44 minutes reading time (8818 words)

Web Curios 26/07/19

Web Curios 26/07/19

Let's play a game, shall we? Which newly-appointed Junior Minister was once told in no uncertain terms that they had to stop having an affair with M**o Y*********os due to the potential reputational damage that said affair could do to the Tories?

Anyway, that's enough of the politics, it's all too awful. Let us instead revel momentarily in the JOY OF COOL - at least til tomorrow when we all go back to whinging about how it's fcuking July and why isn't it sunny on the weekends ffs I had the barbecue all planned - and, most pressingly, THE JOY OF LINKS!

Oddly enough for someone who knows nothing about cricket and has even less interest in it as a rule, I am off to Lord's this afternoon to fail to understand anything that's going on and probably get gently p1ssed. Let me leave Web Curios in your hands - please treat it kindlly, with respect, and watch out for its tiny little teeth and claws. Immodestly - and I never say this - I think this week's is a particularly fine selection, so why not go and get some food and maybe a big cafetiere, book a meeting room for the rest of the afternoon for some important-sounding mystery appointment, and then spend the rest of the day frolicking through my prose like...like...no, I refuse to make a May/fields of wheat gag. Fcuk frolicking, just read the damn thing. This, as ever, is WEB CURIOS!

By Elizaveta Porodina

FIRST UP IN THIS WEEK’S MIXES, ENJOY MY FRIEND DREADLOCK NICK WHO I ONCE WORKED WITH (ALSO KNOWN AS NICK INTERCHILL IF YOU’RE INTO THAT SORT OF THING) AND HIS SET FROM THIS YEAR’S NOISILY FESTIVAL!

THE SECTION WHICH WANTS YOU TO PAUSE AND THINK FOR A SECOND ABOUT THE FACT THAT FACEBOOK WAS THIS WEEK ABLE TO PAY A $5BN FINE WITHOUT EVEN BATTING AN EYELID:

  • Slight Changes To Facebook Ad Formats: Sadly it’s one of those weeks where I’m forced to lead off with something this tedious; look, I promise it gets better in the next section, DON’T WORRY. Anyway, you’ll all be agog at the news that Facebook’s mobile newsfeed ads are slightly changing shape on August 19th, and as such you’ll get fewer lines of copy above the ‘more’ fold and that you’ll need to consider that when writi...no, sorry, I can’t do this.
  • Facebook Introducing ‘Search’ As Ad Placement Option: Or, at least, it’s testing it - witness this EXCITING SCREENSHOT. No details at all, but it would seem probable and reasonably useful; until they let you advertise at Groups, still the HOLY GRAIL of ad options, this is a pretty useful way of reaching people based on specific interest points (and, if you’re smart, a VERY good way of targeting people based on social factors which might ordinarily be trickier to do effectively).
  • Facebook’s FTC Statement: You don’t, to be clear, need to read this at all - it says very little of interest, and is light on specifics that we didn’t sort-of know already. I include it mainly for the fact that it doesn’t really read like the statement of a company whose wrist is still smarting from that $5BN slap, and because I find the idea that one of the steps the company is taking to ensure it’s better on privacy is to introduce a ‘new level of board oversight’ whereby a committee will meet on a quarterly basis to assess and track Facebook’s performance in this regard...a committee formed entirely of Facebook board members! Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, eh?
  • Twitter On Desktop Did A Redesign: You all know that, of course, or at least those of you who bother with Twitter do - even if you only use Tweetdeck or similar, you’ll doubtless have heard the now-standard wailing which accompanies any tweak to a site’s UX/UI. The ability to switch easily between accounts is useful; the rest of it is largely underwhelming and, if I’m honest, a bit ugly imho - if you feel the same, there’s a Chrome extension to revert back to the old version which you can install here (although, be honest, after a week you won’t remember what the old one looked like anyway so perhaps just get over it).
  • Snap Does Good Numbers: I’ve spent much of the past 12-18m glibly snarking about how Snapchat was all fubar-ed, which obviously means that its latest earnings update this week was a largely positive tale of rising user numbers and revenue. The user growth is mainly outside the US and Europe, but the numbers are still good (though, obviously, a fraction of Insta’s); it’s interesting to see how much of the new userbase was drawn in by the recent updates to its lenses (gender swap, etc), and I’d be interested to delve deeper into the actual use said new users put the app to. I wouldn’t be surprised if rather than using Snap as a messaging platform they’re instead using it as an image/video manipulation tool, creating stuff which they then share elsewhere. Still, GOOD NEWS, Snap people (pretty sure at least a couple of people who work there read this - HI THERE! SORRY FOR THE RECENT LACK OF FAITH!).
  • YouTube Makes Masthead Ads Available To All: Can I think of a way to expand this bit beyond the headline? Oh, yes, ok - up until recently the only way you could buy these was with a full-day takeover, but now you can use proper targeting and stuff, making it a far more affordable and sensible proposition. Was that worth the extra 30-odd words? No.
  • TikTok Testing Tweaks: It’s only 714am and already with the alliteration; I fear this may be a long morning. This isn’t really news in any real sense, but if you want to appear knowledgeable in your next social meeting with your dreadful, idiot clients and your dreadful, idiot colleagues, why not drop the EXCITING INTEL that apparently TikTok is considering introducing a grid-based look to its feed to allow for easier video selection, thereby moving it beyond its exclusively algo-based delivery system and, potentially, increasingly the number of videos that people watch, and offering more/better data about their preferences and interests based on said increase. Oh, and it might introduce ‘like’ and ‘download’ counters too, as well as a ‘discover’ tab to help surface new users to follow, a move which, if introduced, would basically mark the sad point at which the app stops being a fun and creative means of expression and instead becomes an advertiser-infested cesspit dominated by dead-eyed influencerscum shilling tat for pennies. GREAT!
  • Adinbox: Thanks to Mark Sharp (w_w) for this one - making smart use of the FB ad transparency API, this tool lets you set up alerts for whenever a company of your choosing launches an ad. The obvious idea is for competitors, but as a way of tracking political ad spend in the almost-inevitable forthcoming election this is also hugely useful.
  • Sir Stratalot: Credit to whoever’s behind this website - they acknowledge upfront that it has a stupid name, and they’re right, it really does. Beyond that, though, it’s actually a very useful resource, pulling together links to a HUGE range of articles, tools, guides and the like, all aimed at people with words like ‘strategist’ or ‘planner’ or ‘creative’ in their job title and designed to give them the tools to continue to bluff their way through the working day. Definitely worth bookmarking, and definitely not only included because they have put Web Curios on there (which if you liked you could go and upvote to give it more visibility because, well, WHY THE FCUK WOULDN’T YOU DO THAT AFTER EVERYTHING I’VE DONE FOR YOU OVER THE YEARS JESUS KAREN DON’T YOU LOVE ME AT ALL???).

By Salvatore Matarazzo

NEXT, ENJOY THE...ER...RAIN WITH THIS CORKING AND SUMMERY MONSTER OF AN ITALODISCO PLAYLIST!

THE SECTION WHICH HONESTLY THINKS THAT THE COUNTRY MIGHT HAVE A COLLECTIVE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN IF IT HAS TO GO THROUGH SIX WEEKS OF TRULY HORRENDOUS ELECTORAL CAMPAIGNING, PT.1:

  • Trennd: REALLY interesting little tool/toy/thingy, this - Trennd is a site which pulls in Google Trends data for a bunch of stuff in one place, allowing you to get an overview of trending searches across a variety of categories and compare them. Some of these are really interesting; the food tab, for example, is basically a guide to ‘which current buzzy ingredient ought I base my pop-up restaurant on this week?’, and the ‘concepts’ section is fascinating too (and a bit bleak - fast-rising topics include ‘virtue signalling’, ‘gaslighting’ and ‘insolvency and bankruptcy’). This is potentially very useful indeed, though you might need to poke around a bit to get the best out of it.
  • The Dual Power Map: I’ve been following Black Socialists of America on Twitter for a while now, but this is the first big web-type thing they’ve done; interesting both from the point of view of webdesign / functionality but also as a sort of ‘where we are now in the Culture Wars’ sort of signifier. Here’s the blurb: “The Dual Power Map is a strategic jump-off point for those looking to build #DualPower against the oppressive power of the state and the exploitative power of capital, neither of which have any regard for life on planet Earth, let alone Black people. We've meticulously plotted every single Worker Cooperative, Small Business Development Center, Community Land Trust, and Dual Power Project within the United States that you can support right now, and will be updating as time goes on.” The map is a live, growing picture of independent, cooperative small businesses operating on broadly socialist principles, and is designed to help people avoid spending money with BAD BUSINESSES wherever possible.
  • The Cool Club: This is a great site collecting 50 (?) of the best examples of webdesign as chosen the The FWA (Favourite Website Awards) people; lots of these have been featured in Curios over the years (SUCH GOOD TASTE), but an equal number were new to me (or I’ve just totally forgotten about); there are some gems here, and the whole site is a useful source of design or creative inspiration (or just an excellent way of wasting an hour as you go through all of them and then timesheet it under ‘design research’ or something).
  • Map With AI: This is quite amazing, and one of those reasonably rare occasions when I have to grudgingly admit that Facebook is doing something which on the face of it seems actually not that bad. Map With AI is a collaboration between FB and OpenMapData, which works to identify roads and other features from satellite photography in order to better see where missing or unmapped elements are. Hugely useful in disaster recovery and in creating adequate maps of hard-to-reach areas, this seems entirely benign, although we’ll probably find out in 30 years that this was just another step on the road to the ZuckerSingularity when we’re all uploaded into Mark’s consciousness.
  • Psly: How in the name of Christ are you supposed to pronounce this? Pissly? Is that a good name for an app? I do not think it is a good name. I also don’t think that this is a good idea, but maybe I’m just being miserable - Psly (Piss1ly?!) basically lets venues crowdsource their DJing, allowing anyone with the app to submit requests for songs that others can then up-and-downvote with the most popular ones getting played. Amusingly, as far as I can tell from the app, you’re able to log into participating venues when you’re ‘nearby’, meaning it would be entirely possible for you and a group of friends to sit in one bar or club and absolutely ruin the evenings of everyone in the bar next door by ensuring that they only hear ‘I Got A Feeling…’ by the Black Eyed Peas for the duration of the night. Actually, on reflection, I am a CONVERT and this sounds BRILLIANT.
  • Tunity: This is clever, though I am utterly baffled as to how it works (am I being stupid? It is entirely possible) and whether it’s US-only (I think it is). Tunity’s gimmick is that it will let you tune into the audio of any TV you can see using your phone - meaning that venue owners can install televisions,mute the sound, and then direct punters who want to watch whatever’s on to get the audio via their phones so as to not inflict the sound of, say, the fcuking rugby on everyone else. I can totally see this being useful in the US, where it’s perfectly normal to go to a bar on your own and sit watching sport you barely understand whilst silently consuming 9 budweisers and quietly being sick into a bowl of buffalo wings, but perhaps not in the UK. Still, this is basically witchcraft.
  • Airmail: Given we’re all still largely convinced that journalism as a profession is all banjaxed, it’s remarkable how many new publishing initiatives have happened in the past 12 months; here’s another, from the publishers of Vanity Fair (I think). Air Mail is a subscription-based weekly publication, beautifully-designed in a slightly ‘East-Coast US moneyed good taste, vaguely Hamptons’-sort-of-way, with a focus on the sort of articles that you’d enjoy in a good selection of Saturday/Sunday broadsheet supplements. The first issue’s not paywalled, so you can get a feel for the style; it’s a bit luxe for me, but there’s a lot of good writing once you scratch the surface. I really do hope they attract more advertisers soon, though, as the constant repetition of that one ad for Hermes is definitely creepy.
  • Planet: Lovely little webpage which presents a rotating model of the earth as seen from space, depicting our planet on January 25th 2018 and showing all of the satellites that orbited the planet on that day taking photos of us from space. The Earth’s topography appears bit by bit as you watch, filled in as the satellites circle and snap, creating a weirdly soothing sensation of the earth being coloured-in by a giant invisible hand. Put it on a big screen, it’s really very pleasing.
  • MegaPixels: “MegaPixels is an art and research project investigating the ethics, origins, and individual privacy implications of face recognition datasets created "in the wild."...MegaPixels aims to provide a critical perspective on machine learning image datasets, one that might otherwise escape academia and industry funded artificial intelligence think tanks that are often supported by the same technology companies who created many of the datasets presented on this site.” Currently only contains 5 datasets - the full lot will drop in September, should you wish to have a MASSIVE LOAD OF STRANGERS’ FACES to train your weird little AI project on (DON’T MAKE BONGO OUT OF STRANGERS THOUGH - a good and true maxim to live by, but also a deeply weird thing to find yourself writing at 802am on a Friday morning. Christ, 2019, the things you’re making me think about).
  • Robot Choir: OH GOD I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. Robot Choir is an art project that is going to happen in Helsinki on August 15th, but which you, dear reader, can contribute to RIGHT NOW! The ‘choir’ itself will be comprised of ten speakers which will produce sounds created by a programme which will have been ‘taught’ how to sing by the inputs provided by anyone who visits this website - you can record 15s or so of you singing which will then be added to the corpus of sounds with which the code will train itself, making you an infinitesimal but vital part of the creative process. This ticks so many of my personal boxes, honestly, to the extent that I have just wasted a minute or so of VALUABLE CURIOS TYPING TIME recording three different atonal honkings (I hope I haven’t ruined you, Robot Choir).
  • Has Bezos Decided?: A Twitter account dedicated to keeping us informed as to whether the (occasionally) richest man in the world has decided to use an estimated 20-odd per cent of his personal fortune to end world hunger yet. At the time of writing, the answer to this is ‘no’ - I wouldn’t hold your breath that this will change any time soon, but it’s nice to be reminded of the fact that he very much could.
  • Girl Up: A YouTube channel to accompany the UN’s Girl Up initiative, which launched nearly a decade ago and is intended to help advance women’s rights and create opportunity for women and girls across the world. The videos here collected are in the main made by young women and girls, and are lightly-empowering and just sort of broadly girl-power positive; if you have a daughter or daughters, this might be the sort of thing they would find inspirational (in a gentle, non-w4nky sort-of way, I promise).
  • The Emoji Mashup Bot: A Twitter account which tweets out weird bastard-emoji created by taking two different ones at random and combining them; this morning’s ‘Unamused Poo’ is a particularly great one which I will be screenshotting for use in all future groupchats forthwith (I obviously won’t be doing any such thing; I don’t speak emoji).
  • Date My Friend: YEARS ago I was in the pub with a friend of mine and she came up with the idea of a dating website called datemymate.com and got SO excited about what an amazing concept it was and how we’d (well, she’d - I had nothing to do with this at all tbh) become overnight millionaires - then a little bit later we realised that Kirsty fcuking Alsop (nothing personal, Kirsty, sorry) had not that long before launched MySingleFriend.com which was exactly the same thing but with a FAR sh1tter name. It was DEVASTATING (although, now I’m here, should one of Kirsty’s representatives be reading this, datemymate.co.uk IS available and I only want some sort of nominal fee for this idea). Anyway, that has literally NOTHING to do with Date My Friend, which is in fact a night being put on in NYC and Portland (OBVS) in which people do PPT presentations about why their friends are ace and why the assembled punters ought to consider dating them. This is included mainly because one of you is absolutely going to steal this idea and do it in the UK - GO!
  • FlickRock: Useful website which lets you plug in any Flickr account you like and get a more pleasant view of all its photos. That’s it. Onwards!
  • Shed of the Year 2019: I know that technically this is Cuprinol’s annual PR stunt thingy and so technically should be in the horrible commercial section up-top, but, well, NO. I am choosing to ignore the fact that this is technically marketing and instead instead focus on the TRUE and PURE love that we all have for the garden shed, and the glory of the annual celebration of its particular magnificence. Some of these are quite incredible feats of design and construction, but the absolute BEST thing about it is that it has just taught me that shed enthusiasts are known as ‘sheddies’ and that has honestly made my day.
  • Rooki: Not to be confused with the now-defunct Rookie by Tavi Gevinson, this is instead a new(ish) online magazine and community-type resource for young designers, containing articles giving career and training advice and offering guidance on techniques, jobhunting, agency life and all that jazz. If you’re starting your design career, this is potentially a pretty useful resource.
  • Sound Amplifier: This could be REALLY useful - Sound Amplifier is a Google app which you can use to isolate and enhance sounds in noisy environments; so to enable you to hear your interlocutor’s voice when talking in a noisy coffeeshop or restaurant, for example. Honestly, if you or a friend / relative is hard of hearing this could be a godsend; if you have vaguely tech-savvy grandparents (or, er, parents - we are, after all, of an age) this might be perfect for them.
  • Gallery Go: Another Google app, this time one designed to facilitate editing, sorting and finding photos in a simple, lightweight, low-data-usage package. Again, this is potentially useful for older users who might find more feature-heavy photo apps something of a hassle to navigate; it’s aimed mainly at African markets, I think, but is available internationally and could be worth a look.
  • Shame Plane: Thanks to Kev for sending this to me; Shame Plane does one thing, namely telling you exactly how much any flight between two places will cost the environment in terms of emissions, etc. This has had the unfortunate side effect of making me feel incredibly guilty about my forthcoming 72h round trip to Rome for my grandmother’s 100th birthday, so on reflection NO THANKS AT ALL, KEV, SHE’S MY GRAN FFS WHAT AM I MEANT TO DO?!
  • Dadabots: I’ve featured outputs from this project before, but never realised they were part of a single ‘thing’ - Dadabots is a project which trains neural nets to generate music based on specific styles (you may recall the death metal stream which was one of the mix selections way back in...March?), including jazz and pop-punk. The results are, in the main, unlistenable garbage, but it’s worth keeping an eye on as this is basically how the Korean Musical Industrial Complex is going to support its boyband-based global takeover in 2020.
  • 140 Seconds of Videogame Music: A Twitter account which shares 140-second snippets of game soundtracks. Some of the stuff is honestly great - you forget quite how amazing some of the compositions done on 8-and16-bit systems was back in the day - and even the stuff that isn’t is sort-of pleasingly nostalgic.
  • The GanBreeder Bot: Tweeting out images based on GanBreeder - odd, surreal, occasionally sinister, occasionally beautiful, definitely ART.
  • Photomath: If you have school-age children, DO NOT TELL THEM ABOUT THIS. If you ARE a school-age child, a) why the fcuk are you reading this? How did you find it? GET OUT!; and b) this is amazing and you must NEVER tell anyone about it. Photomaths lets you take a photo of any maths problem you like and will then solve it for you with explanations and everything. Obviously it could be regarded as a really helpful teaching tool, seeing as it provides you with not just the solution but the working, but, honestly, who wouldn’t just use this to zoom through their maths homework in 3m straight? NO FCUKER, that’s who! This has apparently been around for 4 years, so apologies if this is old news to all of you but, well, the internet’s not a race, you know (it is, and I just lost, chiz chiz chiz).
  • Symbolikon: A Kickstarter looking to raise funds to create “Extended Visual Library of 650+ EthnoGraphic Symbols categorized with Meanings, carefully Redesigned in a consistent and modern style...Symbolikon Digital Encyclopedia is a collection of symbols taken from historical, global civilizations, given a new life where ancient culture meets modern design. Symbolikon is a journey of discovery, taking users through the symbols and iconography of historical cultures and ages, providing in-depth and meticulously researched information about meaning and origin.” It’s about ⅔ funded with 25 days to go, so there’s a reasonable chance it will make it over the line - a lovely project.
  • Is There A Cat In This Film?: It’s a simple question, and this Twitter feed answers it. When the answer is ‘yes’, it also provides a helpful photo of said cat in said movie. MAOW!

By Rako Inoue

NEXT, ENJOY SOME TECH-HOUSE FROM N.E.O AKA ANNIE O, WHO ODDLY ENOUGH I ALSO ONCE WORKED WITH!

THE SECTION WHICH HONESTLY THINKS THAT THE COUNTRY MIGHT HAVE A COLLECTIVE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN IF IT HAS TO GO THROUGH SIX WEEKS OF TRULY HORRENDOUS ELECTORAL CAMPAIGNING, PT.2:

  • Tinny Taste Testing: Silly-but-surprisingly-involved project in which Gwilym Lockwood decides to do a proper, rigorous, empirical test to find out which of the standard range of crap, generic lagers available at most London off-licenses delivers the best ‘bag of cans in the park’ experience. There are GRAPHS and TABLES and the results will SHOCK you (they probably won’t, actually, they really do all taste like p1ss). I would very much like to see this level of rigour applied to other food and drink please Gwilym.
  • Language Transfer: Thanks Alex (I think) for this one, which is a pretty amazing labour-of-love by one person (with a little help) - Language Transfer is a language learning website which offers courses on a useful range of tongues (Italian, Swahili, French, Greek, Spanish, English for Spanish speakers, etc) and which are impressively-comprehensive; the Spanish course runs to 90 individual elements on Soundcloud. Definitely worth a look if you’re once again feeling guilty about the fact that you can’t speak anything other than English (and you’re not even good at that ffs).
  • The IGTV Film Festival: It’s testament to the lack of interest in / impact of IGTV that I had no idea that this had even happened - not that I know everything, far from it, but it’s the sort of thing I’d have expected to float across my field of vision given the general remit of Curios. I didn’t, though, and now it’s OVER - this article collects the finalists, though, and is a useful place to get a feel for some of the trends and techniques popular in vertical video creation RIGHT NOW. Aside from anything else, if you’re a filmmaker interested in doing more in this format it’s a great way of getting a feel for how to shoot in portrait.
  • Neutrum Genius: A Chrome extension which changes mentions of ‘he/she’ to ‘they’, which, aside from anything else, proves how incredibly easy it is to write gender-neutrally with no real impact at all.
  • Toxic TikToks: A Twitter feed ripping the oddest examples of the great video wild west that is TikTok. I warn you, this is HORRIBLY compelling and you may well find yourself, as I just did, lost down a weird rabbithole of fat men lipsyncing to K-Pop whilst topless, and largely incomprehensible teen rituals. I...I don’t like this very much, but I don’t want to stop watching it; which, basically, is TikTok in a nutshell.
  • Knowin: Billing itself as an app to help you learn coding ‘on the go’, this seems like a smart tool; it’s designed for people who want to pick up basic principles in bite-sized chunks in their spare time, and is seemingly perfect for the sort of person who wants to MAXIMISE THEIR PRODUCTIVITY by filling every single second of every day with an improving experience. Are you that sort of person? GET OFF MY BLOGNEWSLETTER THEN, it’s not for the likes of you.
  • Reply Now: A single-inbox solution for managing multiple messenger services, this lets you funnel all your interactions in FB Messenger, Whatsapp, Telegram, etc, into a single interface. Useful, if INCREDIBLY tedious.
  • Vegplotter: On the one hand, this is a website designed to help you plan your garden; on the other, this is basically a totally free, very soothing little garden-growing game, Sim Allotment maybe, where you can happily potter around planting virtual cabbages and watching them flourish under your care. Five years ago I wouldn’t have though of this, but in 2019 I can *totally* imagine people using this as a gentle, soothing tool to cope with feelings of anxiety. Christ alive, THIS FCUKING WORLD WE LIVE IN (Polygon Studios forever RIP).
  • The Bluetooth Cassette Player: A sort-of ur-example of ridiculous hipster retrofetishism, this - and of course it’s absolutely bust through its target on Kickstarter. “The new launching of IT’S OK Bluetooth 5.0 cassette player brings a new perspective to the romanticism of the ‘80s cassette player. It is the world’s first cassette player with Bluetooth 5.0 capability that not only supports traditional 3.5mm headphones but is also compatible with Bluetooth 5.0 headphones or speakers. Whether you are alone or in an open space, you can freely enjoy the penetrating voice and warm sound from the cassette tape.” SUCH WHIMSY, SO HIPSTER!
  • Artists x Researchers x AI: A really useful Google Doc collecting the names and online presences of a whole bunch of people generally involved in the interesting intersection of art and ai. Worth filing the link somewhere, just in case any of your clients ever commission something other than a fcuking influencer campaign ever again.
  • Scuba Shooters: “Scubashooters is an underwater photography community where you can find information, awesome photos and all about your passion...let's dive!”, reads the charmingly happy description on the landing page. SO MANY EXCELLENT PHOTOS OF SMOL FISH! LOOK AT THIS SMOL OCTOPUS! Amazing.
  • What’s In A Name: Analysis of the past 100 years of American baby naming trends - this is less interesting for the names (though fcuk me it does highlight how incredibly conservative the past couple of decades have been, and how many fcuking Americans called Jacob and Emilly we can expect to meet in the coming 50 years) and moreso for the rather nice range of ways its displayed; it’s a good example of some of the ways you can cut and present a single dataset (that’s what you come here for, right? DATASETWRANGLING!).
  • The Apollo 11 Computer Code: Only of use to the proper geeks amongst you, this Github repository gives you the chance to get your hands on the ACTUAL CODE used to get Apollo 11 to the moon. Christ knows what you’d do with it - pretty sure someone somewhere will get it to run DOOM at somepoint, though.
  • Standard Guitar: This is SUPER useful if you want to learn - or re-learn - guitar; it basically lets you play along with anything from Spotify, offering you chord changes in time with the track. It seemingly works with EVERYTHING on Spotify, which is sort-of incredible; I could imagine this being a godsend if you’re even vaguely competant at the instrument.
  • Nao: An interesting idea - a voice-based social app, designed specifically for the non-neurotypical, the anxious, etc, and with what appears to be some sort of supportive AI (not in fact AI) built in to offer positive feedback and encouragement to users. Which obviously is well-meaning and might be A Good Thing for certain people, but the slightly broken English description brings me to the verge of tears every time I read it - I mean, look: “Nao is a voice-based social platform to reduce your stress. From the day we are born, a million different happenings will shape your life. You may feel excited one day and under the weather the other. Loneliness, Depression, AnxietyADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, and some stress-related disorders. We are all differencet. This platform is for people with differences. The thing is you're not alone. In our app, you can get warm connections and AI friend. This AI friend will respond to every message you make to encourage you.” SEE? Dear God I’m practically bawling again.
  • The Sexual Identity Generator: Let me preface this by saying I AM NOT MAKING FUN OF THE GENDER SPECTRUM. However, I do find this webtoy, which churns out Tumblresque identities at the press of a button. It just gave me ‘Inflated gay goth’, which feels about right.
  • Epcoc: VERY NSFW LINK OF THE WEEK #1! DO NOT CLICK THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH HR AND IT! Ok, now we’ve got that out of the way, this is another horrible, PR-chasing ‘innovation’ from bongopeddlers CamSoda; this time, it enables users to ‘record’ their oral sex technique using their phone (no, not like that) and then upload it to the site; other users who are ‘lucky’ enough to own a particular brand of online sextoy can then download these ‘experiences’ to ‘enjoy’ via their plastic fcuktube. I am SO agog at this, although equally I do quite like the idea that this will one day be monetisable so anyone could upload a particularly frothy hummer and then rake it on residuals for the rest of their days. The good thing - the only one, tbh - about this is the idea that lots of these ‘experiences’ will in fact be made by gay/trans men rather than cis-women, a concept which would doubtless-horrify the likely userbase for this sort of horrorshow.
  • VR Bongo Time Capsule: VERY NSFW LINK OF THE WEEK #2! DO NOT CLICK THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH HR AND IT! I think I might just let this one speak for itself: “With the use of our proprietary system, you can record and save the sexual intercourse with your other half to recreate it even in the far future with use of immersive virtual reality. The Time Capsule service offers no less than 6K ultra high definition resolution for the highest quality of your sexual ecstasy, which together with binaural sound technology will one day recreate the affection that you now feel to your chosen one in every meaning of the word – regardless of one’s gender or sexual orientation.” WHAT THE FCUK!? A cursory examination of the site seems to suggest that you expected to let these people record you fcuking in glorious super-HD. You think you’d look good being filmed fcuking in glorious super-HD? You would almost certainly not, is the cruel truth. There can’t, possibly, be an actual market for this, can there?
  • Fantastic Contraption: Finally this week, a palette-cleanser after that techbongohorrorshow - this is a Flash game (so desktop-only, sadly) which asks you to design FANTASTIC CONTRAPTIONS to solve increasingly complex physics-based puzzles. Lovely, and basically a browser-based ripoff of the superb 90s PC title ‘The Incredible Machine’ which literally none of you will remember but which I promise was excellent. This will absolutely KILL your productivity this afternoon, you’ll be glad to hear.

By Laurie Simmons

LAST UP IN THIS WEEK’S SELECTION OF MIXES, HAVE THIS HIPHOP, GRIME AND GARAGE MIX BY DJ MK!

THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS (THAT CONTAINS A COUPLE OF NON-TUMBLRS BUT, WELL, TAXONOMY AS EVER BE DAMNED!):

  • Tabletop Whale: A scifi illustration blog which has been around forever but which I have only just remembered. SO much great work in here if you like charts, infographics and the like (and who doesn’t? NO FCUKER, that’s who!).
  • Cereal Offers: A ridiculously-comprehensive database of the free stuff you get in cereal boxes. “There are over 8000 pictures of gifts, packets, adverts & promotional items specifically relating to Weetabix, Quaker, Cereal Partners & Kelloggs across 2500+ pages. This is still very much work in progress” Mad, but in a good way.
  • All Things Linguistic: The linguistics blog of Gretchen McCulloch, whose new book about changing language in the internet era, ‘Because Internet’, has been EVERYWHERE this week. Interesting, though recent posts have mostly been book promo - go back a few weeks, though, and you’ll hit linguistics paydirt.
  • Archimodels: Architectural models. Lots of them.

THE TROUGH OF (INSTA) FEEDS!:

  • Iain Laurie: Iain Laurie is an artist, and his work is quite impressively unsettling. No, really, I’m not lying.
  • Abstract Aerial Art: Shots from the air which have a pleasing geometry to them - this is gorgeous.

LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:

  • The Ogilvy Thing: I presume that most of you working in advermarketingprland have already raked over the bones of this, but in case not - Ogilvy in the US were recently found to have been working for US Customs and Border Control, specifically around making content designed to mitigate the negative perceptions around an organisation whose processes have overseen the deaths of seven children. There was a recent townhall meeting at their US HQ - it was recorded, and leaked, and fed to Buzzfeed, and this is the writeup. Interesting in the main for the odd - and accurate - picture it paints of agency ‘ethics’, and the way everyone in here (from the top-down) comes across as just being massively uncertain of where lines are and should be. If you take only one thing from this, though, let it be Ogilvy’s worldwide CEO John Seifert referring to the aforementioned child deaths as a “lack of performance”, which regardless of your position on who agencies should or should not work for is a spectacularly awful statement.
  • The 101 People and Ideas Changing the World: A really interesting rundown from the BBC, which presents the concepts in quick, snappy copy and provide a really useful general primer as to the sort of things you ought to be bandying about willy-nilly when you talk about TRENDS TO LEVERAGE FOR CAMPAIGN STRATEGY (*sigh*).
  • The NYPD Social Strategy: A look at the New York Police Department’s social media guidelines and training materials, which instruct officers on how to strike that essential ‘playful but serious!’ and ‘of the internet!’ and ‘just like you guys!’ tone on Twitter whilst also being the cops. If you’re the sort of person who has had to write social media strategies and guidelines, this will be darkly familiar and not a little funny to you; to everyone else, this is probably going to come across as quite weird and a bit creepy, and you’d be right.
  • How The New Twitter Design Happened: Regardless of your feelings about Twitter’s new look - and frankly I imagine most of you could not give less of a fcuk, which is absolutely the right opinion to have - this WIRED piece about how it came about, and the historical culture of design at the company, is interesting, not least in terms of some of the existential ‘what is Twitter?’ questions that it raises. Apparently, “What the design team says now is that Twitter is for conversation”, which is something of a pivot from the ‘IT’S FOR NEWS’ foghorn they’ve been using for the past couple of years.
  • How The ReTweet Ruined the Internet: An opinion held by...the person who designed the ReTweet! There really ought to be a special blanket term for the class of articles by white, male coders who’ve made millions from their stock options but who suddenly decide that what they made was bad, actually, but there’s no way that they could have predicted this badness at the time and so, really, none of it’s their fault but the company really ought to do something about it, ok? This is one of them - on the one hand, I agree with most of what it says - the quote-RT ‘weaponising the slam-dunk’ is SO true - but on the other I want to shake this man by the shoulders quite hard and scream some choice spittle-flecked invective at him, along the lines of “ANYONE WITH A PASSING KNOWLEDGE OF HUMAN NATURE COULD HAVE HAD A VAGUE GUESS ABOUT HOW THIS STUFF WOULD PAN OUT AT SCALE FFS”.
  • Teens Like Everything On Social Media Now: Quick piece on the increasing social trend of teens blanket-liking everything they see on Insta, whether as a form of light digital OCD or some sort of gentle comfort-giving ritual. Either way, worth noting by way of another reminder that THE VAST MAJORITY OF SOCIAL MEDIA METRICS THAT WE ALL PRETEND MEAN SOMETHING ARE IN FACT ARBITRARY AND STUPID.
  • What’s Happening To Grindr: Really interesting piece about the not-totally-surprising issues faced by Grindr since it was bought by Chinese money a while back, and the parallel, also-not-totally-surprising toxicity of management attitudes to the wider queer culture. Are there any tech companies that aren’t a bit awful?
  • MSNniversary: Sorry about the title there. Sorry. Anway, if you’re...what sort of age-range is this going to work for? Late-20s to mid-30s? Basically classic millennial. Where was I? Oh yes, this is a look at how MSN Messenger shaped social interactions for an entire generation of kids, from the usernames to the anxiety, and the extent to which all those elements have bled through into today’s communications platforms; as the piece points out, the concept of the groupchat is a direct descendent of MSN but with less social horror.
  • Why YouTubers See Ghosts: I had literally no idea that there was a whole new creepypasta genre where makeup and beauty YouTubers are posting tutorial videos with a creepy, ghostly layer to them. It’s a whole trend, apparently, and a nice example about how the web facilitates this sort of weird cross-pollination of memes and trends to create beautiful, silly stuff like this. Any of you do social for makeup brands? Get on this NOW in time for Hallowe’en.
  • Hipster Elegies: This is a VERY overwritten and not-a-little-pretentious (pot? kettle? wevs) piece about the end of the hipster as a concept, what it meant while it was a thing, and a bunch of other stuff besides - it’s VERY long and studded with far more ten-dollar prose than it really needs to be, but if you’re interested in cultural anthropology it’s worth a look.
  • Woe to Tango and Cash: A lovely reflection on the sad side-effect of streaming culture, whereby you simply don’t get that wonderful, serendipitous joy of turning on the telly at random and seeing something you didn’t know you wanted to watch but you suddenly realise is EXACTLY what you want to watch at that moment in time, and being able to share that with other people. There’s DEFINITELY something in this for platforms to consider; a ‘shuffle’ option at the very least, but perhaps some sort of consistent, themed programming as well. JUST LIKE TELLY!
  • In Search of Lost Time on YouTube: A gorgeous piece about the very special sort of nostalgiafeels you can get going back in time on YouTube; it’s interesting to think that this sort of visual archeology / time travel was impossible until recently, and whether Proust might have replaced the madeline with ‘an ad break from prime time 70s TV ripped off VHS’ as his gateway to the past (he absolutely wouldn’t, what a stupid thing to write ffs Matt).
  • Andy Ngo and the Portland Antifa: You don’t need to know who Andy Ngo is to find this interesting; this is more about how the increasingly febrile left-right battle in the US (and, by extension, the world) and the ceaseless, growing demand for MORE CONTENT to feed the ravening maw of the YouTube-grifter exosystem, is creating more and more figures like Andy Ngo, who’s basically created some sort of new genre of pseudo-gonzo non-journalism where he basically wonders round left-wing protests in the hope that someone will recognise him as an avatar of the right and lamp him. Additional proof that the now is weird and the web is bad for us.
  • The Last Days of the Appalachian Poverty Tour: A heartbreaking - and, honestly, shocking - portrait of the poverty experienced in rural Ohio in 2019; the extent of the deprivation is astonishing, and serves as a pleasing corrective to those Panglossian fcuks all over the web telling the libs to stop complaining because WE HAVE NEVER LIVED IN A BETTER OR MORE PROSPEROUS WORLD. Word for you, ‘bucko’ - progress is not evenly distributed, and, contrary to your belief, a mobile phone is not the sole signifier of ‘life is better now than 30 years ago’.
  • Reality TV Reinvention: On how reality TV stars of the 00s are using YouTube and other platforms to redefine their moment of fame from their point of view, telling their side of the story and exposing the way in which they were cajoled, edited, scripted and pushed towards playing a role - often a role which caused them no little personal angst once it aired and they realised everyone in the world now they thought they were that vapid tosser off ‘Byron Bay Bridezillas’ or somesuch tat. Two thoughts on this - 1) WHY are no UK Big Brother stars from yesteryear doing this? I would pay actual cashmoney to hear from Marco or anyone from that season; 2) I presume all the Love Island people have very strict contractual ‘we will not talk about the process for a decade’-type obligations, because otherwise a YT series / podcast of them all telling their experience of what REALLY happened would do preposterous numbers.
  • On-Demand Exercise: I know a couple of people who are into Peloton - that’s the bike-with-a-telly-attached home fitness kit that lets you do bike-based workouts, with a trainer on video, from home, on-demand - and it does very much sound like a cult, like that US gym/fitness chain whose name I’ve temporarily forgotten and can’t be bothered to look up (it’s usually at about this stage in the longreads, by the way, that I can really feel the writing in Curios start to go properly to tits; sorry everyone). This is an interesting overview of the sector as a whole, which looks destined to grow and grow as more of us become obsessed with exercise and fitness but equally a) time-poor; and b) disinclined to leave the house and spend the time with actual, real people. It’s not that hard to imagine all this going a bit darkly scifi in a few years, but let’s not dwell.
  • Inside the World of Art-bongs: I can’t say this with any degree of certainty, but I would bet reasonable cash that Seth Rogen has some sort of $50,000 hand-blown piece of bong art at his house. This is a look at the very strange market for ultra-high-end custom smoking paraphernalia, the sort of stuff which if you own it you think makes you look like some sort of incredibly edgy and yet deeply artistic sort of guy (it’s mostly going to be guys, isn’t it?), but which I imagine to others makes you look a little more like the sort of person who almost certainly used to have a ‘take me to your dealer’ poster and who, with the slightest provocation, will get VERY boring about the minute differences between indica and sativa.
  • The VR Future of Cinema: This is fascinating, and sort-of a must-read if you’re interested in the future of visual (and indeed interactive) entertainment; it explains in quite a lot of slightly-baffling detail exactly how they made the new Lion King - which obviously is all CGI and stuff, but amazingly was all directed in VR (a concept which I hope will make more sense to you when you read the piece - honestly, it does make sense, promise). The potential of this sort of technique to create really remarkable stuff is immense.
  • Crisis on Infinite Courts: Fine, so it’s not David Foster Wallace on tennis, but it’s...well, no, it’s not nearly as good, it could never be, but it’s still an excellent essay on the recent Wimbledon final, and the strange, unloved brilliance of Novak Djokovic, a man who bestrides a tennis court not unlike a sad, fully-smoked cigarette (look, I don’t know why, that’s just what he reminds me of).
  • The Kiss That Changed Videogames: A look back at how the initial demo of The Sims at E3 contained an unplanned, unscripted, same-sex kiss, and how that in some ways changed the way in which developers thought about depictions of sex and sexuality in games. As with so many things, it’s 90% happy serendipity.
  • The Voices of Birds: Look, despite recent Curios being quite bird-heavy I AM NOT A TWITCHER. Still, this is a beautiful piece of writing all about the particular, peculiar joys of birdwatching and the particular connection with nature that one can experience through hearing, recognising and (to the extent that it’s possible) contextualising birdsong in the wild. Honestly, I know it sounds like it might be rather dry and full of “the grockle’s call is a distinctive ‘ca-HAW ca-HAW’, but it’s really not at all.
  • A Thread About Peeing In Space: The best thing I read on Twitter last week, and which, as an added bonus, inspired this piece on what it’s like attempting to replicate the defecating conditions of astronauts on Apollo 11 (spoiler: not nice).
  • The Most Gullible Man in Cambridge: You will not BELIEVE this one. A proper, honest-to-goodness, “what are you DOING, man?” piece that you will read from between your fingers, this is the true story of how a Harvard professor got scammed and then had his life ruined by a pair of lesbian grifters. This is, I promise, a must-read.
  • How Kubrick Faked the Moon Landing: A history of one of the longest-running conspiracy theories, that the moon landings were staged and it was Stanley Kubrick who did the staging. Obviously total rubbish - OR IS IT??!?!?!?! - but the story of how the rumour began and was perpetuated is a wonderful one, told with style by Rich Cohen in the Paris Review.
  • The Launch: You might not imagine that a longread about developing and launching a new breed/brand (the distinction, you will learn, is an important one) of apple would be the second-best thing I read all week but, well, it was. SO GOOD.
  • The Crane Wife: Finally, though, absolutely THE best thing I read all week. CJ Hauser writes amazingly about the demise of her marriage and much more besides - here, have the first paragraph and then click through and inhale the rest. “Ten days after I called off my engagement I was supposed to go on a scientific expedition to study the whooping crane on the gulf coast of Texas. Surely, I will cancel this trip, I thought, as I shopped for nylon hiking pants that zipped off at the knee. Surely, a person who calls off a wedding is meant to be sitting sadly at home, reflecting on the enormity of what has transpired and not doing whatever it is I am about to be doing that requires a pair of plastic clogs with drainage holes. Surely, I thought, as I tried on a very large and floppy hat featuring a pull cord that fastened beneath my chin, it would be wrong to even be wearing a hat that looks like this when something in my life has gone so terribly wrong.” Superb.

By Simone Rosenbauer

AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:

  1. Let’s start with this, by Red Hearse - it’s called ‘Half Love’, and it’s an absolute BANGER of a song, with a killer falsetto and a video featuring Annie ‘St Vincent’ Clark going shopping with a crowbar in an abandoned Toys’R’Us - awesome tune:

2) My notes for this in the inchoate mess that is my Godco with all the Curiolinks in it simply says ‘horrorpop’, and tbh I don’t have much more to add; this is by yeules, it’s called ‘Pretty Bones’, and I find it really quite (un)pleasantly unsettling:

3) This is quite, quite gorgeous, and sounds so much like Leonard Cohen that were he still alive I’d expect the artist here, Adam Green, to receive a gentle nudge from Len to maybe stop biting his style so much. Still, in the absence of any more new Cohen ever again I’ll take this ersatz version with pleasure; it’s called ‘Cheating on a Stranger’:

4) This is Future Beach. Don’t ask (I didn’t):

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5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! This is the excellent short film made to accompany the recent Kano, Ghetts and D Double tracks; it’s 18m, but worth watching the whole way through. Also interesting to see the influence of Rapman in the style of the vid - feels very much like a post-Shiro’s Story type of thing. Really, really good:

6) MORE UK HIPHOP (well, grime) CORNER! This is the latest one from Manga, all about THE SOCIALS and with an excellent mobile-friendly video - it’s called ‘Inflowencer’, and the line about “a lot of high guys / like a YouTube presenter” made me LOL:

7) More hiphop, this time from the US - this is sort-of-unpleasant; grindy and claustrophobic and hypnotic and atonal, but also sort-of-brilliant too, and I love the stop-motion video. Slightly amazed it’s got :

8) Finally in this week’s vid selection, this is called ‘45’ and, yes, fine, it’s about Trump, but PLEASE do give it a chance; it’s one of the more musically astonishing things I’ve heard all year. It’s by Titus Burgess and it’s an AMAZING stylistic clash of disco and hiphop and showtune and power-ballad and WOW. Just listen, it’s superb, and, well, BYE, I LOVE YOU, BYE, TAKE CARE, HAVE A FUN WEEKEND AND ENJOY THE NON-HEATWAVE AND WHATEVER YOU DO WITH YOUR TIME, AND MAYBE TRY AND SPEND THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS NOT THINKING ABOUT POLITICS OR THE ENVIRONMENT OR THE WEB AND INSTEAD MAYBE JUST RELAXING A BIT IF YOU CAN MANAGE IT, BASICALLY WHAT I’M SAYING IS TREAT YOURSELF NICELY AND REMEMBER THAT I LOVE AND CARE ABOUT AND VALUE YOU AND SO DO LOTS OF OTHER PEOPLE AND IT’S ALL GOING TO BE OK AND WE’LL SEE EACH OTHER NEXT WEEK BYE BYE I LOVE YOU BYE!:

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