Webcurios 06/11/15

Reading Time: 33 minutes

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Rishi Dastidar

In a week in which we’ve seemingly just sort of rolled over and accepted the fact that we’re going to be surveilled everywhere we go on the internet with a broadly resigned shrug – look at us, apparently feeling all totally fine and relaxed about The Man knowing all about our secret bongo predilections! – and in which, more importantly, HEARTS replaced STARS, what could be more important than getting reacquainted with all of the week’s internetting?


YES THAT IS RIGHT THERE IS NOTHING. NOTHING. THE WEB IS EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING IS THE WEB – THE WARP AND WEFT AND WOOF OF OUR EXISTENCE IS, IN FACT, CONTAINED IN THE LINKS WHICH FOLLOW (none of which, I’m pretty sure, should cause Theresa May undue concern as to your status as a terror suspect). Come along, and bring your passports, just in case I’m wrong about the preceding sentence and Guantanamo does in fact end up beckoning. THIS IS WEB CURIOS!

By Matthias Heiderich




  • Those Numbers: 1.55billion is a LOT of humans, so WELL DONE Mark et al. All the Facebook numbers this week were pretty terrifyingly impressive, to be honest, and only serve to reinforce the fact that, whatever you might think about the platform, it’s not going away as an advertising necessity anytime soon. Just remember that the 1.55billion figure means nothing other than ‘that is how many people you can now advertise to’ – it is still VITAL to recall that absolutely none of them want to be ‘friends’ with a bank, or share BRANDED MOMENTS OF TRUTH with you. Sorry about that. 
  • Better Local Facebook Ads in the UK: Interesting in particular for larger retailers, this, the announcement delivers a pretty significant upgrade to large companies’ ability to do all sorts of clever things with local ads nationwide – like autopopulating store contact details at a local level for ads bought nationally, changing copy based on target location, that sort of thing. Analytics are also improved, and will now show you Facebook user traffic around your physical location, broken down by day and time, so you can see exactly what the best time is to FIRE ADVERTS AT THEIR EXPECTANT FACES (clue: it is always a good time. Always. The advertising must never stop). 
  • Facebook Detailed Ad Targeting Launches: I may potentially have missed this the other week, sorry. Basically there have been some tweaks to the Facebook Ads Power Editor which mean that you can do smarter targeting with more Boolean-type structure – so you can now choose to target not only middle-aged men who like Star Wars and LEGO and anime, but also to specify that they also be into erotic anime AND single (lazy ‘humour’? Yes, ok, fine, sorry. It’s effectively giving you AND, OR, and AND NOT qualifiers, which is useful. 
  • Facebook Launches Music Stories: Noone’s really managed to nail the ‘integrate music with social’ thing yet; I’m sure analysts are having all sorts of opinions about whether this will help Facebook crack it, so if you want to read a whole load of speculation about that sort of thing I invite you to Google yourself silly. Anyway, this is basic functionality which lets users of Spotify or Apple Music share what they they are listening to at the moment; this cues up a 30-second preview of the song or album in the Newsfeed, playable through Facebook, with the option to click through and listen to the whole thing or buy / download the music in question. Bound to be an audio ad unit in this somewhere soon, no?
  • All The Facebook AI Stuff: Facebook is going to be the Starbucks of the scifi future, isn’t it? Unavoidable, ubiquitous and just a bit rubbish. Anyway, this is all the scarily future stuff that they are working on at the moment – image recognition, AI systems, etc. Personally speaking, I found their slightly blithe announcement about their GO-bot the most interesting; GO is famously one of the few games in which AIs still don’t tend to do as well as people, I think, and for them to say as a throwaway “Oh, we knocked this one out a few months ago and it’s already as good as the best ones out there and it’s still learning” is the sort of FORESHADOWING that you’d kick yourself for not noticing in the first act of the dystopian scifi film of legend. 
  • You Can No Longer Say You Are ‘Maybe’ Going To An Event: So there. 
  • Instagram Launches Curated Video Stream: I wrote something earlier this year about how tedious it was that all the bloody platforms were converging to the point where they all do basically the same thing for marginally different audiences – this trend continues apace with the announcement that Instagram’s basically rolling out something which is quite a lot like Twitter Moments or Snapchat Discover. It’s only been done in the US so far, and only over Hallowe’en weekend, but it’s going to go global soon and this will OBVIOUSLY be a paid channel so watch this space for EXCITING ADVERMARKETING OPPORTUNITIES!
  • All The Materials From Twitter’s Developer Conference: If you’re a developer-type person, this is worth a look – all of the talks from the recent Flight event. If you’re not, ONWARDS!
  • The Bloody Heart / Star Thing: I know, I know, complaining that people are spending too much time focusing on a trivial issue on the internet rather than spending their time talking about WEIGHTY ISSUES and making the world a better place is stupid and annoying and futile. I know this. Still, though, the amount of space and time dedicated to people debating the cultural significance of an icon change was preposterous – REALLY? NOTHING BETTER TO DO/SAY? Christ alive. Anyway, in case you did have better or more important things to do, the ‘Fav’ button on Twitter, used either as a bookmark or a gentle ‘yes, well done’, or a slightly ironic ‘WEVS’, or indeed in a host of other ways, has been replaced by a heart icon and renamed a ‘Like’. Which, yes, is weirdly retrograde seeing as Facebook has just about realised that that’s a very blunt way of interacting with a story, and does potentially alter the UX of the platform slightly, but probably didn’t need all the WORDS around it which I am just adding to so let’s stop there shall we? Yes we shall. Oh, you can apparently change the hearts to any emoji you like with a bit of tinkering – here’s a Chrome extension which turns the icon into a bottom.
  • Twitter’s Public Policy Transparency Page: Quite interesting move, this – a page on which Twitter is laying out its political donations, etc, in the US, which is pleasingly transparent, as well as its policies on privacy, user safety and security and the rest. It would be nice to see this sort of thing as standard. 
  • Snapchat Does First Sponsored Lens Thing: The Snapchat lenses – you know, the filters that let you puke rainbows out of your face and stuff on Snapchat – are also obviously going to be an ad product. And lo, it came to pass that the marketing spend on the Peanuts film, which appears to be VAST even by the normal standards of Hollywood, has in part been spaffed on being the FIRST ones to do it – they ran a campaign over Hallowe’en in the US which let users overlay Peanuts-themed graphics on their videos. Christ knows why anyone would want to have a poorly-animated CGI Snoopy capering on their head in a video, but it seems they did. Like the really early rubbish days of AR (which, on reflection, are still here) – I also imagine that this was VIOLENTLY expensive, if Snapchat”s general ratecard is anything to go by. 
  • The Really Confusing Snapchat Privacy Thing: The reporting around this was SO BAD over the weekend – they will steal all your photos!/they WON’T steal all your photos! – which if nothing else suggests that a) this really is a nadir for UK journalist (on which subject, this); and b) that their privacy policies really are clear as mud. FWIW, as I understood it their whole ‘we can use your images for whatever we like and will keep them for that purpose’ thing applies to stuff posted on the public channels (events, etc) rather than stuff sent peer-to-peer, but I have never sent a dickpic and so don’t really care tbh. 
  • Buyable Pins Coming To Android: You want to sell stuff on Pinterest? This is a Good Thing for you, in that case.
  • Google Launches VR Videos on YouTube For Android: That’s a sentence I would LOVE to see someone from the early 90s attempt to get their head around. Anyway, this is an upgrade to the Android YT app which enables it to play VR vids – enhanced 360 ones, basically – which means that Android users will also be able to enjoy the (apparently underwhelming) world of Google Cardboard. The fact that the NYT gave away shedloads of kits the other week will be interesting in terms of gauging mainstream(ish) appetite for this sort of thing; I’m not convinced anyone actually wants 3d video that much, but maybe I’m wrong. You can try out a load of the Times’ own efforts at VR reporting hre, should you so desire.
  • Google Launches Terrifying Mind-Reading Email Software: Does the fact that Google have invented script which can REPLY TO YOUR EMAILS FOR YOU make you feel a little…well…unsettled? If not, WHY NOT? Am I the only person who upon reading this immediately leapt to a near-future in which brands couple pay a premium to have themselves inserted into scripted responses penned by an AI – “Yes, I will be there – just got to finish my LOVELY REFRESHING DIET COKE first”, etc? Hm, maybe I am becoming a touch paranoid. 
  • Skype Sharing Buttons Announced: You can now add a ‘Share on Skype’ button to your content, which is actually a sensible idea which you should implement as of the now. 
  • New Yorker Email Reminders: This is a really smart use of email, I think. The New Yorker, a magazine even its devotees concede can be a bit on the chunky side, is now pinging people an email when they leave an article halfway through, reminding them that they didn’t finish it and providing a link back to the bit they’d got up to. I should TOTALLY institute this for Curios, although by so doing I would get actual insight into the dropoff rates as the sodding thing goes on and on and on and on, so perhaps on reflection I might just not. 
  • Tracking Offline Conversion In Google Analytics: This is just a smart and useful overview which you should probably look at if you fancy being able to demonstrate your professional worth beyond the standard ineffectual bleating about ‘engagement’ and ‘brand equity’ and stuff. 
  • Save The Rainforest: A site for a Telethon campaign in (I think) Norway which is now finished but which allowed people to sponsor a section of rainforest, learn more about the area, etc etc. Included mainly because I really like both the navigation and the virtual parrots. More virtual parrots, please, on all websites.
  • The Kooples’ Blackout App: I begrudgingly really like this idea, much as I’m nearly always of the ‘no, realy, you don’t need an app’ school of thought. Weirdly (to me) creepy and cult-like clothing retailer The Kooples has released this app designed for couples – the idea is that it’s a single user to single user interface which lets you share messages, pics, etc, with just one other person (your husband, mistress, etc), as well as tracking the amount of time you spend together, etc. I really wish that this had been an art project rather than a brand thing, but it’s not. Balls. BRANDS AS PATRONZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!




  • Vice Launches VICEland: Not, sad as it is to report, a VICE themepark (just IMAGINE! The centrifuge which replicates the sensation of being on an ayuhuasca binge with your Peruvian shaman! The acid party vortex! The hipster tattoo bar! They would be rolling in it, I tell you), but instead their own new 24h TV channel in the US, all Spike Jonze-endorsed and edgy and stuff. Someone I know just left MTV to join this, and she’s very smart and capable, so I don’t doubt it will succeed, but it will be interesting to see to what extend the already slightly watered-down VICE brand makes the transition to cable. Sorry, that was a bit MEDIA NEWS, wasn’t it? I’ll make the rest more frivolous, I promise.
  • Purrcasts: The sound of cats, purring. I’m sure there’s a market for this but I am buggered if I know what it is; if you work for Pedigree Petfoods, though (and I’m sure some of you poor sods must) this is the sort of idiot gimmick you can totally rip off for momentary brand-LOLZ. What a world this is.
  • FACEYOU!: I don’t know why, but the name of this makes me think of a slightly manic person shouting that phrase at you over and over again. Weird. Anyway, this is a faceswapping app by Baidu which lets you do live facemapped imageswapping with pretty much any image at all, which as you can imagine is SUPERCREEPY and actually sort of fun. Outside the gimmick, the tech actually seems rather robust and I can see this catching on amongst THE YOUTH.
  • Popcorntime FREE: Popcorn time, the torrent streaming site which seemingly refuses to die, is BACK; no idea how long this is going to stay up, but you can stream a LOT of films in-browser here. Which, yes, is stealing, and I appreciate the absolute hypocrisy of being someone who expects to get paid for stuff like this whilst at the same time linking to a website which effectively advocates stealing from the mouths of hungry creatives. What can I say, I’m a complex and multifaceted individual and anyway, I wouldn’t link to this stuff if I didn’t know that deep down you WANT IT.
  • Super-easy Image Sorter for Social: You want / need a site which lets you REALLY EASILY upload images, resize them for different social platforms, add captions, etc? OH GOOD! This is actually really very useful indeed, particularly if you want to make a job-lot of anodyne pictures with crap inspirational quotes on them, which if you work on social for Weight Watchers is, I think, what you must spend your whole day doing, you poor, poor creature you.
  • Luma: If these work as well as they purport to, they could be SO useful. Luma is a wifi-boosting system for the home, basically, which advertises itself as being a simple, one-stop solution to the weird wifi blackspots which afflict every home. Not only do they boost signal, but they also double up as content blockers for individual devices – meaning they can do the whole ‘don’t let this phone get on Pornhub in this house thankyouverymuch’ thing – as well as adding its own additional layer of net security and the like. Pre-order only, but if they work then these do look rather good.
  • Circle: Seeing as we’re doing home internet stuff, this is Circle by Disney – here’s the blurb, as I can’t be bothered to paraphrase: “Circle is a smart device and app that allows your family to manage all of your home’s connected devices. With Circle, parents can filter content, limit screen time and set a bedtime for every device in the home. Circle can even pause the Internet.” So there – outsource your parental discipline to the Mouse, why don’t you! Sorry, that’s unfair – I appreciate that sometimes you might want to just have some third party setting boundaries and limits to your sticky, jam-smeared progeny rather than having to deal with them yourselves.
  • Surname Mapper: Map where people with your surname live, worldwide. There are fewer than 60,000 Muirs worldwide, it would seem, which momentarily made me feel somewhat endangered.
  • Who’s Down?: This is basically ‘Netflix and Chill – The App’ from Google. I mean, ostensibly it’s a very simple and clever idea – you use the app to set your status as either being busy or being free for X amount of time (so, say, you can say you’re available for the next few hours); your other friends using the app can then see who’s around and who’s available to DO STUFF. Except I can’t see past this being used as a casual hookups thing, though maybe I’m wrong and it’s only going to be for trips to the bowling or somesuch. Yes, that’s probably it. It’s currently US-only and, interestingly, like early Facebook requires a school/college name to download, suggesting they’re being clever and trying to get a young install base before rolling it out. It’s actually a really smart concept, so let’s see if it works.
  • The Poseable David: Michelangelo’s David, as a poseable toy. You’re restricted to buying three at a time, but I think you could probably do a roaring trade in these on eBay in a year or so’s time if you’re that sort of forward-thinking BUSINESS MAVEN.
  • The Ginvent Calendar2015: I have previously spoken of my disdain for the whole “I LOVE GIN, ME!” trope which infects Twitter like some sort of twee AIDS; if you know one of those people, though, then this is probably a good gift for them (but after that maybe just step away and suggest that they take a good long look at themselves).
  • The ProtoPiper: This just looks FUN; if I had kids it would be a terrifying ordeal which would be fundamentally damaging to everyone involved, but I would also really like to get them one of these to play with. It’s basically a sort of ersatz 3d-printing gun which lets you make sculpture-type things from loops of tape, and if you click on the link and you see the amazing dinosaur sculpture they made with it you’ll want one too. If you make stuff I can totally see how this would be amazingly useful for prototyping and the like.
  • In The Crowd: I really, really like this. Simple but really useful website which flashes a variety of colours depending on the setting you select – the idea being that you can load it up on your phone and hold it up in a crowd so that your friends can see the flashing green phone in a sea of other digitards and come and find you. The sort of thing I can imagine being really helpful at festivals, and which I might think about co-opting into next season’s festival apps were I that sort of person.
  • To Reddit: Site which lets you schedule Reddit posts and (sneakily) also lets you autodelete and repost them if they don’t get enough traction the first time. Actually useful if you want to do promotion across timezones, though I imagine exactly how well the Reddit community would react to advermarketingprtwats using this sort of stuff (WHERE’S THE AUTHENTICITY MAN???).
  • Grammarly: Were I to rule the world, everything would be a total fcuking mess but the one small benefit would be that everyone would be forced to install this Chrome extension which automatically picks up when you make a grammatical error in your writing, wherever said writing might be taking place online. Basically like having a really annoying pedant prodding you ALL THE TIME, it’s actually pretty joyless but I can see it being useful if you’re trying to teach someone grammatical rigour (or if you just want to irritate someone a LOT).
  • Get Close: Effectively providing a messaging-based customer service solution for small businesses, this is totally redundant as soon as Facebook Messenger gets its act together and rolls out its business-friendly functionality everywhere – until then, though, it might be worth checking out. You sign up as a business – users can then use the app to contact you with questions using the messenger interface. Simple, useful, and soon to be totally obsolete.
  • MomentaryInk: This is a really, really good idea. Get your ideal tattoo designed, send it to these people and they’ll print you a temporary decal which you can use to see exactly how much of an idiot you’ll look with the Triforce stamped on your bicep (or something). Not supercheap, but much cheaper than both the tattoo and the eventual cost of removing it when you realise that having “Netflix and chill?” along with a winky face permanently branded on your calf isn’t funny now and certainly won’t be funny in 6 months’ time.
  • Teforia: The note for this that I made for myself reads, simple, “tea-wats”, which isn’t in any way funny but which describes exactly how I feel about this £100+ TEA INFUSION SYSTEM which is basically designed to turn tea drinkers into the sort of crushing bores who wang on about coffee like it’s Proust and who have been responsible for the fact that it’s impossible to get an espresso in London which doesn’t in fact taste like licorice (this is a FACT, check it out – WHY CAN YOU NO LONGER GET DECENT ITALIAN-STYLE COFFEE IN THIS CITY??? I blame the Australians, personally). Ahem. I grudgingly accept that the website’s very nice, and the actual machine is pretty space-age, but REALLY, come on, you need a robot thingy to make a cup of tea now? Reading that sentence aloud in my head, I weirdly sounded like an old Jewish man. Oy!
  • Earbud: If you like podcasts, this is a wonderful repository of some of the best, curated by NPR. Worth bookmarking if you need a regular new fix of this stuff.
  • Plag: This is not a new concept – I’ve seen at least three things like this which work in a similar fashion over the last few years, none of which have ever got the sort of tractino which means I’ve ever heard of them again – but I still adore it as a sharing mechanic. Plag is a social network which works around physical proximity; users share CONTENT (sorry) which is distributed to users who are reasonably physically proximate to them; these users can, on viewing said content, swipe up to share it further with people near them, or swipe down to stop it from going anywhere. ACTUAL, REAL VIRAL FUNCTION! I think that there’s an excellent set of toys/games you can build around this idea – there’s an obvious chinese whispers-type application, for one – but I’m sure you can think of other applications. I would love to see this sort of thing added as a play-layer to other networks, not that it ever will. Anyway, try it, it’s quite fun I think.
  • The $1m Hauly: You know in films when people are moving around large numbers of banknotes for potentially nefarious purposes and they’re all in these bags and it looks really SINISTER and SERIOUS? You ever wondered where you get those from? Here, it turns out – bags to hold upto $1million in CASHMONEY. Were they not 200-odd quid I’d totally want one, just for the ‘maybe one day’ thought.
  • Parcl: Smart idea, this, designed to deal with the problem of seeing something cool online that you want to buy but then finding that it doesn’t ship internationally (I say ‘problem’…). You sign up to Parcl and use its network of people to forward you parcels across the world – you get your stuff, they get a small commission, everyone wins. Actually very clever indeed, and particularly useful as we approach the bloody season of bloody goodwill.
  • Unnecessary Censorship: If one of you doesn’t steal this for an ad campaign I will be very, very disappointed indeed.
  • Artistic Shower Curtains: Because I refuse to believe that none of you want to adorn your bathroom with a shower curtain depicting Munch’s ‘Scream’.
  • The Emoji Keyboard: It’s not possible to show you the sneer on my face as I am typing this, but rest assured there’s a degree of lip-curl happening that Elvis in his pomp would have acknowledged with no little respect. Anyway, here you are, this is the communication technology we deserve – a keyboard which lets you easily add emoji to ANYTHING YOU WRITE. You will never have to bother with clear, unambiguous prose ever again, you lucky, lucky twats.
  • Simple Politics: This is a great site – if you are curious about politics and policy but find its reporting confusing, tedious and / or depressing, this could be very useful indeed, breaking down as it does the main votes and issues du jour in simple, easy to navigate fashion. As they say, it’s not about gossip or opinion so much as fact as to the mechanics of the UK’s political process, in theory and in practice. Really very clear communications – I like this a LOT.
  • Instasnoop: I don’t really use Instagram (is that allowed? I feel like a pariah) so not 100% certain how useful this is, but the gimmick is that it allows you to browse people’s profiles and pics with an interface which doesn’t let you like, regram, etc, any of the shots – so you can’t accidentally out your stalky tendencies by inadvertently clicking on something and alerting your stalkee to the fact that you were cranking over their bikini selfies again. I mean, do you all have really fat fingers?
  • Paperhouse: No real idea how many of you are planning to design and build your own houses, but in case you are this is a GREAT database of open source architectural plans which you can browse to your heart’s content. Really rather good from a domestiporn point of view.


By Matthew Plummer-Fernandez





  • Shelfie: Lazy description for this one is ‘Shazam for books’, which is actually pretty accurate so I don’t feel too bad. You take a photo of your bookshelf – the app scans the spines and lets you know which of the titles you’re entitled to a free digital copy of, and lets you grab the files. Not 100% certain it works in the UK, but why not do my research for me and let me know? Thanks!

  • Flowers of Meat: A thing in Japan, apparently, though I’ve long been of the opinion that Japanese media owners are mostly just making up weird shit to see what the Western media will blithely report as fact with not even the bare minimum of due diligence. Look forward to seeing a spread of these on Mail Online within the week.

  • The Prankophone: Read this description and tell me you don’t want an app/website version of this: “the main principle of the object’s functioning is as follows: depending on the current mode, the apparatus calls to random or pre-defined recipients and plays them algorithmic melodies created from their phone numbers. The speakers transmit both the synthesized sounds and the sound from answering person. The common sound layer is involving a random recipient who doesn’t suspect anything. The person who answers the phone can’t hear any other sounds except for the synthesized ones.” See? Sounds GREAT.

  • Go Elevator: An interesting idea, though one which I have a sneaking suspicion was inspired by some sort of geeky conversation along the lines of ‘man, imagine trying to put together a superhero team! wouldn’t it be great if they all came as a package from the start?’. Go Elevator lets colleagues advertise themselves for hire as a team, which is actually probably really useful for people in the ad industry who tend to come as a package in any case. This is the sort of feature I can totally see LinkedIn nicking in the next 12 months, maybe, possibly.

  • Eternime Redux: A quick Google suggests that I first featured Eternime in February 2014 – over 18 months later, they have a short video describing how their tech’s evolving. In case you don’t recall (WTF is wrong with you? Alzheimer’s?), this is what I said at the time: “Eterni.me is (or, more accurately, aims to become) an extension of your online persona which will exist after your demise – taking cues from your social media profiles built up while you’re alive and creating an ‘AI’ (my inverted commas – it’s unclear what sort of ‘intelligence’ they’re aiming for here, or how Turing Test-y it will bet) from the posts you’ve made which can continue interacting with your loved ones and friends after you’re dead. So basically if you affect the persona of a double-figure-IQ moron online, expect that to be the version of you which persists into eternity online.” So there. NOw that there’s a video of the tech in the wild, I’m pretty confident in saying that this is going to stay vaporware for a long time – this is far, far too uncanny valley creepy for anyone to want to have anything to do with at present, and the AI tech is still so far from being able to deliver anything other than a very stilted simulacrum of personality. They obviously read Neuromancer and thought ‘Hm, the Count’s construct; interesting idea, let’s make it real’, but I’m not expecting my Gibsonian future to arrive just yet.

  • Amsterdam Prive’: Photos of Amsterdam’s ‘sexy’ nightlife in 1979/80. As anyone who’s ever visited Amsterdam can attest, there’s not really anything sexy about it at all, but there are some VERY GOOD fcuked faces in this collection, as well as some penises.

  • 100 Paintings: A lovely project, taking 100 paintings which have been divided into 5 ‘layers’ each; this website recombines these layers at random, resulting in a collection of around 9billion randomly generated new works, each available as a download. The only thing which could make this better, I think, would be to make the works available for sale – I love the idea of each being a unique original which will only ever exist in the real world once. Can someone make that, please? Ta.

  • Kibo: This week’s ‘Well this is obviously only going to be used for totally above-board purposes, honest’ app comes in the form of Kibo, an app which adds a layer to messenger conversations which allows for the transmission of hidden messages between two users. You type the message you really want to send, then hit a button – Kibo then creates some anodyne message along the lines of ‘Yep, great!’ and sends that in chat, the gimmick being that the intended recipient, who also has Kibo, can tap the message and see the ILLICIT COMMUNICATION that was in fact the real message. Great for people conducting affairs and THROWING SHADE, probably, though I quite like the idea of turning it into a game in some small way (no idea how, not going to think about it any more, really quite tired now).

  • 1995 Regi: A brilliant Instagram account which is effectively telling a comicbook story via the medium of drawings designed to look like the sorts of things the main character would post to Instagram were she a real woman. I love this conceit SO MUCH, not to mention that the art style is fantastic. I also adore the way in which the comments on the pictures contribute to the story – brands looking at how to do ‘storytelling’ on the platform, look at this and LEARN (and then ignore it all in favour of shoving your brandspaff down our gullets like you always do).

  • Logiplaces: I WANT THIS SO MUCH. Crowdfunding campaign for these gorgeous-looking minimal 3d jigsawsculptures of cityscapes and natural landscapes around the world – they’re quite hard to describe, or at least they are for me, so I suggest that you click the link and check them out and back them and then go to the poll on the site and ask them to do London next because HOW cool would that be? Seriously, if you’re a designer-y type person you will love this, guaranteed (not actually guaranteed).

  • Collectible Home Computer Cards: A now-funded Kickstarter for a set of trading cards all about old home computers, which I ordinarily wouldn’t bother with but, you know, it’s nearly Christmas, and I am pretty confident that I know my readership pretty well by now and that there will be several middle-aged men out there for whom this ticks all sorts of boxes. Go on, don’t be ashamed.

  • Twitch In The Shell: So geeky that it’s pretty much entirely beyond me, this is the Twitch community attempting to collectively install Arch Linux, an operating system whose installation process is famously unfriendly and which therefore should take approximately 7 years to complete based on the mechanics, which are the same as the previous ‘Twitch Plays….’ series of experiments. Seriously, if none of the above meant anything to you then don’t click the link, it will just confuse and possibly depress you.

  • Operator: ANOTHER concierge service, this one which works via a simple in-app messaging system and lets you ask a series of ‘experts’ for their advice on products, services, restaurants, etc etc…except that the service is free, you don’t pay any premiums, and the ‘experts’ are paid from money paid by brands who want their stuff recommended. So effectively it’s not so much a concierge service as one which lets you ask a bunch of faceless strangers ‘so, what stuff are you being paid to promote today, then?’, which sounds rubbish tbh.

  • The Monster Project: This made me quite annoyed. Last week IKEA got lots of press for doing a stunt where they made real toys from kids’ drawings – a service which has been available from a small shop online for YEARS, but which got nary a mention. Now this Kickstarter project, through which a bunch of artists are asking for money to do the same thing but by taking kids drawings and turning them into cool, high-quality artworks reinterpreted by ‘proper’ artists. Which is EXACTLY what The Monster Engine by David Devries has been doing for a decade or so. DeVries doesn’t seem to be involved with this, but at no point does it acknowledge that it rips him off wholesale. Gits, don’t give them any money.

  • Serendipity: OH I LOVE THIS. Once a month you will get paired with a random stranger over email. No more, no less. THE FUN! Ostensibly there’s some buillshit rationale about it being a good way to network, but ignore that and just think of it as a way of potentially meeting interesting new webmongs to be friends with. There’s a brandsteal opportunity here should you want to take it, I think.

  • Pastcards: Interesting idea, this – you give it access to your Instagram feed, and each month (for a small fee, £3) it will send you a nicely-printed card in the post taking one of your Instagram pics as the image. Gives you a nice hit of unexpected nostalgia, though probably worth purging your feed of all the pictures of your ex or your suicided family member before you do, unless you want to be moved to gut-wrenching sobs when you open your mail.

  • ROAR: One to file under “I wish this didn’t have to exist but I am sort of glad it (almost) does”, this project has smashed its crowdfunding target with over two weeks to go. Basically it’s a small combined rape alarm and transmitter which can not only make a really fcuking loud sound but can also text people when you press it, tell them where you are when you press the alarm, etc. Sensibly, you can also turn off the alarm bit and only send the silent text alerts; it’s a very nice piece of design indeed

  • CrowdHaiku: Using the ‘wisdom’ of the crowd to collaboratively write haiku, you submit a word and the community votes on which one will be added the the composition next. The poems that result are, because this is the internet, frequently obscenely scatological, but there are odd moments of beauty (but mostly people writing “Poop” and “butt” over and over again – thanks, North America!).

  • The Cryptaris Mission: A slick, polished, graphically impressive and CHILLINGLY COLD website from the US Army, designed to show people how much killing people in real life is like playing videogames (yes, I know that the Armed Forces in the UK do this stuff as well) – it’s a really very nicely made piece of webwork indeed, but there’s something so utterly inhuman about the way it all looks and feels, which maybe is the point. Poor Private Pyle 🙁.

  • Sons of Gallipoli: Interactive documentary of the week #1 – this is from Turkey, and is all about the soldiers who fought at Gallipoli, their families, the history of the area and its strategic importance…it’s nicely done, but it’s included mainly as a comparative illustration to demonstrate what REALLY GOOD online documentary work looks like. To whit…

  • Empire: This is brilliant from the Netherlands; a great interactive documentary about the history and impact of the Dutch colonial machine, which (as you’d expect from the Dutch) is pleasingly un-rosy tinted when it comes to examining the effects impact of the slave trade, etc. So much to love about this, not least the interface, but I particularly like the manner in which they use non-traditional video formats (slidey splitscreen, 180 degree flips, etc) in a way which isn’t gimmicky but instead makes narrative sense. Really nice, but not as nice as…

  • The Universe Within: So after mentioning in passing the other week that I’d not seen anything from the National Film Board of Canada in a while, this crops up and it is STELLAR. The Universe Withing pieces together stories from residents of high-rise blocks around the world through video, audio, photocollages, CGI, etc, to explore how the web is used by people in high-density accomodation to create a sense of personal space and identity. I cannot stress enough how good this is – if you care one iota about ‘DIGITAL STORYTELLING’ then you owe it to yourself to have a play.

  • The Processing Foundation Shop: You can buy really rather cool unique digitally designed clothes here. You sort of have to look / play to work it out, but some of the tshirt designs you can spin up are awesome.

  • Brightwild: This is FUN – part album launch website, part small 8-bit game, you play through the levels to hear more of the music. It is pretty ridiculously processor-intensive, so don’t try and do it when you have 213 tabs open as I just did as it will crash EVERYTHING and you will swear a lot and then go and make a cup of tea and try and calm down but it won’t really work and your mood will subsequently be all soured and noone wants that.

  • Trippingbot: Ever wondered what an AI on acid would be like? Like this, it turns out. The latest project by Friend of Curios (it’s an official designation, you can get a badge and EVERYTHING) Shardcore, you can read all about its creation / high concept here should you so desire (you should).

  • Sprayprinter: If this is a real thing, it will change graffiti FOREVER – or at least mean that a certain type of idiot narcissist will have a field day spraypainting their own likeness all over the place. As far as I can tell, this is claiming to be tech which lets you upload an image and will then enable you to spraypaint a version of that image onto a surface automatically. I mean, that’s witchcraft, right? Is this even possible? I am so confused.

  • 100 Balloons: A LOVELY project which I exhort you all to get involved with, 100 Balloons is by Simon White and it will involve 100 people sharing stories with each other via the medium of balloons, and you should all get involved if you can (well, upto 100 of you, in any case).

  • Scrote & Tote: Because there’s literally no other link to end on this week. Make your own ‘ballbag’ joke as I really just can’t be bothered.


By Daniel Alford





  • Sad MGTOW Apartments: I am so, so happy that I had to look up MGTOW – apparently it means ‘men going their own way’, and is some sort of men’s rights organisation with all the standard The Game/Alpha-Beta/Gamergate/Redpill/Bluepill rubbish you’d associate with it. This is a collection of webcam shots of people from this community, gently pointing out that the domestic situations revealed in some of the pics don’t necessarily bespeak so much of men going their own way as men struggling with certain basic aspects of personal grooming and hygiene.

  • News Cat Gifs: Journalistic travails, illustrated with cat gifs.

  • Cartographers Without Borders: A collection of imagined or impossible or altered maps.

  • North Korean Interiors: Photos of North Korean interiors, which are absolutely as creepy as you’d hope / expect.

  • Resn Experiments: I’ve mentioned Resn before on here – they are a SUPERWANKY but very cool New Zealand digital agency who I am probably deep down sort of jealous of. Anyway, this is a collection of code.text experiments by them, which are all lovely if you like code-led digiart.

  • Such A Cnut: Nowhere near as confrontationally provocative as the title would suggest, this is a collection of feminist cartoons. I suggest that women who spend any time arguing with men on the internet may wish to save / bookmark a few of these for quick-linking.

  • Quiet Desert Failure: My favourite art project of the week, this Tumblr is very quietly working to fill itself up with pictures of deserts taken from Google Maps, the creator’s manifesto states: “I programmed an Internet bot to traverse the datascape of Google Maps in order to fill a Tumblr blog and its datacenters with a remapping representation of the whole Sahara Desert, one post a time, every 30 minutes. The whole performance will approximately take 50 years to be completed, but it is still not clear if the audience, the Google’s servers, the tumblr archive or the Internet itself will last enough to see the end.” So there.

  • ITunes&c: Another lovely one, this – a Tumblr which takes the incomprehensible Ts&Cs we all blindly sign up to when we use iTunes and creates an illustrated comic from them, adding one new page a day. The copy is still obviously still just legalese horror, but the illustrations add a brilliant feel to it; it reads like a story, despite not being one at all. Very cool.

  • Too Many Guys, One Girl: Large groups of men winning awards, along with a token woman. Can anyone tell me what the Jack Whitehall-compered event which features so prominently on here was, please?

  • Fcuk Yeah, Trudeau!: Celebrating the beauty and liberal-friendliness of Canada’s premiere, who for the first 24h of his election I managed to totally confuse with iconic cartoonist and Doonsbury creator Garry Trudeau, which is not funny but is sadly true.

  • Chinatown Pretty: Street fashion blog focusing on senior citizens from San Francisco’s Chinatown. It’s probably patronising to say that these people are all old and cute and awesome, but I don’t care as none of them are ever likely to read this.



  • Different Class, 20 Years On: When Different Class by Pulp came out, I was living at college in Oxford and I was WELL HEARTBROKEN. Laura Martin-Robinson totally didn’t fancy me and fancied my best mate instead – IKR? SO MIZ – and I went into town on the day this came out and bought it and then spent 4 hours walking around Oxford in the rain and listening to it on repeat until the batteries on my walkman died and smoking cigarettes and, embarrassingly, weeping quite a lot. It’s still amazing to me what part of that wasn’t attractive to her. Anyway, that’s of no relevance at all, but this piece by Luke Young of The Quietus on the social context within which the album was released, and the weird feeling of being Piggy in Lord of the Flies which descended upon all the weedy nerds who’d loved Pulp since His’n’Hers (the far superior album, fyi) and before when they saw their outside idols being feted by the same Ben Sherman-clad, crispy-fringed neanderthals who’d spent much of the past years making fun of you for liking that geeky music in the first place (it’s STILL RAW you know) is GREAT, and anyone who remembers the mid-90s with a sort of awed horror should read it.

  • King Troll: Ken M is one of the funniest people on the internet. I was in actual tears after about three paragraphs of this article about his long-running aim to be the stupidest commenter online EVER. Read if you want a pick-me-up, it is guaranteed to amuse.

  • The Four Horsemen of Gentrification: McSweeney’s once again demonstrate why it’s the best place for satire on the web (sorry, The Onion) with this LOVELY piece of hipster-bait. US tropes abound, but anyone who’s been to Peckham in the past five years will know the score.

  • Every Day I Want To Quit Social Media: A great piece of writing which captures almost perfectly the spiralling need for dopamine hits and approbation engendered by all this stuff (not in me, obviously, I’m totally above the banal quest for better numbers) (which is pretty lucky really otherwise I’d be devastated), and which is particularly timely given this week’s big old “OMG SO FAKE”-gate going on with Essena O’Neill.

  • Mourning Grantland: Grantland getting canned made me rather sad, I must say – it’s provided smart longform sports writing which even appealed to people like me who don’t like or care about sport at all. This piece on the Observer is a smart look at why it got shuttered and what it means as regards the way in which CONTENT (sorry) works in modern publishing – it’s got rather a lot of interesting stuff to say about the dangers of the flat, postmodern approach to cultural value and relevance which I rather enjoyed.

  • The Art of the Witness: A wonderful piece from a month or so ago in the New Yorker, looking at the life and writing of Primo Levi, his humanity in the face of atrocity and how his prose communicated his ideals. There’s some wonderful analysis of his style in here, which is really worth reading if you’re familiar with his work. If you’ve not read ‘If This Is A Man’ then please click this link and remedy that fact now.

  • The ‘True’ Story Of Zola: Did you read the epic ‘strippers’n’hos do Florida’ tweetstorm which was all over the web last week? No? IDIOT. Anyway, if you did you may enjoy this followup piece from Caitlyn Dewey at the Washington Post, which attempts to piece together what might actually have happened. Seems that it was mostly legit, and there was a LOT of other weird stuff too. This story truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

  • The Witches of Papua New Guinea: The first must-read piece of journalism in here this week, this is a mad (and maddening) account of the strangely modern practice of hunting down witches in what sounds like the truly terrifying mean streets of modern Papua New Guinea. It feels like a VERY dark and far away place – an impression reinforced by some very good reporting in the piece.

  • The Rise of Franco-Arabic Rap: Great piece by Paris-dwelling Londoner Jeremy Allen all about the burgeoning Franco-Arabic rap scene in France, how it relates to the increasing simmering racial tensions which have been present in the country for…well…50-odd years, tbh, and how the scene’s developing in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders earlier in 2015. Interesting, and with the added bonus of being a great source of new French hiphop if you’re in need of some.

  • How Uber Has Made Us Awful People: Not just Uber – ratings culture, and the increasing sense that, much as we believe we are now entitled to read top-quality writing for free, we are also entitled to (to paraphrase the piece) Ritz-level service at McDonald’s-level prices. The more I think and read on this stuff, though, the more I’m darkly of the opinion that we’re almost inevitably going to end up with some sort of all-pervasive Peeple-style solution whether we like it or not. Which is a bit rubbish really.

  • The Sad Fading of the Refugee Crisis: Because we have all forgotten again, haven’t we, really? Depressingly, a politico friend of mine told me the other day that the referendum on Europe is almost certain to be held in the Winter months because the powers that be don’t want the issue becoming mixed up with pictures of dying people fleeing warzones in search of a better life, which we tend to have more of in the Summer. How lovely!

  • The Soft War On Drugs: Fascinating and wholly depressing piece on how the war on heroin abuse in the US has taken a distinctly more touchy-feely and non-punitive turn as the demographic profile of abusers has shifted towards the white middle-classes; effectively a demographic whose family, friends and parents are more likely to be able to equipped to navigate the bureaucracy of the police and judicial systems and therefore make them work more in their favour. Really interesting on how long-standing power hierarchies can manifest themselves in unexpected ways (SJW AND PROUD).

  • On Romantic Regimes: Brilliant piece about theories and concepts of romance and how these, and their associated milestones and tropes, differ from country to country. The author’s own anecdotes, about the differing conceptions of romance in her native Russia and her adoptive US, are beautiful (but leave one with the impression that having an affair out there is…er…tricky and complicated).

  • ISIS Are Idiots Too: LOOK AT THEM ARGUING ON TWITTER! This is very, very funny indeed, in a sort of ‘Four Lions’ sort of way.

  • The Future of Oil & Gas: No, wait, bear with me here. This is a VERY ODD thing indeed – a piece of future fiction written for Siemens, looking at some potential technologies which could arise in the coming years in the oil and gas industry, which for reasons known only to the author seems to think that the best way to propose these is to couch them in a story involving a dysfunctional couple who’s relationship is being undermined by her AI assistant. No, really. STRANGE CORPORATE WEIRDNESS HERE, for which thanks to Alex Wilson for the tip.

  • The Sad and Beautiful World of Mark Linkous: Sparklehorse are still one of my favourite bands – Linkous’ death a few years ago was one of the few celebrity suicides which properly *got* me. This profile of the man, the band and their music is one for the fans, but if you remember them fondly then this will be a lovely reminder of how beautiful each and every single one of their albums was. If you’re not familiar, I suggest you start here.

  • Boys In Zinc: My personal pick for best writing in here this week, this collection of anecdotes from soldiers and family members involved in Russia’s war in Afghanistan in the 80s is properly tearjerking, astonishingly well-crafted, and a horrifying and timely reminder of exactly the sort of proxy-war horror into which we’re seemingly now stuck in Syria. So really cheerful, then.

  • That Adele Profile: I mean, she does seem like a really nice, normal person, so well done her. Don’t quite understand the fuss, but I feel honour-bound to include this as, you know, POP CULTURE and the aforementioned postmodern flat nature of cultural value. Er, innit.


By Sarah Sitkin




1) First up comes this, which I meant to feature last week when it was all NEW AND FRESH but then forgot, at which point it got picked up by Popjustice meaning that I’m now behind the times, dammit. Anyway, this is Halia Jack with The Absence of Love, the production and vocal of which I adore, and would do anyway if I wasn’t good friends with her big sister:


2) Do you remember that Real Life FPS video from a while back, showing people playing a live-action FPS-style game through Chatroulette? Well they are BACK, and this time they are channelling Alien. This is both still SO SLICK and eminently ripoffable from a brand point of view – at the very least, I’d expect a theatre company to do somethingf experimental along these lines:


3) Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an appendix? No, me neither, but the answer according to this surprisingly excellent song and very odd CGI video is ‘a bit rubbish’:


4) This is a bit of a hateinclusion, tbh. Hannah Diamond is described in the blurb here as being a ‘popstar and professional image-maker’, signed to the oh-so-Tumblr label PC Music – the song and video are almost achingly saccharine and polished and Tumblr-perfect, with accents of K-pop sweetness, and the tie-up with both ID mag and Baby-G watches makes me think it’s going to be an aesthetic and vibe which will be getting pushed HARD in the next 12 months. Let’s see, shall we. This is called ‘Hi’ – the lyrics, fwiw, are also sort of bleakly awful in an ‘oh god, I don’t understand modern culture and life at ALL’ sort of way:


5) UK HIPHOP CORNER! I love Akala, he is GREAT. This is his new track and video, called ‘Mr Fire In The Booth’ (reference to his three appearances on Charlie Sloth’s R1 slot of that name, which you really ought to check if you’ve not heard them):


6) This is short and beautiful and haunting and LOVELY and deserving of the overused descriptor ‘ethereal’. This is Julien Baker, and the song is called ‘Sprained Ankle’:  


7) This is all sexy and French and is called ‘Leonardo’ by Bonnie Banane and I like it very much indeed:


8) Last up this week, this should have been included for Hallowe’en but, er, I didn’t see it in time. Here it is instead, though – ‘Oz vs Eden’ by Lawrence Rothman, which is a cracking song. Enjoy, and see you next time. BYE!: