Does this mean we now have to stop lauding the Saudi regime for its incredibly progressive decision to let women drive cars? Does this mean that they're the bad guys again? What? They were always the bad guys? GOD IT'S ALL JUST SO HARD.
Welcome to yet another week in which once again we have been shown that if you're rich enough you really can seemingly get away with anything, because said wealth means that you are 'strategically important' to others. Cheering, isn't it? At least the disappearance of poor Mr Khashoggi has given us a fresh new horror to distract from this week's idiocy Olympics in Brussels, so his (probable - let's give those lovely guys in Riadh the benefit of the doubt, eh?) death hasn't been totally in vain.
Anyway, I need to brace myself physically and spiritually for the prospect of spending 45 minutes in a confined space with a naked performer later, so I'm off to deodorise my nooks in preparation - while I make with the cotton buds, you make yourselves comfortable and let me gently lube you up with this week's steaming, fresh, slightly gelatinous helping of webspaff. I am Matt, this is Web Curios, and YOU ASKED FOR THIS.
THE SECTION WHICH IS SURPRISED THAT YOU’RE SURPRISED ABOUT FACEBOOK’S METRICS FOR AD SUCCESS BEING ANYTHING LESS THAN 100% ACCURATE:
- Facebook Expands Lead Gen Forms: To be honest, there are probably more interesting stories I could have led with in this section, but this is just the way that the links have fallen this week and I know noone really cares. Anyhow, this is the FASCINATING news that Facebook has now expanded its Lead Gen ad functionality (you know, those ads that let you harvest emails from willing idiots direct from Facebook) to include ad types focused on brand awareness, reach and traffic rather than only allowing it as a discrete unit type. Oh, and the feature’s now called ‘Instant Forms’. That...that was underwhelming, wasn’t it?
- Facebook Launching Creative Compass: This is COMING SOON, or at least at some point in 2019 - this is a service which will analyse your FB ads and tell you how effective they’re likely to be, based on the system’s analysis of your image, copy, etc, though obviously it won’t tell you exactly how much Facebook is inflating your ad’s performance to make its platform look more effective than it in fact is (TOPICAL!).
- ‘Scraped’ Content To Be Downranked On FB: Links to crap content will be downgraded on FB, with the platform suggesting that links will be less likely to travel on the platform “if they have a combination of this new signal about content authenticity along with either clickbait headlines or landing pages overflowing with low-quality ads”. Which obviously doesn’t affect you, with your high-quality content, but, you know, might be useful to know nonetheless.
- Facebook Expands Retention Optimisation To All Advertisers: Do you advertise apps? No? WELL MOVE ON THEN. For those of you that do, though, this might be interesting - FB is expanding the ability to target users most likely to return to your app after two or seven days with ads, to lure them back to the siren call of your generic shovelware. What a time to be alive!
- Facebook Updates Branded Content Policy: A couple of minimally interesting updates to FB’s ‘Branded Content’ partnership functionality (you know, that bit of Facebook which lets Pages tag individuals in their updates and mark them as a paid partner shilling tat for money) - this is BIG NEWS: “Today we are adding more clarity and context to branded content posts, updating the language on the label from “Paid” to “Paid Partnership.” While the creator or publisher will continue to tag “with” the brand, people can now also learn more about the two tagged Pages and the partnership by clicking on a new informational “About this Partnership” icon.” Seismic, eh? Oh, and Pages will now be able to comment on / tag other Pages as Pages - just think of all the exciting brandter opportunities (I know you haven’t thought about that word since 2015, but it’s important to occasionally resurrect the horrors of the past as a salutary lesson for all our futures).
- Political Ad Transparency Comes to the UK: It’s been live in the US for nearly a year now, and here it is in the UK - us Brits will now also have the opportunity to explore the ad buys and targeting of ads deemed to be ‘political’, with any organisation wanting to run promotions of this type required to provide additional information about their location and identity in an attempt to prevent BAD ACTORS from messing with the purity of our democratic process. Although, in a departure from the US model, this only applies to ads which are explicitly promoting a specific individual or political party rather than being extended to a broader range of issues which could be deemed ‘political’, which does rather de-fang the system imho. Still, it’s a step in the right direction (albeit a small, slightly uncertain one).
- IGTV Academy: It’s no secret that literally not one person actually cares about Instagram TV or believes that it’s a good thing with a reason to exist. Still, Facebook have punted hundreds of millions into attempting to make it happen, meaning that they’re not going to let it sink without a fight - witness their latest attempt to make it cool, the IGTV ACADEMY! Snark aside, if you’re a ‘creator’ (don’t worry, I’m not going to rant spastically about how much I hate that term, that was last week) then this is perhaps worth looking at - it’s happening in Shoreditch (like it’s 2005!) next week, and places are available on application, so if you want to learn how to shoot vertical and make BETTER MORE ENGAGING CONTENT then you could probably do worse than take a look.
- Instagram Story School: Or, alternatively, you can check out this suite of instructions direct from Insta on how to optimise your Story creation - it’s VERY basic, but if you need to explain to your grandfather what Stories are and how he can use them to create thirst traps for all the Instagroupies out there then this will be INVALUABLE.
- Twitter Testing Annotations for Moments: It’s slightly unclear whether this is a feature available to anyone who creates ‘Moments’ on Twitter or whether it’s only something that those created by Twitter will feature (actually I have just reread the article and that’s exactly what it is - Christ, but I’m a p1ss-poor ‘journalist’), but the opportunity to add ‘annotations’ (that is, little explainer text between featured Tweets in a Moment) is being experimented by Twitter, the idea being that it will offer context and a degree of fact-checking to the feature. Although given that Moments have gone desktop-only there’s no guarantee that they’ll even be a thing in a few months time - nor, frankly, do I care.
- Snapchat Launches Lenses for Cats: This is, apparently, news. Look, if you work for Pedigree then perhaps this of interest to you; otherwise, you and your special little guy can carry on largely as before.
- YT Changes ‘Engagement’ Criteria For Action Ads: Literally this: “YouTube will now count an ‘Engagement’ whenever a user clicks or watches 10 seconds or more of a TrueView for action ad when using maximize conversions or target CPA bidding. That’s a change from 30 seconds.” It’s...it’s hard to muster much enthusiasm for this.
- YT Launches New Ad Targeting Option: You’ll now be able to target YouTube viewers based on where they’re watching YT - users casting the service to a TV will now be a discrete targeting group, which is potentially hugely useful; I don’t wish to make sweeping generalisations here, but I think you can infer a reasonable amount about the sort of person someone is based on their propensity to watch old TV series thrown onto their telly from their phone, for example.
- If This Then Domino’s: Domino’s continues its policy of making digital innovations which, at best, three actual people will ever use but which act as excellent little pieces of PR because idiots like me write them up as though they are ‘news’. This is a very smart - and simultaneously very, very silly - idea which applies the basic principle of IFTTT to pizza ordering; the service lets you set up some simple conditional parameters which, if met, will trigger the ordering of your favourite pizza, for example if your GE dishwasher starts leaking, or if it’s snowing outside. As an extension of Domino’s overall ‘we are the pizza brand that owns silly tech gimmicks’ this is absolutely perfect, and the integration of multiple brands’ IoT functionality is smart, and the breadth of pre-scripted recipes is pretty staggering. I am grudgingly impressed.
- Adidas Yung: I promise, I’m not picking on Adidas (like the brand would care if I was, obvs), but this is another marketing initiative that I can’t help but get slightly annoyed by; this site for it’s Yung range is, for reasons known only to Adi’s marketing team, designed to look like an exact replica of a Geocities-era late-90s site, complete with tiled backgrounds and 90s slang and...look, WHO IS THIS AIMED AT? Are they finally acknowledging that the only people who care enough about trainers to visit this webpage are old people who can remember when the web actually looked like this? Are any young people actually nostalgic for an era of web design that they are too young to actually practically remember? They’re not, are they? This absolutely feels like the sort of project which was greenlit because a bunch of middle-aged blokes fell into a memoryhole and spent a drunk hour shouting ‘WAZZZZZZUUUUUUUUP?!’ at each other. Still, the rhythm game on here is quite fun so, you know, points for that.
THE SECTION WHICH IS VERY MUCH LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT TIME A UK BUSINESS OR POLITICIAN MAKES REFERENCE TO THE ‘SHARED VALUES’ WE HAVE WITH SAUDI, PT.1:
- Who Paid $0.99?: The latest in the near-infinite parade of ‘ideas on the web that I am genuinely angry I didn’t think of myself’, this is so simple and so brilliant that it makes me a bit sick. There is only one gimmick to this site - you pay 99 cents to its owner to find out who else has been stupid enough to pay 99 cents to find out who else has been stupid enough to pay 99 cents to find out who else has...you get the idea. It’s an almost perfect piece of pointless webart, and I bet it’s already made hundreds.
- Building Hopes: This is cute, and in its AR incarnation reasonably impressive as a piece of dataviz, but I am sort of baffled as to why it exists (WHY DOES EVERYTHING NEED A REASON? Christ, Matt, can’t you just uncritically enjoy something for a change without having to scry for meaning and purpose in EVERYTHING you joyless prick? This sort of rhetorical, fourth wall-breaking flourish is exactly the sort of authorial device which really elevates Web Curios above other weekly linkdump newsletters, I find). Building Hopes is a Google News Initiative artproject which exists as this website and an associated AR app - users pick from a selection of issues, choosing four or more, and indicate how hopeful they are about those issues seeing ameliorative change in the future; this creates a sort of virtual balancing stone sculpture which exists in perpetuity, either on the website or in the AR app. The ‘sculptures’ are a datavisualisation of your picks - there are a variety of indicators on each of the ‘stones’ which show how the general public feel about it, using data taken from Google search trends and the like, and when viewing it in AR there’s a really nice UI to the whole thing allowing you to explore the general direction of feeling around, say, renewable energy. Overall it’s a really well-made digitoy, as you’d expect from Google, though it does an even worse job of explaining itself than I have just done. Just fire it up and have a play.
- Skills From Videos: This is AMAZING - this YouTube video offers a short demonstration of how these researchers have created software which can ‘learn’ movement from ‘watching’ videos. So, for example, they can train a virtual figure in a simulated environment to do backflips by showing it a bunch of YouTube videos of people doing backflips. This is, seriously, quite remarkable - the idea that we have managed to create software that can apply learned skills to a virtual puppet and refine said skills based on repeated viewership is insane, and presages a future in which we’ll basically be able to train our robots to do anything they can watch us doing. I give it less than two months before we see the first application of this to bongo - honestly, combine this with Deep Fakes and we’ll have the first entirely computer generated pr0n movie before you can say ‘is it weird that I’m masturbating to something that is entirely machine-generated?’.
- Tortoise Media: YOu’ll have read about this already this week, I’m certain, but here’s the Kickstarter that EVERYONE (or at least everyone vaguely connected with the media in the UK) is talking about; Tortoise has smashed its funding target with a month to go, suggesting that there really is appetite for some sort of SLOW NEWS organisation. To be honest, the interview in the Standard yesterday will tell you more than I possibly could about this, but the idea is that Tortoise will offer a smaller number of in-depth articles per day, eschewing the churn and pace of the modern newsroom in favour of a more considered and less click-hungry approach to news. The idea of the ‘collaborative conference’ as a forum for discussion and to shape the agenda is fascinating, although imho perhaps a touch utopian, and it will be interesting to see whether or not it can sustain readership once the initial hype has died down; whilst there’s obviously a market for longform, quality journalism online (*ahem*), I’m curious as to whether there’s going to be enough output to keep this moving. Still, the people behind it seem a lot smarter than I am and I’m sure they’ve thought this through.
- Wearspace: You will, I’m sure, have seen a visual of these doing the rounds this week - Panasonic’s prototypical concentration visor, designed to ensure that you, worker drone, are deprived of your peripheral vision so as to be able to better focus on the glowing, flickering screen in front of you. NO! DO NOT LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW! DO NOT BECOME TEMPORARILY DISTRACTED BY THE LOVELY HUMAN COUNTENANCE OF YOUR CO-WORKER! YOU ARE HERE TO PRODUCE! YOU ARE ON OUR CLOCK! WORK FOR US! Anyway, this is the Crowdfunding page for said prototypical design - it’s all in Japanese and so may well say that it’s all an elaborate joke, but why not chuck them a few hundred Yen in any case? This is set to become a must-have niche fashion item in 2019, mark my words.
- Oobah: You’ll recall moon-faced peroxide prankster Oobah Butler’s viral restaurant prank from last year, in which he managed to get a totally fictitious restaurant, called ‘Shed’ (because it was his shed), to #1 in the London Tripadvisor rankings - as a result of the scam, Oobah has spent the past 12 months being bombarded with interview requests by the world’s media and understandably got a bit fatigued by the whole thing. He decided to see whether he could get away with outsourcing his media duties to a succession of slightly iffy lookalikes - you can read the (excellent) writeup here, but the upshot is that he totally managed it. He has now launched ‘Oobah’, a service which purports to allow anyone to enjoy the same sort of liberating doppelganger army effect on demand; it’s a joke, fine, but I also get the impression that there’s probably some sort of deeper gag at play here - you can sign up, say what you want the lookalikes for, and….well, we will see. I’ve asked for a lookalike to help me achieve stratospheric Instagram fame, so if I abandon Curios for a career as a speedy lollipop-flogger you’ll know why.
- MAKERPhone: There’s a line in Houllebecq’s ‘Atomised’ in which one of the protagonists launches into a fairly typical miserabilist riff about how they are an entirely useless example of parasitic humanity because they exist in a world that they simply don’t understand surrounded by objects and artifacts that they couldn’t possible recreate themselves. If you too are afflicted by this peculiarly anthropocene malaise you might want to invest in the MAKERPhone, now 10x funded on Kickstarter, which will deliver to you all the components you will need to make your very own smartphone. This sounds BRILLIANT, for the right type of person - you’ll be able to hack it together, customising the look and the software and the like, and you’ll learn loads about electronics while you’re about it. This is the sort of thing that the slightly whimsical part of me likes to envision parents and kids doing together, while I cry imagining the sort of childhood I never had.
- Seven Square Miles: Aerial photographs, culled from Google Maps, showing areas of seven square miles from around the world. A truly beautiful reminder of the wonderful diversity of the planet and the weird beauty of semi-abstract landscapes.
- Sociality: An online art project focused on the ways in which technology is increasingly being used to control and manipulate in covert, concealed ways. “Paolo Cirio identified classes of patents, then collected, aggregated and sorted the data on the website https://Sociality.today where thousands of patents of problematic technologies are exposed. On Sociality’s website everyone is able to browse, search, submit, and rate patents by their titles, images of flowcharts, and the companies that created them. Both the artist and the online participants perform oversight of invasive inventions designed to target demographics, push content, coerce interactions, and monitor people.” Interesting and incredibly bleak once you dig into it - you can read a proper writeup elsewhere on Imperica, but it’s worth a delve around inside the archive; it will take you about 3-4 minutes to find something that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Big Mac Data: The Economisty is making the data underpinning its famous Big Mac Index - its regular tracker of the price of McDonald’s most famous product as a measure of global economies - freely available. You can do ANYTHING YOU LIKE with it, so I look forward to seeing all sorts of excellent data projects mapping the cost of a Big Mac against, say, the volume of Pr0nhub searches for ‘Vore’ or similar. Whilst correlation doesn’t equal causation, I bet you can show some VERY odd things with this stuff.
- Personas: A simple, lightweight cartoon avatar generator, letting you create an easily customisable digital...er...persona for yourself to download and use as you please. You can probably spend an enjoyable few hours this afternoon creating your entire office out of these and then replacing their photos on the company website (this is a GREAT idea, please can someone give this a go? You almost certainly won’t get sacked).
- Colourblindly: A Chrome extension which enables you to see what a webpage would look like if you suffered from colour blindness. Not only really useful from an accessibility and design point of view, but also the sort of thing which you could use to really mess with someone’s head - try setting it to run on your deskmate’s computer and see whether you can convince them they’ve got some sort of unexpected and inexplicable ocular degenerative disorder!
- Maniac Pumpkin Carvers: Carving pumpkins is HARD, or at least it is if you’re me and have all the artistic elan of Helen Keller. Maniac Pumpkins are apparently something of a New York institution, and make the whole process look incredibly easy - these people will, for a fee, provide you with professionally-carved gourds depicting whatever you prefer, from faces to abstract designs to everything inbetween. Obviously this is of no use to you whatsoever unless you happen to be in New York, but the gallery of work on the site is astonishing and worth a look and, who knows, maybe one of you reading this will be motivated to start your very own ripoff pumpkin carving business. I feel so inspirational.
- Piano Genie: Another project which is sort of akin to magic. This is a bit tricky to explain, but imagine a system which would let you improvise on a piano using 8 simple buttons rather than the 88 keys which you’d usually have to use, and which would allow you to do this with literally no musical talent whatsoever. You imagining? GOOD. This is exactly that - you can see the whole site here, which details how the tech works in proper detail and lets you see the code and the rest, but the main link here takes you to the webtoy version which, honestly, is incredible. It looks like crap, fine, but you will be amazed at the oddly melodious tunes you’ll be able to spaff out just by mashing your keyboard. I’m going to add ‘Jingle Composer’ to the list of ‘jobs that the robots are going to steal’.
- Macaw: Macaw’s an interesting idea, designed to make your Twitter feed a little more interesting - it basically tracks the things that people in your network ‘like’, and presents you with a daily curated roundup of said things; the idea being that it will surface content and Tweets which are considered ‘good’ by people whose opinions you presumably respect but which wouldn’t necessarily have been surfaced by the algo. Of course, this could simply expose all of your Twitter network as people with appalling opinions and taste, but that’s part of the fun!
- Asaro: This is one of those occasional things one stumbles across online which makes you realise quite how mad the lives of the super rich must be. Do you own a yacht? Are you bored with the endless sailing and discovery and exploration and diving and eating and sealife and sunsets and booze and the like? Of course you are - who wouldn’t be jaded? Why not employ Asaro - as far as I can tell, basically the Punchdrunk of the superyacht community - to create a bespoke theatrical interactive EXPERIENCE for you and your guests? Whether that be a Pirates of the Caribbean-style adventure, some sort of zombie-themed island escape or maybe something involving Atlantean aliens or suchlike, they will do it for you (for a doubtless eye-watering price). I would LOVE to see the sort of thing they can do, so if any Curios readers happen to have access to a yacht and 5-6 figures disposable income then, well, I am ALL YOURS.
- Fold’n’Fly: I think it’s half term next week - I imagine those of you with kids are practically FRANTIC wondering how in the name of Christ you’re going to keep your progeny occupied in the schoolless downtime (look, just accept the fact that you’re going to leave them in front of Fortnite for a week and be done with it - it’s ok, they’re probably beyond saving), so I offer this as some sort of potential solution. This website presents schema for a bewildering variety of paper planes to fold and fly - there’s at least a morning’s entertainment in this. For those of you reading this at work, go and raid the printer RIGHT NOW and start folding.
- Slowly: This is a lovely idea. Slowly is an app which connects strangers from around the world to be penpals - the gimmick here is that your messages get delivered...er...slowly, with the length of time it takes to deliver a missive dependent on the real-world distance between two correspondents, mimicking the time taken for a letter to make its way around the world back when people actually sent physical letters to each other. Honestly, this is so, so cute.
- Vidometer: A potentially neat little app which lets you record video and export it with a small dynamic map in the corner; the idea being that if you’re a cyclist or motorist or whatever, you can record your first-person video and combine it with a routemap, showing exactly where you are at any point in the film. Look, this might be useful, it might not, you decide.
- Times New Romance: Beautiful embroidery. Not really got much else to say here, this is gorgeous work with a lovely, fourth-wall-breaking side to it.
THE SECTION WHICH IS VERY MUCH LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT TIME A UK BUSINESS OR POLITICIAN MAKES REFERENCE TO THE ‘SHARED VALUES’ WE HAVE WITH SAUDI, PT.2:
- Journey to the End of the Cast List: Kickstarting an artbook celebrating and commemorating the unsung actors who fill such small-but-vital roles in films like ‘Puking Girl’ or ‘Man with Teeth’; “From 'Exuberant Mourner' (Analyze This) to 'Arthritic Cowboy' (Who Framed Roger Rabbit), 'Sad Woman with Horns' (Guardians of the Galaxy) to 'Man Shot in Head 3' (The ABCs of Death), movie history is replete with curiously named characters bringing up the rear of the cast list. And Introducing is a survey of those bit-part and background character credits, organising them into almost 100 categories—some predictable (men, women, bystanders, henchmen) and some more surprising (screaming characters, toothless characters, characters whose names are simply their one line of dialogue).” Awesome.
- Books For The Visually Impaired: The Internet Archive really is a superb resource - not just for things like last week’s archive of C64 games, but also for stuff like this, an incredible selection of digital books designed specifically for people with degrees of visual impairment, available for free.
- Dress Code Shirts: I can’t quite work out whether these are sort of cool or the naffest things ever (probably the latter, based on that) - Dress Code make shirts which are, as the name suggests, designed around code; so you’ll have patterns based on cursors or binary or whatever else. If you want to advertise the fact that you’re a massive nerd via the medium of tailoring, then this is perhaps a marginally less embarrassing way of doing so than that faded Star Wars tshirt with the curry stains on it (THROW IT OUT).
- Shoe for Virtual Feet: An offshoot of the Virtual Reality Photo Project, which takes high-res arty photos from within videogame worlds, this is a photo series depicting videogame characters’ footwear. No more,no less, just digital shoes from a wide range of titles. As an aside, if you can name more than about 5-6 of the games featured here just by looking at the characters’ shoes, you have a very real problem and probably need to get out more (I got 5).
- Insta Story Templates: This is a clever idea, and I think we’ll see more of these sort of template-y creativity-facilitating hacks for Story production as they move ever-closer to being the only way in which people are allowed to communicate with each other online. These are a useful series of template formats into which you can drop images, gifs, video, etc, and stitch them together into a Story which you can then export to Insta (or, one would imagine, Snap or FB or WhatsApp or whatever else you choose). It won’t, let’s be clear, instantly make your content interesting, but it will mean that you can combine a bunch of crap images from your camera roll in marginally more innovative ways than your other basic friends.
- The NPC Snap Filter: This is apparently being co-opted by lefties as a joke reaction to the ‘SJWs are NPCs’ trope (see last week’s Curios, or this article, if that means nothing to you) - this filter replaces people’s faces in Snap with the blank, 2d NPC avatar for ‘comic’ effect (your mileage may vary).
- Butterfly Wings: Quite incredible macro photography of butterfly wings - these are AMAZING and beautiful and sort of awe-inspiring, whilst at the same time putting me very strongly in mind of really, really bad velvet print artworks (honestly, you will know exactly what I mean, just click).
- Anigay: Included in no small part because the name made me giggle childishly, this is a website exploring queer issues in anime - “Our mission at AniGay is simple: To let you in on our conversations about queer anime! We have a ton of thoughts, and we want to present them in a slightly more polished form than is possible on Twitter. So AniGay will host our interpretations, analyses, and theories as well as glimpses into our adjacent research, and anything else we feel like writing and publishing, as long as it’s related to queerness in anime.”. It’s all actually quite serious in a gender studies academian sort of way, but, well, ANIGAY!
- Destination Reads: Such a good idea, this, to the point that I’m amazed that I’ve not featured it before (Google says I haven’t and that’s good enough for me). A really simple premise, the site lets you tell it where you are travelling and then suggests novels for you to read which are set in your holiday destination. That’s literally it, fine, but it’s a hugely useful service for people who like a bit of literary immersion along with their travels. There are only 8 cities served so far, which is a crying shame - it feels like this needs some sort of Wiki element to allow for the crowdsourcing of a proper list; they are actively soliciting contributions and suggestions, though, so perhaps it will grow over time.
- The LGBTQ Game Archive: This week’s ‘you saw it last week on B3ta, now get it on Curios!’ link, this is “a resource for researchers, journalists, critics, game designers/developers/publishers, students, gamers and/or people who play games and anyone else who is interested in learning more about the history of LGBTQ content in video games.” Honestly fascinating to see how the depiction and representation of non-cis gender identities has developed through four decades of videogames, as well as the ways in which the queer community has seen and embodied itself through the medium of games.
- All The Games of IGF: All of the trailers from all of the games at this year’s Independent Games Festival. There are over 200 videos here, which will take you through to hometime seamlessly if you start watching them now.
- Birds Aren’t Real: This is excellent, and SO well done. Birds Aren’t Real is a spoof truther movement, perfectly mimicking many of the more rabid conspiracy theories of the web, which seeks to expose the fact that birds are, er, NOT REAL. Yes, that’s right, we’ve all been tricked into thinking that these flying things are organic creatures whereas in fact they are specially designed covert surveillance machines. THE BIRDS ARE A LIE! There is so much to love about this, not least the tone which oscillates between concerned and informative to absolutely screaming batsh1t, and were they not sold out I would absolutely purchase a ‘Birds Are A Lie’ tshirt.
- O-Face or Ow-Face: I have been waiting to write that for 6 whole days now, it’s been a struggle to keep it in I tell you. This is wonderfully bizarre - a video accompanying an academic research project seeking to examine the differences in facial expression produced when people feel pain versus when they feel pleasure. Have you ever wanted to see an animated representation of exactly how someone’s orgasm face differs from the face they pull when they smack themselves with a hammer? OH GOOD!
- Updated Public Service Announcements: “Between 1936 and 1943, artists working for the Works Progress Administration designed more than 35,000 posters—of which the government printed over 2 million copies—promoting local and national programs, travel and tourism, and WPA-funded cultural programming, as well as doling out health-and-safety advice.” - this site presents a selection of new posters, updated for modernity. These are wonderful and I would buy them all in an instant.
- The Andy Warhol Photography Archive: 3,600+ photos from the Warhol photo archive, free to browse online. Absolutely wonderful (the site logs you out after about 15 minutes, which is annoying, but you can browse freely outside of that small restriction).
- Hallowe’en Whimsey Mask: Do you have a Hallowe’en costume yet? No? WELL HERE YOU ARE THEN (this is a *bit* NSFW, but, honestly, live a little!).
- The Greatest Bear: Finally in this week’s miscellania, absolutely the gayest game you will play all week. A Streets of Rage-style side-scrolling beat em up, The Greatest Bear puts you in the shoes of Joe, a repressed, beaten-down office drone who one night after work stumbles into a mysterious (and VERY GAY) bar - cue you fighting your way through several levels representing various areas of Joe’s subconscious, complete with muscle daddies, massive cocks and an awful lot of...well, not to put too fine a point on it, an awful lot of jizz. This is VERY funny, hugely stylised and an awful lot of fun - it’s also hugely NSFW, although to be honest if you can get away with playing a very obvious 90s-style videogame on your work computer then I don’t imagine anyone will care too much if said videogame includes a large number of massive, veiny throbbers.
THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:
- Loko: Gorgeous, glorious geometric baking by the hugely talented Lauren Ko.
- Isabel Peppard: :Peppard is a sculptor and animator whose work tends heavily towards the grotesque and macabre, and her Insta feed is a lovely (not that lovely on reflection) collection of slightly horrifying models in progress.
- Matti Varga: The feed of photographer Matti Varga, whose work has a particular millennial-palette-aesthetic to it, and a wonderful feeling of distance (he said, pseudily).
- Watching Mr Bingo: Cartoonist, artist, animator and adland escapee Mr Bingo curates this Insta feed, where he posts photos of him taken by other people spotted in the wild. Proof that he really does seemingly only ever wear shorts.
- Kazu Studios: Feed of the work of Kazuhiro Tsuji, who makes Ron Mueck-style giant, hyperrealistic heads. These are UNCANNY.
- The Cheeky Blog: The Insta feed of the website of the same name, this shares illustrations and observations about being a woman. No idea how relatable or whatever these are what with my being a man, but the latest one, about leaving your bra in the fruitbowl, made me laugh.
- Conservatory Archives: Photos of conservatories and greenhouses across East London, because plants ALWAYS make things better.
- Cams Dins: Submitted by Curios reader Tom Lawrence (THANKS TOM, WHO I HAVE NEVER MET! It’s always nice when I get reminded that people other than my immediate relatives occasionally read this), this is a feed documenting the meals of one Cameron Sharpe. I have no idea who he is, or who runs this feed, but the quality of the food photography here is...upsetting.
By Joon Lee
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- The Other Blog: A collection of experiments with Deep Dream tech, in the main, often using it on videogames to trippy effect.
- The Blog That Celebrates Itself: Not actually a Tumblr! Still, this is a collection of albums of cover versions - no idea who compiles these, or where they are sourced from, and some of them are DREADFUL (I am listening to a very odd, slightly shoegazy cover of the Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Disarm’ right now and rather wishing I wasn’t), but, hey, it’s weird and it’s on the the internet and so I present it here for your ‘pleasure’.
- She Said I’m A Robot: LOTS of drawings, illustrations, renders, etc, of mech-type robotics.
- Joel Remy: Arty gifs. Lovely, lovely arty gifs.
- The Styles Gifs: Lots - too many? - gifs of Harry Styles. Look at his lovely hair!
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- What Happens Next?: Confession - I haven’t read all 50 of these essays, exploring the potential future of a variety of different sectors and industries, but I have read some of them, and the ones I have read were fascinating and thought provoking. As we hurtle towards the annual predictions season, this is a smarter roundup of some coming trends than we usually see.
- Escape From Fantasy: If you work in advermarketingpr you might well have seen this this week, but in case not it’s very much worth a look - Martin Weigel here presents a talk (it’s in slides, in the main, but perfectly comprehensible) about the terrible problem that the ad industry has - to whit, we only talk to ourselves and we know the square root of fcuk-all about anyone outside of London media land, whatever we might try and tell ourselves. Compellingly argued - if nothing else, this is a masterclass in how to structure and present an argument.
- Why Isn’t InstaTV Working?: Fine, it’s a bit premature to call it a flop, but it’s clear that InstaTV hasn’t exactly been a rip-roaring success either (when was the last time you opened the app? I just did, for the first time in about three months, and immediately wished I hadn’t - man there’s some dross on there). This piece presents a reasonably clear-eyed look at how it’s doing so far, some of the reasons it might not quite have taken off (indeterminate format is an issue - there’s no evidence that there’s a market for vertical video longer than 2-3 minutes, for a start), and what it might need to do to fix its issues (discovery being the big, screaming, obvious thing). Obviously we’ll all look back on this with quaint disbelief when we all have IGTV streaming direct into our frontal cortex in 2027.
- //medium.com/@MSF_USA/creating-a-comic-at-one-of-the-busiest-maternity-wards-in-the-world-7d255a9f393c">Hila: This is superb. A comic created on behalf of Medecins Sans Frontieres by Aurelie Neyret from her illustrations sketched during a nine-day stay in an Afghan hospital, Hila is about the war and recovery and womanhood and birth and death, and is absolutely superb. Do have a read.
- Male Coworkers: A Reddit thread in which women detail some of the things that their coworkers do which creep them out a bit - MAN there are some examples of some incredibly sketchy behaviour here. Who thinks its ok to spontaneously give their colleagues back rubs, ffs? And, er, why is noone offering them to me? Seriously though, this is bleak.
- Reflecting on Reddit: A revealing, and depressing, interview with former Reddit product head Dan McComas, who talks about his time at the platform in less than glowing terms - his statement that his work there made the world a worse place is unusually clear-headed for someone in tech, and his assessment of the fundamental problems facing social media platforms (that is, the VC-driven obsession with growth as the single most important metric of success) is a smart one. He’s also interesting on the dominance of Facebook and its likely continuation - it’s sobering to see someone who knows about community building at scale basically suggest that Facebook’s scale means that anyone else out to basically give up. Er, don’t give up!
- Instagram’s Harassment Problem: Following on from a piece last week, another article focusing on the fact that - SURPRISE! - Instagram is an undermoderated hole of people being mean to each other! It follows on rather perfectly from the above piece - the problems here described are absolutely a function of prioritising user growth above all else, and not stopping to think about scaling a service to deliver a decent experience for said swelling mass of users. Obviously AI is going to solve all of this - OBVIOUSLY - but til it does you might as well get used to everywhere on the web being an absolute horrorshow in terms of abuse. Great!
- Palm: This very much feels like a joke, but seemingly isn’t one - Verizon is launching a new product in the US next month, a mini-phone called ‘Palm’. The idea is that it’s a smaller smartphone with fewer apps and features which you can take out with you at times when you don’t want the distraction or hassle of your full-featured beast. WHAT??? THIS IS MENTAL. People are going to spend $350 on an additional phone that doesn’t do as much stuff as their existing phone because they don’t have the strength of will not to fiddle with New Star Manager throughout dinner? ARE WE ALL UTTERLY MAD?! This is possibly the most pathetic thing I’ve read all week.
- This Is How Amazon Loses: Obviously it’s not really about that at all - Amazon, and by extension MechaBezos, will never lose - but instead an interesting explanation of some of the UX/UI tricks that Amazon uses to promote its own products and encourage buy-in to Prime and other subscription categories. Diabolically smart, damn them.
- The Google Pixel 3: A review of a new phone that really isn’t a review of a new phone at all, this is a surprisingly brilliant piece of writing and a weirdly accurate representation of where our relationship to technology feels like it’s at here in Q318.
- Meet The Steak-Umms Twitter Guy: And so after the Tweetstorm and the analyses, we get the inevitable interview with the mid-20s bloke who writes Tweets for a processed meat products brand. What, as they like to say, a time to be alive. The very BEST thing about this - the thing which will cause ulcers in a lot of brand and social media people - is the whole ‘yeah, there’s no real tone of voice or coherent strategy here. I just write stuff’. IN YOUR FACE, OVERPAID SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY W4NKERS! Oh, er, hang on, that’s me.
- Dallas at 40: Dallas! Shoulderpads! J.R.! The dream series! Hair! Oil! Shooting! Hats! You may or may not be old enough to remember Dallas - I have fond memories of the theme tune, and watching the show with my mum despite not really having any interest in the power-hungry machinations of a fictitious family of Texan oil barons - but this is, regardless, a fascinating oral history of the programme’s genesis and rise to become one of the most famous entertainment properties in the world. Lots of lovely details here, but the bit that most struck me is the really rather poignant line from Larry Hagman’s daughter where she reflects on her dad’s character: “At least in his conversations with the press, Dad would distance himself from the J. R. character. He wanted everybody to know that he was a nice guy. But in truth, it wasn’t all that different. Dad loved secrets, and he was very good at deals. Only after his death did I realize that he had had multiple affairs. That’s a very J. R. kind of thing.”
- Depression Diagnosis By App: There have been a spate of articles this past week about patents for Alexa and other platforms which will, it’s hoped, assist in the diagnosis of depression and other mental conditions; this piece specifically looks at an app called Mindstrong which claims to be able to assess users’ mental states based on factors such as their typing speed, the amount of time they spend on certain apps and pages, scroll speed and the like. This...doesn’t sound great, does it? I mean, fine, the theoretical idea of being able to better diagnose people who are sad is positive, but the idea that your devices are constantly monitoring you for the slightest sign of emotional instability is...well...troubling. I’d want to give the Ts&Cs of anything like this a fairly thorough frisking before trying them out, in summary.
- Extreme Haunts: Last weekend I found myself at an ‘Immersive Horror Experience’ in Brentwood - I went because I thought it would be theatre-ish and because I am a sucker for immersive, interactive stuff (I will be doing this in a few hours, which may or may not be good), not because I particularly wanted to be waterboarded - and spent an evening being forcefed maggots, shouted at by large, intimidating men, locked in a small cupboard with a very worried stranger, subjected to some sort of ‘I’m a Celebrity’-style ‘head in a perspex box of critters’ experience, dragged along a concrete floor by my ankles, doused in ice-cold water and, finally, having electrodes attached to my neck, nipples, hips and scalp. It was....it was horrid, to be honest, and I don’t really ever want to do it again (and to compound my humiliation I was forced to tap out in pain right at the end and so didn’t even get the celebratory photo which you win for butching out the whole thing. My girlfriend did, though, and was smugly unbearable about it for the rest of the night, although I note that at no point did they attempt to put a few thousand volts through her tits. Anyway, this piece is all about the growth of the haunted house experience in the US - frankly some of the experiences detailed here make my Saturday sound like an afternoon at soft play; does this sound like fun to you? You weirdo.
- The Wasteland Weekend: An incredible photo essay, this, about the Wasteland Weekend, which is a Burning Man-style weekend festival in the California desert, with the gimmick here being that everyone dresses up like some sort of post-apocalyptic warrior and roleplays some sort of Fallout/Mad Max-style world for a couple of days. This sounds SO much better than Burning Man, not least as you get the feeling that Sir Martin Sorrell wouldn’t be welcome here; the cage fighting sounds a touch brutal, mind. Amazing photos.
- The Magic Leap Con: A brilliant and brutal takedown of the Magic Leap, whose technology is pretty far away from what its creator promised throughout its development process and whose software is seemingly little more than a tiny collection of mediocre games and cutesy toy experiences, all for £3k. This gives you a taste of the arguments: “I met one developer who’d flown from Singapore to retrieve his goggles and attend the event, and another who said he’d scrimped and saved before managing to buy the device, which left him broke. “I made the Leap, I guess,” laughed Brian Wong, a 30-year-old who says he is self-funding a brain-computer interface project. “I’m still paying it back. I had to really scrape every penny I got to come up with $2,400, you know. But honestly, no regrets.” The thing about the first iPhone analogy is that while, sure, it was imperfect, there was a UI paradigm and several elements that were immediately gripping, that “just worked” as a certain late turtlenecked guru might have said. It was immediately clear why a touch-based Google Maps app or a graphics-rich mobile web browser was something you’d want to have in your pocket all the time, or that scrolling through an address book with the flick of a finger made sense—Magic Leap One’s appeal beyond entertainment is almost entirely abstract. Cuteness and whimsy only go so far.”
- Every Building in the US: More of an interactive than a longread, if I’m being taxonomically picky, this is a staggering piece of work by the New York Times, mapping almost every man-made structure across the United States. Honestly, this is AMAZING - read, play, and marvel at the oddly beautiful, semi-abstract aesthetic of the stripped back landscapes.
- Eartha Kitt in Istanbul: For reasons I’ve never adequately understood I was sort of obsessed with Eartha Kitt when I was a kid (pretty sure I was one of only a couple of 7 year olds in Swindon who knew who she was); I hadn’t given her any thought for years til I stumbled across this article this week, which tells of Kitt’s trip to Istanbul as a young woman and how she came to record the album of Turkish music which first broke her internationally. This is a beautiful portrait of an era and a city - Istanbul’s always had a magical appeal for me, and this piece very much evokes the wonder of an era when the foreign was even moreso by dint of being unknowable.
- Stet: My friend Katie found this a bit coldly performative when I sent it to her this week, and I can see what she means, but I am an absolute sucker for writing that plays with form and convention like this, and the use of annotations and footnotes in this short story pleased me greatly. It’s about autonomous vehicles and morality and agency, but more than anything it’s a (to my mind) fantastically realised stylistic experiment.
- The Life and Death of a Mexican Hitman: A profile of a hitman for Mexican Narcos which manages to tell his story dispassionately whilst at the same time presenting its subject as a real person rather than some sort of soulless gunman. I honestly didn’t expect to find this quality of writing on the website of the charity International Crisis Group - this is superb, particularly when you consider it’s not technically journalism.
- The Franz Kafka Marriage Manual: Finally in this week’s longreads, an essay about Franz Kafka and marriage and arsehole men; this is a wonderful, personal essay with a lovely subtext about art and the author, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
By Oregon Zoo
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- You may know They Might Be Giants from ‘Birdhouse In Your Soul’ - this is their new song, and it’s ACE and literary and smart and wordy and lefty, and it’s called ‘The Communists Have The Music’ and the video is AWESOME:
2) Weirdly, despite this having 30million views, it doesn’ appear to have crossed over into my bit of the internet at all - this is VIRAL SENSATION Skibidi with ‘Little Big’ and it is basically a 2018 Macarena:
4) Bands I had forgotten about until this week - The Ting Tings. Turns out their new song is REALLY GOOD and makes me almost forgive them for ‘That’s Not My Name’. This is called ‘Estranged’, and, honestly, it’s lovely:
6) MORE HIPHOP CORNER! This is odd, in a good way, and sort of reminds me a bit of CLOUDDead and similar stuff. It’s by Planet B, and it’s called ‘Crustfund’ and it features Kool Keith and it’s very good indeed:
7) Last up this week, this is bratty pop punk and I love it. It’s by Antarctigo Vespucci, it’s called ‘Freaking U Out’ and BYE BYE HAPPY FRIDAY I LOVE YOU SEE YOU NEXT WEEK UNLESS SOMETHING VERY WEIRD HAPPENS AT THIS THEATRE THINGY THIS AFTERNOON IN WHICH CASE LET ME SAY THANKS SO MUCH FOR SHARING WEB CURIOS WITH ME IT HAS BEEN A PLEASURE AND I HAVE LOVED EVERY SINGLE WORD I HAVE WRITTEN FOR YOU AND PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THEY ARE ALL WRITTEN FOR YOU, EVERY SINGLE ONE, AND YOU SHOULD FEEL SPECIAL AND LOVED AND OK THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK AS I SAID HOPEFULLY SEE YOU AGAIN SAME TIME AND PLACE NEXT WEEK TAKE CARE BYE I LOVE YOU BYE!: