Webcurios 07/06/24

Reading Time: 36 minutes


Ordinarily I use the bit at the top here for some p1ss-weak attempt at topical satire or an op-ed, but I hope you will forgive me this week for giving it over to some MINOR SELF-PROMOTION.

Kris and I are once again running The Tiny Awards in 2024! TELL THE WORLD! In case you have managed to somehow wipe the memory of last year’s edition from your minds, the Tiny Awards is our attempt to spotlight some of the brilliant, weird, heartfelt, curious, creative, poetic, beautiful, pointless websites that people all around the world make and which tend not to be surfaced by algorithmic feeds because they’re not FCUKING VIDEOS (have I mentioned how fcuked off I am about the ubiquity of video as the dominant medium of our age? I really am, you know).

As with last year, we’re running nominations for the next few weeks – so PLEASE submit sites you like, whether your own work or those of other people, because the more there are the better, and the better the final shortlist (decided upon by an ESTEEMED PANEL OF JUDGES from around the world), and one of these sites will win £500 and a SMALL HANDMADE TROPHY (and there’s another £300 prize for the best ‘multiplayer’ website too!).

Noone gets rich from this, there’s no desire to turn this into something massive, it’s just something we thought was a nice thing to do and we hope you do too. If you know communities that might find this interesting, or people who might like the idea, then please share it with them – you don’t HAVE to, obviously, but think of it as a small thankyou to me for, er, writing an overlong, self-indulgent newsletter that literally noone in the world ever asked for every Friday morning.

Ok, that’s the end of the self-indulgence, you can fcuk off and click the links now.

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and you want to tell everyone you know, don’t you? Yes you do.

By Edu Monteiro



  • Latens AI: I am putting this at the top of Curios partly because it’s an interesting idea, and partly because it caused my (admittedly old and increasingly-fcuked) laptop to start wheezing uncontrollably when it eventually loaded up, and as such I would strongly advise not attempting to experience this when you’re 32 tabs deep. ANYWAY, Latens is a (very, very alpha-y) attempt to let you create a sort of navigable landscape of…anything you can possibly imagine, via the medium of (OF COURSE) AI – when it eventually loads up it defaults to a slightly abstract ‘fairy lights floating in the evening sky’ sort of view, but by editing the copy in the input window you can get it to imagine anything you fancy – cityscapes or countryside vistas or terrible, ruined palaces of suppurating flesh, you get the idea. The slightly-mad thing is that you can then *move around inside* said imagined ‘landscapes’ – WASD lets you navigate in the now-classic FPS style, with the visuals sort of re-rendering around you as you move…look, to be clear, this really is only, at best, about 10% viable at present, but equally it feels sort-of tantalising, like a glimpse of a future that feels a tiny bit nearer than it did last week. If nothing else, with a bit more stability (and a very hefty processor behind it) I think this would make a genuinely amazing ‘IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE’ if it was extended / projected across all six surfaces of a room.
  • The Data Poets: This is CHARMING! A project by Gaston Welisch, the Data Poets encourages visitors to upload an image of a place they hold dear, along with a few short details about where it is and why it’s special to them; the site will then generated a short piece of verse to accompany the picture, which poems are added to the on-site archive for other visitors to enjoy. This is all done by AI (image recognition and then LLM-ing the verse), and there are apparently plans to enable the uploading of audio to use sound as the inspiration for resulting verse…honestly, this is so so lovely, and there are two or three new posts a day, and, amazingly for machine-generated words, the poems are…not terrible (God knows how – Gaston, on the offchance that you happen to read this I would be fascinated to know the workflow here), and the whole site is just a pleasure to scroll through. If you’re wondering ‘hm, what sort of sites are the Tiny Awards hoping to highlight and reward?’ I would personally suggest ‘stuff very much like this’.
  • Genderswap FM: A site dedicated to cover versions – primarily, but not exclusively, ones in which the gender of the singer is swapped from the original. So, for example, various female vocalists covering Smells Like Teen Spirit, Darius Danesh (RIP) doing Britney (actually, going to have to link to that on the offchance there are people heer who have never experienced its majesty)…all of the classics, basically. This is built on the Spotify API, and you can search for songs by various modifiers like ‘songs that are more/less upbeat or energetic than the original’, and there’s an accompanying massive playlist to go along with the project, and in general this is brilliant and I am glad it exists.
  • A Quite Remarkable Example of How Good AI Music Stuff Is Right Now: Click the link, and, as the tweet asks of you, press play on the song and try and guess at what point it stops being the original composition and when the AI starts making it up. HARD, isn’t it? Or at least it was for me – in fairness to them, several of my friends did clock it rather more easily than I did, but I put that down to them being actually quite musical (the freaks) – and the general point is that if you CAN see the join, it’s because of a shift in compositional style rather than because the music suddenly becomes jarringly crap. It’s astonishing how quickly the music models have improved, and how competent this ‘audio inpainting’ (for want of a better term) has become, and I have a sneaking suspicion that use of this sort of tech is going to become commonplace without anyone really noticing.
  • AI SFX: Seeing as we’re doing AI audio, Elevenlabs has just released its ‘sound effects generation lab’, which is very, very fun indeed – basically it will spin up four clips of ANY sound effect you can think to ask for. Think of this as an infinite comedy soundboard (ok, fine, there are proper applications for it and I’m sure that if you’re making short animations or similar this is a godsend in terms of spinning up audio elements in no time at all) which you can use to provide HILARIOUS audio accompaniments to friends, loved ones or colleagues – just think, now EVERYONE in your life can have a personalised audio sting that you can deploy whenever you like, to add a pleasingly cinematic note to their existence in a way that definitely won’t be annoying at all. Seriously, this is QUITE magical and very run – I have just wasted a good three minutes of precious Curios writing time by messing around with ‘record scratches from an early-00s rap rock song’ and ‘a chorus of sad trombones’, but you can do better I’m sure. BONUS AUDIO GENERATION! Stable Diffusion just released Stable Audio, which is specifically designed for musicians and producers who want to train a model on their own work – you can basically use it to produce upto 47s of anything you like. Per the blurb, “Stable Audio Open allows anyone to generate up to 47 seconds of high-quality audio data from a simple text prompt. Its specialised training makes it ideal for creating drum beats, instrument riffs, ambient sounds, foley recordings and other audio samples for music production and sound design. A key benefit of this open source release is that users can fine-tune the model on their own custom audio data. For example, a drummer could fine-tune on samples of their own drum recordings to generate new beats.” So there, give it a go.
  • Engine: Describing itself as ‘a tiny gamemaker’, Engine is a tiny bit like V Buckenham’s ‘Downpour’ app except it’s, er, not an app, and it’s a lot simpler and more constrained in its style – BUT it’s a lovely canvas for anything you like. The homepage lets you either go into the game creator or experience the games made by others, and I recommend having a bit of an explore through the library of existing work in there as it’s the best way of getting a feel for what’s possible and how the engine works (if I have a criticism it’s that it’s not HUGELY well-explained). Basically each ‘game’ is a series of interconnected screens which can be navigated through in one of 4 directions, so effectively what your building as a designer is a ‘map’ of different canvases which the player can navigate through; the layout constrains the potential player movement, which in turn is used to create a narrative (linear or branching) for the player to experience or explore. Does that make any sense? I am genuinely unsure, but, well, just click and play and see what you think.
  • I Side With…: Are you, dear reader, one of the LUCKY people with the right to participate in the EXCITING DEMOCRATIC EXPERIENCE we in the UK are getting to enjoy on July 4th? Are you as yet uncertain as to which of the assorted collection of largely-mediocre parties should be the fortunate recipient of your SACRED BALLOT? Look, you and I both know that the only correct answer to that question is ‘whoever helps fcuk the incumbents the hardest, preferably with knives’, but if you’d like to do a PROPER EXPLORATION of your political beliefs and preferences, and have those beliefs and preferences mapped onto one of the actual voting options available to you, then you might enjoy this site – answer a bunch of questions on policy and social issues and have them cross-referenced with the positions held by each of the main parties (and some of the smaller ones to) in order to see who, in theory at least, best fits your ideological leanings. I did this and got told I ought to vote for Sinn Fein, which on the one hand is tricky based on my living in London but which on the other felt vaguely appropriate as a (very, very lapsed) Catholic – still, you might find it an illuminating exercise (and a great way of starting arguments with your partner, quite possibly). Oh, and you might also want to sign up to the Swap My Vote project, should you really want to commit to the whole ‘let’s grind the Conservative party up into the smallest parts possible in the hope it will never, ever be able to reconstitute itself into government ever again’ bit. In general, if you’re interested in keeping an eye on digital stuff being built around the election (campaigning, activism, information) then you could do worse than bookmarking the UK Election Tech Handbook being maintained by the nice people at Newspeak House – it is a very useful resource indeed.
  • Super Internet World: I really haven’t got the faintest idea what this is or why it exists, or why the fcuk there’s an option to ‘connect my wallet’…but, maybe, it’s a sort of navigable art gallery of NFT art, with each room being based on a different work? Maybe? Anyway, you can move through the space in classic FPS fashion, look around with your mouse, and generally get a sense of overwhelming colour saturation and confusion as you navigate from room to room, through increasingly-bright spaces which mostly look as though they’ve been designed by kids who’ve maybe been left alone with the Haribo for a little too long. This is quite the thing, thanks to Pietro for the tip.
  • Thistle Gulch: After last week’s introduction of that AI-generated TV shows project (this one, ffs, HOW QUICKLY YOU FORGET), this is one of the OTHER projects from the same studio. Thistle Gulch is, per their blurb, “ Fable Studio’s  first Multi-Agent Gym Environment or “MAGE”. This platform isn’t a game; it’s a groundbreaking tool that merges the art of storytelling with the latest advancements in artificial intelligence. It’s the same Simulation that powered our SAGA release, an open-source tool for agents to make decisions in such worlds.” This is a *bit* hard to explain, but let me try. Thistle Gulch is a stereotypical Western town – it has a set layout and certain characters that inhabit that environment, and you as the ‘director’ can set up ‘stories’ by giving said characters motivations and goals; the conflict between different characters goals and motivations are what create ‘emergent narratives’. The fascinating bit is how this then plays out – characters will act autonomously based on said goals/motivations, but will at certain points be faced with choices to determine their next action – these choices are worked out by the AI, and the director can determine which choice each character makes and hence how the action continues to play out. Which, honestly, is fcuking insane if you stop to think about it – and which, obviously, will at this stage be janky as all fcuk and won’t produce anything decent. BUT! It’s worth clicking through and watching the short explainer video, because  the potential here feels astonishing – I am once again, for what is possibly the millionth time ever in Curios, mention ‘Little Computer People’ and how close we are to FINALLY making it a reality (also, for those of you who buy into the whole Muskian stoner ‘WE COULD BE LIVING IN A SIMULATION, MAN, WATCHED OVER BY OMNISCIENT BEINGS WHO SECRETLY MANIPULATE OUR ENVIRONMENT FOR THEIR OWN INSCRUTABLE ENDS!’ then WOW is this going to spin you out).
  • STORM: Another slightly mind-blowing AI experiment, this time from Stanford University – this is basically an autonomous researcher, built on an LLM, explained thusly: “Under a context of abundance, a significant disparity exists between the vast amounts of accessible information and what an individual can realistically assimilate. While large language models (LLMs) exhibit impressive generation abilities, they do not directly address this issue and even worsen the situation due to more texts produced. This research project explores building a knowledge curation agent that can proactively research a topic, organize the information, and present the most pertinent insights in a reader-friendly way.” So, basically, you tell this what you want it to research and it…does it. Or rather, it did when I checked earlier in the week – they have paused new article generation as there’s going to be an update to the code, but you can sign up to be notified when it’s live again, and in the meantime you can see the outputs other people have generated – honestly, this is…quite astonishing. Effectively this generates topline Wikipedia entries about anything you ask it to, with citations for its sources and it’s…pretty good? I mean, it’s a bit superficial, and can be repetitive, but, equally, as a first pass at topline research it is 100% as good as what you’d get if you asked a mediocre colleague to do it for you. I can’t help but look at this and have Some Worries about what this is going to do (again) to online content, or to academia, but, well, it seems we’re just ploughing on with this stuff regardless, so, er, crack on! Interestingly, AI search engine Perplexity is doing something similar – it’s now offering the ability to create webpages from any search you do with it, effectively spinning up a host of (again) Wikipedia-ish entries in seconds. I have…questions about this (how long do the Pages exist? Are they searchable? How will Google treat them?, but if you’re curious as to what these will look like then you can take a look at an example here.
  • Sylathas World: The personal website of digital artist Sylathas, which is designed to look and behave a little like Myst – you navigate using the arrows on the bottom of the screen, and while the world you move through is small, it’s BEAUTIFULLY designed and very atmospheric, and the commitment to the bit here is admirable. The work’s interesting too – in fact, I featured a video they worked on in Curios a few months back – and there’s some rather moving writing about their struggles with gender identity buried in there too which is worth reading if you have a moment. I rather love this, and I would like more sites to basically use ‘videogames from the early-to-mid-90s’ as their design inspiration please thankyou.
  • Zigsam: What are the worst cigarettes you’ve ever smoked? Personally I don’t think anything will ever top Ducados, a tab so utterly vile that having one first thing in the morning necessitated a swift return to bed via a short-but-unavoidable bathroom stop to vomit ferociously, but this website made me think that there are some pretty devilish-looking contenders out there in the world. Zigsam is a website dedicated to the MAJESTY OF THE FAG (in the English sense, for clarity) – it contains photos of over 35000 different brands from around the world, which is frankly MENTAL and is a degree of dedication I can only marvel at. Particular props to Russia, which seemingly has over 3000(!!!!!) different tab types documented here, but there is SO MUCH wonderful (terrible) design stored in these records, as well as images of cigarette cards and general assorted ephemera – you can practically smell the stale smoke and imagine the yellowing walls.
  • The IKEA Coworker: Fair play to IKEA for this stunt – I have seen this story EVERYWHERE this week, but in case you haven’t…IKEA announced that it’s recruiting for 10 new roles, which will be ‘jobs’ in the IKEA-branded experience in Roblox – so you’ll be, for example, helping people buy IKEA Roblox furnishings, or, er, serving them digital meatballs in the digital IKEA cafe. What does this show – does it show that the future of work is humans-behind-avatars, helping users navigate THE METAVERSE? Well…maybe, although I would be fcuking amazed if that sort of ‘helper’ role doesn’t get AI’d to fcukery due to the relative economics of paying people vs running a model. What this DEFINITELY DOES show is that there is literally no spin on the now-infamous ‘best job in the world!’ PR stunt that won’t work  – seriously, I have NEVER seen one of these that doesn’t get coverage and links, which just goes to show that there’s no real point ever trying to be original because, honestly, why bother when this sort of crap just *delivers*? £100 says that the ‘jobs’ being offered here are not full-time, permanent contracts, put it that way.
  • The TransferScope: A FUN, HACKED-TOGETHER AI TOY! I really like this – you have to click the link to properly understand it (hm, perhaps I shouldn’t admit failure before even attempting to explain…but, on the other hand, I know my limitations), but basically this is a device that lets you do style transfers to any image you capture, from any image you capture. So, for example, look at a tortoiseshell cat through the viewfinder and it can ‘learn’ the visual style of said cat; if you then look at your naked boyfriend reclining on the sofa (for example), it can then apply said tortoiseshell cat’s style to said naked boyfriend. I can’t stress enough how much SURPRISE AND DELIGHT potential there is with this stuff – can you imagine taking this and making it BIG and installing it somewhere? Go on, someone, do something FUN for a change rather than just paying someone to make more fcuking videos.
  • Pride Flags: ALL OF THE PRIDE FLAGS (there are, er, LOTS) and what they mean, and the history behind them – I am including this partly as it’s interesting, but partly because some of these are BRILLIANT – I’m a particular fan of the Lesbian Feminism Pride Flag, which goes very hard indeed, but the Pocket Gender flag is also a cracking bit of design.

This is from Twitter in 2017. 2017!!! Do you ever think about the universe and how altered it might be if one single event had gone differently? I often dream of a world in which that plane crash had been fatal.  



  • Space Explorer: This is SO CUTE! Steve Gardner has made a little website that explains how you can, er, make a small website where the interface is a spaceship flying around an interacting with various on-page elements – so you can move the ship around the page, which explains how various things work (objects, movement, inertia, interactivity, etc) and then gives you the opportunity to remix the page or to make your own – this is a LOVELY piece of interactive tutorialising (no, it IS a word, fcuk you) and personally I would like to see more websites that have this sort of (entirely pointless and somewhat-overengineered interface). Just like…
  • Dolce Activation: A LUXURY WEBSITE! With a truly appalling url – seriously, Dom and Stef, could you not have bought a better domain? Still, I forgive them because while the site itself is dull as fcukery the style and interface is GORGEOUS – you navigate by moving a little Vespa around a map of Rome, with your goal being to find a selection of monuments which in turn let you access EXCITING PRODUCT INFORMATION about various bits of D&G tat. To be clear, this is an objectively terrible way to experience what is, at heart, a very content-lite website – it’s slow, inefficient and you will inevitably be a bit disappointed by what you eventually get served when you ‘uncover the secrets’. BUT! The art style is gorgeous – sort of cel-shaded, which you don’t see often enough in webdesign if you ask me – and YOU ARE DRIVING A TINY VESPA AROUND ROME!!! Oh, by the way, if you have the time I also recommend looking at the playlists that they have included here to publicise the perfumes they’re flogging, which I think are the most appallingly-generic attempts at ‘musical curation’ I have ever seen and which made me actually lol at the thought of there being some sort of ‘cool consultant’ behind the decision to fill a mix with the EDGY SOUNDS of, er, Drake and Jack Harlow and Skrillex.
  • TrippyTunesTV: Ooh, this is cool – a 24/7 stream of dance music of various kinds (when I’ve logged on this week at various points it’s been psytrance –  look, I LIKE IT – and breakbeat and at the time of writing it’s playing d’n’b) with an accompanying visualiser that’s all generated and animated by AI. Not sure of what the workflow is here, but the description on the page says: “this is the output of my computer god image creator – it uses much gpu (a whole 4090) and much cpu (a whole 14900ks) to make weird pictures somewhat synchronized to the musical entertainment to serve as a demonstration of the powers of our future ai overlords.” This is…weirdly hypnotic, I have to say – the machine occasionally gets ‘stuck’ in odd loops of ‘thought’ (not thought), and it’s fascinating seeing it move from image style to image style and interpolate between them, and I think this would look ace on a big screen.
  • Het Archief: Speaking of dance music and clubbing, this is incredible and a proper slice of musicultural history (well, Dutch musicultural history, at least). De School was a space in Amsterdam which for 8 years was a sort of arts and cultural centre that hosted artists, musicians, club nights and collectives, and which shut in January this year – this website is a frankly astonishing archive of audio from that period, capturing sets and club nights from across genres over the entirety of 2016-24. “On January 15, 2024, De School closed its doors for the very last time. From a first Friday night in 2016 until the 66-hour grand finale, Amsterdam’s former technical school functioned as an ever-evolving space, with at its core the steadfast pulse of a club. Infused with new life, the labyrinthian building—lest we forget: derelict classrooms, pitch-black basement, blossom-kissed garden, checkered cubicles, highway-like hallways—became a temporary home for the interlocked wonder of music, art, and culture. A blueprint for countless special people to forge countless special days, nights, and the blur beyond time. Het Archief, which you have just entered, translates eight years of club history into an expansive sound archive. Eight years of recordings are indexed, escape the walls, and finally see the light of day. Het Archief is a time capsule for the present and future, and an open-ended zone to remember through sound.” Seriously, if you are into techno this is a fcuking MOTHERLODE – and even if you’re not, there is SO MUCH in here to explore and listen to.
  • Stompers: Over the years I’ve featured a variety of ‘gamified fitness’-type apps, none of which have ever achieved the same degree of success or profile as the OG version Zombies Run! – Stompers is another in similar vein, but which feels a but more fun and silly than some of the previous iterations, a bit like a sort of ‘Mariokart with your mates, but for step counts’ – basically you create an avatar and compete in daily step goal challenges with your friends…but there are powerups! And debuffs! And it all feels sort of fun and dumb and playful, which might make it the sort of thing that’s fun to do with your family or groupchat. Or not – I’m basically fcuked if I understand anything about the compulsion to exercise, if I’m entirely honest with you.
  • Alt Text Selfies: This is rather beautiful and occasionally poignant and a tiny bit sad. A series of paragraph-length self-descriptions, designed to invoke the alt-text one might apply to a photograph, the idea being to create a non-visual representation of the self: “For us, an alt text selfie is any written self-portrait. This project takes a well-known practice—the selfie—and approaches it through a disability lens. Selfies and self-descriptions are often visually focused, but to us, an alt text selfie doesn’t need to center visual presentation or a literal description of an image. Alt text selfies might focus on feelings, smells, tastes, sounds, emotions, textures, or some combination. Alt text selfies can be any length, but for this project, we focused on writing in the one-sentence to one-paragraph range…Selfies and self-descriptions are often visually focused, but, to us, an alt text selfie doesn’t need to center around visuals, or literally describe an image. As the selfies gathered on this website exemplify, alt text selfies can blend smell, taste, touch, sound, and more. At their core, alt text selfies are an access practice, tools for connecting across sensory experiences and distance.” Do take a moment to read through a selection of the pieces here – they’re all bitesized, and some of them are quite arrestingly beautiful.
  • Shade Map: I think I’ve featured something similar in Curios a few years back, but the site wasn’t as nice as this one – ShadeMap does exactly what the title suggests, which is, er, show you where the shade will fall, anywhere in the world, at any given time of day. Which, honestly, is fcuking mental when you think about it. You can select the date and time at the bottom of the page, which means you can use this for all sorts of useful purposes – planning walks in such a way as to ensure you’ll be in the sunshine more often than not, or conversely for ensuring that you’re not exposed to the TERRIFYING BURNING ORB more than you absolutely have to be (don’t worry, goths, I see you), or for planning any outdoor/experiential thing which might benefit from sun or shade…in fact it feels like there’s probably some quite fun outdoor installation work you could do with this, playing with where shadows and light fall at different times of day, which I would quite like one of you who’s significantly more artistically and creatively inclined than I am to think about some more, please.
  • MemoryLane: To be clear, this is a grift and a BAD PRODUCT and I do not endorse it at all – but it feels like there’s an idea here that someone else (a charity, for example) could improve significantly. MemoryLane is a ‘tell The Machine your memories and it will turn them into a book which we will then print for you’ service, except it’s run as a £20 a month subscription service which makes no sense at all except from the point of view of parting gullible people with their money – that said, I think there’s something quite nice about the concept, and with a bit more care (and a significantly-less-aggressive pricing model) and maybe the ability to speak to The Machine rather than just type, this could be quite a cool service for, say, Age UK, or the Alzheimer’s Society.
  • Sonicity: Various cities from around the world, interpreted as audio based on specific information about them (temperature, elevation, population, etc) – this is a standard ‘convert data to sounds!’ project, but I quite like the way it results in each of the cities having quite a distinct audio profile, which in itself sounds like a CLEVER CREATIVE IDEA for certain types of brand, should you be in the market for such a thing. London sounds sh1t, I am sad to say – POOR LONDON.
  • MusicLawyerAI: This seems like…a legitimately good use of AI! With no apparent downsides! Apart, of course, from the possibility that it might give you bullsh1t information (or, perhaps, that it’s an early death-knell for a particular type of lawyering – although your opinion of whether or not that is in fact A Bad Thing will obviously depend on the degree to which you think that commercial lawyers are a category deserving of preservation – I am keeping my own counsel on this one). MusicLawyer lets you plug in your contract, at which point the AI will analyse it and, apparently, tell you exactly how it’s fcuking you, to five decimal places – but, obviously, I don’t have any music contracts to hand to test it with, and even if I did I’m no lawyer and so would have no idea whether The Machine was in fact offering a decent analysis or whether it was just making sh1t up left right and centre – which, I suppose, is the problem. Still, it’s free, and I would be intrigued to hear from anyone who tries it about whether it actually seems to deliver the goods.
  • Life In Jars: When I was a kid, someone I was at school with (no, really – this isn’t one of those euphemistic anecdotes where ACTUALLY IT WAS ME; I want to stress this very much WASN’T me, for the avoidance of doubt) decided to see what would happen if they left a jar of their own p1ss in a cupboard in one of the history classes over what turned out to be an unusually hot summer – turns out what happens is that it turns into a very weird black sludge and causes not-inconsiderable consternation in the member of staff who opens it curiously come September. Which is by way of only-slightly-tenuous introduction to this YouTube channel, in which a bloke looks at what happens when you leave water in jars for a while and then look at it under a microscope. SO MUCH LIFE! SO MUCH TEEMING, TINY LIFE! This is brilliant YouTubing – educational, entertaining, a tiny bit weird/gross…also, it’s not just ‘stuff in jars’, there’s a lot of other nature/science content on the channel which is very much worth an explore. Still, though, STUFF IN JARS!
  • Museum Artefacts in Fortnite: I really like this – this is a set of Twitter videos showing how various museums are experimenting with integrating 3d scans of elements from their collections into Fortnite maps, as a light-touch way of introducing, for example, ACTUAL DINOSAUR SKELETONS to kids as a natural part of the in-game experience (there’s one vid in here which shows a player mining in-game, and as they do so uncovering a scan of a real-life triceratops skeleton which is a perfect example). This just struck me as a really smart way of ‘meeting your audience where they are’, and of using digitised collections in creative fashion.
  • Cartwheel: This feels like a useful thing for any of you into 3d animation – Cartwheel is an AI-enabled platform that’s designed to let you create first pass animations to any character you feed it through text prompting. So, for example, you upload your character created in Blender or whatever, and then tell the software to ‘make it do a cartwheel’ and HEY PRESTO, there it goes. Or at least it does in theory – I imagine it’s probably not QUITE that simple, and that the results probably don’t always look like the ones on the homepage – but, even if it’s not quite as slick as they want you to believe, this strikes me as something worth playing with for anyone interested in animating characters (also, I really, really hope that they’ve not been rigorous with the guardrailing because dear God can I think of some potentially-wonderful if not-entirely-tasteful prompts I would like to try out).
  • Fractal Life: You know Conway’s Life simulation, right? The gliders, all that sort of jazz? Well this is that, but infinite and fractal and DEAR GOD this messed with my head something chronic. Click the link and then scroll out…and keep scrolling…this gave me proper, dizzying, ‘we are just specks in a petri dish’ insignificance vertigo, and I hope it does the same to you because, frankly, I see no reason I should suffer alone.
  • Classic Computer Brochures: This very much does what you’d expect it to based on the title – “Welcome to my personal collection of vintage brochures”, says the welcome banner, and that is EXACTLY what you get. Obviously if you’re the sort of person who gets excited at the prospect of delving into the instructional documentation for the APPLE II then, well, ENJOY, but even if you’re not quite *that* much of an IT enthusiast there’s something genuinely interesting about the way in which this takes you through the history of brand and marketing in the personal computer space, how the devices were presented and sold and the differing roles they were sold as occupying in our lives.
  • Nightmare Kart: AN ACTUAL, PROPER, FULL VIDEOGAME WHICH YOU HAVE TO DOWNLOAD BUT WHICH IS AVAILABLE ON A ‘PAY WHAT YOU WANT MODEL’! This is BRILLIANT, honestly – can you imagine a version of MarioKart, released for the PS One, and themed around the beloved FromSoft game Bloodborne? Can you? IMAGINE NO MORE FOR IT IS HERE! Seriously, this is really, really fun and is 100% worth downloading and chucking the devs a few quid – the courses are great, the references to the Bloodborne (never named, for obvious legal reasons) are integrated beautifully, and overall it is just a Good, Fun Time for All the Family – highly recommended, this one.
  • Tiny Glade: Another game you actually have to download – but it’s only a demo, and it’s free, and, honestly, if you liked Townscaper you will absolutely adore this – you just make a beautiful little woodland dwelling, basically, all tilt-shifted and SUPER CUTE, and, honestly, it’s a genuinely relaxing little toy which I once again recommend unreservedly.
  • Jasbiac: Guess the genre of three albums based on their cover art – this is a fun daily quiz to add to the rotation, should you be in the market for yet ANOTHER timewaster to add to your pre-work routine.
  • TILT: BAAAAAAAAAAAAAH this is infuriating but incredibly addictive, a tiny little bullet-hell type game where you simply have to survive the spinning and swirling death blobs long enough to collect a set number of…things in order to ascend to the next level. This is very, very hard, and quite brain-mangly if, like me, you have the approximate spatial awareness and coordination of a piece of Gouda, but bitesize enough that it doesn’t get frustrating so much as compellingly ‘I CAN DO THIS’-y.
  • Word Up: Last in this week’s selection of games is this mobile-only variant on Scrabble, where you have to score a set number of points each level – inbetween levels you can spend the points you’ve earned on tweaks and powerups that change the gameplay in interesting and creative ways, maybe instituting a minimum word length for a score to register, say, or banning abstract nouns (I am making these up, but you get the gist). This is a LOT of fun (if you’re a wordcel like me) and one I very much recommend giving a go.

By Coco Capitan



  • Little Guy Mart: This is, per the description, “a blog of cute little guys sourced from eBay listings”. They are indeed cute little guys!


  • Mitch Sea: Mitch Sea is a sculptor, and this feed shares his works, and works in progress – I personally find some of the musculature a bit fussy for my tastes (ffs Matt you fcuking ponce!), but the talent here is undeniable and it’s rare to see this sort of stuff on Insta (in my experience, at least).
  • NTFLX & Drill: You might have seen some of these doing the rounds this week on Twitter under the guise of ‘AI Music’ – it’s not AI, though. Per the artist bio, “One man making beats and animations based on Film/TV characters. The only AI is the voice change.” Regardless, this is another example of how amazing the current tech stack is in terms of what you can pull together in your bedroom – I don’t personally find ‘raps about characters from Harry Potter’ compelling in any way, but there’s no denying the skill here; there is something sort-of magical about the insane creative toolbox that’s now available to anyone with the wherewithal to learn how to open and use it.


  • Consequence-Free Policy: Stephen Bush writes in the FT about the peculiar way in which policy announcements in the election so far have been largely divorced from reality – the Conservatives can say any old sh1t because they’re unlikely to get in and therefore to have to make their promises reality; ditto the Liberal Democrats, whose (laudable!) stated aim to offer ‘free adult care for everyone’ in the UK is literally uncostable, but, hey, fcukit because they’re never getting anywhere near power…as for Labour, as Bush points out, there’s a fundamental contradiction in the juxtaposition of many of the policy proposals and the cast-iron ‘promise’ not to raise any taxes for anyone which suggests that at least one of the two sets of ‘commitments’ is going to have to give…Perhaps that’s why it’s so hard to get in any way excited about this contest, because it feels that it’s operating on a plane that is only tangentially connected to the day-to-day reality of people’s lives or indeed to the reality of government.
  • Dear God The Debate Was Miserable: Ok, not the technical title of this piece in the LRB, but very much the theme – I watched the second half of it after coming back from the theatre and spent the majority of the time watching from between my fingers. There was a point towards the end where Sunak started effectively *whinging*, and I realised that it’s entirely possible that this electoral cycle will never end, that we’ll be trapped in an endless purgatory of meaningless promises and vacuous non-statements and blunt attack lines and made-up figures DEAR FCUKING CHRIST I WANT IT OVER. Anyway, this is a good–if-miserable piece of analysis by James Butler, a flavour of which you can see here: “Other miserable moments followed: an Atlanticist fug descended in eulogies for the special relationship. Both men nearly broke out in a military tattoo. The debate on migration and small boats was especially noxious, with Starmer repeating his line that Sunak is the ‘most liberal’ prime minister on immigration and asserting his openness to third-country processing. He rounded it off with a bid to be considered the true heir of Churchill. What would the debate have looked like to someone with no knowledge of the political history and affiliations of the people in front of them? There were differences: one man likes to talk about ‘the workforce’ more, the other ‘freedom’, which mostly seems to be a euphemism for not paying taxes. Yet a Martian viewer might have been more struck by how often their answers converged, and the strangeness of a political system that produces such similarity between putative adversaries.” If you want more of this sort of thing, Sam Leith is typically good in his analysis – I particularly enjoyed his observation that Starmer appeared to be implying that he’d personally taken down terrorists WITH HIS BARE HANDS rather than the more prosaic reality of ‘doing the paperwork’.
  • Consciousness, Machines and Moral Status: An ACTUAL ACADEMIC PAPER, and a philosophy one to boot – but no, wait, come back! I promise, this is very much on the ‘accessible’ end of the scale (I mean, look, I haven’t had to think properly about anything for about 22 years and I was able to follow it without too much difficulty, so I am sure you will be fine) and is super-interesting on the question of ‘at what point might we begin to grant ‘conscious’ status to machines, and what even IS consciousness anyway?’ – this is by Henry Shevlin, a professor at Cambridge, and it looks at (some of) the various ways in which philosophers currently believe you can define consciousness, and how these might need to be tweaked in order to meaningfully apply that question to machine intelligences. This is not, to be clear, attempting to argue that we’re there yet (or even that we’re nearly there), more that it’s important to think about these things because they will, one day, become quite materially important (and when they do, they will do so QUICKLY). Here’s the opening – honestly, this really is SO interesting and worth putting the effort into, imho: “The idea that machines might be endowed with consciousness and even come to have moral status has long been a target for speculation in philosophical thought experiments and science fiction. In the wake of extremely rapid progress in machine learning over the last decade, frontier artificial systems display increasingly sophisticated linguistic and even cognitive competencies. Yet despite the flurry of interest and effort, the science of consciousness is still, if not quite in its infancy, then in its troubled adolescence. Even as policymakers and the public are increasingly inclined to look to expert opinion on questions of machine minds, no consensus has been forthcoming.” See? FASCINATING!
  • Text and Meaning and AI: This is a blogpost by Matt Webb which is technically about something specific, but which ends up being SUCH a good explanation of how LLMs ‘do’ words and meaning, and effectively of how latent space works – I firmly believe that getting your head around the concept of latent space is the key to getting your head around ‘what you can do with this generation of AI, and what you probably can’t, and by extension some fun and creative applications of the tech’, and this is I think the best guide to ‘what it’s all about’ that I have yet read, and pleasingly non-technical to boot. Very much worth reading, this.
  • Doing Stuff With AI: Ethan Mollick is BACK, with another excellent post about ‘how to work with AI RIGHT NOW’ – again, this is a simple, comprehensible and intensely-practical overview of ‘things that the machine is good at as of Summer 2024’, from watching and analysing videos to writing code and everything inbetween.
  • Prebunking Misinfo: On how the US and European Union are attempting to get ahead of potential digital misinformation campaigns in forthcoming elections by doing some educative work ahead of time – an interesting approach, particularly considering the weirdly-ostrich-like approach to the issue seemingly taken by the Electoral Commission and others in the UK in the runup to our own day at the ballotbox.
  • Homecooked Software: This is wonderful, and genuinely hopeful and positive in a way I know a lot of what I share here, well, isn’t. A talk given by Maggie Appleton at a recent conference in Berlin, all about how she believes that generative AI is going to usher in a whole new era of small websites and digital projects and CREATIVITY AND WONDER, thanks in no small part to the barrier to creation being lowered to basically ground level – after all, if The Machine can spin you up a basic website based on a few text prompts and maybe a shonky sketch of the homepage UI, what’s to stop you from creating (for example) the online tribute to 80s TV classic ‘Manimal’ that the web has always needed? NOTHING! This made me very happy – a genuinely positive and hopeful bit of thinking, which also chimes rather nicely with the launch of the Tiny Awards this week; after all, if anyone can make a tiny website with minimal effort and little-to-no skill required, why shouldn’t EVERYONE make tiny websites about whatever the like? GALAXIES OF TINY WEBSITES!
  • Research As Leisure Activity: This spoke to me QUITE INTENSELY – Celine Nguyen writes about people who, like her, find pleasure in finding out about stuff, reading and learning and exploring a topic for no other purpose than the joy of so doing – as she puts it, “The idea of research as leisure activity has stayed with me because it seems to describe a kind of intellectual inquiry that comes from idiosyncratic passion and interest. It’s not about the formal credentials. It’s fundamentally about play. It seems to describe a life where it’s just fun to be reading, learning, writing, and collaborating on ideas.” While I’m obviously a miserable loner and have minimal desire to ever collaborate on anything, in the main, the rest of it is basically Curios to a tee – there’s no way in hell I could, or would want to, do this if I didn’t find the specific act of ‘reading the whole of the internet and deciding what I want to include in the next issue’ to be, well, FUN (and I appreciate that the very idea of ‘spending a significant proportion of your day reading random stuff on the internet that may or may not be good or interesting’ being enjoyable will make me sound like a genuinely damaged person to many of you; I get that, I really do, but, equally, LIKE YOU’RE FCUKING PERFECT STOP JUDGING ME YOU CNUTS), and it was nice to read something that basically says ‘you are not alone. You are possibly quite odd, fine, but you are not alone’.
  • We’re Doing Curation Again, It Seems: The New Yorker profiles ‘the new generation of cultural curators’, which is seemingly one of those things that’s going to come around every 5-6 years or so, or every time there’s a big platform/format shift; we had the whole ‘curators are the new creators!’ argument in around 2010, I recall, with bloggers in the titular role; we had it again in the mid-10s with Insta the focus, and now we’re doing it again with TikTok and newsletters – Jesus, I remember writing social media strategies (lol! Dear God, can you *imagine*?) which had ‘CURATOR’ right at the heart of the ‘purpose’ bit of it way back in 2008 or so. Anyway, I’m possibly being salty because for some reason the author doesn’t appear to have heard of Curios, the RUBE – interestingly (for me, not for you) I was actually approached by an NYT journalist last year asking to speak to me about ‘interesting website curation’; they then subsequently failed to reply to my reply, so fcuk the Grey Lady, basically, but should any journalists be reading this and want to chat to someone about how INCREDIBLY VITAL it is that people ‘collect interesting links’ then, well, I AM AVAILABLE.
  • The Google Leak: This is VERY ‘inside baseball for SEO’, but it’s interesting nonetheless – you might have heard that a massive bunch of documents from Google got leaked recently, offering a rare insight into How Search Works; the various SEO heads out there are still attempting work out What It All Means, but there’s an overview of initial findings here. In general, though, I do slightly wonder how relevant any of this stuff is going to be in a year or so, because, despite its well-publicised fcukups, AI search is very much here to stay because THAT’S WHAT THE MARKET WANTS (not the market made up of actual humans, to be clear, but the one run by that invisible hand cnut).
  • The Ghosts of New Atheism: A very good piece looking at how the Dawkins/Hitchens wave of ATHEISM IS GOOD AND GOD-PEOPLE ARE DUMB AS ROCKS thinking has left a long shadow, and examining what shape that shadow takes in 2024. I’ve always thought that hardcore atheism is not only a slightly-obnoxious position to take, but also a fundamentally hypocritical one – after all, isn’t it a classic example of holding an unshakeable belief in something (ie the non-existence of a supreme being) that is fundamentally unprovable…which is faith…JUST LIKE BELIEVING IN GOD? I would posit that it in fact is, so QED and fcuk off – and so was primed to agree with this from the off, but I very much like the clear throughline it draws between the initial rise of the movement and the ‘facts don’t care about your feelings!’ style of online argument favoured by many of the very worst people in the world in the 2020s.
  • 10 Years of Normcore: OH GOD I FEEL SO OLD, SO OLD. 10 years since Normcore swept the world, since a small hipster trend consultancy coined a term that defined an era (a short, inconsequential era fine, but still), a decade since we started having to coin pithy, one-or-two-word terms for EVERYTHING…this is a great piece, interviewing three of the people at K-Hole who came up with the term and looking back on What It All Meant, and if you’re the sort of person who ever has to ‘do’ trends stuff then this will speak to your soul (and make you shudder involuntarily at several points, no doubt).
  • 10 Years of MSCHF: I’ve made it clear on here before that I am suspicious of MSCHF – partly jealousy, obviously, as it’s exactly the sort of thing I would have loved to have been involved with 15 years ago, but also partly because I’ve always felt that it has a whiff of undeclared trust fund about it. Still, this profile of the company on its 10th birthday made me feel slightly better-disposed towards them – possibly because the author annoyed me more than the company he was profiling (sorry, but). This is an interesting look at how the business works, what it thinks it’s for, what might be next and whether the whole thing’s already sort-of over – unsurprisingly, it’s a lot more sensible behind the scenes than it looks from the outside, and I found their approach to idea generation and development really interesting (democratic and THOROUGH, basically, which are qualities perhaps worth attempting to replicate).
  • No Launch: My reaction to this was CLASSIC OLD PERSON – I basically read it with steadily-mounting incredulity, astonished at the idea that ‘Not putting every single aspect of your relationship on fcuking Insta’ is now considered to be a radical new approach to the cut and thrust of dating. WHAT THE ACTUAL FCUK?! I know I am anomalous in many respects when it comes to social media usage, but is this really such an outrageous idea, that you wouldn’t in fact treat your relationship in the same way as a tabloid might treat that of a celebrity? Madness, I tell you. See also this piece, on ‘the rise of tolamory’ – tolamory, for those as confused as I was, is apparently ‘a relationship dynamic in which one or both partners puts up with — or tolerates — the other’s outside sexual or romantic contact. Unlike polyamory and other forms of consensual non-monogamy, it’s not something the couple has explicitly discussed and agreed to’…so, what, that’s ‘accepting being treated like utter sh1t even though it makes you miserable and unhappy and you never signed up for that sort of sh1t in the first place’? DEAR GOD NO WONDER THERE IS A CRISIS OF DATING. You’re all mad.
  • Rigid Body Collisions: A brilliant interactive explainer about How Physics In Coding Works – I LOVE THIS, and I know next to nothing about either physics or coding. “From Mario bouncing off a Goomba to two cars bumping into each other in a racing game, dealing with collisions is such an integral part of most video games that we often take it for granted. In this series of blog posts, I want to show you what actually goes on behind the scenes in a physics simulation. While we’re going to look at this through the lens video games, this post is really about the actual math and physics of collisions. Video games are just a nice way to contextualize these concepts and help make things a little less abstract.” Honestly, this is SUCH a nice, gentle and clear series of explanations, reminiscent of the amazing Polish guy who does all those ‘how flight actually works’ longform web explainers (you know the one, I can’t be fcuked to Google it as it’s 1120 and i am running LATE).
  • Bringing the Internet to the Amazon: What happens when a tribe in the Amazon gets Starlink and access to the web? This does: ““When it arrived, everyone was happy,” said Tsainama Marubo, 73, sitting on the dirt floor of her village’s maloca, a 50-foot-tall hut where the Marubo sleep, cook and eat together. The internet brought clear benefits, like video chats with faraway loved ones and calls for help in emergencies. “But now, things have gotten worse,” she said. She was kneading jenipapo berries to make a black body paint and wearing ropes of jewelry made from snail shells. Lately, the youth had become less interested in making such dyes and jewelry, she said. “Young people have gotten lazy because of the internet,” she said. “They’re learning the ways of the white people.” Then she paused and added, “But please don’t take our internet away.””
  • The Church of Roblox: Another one for the ‘The Metaverse already exists, it’s just not owned by Meta or in VR yet’ file – this piece is about young people in the Philippines congregating in digital Catholic churches in Roblox as part of a slightly-odd ecclesiastical roleplaying game (no, really): “The Roblox Filipino Catholics group, which calls itself a “community of young people looking for sanctity online,” has about 5,000 members on the gaming chat platform Discord. While none are actually ordained, the group mirrors the real-world Catholic Church hierarchy, with bishops, priests, deacons, and monks. It even has an online seminary to train role-playing priests for the virtual churches. “We don’t recognize ourselves as real priests, nor would we be recognized as such,” Inigo Arcilla, 19, who leads the Roblox Filipino Catholics as co-chief administrator, told Rest of World. But while they are merely role-playing, “all that we do must be in accordance to tradition,” he said.” I find this stuff SO INTERESTING.
  • Why Do People Hate Nickelback?: PROPER ANALYSIS, this, of what it is that caused Nickelback to become possibly the web’s first meme band, the go-to name when you wanted to reference a universally-derided artist – to be clear, I firmly believe that ‘This Is How You Remind Me’ is an all-time classic (IT HAS THREE HOOKS! THREE!) and think that anyone who disagrees is being a contrarian. Anyway, this is quite silly and made me laugh, but does make the important point that perhaps the main reason was a single joke about the band by some comedian being used in an ad for Comedy Central that was on TV ALL THE FCUKING TIME for six months – never underestimate the power of high-rotation broadcast media, kids, even in the internet age.
  • Baking: A really *nice* piece in the FT, in which Ella Risbridger spends the day with Nicola Lamb in an attempt to git gud at baking – this is just really lovely writing, and the sort of article that, despite my innate dislike for the term, I can’t help but describe as ‘wholesome’. Although I think Rusbridger perhaps flubs the freestyle bake at the end on purpose, because I refuse to believe that ANYONE could conceive of a cake combining honey, rye flour and olive oil as being nice to eat.
  • The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Leaning: This is a wonderful profile of a person who is on track to become the most-academically-decorate human in North America – “Benjamin B. Bolger has been to Harvard and Stanford and Yale. He has been to Columbia and Dartmouth and Oxford, and Cambridge, Brandeis and Brown. Over all, Bolger has 14 advanced degrees, plus an associate’s and a bachelor’s. Some of Bolger’s degrees took many years to complete, such as a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Others have required rather less commitment: low-residency M.F.A.s from Ashland University and the University of Tampa, for example.” This is LOVELY – there’s something wonderful about someone learning simply for the love of it (ok, fine, it’s possible there may be a SMALL element of compulsion here too, but let’s ignore that), and I really like the authorial observations of the sort of person that Bolger is as a result of all that education, the sense of all of this knowledge now just being within him, waiting to be pulled out and connected to other bits of knowledge (I can’t help but think of LLMs at this point, which is either an interesting angle or the result of my personal AI-poisoning, not quite sure). There’s one rather startling omission, to my mind, throughout – at no point, unless I have missed something, is the question of ‘who is paying for all this and how?’ addressed – but this is a really heartwarming read in general (or it is if you’re not one of those miserable people who sees the value in education and learning solely in the potential impact on one’s employment prospects).
  • Taylor Swift Loves ARGs: OH THIS IS GREAT! A proper, deep exploration of all the clues and games and TREASURE HUNT elements in the Taylor Swift promotional cycle, written by someone who knows their ARGs. “I’m not aware of Taylor Swift using backmasking to hide secret messages in her music. I have yet to find secret tracks between the grooves of her vinyl records. And I have not yet called a phone number because a Taylor Swift puzzle told me to do so. But Taylor Swift’s easter eggs absolutely live up to the promise of that question Jordan Weisman asked over twenty years ago: can we do Paul is Dead, but for real” Yes. Swifties have been playing that game for years, and they keep getting better at it. The Tortured Poet’s Department alone had fans poring through the source codes of websites, going on global scavenger hunts to spell out messages, and hunting down secret messages in online videos. And the decision to turn her life into one massive ongoing puzzle is something so all-consuming that it’s more than a little terrifying to imagine: practically anything is on the table.” Superb, Swiftie or not.
  • The Review Copies: Alexander Velky is a poet (he’s also president of the micronation ‘Landskeria’, but that’s not relevant right now), and this is his account of what it’s like self-publishing a book and punting out review copies in the hope that someone will bother to cover it, and the odd sense of disillusionment when you find that one of said reviewers has seemingly chucked the copy you sent them on eBay without having read the fcuking thing in the first place. This is a great piece of writing – funny, ironic, poignant and honest about the realities of what it’s like to make work that, objectively, the world doesn’t give a fcuk about – and I can strongly recommend his poetry (honestly, it really is good).

By Faith 47