By Kat Toronto
THE SECTION WHICH FOR ONCE ISN'T EVEN GOING TO MAKE A TIRED JOKE ABOUT NOT BEING INVITED TO CANNES BECAUSE, LOOKING AT IT FROM AFAR, THIS REALLY DOES FEEL LIKE A NADIR FOR THE WHOLE THING WHICH REALLY OUGHT TO BE REBRANDED 'CRAP COSMETIC CSR IDEAS ON SEA' BECAUSE THAT'S SEEMINGLY ALL THE INDUSTRY DOES TO WIN AWARDS THESE DAYS:
- Facebook Combines Canvas With Collection Ads: Literally the only pleasing thing about this is the alliteration I was able to employ in the headline here; the rest of the story, whereby you can now combine FB Canvas ads with FB collection ads (the ones which, you will doubtless recall, allow you to showcase upto 4 products in carousel under a standard FB ad), thereby letting advertisers create REALLY DEEP content-led advertising experiences for AD THIRSTY consumers (and, snark aside, lets you stretch the Canvas assets further than they might otherwise have gone), is really dull. So, er, let’s move on.
- Automatic Closed Captions on FB Live: Hugely useful, this, although the breezy tone of the release linked to up there doesn’t quite give the whole picture; you need to run your stream through a 3rd party and do some FB API stuff, so not quite so simple for your standard point-and-stream scion of the NEW MEDIA AGE. Nonetheless, broadcasters ought all be aware of this, so, you know, BE AWARE, BROADCASTERS.
- You Can Now Reply To Comments On Facebook With Gifs: Just what was needed to reup your brand’s sense of KOOKY RELATABILITY! Lord, although it’s amply evident with each passing day that you have in fact abandoned us, please consider taking steps to save us not only from hatred, bigotry and ignorance, but also from the whimsical voices of brands who believe that we need and want looping pop cultural references injected into mundane consumer interactions. Thanks, Lord.
- FB Safety Check to Include Fundraising Options: I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to the back teeth of having to see the FB Safety Check stuff; aside from the fact that it serves to show us that the Bad Thing has happened again, it’s also geographically useless (people in Australia getting notifications to mark themselves safe after Grenfell Tower suggests that FB may be overstating its location targeting abilities just a touch) and frankly serves to stir up hysteria as much as it does allay fears. As ever, though, my opinion matters not one iota in the face of Zuckerberg’s vision; so it is that, in the US at least, the Safety Check feature is being updated to allow fundraisers to start collecting for donations within the feature, reaching significant numbers of people in short order. Which, obviously, it would be churlish of me to complain about - particularly as there’s limited detail in the post as to how EXACTLY this is going to work. That said, I can’t be the only person who looks at this and sees a few pretty obvious ways it could be abused to nefarious end (can I? Am I too much of a cynic? HAHAHAHAHA). Oh, and there are a few other bits in here about how the service is going to allow individuals to append their own anecdotes to their ‘I’m Safe’ notifications, presumably so they can add helpful notes like “NO LOOK I WAS IN GRIMSBY THAT WEEKEND GETTING TANKED UP ON JAEGERBOMBS PLEASE NOONE @ ME ANYMORE”.
- How Facebook Counters Terrorism: Of literally no interest at all to brands, but of quite a lot of interest to anyone with an eye on the ‘Facebook as a publisher vis a vis its responsibilities’, this is the first in a series of blogs by Facebook examining some of its processes and how it arrives at some of its decisions. The idea is that each will focus on a different ‘challenging’ area, for example sex and censorship, or, in this case, the propagation of extremist ideology on the platform, and explore the steps Facebook takes and why it chooses to behave in the way it does. Despite my oft-stated dislike of Facebook as a company / platform, I think that this is an excellent idea and this first example is a very good post, not least from a communications point of view; it’s clearly-written, and sets out in simple fashion the main steps the platform’s taking to address the spread of terrorist-friendly content/material. Although then you see stuff like this, whereby FB appears to be effectively give any ‘Group’ on the platform the ability to run online ‘courses’ offering ‘instruction’ on whatever topic they fancy, and you think ‘Hm, you...you...you really do keep on doing a lot of stuff which, frankly, isn’t helping keep the extremists (of whatever flavour, please don’t @ me) at bay at all’. So it goes.
- New Tools For FB Group Admins: Who doesn't love Facebook Groups? NO FCUKER, that's who! Increasingly central to the FB platform as the newsfeed becomes an increasingly awful, video-clogged experience (NO MARK NOT EVERYTHING ALWAYS HAS TO BE VIDEO YOU APPALLING MOVING IMAGE TYRANT), Group admins are getting a new suite of tools to provide them with analytics, member filtering options, group-to-group linking and the like. There are lots of opportunities for brands to create Groups, I think, particularly with the ability to affiliate them with Pages. Also, obviously, this is a precursor to being able to advertise at Groups, which is inevitably coming soon to fcuk up the last genuinely useful and unsullied bit of the big blue misery factory.
- Instagram Launches 'Paid Partnerships' Tag For Influencer Posts: Smart move, this, taking the Wild West that is 'influencer marketing' and attempting to impose some degree of legitimacy, transparency and order to it - instagrammers and brands who collaborate will soon have the ability to tage a post as being 'In Partnership With', making it clear that there's a commercial relationship linking the two parties, and giving both parties access to analytics on the post. Which also will hopefully put an end to the ability of every two-bit Instagrammer with a reasonably presentable midriff and a kitchen with half-decent lighting to lie about their stats in an effort to get paid (bitter, me? Never!). Interestingly, my Man In China (your man, EVERYONE's man) Alex told me that Weibo takes a fee from brands and influencers for setting up partnerships between them, which is brilliantly cynical and of which I approve hugely.
- Instagram Launches 'Click To Messenger' Ads: Linking up the Facebook ecosystem even further, you can now buy ad units for Instagram which take users directly into a Messenger conversation, thereby suckering users into the PURCHASING FUNNEL and, you hope, never lettng them go (or at least not until you've sucked them dry).
- You Can Now Reuse Instagram Live Video: Seismic, eh? To plagiarise the article, because this really doesn't warrant any effort on my part in coming up with new words, "Now when you finish broadcasting a Live video on Instagram Stories, you’ll have the option to share it to your story for 24 hours before it disappears or discard it immediately. Friends will see a play button on your Instagram Story profile bubble atop their feed if you’ve shared a Live replay." WOW.
- Snapchat Launches Self-Serve Ad Platform: Except, er, as far as I can tell it's US-only at the moment. Still, it will come here in relatively short order, I'd imagine, and bring with it the opportunity for anyone to sort their own ad buying, with just a credit card and some poor-quality emoji-style graphics. "It lets clients buy, manage, optimize, and view analytics about campaigns pay via US credit card rather than credit line, spend as little as they want with no minimum, buy via auction with prices set by the market, utilize all of Snapchat’s ad formats and targeting capabilities, manage ad creative assets within the tool, and have ads reviewed by Snap for quality before they appear." Good, eh? Eh?
- The Snap Map: Snapchat users can now see their friends' activity on a map view, the idea being that it will become easier to see what's happening nearby on Snap at any given moment. Which means, of course, that you can start coming up with all sorts of exciting activations for your next celebrity-led activation in meetings RIGHT NOW! Look, I'll get you started: "Why don't we get celebrity X to post a Snap from location Y and make it visible on the map and then get people to track them as they move around and eventually they will get to a secret location where they will oh god I can't be bothered with this do you remember when we were doing this stuff with Leo Messi on Hackney Marshes 7 bloody years ago on Twitter and nothing changes, only the platform, and meanwhile we get older and our bodies sag and decay and yet advermarketingpr rumbles on inexorably because IT WILL NEVER DIE". See? EASY!
- Twitter Looks A Tiny Bit Different!: Be honest, you were really annoyed about this last week but now you've forgotten what it looked like beforehand. Notable only for the fact that it looks a bit like Google Plus, and made brands everywhere have to go through the annoying rigmarole of redesigning their avatar image to fit in the new circular format. Don't worry, though, Twitter still contains your regular, mandated daily dose of harassment, hate, horror and hysteria - phew!
- YouTube Launching VR180 Video Format: The state of what passes for 'tech journalism' means that I have had to spend 5 minutes actiuvely searching for an article which actually explains what this means (FYI, it means that people will soon be able to start uploading what are effectively wide-angle videos which allow users to look around inside them as though filmed in 360). It's not very exciting, though, and I rather wish I hadn't bothered.
- VRUK 2017: Seeing as we're on video, there's a conference on VR and 360 video and stuff happening in London in a couple of weeks (6-7 July, to be exact), which could be quite interesting, particularly for those of you who do tellystuff (*waves at the BBC*).
- The Facebook Awards 2017: Here's a whole bunch of work done on Facebook over the past 12 months which the platform considers to be worthy of highlighting as praiseworthy; there's some nice stuff on here, and plenty you can take inspiration from, but it's worth mentioning (as is often the case with this stuff on Facebook) that the budgets involved in a few of these things are pretty fcuking astronomical - I had some meetings with FB last year where they were flogging Canvas really hard and showed off some genuinely awesome work, before then forgetting that there were SECRET NUMBERS in their presentation and revealing that the creative spend on the content they'd just shown us was 6 figures, not to mentioned the associated ad buy, at which point we just sort of shuffled out again feeling like right public sector povvos so, you know, BE AWARE.
- All The Best Stuff From Cannes This Year: Actually, no - I hate EVERYTHING coming from Cannes this year, other than the vague noises from people about not doing it any more. Take your brand purpose and FCUK OFF. I mean, look at the state of this. And this. And this. And this. Take a look at yourselves, all of you (and me, fine).
- OFCOM Media Usage Data 2017: All of the stats you could want, and plenty more that you almost certainly didn't. Want to know howw many 16-24 year olds don't feel any more creative at all when they use social media? 36%, that's how many! God, I love data! Obviously actually really useful, my pathetically predictable snark aside.
- The Charmin Van-go: Sadly this promotion was only active on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, but don't feel that you can't take the concept and run with it to create your own unique variant - someone at the agency obviously thought 'Uber, but for defecation!' and lo, the Charmin Van-go was born, in which New Yorkers with a desire to void their bowels gained the ability to order a travelling toilet via an Uber-style interface, complete with a team of smiling...er...crapassistants(? I don't know what one would call them) to, I don't know, hose down the walls afterwards, or applaud you on egress. What a world, kids. Apparently this is a pilot as they are considering rolling this service out on a regular basis - don't people in New York keep a mental map of all pub toilets in their head like Londoners do? No? Madness.
By Robert Lang
THE SECTION WHICH IS FULLY EXPECTING AN ACTUAL CHURCH OF JEZUS TO EMERGE FROM GLASTONBURY THIS WEEKEND, AS SEVERAL THOUSAND PEOPLE BOXED OUT OF THEIR GOURDS ON PILLS AND MDMA HEAR HIS UTOPIAN MESSAGE FOR A SOCIALIST FUTURE, PT.1:
- Be Internet Awesome: The tone's possibly a touch cringey, fine - I don't have any kids to hand on which to test it, but I am convinced that there aren't many for whom the phrase 'Be Internet Awesome' wouldn't elicit a fairly heft eye-roll - but the idea behind this, which is a series of simple games and information about keeping safe online, aimed at young people, is a good one and the presentation's all slick and Google-y, and the games are reasonably fun; if you have an 8 year old kid, I reckon this is probably quite a Good Thing.
- Foto Generator: Once again, the gap between Curios means that there is going to be some stuff in here which is practically antidiluvian (ie more than a week old), for which apologies; that said, if you haven't had a play with this webtoy, which lets you doodle outlines of faces and then autogenerates a whole...er...other face from the outline to largely horrific effect. If nothing else, it's worth making a new FB profile picture from this just to upset people who will suddenly think you've turned into Simon Weston (sorry).
- The Twitter Debubbler: Do YOU hate the new Twitter design? Do YOU want to go back to better, simpler times? Here's a Chrome extension which will pander to your designphobic whims.
- Brutalist Redesigns: Popular web apps, redesigned in the Brutalist fashion. Very much a designers' joke, this, but I very much like some of the resultant work, in particular the Instagram redesign.
- Lynching America: It seems somewhat incongruous to say this when the topic is so awful, but this is a really lovely website. Taking a look at the history of racially-motivated violence in the US, and demonstrating how appallingly widespread the practice of lynching was across the Southern states, this presents a documentary, a map of recorded lynchings, historical documentation and a full academic report on the subject in a sober, beautifully-designed shell. It's obviously all incredibly grim, but it's also a very well-designed presentation of the material.
- Weirdbox: You remember a decade or so ago when everyone started making those videos which pulled photos from your Facebook friends into the action, giving a cosmetic veneer of personalisation and making every single advermarketingprcunt working in digita pitch the idea to all of their clients on an almost weekly basis until the world moved on and we took to plagiarising the Tippex bear thing instead? No? Maybe you are too young, children, but I REMEMBER. Anyway, this is basically that, except with Instagram - plug in an Instagram handle, ideally one from an account you sort of borderline stalk, and watch the ensuing film. When I put this on Twitter, several people were quick to point out to me that a) the film is too long; and b) this doesn't work on mobile and is therefore RUBBISH in 2017. To these people I simply say "WHERE IS YOUR SENSE OF CHILDLIKE JOY, EH? BE LIKE ME, A SIMPLE, PURE SOUL, GAMBOLLING THROUGH THE FIELDS OF LIFE CONSUMED BY AN OPEN-EYED SENSE OF INNOCENT WONDER!", and then I go and get drunk and cry, alone.
- Wikiverse: Another Wikipedia visualisation project, this time envisioning all of the Wikidata (well, not all of it as that would be mental, but a part of the corpus) as a galaxy through which one can navigate, seeing connections between entries and generally zooming through the knowledgeverse in amazement. Obviously this is of no use whatsoever when actually attempting to use Wikipedia for anything practical, but as a piece of dataviz and interface design it's rather beatiful, I think; also, it's an excellent way of findin, and getting lost down, Wikipedian rabbitholes.
- We Wear Culture: Facsinating new (?) project from the Google Cultural Institute, looking at the history and cultural context of fashion throughout history, and containing archive materials from the V&A and a whole raft of other cultural institution worldwide. This is a genuinely fascinating primer on the cultural history of dress and the interface between fashion and a host of other areas, and if you're a student or just interested it's a pretty wonderful resource / timesink. Sadly doesn't appear to have the long dreamed-of 'Google, what should I wear?' function that fashion-subnormals like myself have been clamouring for for an age now.
- FotoOto: I don't know quite how good this is as an idea in a practical sense, being fortunate enough myself not to have any significant visual impairments; the concept, though, is fascinating. FotoOto is an app which takes photos and applies a layer of audio to them, with the pitch and tone of the sound produced based on the colour of the pixel(s) that the user is touching at any given time. In effect - and I can already tell as I prepare to type this that this is an AWFUL analogy, so sorry - it's a bit like audio braille (yep, I was right). The video on the site explains it far better than I ever could, so take a look at that instead and let me move on with whatever shreds of dignity I have left.
- Bookshelf: This annoys me slightly; it's basically a site that lets anyone make playlist of books, with whatever title or theme they like, which is a concept so simple and so lovely that I don't know why noone's done it before. I certainly don't know why noone's done it better than this; it's SUCH an ugly site, and the whole 'list' thing doesn't really give ou any good functionality, and frankly it just seems like a bit of a missed opportunity and oh God here I am slagging off someone's project, an actual thing that someone spent time building, and all I do is sit here in my pants in my kitchen spaffing WORDS out, it's not like I make anything, who am I to criticise after all, I mean I can't even code, oh God I'm sorry, bookshelf creator, I take it all back. Ahem. Anyway, I guess the point I was trying to make before my id derailed me just then is that the concept is good, the execution is poor, and for publishers or bookshops I think this is an idea very much worth thinking around for 'inspiration'.
- Resource Trade: I am a sucker for a well-designed map interactive, and this is just such a well0designed map interactive. Chatham House have pulled together this archive of historical global trade data, showing major trade relationships over the past 15 years and letting you cut the data by sector, nation, etc. On this day in particular I've enjoyed looking at the UK specific numbers and seeing that each of our 5 largest export markets in 2015, the latest year for which the data's available, were EU countries. WELL DONE US! God, it doesn't feel any better a year on, does it? On which note, here's some nice interactives from the ONS looking at how stuff has changed economically since THAT DAY.
- Dating AI: The newest creepy update from the world of online dating is here! Dating AI (I am already SO BORED of the misuse and abuse of the term 'AI' - come back, big data, all is forgiven) is an app which lets you plug in a photo of anyone you like and which searches through the dating apps you have installed on your phone so you can then find people who look like that person. Or, one would imagine, that actual person, should they be on said dating apps. There is obviously NO WAY that this could be used for stalky or nefarious purposes, no siree - this has to get pulled soon, no?
- The Ecoalarm: This is a really lovely idea. Ecoalarm, which I think is actually a project by an Argentine NGO, lets you set an alarm for whatever time you want; when it goes off, you're awoken by the sounds of nature, streamed from Spotify - the gimmick being that the money earned from the Spotify stream goes to ecological causes. Smart, and a neat execution.
- Slightly Rubbish Instagram Poetry: This account is run by an actual proper poet, I think, but this account is just an experiment in posting crap fragments of non-poetry in an Instagram-friendly visual style and seeing how many likes they can get. Perfect, particularly in the oh-so-teenage way it manages to give every single post the illusion of profundity whilst still keeping each one entirely meaningless.
- The QR Code Backpack: Obviously a silly PR gimmick by Jansport, and obviously QR codes are RUBBISH (I am increasingly of the opinion that they are not in fact rubbish, but appreciate that I am in a Western minority here and so will wind my neck in on the subject), but this idea, whereby the backpack fabric can be scanned to pull up whatever social media details the wearer wants to associate with said backpack, is really rather cute.
- London: Park City: Want to spend a few pleasant minutes contemplating how much nicer London would have been this week were it a green expanse rather than the pigeon-infested, binjuice-scented steaming concrete swamp that it has been over the past week? Here you go! These are designs submitted to the National Park City Foundation - to quote, "Artists, designers and architects were invited to imagine and visualise what a future London National Park City could look like in a design challenge set by the newly established National Park City Foundation. A panel of judges reviewed over 50 entries from around the world and picked four winning visions. Making London a National Park City is a large-scale and long-term vision that has the potential to improve life in the capital by making the city radically greener and connecting more people to the city's remarkable heritage." Sounds good, doesn't it? It will NEVER HAPPEN, but it's nice to dream.
- The Moving Poster: A site collecting various examples of animated digital poster art; lots of different visual styles and techniques on display here, forming a decent resource if you're interested in, er, moving posters and the like.
- CGID: French artist Rahael Fabre recently applied for a new ID card in his native France; he duly submitted all the necessary paperwork, but included in his application an image of 'his' face which he'd created entirely digitally - obviously the photo was accepted, and Raphael was in proud possession of what's possibly the world's first real-world ID for an avatar. Impressive stuff.
- Precious Plastic: SUCH a laudable project, this one - Precious Plastic is a collection of open-sourced designs which in theory let people create small-scale, individual plastics recycling solutions; a wonderful idea for the developing world, and the sort of thing which frankly any halfway eco-conscious brand could do worse than cosying up to as, you know, these nice people have already done all the hard work. Go on, you know what you ought to do.
- Kids Listen: A website collating kid-friendly podcasts, from science to storytelling to general silliness. No idea how good any of these are, but if you're in proud possession of one or more mewling whelps this could turn out to be an invaluable resource.
- Emma Identify: An interesting idea, still in beta but 'coming soon', Emma Identify is an 'AI' (not an AI) which claims to be able to identify text authorship with a high degree of accuracy. Give it a corpus to learn from (they say about 8000 words, so roughly a Curios) and it will then be able to judge whether other texts are likely or not to have been penned by the same author. Which has a whole host of interesting implications, not least legal ones - I wonder how long it is before stuff like this becomes admissible in court, say?
- Standard eBooks: Not the first 'massive repository of out of copywrite written works' to exist online, but this one differentiates itself by offering the texts in a standardised format, with nice (or at least readable) design and the like - all available for free for your reading pleasure. Two clicks took me to Alice in Wonderland, Candide, The Importance of Being Ernest and many more absolute classics; this really is wonderful.
- Me3: So this purports to be a friendship-making app for grownups, and entirely platonic; you tell the app stuff about yourself based on a series of questions about interests, etc, and it will then seek to match you with two other people of the same gender in your city which it believes you will have a high degree of affinity with; the idea being that it is HARD to make friends in the big bad city, and that this app will help you find a couple of other lonely people JUST LIKE YOU to hang out with. Several things spring to mind; first, that this is going to quickly become an absolute gay threesome HOTBED; second, that its promise to find you people 'nearly identical' to you is a frankly horrific one. Look, mate, I spend ALL DAY inside this head and one of the few positive things about occasionally interacting with other sacks of meat is the brief distraction it affords me from the quotidian horror of BEING ME. Please don't make me meet anyone else who feels like this; can you imagine the awfulness?
THE SECTION WHICH IS FULLY EXPECTING AN ACTUAL CHURCH OF JEZUS TO EMERGE FROM GLASTONBURY THIS WEEKEND, AS SEVERAL THOUSAND PEOPLE BOXED OUT OF THEIR GOURDS ON PILLS AND MDMA HEAR HIS UTOPIAN MESSAGE FOR A SOCIALIST FUTURE, PT.2:
- Red Bull Illume Winners: The latest in the seemingly enless parade of Red Bull BRAND ACTIVATIONS is this one, the 'Illume' photo contest which "invited photographers to submit images of the world of action and adventure sports in one of 10 categories, including Energy, Playground, Sequence, and Enhance (where digital manipulation is allowed)". Some excellent photos in here; the winner in the 'Enhance' category in particular is quite spectacular.
- Block Bills: Artwork by Matthias Dörfelt, featuring a series of 64 banknotes generated from the Bitcoin Blockchain. HIGH CONCEPT! Also rather cool though.
- Amazing Japanese Minirobots: No, not the Sumo robots (although those are very cool too and you ought to take a look if you've not seen them); instead, this is a prototypical Sony project which, as far as I can tell (which is not very far as the site's all in Japanese) is designing tiny little modular motorised robot thingies which can be linked together with bits of paper and which you can make do some CRAZY stuff. Click the link and watch the videos and try and see if you can work out what the fcuk is going on, and then please tell me whether I am right to be excited by this or not. Thanks!
- The Fish Hammer: An incredibly silly project whereby this designer hooked up a fishtank to some sensors and a hammer, so that whenever the fish swam past a certain point in the tank, the hammer outside smashed something. Massively pointless and therefore highly satisfying, but also totally repurposable for BRAND ACTIVATION FUN - come on, imagine something like this which dispenses goodies at random based on an animal's movements; then imagine how you might have two layers to it, a vending machine, say, in a high footfall area which occasionally, seemingly randomly, disgorges something fun, and then an online bit whener people online get to somehow manipulate the animals to encourage/discourage them from triggering the drops (or, you know, something with less inherent animal cruelty built into the mechanic). GOD THIS STUFF IS CREATIVE GOLD WHY AM I NOT A CRAVAT-WEARING 'HEAD OF' DRINKING OFF HIS COKE HANGOVER ON A YACHT RIGHT NOW?!
- Poetry on the Shore: I just had an INCREDIBLY emo reaction to the description of this when rereading it just now. It is SO LOVELY I MIGHT CRY: "Poet on the Shore is an AI-empowered autonomous robot that roams on the beach. It enjoys watching the sea, listening to the sound of waves lapping on the beach, the murmurs of the winds, children’s conversing, and the incessant din of seabirds. Most of the time, it roams alone to listen and feel. Sometimes, it writes verses into the sand, and watches the waves wash them away." SEE?
- Woebot: When people regularly do those lists of 'jobs most likely to be rendered obsolete by computer automation', I don't know whether they even consider 'counselling' as an option. And yet, here we are - say hello to Woebot, a chatbot-cum-counsellor who will 'talk' to you and 'listen' to your 'problems' and oh god you actually have to pay for it, this is mental, who in their right mind is going to pay actual cashmoney to have a conversation about their feelings with a fcuking chatbot? Oh, actually perhaps there's a clue in the 'right mind' line there. Fine, it sends you 'videos and other tools' to help lift your mood, but really, FFS whoever built this, I am not convinced this is A Good Thing. Imagine having to talk to Woebot, a non-sentient piece of code, about how lonely you are. Imagine how that would make you feel. Christ.
- Binky: I think this was pretty widely-covered the other week, but in case you missed it - Binky is a fauz-social network, which presents as a real one; there's a news feed, you can scroll and look and click, but all the content is fake. All of it. None of the profiles are real, none of the people, all the images are stock...this is legitimately perfect, and frankly whoever's behind it should get in touch with an art gallery stat as this has Frieze installation written ALL over it.
- Beyond Curie: Posters celebrating the life and work of pioneering women in STEM who aren't Marie Curie, because occasionally we forget that there were others. Great idea and some very cool designs here.
- Ki Ecobe: I am often mocked by people who know me for (amongst other things) wearing really bad, often massive trainers - yeah, well, sorry, but they still look better than these. A Kickstarter project to fund a modular, self-assembly shoe which is hugely customisable and which, I am sad to say, looks like a hoover attempted to mate with a cockroach. Still, you might think differently and look at these and think WANT; it's over halfway there with a month to go, so your wish could very easily become reality.
- Super Mario in Hololens: The guy in the video who also coded this is SO CUTE. The video shows his recreation of the first level of Super Mario in AR, using the Hololens - see the koopas come towards you! Jump! Catch coins! And, as the other video in the top right demonstrates, look like an idiot whilst so doing! Obviously just a proof of concept and a chance for the man to show off his impressive coding skills, but fun nonetheless - have to say though that at no point does this look like it would actually be anything approximating to 'fun'.
- Swimsuits: You will, I am sure, have seen those swimsuits doing the rounds online - you know, the one-pieces printed with Trump's mouth or a hairy chest or other HILARIOUS imagery. Well, this is the place that actually sells them, so put your money where your mouth is or alternatively STOP FCUKING SHARING THEM EVERYWHERE. I do quite like the 'bikini' one, mind.
- Unpaid Intern: Continuing the sartorial theme, these are tshirts which simply read 'Unpaid Intern' - 15% of the profits go to Save the Children, so if you want to look amusingly edgy/like an absolute tool (delete as applicable) you know what to do. Bonus points to any agency which actually does unpaid internships and gets a job lot of these in which to dress said unpaid interns.
- Dog Photographer of the Year: Insert your own tedious commentary about doggos, puppers and 12/10 here, despite knowing full well that it is played out as you like.
- Loveflutter: The latest attempt to find a novel twist on the dating app formula (doomed to failure, I think); this one's gimmick is that it hooks up to your Twitter account and uses your latest 10 tweets (or a selection you can curate yourself) to present your 'personality' to potential mucal companions. Can you imagine? I could never use this, mainly because all anyone would see is a bunch of links to webspaff interspersed with block-caps swearing, but maybe you're better at presenting as an attractive, witty human being on twitter dot com.
- The Dutch National Archive: On Flickr. No idea why you'd necessarily want this, unless you're Dutch or a student of their history, but if you want to browse through a huge archive of photos from the history of the Netherlands then you are in luck. Aside from anything else, there are some cracking moustaches in here which deserve your attention.
- The Corsairs Project: Quite odd this, like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland made photographic. Artist Samuka Marinho has spent...Christ only knows how long taking and digitally manipulating pictures of what she imagines pirate life on the Spanish Main. These are a weird combination of beatifully atmospheric and incredibly camp, and there is a LOT of work in here; if nothing else, worth bookmarking for the moodboards when the Captain Morgan repitch rolls around again.
- Social Cooling: An interesting thesis / manifesto, this, which argues that, as we become more aware of the extent to which what we say online is being tracked and used, we will inevitably become more cautious about what we say / share online which will eventually over time lead to significant changes in how we interact with each other. Hyperbolic, perhaps, but also probably true to an extent.
- After School Satan: The offcial after school programme of the US Satanic Temple, set up as a satirical jab at the rules in the US which mean that no religion can be constituionally limited from setting up after school clubs. No word on what activities are undertaken at said clubs, but I'm pretty sure it's all above board.
- Automating Soundcloud: This is SO CLEVER and one of you really ought to steal this asap. It's a paper on how the author created a Soundcloud file which started off as a distorted mess and which over time became less distorted the more often it played, until finally the actual track was revealed. CAN YOU SEE THE POSSIBILITIES? CAN YOU? Come on, this is golden and actually SO simple (it's just a Soundcloud upload hack, nothing more). USE IT.
- Reddup: Reddit, but with a nicer UI.
- LED Fidget Spinners: Yes, I know, but this is quite fun, potentially - these are fidget spinners with programmable LED lights on them which means you can make them read whatever you want when they are spun. You've probably got 2-3 weeks to think of something stunty you can do with this before we all get so sick of the bloody things that we consign them to the fad oubliette for a decade or so. Oh, and please do take note of the company name - that's...that's not ok, is it?
- Inspirobot: Autogenerating inspirational quotes, presented as an image macro which is PERFECT for sharing on Facebook or Insta. I strongly suggest that you reconfigure your personal brand this weekend to make it ALL ABOUT sharing these all over your socials and seeing which of your friends fails to call you out about it.
- A Really High-Res Photo Of A Furry Convention: Just LOOK at them!
- Dark Stock Photos: The best Twitter account I've seen in ages. Stock photos, but HORRIBLE.
- Drug Slang Codewords: Look, if you haven't seen this then ENJOY - this is the US' Drug Enforcement Agency's May 2017 handbook listing all their known slang terms for various narcotics; PLEASE, all of you, spend the weekend using as many of these as possible; I really want to hear your stories about texting your man this evening with a request for a couple of grams of 'Movie Star Drug' (no, really, that's on the list), or a half-dozen doses of 'speed for lovers' (words fail me).
- Deleted City: Oh wow. An incredible zoomable map of old geocities sites; zoom in, and keep zooming, and realise how deep this goes and how many there were, and what an incredible archive of a certain part of web history this is. To quote, "This website is an interactive visualisation of the 650 gigabyte Geocities backup made by the Archive Team on October 27, 2009. It depicts the file system as a city map, spatially arranging the different neighbourhoods and individual lots based on the number of files they contain. In full view, the map is a data-visualisation showing the relative sizes of the different neighbourhoods. While zooming in, more and more detail becomes visible, eventually showing individual html pages and the images they contain." Wow, really.
- Kawaiiswap: I grudgingly concede that there's the kernel of an idea here, but I am grumpy about it. This is a Chrome plugin that analyses what you type on social media and, should you have the temerity to express negativity, suggests that you swap out the sad for some cute gifs instead! Yeah! Sunshine! Rainbows! Even worse, it was created by some dgital agency as a showcase - STOP BEING SO INSUFFERABLY TWEE, YOU CNUTS. Yeah, gif that you bastards.
- If This Is A Man: Primo Levi's 'If This Is A Man' remains one of the canonical novels about the Holocaust (imho alongside Tadeusz Borowski's 'This Way To The Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen); this is a live reading of it, presented by the South Bank Centre. It's a wonderful reminder of just what an incredible piece of writing it is.
- Digital Forensics Tools: A SUPER-USEFUL Google doc compiling a whole bunch of useful tools and tips for doing digital research (in the journalistic sense) - how to search, where to look up IPs, all that sort of stuff. You may know lots of these, but you're unlikely to know all of them - if you do anything investigate-y then this is potentially invaluable as a resource.
- 4d Toys: My experience with this was one of those regular, unpleasant reminders that I'm really nowhere near as smart as I wish I was; this site basically takes you through the concept of 4 dimensionality (in the real sense, not in the Merlin Entertainment sense whereby the 4th dimension is, it seems, being sprayed in the face with water) as a primer for the digital toybox which accompanies the site. This is honestly mind-bending, I promise you, and also very, very interesting indeed.
- Crystals for the Yoni: Look, why OUGHTN'T you indulge in some crystal-based vulva therapy? Totally sfw, I promise.
- Moo Party: You can make these ASCII cows say whatever you want in this three-panel comic. I have no idea what use you might find for this, but I trust in your ingenuity.
- The Apology Simulator: A very clever little Twine project, using the IF format to allow the reader/player to explore various ways of apologising in various scenarios. Exploring questions of privilege, this at times was a very hard read for me indeed; your mileage may vary, but I think it's rather beautiful.
- Evert 45: One of several really rather lovely interactive sites to close out this section, this is the companion web project to a Dutch TV Show (I think) which explores one man's journey in 1945 to find his brother in post-war Holland. The interface is gorgeous, it uses video beautifully and the story is genuinely moving; really very well-made indeed.
- I'm Your Man: This is equally good - it's a digital 'documentary' to accompany a stage play about Australia's boxing legends; you play at boxing training and actual fighting while you're introduced to a succession of famous faces (fists) from the sport's antipiodean past. This is excellent (and the music's ace).
- Tabel: An experiment in 360-degree theatre/filmmaking, this is a short vignette taking place in the garden of an exclusive restaurant - here's their setup: "Tonight is a very special night and you, the viewer are lucky enough to have found a last minute seat at Tabel Restaurant, one of the most exclusive farm-to-table restaurants around. Unfortunately, Tabel has serious problems in the kitchen. The waiter is exceptional at hiding these problems but the influential patrons of the restaurant are slowly catching on to the ripening catastrophe that is so obviously escalating around them. Will anyone take action to save the restaurant and themselves?" It's an interesting idea, and the sound design is excellent, but it wasn't quite a compelling enough story to keep me interested; see what you think.
- Otis: Yes, ok, fine, it's ANOTHER of these 'watch a film, switch between perspectives' video (who knew that sodding Honda ad would have such a long tail, eh?), but this is genuinely seamless and the story of the short is really very good; plus the multiple perspectives really do reward repeat views. Sort of an object lesson in how to do this sort of thing imho.
- Chardonnay & Adderall: The latest single from Portugal the Man (whose SOUND OF THE SUMMER earworm was featured here back in March, f your i), this is single-serving site which uses multiple pop-ups to tell the story. It's GREAT. Enjoy, and watch adland do this really badly in September.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Tabletop Whale: Infographics, illustrations and animations by the exceptionally talented Eleanor Lutz who you ought to commission (no, I don't know her, I just think the work here is very strong).
- Probably Bad RPG Ideas: Your appreciation for this almost certainly maps pretty much exactly onto your appreciation of Dungeons & Dragons (DON'T JUDGE ME).
- Dank Doggos: Canine-based memery, compiled in one easy-to-bookmark location. Exactly the sort of intersection of weird Twitter, memeland and normie culture that I love.
- Je Me Trouve Ici: My friend Tassos is on a journey (literal AND metaphorical, YEAH!); this Tumblr is a selection of clues as to where he might be at any given point. You can try and solve them if you like, and drop him a line to tell him how you're getting on. He'd like that, and there would probably be some sort of small reward in it for you.
- Neo-Brutalism: I'm a sucker for this stuff, really.
- Lesbian Separatist Cottage Fantasy: Sadly this is just an interiors blog, but the title is absolutely wonderful.
- Glitchp0rn: Bongo, but all glitched out and fcuked up. Actual, proper bongo, mind, so even though it's a bit fuzzy it's still the sort of thing someone might do a doubletake at should you decide to fullscreen it in the office. Still, it's ART so fcuk them and their pr...pr...no, sorry, it's gone.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- Dispatch From Grenfell: If you've not already seen this, do read it; the accoung of a firefighter who attended to the blaze last week, talking about their experience and the work they do and how it felt being in the middle of it. Incredible, visceral piece of writing, this.
- Talking To The King of Musical.ly: You saw that incredible lipsyncing video last month, right? The one with all the crazy edits and transitions, all made with Musical.ly? Well if not click the link, watch the clip and the read the kid talk about how he made it. To be clear, this is sort of interesting from a cultural point of view, but mostly because of the very useful practical tips he gives on how to achieve the sort of jaw-dropping effects he manages.
- A Typical Day In A Blockchain World: A day in a blockchain-enabled future, in the company of, for no discernible reason, Crowley the Crocodile. Leaving aside this slightly baffling conceit, this is a really interesting evocation of some of the real-world applications of the blockchain, taking in touchpoints across the course of Crowley's day. It's...odd, but all based on possible applications of the technology (although I think the pizza conveyor belt is possibly a touch fanciful).
- My Body Doesn't Belong To You: We really oughtn't need another piece written by a woman about the ownership men seem to feel over her body, and yet here we are. Heather Burtman's piece in the NYT says little new, but it says the same sad things very well indeed.
- Reviewing The Reviewers: Starting out as an obviously slightly facetious tissue-thin pitch and developing by the end into quite a weird journey into darkness, VICE's Oobah Butler goes on a quest to meet the people who leave THOSE reviews on Tripadvisor; you know, the joyless types who you sort of always expect to be Reader's Digest readers who complain about the lighting and the wobbly table and the waiter's supercilious sneer and I said to Janice, I said, who DOES he think he is, that's his tip gone, I don't mind telling you I've a mind to NAME him, Janice, to NAME him on Tripadvisor, those people. It's GREAT.
- The Sex-Positive House: Imagine living in a house with a bunch of other people who are all SEX POSITIVE and love TALKING ABOUT SEX and DEMONSTRATING SEX TECHNIQUES and stuff, who are all polyamorous and pansexual and oh God it sounds ghastly, doesn't it, exhausting and grim and like it might be somewhat akin to a weekend with scientologists or something. This article introduces the residents of a 'sex-positive' dwelling in the US, and, as you'd expect, manages to make the entire experience sound about as sexy as an enema (not sexy, in case you were wondering), and the description of the 'squirting workshop' is, er, wow.
- Pr0nhub and the American Sexual Imagination: A really interesting exploration of what Pr0nhub data says about what American's are into sexually, and how its existence is changing sexual appetites and mores; not just in the 'bongo is ruining our teens' sense, but in the more general 'people are finding out about kinks that they would never have known existed without this stuff', which isn't per se a bad thing. Contains absolutely nowehere near enough about the inexplicable rise in searches for 'giant' last year though, which I am still higely curious about.
- Oxbridge Wine: An excellent portrayal of the very strange world of Varsity wine tasting, in which teams from Oxford and Cambridge compete to see who are the best winetasters (you can't really imagine, say, Manchester and Portsmouth doing this, can you?). Peopled by some pretty strong eccentrics, this is not only really interesting but a reminder of quite how...weird Oxbridge can look.
- The Vagina Whisperer: A profile of Dr. Amir Marashi, a US surgeon who's made a name for himself performing vaginoplasties. Interestingly the piece's author starts being pretty ready to give the guy a kicking, but over the course of the narrative comes to th conclusion that vaginal surgery has been unfairly stigmatised for a whole variety of reasons; there's a lot of really interesting stuff here about gender politics, quite aside from all the chat about yoni-reshaping. I imagine if you have a vagina this might make you feel a touch squeamish, what with the surgical descriptions, so caveat emptor - no photos or anything though, so very much SFW.
- The Sociology of the Smartphone: Thanks to Josh for pointing me at this - a GREAT read about the smartphone and how it's changed society. Really well-considered, this is an extract from a forthcoming book which, if this is anything to go by, will be worth reading. It's hardly a revelatory observation, but it's quite astounding the pace at which it has reconfigured so many aspects of human life in such a short space of time.
- Smaller and Smaller and Smaller: In another week in which the US establishment continued the legitimisation of the murder of black people by police officers, Marlon James (Booker winner for A Brief History of Seven Killings) wrote this on his Facebook Page, about being big, and black, in America, and how black people seem to need to constantly make themselves smaller and to take up less space to avoid being seen as a threat to society. Excellent, angry and sad.
- Mapping Choose Your Own Adventure Stories: This is SUCH a wonderful way to map branching narratives, and I would like someone to make an easy wayto produce diagrams like these thankyouverymuchindeed.
- Meet The Ball Boys: This is...wow. The story of Lavar Ball, a man who had a dream that his three sons would all play in the NBA and who has dedicated seemingly his whole life - and that of his wife, and indeed those of his kids - to that end. There is single-minded focus, and there is Lavar Ball; there is pushy parenting, and there is Lavar Ball. This man is DRIVEN. Poor the kids, though I guess if the make the Show then it'll all have been worthwhile. Probably.
- The Blathering Superego at the End of History: This is a very good if somewhat miserable essay, positing that liberalism has lost - or at least the triumphalist version of it which appeared unstoppable in the early 2000s - and that we need to work out why. This is the final sentence - it's a nice representation of the overall style, and the whole piece is a very smart look at contemporary political discourse (or what passes for it): "In the face of these epochal changes, the superego of managerial liberalism is impotent. On some level it knows that. But it cannot simply abdicate, and it will take a while yet for it to wither entirely away. In the meantime, all it can do is blather, make empty threats of guilt and shame, issue fact-checks and explainers, shout from the roadside to an indifferent planet as the whole world goes libidinal and mad."
- The Ken Doll Reboot: Because you need to know everything about man-bun Ken, the week's REAL big story.
- Hell Is Empty and All the Hedge Fund Managers Are At The Bellagio: A brilliantly angry, slightly ranty, in-no-way-objective account of the SALT conference in Vegas, where the very rich, and the people who move money around on behalf of the very rich, go to discuss how to continue being very rich. Having spent a bit of time in and around this space recently I can only stress quite how accurate this feels, and quite how much I really don't want to ever have to spend time in this sort of space ever again, ever.
- The Answer Is Never: On being comfortable in the knowledge that one doesn't want to have children, and the difficulties that society seems to have in accepting that, particularly when the indivdual making the choice is a woman. So, so good - I can't recommend this highly enough.
- Meet Poppy: Poppy is one of my favourite things on the web at the moment. Whether you consider her a popstar, an art project, or some sort of trapped hybrid of the two, the metanarrative around her persona coupleed with the absolute cast-iron oddness of the project makes the whole thing particularly compelling to me. If you're unfamiliar with who Poppy is, take 10 minutes to read this and familiarise yourself; there's some new ish dropping later today (Friday 23) I think, so maybe now's a good time to enter the bubble.
- Oh James, You're FILTHY!: I'd always known that Joyce's letters to Nora Barnacle were on the fruity side, but I don't think I'd ever seen them reproduced in full and MAN is there some smut in here - Joyce was a man of what I believe might euphemistically described as 'earthy tastes', and this selection of prose written by him to Nora over a few December days show quite how sexually obsessed with her he was. The acts here described may not be to your taste - it's, er, a touch extreme in places - but there's no denying the fabulous vitality in the writing. Also, let's be honest, it's never not funny reading people talk about being turned on by farts.
AND NOW MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
1) First up, this is by Aldous Harding who I've featured already this year and whose album, Party, is honestly superb. I'm featuring this in part because it's a great song, and, I have to admit, because I fnd her absolutely spellbinding in the video. It's called 'Blend':
2) Next, this isn't new but I have been obsessed with this record for the past two months and I can't not share the video; this is called 'No Halo' and it's by Sorority Noise and it is devastating to me:
3) This is by 'Death From Above' and it is the best video featuring godlike bodybuilders watching the world burn that you will see all year. It's called 'Freeze Me':
4) Have you ever wondered what the exact aural equivalent of the way that this year has made you feel so far is? Wonder no more - it is THIS. 'Thot', by Icauna (great visuals too):
5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! This is by Web Curios favourite Manga St Hilare, from his excellent recent album Outbursts from the Outskirts - it's called Young, and it's ACE; hugely underrated, Manga, imho:
6) This is called 'Time for Sushi'. Just watch it:
7) Last this week, a short film by the reliably odd Die Antwoord - it's called 'Tommy Can't Sleep', and it's possible that after watching it you might not be able to either. BYE IT'S SO GOOD TO BE BACK I HAVE MISSED YOU ALL SO MUCH BYE BYE BYE:
Publisher's note: This week, we remember Clare-Marie Grigg who was the first editor of Imperica and has sadly passed away. Our thoughts are with Clare's family and friends at this very sad time.