42 minutes reading time (8370 words)

Web Curios 22/03/19

Web Curios 22/03/19

ONE WEEK TO GO! OR NOT! As Schrodinger's Brexit sits patiently in its box, we anxiously await the big reveal. Is it alive? Is it dead? IS IT IN FACT WE WHO ARE DEAD, KILLED BY TERMINAL BOREDOM?

Obviously that's all rhetorical - I have no idea! Neither do you! Neither does anyone else! Watching lobbyists do their jobs at the moment is quite amazing, I have to say - I don't think I've ever read so many emails that say "nah mate, not a fcuking clue" with as many fancy words and with as much variation.

You know what the worst thing about this is, though? The very worst? The fact that it will NEVER STOP. It is entirely likely that I will live the rest of my life (admittedly, based on questionable lifestyle choices that might only be another 15 years, but still) hearing the word 'Brexit' EVERY SINGLE DAY. Maybe I can get someone to hypnotise me so that each time it's spoken aloud I flash back to some sort of womblike happyplace and get suffused with a warm feeling of contentment; that would be nice, and would make a nice change from the weird one-two punch combo of nausea and very acute despair that it currently engenders.

Anyway, another seven days have passed, another billion links have passed before my eyes, and I have once again compiled the very finest - the choicest, the juiciest, the plumpest and most eye-catchingly sheeny - of them here for your pleasure. FINGER MY LINKY WARES, WEBMONGS! This, as ever, is Web Curios.

By Vaka Valo



  • Facebook and New Zealand: One of two statements released by Facebook this week following last Friday's shooting in New Zealand (the second is here) - they both address the steps that the platform took in the immediate aftermath of the event to limit the spread and visibility of the footage. These statements, along with that Tweeted by YouTube earlier this week, do a reasonably good job of explaining how incredibly hard it is to automatically block this stuff (the Facebook explainer about how AI-powered video analysis works in these cases is broadly good, and does a decent job of outlining exactly why outlier events such as these are so incredibly hard for machine-vision to identify and suppress), but the detail that really struck me was that in the YouTube statement where the platform revealed that at points last week it was detecting new uploads of the footage at the rate of one a second. One a second. Regular readers of Web Curios might have gotten the perfectly reasonable impression that I'm not a huge fan of the social media companies, but even someone whose default position is largely akin to 'Facebook is a cancer and frankly everything was better on dial-up' can see that, well, if 60 people a minute were seeking to share first-person footage of dozens of people being murdered then that doesn't feel like a problem of technology so much as a problem of humanity.
  • FB Extending Watch Party to Live TV: Or at least that's what it's doing in the US and Latin America, where live broadcast through FB is more of a thing. This feature will enable users to set up Watch Parties (whereby people can watch the same TV show simultaneously through Facebook) with live TV - "When users with access to the feature start a Watch Party, they will see a new "on TV" option, which will enable them to choose the live game. Watch Party will then feature the score of the game atop the discussion. Facebook said it will test other interactive components, such as letting hosts add trivia questions and live polls." Exciting, isn't it? What? Oh, fine.
  • Facebook Gaming Getting Own Tab In-App: This really isn't interesting AT ALL, or indeed hugely significant beyond being another example of Facebook desperately trying to make gaming a thing on the platform in the same way as it is on YouTube and Twitch. It won't work, but well done Mark for your persistence and optimism! In fairness, I imagine if you're working with audiences outside major markets, where Facebook literally is the internet, this might actually be worth looking at, but, in the main, gaming on Facebook is to gaming on YouTube/Twitch as vegan cheese is to actual dairy produce.
  • Facebook Moves To End Discriminatory Advertising: US-only, but it's an interesting precedent (and says a lot about the lag between Facebook saying it's going to do something vs them actually taking action). You may recall that 2-3 years ago there was a spate of stories about how advertisers flogging property, jobs or credit on Facebook were using its ad targeting tools to effectively discriminate against certain types of people, either targeting or excluding people specifically on the basis of income or race. Facebook has now bowed to the (legal) pressure from various US institutions to now disable the ability for advertisers to target or exclude people based on age, gender or postcode location when peddling credit, housing or employment - which is good! Do take a minute though to google 'Facebook discriminatory ads' and see exactly how long it has taken them to enact this, despite having been talking up their good intentions for 24+ months.
  • Facebook Automatic Revenge-Porn Takedowns: This is interesting, though I am slightly confused as to how it will work in practice. Facebook has announced that it will start using video analysis techniques to identify and remove revenge porn at the point of upload: "By using machine learning and artificial intelligence, we can now proactively detect near nude images or videos that are shared without permission on Facebook and Instagram." The bit that really puzzles me about is the 'shared without permission' line - how, exactly, will software be able to determine the consensuality or otherwise of any filming? Still, regardless, this is A Good Thing and should be applauded.
  • Insta Launching In-App Shopping: Or, more accurately, EVEN MORE SEAMLESS ONLINE SHOPPING! A cohort of 20 retailers has been signed up in the US to launch this feature, which will enable users to pay for purchases within the app rather than having to click through to a retailer's payment portal to complete the transaction - "when people decide to buy a product from a brand or retailer on Instagram, they'll be able to pay for that product inside the app instead of leaving Instagram to finish the transaction on a retailer's website. Instagram will keep a small cut of the sale for facilitating the purchase, and it's partnering with PayPal to process the payments." So that's it, then - you'll no longer even have to think before two-tapping your way through to a shiny new bag as worn by your favourite shiny-haired influencer, or a multipack of oat milk, or whatever tat you're being stealth-peddled. This is obviously HUGE for retailers, who til now have had to had to put up with a relatively friction-y user experience for Insta purchases; once this starts to roll out properly I can see it becoming a truly massive sales channel for...well, anything really. Even better (worse?), the fact that it's all baked-in in-app means that in theory it ought to be easy to sort endorsement fees, etc, for influencers; you can imagine a feature whereby retailers can approve a, say, 1% fee on each sale for the click-to-buy link on an Influencer's post. Thank GOD that we'll all soon have another way to keep the massive, grinding wheels of global capitalism turning ever-faster.
  • LinkedIn Adds Lookalike Audience Targeting: This is, potentially, very useful, though one might also argue that everyone you're likely to reach on LinkedIn is basically exactly the same, some sort of vat-grown MASTER OF BUSINESS who exists only to CRUSH and WIN, and so therefore you don't really need to do any targeting at all.
  • What Happens In An Internet Minute: Here's a graphic showing the INSANE VOLUME OF STUFF that happens each minute on the internet. This is exactly the sort of thing you are going to see in crap presentations for the next 12 months, illustrating the sheer MAD AND CRAZY PACE OF MODERN ONLINE LIFE - what it shows me, though, is that there is TOO MUCH STUFF out there and that as a result it's even less likely that anyone will care about your sh1t brand campaign. Tell you what, here's an idea - next time one of your clients briefs you on coming up with some digital comms-type stuff involving CONTENT, why not respond with a copy of this graphic and the simple answer "No, client, let us not do that. There is too much STUFF and people are already nearing saturation point when it comes to the consumption of THINGS in every waking moment of their lives, so let's not make more pointless digital detritus that will sit, unwatched and unread and unloved, gathering dust. Let us not make any CONTENT; let's maybe just stop this crap for a bit, eh?"? You could do it, you know, and it would be GLORIOUS. Try it!
  • Takumi: Following neatly from the previous point, WHY DOES THIS EXIST?! This is a website by Lexus, all about the Japanese concept of 'Takumi' - the sort of mastery that comes from thousands of hours of repetition of a particular task or skill (60,000, in fact) - which features a lightly-interactive short film talking about the oddly obsessional nature of mastery of any practice, and profiling several hugely skilled craftspeople across a number of fields. It's beautifully shot, well-narrated and the 10 minutes or so I watched are genuinely quite interesting but, well, WHY???? Yes, fine, I know that there's obviously some sort of throughline from this 'craftsmanship and expertise' stuff and the HIGH-PRECISION LUXURY of an expensive car, but this seems like such a waste - of a nice concept, of money, of time. God grant us respite from advertisers as auteurs, please.
  • Bushwick Analytica: "Bushwick Analytica is a series of workshops recently held at Bushwick Public Library inviting local middle schoolers to harness the power of data driven advertising and develop and promote their own targeted campaigns. These sessions delve into the inner workings of internet advertising, and the many ways that data is collected online and used to categorize us." These are GREAT - special shout out to Michael, whose ad for 'dogs' is pretty much the best creative you're likely to see this year.

By Ian Fisher



  • Know Their Name: A memorial site created for the victims of Christchurch, simply presenting each of their names; clicking through takes you to a picture and a line about them. This is obviously incredibly sad - it's the short text descriptors that absolutely ruined me here.
  • Basement: Weirdly, despite the fact that we've all decided that Facebook is A Bad Thing and that Instagram is rapidly becoming a similarly dystopian nightmare of advertising and misinformation, there hasn't been a new social network for a while. Or at least there hadn't til this week, when Basement suddenly appeared - quick, WHAT IS YOUR BASEMENT STRATEGY??? Anyway, this is unlikely to ever take off or become a thing but I present it to you anyway, in case you feel like attempting to persuade all your friends to leave the comforting bosom of the Zuckerbergian ecosystem in favour of a shonky, underdeveloped, largely empty online environment. Basement's 'thing' is that each person's network is capped at 20 people, meaning you create a small community of friends, presumably people you know in real life, with whom you can engage in 'fun online activities' such as CHAT and MEME SHARING! So, er, like a Whatsapp group then? GREAT! There is literally no point to this at all, but I do like the fact that it adevrtises one of its standout features as 'NO INFLUENCERS' and then below that caveats it with 'YOU'RE THE INFLUENCER!'. Basement - an app for people who are really salty about the fact that noone gives a fcuk what they say or think.
  • Generative FM: This is basically infinite music. Oh, ok, fine, 'music' is an elastic term and the pieces here collected might not fit your own personal definition of it, but it's definitely infinite sound which is probably basically the same thing, right? Generative FM contains a selection of generative pieces - "This site is a collection of generative music pieces which can be listened to. The term "generative music" describes music which changes continuously and is created by a system. Such systems often generate music for as long as one is willing to listen. The pieces featured on this site are not recordings. The music is generated by a different system created for each piece. These systems have been designed such that each performance is unique and plays continuously without repetition." It's very much on the 'ambient' end of the spectrum, and I've had one of these playing in the background for the past 10 minutes while I type and to be honest it's yet to coalesce into anything that could reasonably be described as a tune or melody but, well, if you want a website that will churn out sounds which sound almost exactly like they're being produced at random and if you want it to do it forever then this is basically your Nirvana.
  • Changing Sketches To Photorealistic Masterpieces: The latest bit of GAN-bongo from NVidia, as they present the latest iteration of their super-clever machine-trained image-fiddling software; click the link and just watch a minute or so of the video and marvel at how incredibly good the software now is at generating realistic images from the simplest of brushstrokes. The bit where the artist creates a waterfall over a cliff was where I got properly impressed; honestly, we're NEVER going to be able to tell what's real or not in the future ('the future', potentially, being as early as 'next month').
  • RoboRace: More PR for NVidia here, who sponsor this project; RoboRace is...oh, look, they can tell you: it's the "world's first competition for human + machine teams, using both self-driving and manually-controlled cars. It is a new platform for brands, organizations and individuals to test the development of their automated driving systems." The site is heavy on shiny photos of the titular RoboCar and some video of it and other vehicles bezzing around racetracks, but it's noticeably lighter on any actual details of how, well, it all works, and when and where it happens, and how you can watch any of it. Still, if you're not that worried about pesky things like that then perhaps you'll find this interesting - if nothing else, the car looks awfully fast and future, and that's what counts, right?
  • DNA Friend: A spoof website advertising an in-no-way-creepy DNA-testing service of the 23andme ilk; I don't quite know why this exists, but it's rather nicely done and some of the details are very cute; I was a particular fan of the instructions, including the very specific 'open your mouth and take a picture of your saliva', and the line about 'send your DNA to our trained team of geneticists and marketing professionals' felt pretty close to the bone.
  • Waffle House Vistas: Photographer Micah Cash has taken this series of photos in Waffle House restaurants across the US (Waffle House is a ubiquitous and low-rent chain of diner restaurants which you can find pretty much anywhere you go in America, for those unfamiliar); each photo is taken from inside the restaurant, facing out to capture the view from the windows. There's something really interesting about the picture that it takes of everyday, ordinary, (sub)urban America, and I would love to see this replicated in the UK with Wetherspoons pubs, or Wimpys, or similar. Someone do that, please. Thanks.
  • Open Meals: As far as I can tell, Open Meals is a Japanese organisation that undertakes research and enquiry into the future of food and eating - to be honest, it's a bit hard to tell with all the slightly esoteric language and terms like 'food singularity' being thrown about willy-nilly with little care for what they might mean. There are 6 projects collected on the site so far, from 'Cube' which explores the idea of 3d-printed cubic units of food as a standardised nutrition delivery system, to the Sushi Singularity which imagines creating bespoke 3d-printed sushi based on genetic analysis of the diner, with all the sushi bits designed to complement or compensate for people's unique genetic composition. This is all obviously MAD, but ingeniously and supremely Japanesely so (that's...not really acceptable English, is it? Sorry).
  • Cake: This is quite good, I must say. Cake is a new browser, designed specifically for mobile, which lets you do all sorts of neat and smart things like setting a top hierarchy of sources from which results will be drawn first and a nice card-based results system. The interface is really nice, and if you're someone who wants to divorce themselves from the Google ecosystem this might be worth a look.
  • Bike Insights: Are you one of those men who has decided as you hit your late-30s/early-40s to replace your personality with a tedious obsession with cycling? Do you secretly think to yourself as you commute into work in your Rapha gear that you'd 'probably cope OK in the peloton'? Christ alive, you ARE, aren't you? Anyway, you'll probably quite like this site, which presents a whole load of information about bikes and cycling and STUFF, specifically relating to frame size and geometry and fit - could you shave 30s off your personal Strava record if you had a slightly better-suited frame to your bike? I DON'T CARE, ALAN.
  • Hello Goodbye: This is a very satisfying Chrome plugin which performs the simple, single task of blocking any and all of those infuriating and pointless pop-up helpchat windows that plague many company websites these days. NO I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE A LIMITED AND LIMITING NON-CONVERSATION WITH YOUR POORLY-WRITTEN CHATBOT YOU SH1TBAGS. Now I would like someone to invent one which blocks any and all autoplaying videos on US news sites too, and also perhaps one which replaces all current news with that of two decades ago when everything broadly made sense.
  • Threedy: This is either brilliant, magical software or a shonky mess, it's quite hard to tell. If Threedy does all the things it says it does, it's definitely the former - it purports to be able to spin up 3d models from simple photos taken with your smartphone, which sounds sort of incredible - previous apps of this type have required you to do an awful lot of moving around and scanning an object from all angles, but this claims you can get the model from a couple of static shots. There's a bunch of other features apparently forthcoming; if you're interested in 3d modeling at all, this is very much worth a look.
  • Smartify: This is an interesting idea. Smartify is an app for the art world which has partnered with a wide-ranging selection of art institutions around the world (in London these include the Saatchi Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and others) to enable you to have an enhanced gallery experience through technology. Users can snap artworks in participating venues to learn more about them, get additional content and material pertaining to each work, and collect them into a personal artlovers' scrapbook of all their favourite pieces. The breadth of galleries already onboard makes this worth checking out - this seems like the sort of thing which could make a kid's experience of a gallery visit moderately more engaging.
  • The World Hidden From Men: A selection of photographs from National Geographic by women photographers, specifically examining how gender impacts the role of and access granted to female photographers. Beautiful shots.
  • Chain Letters: Excellent wordy website and Twitter account recently passed 55,000 followers and celebrated by publishing this EXCELLENT game; it's a bit tricky to explain so I'm not going to bother. All you need to know is that it involves wordplay and anagrams and it's a RACE AGAINST TIME and it's pleasingly head-scratchy. This will make you think harder than anything else you're likely to have to do at work today.
  • Blinker: This is a really clever idea. Blinker's a US app designed to let people easily sell their cars - the clever bit is that it's all automated using image recognition. You take a photo of the back of the car and the app analyses the image to work out what make and model and year the car is based on the design and proportions of its taillights and bumper and the rest; it then creates the listing through which you can sell or refinance the vehicle. Very smart indeed, and a really good use of image recognition and analysis.
  • Wear Your Meds: On the one hand, this is a nice initiative designed to destigmatise mental health issues and medication, and offering people the opportunity to be open about the conditions they may be suffering from and the medication they take to cope; on the other hand, this equally looks like a hipster accessory shop and you just know that there's a certain cohort of teens that would see a pinbadge featuring a photo of a Xanax bar as the ne plus ultra of druggy craft chic. Your choice which way to see this one, really.
  • The Cat Trap Is Working: A subReddit devoted to cats that have fallen for their owners' devious plans to trap them. O MAOW!
  • The Apollo Press Kits: This is awesome - a huge archive of press materials from the Apollo missions, both from NASA and from their tech partners. If you're in any way interested in space travel, this is an incredible time capsule.

By Jacob Howard



  • Spreadsheet Horror Stories: If you have to deal with spreadsheets professionally then, well, I pity you. Sorry. Still, perhaps if you do you will appreciate the tales of TERROR AND HORROR here gathered on the hugely compelling website of the European Spreadsheet Risk Interest Group (no, really). You know all those stereotypes about accountants being fundamentally dull, characterless, colourless people whose idea of a fun time is playing with their scientific calculator's random number function? This site does very little to dispel them. Still, if you have made a spreadsheet-related fcukup at work recently this site might make you feel marginally better about it - at least yours didn't involve anyone dying. Did it?
  • Colour Our Collections: I'm a bit late with this, but still. Apparently for a few years now various libraries, archives and other collections have each year made some of the materials in their files available as prints to colour in; this year's selection were released in February, but they are all archived here along with those from previous years. If your kids have exhausted all their colouring-in books, or if you're a grown adult who for some reason finds solace and calm in drawing VERY CAREFULLY inbetween the lines then you will love this. The quality of the materials varies rather - I do feel like the University of Glasgow maybe phoned theirs in a bit - but, in general, if you're after a bunch of outlines of old woodcuts and medical drawings to fill in then ENJOY.
  • Fantasy Birding: At some point fantasy sports stopped being the sort of thing that you did casually with your friends and instead became some sort of weird, centralised hypercompetitive thing, with substitutes and captains and all sorts of modifiers and multipliers and dear God it all feels like work to me. If you hanker after the simpler times when you just picked a bunch of players and then forgot about them until Barry from accounts won at the end of the season then you may enjoy this - FANTASY BIRDWATCHING! Yes, that's right, you too can now enjoy all the fun of birdwatching without, er, seeing any birds or going outside! This is so, so baffling to me, but here it is - "Enter as many upcoming or ongoing contests as you want, or start your own and invite your friends. In the simplest games, such as the North American Big Year, the object is to record the most species within a designated timeframe and geographic area. In other games, you may earn points based on each bird's rarity or likelihood of occurrence. Instead of drafting and trading players, the main moves you make will be choosing a location to visit each day. Weather forecasts and recent sightings will guide you in your planning, and you will earn points for all birds observed and reported near your current location. Strike a balance between checking in at reliable hotspots and chasing rarities in remote corners of the globe." This is MAD but also quite, quite wonderful at the same time.
  • Musicards: Customisable online cards designed to teach the principles of music theory - notation, time signatures, etc, Spectacularly un-flashy, but potentially really useful for students.
  • Interwoven: Diana Scherer is a German-born artist living in Amsterdam whose quite remarkable work uses living plants as both its subject and its material; Scherer somehow manages to create worth through the intertwined root systems of plants, which knit together to create strange organic patterns of embroidery. The effect is quite magical and, to me at least, really quite intensely creepy although I couldn't properly explain to you why.
  • Otter: A N Other live transcription service which will not only automatically take meeting notes but, it promises, will also assign actions, etc, from the audio log with no user input required. I am hugely sceptical about stuff like this - it never tends to work half as well in practise as promised - but I've seen several people who I don't think are idiots talk positively about it on Twitter so perhaps this is the rare instance of something that does live up to its own hype.
  • DarkaYarka: Stuff that is a 'trend' in 2019 - stuff made out of felt that looks like animals. After all the various masks and things meet DarkaYarka, whose Etsy shop sells felted slippers sculpted into the shape of animals (amongst other things). If you can look at the panda slippers and not emit an involuntary 'squee' of slight cute then, well, you're a stronger man than I.
  • Threads: Threads is best-described as a Slackalike - another collaborative working tool designed to combine the chatroom-type interface we all know and loathe with various other co-working gubbins. The particular gimmick with Threads is that it is designed to assist with and facilitate collaborative decisionmaking, with clear threading and topic distinction. I am personally hugely skeptical of the universal need for stuff like this - email is not the problem, it's your working culture that's the problem - but if you're in the market for an EXCITING NEW DIGITAL COLLABORATION PLATFORM then this might be worth a look.
  • Killed by Google: A list of all the projects that Google has started and then killed over the years (we'll soon be able to add Google+ to this, and trust me when I tell you that I am hurting about this almost as much as you are) - it's a staggering list, not least because of all the stuff on here that you will probably never have heard of. Google has killed more things than most companies EVER make; regardless of what you think of the company, it's hard not to be slightly awed by the sheer pace and volume of innovation.
  • The Trove: Oh wow, WHAT an archive. This site seemingly collects every single ruleset and magazine and supplementary pamphlet ever made about any roleplaying game ever. You want a scan of the Dungeons & Dragons basic rulebook from 1971? I mean, I can't imagine for the life of me why you would, but who cares? IT'S HERE! Honetsly, this is remarkable - if you've any interest in tabletop gaming, roleplaying or even just broader games design then this will be Nirvana for you .
  • Game Maker's Toolkit: A YouTube channel which specialises in videos documenting the process of making videogames; you sort of have to be really into the medium for this to mean anything to you, but if you're interested in a 20-minute disquisition into the optimal ways of implementing a skill tree, or the precise definitional elements that make something a 'roguelike', then this is honestly fascinating. It's when I write stuff like this that I become quite grateful that my girlfriend doesn't really read Curios (and it's also when I once again express mild internal amazement at ever having lost my virginity).
  • Journey North: There have been a few cute little nature sites I've stumbled across of late - last week's butterfly tagging madness, and now this. Journey North is a site dedicated to information about migration patterns, avian and otherwise, with maps showing migration routes, tips of where to see specific fauna at various parts of the year, and a general motherlode of information about migration and related topics. It's all so wholesome, and for once I'm not even wincing as I type that.
  • Datahoarder: The news that MySpace has lost everyone's music has been massively underreported, to my mind - or rather, the reality underlying the news has been inadequately explored. The idea of digital impermanence really ought to be one we might want to spend a bit more time exploring, given that we've all decided to blithely chuck all our stuff 'in the cloud' without, I'm reasonably certain, paying enough attention to what might happen should the provider of said cloud storage go belly-up. Anyway, this is a subReddit dedicated to those people who are very, very aware of the impermanence of data and who have decided to address it by storing EVERYTHING. Some of this stuff is cute, but quite a lot of it is obsessional and weird; just the way we like it.
  • The Wu Tang Collection: Absolutely the most incredible YouTube archive of weird old kung fu movies you will ever find, hands down. Hundreds of full-length films here, many of which look truly mental - Shaolin Youth Posse! Ninja Pirates! ROBO VAMPIRE!!! Honestly, go and lock yourselves in a meeting room with some snacks for the next 80 minutes and enjoy yourselves with Samurai Blood, Samurai Guts - it's what your boss wants you to do, promise.
  • Nokia 3310 Jam: A selection of tiny games, all designed as though they were made to be played on an old Nokia. Some of these are honestly great - there's some wonderfully inventive coding going on here to work within the constraints of the form. I particularly enjoyed 'Get Out', but there are dozens here so find your own favourite (STOP COPYING ME).
  • Pawnbarian: Finally in this week's miscellania, Pawnbarian is a really clever little game where you're tasked with clearing the monsters from each screen; the gimmick is that the moves that your character is able to complete to undertake the task are determined by the cards you're dealt, each of which corresponds to the movement set of a particular chess piece, placing new combinations of constraints on your movement set on each level. Really nicely done.

By Owen Freeman



  • Animated Antiquity: Not actually a Tumblr! Still, who cares? This blog collects representations of Greek and Roman antiquity in cartoons. No idea why, but if you want to gain an exhaustive understanding of all the different ways Bugs Bunny wore a toga then WOW are you in luck.
  • Having It All: A collection of artworks curated with a very good eye.
  • Terrible Things Happening In Cold Places: Literally a listing of bad things that have happened in cold places. I have, honestly, NO idea why this exists and find the fact that it does ever so slightly unsettling.


  • Beautiful New York City: An Insta feed posting photos of the city with a focus on eating out and food. Except, and this is a good one, it's all entirely automated - it's been set up as an experiment in creating a totally automated influencer persona by Chris Buetti who's a data engineer in the US, and it's been an astonishing success; Buetti explains the idea and the process in this article, but the fact that the bot has been offered freebies from restaurants in exchange for a nice writeup does rather suggest that the jig might well be up with the whole influencer game.
  • Long Service London: I adore this. This account shares photographs of the longest-serving staff members at London restaurants, bars and cafes, along with a few details about them, their life and their work. Gorgeous project.
  • Bashir Sultani: Art made out of yellow pencils. It will make sense when you look at the photos, I promise.
  • Studio 188: A truly great account which posts its own, ever-so-slightly-shonky reinterpretations of pop culture classics. Their recreation of the opening scenes of Star Wars, featuring a pair of very hairy white shins and a piece of pasta, had me in tears.
  • Louise Hagger: Food photography. You will be VERY HUNGRY.
  • Morewalls: Gabriella's an artist who works in various media and who's based in London and does commissions. Her work's really nice, and I met her at a party last week and she's lovely, so take a look and book her if you need anything doing.


  • Ironic Racism Is Just Racism: In the wake of last Friday, this piece makes the strong and serious point that there's not really any excuse for edgelordy racist gaggery, and that, whatever millionaire lunkhead Pewdiepie might say, making 'jokes' that basically involve you spouting white supremacist rhetoric whilst at the same time declaring it's fine because irony is, well, really not ok.
  • It Was Not An Internet Terror Attack: In the past week we've seen the predictable scramble from large sections of the commentariat to blame THE WEB and THE TECH for the massacre. Well, yes, fine, this was very much a crime of the web, insofar as the perpetrator had obviously spent a fair old chunk of time in a variety of online sewers cultivating his particular breed of hate. As this article points out, though, he could equally have arrived at the same place had he subsisted on a media diet of print, radio and telly alone - it's worth reading in full, but the central thesis can be summarised as follows: "Christchurch isn't an "internet" terrorist attack. We can't prevent future attacks by translating the internet-speak in a killer's manifesto, or tweaking a platform's algorithm. The attack in Christchurch can only be understood is part of a global problem with Islamophobic violence."
  • Ayn Rand Is A Dick: Except, or course, you can't ignore the role of tech companies the web. This isn't about shootings or terror - instead, it's an excerpt from a forthcoming book about the general amorality of the Silicon Valley tech boom and the way in which VC money has absolutely skewed the way in which businesses think and operate and how, as a direct result of that and the insane success of a coterie of 'disruptive' business, it's absolutely skewed the way much of the world works too as an unforeseen, unintended consequence. "Short-term decisions are all Silicon Valley seems to care about. We don't build businesses for the long haul anymore, at least not the venture-backed ones. Those only need to last long enough to make it to their liquidity event so the investors can get their payday. So if Uber can show growth by squeezing drivers and riders, and Twitter can increase their engagement numbers by relying on white supremacists and outrage, and Facebook can rake in some extra cash from Russian fake news sites—they will do it. And we know they'll do it, because they did it. Silicon Valley has exhibited total comfort with destroying the social fabric of humanity to make a profit." Well, quite.
  • Instagram's The New Home For Hate: Hyperbolic headline aside, this is a decent look at how Instagram is increasingly being used as a place where right wing propaganda's being propagated, and how there are certain peculiarities to the platform that make that a particularly troubling thing. Fashy memes for depressive teens, innit - you can absolutely envisage how you might create an account mixing vaguely relatable emo-meme stuff with a steadily-increasing diet of QAnon madness sprinkled in to gateway some poor kid into the alt right stable, which is SUCH a miserable and 2019 sentence to have just written.
  • Lessons on Online Publishing: Apologies in advance for posting a LinkedIn article here - honestly, I feel dirty even typing that - but, honestly, this is really interesting if you're in any way involved in or curious about online publishing models and practices. C Max Magee founded The Millions, and in this post shares nine things he learned about attempting to make a living publishing stuff online. This is, I promise, good, and largely avoids any of the usual cliches found in most writing on LinkedIn (the word 'crush' appears once, but I promise it's contextually appropriate). It might not make it any easier to get paid for writing on the internet, but it's some smart analysis of how you might go about trying.
  • Y Combinator Day 1: This week saw famed Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator do its annual pitch days, where hundreds of startups attempt to get the attention and backing of some very rich people who will then eviscerate their business in exchange for equity (that's how it works, right?) - this is a list of all the companies that pitched on day one. Interesting mainly as a snapshot overview of what people think a billion-dollar business idea looks like in 2019 - there are some ideas in here that look genuinely smart (the company dedicated solely to making tech that will let soldiers shoot round corners, for example, is obviously brilliant if the sort of thing I'd feel a touch guilty about getting rich from), whilst others seem to have been generated automatically by software. If you've got a brilliant business idea you're itching to launch, it might be worth looking at this list and seeing whether one of these people has beaten you to it - you do rather feel for the poor people at Vectordash, a 'cloud gaming solution', who appear to have been royally fcuked by Google just 24h after appearing on stage.
  • Google Stadia: Speaking of Google and cloud gaming (SEAMLESS SEGUE THERE), this is a decent overview of Google's Stadia project which was announced this week and which, if it works as promised, will absolutely revolutionise gaming and kill the console market within a decade or so. Except, fortunately for consolemakers, internet speeds are still not likely to be consistently good enough everywhere for mass adoption of this sort of service for a good few years, so I reckon they'll get the PS5 and new XBox out and into hundreds of millions of homes before this becomes a mainstream thing. Still, there's SO much of this that looks exciting and not a little revolutionary - the idea that you can share footage of your game which anyone could then theoretically jump into to carry on playing the same experience you were having opens up some truly incredible possibilities for what you can do with gameplay design, for one.
  • Autonomous Vehicles: Some thoughts about vehicular automation, in the wake of the recent Boeing crashes and the continued uncertainty about the safety or otherwise of driverless cars. There's some really interesting stuff in here, not least the explanation of the varying 'levels' of autonomy which is obvious when you think about it but which I had never, well, thought about. As the article suggests, stage 3 automation (that is, automation with human oversight, as is the case with something cruise control) is in many respects the most dangerous of all, as it requires humans not only to be alert to failure of automated systems and to be able to react quickly to address any failure, but also to be competent to do so which, well, we're not always.
  • Crimebusting With Instagram: This is SO GOOD. Bellingcat explain how they helped catch a wanted man simply by using some excellent and very sneaky (but perfectly accessible) snooping techniques; it's along similar lines to the piece last week about how much you can glean about people from eavesdropping to their conversations and reading their phones over their shoulders, except FAR more sophisticated. This is properly fascinating and made me want to have a reason to try some of this stuff out for myself; you will read this and then feel a little bit creeped out about your own Insta feed, I promise you.
  • What Is Amazon?: This is an exhaistive and slightly exhaisting examination of Amazon as a business - where it came from, how it scaled. "So, what is Amazon? It started as an unbound Walmart, an algorithm for running an unbound search for global optima in the world of physical products. It became a platform for adapting that algorithm to any opportunity for customer-centric value creation that it encountered. If it devises a way to keep its incentive structures intact as it exposes itself through its ever-expanding external interfaces, it – or its various split-off subsidiaries – will dominate the economy for a generation. And if not, it'll be just another company that seemed unstoppable until it wasn't."
  • Netflix's Future Looks Like Television's Past: An interesting look at how Netflix's initial promise of choice and breadth and creativity appears to have largely been replaced with a sort of crushing homogeneity of approach, and how the creation of content based on audience preference analysis appears to have had a massively flattening effect: "This is Netflix's endgame: more of the same, and only more of the same, and all in one place only. You've got your two medical shows set in Chicago, your two cop shows set in New York, your four sitcoms about quirky people in apartments, and some aliens, only now you have them not from four different dumb competing corporations but one gigantic one."
  • Foodie: A really interesting look at how the culture and conversation around food has developed over the past few decades, and how the politics of eating and dining are finally beginning to be recognised as being entwined with issues of culture, race, heritage and the rest. I promise that this is a lot more interesting and less hand-wringing than you might think - if at any point over the past year you've enjoyed Giles Coren being dragged for being racist, or been on the fringes of the arguments around culinary cultural appropriation, then you'll know the sort of territory this is exploring.
  • Donald Cline's Secret Children: This is a jaw-dropping and absolutely horrifying story. Donald Cline was a doctor in the US specialising in fertility, who practices throughout the 80s and 90s and who during the course of that time fathered 50 children, born to patients who had no idea that it was Cline's child they were carrying. He literally impregnated his patients with his own sperm. I...I can't even, honestly. There is so much jaw-dropping awful in here, but the main thing that amazes me is that his total punishment for this was a $500 fine and being disbarred (after he'd already retired). That...seems lenient? Jesus.
  • Roleplaying in GTAV: I've featured GTA roleplaying communities on here before, but this is a great overview of a specific server on which players have to stay in character at all times, and where people have actual, mundane jobs that they undertake in-game (God knows why, but, well, it takes all sorts). I find the potential in this sort of thing vast - the idea of using it as a stage for longterm, persistent performance is really interesting to me - but equally it's all just very silly; do check out some of the streaming videos embedded in the piece and see if you find them as idiotically funny as I do.
  • A Brief History of Musical Failure: A beautiful piece of writing about what it's like to be good, but not quite good enough to be great. I know there's a very real 'the sound of no violins'-type element to this sort of thing - "Oh how awful for you to be talented but not quite a genius!" - but I think there's a very specific sort of sadness in being good enough at something to understand just how far away you are from being brilliant at it, being above average but still not special.
  • The Saudi Lie: On MBS and the House of Saud and the incredible PR job undertaken over the past few years by the regime and its expensively-assembled team of advisors, and the largely uncritical line taken by much of the Western media when discussing the country. If you already though that he perhaps wasn't a particularly good egg this is unlikely to change your opinion.
  • Unfeeling Malice: An incredible piece in the LRB exploring the work of the man who gave his name to Asberger's Syndrome, Hans Asberger, and examining the social and cultural climate within which the condition was first identified and how that affected the manner in which it was treated. This is so, so interesting (if not a touch horrific at times), and the wider considerations around the cultural context within which a medical condition is understood are fascinating: "If the terms 'autism' and 'Asperger's' have gained momentum recently, that may be in part because of a rise in environmental triggers, but it's also because our children's minds are again under intense scrutiny – though for different reasons. In our era of networking and social media, of 'ghosting' and attention-grabbing individuation, we're anxious about their ability, metaphorically and literally, to get the requisite 'likes'. We now value a capacity not so much for feeling 'Gemüt' – or whatever the quality is that guarantees social inclusion – but for strategically emoting or performing 'soft skills'. Twenty-first century boys are told they need to get with the programme."
  • Meet Elizabeth Swaney: Finally this week, a profile of Elizabeth Swaney, who competed and came last in the Winter Olympics Freestyle Skiing event. I have never, ever read something where I identified so little with the subject - Swaney and I have attitudes to life so different that we could barely be described as the same species. I found this oddly, weirdly terrifying, and ended it feeling quite glad that I am the lazy failure I have grown up into.

By Jean Vincent Simonet


1) This is by Loud Hound, and it's called 'High in the Bathroom', and, oddly, it really does sound like the feeling of smoking poor-quality weed out of the school toilet window on a sunny Thursday afternoon in May:

2) This band is called 'Barrie' - a good name - and this is called 'Darjeeling', and it's a lovely, slightly ethereal tune with incredibly pleasing (to my ears) rolling drums:

3) This is the latest by the Fat White Family - the song's good, though I personally preferred them when they were a bit scuzzier, but the video's the real star here. This looks like it was a lot of fun to shoot, and all the Monty Python stuff is nicely done:

4) This is excellent; Karen O and Danger Mouse filmed the video for their track 'Woman' as in one-take, as a single-shot, on the Late Show. This is so, so impressive (and it's a great song too):

5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! This is the new one from Manga, who's still probably my favourite UK MC bar none right now. It's called 'We Fall':

6) Finally this week, I don't really know how to describe this - it's sort of like a weirdly emo acoustichiphop stream of consciousness thing and I absolutely love it. It's HUGELY teenage, and the band name is obviously awful, but, well, who cares? This is Wicca Phase Springs Eternal (see?) with 'Rest' AND THAT'S IT FOR THIS WEEK'S SELECTION OF WORDS AND LINKS BYE BYE BYE HAPPY FRIDAY I HOPE YOU HAVE A LOVELY WEEKEND PLANNED AND THAT THE REST OF YOUR DAY PASSES IN A HAPPY BLUR AND THAT WHEN YOU GET HOME TONIGHT THERE IS SOMETHING LOVELY AND UNEXPECTED WAITING FOR YOU THAT REMINDS YOU OF SOMEONE YOU LOVE BYE BYE BYE HAVE FUN TAKE CARE I LOVE YOU ALL BYE TAKE CARE BYE!:

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