FAIR.
  • The Improv Map of the World: A Google Map listing known improv opportunities everywhere in the world, for all you globetrotting comedians out there (I can number two known globetrotting comedians amongst Curios' readership - Hi Alex! Hi Rina! - but there may be others) - not sure quite how up-to-date it is, but if you're going to, say, Panama and want to see a man struggling through the realisation that he's not as funny as his mates think he is then, well, here you are!
  • Google 3d Search: Oh this is a wonderful goldmine of odd! This is a beta Google search tool that lets you search speficically for 3d models uploaded to Sketchfab. Honestly, just plug in whatever odd words and phrases spring to mind, and when you've defaulted to 'penis' (I KNOW YOU) enjoy some of the excellent rendering work on display (along with the inexplicable model of a small cartoony mouse called, for no discernible reason, "Big Gay").
  • Is Britain Great Again?: Just, you know, in case you were wondering. Has anyone checked who the first journalist was waaaay back in the early days of this mess to speculate, even in jocular 'it'll never happen!' fashion, what it would be like were we to be a month away from March 29th with no sign of a deal whatsoever? There will have been one - go on, someone do the digging and make them feel smug.
  • Oscar Photos: In case you didn't get enough hi-res photos of beautiful people in fancy, silly clothes on Monday, here are some more. As ever, the Atlantic's picture selection is fantastic, credit where it's due.
  • Underwater Photographer of the Year 2019: Yeah, it definitely feels like these are happening more often than once a year - still, once again, LOOK AT THESE AQUATIC LADS! Many of these are sublime, though I do feel they ought to strip out the very specific 'beautiful woman photographed underwater in a way meant to look deeply artistic but which instead just invokes Jack Vettriano' pictures into their own comedy category (special shout out to the Italian photo of that ilk which is entitled simply "Italian Beauty", which is the most Italian name it could possibly have been given).
  • Cursed Putters: Do you play golf? WHY? Still, you don't need to be a golfer to enjoy this Twitter thread which glories in the over-the-top idiosyncracy of modern putter design - these are SO ugly.
  • Tokyo Livestream: A webcam, capturing the live view of a few busy flyovers and a rail track in Tokyo. Obviously NOTHING HAPPENS, but it's strangely soothing nonetheless and, per all of these things, seems to have a very dedicated community of a few hundred souls who gather to watch nothing at all happen in Japan and have a very civilised groupchat in the sidebar. Join them! Make friends! Discuss the peculiar majesty of Japanese rail transport!
  • Cambridge Digital Library: You want an incredible library of digitised archive material from the University of Cambridge? YES YOU DO! Regardless of whether you have any interest in in-depth exploration of the materials, just clicking through is fascinating; you get a small impression of the incredible depth of the University's archive and a vague, dizzying sense of years of scholarship. Can't BELIEVE the bastards rejected me.
  • The Interactive Typography Cheatsheet: Ever wanted to know what the little horizontal bit on a lowercase 'e' is called? No, I can't imagine you have, and yet now you have the opportunity to learn something you NEVER knew you cared about, all thanks to Web Curios? Isn't it great? WHY DON'T MORE PEOPLE CARE?!?! Ahem. Anyway, this is a nice little site which presents various letters and tells you what various parts of the character are called from a typographical point of view. Did you know that the letter 'g' has an ear? NO YOU DIDN'T DID YOU YOU INGRATES.
  • Vai's Guitars: If you're the sort of person who's really into guitars you probably have at least a passing knowledge of who Steve Vai is - if not, know only that he's the sort of guitarist whose solos go on for about three years and who, to my mind at least, always struck me as looking like a very selfish lover (no idea why that is - sorry Steve). Anyway, this site collects photos of his guitar collection, which will basically be the musical equivalent of actual bongo for some of you.

By Leva Slizuite



  • The Weather on Mars: The fact that you can visit this page and see what the weather is like on Mars - fine, ok, so there's a few day's delay, but STOP with your churlish complaining - is quite amazing. It was a balmy 10 degrees on Tuesday - HOTTER THAN BENIDORM, in classic tabloid fashion, which makes me wonder whether Martian tabloids were full of bikini-clad 'lovelies' frolicking in the unseasonably warm Mare Erythraeum.
  • Names from Films: A datal-led exploration by Mary Zam of whether or not popular names in real life mapped onto popular names used in hit films in each decade from the 1960s to the 2000s. Fine, the data isn't HUGELY exciting but the overall design and interface is lovely, and it's very clearly a post-Pudding project, showing quite how much of an influence the site has had on prevailing dataviz and online interactive aesthetics in a few short years.
  • Goat or Throat: Unsurprisingly this is one of several links nicked from last week's B3ta newsletter - riding the coattails of old-school rhyming guessing game 'man milk or moo milk' (click the link if you like, but it's not HUGELY SFW), this presents a simple challenge - listen to the audio and decide whether the scream you hear is produced by a human throat or by a goat. WHICH IS IT? I keep getting this wrong, suggesting I neither listen to enough death metal or spend enough time at Vauxhall City Farm.
  • The Crappy Games Wiki: This is a bit of a bugger to navigate, fine, but if you're into games and fancy spending a couple of hours delving through a series of slightly-too-exasperated writeups of some of the crappest ones ever made then, well, this will be a godsend. The writing is...not good, in the main, but the games are so bad that that doesn't really matter, and there are usually helpful links to YT let's plays of the titles in question so you can enjoy video evidence of their jankiness should you so desire.
  • An Amazing Thread of Public Transport Upholstery: THIS is what Twitter is for - Feargus O'Sullivan recently asked Twitter users from around the world to share photos of the upholstery used on public transport in their city - these are GLORIOUS, from the predictably adorable Japanese ones featuring illustrations about cartoon mascots and how great it is to be polite and respectful to the elderly, to the incredibly on-brand 70s Scandi brown of Stockholm. Just lovely.
  • Should This Exist: Further proof that the lazily-termed 'techlash' is maturing into something a touch more considered is this podcast, which explores whether there are certain technologies and inventions that are objectively bad and ought not to exist at all. ""Should This Exist?" invites the creators of radical new technologies to set aside their business plan, and think through the human side: What is the invention's greatest promise? And what could possibly go wrong? Show host Caterina Fake (Partner, Yes VC; Cofounder Flickr) is a celebrated tech pioneer and one of Silicon Valley's most eloquent commentators on technology and the human condition. Joined by a roster of all-star expert guests who have a knack for looking around corners, Caterina drops listeners into the minds of today's ingenious entrepreneurs and guides them through the journey of foreseeing what their technology might do to us, and for us." Interesting, speculative and philosophical, and worth a listen.
  • Things Found In Books: A Flickr pool collecting 118 photographs of things that have been found inside books. Doesn't, on my limited perusal contain the all-time classic entry in this canon (a raw rasher of bacon), but nonetheless this is a pleasingly curious collection - WHO is the person who left a card with a short musical phrase scribbled on it along with the legend 'Sadness & Death Theme'? Might start doing that to every book I give to charity shops from hereon in.
  • Byrne's Euclid: To be clear about this upfront, I don't really understand this. It's LOVELY though, and makes me wish I knew the first thing about hard maths, and the design and colours throughout put me in mind of Mondrian, which can't be an accident given the mathematical nature of his work. Anyway, here's the explainer: "Euclid's Elements was a collection of 13 books about geometry originally written circa 300 BC. Shortly after the advent of the printing press, many editions and translations have been created over the centuries. Byrne's 1847 edition of the first six books stands out for its unique use of colorful illustrations to demonstrate proofs rather than using letters to label angles, edges, and shapes. His edition was one of the first books to be published with such detailed use of colors and combined with its detailed diagrams makes it an impressive feat of publishing for the times and it stands out even today as a work of art. This site is a reproduction of Byrne's Euclid by Oliver Byrne from 1847 that pays tribute to the beautiful original design and includes enhancements such as interactive diagrams, cross references, and posters designed by Nicholas Rougeux."
  • Tap My Data: Are you paranoid that THEY are gathering data on you? Are you worried that THEY are compiling all the information into some sort of weird digital puppet 'you' that can be manipulated through the byways of the online and made to perform unspeakable digital acts? Or are you just worried that you'll get crap ads everywhere you go? Whichever of those best describes you, Tap My Data might be of interest - it's an app that claims to offer you an overview of the data that a company holds about you, and a one-stop interface to manage that. Or at least it does that for those companies that are signed up to it, which at the moment isn't many - for organisations that DO deal with data and want to be transparent about it, though, signing up to something like this as part of a 'transparency charter' might not be a bad idea. Whilst it's not quite working perfectly in this incarnation, and whilst it may never, it feels like this sort of thing is where we might end up sooner rather than later w/r/t the relationship between individuals and their data.
  • The Climate Data Explorer: Would you like to spend a bit of time exploring country-by-country projections as to exactly how fcuked we're all going to be in a few short years, and to explore the plaster-on-an-axewound commitments to ameliorating this sh1tshow that have been promised? No, I don't imagine you would, and I don't blame you - it's quite miserable tbh.
  • Nicky Tesla: The first genuinely novel portfolio site I've seen this year, Nicky Tesla's made theirs in a Google sheet - fine, I can't understand a damn thing and I have no idea how you're supposed to read it, but for that very reason it's almost certainly SUPER COOL and has got him loads of work. That's how cool works, isn't it? It's basically 'anything that I don't understand' at this point.
  • Latchel: Disrupting landlords! Not, sad as though many of you will be to hear this, with a baseball bat to the face, but instead by offering an additional layer between tenant and landlord; effectively a remote and decentralised response service to tenants, meaning landlords pay Latchel money so they don't have to worry about troublesome things like, I don't know, the living standards of the human beings they're making money from. As is par for the course in 2019, there is OBVIOUSLY a machine learning component - in this case, it's used to parse requests as they come in with the promise that this will ensure that emergency requests are prioritised. Which is fine, but you just know that this will only work if statements are phrased in a certain way and as soon as someone writes a panicky email using non-standard English that the software will get all confused and the message will get lost and the fire will spread and the children will die. Fine, ok, that was perhaps a BIT apocalyptic, but I don't think we're quite ready to entrust this sort of thing to automated services yet.
  • I Love Shelling: Pleasingly this isn't a celebration of aerial mortar bombardment; instead, it's a site all about how much its creator loves shells. Particular fan of her 'Shell of the Year' roundup posts, though 2018 seems to be missing (this is not ironic appreciation - shells are ace, and I will fight you if you say otherwise).
  • The Cock Camera: You might read the title of this link and think "Ooh, Matt, how interesting! A GoPro for fowl! What an opportunity to get a cock's eye view of the hencoop and to observe avian behaviour without the interference of human observation!". You might think that, but then I would have to take you to one side and tell you that in fact it's the other meaning of the word 'cock'. Sorry about that. Yes, there is now a camera designed specifically to be attached to the penile shaft so as to allow for the sort of ultra-close-up filming that, honestly, I can't even BEGIN to imagine anyone finding attractive; I mean, seriously, at that sort of zoom isn't sex just like watching various cuts of offal sliding wetly across each other whilst wearing someone else's glasses? Still, if this is your bag then I won't judge you (I might). So much to love here - the fact that (of course!) it's internet enabled; the fact that there's an infra-red setting (WHY????); the INCREDIBLE promo video (honestly, please do watch it, it's practically SFW) - honestly, this is a treat.
  • The Amazon Workers' Race Game: Finally this week, as Australian media got round to doing the 'hey, working conditions in Amazon warehouses really blow, don't they?' story, ABC made this game to accompany their report; it takes you through the daily routine of a worker in a fulfilment centre, complete with motivational morning star jumps and the terrifying fear that you're not fulfilling quickly enough. This achieves the excellent balance of being sort-of fun and at the same time making you feel slightly guilty about the fact it's sort of fun - really well-made, and effective in communicating the slightly breathless permahorror of warehouse-based contract working.

By Kevin Peterson By Kevin Peterson



  • Oscars & I: The owner of this blog, which isn't a Tumblr but ought to be as far as I'm concerned, is going through every single Best Picture nominee ever. They are up to 1962 (Laurence of Arabia), and it's interesting to read reviews or appreciations of these films through modern eyes, being appraised by someone who in the main has never seen them before.


  • Strange Planet: Life on earth as seen through alien eyes, in this breakout 4-panel Instacomic by Nathan Pyle. Funny, although if I'm being hypercritical it feels a BIT like the sort of thing that might have been designed be a supercomputer tasked with designing a comic specifically to appeal to millennial Instagram.
  • Juan Delican: Truly amazing CG animations featuring little matchstick people. Literally, matchstick people. These are WONDERFUL
  • Plants at the Window: THE TRIFFIDS WANT OUT.
  • Gaku Carving: I am so cack-handed that the mere act of carving small, 1970s-style rose patterns into radishes renders me speechless with awe. This is mental.
  • Daily Overview: Aerial shots of planet earth.
  • The AIDS Memorial: Towards the end of last year I read 'The Great Believers', a novel about the AIDS epidemic and how it affected Chicago specifically in the 80s - I recommend it unreservedly, it's a beautiful book - and this Insta feed, remembering some of the people who were taken during the disease's peak. Heartbreaking.
  • Oli Krolik: Olga Kamenetskaya modifies dolls - she REALLY modifies dolls. Some of these look like a cross between Barbie and some of Schiele's more skaggy adventures; VERY unsettling.
  • Himaalaya Studio: A clothing brand's Insta feed, featuring loads of promo photography taken in the Himalayas. Just a rather cool and different aesthetic to that I normally see in fashion photography - thanks to Curios' Man in China Alex Wilson for the tip.
  • Raf Grassetti: Grassetti is a designer who works in videogames, and who did a lot of character design for last year's God of War reboot; his Insta feed presents sketches, works in progress, models and other gubbins from his work, and it's GLORIOUS - obviously helps if you know and like videogames, but this is generally hugely impressive.
  • Chiuso Di Domenica: Shuttered Italian shops - as the name suggests, this only posts on Sundays.
  • Ghazaraza: Yoni-ish art, with an excellent Indian-inspired style to the work.
  • This Much I Know: This, apparently, is THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM! Or at least it is according to the VC people at Guardian Media Group, who have decided to throw money at this EXCITING NEW MEDIA VENTURE,which seems to consist solely of poorly-constructed Insta stories done in the same sort of manner as you saw news orgs on Snap doing 3 years ago. Who is this for? What value is it adding? Where is the market for it? WHAT IS THE BUSINESS MODEL?? All questions you can seemingly swerve if you're David Cameron's sister-in-law, whose venture this is. Christ.
  • Haiku for Millennials: Closing out this week's bumper crop of troughs, this is a project by Biz Govindji - Instapomes crossed with millennial angst and ennui, like Rupi Kaur crossed with Bojack Horseman. These are great but also, Christ, this particular caricature is becoming a touch prisonlike, no?


  • The Trauma Floor: First up this week, that report about how - whodathunkit? - working as a moderator in Zuckerberg's Big Blue Misery Factory is actually an AWFUL job that makes you mad and miserable in equal measure. The oppressive surveillance of employee productivity, the ceaseless procession of horrible images being dangled before your eyes, the knowledge that it's ALL real and all being posted up by actual human being somewhere...it would, it's fair to say, get you down. This piece in the Verge is well-reported and well-written and yet is very light on solutions - the problem isn't just that the companies don't want to risk profit by throwing money at this stuff, but also that, because of the limits of current technology, throwing more money at this means, basically, throwing more people at it. If we want massive, free networks but also want them to be policed, then we have to accept that there are actual people doing the policing, and that it is going to be HORRIBLE for them. As an aside, it's worth reading Facebook's slightly oblique non-response to this - WHO writes these and why are they so bad at them?
  • Village Facebook: I thought this piece was a really good companion to the one above - it looks at the peculiar stress of being a local community FB Group moderator, and the very weird sort of behaviours that people indulge in within these networks. The point I wanted to make by juxtaposing these two is that there is a level of interpersonal connectivity above which people will start acting strangely and communities with start to warp; no idea WHAT that size is, but you can see it happening in the village Groups gere presented; now multiply that across THE WHOLE WORLD. I know I keep saying this, but I will keep banging this drum - WE ARE THE PROBLEM AND WE WERE NOT MEANT TO BE NETWORKED LIKE THIS.
  • RIP The Culture War Thread: The final piece on the oddities of community and moderation this week, this is an excellent and interesting essay by the person who for years has been maintaining the Slate Star Codex blog, one of the most consistently interesting sites on the web for years now. He talks about his experiences attempting to moderate a long, meandering, very active thread about 'The Culture Wars' and what it has taught him about said wars and the very particular nature of comment and community online. The bits at the end were most interesting to me - the psychic toll that the work has taken on him is hugely evident in the final few bullets, and you leave the piece thinking that, well, it probably wasn't really worth it.
  • AI Future Crime: On the offchance that any of you are novelists or planning to become one, and that you're in the market for some writing prompt ideas for the sort of things that could go wrong with AI in the future, then WOW is this for you. A paper by researchers at the University of Oxford and the Turing Centre, "this article offers the first systematic, interdisciplinary literature analysis of the foreseeable threats of AIC, providing ethicists, policy-makers, and law enforcement organisations with a synthesis of the current problems, and a possible solution space." Dense and scholarly, fine, but it's worth reading for the chilling section about AI and torture which ought to lead you very quickly to the conclusion that we must never, ever allow AI systems the opportunity to interrogate prisoners.
  • Ditching The Phone: I know, I know, articles describing the author's performative abandomnent of technology and how GREAT it made them feel are a) old hat; and b) largely INCREDIBLY smug and annoying. Given this one's in the NYT it falls pretty hard against the smug/annoying hurdle, but overall it's actually quite interesting as an overall examination of what it is that we lose through the constant interaction with information delivered by screen. I realised the other day that one of the few times I'm not directly consuming information during the day is when I walk (I don't have headphones) - the rest of the time I am always ingesting stuff, which is terrifying and feels like it ought to be unhealthy. Is it? Who knows, I'm an ADDICT AND CANNOT STOP.
  • Mr Wolfram's Personal Infrastructure: Steven Wolfram is an idiosyncratic genius, no question - he's invented programming languages and a search engine that despite being a decade or so old I still have no idea how to use, and I've featured his writing on here before - for such a brilliant mind he's got a really engaging writing style, which is again in evidence in this (LONG) piece all about his personal daily productivity hacks and routines. If you ever worry that you're perhaps a bit obsessional about productivity min/maxing and the like, this will make you feel LOADS better.
  • How Microsoft, Google et al Support Big Oil: Not surprising in the slightest - after all, business is business and why wouldn't these companies sell their services to others in the energy and industrials sector - but a useful reminder of the fact that, despite the nice talk about renewables and sustainability, the dirty old world of fossil fuels and mining and BIG MACHINES is still very much where the money is, and Don't Be Evil stopped being a thing quite a long time ago now.
  • Why Bohemian Rhapsody's Win Was Bullsh1t: I have no particular interest in or care for the Oscars and who won, but this VERY ANGRY piece on Pitchfork does a good job of skewering Bohemian Rhapsody and explaining why it wasn't a good or even fair choice for Best Picture. I was fascinated to learn exactly how nakedly commercial Queen had been - proper KISS-levels of monetisation - and the extent of the corporate tie-ins in BoRap (for that is what it is now called) and how that effectively acted as additional promo budget for the film above and beyond what other contenders had. Hollywood is SNEAKY and Queen, the remaining ones at least, are Tories.
  • The 50 Best Movie Soundtracks Ever: Either something to argue about or something to remind you to listen to Trainspotting again (it's a GREAT soundtrack, I don't care that it's a cliche).
  • Russian Doll, Bandersnatch and Games: In a departure from habit I actually happened to watch an EXCITING NEW AND MUCH-HYPED SHOW! Russian Doll was...fine, clever and beautifully-shot and it treated the audience with a reasonable degree of respect, and I hope they NEVER make any more as there's no way in which they could extend the premise without ruining an otherwise tightly-packaged and self-contained narrative. This piece looks at what it takes from videogames (LOTS) and how it does a better and more interesting job of replicating the game experience than Bandersnatch did. Intellectually interesting about the 'gameyness' of games, and how that can be captured and communicated by television.
  • Fortnite and Mental Health: Another good piece about how Fortnite is less about the game and more about the community - I wonder whether we'll look back at Fortnite as the very first babysteps of mass-adoption of avatar-led digitised social interaction (we won't if you keep writing about it like that - Jesus, that's an abortion of a phrase and I am sorry). Anyway, this is about how young men in particular are finding space in-game to talk about their feelings in a manner in which they might not be able to face to face, and how the digital environment provides mental breathing room. You could, of course, if you wanted, read this as a depressing indictment of the modern world that people need to take refuge in imaginary spaces to make the headvoices stop, but, well, let's not dwell on that.
  • The Rise of the 4-Panel Webcomic: Featuring one of the ones from this week's Instas, I enjoyed this investigation into the rise of the 4-panel comic and what that tells us about the impact Instagram is having on all sorts of slightly unexpected areas of life. I think we're massively underestimating the way that the 'square' and 'rectangle' as a unit of information consumption/transmission are changing how we communicate and what with, which is without a doubt THE pseudiest thing I am going to type this week, so you can now read on in the knowledge that it's unlikely to get any worse.
  • Star Wars in Real Life: As I say whenever I am forced to write about it, I do not care about Star Wars at all and therefore I am presenting this because it is FASCINATING and not because I dream of one day visiting the ice planet of Hoth (you don't need to like the films to know stuff like this - if you're in your 30s it's literally in you, like a slight fear of strangers in vans and the faint pain memory of the feeling of a ridged plastic football hitting your cold, exposed inner thigh at speed on a freezing Tuesday). This is a preview of a new Star Wars attraction set to open up at one of Disney's US parks later this year - the detail they go into in terms of the development process here is insane, and I found myself genuinely interested in the stuff about how VR and 3d modelling and AR were all used to effectively create a parallel digital version of the park on which all construction and changes were modelled first. The rest of you, though, will probably be more excited by the ride descriptions which sound honestly BRILLIANT.
  • Dollars on the Margins: An excellent essay on the myriad benefits of the minimum wage, and how small incremental increases in base-level pay can make significant differences to the overall quality of life of those affected and, as a result, have significant positive knock-on effects in other areas, from social services to healthcare. How someone can read this and still think "Nah, it's a terrible idea" is honestly beyond me. Nothing in this that you won't be familiar with if you've ever read 'Nickel and Dimed' or similar, but if you want a decent suite of arguments to take to your employer when you tell them why they ought to pay the living wage rather than the minimum wage (and you ought to tell them) then this might be helpful.
  • The Shrink Who Believed People Could Predict The Future: I don't want to tell you too much about this - here's the sub-heading: "After a national disaster, a British doctor began collecting foreboding visions. Soon, they closed in on him." Good, eh? Now have this detail: "In the hospital, Barker was best known for his work on aversion therapy, a technique that involved the use of electric shocks and nausea-inducing drugs to treat addictions and other behaviors. He had a slot machine installed outside his office which gave a seventy-volt shock when the lever was pulled." That gives you a reasonable idea of the sort of English eccentricity that this piece channels - this feels very much like the sort of thing that were it filmed would give someone a decent shot at a Best Supporting Actor gong, if you know what I mean.
  • The Universal Language of Football: Sam Diss gets sent to Brazil to cover a 5-a-side tournament sponsored by a world-famous brand of energy drink, and writes quite beautifully about the melting pot of internationally minor-level superstars and footballing geniuses he met out there. Diss is a really good writer - casual but still technically excellent, and capable of the occasional beautiful turn of phrase, and this is a wonderful read.
  • Ong's Hat: On a day where internet conspiracies are all over the news, this harks back to a simpler, gentler time, when someone could create a massive, weird conspiracy rabbithole about phsyics and psychedelia and the paranormal, and it would just be a bit of harmless fun...sort of. Turns out, even back in the day before the internet was such a massive thing people STILL got a bit overexcited by this sort of stuff; still, it's great to read about and is very reminiscent of (and in fact tangentially linked to) that time traveler hoax piece I linked to a couple of years ago and which, obviously, noone other than me is going to remember honestly I don't know why I bother sometimes really I don't.
  • There Are No Winners in the Culture War: Subject to a great online hoo-ha on publication due to its accompanying illustration (since removed), it's unfortunate that what was a (typically) great piece by Clive Martin got somewhat overshadowed. Whilst I think he's perhaps a bit glib about elements of this, the overall description - of serried ranks of combatants across on line battlefields wearing cobbled-together cultural uniforms they don't really know how they acquired - is a good one. I happened to see Lionel Shriver on Question Time last night and whilst she's obviously been a dick for a while now it was staggering the extent to which she has literally just become an avatar for a specific sort of thought rather than being a 'thinker' herself in any real sense (the same can be said about many on the left too, fwiw).
  • Do Things Matter: No, they don't. If I were to get a tattoo - unlikely - it would say "It Doesn't Matter" and it would be on the inside of my wrist and it would be a permanent reminder that anything that happens is almost certainly of little or no significance in the grand scheme of things and, anyway, we're all going to die. You might think it's nihilistic, I find it largely comforting. Anyway, this is a great little essay about how nothing really matters, really, and how that's totally fine and you should just relax about it, ok? Good.
  • The Language of What Happened To Us: Looking back at decades of being a woman and how one comes to terms with the memories of those years with the revised perspective of modernity, when you realise that you only now have words and vocabulary to talk about things you felt and experienced years ago. Beautifully written but very sad.
  • How To Bury Your Dead Pet Monkey: Sandra Newman reminisces about her childhood friend Ted, who was always different. This is WONDERFUL - such a good portrait of difference in youth.
  • Bandit: Last up in this week's longreads, Molly Brodak's story about her crook father and her memories of growing up with, and without, him. There's something about stories that bridge the gap between the world viewed through child's eyes and the retrospective revisiting of that view as an adult that I find hugely compelling, and this is a superb example of that - make a big cup of tea and enjoy.

By Maren Morstad



  1. This is by Radical Face and it's called 'Hard of Hearing' and it's a rather lovely and twee and gentle bit of slightly stripped down Flaming Lips-y indiepop:

2) Next, have the slightly terrifyingly NOW Suzie Wu with 'Error 404' - this is short of shonkily great and I am weirdly obsessed with it:

3) Now have THIS - by Paws, it's called 'Not Enough' and it's another jangly indiepop number which is fine by me, particularly given it's slightly Death Cab-ish vibe:

4) This is Korean, and as a result I have no idea what they are singing about - hopefully it's nothing awful, but even if it is it sounds SO NICE! I think these people normally do pop punk, so this is obviously them doing an end-of-album semi-acoustic closer; anyway, this is called 'Let Me Lost' and it's by the fabulously-named 'Drinking Boys and Girls Choir':


6) IRISH HIPHOP CORNER! I had no idea Limerick was a hotbed of rap talent, but this is ACE - skip a minute in to get past the skit rubbish, but from that point this is ace. Not really sure what it's called, but it's the 4th part of something described on YouTube as 'Citrus, Strange Boy, Hazey - Hindsight' so, er, there you go!:

7) Finally this week, Modeselector feat. Tommy Cash. This is possibly a TOUCH intense but I like it very much - turn it up LOUD and watch the video and try not to look away and, above all, TAKE CARE HAVE FUN I LOVE YOU BYE I LOVE YOU TAKE CARE HAPPY FRIDAY HAPPY WEEKEND IT WILL ALL BE OK AND IF IT WON'T BE OK THEN IT WILL AT LEAST SOON BE OVER OH HANG ON THAT WASN'T QUITE AS UPBEAT AS I'D INTENDED DAMMIT OH WELL NEVERMIND I LOVE YOU TAKE CARE BYE I LOVE YOU BYE!:

Is the age of the app finally over?