Web Curios 15/06/18
Another BIG step towards full dystopia this week - you don't need me to list all the reasons, but my favourite "Christ, we really are living in a poorly-crafted miserable future novel from the mid-1990s" moment came with this Twitter thread which, amidst all the furore over Don'n'Kim, really is worth reading.
Otherwise though it's been more of the same, although I did get to go on loads of rollercoasters on Tuesday so frankly I'm marginally less full of dread and fear than usual. You, though, probably didn't - in fact, you're probably feeling more jittery and scared than usual, what with all the EXCITING FOOTBALL TENSION / TANNED MORON CHIRPSING EXCITEMENT (delete per your preference) happening right now. Why not, then, ease off for a couple of hours - take my hand and let me guide you through the sunlit uplands of this week's internet, pointing out the contentflowers and contentbees and contentbirds and definitely NOT leading you further and further along a twisted and confusing path from which there may well be no return and from whence you may quite possibly never come home - this, as ever, is WEB CURIOS.
THE SECTION WHICH HAS JUST HEARD THE TODAY PROGRAM ASKING WHETHER KIDS’ OBSESSION WITH SOCIAL MEDIA IS A PUBLIC HEALTH HAZARD AND HONESTLY JUST WANTS TO GO BACK TO BED AT THIS POINT TBQHWYM:
- New Rules Around FB Custom Audiences: We’ve all basically forgotten about Facebook being privacy-denying dataminers, haven’t we? Turns out NOONE ACTUALLY CARED!!! Fine, yes, that’s perhaps a touch hyperbolic, but it does rather feel that the whole ‘hang on, these terms and conditions are dreadful!’ furore has blown over somewhat. Still, the fallout continues, and Facebook this week announced that the way in which you use data to create Custom Audiences on the platform will change from 2 July; the change is basically just a series of arsecovering measures from Facebook to comply with the exciting new post-GDPR world, and will require advertisers who create custom audiences from email or telephone records to...er...TICK A BOX! Yes, that’s right, you’ll now have to confirm that you have the right to use those emails or phone numbers in your marketing, and WOE BETIDE YOU if you don’t. This is sort-of laughable, really, but from a legal perspective probably just enough to make sure that compliance is YOUR problem rather than Facebook’s, regardless of the fact that the company is probably better equipped to pay any resulting fines than you are.
- Users Can Now Report Misleading FB Ads: Part two of this week’s series of cosmetic FB announcements designed to give users the illusion that they are more important to the platform than advertisers comes in the shape of this exciting development - users will now be able to leave feedback on adverts to let Facebook know whether the ad buyer in question has lived up to the promises made in the promotion, with advertisers who get significantly bad feedback being...er...well, it’s not really certain what will happen, but one might imagine there would be a process of denial of Facebook privileges and the like. See? They DO care about us! They DO!
- Facebook Doing Blood Donation: We’re not quite at the point where you can open a major artery, spaff the resulting lifejuice over your phone and magically deliver it to a needy car crash victim on the other side of the world (of course we’re not, what are you, an idiot?), but this is an interesting (and, depending on how you feel about social platforms being used to effect widespread behavioural change, quite significant) development for Facebook. Users in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan will now see a ‘Blood Donations’ tab on Facebook which will alert them to opportunities to donate in their local area; the platform will also be promoting the feature to raise awareness of blood shortages in each of the countries in question. By no means a bad idea, but grist to the mill of those who are slightly concerned at the degree to which Facebook is presenting itself as The Internet to users and governments in the developing world.
- Facebook Puts Memories In Its Own Place In The App: This is literally all I have to say about this development, other than that if your most treasured memories are housed on Facebook then I am so, so sorry.
- FB Provides ‘Clarity’ On Its Definition Of Political Ads: By which I mean, no clarity at all! I’m including this solely because I think it’s illustrative of exactly the sort of semantic clusterfcuk that’s resulting from attempting to define ‘political’ in an ad context; this post basically says “Yeah, we know a lot of you, publishers in particular, are a bit scared that we’ll just define anything we think is a bit contentious as ‘political’, but, well, tough!”, and basically acknowledges that whatever Facebook says goes. Which, per the NIB in Private Eye this week, doesn’t really seem to be working that well at all. Still, MORE ARSECOVERING!
- Insta Adds Shopping Tags To Stories: YOU CAN NOW SELL TAT TO IDIOTS USING INSTA STORIES! I could write more, but frankly that’s all you need to know. The piece is annoyingly unclear as to whether this is a feature available to everyone or just select retail partners, but, regardless, this will be everywhere in six months so DON’T FRET KIDS.
- Twitter Goes Big(ger) On News: As per usual, news of Twitter making changes to some of its features was met with POWER USERS (I really do hate that term) wailing and gnashing their teeth and making a series of predictable gags about how the platform really ought to BAN NAZIS instead. Which would obviously be A Good Thing, but sort of also fundamentally misinterprets the nature of Twitter as a business, to whit IT NEEDS TO GET MORE PEOPLE USING IT. That means normal people, not the sort of weirdos who already enjoy getting their kicks from being ‘funny’ in front of an anonymous audience of webmongs - these updates are not for us, they’re for the normies ffs. Anyway, “Twitter is making some major updates to the Explore feed, which will now surface curated pages dedicated to news stories surrounding breaking news, live events and stories in a way that will drive a closer fit to individual users’ interests and help them find more of what’s happening across the site. Some of these changes will also be popping up at the top of user home timelines in a bid to draw users down exploratory rabbit holes that expose them to new accounts and new communities.” In the main, this is going to mean a mixture of algo- and human-curated news and information being delivered to users through the app, positioning (or trying to position) Twitter squarely as the ‘I want to know what’s going on, let me open this and see’ app. Which is, one the one hand, an interesting idea; on the other, perhaps Twitter is underestimating the degree to which normal people want to keep UP TO DATE with the world vs the degree to which normal people actually want to completely ignore the world and instead masturbate to a nightly parade of pituitary meatheads on ITV2. Anyway, you can read Twitter’s own announcement here if you like; there’s literally nothing I can see here for brands ATM, though obviously I may be violently wrong about this.
- Snap Kit Launches: As mentioned in THESE VERY PAGES a few weeks back, Snapchat has now launched its developer kit which allows, er, developers to leverage the app in EXCITING WAYS! From logging in via Snap, to allowing users to use Snap functionality within third party apps, to, bafflingly, letting you do things like use Bitmoji in your Tinder chats, this is a whole HOST of fascinating opportunities; the article linked to here is actually very good indeed on what you might be able to do with this, not least the integration of Snaps and Stories into third-party apps. Seriously, read this one, it’s useful and potentially important.
- Snapchat Launches Ticket Sales: It’s only a trial, and only in LA, and only with one commercial partner, but obviously this is going to be a THING everywhere and for everyone eventually, so, you know, PREPARE.
- Snapchat Adding Sales Tracking To Ad Impact Metrics: I saw quite a few articles this week touting this stuff with a strapline along the lines of ‘Snap wants to show advertisers its products are as good as Facebook’s’, which, well, made me laugh quite a lot; still, this initiative (launching, apparently, with a UK supermarket ‘imminently’) is a useful step in the right direction towards them being able to prove exactly how little a Custom Filter will actually impact your bottom line. Oh, and “Snapchat has also launched its marketing mix modelling (MMM) partner programme, which includes tie-ups with Neustar Marketshare, Analytics Partners, Kantar and Nielsen, to Europe. In coming this side of the ponds its also adding new collaborations with the likes of D2D (Dentsu Aegis), Ninah (Publicis) and independent MMM providers Ebiquity, Ekimetrics and Nepa. Skewed towards helping marketers justify their spend on Snapchat, the MMM scheme will see advertisers being given access to third-party data to better understand Snap's impact on actions like sales and sign-ups.” Let’s...let’s not think about exactly how fudgey these numbers are going to be.
- You Can Now Delete Snapchat Messages Whenever You Want: What have you been sending?
- Reuters Digital News Report 2018: A whole report on how we, the world, are consuming news in 2018, with country-by-country breakdowns of media trust, popular sources and the like. The main takeaways are that Twitter is surprisingly popular as a news source, suggesting that, my pointless snark aside, they may well be right in their decision to go hard on this in their latest update, that people are sharing less news via Facebook and more via messaging platforms, that embedded video on publisher sites is hugely unpopular, and that Whatsapp is absolutely dominating news distribution in the developing / second world. You can read some topline analysis by Rob Blackie here, but it’s really worth looking at the whole thing (no, really, I promise it is).
- How Online Ad Tracking Works: There was an article on VICE last week - which I didn’t link to because it was appalling journalism - which once again rolled out the ‘your phone may be listening to you! And targeting ads! Based on what you’re saying!’ line without any actual proof whatsoever; it was subsequently fairly comprehensively debunked, but made the appearance of this Twitter thread (here conveniently unrolled) this week rather timely. This is an excellent, simple explanation of all the totally legitimate ways in which ads can follow you around the web, which is not only worth reading but worth sending to all your normie mates to explain that, honestly, the online tracking horse has not only bolted but is in fact happily eating grass and frolicking in a field several miles east of here now, so they may as well not worry too much about the gate.
- An Ad For TBWA: I saw this this morning and thought it was honestly one of the best agency promos I’d seen for a while, and pretty much captures perfectly (and simply) how comms can (or ought to) work in 2018 (it also captures perfectly how completely fcuking stupid EVERYTHING is in the here and now, but let’s not worry about that so much).
- The Lockdown: This is billed as ‘The Wold’s First AR Mobile Phone Escape Room’ and OF COURSE it’s a piece of sponsored content by a bank! Step forward ABN AMRO, who have paid an unknown (but doubtless chunky) fee to build this AR game for both iOS and Android in order to, er, well...nope, I have no idea WHATSOEVER why they built it, but well done them. It’s actually quite fun, in a slightly clunky way, but, honestly, I would LOVE to hear how this was pitched.
- Universal Love: Last up in the ‘tedious stuff about social media and advermarketingpr and brands’ section, this is, fine, a bit of Pride bandwagoning, but I rather like the idea and so I’ll give it a pass. MGM Resorts has commissioned a bunch of pretty famous artists to rerecord classic love songs in gender switched versions (so, for example, Kele from Bloc Party singing ‘My Guy’, or St Vincent doing ‘And Then She Kissed Me’) and made them available to stream or download. It’s lovely, you honestly can’t hate this even if you try.
By Liam Cobb
THE SECTION WHICH WENT TO THORPE PARK THIS WEEK AND HONESTLY BELIEVES THAT THE AUTHORITIES NEED TO STEP IN AND BAN CONTOURING MAKEUP VIDEOS FROM YOUTUBE BECAUSE THERE IS AN ENTIRE GENERATION OF TEENAGE GIRLS WALKING AROUND OUT THERE WITH KIM KARDASHIAN’S FACE SEEMINGLY PAINTED OVER THEIR OWN AND IT IS, I WOULD HUMBLY SUGGEST, NOT OK, PT.1:
- Asgardia: One of the companies that pays me for my time - I mean, that’s really all they pay me for, I certainly haven’t done any work in months - yesterday received a press release announcing that, among others, Lembit Opik (former MP, former Cheeky Girl botherer, asteroid enthusiast and regular contender for the title of ‘handsiest MP in Westminster’ for much of the 00s) had been elected as one of the first MPs of the ‘Space Kingdom’ Asgardia. Well, I couldn’t not check it out and, wow, WHAT A PLACE! Asgardia is set to be (it is not set to be) the first ever Space Nation! It has a flag, and a coat of arms, and an ANTHEM! (Never mind that it doesn’t exist!) “Asgardia was created with three top goals in mind: to ensure the peaceful use of space, to protect the Earth from space hazards, and to create a demilitarized and free scientific base of knowledge in space. Asgardia also has a long-term objective of setting up habitable platforms in space and building settlements on the Moon. We believe that the creation of a new legal platform for the exploration of near-Earth and deep space is crucial to keep pace with humanity’s rapid technological and scientific expansion off-planet. Universal space law and astro-politics have to replace the current outdated international space law and geopolitics.” Which is all nice, fine, but sort of ignores the fact that there may be one or two issues down here on Earth which we might want to look into first. Still, with Lembit leading us into this glorious space future, how can we fail? Wonderfully, ANYONE can become an Asgardian just by signing up with an email address, so I look forward to seeing you in space in a few short years time. Honestly, it’s worth checking out the FAQ; it goes into quite startling detail about how electoral systems will work, but doesn’t do a great job of explaining WHAT THE SHUDDERING FCUK THIS WHOLE THING ACTUALLY IS OR WHY IT EXISTS.
- Stonewall Forever: A website collecting and presenting the history and story of Stonewall, from the riots to its establishment as a movement and byword for LGBTx rights worldwide. “Stonewall Forever is a project to find, preserve and share the untold stories of the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and the early years of the LGBTQ rights movement. The LGBT Community Center with support from Google.org is gathering, digitizing and archiving this crucial history. The stories will be included in an interactive monument in honor of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.” An important archiving project which deserves to be spread far and wide, please do share this around.
- GOAT: A rather beautifully designed website for sneakerheads, presenting a frankly incredible lineup of trainers (not just any trainers, you understand, but the sort of trainers that get bearded men in their 30s/40s who were bullied at school but have never looked back since they grew a beard and got into BAPE and DJing and Ninja Tunes in the 90s and who now describe themselves as ‘A Creative’ INCREDIBLY excited) available for sale - new, used and slightly defective versions of the sort of footwear which commands hushed, reverent commentary from the fandom. Some of you might like this - actually, who am I kidding, most of you work in advermarketingpr, this is basically like crack for you.
- The Weather Report: A really interesting idea, this. The Weather Report is a site which lets anyone write a short series of answers to some set questions, which can then be shared via a URL with anyone they like; the idea is that it’s a way for people to share difficult or hard news with others in a relatively low-friction way. So, rather than having to email everyone, or answer individual questions, or write a Facebook post, you can fill in this stuff and just share the url - which strikes me as an eminently sensible idea which it would be great to see being adopted more widely, perhaps as a baked-in feature within platforms. As someone who did the whole ‘a bad thing happened, here is a post about it so I don’t have to explain it to everyone’ FB post a few years back and really wished I hadn’t had to, I can heartily endorse the thinking behind this.
- E3 Recap: This week has seen the annual Vegas jamboree that is E3, the videogames world’s BIG EVENT where publishing studios announce a bunch of new stuff, and thousands of overly-entitled men (it is always men) get angry about it and shout online about how EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE and ETHICS IN GAMES JOURNALISM and SJWs SPOILING EVERYTHING (you think I’m joking? Take a gentle stroll through some of the reactions to a new title trailing a same-sex kiss) - you all have real jobs and things to do, so probably haven’t been able to keep up with all the news, so this site collects it all for you in helpful fashion - every title, with trailers, collected in one place. Only of interest to videogame nerds, obviously, so the rest of you can happily ignore this one.
- Slay Duggee: Continuing my occasional series of ‘Kickstarters We Can All Get Behind’, this is a project to create a metal / punk album for children, inspired by kids’ TV favourite ‘Hey Duggee’ (whose World Cup anthem ‘Kick’ is honestly amazing, and only improved by this metal cover version). Do you want to listen to the fcuking CBeebies album AGAIN in the car, or do you want to listen to a child-friendly version of Extreme Noise Terror? Well, quite. BACK IT.
- The World Cup API: An API! For the World Cup! I don’t know what you might do with it! But I am including it anyway! Maybe you could use it to, I don’t know, make a particular song play every time a goal is scored. Look, you’re the ‘creatives’ and ‘planners’ and ‘strategists’, I just collect links and try not to feel too scared.
- The World Cook: Obviously this is a RUBBISH month for anyone who dislikes football - I am sorry, I feel for you - but there are some World Cup-themed things which should be tolerable even for the refuseniks among you. This, for example - THE WORLD COOK! Collecting recipes from each of the 32 countries participating the in tournament, with new dishes dropping throughout, this is a lovely project and as an added bonus the recipes are presented in genuinely appealing fashion - the step-by-step photos are really helpful, particularly when making stuff from FOREIGN LANDS that you might not have cooked before.
- Control Your Phone With Your Eyes: Your latest shot of AR future tech - this is very cool indeed.
- The Most Iconic World Cup Photos: Here at Web Curios I have a fairly strong policy about the word ‘iconic’ as it’s almost always meaningless; in this instance, though, it’s deserved as these photos are AWESOME. You can’t help but feel the prickly onset of WORLD CUP FEVER as you look at these.
- Football Fields Around The World: More photos of football, this time of slightly idiosyncratic pitches around the globe. Awesome - the photo of the kids playing in Southwark, modern cars aside, could have been taken at any point in the past 100 years, and is SUCH a perfect ‘jumpers for goalposts’ shot, for example - and oddly reminiscent of Goal Click, a project I’ve featured on here before but which I’d urge you to check out again as it’s ace and they are friends of mine.
- All The World Cup Predictions: Do we still believe in Nate Silver? Not sure what the answer to that one is post-2016, but in case we do then here’s FiveThirtyEight’s World Cup prediction hub, updated LIVE in order to help you make statistical sense of all the FOOTBALLING MADNESS (NB I promise that all the football links are done now, honest).
- Dialogue: Everyone thinks they can write a novel, don’t they? And you can! Just be aware that it most likely won’t be worth reading! I imagine much the same applies to screenplays to be honest - helping fuel that slightly deluded fire of creativity is this app, which offers you the opportunity to write dialogue in an interface styled around messaging on your phone; the idea being that the display will help you write ‘natural’ dialogue which you can then export. Which is sort of funny when you consider exactly how ‘natural’ people’s text message exchanges are, but wevs I guess.
- The Creative Future Literary Awards: I am VERY late to this, and the deadline is in a few days, but if you’re a writer from an underrepresented group with work they would like to submit then GET TO IT. Open to poetry and prose, short stories and articles and all sorts of forms, this is a prize awarded to work by the sorts of people who don’t normally win literary prizes. Fcuk Shriver, this sort of thing is important and A Good Thing.
- Ludwig Favre: A photographer’s Insta feed, but a particularly good one. Glorious landscapes, pastel colours and a particularly nice line in depth and layering to these, imho.
- The Olympians: An incredible one-man labour of love, this site is seemingly written and maintained by one person - the idea behind it is to look forward to the 2020 Games in Tokyo, whilst simultaneously looking back at the last Games to be held in the city in 1964. This is very, very dense, but there’s so much fascinating material in here - I honestly don’t care about sport at all, but this is so full of stories and history that it’s hard not to get sucked in.
- Layers of London: An interactive London map which lets you layer various other historical views over the standard 21C view to give you an idea of how Tudor London mapped onto the present day, say. I particularly like the way you can adjust the transparency so as to be able to see exactly how the city’s changed over time; this is really rather fascinating.
- Performative Woke Man: A one-note gag, but a good one - this Twitter account skewers the sort of painfully earnest wokeness of a certain type of Twitter man (not you of course - I couldn’t possibly be talking about you!), whose performative allydom (is that a word? It’s a fcuking ugly one if so, sorry about that) masks a fairly strong desire to get into the pants of every woman he encounters. Is this about you? Is it by you? I feel like I know its creator from somewhere, but that might just be because this is basically every single London media man in their 20s/30s.
- Polymega: This is middle-aged nerd heaven. Seemingly not even available to pre-order yet, this won’t stop some of you getting all sweaty-palmed with anticipation - the Polymega (appalling name, lads) is a modular retro gaming system, which will let you basically construct your own bespoke old-school gaming stack comprising whichever systems you prefer. Want an NES, Megadrive, NeoGeo and PS1? NO PROBLEM. It looks really rather slick, includes all the sorts of fancy bolt-ons you’d expect from 2018 (Twitch streaming, Bluetooth controller, OS, etc), and, should it ever actually make it to market (I have skeptical feelings, to my shame) will rocket right to the top of every tshirt wearing manchild in Christendom (except this one).
- AR Pogs: Pogs are one of those weird 90s relics which I was just too old for and which as a result I don’t really understand - like LA Gear trainers or something. Nonetheless, you may be younger than me and currently winding your way down a nostalgia rabbithole back to those good old analogue days in which all you needed to make you happy were some cardboard discs with some slightly shonky 90s-style XTREME artwork on them - now forget that, and come back to a present in which this is instead turned into a digital game but with the added bonus that you can, er, scan all your old Pogs for AR fun. WHO STILL HAS POGS???? Seriously, these people are asking for $50k to cater for the audience of people who, bafflingly, have kept all their old Pogs from the 90s? I’m not pretending to have any sort of deep knowledge of the Pog enthusiast community, fine, but it does rather feel like every single person within that demographic would have to donate a grand to make this work. Still, if this appeals to you then chuck them some cash - they need about 35k in the next 3 weeks to make AR Pogs a reality (dear God, even typing that made me sad).
- Wheel of Fortune Answers: Tweeting pictures of incomplete boards from the Wheel Of Fortune game and suggesting answers which might be, but probably aren’t, right. You sort of need to click this to get it (unless you’re better at understanding my garbled prose descriptions than I am), but it’s worth it, honest.
- Archive Tweet: VERY useful, if potentially a bit cnuty - reply to any Tweet @-ing the Archive Tweet account, and the service will, er, archive the Tweet in perpetuity, meaning that you’ll ALWAYS have the evidence that THAT PERSON said THAT BAD THING on the internet. Like your very own personal wayback machine tagger, and exactly the sort of thing that journalists and other online arseholes will adore.
- Daily Purr: An Insta feed which posts minimalist cartoons about cats. These are fcuking WONDERFUL.
THE SECTION WHICH WENT TO THORPE PARK THIS WEEK AND HONESTLY BELIEVES THAT THE AUTHORITIES NEED TO STEP IN AND BAN CONTOURING MAKEUP VIDEOS FROM YOUTUBE BECAUSE THERE IS AN ENTIRE GENERATION OF TEENAGE GIRLS WALKING AROUND OUT THERE WITH KIM KARDASHIAN’S FACE SEEMINGLY PAINTED OVER THEIR OWN AND IT IS, I WOULD HUMBLY SUGGEST, NOT OK, PT.2:
- Anon Opinion: I don’t know what’s happened to Rob Manuel of late - he’s gone one some sort of massive online creation bender, for which I am obviously hugely grateful, but does rather run the risk of me having to make him his own section in Curios. Anyway, this is his latest game/toy/project, Anon Opinion, which is tweeting out a selection of user-submitted ‘unpopular opinions’, riffing off the recent-and-slightly-played-out Twitter game. There are some GEMS in here, and you can rest (fairly) assured that Rob’s applying some manual curation to make sure that it doesn’t end up getting 4Channed and just shouting “ACTUALLY HITLER HAD SOME QUITE GOOD IDEAS” over and over again. You can submit your own unpopular opinion, anonymously, here - they’d better be anonymous, or some of you are never working again (although to the person who wrote “I am actually quite into the idea of incest, it’s just my family are all ugly”, BRAVO!).
- Libraire Mollat: The Insta feed of an indie bookshop in Paris. Retailers, look at this and LEARN, it is just lovely.
- Hit Like A Girl: Hit Like A Girl is an annual drumming contest for women - the website collects all the winners and entrants from the 2018 round, and CHRIST are they good. You may have seen the winner doing the rounds online this week, but it’s worth looking at all of these as there is some awesome talent on display here - parents, buy your daughters drum kits! Electric ones, though, with headphones, because I don’t want to have to hear them practice. Thanks.
- List Cleaner: You almost certainly don’t need this, given with how you’ve cleaned up all your mailing lists post-GDPR (HAVEN’T YOU???), but on the offchance that yours are still a bit dusty then this might be of use - an automatic service that does deduping and all the basic things which otherwise you’d have to bully an intern into doing.
- Aural Archipelago: Web anthropology is increasingly one of my favourite things (yes, I am fun at parties, why do you ask?) and this site, collecting the sounds of the Indonesian archipelago along with associated history and stories, is a lovely example of it, “an online repository for the musical sights and sounds of Indonesia, the most musically diverse country on the planet. Part digital archive, part blog, Aural Archipelago mixes field recording, video, photography, and in-depth articles compiled from years of travels across the archipelago.” Gorgeous - and, if you’re a DJ or musician, an excellent source of unusual inspiration.
- Art Passport: A wonderful idea, this - Art Passport is an app through which you will regularly be able to access ‘VR’ (not really VR, just 360 filming) viewings of exhibitions at major museums around the world, with new ones being added regularly (they say daily, in fact)- if you’re an art lover then this is pretty much essential. Honestly, I know I’m a miserable and pessimistic and bleak-hearted, dead-souled mess in the main, but stuff like this is genuinely wonderful and makes me slightly happy to be living in the future. Slightly.
- Ovie: Then, of course, I find another Kickstarter and the rage returns. This is Ovie, a SMART TUPPERWARE SOLUTION that noone asked for; should it get funded (of course it’s getting funded! It’s a pointless solution to a non-problem aimed at the global one percent!) it will allow you to put stuff in tupperware, set an expiry date, and then have all your electronic devices (including your Amazon Home Surveillance Device!) yell at you incessantly that THE CARROTS ARE GOING OFF. Yes, that’s right, you can now ensure that inanimate objects will reinforce and amplify your own existing sense of guilt and shame at your food wastage, you lucky, lucky things. There is one person who will be genuinely excited at reading this, I know, and to them I say “GET HELP SAZ”.
- Cat Explorer: This is a piece of software for the still-seemingly-illusory Magic Leap headset, whose makers continue to claim that it will one day actually be a real thing but who are concurrently doing absolutely nothing to convince that it’s not in fact all a very long-running and elaborate scam. Still, they’re releasing tech demos like this one - confusingly, available to play with on standard VR (Oculus/HTC) sets - which give a theoretical idea of the sort of things you’ll be able to do with the kit. In this instance, that means exploring the insides of a cute, CG cat - yes, you basically get to play X-Ray doctor with a cartoon moggy, running your hands up and down its body to expose its skeleton and viscera (but, let me reassure you, in a cute way!). It’s hugely impressive and very fun-looking, but doesn’t go any way towards making me think that Magic Leap is ever going to be reality.
- Xtian Miller: Typographic poster design on Instagram. REALLY GOOD typographic poster design on Instagram, in fact.
- What Did Earth Look Like 240m Years Ago?: Put in your postcode and see where YOUR house was hundreds of millions on years ago (clue: not where it is now). Pangea is quite a mental thing when you see it all laid out like this - geology’s quite cool really (sentences that mark one down as firmly embedded in middle-age, part x of a series of y).
- Creator Resource: A repository of advice, help and useful resources for people who are trying to make a living as independent comic book artists; there’s stuff here on contracts, copyright, getting paid, etc, and whilst it’s got a North American skew one of the people behind it is from the UK and so they should also be able to potentially help non-North Americans out a bit too. A Good Thing - share with anyone you know who’s trying to eke out a career as an indie artist of any stripe.
- Canals Of Britain: Christ, there really is no way around this - I am getting OLD. There’s no other explanation for quite how pleased I was at finding this, a map of all the old, abandoned, disused and soon-to-be-restored waterways of the British Isles which you can zoom around to plan your next walking holiday. See? Walking holidays. This is what I am reduced to. It’ll be Hornby trainsets and haemorrhoid cushions before you know it.
- Mara: Simple, easy-to-use online photo editor - if you know how to use photoshop then you won’t need this as there are far more powerful versions of this sort of thing elsewhere, but if you’re a...er...slightly less sophisticated image manipulator, you’ll find the helpful and clear interface here a boon.
- Instant 3d Photos: Not quite yet, admittedly, but this is the closest look I’ve yet seen at the tech which Facebook announced at F8 earlier this year which they claimed would let us turn our standard photos into VR-explorable 3d landscapes. It’s undeniably impressive, as long as you take it with the appropriate pinches of salt, and I can see this sort of thing being hugely impressive when applied to sports photography, for example. Before that, though, we’ll have to sit through all the tedious ways in which it’s going to be used for low-grade bongo - hold tight, ignore the poorly-rendered 3d cocks and we’ll be in the exciting future of photography before we know it.
- Focusmate: This is a very, very odd idea indeed. I spend quite a lot of time working from home, and even when I don’t I may as well be due to my charming insistence on ignoring my coworkers in favour of the wonderful and exciting WORLD OF THE WEB; others, though, seem to derive more comfort from a sense of company and companionship when toiling, and it’s for them that Focusmate seemingly exists. As far as I can tell, this is basically Chatroulette but for work - you tell it when you want to work and for how long; when that time comes, the service emails you with a link whereby you and your anonymous work buddy can log on, observing each other by video link so that you can...er...work silently in each others’ presence. WHO WANTS THIS???? Can you imagine anything worse than sitting at your kitchen table typing away and knowing that someone else is watching you do it? Seeing them doing the same in a little window in the top-right of your screen, getting silently, seethingly annoyed at the way they type and the way their nostrils flare? This is an atrocious idea; the only people I can see this appealing to are the types of men who like to aggressively masturbate at blameless strangers online - are YOU one of those men? I do hope not, I like to think better of my readers.
- Neverthink: This is quite a smart idea, I think, whilst at the same time being a really silly one. Neverthink is telly on the web - you fire it up, pick a ‘channel’ and watch, mindlessly, as it presents you with a seemingly infinite collection of videos on whatever theme you’ve chosen. Crippled by the INFINITE CHOICE of entertainment available to you? Abnegate that choice to a mystery algorithm - although actually the channels are ‘curated’ by actual people, which makes the whole thing more interesting than I’d first thought. There are LOADS of channels, they add news ones all the time (the ‘Bourdain’ one is new, for example), and if you are prone to senseless surfing and mindless staring then this could be right up your street.
- Wobble Yoga: This is very, very silly, but oddly addictive; if you can get past level 6 I will be hugely impressed.
- The Last Days Of Our Castle: Finally this week, a ‘game’ story in the style of an old CGA PC adventure - I don’t want to tell you too much about it, but I can’t recommend strongly enough that you try it; the music is gorgeous, the writing is great, and the whole thing has a perfect, abandoned fairytale vibe that is just wonderful. Enjoy.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Hungover Owls: It’s been a slow week for Tumblrs, hence the inclusion of this venerable classic - it’s still fcuking great, though.
- Dean Adams Ceramics: Dean Adams is an excellent ceramicist. This is his photoblog, collecting images of his work. I love it rather.
- OK Cupid Woes: Inspired by this Tweet from Emma the other day, Kevin pointed me at this excellent Tumblr collecting examples of men being dicks on OK Cupid. FFS MEN!
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
- Don’t Eat Before Reading This: The death of Anthony Bourdain last week saw a greater-than-usual outpouring of online grief, at least in the bits of online I see; what was interesting to see how many different tranches of people had been touched in some way by his work, from his Kitchen Confidential days to the recent global TV superstardom. Kitchen Confidential was the first book I ever read about food that made me want to work in a kitchen - it simultaneously proved to me that I was nowhere near hard-working, driven and obsessive to do so. This is the essay in the New Yorker in 1999 which launched post-Les Halles Bourdain onto the world, and which eventually became the book that made his name; he repudiated the more macho stuff in later life, and was honest and open about how much of an arsehole his addict self had been, but, regardless, this is a wonderful piece of writing and is so, so sad to reread.
- Bourdain and the Truth: There have been many, many tributes written to Bourdain this week; this, again from the New Yorker, is by Helen Rosner and is an excellent portrait of the man, his life and work.
- Tony: This, by contrast, is an intensely personal and very, very sad essay by David Simon (who wrote The Wire and worked with Bourdain on a variety of scripts), about losing his friend - this is a beautiful elegy.
- Inside VICE: The big story in media land this week - if you discount The Man and The Hookers, obvs - was this expose of Shane Smith and the VICE empire, which to the surprise of precisely noone told the story of how the entire thing was built on smoke and mirrors and lies, and all done very much by the seat of their pants. I knew one of the guys who worked on VICE when it was a Canadian-only offshoot bitd; he’d moved to London and was working on the UK version which was just starting up at the time, and the parties I went to (and the...uh...relaxed attitude to the law and drugs and the general concept of ‘work’ that maintained at the time) makes me think that there’s a truly wonderful Wolf of Wall Street-style film waiting to be made about all of this. VICE, let’s be clear, sounds like a pretty fcuking bleak place to work.
- Culture and Economic Development: An interesting essay about the relationship between culture and economic development, specifically looking at London and New York and presenting the argument that culture is a major driver - if not the major driver - of economic development and regeneration in major urban centres. Which the data suggests is true, fine, but which also ignores the other inference from this, to whit that it’s culture which is the major harbinger of the sort of gentrification which is pushing normal people out of cities and replacing them with empty high rises and generic media wankers like me.
- AI Is Not A Community Management Strategy: A really good piece about the limits of automating community standards online, and how whilst it’s an understandable method of attempting to define the terms of discourse, it’s fundamentally insufficient when it comes to attempting to actually develop and maintain a culture in any meaningful sense. I particularly like the sideswipe at AI as a catch-all solution to stuff - “try replacing the term ‘AI’ with ‘recipe’ and see if it still makes sense” is a statement which should be applied to basically everything which is banding ‘artificial intelligence’ around in 2018.
- How Terence Eden Became Da Vinci: This is EXCELLENT and a perfect example of why ‘WE WILL VERIFY IT ON THE BLOCKCHAIN’ is not perhaps the universal solution to everything in the world ever. Eden shows how he was able to become verified on an online art platform - POWERED BY THE BLOCKCHAIN, natch - as Leonardo Da Vinci, neatly exposing the fundamental flaw in a lot of this universal record ledger stuff (that being, people).
- The Influence of Twitter’s Power Users: Quite a timely piece, this - the past month or so has seen various bits of Twitter discussing the rights and wrongs of ‘pile-ons’; that is, the practice of quote-Tweeting someone to your followers with the implicit expectation that said followers will give the writer of the original Tweet some warm, cuddly Twitter love on your behalf. We’ve seen Elon Musk do it (and it’s he who’s the subject of the piece), and even lefty Twitter’s been in a tizzy about it with Owen Jones repeatedly being accused of encouraging his somewhat frothy-mouthed devotees to have a bit of a go at people who don’t share his one true faith. The piece basically articulates that there’s a point on a platform such as Twitter, with its necessarily aysmmetric power dynamics, where you have sufficient clout so as to be able to make other people’s lives unpleasant and, based on that, maybe people ought to be a bit less dickish. Seems sensible, doesn’t it? And yet here we are.
- Makeup Shades: This is ANOTHER of the Pudding’s superb dataviz articles, which I’m including in the longreads as there’s quite a lot of meat to this one and I found the subject matter generally interesting. The piece compares the tones of major makeup ranges on sale in various countries around the world to explore whether Rihanna’s recently-released Fenty range of cosmetics do in fact offer a revolutionary range of tones for people of colour (spoiler: they sort of do). What’s remarkable looking at this is how poor the offering for non-white skin tones has seemingly traditionally been - and the extent to which, looking at the Indian market, colourism really is a depressingly real issue.
- Skam: If you work in TV development, the only show title you’re more sick of hearing than Love Island is Skam - if you don’t, though, there’s no reason you’ll necessarily have heard of it. Skam was last year’s BIG INTERNATIONAL BREAKOUT SUCCESS STORY - a Norwegian show set in a school, presented weekly but with the groundbreaking conceit of having the characters lives play out across social media in realtime between broadcasts, offering viewers not only the opportunity to delve into their favourite characters’ inner lives but also to get clues and hints to how the plot might play out. The series was a HUGE hit in Norway and beyond, and has recently been picked up by US TV - it’s being remade for Facebook Watch, and the platform’s staking a lot on it being a success. This piece is a really nice overview of what the show is, why it’s special, and why you are likely to see an awful lot more stuff riffing on the online/offline thing in 2019 (although the grumpy old man in me wants to shout “YES BUT SKINS AND MISFITS DID THIS STUFF YEARS AGO FFS”).
- Wooodcut Memes: There is nothing new under the sun, a point proved perfectly and eloquently by this piece which explains how medieval woodcuts fulfilled the same function as internet-era memes, being endlessly repurposed for different audiences and with different messages. I would be VERY HAPPY if someone could make one of these the next American Chopper, so could you hurry up and do it please? Thanks
- The Local TV Scam: This is a brilliant piece, and a truly crazy and very British story - Local TV is a company which is seemingly exploiting loopholes around regional broadcasting to secure government funding for its work, to the tune of millions, despite making programming which is being watched by a few hundred people at most. Some of the details here are just perfect - the line about the guy behind the company calling the reported back by accident from his pocket is just too perfect. Feels rather like it might be the setup for a Drop The Dead Donkey-style sitcom, which isn’t the worst idea I;ve had all week tbh.
- Instagram Threads: Equal parts baffling and depressing (to me at least, a nearly-40 year old man sitting in his kitchen at the tail end of 7000 words and feeling a touch enervated, if I’m honest with you), this article explores the phenomenon of self-care ‘thread’ accounts on Insta, which post (as far as I can tell) incredibly anodyne ‘self care tips’ for teens. I don’t know what’s more saddening - the fact that I am almost certain that a lot of these are going to pivot to trying to monetise their audience, or that children are so lost and weirded out by LIFE that they’re finding some sort of hope and comfort in this sub-Hallmark bullshit. HMMMM.
- Snowflake: A beautiful photoessay (more essay than photo, fine, but the photos are incredible) about Wilson Bentley, who used home-made equipment and a ridiculous amount of ingenuity to take some truly staggering photographs of snowflakes in quite remarkable close up. This is heartwarming.
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: I always enjoy reading Dan Hon’s thoughts, and this is a typically smart essay about the increasing extent to which we as web users are being asked questions by the services and systems we use to which there is no obvious means of opting out, and what that means from a human and UX/UI point of view. JUST SAY NO TO THE MACHINES.
- The Sinful History of Canoes: This is WONDERFUL. Did you know that back in the olden days, when teens wanted to get some QUALITY ALONE TIME and to touch each others’ mucus membranes they would occasionally repair to a canoe to do so? NO YOU DID NOT! Just take a moment to imagine your own awkward, teenage fumblings - now take another moment to imagine them, but transposed to the inside of a canoe. There is no WAY you wouldn’t capsize, deposited overboard, bum akimbo, to the laughter of your bankside peers. I love the moral outrage displayed in this 1912 newspaper article - “misconduct in canoes has become so grave and flagrant that it threatens to throw a shadow upon the lakes as recreation resorts and to bring shame upon the city.” A CITY SHAMED BY CANOE CHIRPSING! Seriously, take a boat out on the Serpentine this weekend and get fingering; it’s basically historical reenactment.
- The Politics of Now: An LRB piece on the World Cup, looking at the in-no-way-at-all-corrupt manner in which it happened to be hosted in Russia this year and Qatar the next time around. The stuff about Jack Warner won’t be new to regular readers of the back pages, but the sheer scale and brazenness of the corruption’s quite remarkable. I was quite taken by the line at the end, which questioned how long it would be before we saw a similar degree of fervour about virtual sporting tournaments - if the Fortnite craze is anything to go by, and the Twitch numbers on it are mental fyi, not long at all.
- Ethical Cannibalism: WARNING: THIS IS ABOUT COOKING AND EATING PEOPLE, AND CONTAINS QUITE GRAPHIC PHOTOS OF HUMAN TACOS. I confess to having felt a bit, well, funny after reading this; it’s the story of a bloke off Reddit who had to have his leg amputated and decided to see what it would be like to cook and eat his now-no-longer-needed foot. People are odd. Maybe don’t read this over lunch.
- What If I’m Just A Minor Writer: I loved this essay so much. One of the best things my mum has ever said to me (up there with other classics such as “I may love you, Matthew, but I don’t have to like you”) was a few years back where she casually dropped into conversation that she had “realised you weren’t special many years ago”; I mean, fine, it sounds brutal, but it’s also eminently true. This is a beautiful piece about being a writer and the creeping realisation that your work is...ok. Not storied, not for the ages, but...ok. CELEBRATE YOUR MEDIOCRITY WITH ME, WEBMONGS!
- Looking For A Fight: Finally this week, a beautiful and sad look at the last touring boxing tent in Australia, which travels the country with a ragtag bunch of washed up old soaks charging $20 a pop to the public to go three rounds with them. This is poetry, and has the feel of something that could be novelised without much effort - the characters are wonderful and broken, and you can practically smell the stale weed and boozesweats by the end. Truly glorious writing.
By Milena Naef
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS:
- If you only listen to one song this week, make it this one. It is AMAZING - it’s called ‘Girls’, it’s by Girl in Red, and it’s about being young and queer and it’s such an INCREDIBLY beautiful piece of indiepop that it makes me want to be 15 again:
3) I don’t normally feature country music here because, well, I don’t like it, as a rule; this is a rare exception, as this track by HC McIntyre rather grabbed me. It’s called “Baby’s Got The Blues”, which is SUCH a cliche title, but the song’s a lot better than that would suggest, and the video’s a lovely series of compositions in chiaroscuro and worth paying attention to; the lighting on her face is just wonderful:
4) I saw Cigarettes After Sex last year - they were wonderful, but they do lend themselves more to listening on record than at a gig imho. This is their latest, called ‘Crush’, and it will make you want to do both the things their name suggests:
7) Finally this week, absolutely the best fusion of Scottish and Punjabi music you will hear all year. This is ‘Drowsy Maggy’, as performed by The Snake Charmer, and it is pleasingly mental, and I can imagine it being played at multicultural weddings North of the border for many years to come. HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE HAVE LOVELY WEEKENDS AND IF YOU DON’T LIKE FOOTBALL CONSOLE YOURSELF WITH THE FACT THAT YOU CAN DO LOADS OF COOL STUFF LIKE GOING TO LARGELY EMPTY CINEMAS OR TO THE THEATRE OR TO FANCY RESTAURANTS WHILE THE ENGLAND GAMES ARE ON SO CHIN UP AND CHEER UP I LOVE YOU AND I WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY BYE I LOVE YOU BYE!