HELLO I AM BACK DID YOU MISS ME HELLO!
Don't, please, answer that; I've had a lovely fortnight off, ignoring the internet and swimming and eating sea urchin (Jesus, so much sea urchin, so many lovely gonads) and meeting excellent cats and generally horsing around, and to be honest your crushing indifference to mine and Web Curios' return might just destroy the final vestiges of holiday glow I'm still carrying around with me so, you know, just LEAVE IT, ok? Good.
This, as per usual, is a jam-packed edition full of spaff and link and web and clocking in, according to the CMS I have just pasted it into, at just over 9,000 words. Which, on reflection, is exactly the sort of thing I really oughtn't tell people at the outset as I can't imagine that acting as a draw for anyone. Still, if you're in the market for an absolute metric fcuktonne of fresh links and an equal quantity of questionable, overwrought prose then BOY are you in the right place. If not, er, I've got literally nothing for you, sorry - maybe try skipping to the end and checking out the music videos.
Anyway, as ever I feel about 3 stone lighter after having got all of this...stuff out of my head - why not fill your minds with my infoscat? THIS, AS EVER, IS WEB CURIOS!
THE SECTION WHICH HONESTLY DIDN’T THINK ABOUT ANY OF THIS STUFF FOR A FORTNIGHT AND WHICH RATHER RESENTS HAVING TO PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT IT NOW TBQHWYM:
- Facebook Introduces Stories Ads: Despite the fact that neither you or anyone you know has ever willingly created a Story in Facebook, and despite the fact that the whole experience of so doing seems clunky and a bit forced, there are apparently 400m or so people worldwide who are WELL into them - and so it came, inevitably, to pass that Facebook decided to enhance the experience by...adding advertising (I know, I was shocked too)! This will work in exactly the same way as Stories ads on Insta, and offer all the standard suite of targeting and outcome options, with full ‘swipe up to click through’-type functionality (I know I say this every week, fine, but with a couple of weeks off under my belt, well, WOW is this stuff boring! Are you bored by it? I am!), and I’m sure you’re all dying to stop reading this and instead have a full and frank conversation with your Facebook rep about the exciting new world that’s been ushered in so, well, go on, I won’t keep you.
- FB Pages Can Now Join Groups: You will now be able to join, and comment / interact within, Facebook Groups as a Page - which, hideous and weird and unnatural as that might sound (and it does, it really does), makes a certain sort of dark sense - in terms of ENGAGING WITH FANS AND COMMUNITIES, if you’re, say, er, Toilet Duck then this is a great opportunity to hang out and share LOLs with all the clean porcelain interest groups out there on FB, for example. Not seen any brands doing this in the wild yet, but, much as it pains me to say, this could be hugely useful for direct interaction with consumers and advocates. Ah, two entries in this morning and already I can feel my soul slipping from between my fingers; how I have missed this.
- More Options For FB Video Ad Buyers: Look, this is just a couple of additional options for mid-roll videos, it’s really not very interesting at all - no, really, it’s not, DON’T CLICK IT.
- Facebook Announces Oculus Quest: You’re not going to buy a VR headset; I’m not going to buy a VR headset; investing in VR from the point of view of advermarketingpr in 2018/19 is likely to be as much of a crushing waste of time and money as it was in 2017/18 - are we all clear on this? Good! With those caveats aside, Facebook this week launcged the Oculus Quest, the next iteration of its Oculus VR headset which will go on sale next year with a roster of 50-odd games and apps, and which is all wireless and location-tracky and stuff, but which still doesn’t address the fundamental issue with VR, namely that the software and experiences are still all quite shonky and the whole experience is, well, not really worth the hassle. Still, this will go on sale to the public at some point next year, so get some futuregazing points from clients and colleagues by mentioning this tech in every brainstorm you have between now and May.
- Insta Expands Shopping In Stories: Fcuking Stories. I hate fcuking Stories. Still, regardless of my disdain they are seemingly here to stay, and their monetisation continues (and given the Insta founders’ sudden departure and the fact that now the Big Blue Misery Factory is in total control, expect this to gather pace reasonably quickly) - Instagram is now rolling out the opportunity to make Stories shoppable to any business already approved for Shopping on Instagram, meaning you’ll see more and more Stories which include shoppable stickers with ‘tap to buy’ functionality; oh, and there’s also the introduction of a ‘Shopping’ Channel in the ‘Explore’ tab, which will make your meaningless scrolling a potentially far more costly experience. Which is...nice?
- Twitter Adds Event Pages For TV Episodes: Well, for some TV episodes. Oh, look, here’s the blurb, I don’t want to have to paraphrase it: “The social network is rolling out event pages for TV episodes, which will go live 30 minutes before episodes air and compile tweets with hashtags and words related to the show, as well as talent names and handles. A Twitter spokesperson said, “For example, instead of just following along with the hashtag #TheBachelor, this page will pull in tweets relating to things like #TheBachelor, #Bachelor, Chris Harrison, #GroceryStoreJoe, etc. For Game of Thrones, you no longer have to worry about refreshing #GameofThrones or #GoT—these pages will pull tweets around both.” The pages will feature a tweet prompt at the bottom that will already be prepopulated with the hashtag for that specific episode, so that people can chime right in.” Obviously only of interest to the two or three of you reading this who work in telly, and it’s US-only at present, but it will inevitably roll out everywhere sooner or later and become a specific advertising option. WON’T IT?
- Twitter Seeks Feedback On ‘Dehumanising Language’ Policy: Twitter has spent the past few months looking at its hateful content policy and seeking to expand the definition to ‘dehumanising language’ - that is, “content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target.” This post explains the policy and its rules, and asks for user feedback from as wide a variety of community groups as possible to help refine and moderate the parameters, which approach it’s hard to see as anything other than A Good Thing - Twitter is regularly (and rightly) criticised for its policies being on the impenetrable side of opaque on these sorts of issues, so anything which helps illuminate their thinking and invites additional perspectives should be welcomed, although it’s also worth noting that in the past 72h since this was announced I have seen some pretty heated arguments about this in relation to issues around gender identity, etc, which made me think that, yeah, it’s all quite hard.
- Snapchat Launches Visual Search With Amazon: It’s Jeff’s world; we just shop in it. Amazon’s move to become the single, go-to place for any and all purchases for the entire human race continues with this (very, very smart) tie-in with Snap - as of now(ish), Snap users (is this US only? Hard to tell, but probably) will be able to focus on any product in the Snap camera and have the app search Amazon for that very thing, providing a shoppable link on recognition; it’ll also work with barcodes, for all those things where image recognition doesn’t quite cut it. This is absolutely the future and it’s pretty amazing and it’s just a shame that this will be yet another feature launched by Snap which will only really take off when Insta rips it in six months’ time. Oh, and seeing as we’re on the subject, here are a bunch of new shoppable ad units which Snap’s also launched this week (Shoppable Snap Ads, basically like the Insta ones above, and automatic product catalogue integration, seeing as you didn’t ask).
- Pinterest Rolls Out ‘Shop The Look’ Pins To All: This is now available to all advertisers using the self-service Pinterest ad product, rather than solely to medium/large businesses buying through approved third-party agencies. No, I didn’t think you’d care, but you could at least try to look interested.
- A Bunch of Updates to Google Search: Google turned 20 this week - honestly remarkable that one of the most incredible information projects in the history of our species is only two decades old - and as part of the celebratory jamboree announced some new search features which you can read a handy summary of at the link up there. The main takeaway is that you’ll be able to save searches and results in Pinterest-type style within Google, there will be more visual search results, and Google is slowly going to start introducing FCUKING STORIES to search results because WHY NOT?! These will initially be confined to results for famouses, but I imagine will roll out as an algorithmically-created search result for just about anything, for those of us for whom reading stuff is just TOO MUCH. Seriously for a minute - I like reading! I am good at reading! Reading, for me, is the fastest and most efficient way of finding stuff out online! WHY ARE YOU ATTEMPTING TO STOP ME FROM READING STUFF, GOOGLE?
- LinkedIn Talent Insights: This is pretty much only of interest for recruiters and those of you doing some sort of corporate competitor espionage-type project, but LinkedIn will now let you analyse companies by the type of employees they...er...employ, or alternatively to analyse people based on their skills to see what sort of companies they tend to work at, where they were educated and what people of their type think of your brand (in terms of their interactions with it on LinkedIn). My hatred of LinkedIn is reasonably well-documented here on Curios, but if you’re the sort of dreadful inadequate who writes updates on there about how you CRUSH IT on the daily then a) this might be of interest; and b) stop reading my newsletterblogthing, it is NOT FOR YOU.
- Amazon Opens Up In-Skill Purchases To All Alexa Developers: Anyone developing Skills for Alexa will now be able to include microtransactions - which is probably quite exciting from a monetisation point of view, particularly for those developing Alexa games (“Alexa, buy me a ‘Continue’!”, “Alexa, buy me three more ‘passes’!”), etc. Everything has a price.
- Chatbot Media Planner: Funny because it’s true.
- Steak-Umm and Millennial Angst: For the anglos amongst you, Steak-Umm is a US brand of convenience meat foods, sort of like Rustlers but less terrifying. Of late, they have gone FULL MILLENNIAL in their marketing, and this Tweet from earlier this week marks the apogee of their attempts to relate to the youth in 2k18. Click and read the thread - it’s, I must grudgingly admit, very well done indeed, with a near-perfect tone and just enough slight ironic detachment to mimic the register of its target market, but, well, the moment in which a convenience food brand co-opts the general sense of alienation and anxiety which characterises the day-to-day existence of so many young people for commercial gain and marketing kudos is the moment when I lose any last scrap of hope for the future of our species (only joking! That went years ago!).
THE SECTION WHICH FELT SO MUCH BETTER ABOUT EVERYTHING AFTER A FORTNIGHT OF IGNORING THE CULTURE THAT IT WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST THAT YOU ALL DO IT (EXCEPT CURIOS. KEEP READING CURIOS), PT.1:
- Deepfakes Web: This feels ever so slightly like a precursor of sorts - Deepfakes Web is the first service of its ilk that I’ve come across, offering anyone the opportunity to make Deepfake videos for what seems like a pretty low cost (circa £30 per 10s of video). You upload the source video - that which you want the likeness taken from - and the output video - that into which you want the likeness inserted, pay your money and then wait for the servers somewhere out there to do their job; eventually you’ll be granted your very own deepfake video for you to do with as you wish. No guarantees as to the eventual quality, though obviously it will in large part depend on the quality of the source material, but what’s most interesting about this is the complete lack of any sort of oversight as to what’s being produced and to what end - the only slight caveat or concern comes in the form of the tiny disclaimer at the bottom of the homepage, stating ‘Please do not misuse it’, which I for one am almost entirely certain will ensure that this isn’t used to churn out many thousands of gigs worth of Deepfaked revenge bongo.
- Mightier: When you were a kid, how did you learn self-control, to not just hold your breath until you were sick every time something didn’t go your way? If you’re worried that your kids are developing into id-ruled monsters, incapable of controlling their emotions and flying off the handle at the slightest provocation then, well, I’m really sorry, that sounds awful, but perhaps you might be interested in outsourcing yet another element of the glorious parenting journey to technology? Mightier is a system which links a wearable heart monitor with a games system - your kids play the game, and the more angry, stressed or whatever they get, the more the game responds by becoming more difficult, to the point of unplayability, the idea being that children will learn to control their emotions and bring them back under control so as to be able to continue playing. HOW MISERABLE IS THIS?
- Notable Women: A rare example of a lovely, simple and effective AR project - Notable Women is an initiative by Google which uses AR tech to turn the men on US banknotes into notable women from the country’s history. It’s very light touch, but the tech’s as nicely implemented as you’d expect/hope from Google, and it’s the sort of thing I would hope many of you can gain ‘inspiration’ (ahem) from, as it’s very, very easy to replicate (I say that, obviously I can’t code or design or anything, but I think it’s easy and that’s what counts at 7:59am on a Friday morning).
- Touringbird: One of the great pleasures of being on holiday was having regular beers in the early evening and deciding where to have dinner by trawling through the truly incredible landscape of TripAdvisor reviews - seriously, have you spent any time going through the 1-star feedback? “DREADFUL NEVER GOING BACK DID NOT LIKE THE WAY THE LINOLEUM SMELLED”, that sort of thing; honestly, if you’re bored at work this afternoon I suggest you go on there and check out the worst reviews of your favourite places and meet some of the most joyless human beings on the planet. Anyway, this is only very tangentially related to this link - Touringbird is a new Google product which pulls together travel recommendation for cities around the world, allowing you to read up and book and all that sort of jazz, all in one place. The interface is slick although there are only about 20-odd destinations on there at present; still, if you’re planning a trip then you could do worse than add this to the list of ‘websites and apps you look at to see where not to go, because, really, you don’t want to go to the same places as recommended to you by a fcuking massive website’.
- Mask ID: This is an interesting anti-surveillance project; Mask ID is designed to draw attention to the fact that facial and biometric data in Europe is increasingly being used as part of a continent-wide security apparatus, designed to allow for facial recognition by surveillance cameras across the continent and other potentially creepy outcomes. Mask ID will take a photo of you and merge it with someone else’s picture, to create an image that to the human eye still looks like you but which, they claim, will fool or baffle machine facial recognition systems. It’s a really interesting idea, not least the question of the legality or otherwise of using such a doctored photo in any official documentation - it’s perhaps a little more tinfoil hat than I’m personally into, but as an art/privacy hack it’s fascinating.
- Yes Or BS?: A really nice idea, this - a blog and podcast series which presents a series of facts or ideas which may be true or may be false, and which invites you, the listener/reader, to decide whether what’s presented is bullsh1t or not. Occasionally silly, but the examples so far (it’s not been going long) are all interesting.
- Rave DJ: Cast your mind back to the mid/late-90s, an era in which being a DJ was the coolest thing in the world if you were 16/17, and in which literally EVERY SINGLE (hyperbole, but) student in the world spent at least a couple of hours hunched over a pair of Technics dreaming that they would suddenly discover the sort of latent mixing talent that would get them a 2am slot at Gatecrasher and allow them access to the mucous membranes of hundreds of dayglo-clad pillheads. Enjoy that small jaunt down memory lane? Good. Now return to the hideous present, an era in which all mixing is done on computers and vinyl is just something that couples in their early 30s buy to hang on the walls of their starter home (ha! Like couples in their early 30s can buy houses!) to indicate the fact that they once had interests outside of soft furnishings and Netflix series, and enjoy playing with RAVE DJ, the least-cool-sounding link in this week’s Curios. It’s quite a fun site, though - you plug in either a bunch of tracks you want turning into a seamless mix, or two tracks that you want mashed together and, er, it does it. I played around with this a bit earlier on in the week and results varied wildly depending on the inputs, but I rather like the machine learning mix tech here deployed.
- LEGO Forma: There will be a few of you who get VERY EXCITED by this - LEGO Forma is a new adult LEGO product, currently funding on IndieGogo, which if backed will let you purchase exciting, smart-looking LEGO fish which you can assemble and then move in realistically piscine fashion using a handcrank at the bottom of the model. The base model is going for $45, and for an extra $15 you can buy a skin that makes it look like a shark, which basically sold it to me immediately.
- Morph: This is very cool, or at least it is if you do dataviz-type stuff; Morph is a new suite of tools from Google which purports to let anyone make DATA ART - you plug in your data sets and then select visualisation options, and this creates all sorts of rather beautiful, slightly abstract animated or static representations of said data. Potentially very powerful indeed, and certainly worth plugging in whatever CSVs you have knocking around to see what it makes of them.
- Safebook: Facebook is NOT SAFE. Or at least it isn’t the way you probably use it, with all the words and pictures and stuff; this Chrome extension, though, makes the horror slightly more palatable by stripping out literally everything from Facebook other than the most basic blocks of the interface - you’ll see no words, no pictures, no button text, just a slightly abstract cubist interpretation of the UI. It’s a slightly silly arthack, fine, but you can read more about the high concept here - what struck me when I tried it out the other day was quite how much I was still able to navigate FB despite not being able to see a bloody thing, which shows quite how much its patterns are hardwired into my consciousness after a decade of use.
- Sefaria: “Sefaria is a non-profit organization dedicated to building the future of Jewish learning in an open and participatory way. We are assembling a free living library of Jewish texts and their interconnections, in Hebrew and in translation. With these digital texts, we can create new, interactive interfaces for Web, tablet and mobile, allowing more people to engage with the textual treasures of our tradition.” As a total goy my appreciation of this is pretty much limited to being impressed with the scope of its vision - the idea of creating an interactive hypertextual annotated resource of religious texts is fascinating to me - but those of you who are Jewish or have a particular interest in religious scholarship might find a lot to love here.
- The World: I’m pretty sure that I have featured The World on here before, maybe in a longread, but in case you’re not familiar with it as a concept, here’s the idea: launched in 2002, the World is the largest private residential ship in...er...the world, housing 200-odd people in a luxurious, neverending global cruise. You live on the boat in 5 star luxury as it meanders its way around the planet, visiting such glamorous locations as Antartica, the Solomon Islands and, er, Falmouth (it was there on Wednesday, apparently). This is the ship’s website, which is worth a look just to get a scale of the batsh1t nature of the whole thing; prices for berths are only available on application, but it’s safe to say that you need to be reasonably plutocratic to get a space on this. I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall for a day, just to see if it’s as weirdly Ballardian onboard as I sort of imagine it to be, all sleazy drunks and sex and decay.
- Second Mentions: A Twitter account celebrating the linguistic contortions that journalists go through in their attempts to avoid second mentions of a word or phrase in an article. Recent examples include salad cream being described as a ‘gloopy condiment’ in the Sun, and UKIP condoms being referred to as ‘party-political prophylactics’. Linguistic GOLD here.
- Art History For All: A podcast seeking to make visual art more accessible, and which takes a single work as its starting point in each episode, using it as a gateway to breader questions about art, technique, context, interpretation and all the rest. The BEST thing about this, though, is that they have transcripts of all the episodes, meaning that if you prefer reading to listening then you needn’t miss out - CAN EVERYONE PLEASE DO THIS WITH THEIR PODCASTS PLEASE? Seriously, I will be SO grateful.
- Certificates for Everyday Things: A lovely idea, this - you can buy a set of certificates which you can then fill in and distribute as you see fit; there are designs for apologies and SIGNIFICANT LIFE ACHIEVEMENTS, and admissions of guilt and all sorts of things, and I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be slightly cheered to receive a proper certificate saying, I don’t know, “Well done on not being a total cnut” (I would love one of those, should anyone feel like sorting it).
- SunMade Cheese: This is...odd. A Kickstarter for a solar panel, equipped with linked torch and USB charging station and lighter and which is designed to look like a cheese plate, various cheeses and a milk bottle. No idea why. It actually looks like a really good piece of kid - there’s a speaker (Emmenthal?), the aforementioned lighter (cacio), the torch (ricotta), and if you were camping I could see if being rather useful, but I can’t quite work out whether the design is a nice piece of whimsy or the sort of toothgrindingly twee crap that needs to stop now (probably both simultaneously). It’s 1/3 funded with a month to go, so looks like it might well make it - get in NOW to get your slice of lactic-themed outdoorsy fun.
- Space Is The Place: Click the link and immerse yourself in a slow-moving starfield in your monitor. You can adjust the blur, making it more or less trippy depending on your wont, but basically the best thing you could do with the rest of your afternoon is to whack on some music and stare into this for a few hours as you contemplate your insignificance in the face of infinity.
- Targeted Shirts: A subReddit dedicated to the very now phenomenon of those bafflingly personalised tshirts you see advertised on Facebook - you know, the ones that scrape all the publicly available data on your profile to offer you tees which reference your name, birth month and job to read “Advermarketingpr Librans called Matt do it better!” or similar. Some of these are WONDERFUL, but not quite as wonderful as the occasional pictures of people actually wearing the things in the wild.
- Hybridizer: Simple, silly webtoy that lets you combine animals.I just made a dairy walrus - this is more fun than you’d imagine it to be, and absolutely the sort of thing that might keep your kids from demanding to watch more Peppa Pig for at least 3 minutes.
- Let’s Read Old Magazines: A brilliant series of articles/blogposts on pop culture site The Avocado in which each week they take an old magazine - from Vanity Fair to old videogame mags - and do a close readthrough of it for the lols. These are honestly great; if you have any interest in the history of publishing or fashion then it’s a must-read series, but as a general bit of comedy timetravel it’s also highly recommended.
- Bookmarks: This is basically Rotten Tomatoes for books, which obviously sounds like a terrible idea but in practice seems to work reasonably well - you can search by title, or browse new releases by genre, and the site classifies each book’s reception as a ‘Rave’, ‘Positive’, ‘Mixed’ or ‘Pan’ depending on its reception by the US critical establishment. There are reader opinions too, but in the main assessments are based on ‘proper’ critics rather than the great unwashed - there are worse ways of scanning for new novels, imho.
- Scan All Fishes: No, really, SCAN ALL FISHES! This is one of those brilliant, niche projects you occasionally stumble across online - “Adam Summers from the Friday Harbor Labs at the University of Washington has made it possible that a large number of CT scans of primarily fishes is available for the scientific community”, and this website is collecting those scans. You want thousands of CT scans of fish? HERE THEY ARE! I can’t possibly imagine what you might do with them, but Curios does not ask or judge, it merely proffers. For more fish-related scanning, can I urge you to search #scanallfishes on Twitter? Good.
- Yamaha Papercraft: You have TWO DAYS at the time of writing to enjoy this absolutely baffling website - Yamaha (yes, that Yamaha) has for reasons only someone in Japan can explain hosted this incredible selection of downloadable papercraft models of bikes, riders, animals and the like since 1997(!), but on Sunday it will be shuttered forever. That means that this may be your last ever opportunity to download the plans to make a cardboard macaque, and that would be a fcuking TRAGEDY (honestly, can someone quickly mirror this? It feels like it would be a significant loss were it all to vanish forever).
- Arroyo Walk: A small site documenting the author’s walk around LA, from the Arroyo Seco to the San Gabriel Mountains, in text and pictures. This is simple and very gentle, and included mainly as I absolutely adore the way its presented - there has to be an app of some sort in this, no? I would love the ability to set a start destination and then have an app create something like this on the fly with all the notes and photos I made on my walk, outputting to a single url. Someone make this for me, please. Please? WHY DOES NOONE EVER DO WHAT I ASK HERE IT’S LIKE NOONE’S READI...oh.
By Sean Hillen
THE SECTION WHICH FELT SO MUCH BETTER ABOUT EVERYTHING AFTER A FORTNIGHT OF IGNORING THE CULTURE THAT IT WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST THAT YOU ALL DO IT (EXCEPT CURIOS. KEEP READING CURIOS), PT.2:
- What If?: Or, ‘Movies Reimagined For Another Time And Place’ - this is the latest (part 9) of a series of sets of reimagined film posters, in which artist Peter Stults creates the promo imagery for popular movies as though they’d been filmed in a different era - so ‘Swingers’ as a vehicle for Lemmon and Matthau, say, or Baby Driver starring Mark Hamill. The artwork is absolutely spot on; if he were to put these on sale he would make an absolute fortune.
- The Collection of Martha and Robin Williams: Robin Williams and his wife Martha’s art collection (and more) is up for sale at Sotheby’s in NYC next week - this is the catalogue. There is some truly wonderful stuff in here, and the breadth of artists is fascinating - I’ll forgive Williams for the Banksys, what with the Gavin Turks and the rest. There’s also furniture and other memorabilia further down the list, but the art is what struck me; it’s sadly poignant to browse.
- Bellwoods: A small, gentle webtoy in which you ‘play’ a kite gliding over fields and creating glissando-type sounds as you so do. No idea what the point of this is, not that it needs one - it’s very soothing indeed. There are ‘levels’, in theory, but just have a play and enjoy the noises.
- AI Games: Matthew Guzdial is (I’m guessing here - there’s no info on the channel) an AI researcher who’s training the machine brains on videogames and then asking them to imagine simple new games based on what they have seen and ‘learned’ - this YouTube channel currently presents two of these machine-imagined games, Death Walls and Killer Bounce. This is quite incredible - they’re obviously a bit sh1t, yes, fine, but have YOU tried designing a videogame recently? Well, yes, quite. Killer Bounce, in particular, could, given a graphical skin and a few tweaks, be an absolute mobile timesink. Let’s add ‘game designer’ to the list of ‘jobs the robots are going to steal from us with nary a backwards glance’.
- Sports Video Games: A frankly incredible collection of animated gifs of sports videogames from throughout history, seemingly with one gif per sport. Magical in the main for the fact it will introduce you to SO MANY weird sports games you never knew existed - oh hello, ‘Extreme Rock Climbing’ for PC in 1999! O hai, ‘Kabaddi Tournament’ for Android!
- Small World In Motion 2018: The latest edition of Nikon’s annual ‘Photographers! Use our kid to capture really, really tiny stuff and win prizes!’ competition rolls around again, with some astonishing images of some very small things. The worm in third places gives me the howling fantods, I can tell you.
- Candy Rotterdam: A beautiful series of architectural photos of Rotterdam by Simone Hutsch - they combine standard architectural photography with a strangely millennial colour palette to gorgeous effect. I would totally buy prints of some of these.
- Space Alerts: This is very, very clever indeed. Space Alerts is a text adventure which takjes advantage of the Apple Shortcuts feature which was introduced in the last major iOS update - effectively, as far as I can tell, it works as a sort of IFTTT for your phone’s OS, which the game’s author Marcel Wichmann has hacked to create a simple, silly text adventure within your phone’s operating system. There’s another toy on his website which is potentially even better - using the same tech, the Pineapple Incident is a downloadable programme which every time you use it has a 10% chance of sending 100 pineapple emoji to one of your contacts, chosen at random, in iMessage. I want to see more stuff like this, please.
- Incomplete Open Cubes: Artist Sol LeWitt “first exhibited his Variations on Incomplete Open Cubes at the John Weber Gallery in New York City in 1974. It consists of 122 2⅝ʺ wooden cube frames, each with various pieces missing, as well as schematic drawings and photographs of the same. No two cubes are alike.” This website collects 4,094 potential variants of the open cube, including LeWitt’s original 122. Why? WHY NOT EH?
- Broken Arrow Magazine: Are you a Neil Young enthusiast? Do you want access to the digitised archive of every single issue of the Neil Young fanzine Broken Arrow so that you can revel in your Neil Young fandom? OH GOOD! Those of you less into Neil Young might not find quite so much to love here, admittedly, but in case any of you actually are fans then wow are you in for a treat.
- Finish It: A rare example of a podcast I might actually consider listening to, Finish It is a series in which the two brothers presenting are going through their collection of old Choose Your Own Adventure books one by one, attempting to beat them; slightly annoying that it’s American and therefore it’s not the Final Fantasy series, so if anyone would like to do this but with the Wizard of Firetop Mountain and all that jazz then, well, know that you’ll have at least one listener (presuming I can get over my podcastfear).
- Deepangel: An interesting project by MIT which uses machine learning to attempt to automatically remove elements from photos - you can submit images individually to be doctored, plug in an Insta feed to see it try and manipulate the photos, or scroll through a gallery of photos to try and identify the ones which have been fiddled with. It’s mostly a bit shonky - we’re not quite at the stage where the machines can undertake Stalinist photographic revisionism of their own accord - but there are occasions when you will really have to squint to spot the edits and, well, we’re all fcuked, aren’t we, when it comes to telling what’s real?
- Travel Sounds of the World: This is a lovely NYT interactive, which takes you on a journey around the world presenting sounds from places as diverse as Hawaiian lava flows and South American jungles. Combining beautiful photography with superb and surprising audio recordings, this is beautifully made and gets extra points (there are no points, there are no prizes, there is just my unceasing and unsmiling judgment) for being a genuinely new format to me.
- Form Follows Fashion: A site dedicated to the intersection between architecture, design and fashion. Smart, well-curated and full of interesting ideas and imagery, this is a lovely project.
- The Songularity: Fine, yes, it’s a HORRID title but the project’s very cool so I will let them off. Another Kickstarter, this one halfway there with 12 days left, by the people behind Botnik (you know, the predictive keyboard thing that makes AI-based funnies like the Harry Potter script as imagined by machine learning) - if it gets funded they are going to release an album or original music with lyrics penned by machine learning. “To write the lyrics, we are remixing all the best text we can find: Scottish folk ballads, Amazon reviews, Carrie Underwood, The Elements Of Style and more. Our predictive text computer program suggests lyrics in the style of these influences. We set the results to original music.” Obviously this will be awful, but it will be BEAUTIFULLY awful and as such I think we should all chuck them a fiver in the hope that it gets made. I for one want hear “Soviet Nights (BEACH BOYS LYRICS + RONALD REAGAN SPEECHES)”, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one.
- Skyscrapers: You want a website comparing and displaying the relative heights of all the tallest buildings in the world? OH GOOD! Man, there are a lot of very, very ugly tall buildings out there, eh?
- The Encyclopedia of Arda: This may - and I say this advisedly, I know there’s some stiff competition - be the geekiest thing I have ever featured on here. The Encyclopedia of Arda is a fan project to create a totally comprehensive database and guide to all things Tolkien. It contains 4,000 entries. 4,000! SO MANY FCUKING ELVES! I confess to finding Tolkien stultifyingly dull, in the main, but I can’t help but be impressed with the degree of effort and scholarship here whilst at the same time really, really hoping that it’s the work of more than one man because, well, you know.
- 3d Scanner App: One of the best things about having been away for the past fortnight was the fact that I missed the bloody Apple event, meaning I also missed the frothing excitement of a million fanboys at another $1k+ piece of tempered glass. That said, the ARKit stuff that’s coming down the line looks hugely impressive, as evidenced by this app, which, fine, is just another of those ‘scan a real world thing and we will make a 3d model of it on your phone’ toys which have been around a while, but LOOK at how good this is - seriously, the combination of this sort of thing with interesting VR game design could be thrilling. Imagine being able to scan real-world objects for inclusion in your gameworld, with the system being able to recognise roughly the object type and to ascribe digital properties for the model for use in the virtual system - oh, hang on, I just lost you all didn’t I? Come back!
- Moment Zero: An interactive exploration of the world’s seismic data, letting you explore a 3d visualisation of the globe and the earthquakes that shook it, year on year, over the past 4 decades or so. More abstract than you’d imagine, this is a rather nice datasoundartviz project which can also be experienced in VR - the way it shows the quakes appearing through time with the accompanying seismographic audio is oddly unsettling, in a good way.
- Pumper: A single-serving interactive music video site! This is for the track ‘Pumper’ by Mai Lan - the interactive’s reasonably light touch, letting you change backgrounds at certain points in the song and do small, gamified movements which match the artist’s in-vid movements, but it works rather well with the song’s style and the track’s a banger. I’m in my late 30s, can I say ‘banger’? I can’t, can I? Sorry.
- Bongo Cat: Finally this week, the wholesome meme I needed on my return from a fortnight’s web-free bliss with my girlfriend (did I mention how nice it was? IT WAS REALLY FCUKING NICE I DIDN’T LOOK AT ANY OF THIS CRAP AND I FELT SO HAPPY) - meet Bongo Cat. Play music with him. Let him guide you into the weekend and away from the pain and the horror (the pain and the horror, I hate to tell you, always finds you again).
By Johnny Smith
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Fcuk Your Noguchi Coffee Table: A selection of pictures from lifestyle shoots, each with a specific feature that this Tumblr cusses out. Quite right too, fcuk your bookshelf with all the spines facing in.
- Pride and Prejudice in Space: Combining Pride and Prejudice with Star Wars, because this is postmodernism and there’s NOTHING you can do about it.
- AAA: Player 2: This is a truly epic project in which the Tumblr’s owner is attempting to play every game to hit #1 in the charts since charts started in the 80s. It’s early days, so they’re on the ZX Spectrum titles at the moment - if you want nostalgic looks at Knight Lore, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon and suchlike, this will be right up your street.
- HQ Screencaps: No watermark HD screencaps of popular TV shows which, I don’t know, you might want to use to paper the walls of your offices or something.
- Small UI Animations: Literally just that, but they are SO NICE and SO SATISFYING.
- These Books: Vintage book covers with reimagined titles.If you don’t laugh at ‘My Flawed Lover: Dildohands’ then you’re dead inside.
A NEW SECTION COLLATING ALL THE INSTA FEEDS WHICH I CAN’T THINK OF A NAME FOR AND FOR WHICH I WOULD WELCOME SUGGESTIONS PLEASE THANKS!:
- Les Creatonautes: The feed of a French digital creative agency featuring the sort of creative photoshoppery which you used to see all over the place 6-7 years ago but which has sadly fallen out of fashion of late. Very clever, some of this stuff.
- Cinta Vidal: Awesome, slightly Escher-ish artworks
- Ferge Mandem: Erik Ferguson is a CG artist whose work is SO unpleasantly biological it makes you feel unpleasantly sticky. Seriously, click it, you’ll know EXACTLY what I mean.
- LogoArchive: “A study of form language in logo design. A recovery, research & restoration project by Rich Baird, BP&O.” So there.
- Two-Faced Kitten: Joanne Leah was suspended from Instagram for posting art featuring what it perceived to be obscene content; this is her alt, featuring art concerned in the main with physicality, sexuality and the body. It is ace.
- Room Smells: Photos of rooms, with captions imagining what they smell like. Far, far funnier than it ought to be.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!
- Inside The Browser: This won’t be for all of you, but if you’re interested in an incredibly deep and comprehensive explanation of how the internet browser as a piece of tech actually works then this guide, produced by Google and of which this is part one of three, is superb. It’s reasonably technical but does a good job of handholding you through the hard bits (seriously, I am a total fcuking luddite so if I was able to grasp it then you will almost certainly be fine).
- Why Everyone’s Making Digital Assistants: Interesting and smart analysis of why all the tech companies are working on their own versions of Alexa - the tldr here is that it’s not the devices that are the key here, it’s the arms race to be embedded in the most third-party products to achieve dominance through ubiquity. Please don’t let Amazon win (I mean, look, there’s no non-creepy version of this stuff, I get it, but SOMEONE STOP MECHABEZOS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE).
- The Capitol Hill Map: Part read, part scrolly interactive, this is a lovely and fascinating explanation of all the secret tunnels which connect Government administrative buildings with the White House and with each other in DC. Given the current administration, when I first read this I had a rather fanciful image of a secret cadre of rebellious administrators secretly formenting rebellion and shuttling secret messages and plots through the subterranean darkness beneath the Senate. Which, on reflection, is probably exactly what is happening.
- Murders on Mars: Speculating as to how crimes will be solved - and indeed what crime might in fact be - in a future where we’ve achieved colonies on distant planets. Honestly fascinating, not least from the moral / social perspective of potential future means of cooercion - the idea of future space prisons potentially quelling disturbances through withholding oxygen is one of the most chillingly dark ideas I’ve heard in ages. On this, whilst away I read the Three Body Problem Trilogy which is EXCELLENT on stuff like this - very highly recommended (and if you want to know what else I read, ask me. You don’t want to know, do you? Bastards).
- On Outgrowing DFW: An excellent essay, both about the author’s changing relationship with Foster Wallace as he grows and matures, and as DFW’s legacy changes in the light of revelations about his status as an abuser, and about how an assessment of an author’s work is impossible outside of the cultural context within which that author exists. I really enjoyed this, regardless of my own oft-documented love of Wallace’s writing, but you don’t need to have read him to find this a worthwhile piece.
- How To Put Yourself Online: An excellent (and, as Paul pointed out elsewhere on the site, oddly nostalgic) guide to how to behave online - not didactic so much as coming from the position of self-care. What do you want to get out of your online life? What do you see it as being for? Based on that, how ought you behave, where ought you post, what and how? This is simple, kindly and clearly-written and is the sort of thing that I think ought to be given / told to kids at the point where they take off the armbands and start swimming unaided in the great global sewer that is the worldwide web.
- Michael Moore: An interview with the campaigner and director - I’m not a particular fan of Moore’s, but this is an interesting conversation and his characterisation of the difference between the left and the right in terms of the current culture wars is, to my mind, one of the smarter analyses I’ve read; the ‘pillow/headshot’ analogy really resonated with me, and I think provides quite a clear blueprint of how one perhaps ought to attempt to fight the bad people.
- Unsettling Declassified Information: A Reddit thread asking the simple question: “What's the most unsettling declassified information available to us today?” OH BOY. There is some VERY odd stuff in here - from the missing nukes to the GONAD TRANSPLANTS, you will boggle and then get a bit scared and then, if you’re anything like me, spend far longer than is healthy thinking about all the classified stuff going on RIGHT NOW that we won’t know about for decades and which is probably EVEN WORSE than all this.
- Common Cyborg: A really interesting article about transhumanism and the philosophy of the cyborg from the perspective of someone with a disability, voices which are oddly rarely heard when speaking of body augmentation / modification, despite their often being, as the essay points out, already the most ‘real’ of cyborgs in practical terms. Fascinating on the politics of technology, and a useful reminder that just because you might not hear a perspective doesn’t mean it’s not there, and not deserving of consideration. On similar ground, this is a fascinating piece of prosthetic design by Sophie de Oliveira Barata - thanks to Lydia Crow for sending it my way.
- The Existential Void of the Pop-Up Experience: Another piece on the weird emptiness of the pop-up art experience designed for the ‘Gram - think the Museum of IceCream in the US, or the Selfie museum in Korea. Doesn’t say anything hugely new, but does a good job of explaining why these things feel so flat - it’s an oddity of work (I hesitate to call it ‘art’, but maybe I’m just being a prick) which requires engagement from the viewer (through the further disintermediation of their phone’s screen, to boot) to exist. God, pseudery, how I have missed you!
- How AutoTune Changed Music: This is an EXHAUSTIVE deep-dive into the history of AutoTune - from its use in ‘Believe’ (I don’t care what you say, that is a CRACKING song) to its early-00s hiphop ubiquity, to its rehabilitation in recent years as a valid artistic choice in trap and Soundcloud rap. This is VERY long, but admirably complete as well as not 100% Western-centric which is a rarity for pieces like this - it takes in considerations of the tech’s use in African and Middle-Eastern music, not just US/European - and you will know a LOT more about music theory when you finish than you did when you started. You will also, if you’re anything like me, have been singing the vocoder part of ‘Believe’ for a solid 15 minutes.
- 25 Years of Wired Predictions: David Karpf read every single issue of WIRED magazine in chronological order to write this article, in which he looks back at the magazine’s predictions of the tech of the future and looks at what it got right, what it got wrong, and how the tone of its futuregazing has changed in the two and a half decades since it started. What this proves more than anything else - other than the fact that tech prediction is an absolute mug’s game - is that one ought never predict the death of ANYTHING; oh, and that we really did have rose-tinted spectacles in the 90s, eh? If only we’d known how AWFUL it was all going to get!
- The Tails Coming Apart as a Metaphor for Life: This is a bit maths-and-statistics-y, but it’s really interesting despite that (honest). Taking as its starting point the way in which “even when two variables are strongly correlated, the most extreme value of one will rarely be the most extreme value of the other”, it goes on to explain how that maps on to common social moral constructs, and how this can be used to explain extreme divergence in position between individuals or groups with ostensibly similar outlooks. Fascinating, chewy thinking.
- A Warning from Europe: Superb but hugely depressing piece, taking Poland’s current political situation as an exemplar of the wider polarisation of political debate. It’s a brilliant essay for many reasons, not least the clear and succinct way in which it summarises recent Polish political history and factionalism, but the job it does of defining current political trends as being characterised by tribal fanaticism over ideology is, I think, the most impressive. Read this and then think of Brexit, or the more rabid fringes of Momentum, or the Republican Party - it’s hard not to agree almost entirely with Anne Applebaum writes.
- Breasts: A History: On breasts, identity, femininity and being a trans man. This is a brilliant piece of writing, please read it.
- The Legacy of Pokemon: 20 years. Google and Pokemon, born in the same year. Christ. I was too old for Pokemon when it came out so whilst it exists in my life as a part of The Culture there’s literally no emotional resonance to it beyond the fact that my little brothers were obsessed with it when they were alive, much to my obvious disdain; for many of you, though, I imagine it holds a very special place in your heart. This article looks back at what has made it so successful, and does a good job of unpicking some of the design features which have made it one of the few truly iconic videogame titles, the sort even your nan might have heard of.
- What Kids Need To Know Now To Succeed: Not so much a list, sadly, as a general essay about how the most important quality for current and future young people to have to ensure their success (or, more accurately, survival) is that of being able to cope with uncertainty and change; the only thing we can now about the coming future is that it is going to differ immeasurably from the now in small but hugely significant ways, and that we cannot predict what those are going to be, so, er, get good at adapting, kids! I know I say this every week but I am SO GLAD I am closer to death than birth.
- Rick Owens Is Still Out There: I had no idea who Rick Owens was before reading this (in case you don’t either, he’s a US fashion designer who lives in Paris), but by the end he was one of my new favourite people (and MAN were I rich I would spend a lot of money on his clothes). It’s a wonderful portrait of a fascinating interviewee - honestly, even if you have no interest in fashion (and those of you who have met me can attest that I fall very much into this camp) this is worth your time.
- Everything I Can Remember: In another week in which we’re being confronted with the fact that lots of men spent a lot of the past 50 years being absolutely fcuking reprehensible to women, this essay is a series of short recollections by one woman of her experiences. The most depressing thing about this was the realisation that every woman I know could write their own version of this, and they would all be uniquely awful and painfully similar.
- Here Was A Plague: A truly fantastic essay in the LRB, ostensibly a review of a selection of books about the AIDS crisis of the 1980s but which acts more as a sweeping history of the disease, its impact on the gay community in the US, the UK and worldwide, and the astonishing lack of care given to its treatment due to its disproportionate impact on communities that noone really gave that much of a sh1t about anyway. I cried reading this at points, and you might too - it’s heartbreaking, and contains so much superb writing, both from the author and the texts he quotes. The details in here are appalling - in particular, the story about the Florida hospital paying $14,000 for a private jet to fly an AIDS patient away from them as they didn’t want to deal with the case had my jaw on the floor. So, so sad; the passages in here which deal with how marginalised communities were thrown under the bus makes, to my mind, particularly poignant reading here in 2k18.
- We Always Thought My Sexual Assault Was The Funniest Thing: Last in this week’s longreads, this is, I promise, a far less harrowing read than the title would suggest (though it is about sexual assault) - the author remembers being assaulted as a boy, and why all he and his friends could do was laugh about it, and the writing is a wonderful mix of millennial detached ironic sincerity (you know the register) and proper confessional, and, honestly, this is totally brilliant.
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
2) This is Jon Hopkins, who I am going to see in November and I am SO EXCITED (not really, I don’t really get excited about anything, but I have a vague sense that it might be quite good which is about all I can hope for these days). This is called ‘Singularity’ - the video is EXCELLENT:
4) This is by Pale Waves, who very obviously saw some early Placebo videos before recording this promo. Still, derivative video aside, this is the sort of song I would have gone spastic for when I was 15 and which the teenage bit of me still sort of does - it’s called ‘One More Time’:
5) This is new from Hak Baker, who I had never heard of before but who I fell in love with a bit after hearing this; it’s a bit sort of ska-ish, touches of Lazy Habits in there, but it’s also oddly sui generis. See what you think - it’s called Thirsty Thursday:
7) Finally this week, some advice we should all really get behind - this is Homeboy Sandman and ‘Never Use The Internet Again’. The beat here is EXCELLENT. BYE, BYE, IT’S SO GOOD TO BE BACK I HAVE MISSED YOU I HOPE YOU HAVE MISSED ME DID YOU EVEN NOTICE OH WELL REGARDLESS I HOPE YOU HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND AND THAT SOMETHING NICE HAPPENS TO YOU, MAYBE EVEN MULTIPLE THINGS, AND I WILL SEE YOU NEXT WEEK BYE I LOVE YOU BYE!: