Shit readers give zero fucks about

The king of bullshit news

This is an excellent critical look into the veracity of CEN’s too-good-to-be-true stories, used by The Daily Mail, among (many) others:

How a small British news agency and its founder fill your Facebook feed with stories that are wonderful, wacky – and often wrong.

The words the media industry prefers

The scraping process and resulting visualisations are interesting; what got me more was Ford’s typically humorous style:

Does Bing care how I use it? I bet “nope.” After some testing, it seemed that was true. You can hit Bing tons of times and Microsoft is like, our milkshake brings all the bots to the cloud […] I exported the data to Excel because Google Spreadsheet charts look like they were made by color-blind eleven-year-olds. Excel charts, on the other hand, look like they were made by drunks who sell timeshares in Tampa […] In the far future, you might attend my wake. He did important work, you will think. His comparison of sexualized terms on websites changed America.

UX from hell

A couple [of] weeks ago a UX designer Twitter friend tweeted “Web peeps: Is there a particularly industry, segment, or niche that—generally speaking—has REALLY bad mobile web experiences?” I didn’t even have to have to think about it before replying: News sites.

I’m interested (personally and professionally) in news site UX, and have documented many similar things. I like the idea of “Shit the UX designer was forced to include” vs “Shit readers give zero fucks about”. Almost always a complete overlap.

A brief history of the # and the @, by Keith Houston

The average tweet is not an especially remarkable thing. It can contain letters (and almost always does), marks of punctuation (perhaps more of an acquired taste in this context), and pictures (mostly of cats and/or the photographer themselves). But in amongst these most conventional components of modern written communication are two special symbols around which orbits the whole edifice of Twitter. Neither letters nor marks of punctuation, the @- and #-symbols scattered throughout Twitter’s half billion daily messages are integral to its workings. And yet, they have always been interlopers amongst our written words.

Keith’s Shady Characters blog and book are both highly recommended.

Explore the trees

A terrifically detailed visualisation of all street trees in San Francisco. See also Matt Dance’s Trees of Edmonton.

A crowdsourced list of the top 50 cult movies

I asked my Twitter followers about their favorite cult films, and got some great responses (I also triggered a kind of Twitter war over whether quoting people’s tweets using the new embed feature is rude and/or noisy, but I will leave that for another day). Here’s a list of the top 50 suggestions — I didn’t include every one, but they all appear in the tweets I’ve embedded below.

Apple: ‘We do not accept fart apps on the Apple Watch’

How can I miss you if you won’t go away?

A planned hiatus was followed by an unplanned hiatus. Anway:

No sign of love

One of the song’s striking characteristics is the way in which it dispenses with pleasantries. There is no attempt to break you in gently. No easy introduction. No burying of the lede. It’s more a case of a lyrical fist buried in your solar plexus.

My pal Phil is writing, with a friend, A Longing Look, a series of love letters to lyrics. This is about every right-minded person’s favourite Beatles song, ‘For No One’.

The best icon is a text label

Let’s talk about icons now. They’re an essential part of many user interfaces. The thing is: more often than not, they break clarity.

A dive into icons as a UI element and how they are usually pretty shit.

Have you eaten your last avocado?

In California, farmers pay dearly for water — or, more precisely, they pay for the delivery of water — and water is getting very, very expensive. “The avocado’s native environment is tropical,” Wolk says to me in his office, which overlooks his own modest avocado grove, “and we’re growing them in a desert.” It takes 72 gallons of water to grow a pound of avocados, compared to, for instance, nine gallons to grow a pound of tomatoes.

The near and far future of emoji

While these nuances are groundbreaking in an esperanto sense—an eggplant is an eggplant is an eggplant, after all—they also create a huge margin for error and a demand for a larger emoji vocabulary for a quickly evolving future. To help us navigate the smiley-laced times ahead, we consulted the cutting edge in type technology to see what’s in store for a future of keyboard-as-canvas.

Love will…

… keep us together, and tear us apart.

The man who broke the music business

At work, Glover manufactured CDs for mass consumption. At home, he had spent more than two thousand dollars on burners and other hardware to produce them individually. His livelihood depended on continued demand for the product. But Glover had to wonder: if the MP3 could reproduce Tupac at one-eleventh the bandwidth, and if Tupac could then be distributed, free, on the Internet, what the hell was the point of a compact disk?

Casually and routinely ignored

Sans Bullshit Sans — Leveraging the synergy of ligatures. “The font that replaces every buzzword by a Comic Sans-styled censorship bar.”

My year ripping off the web with the Daily Mail Online. “Yes, most outlets regularly aggregate other publications’ work in the quest for readership and material, and yes, papers throughout history have strived for the grabbiest headlines facts will allow. But what DailyMail.com does goes beyond anything practiced by anything else calling itself a newspaper. In a little more than a year of working in the Mail’s New York newsroom, I saw basic journalism standards and ethics casually and routinely ignored. I saw other publications’ work lifted wholesale. I watched editors at the most highly trafficked English-language online newspaper in the world publish information they knew to be inaccurate.”

Tone of voice guidelines by the University of Leeds (pdf)

Internet slang meets American Sign Language. “How do you sign ‘new’ words? The Deaf community works as a network, collectively brainstorming new sign language terms over the web, until dominant signs emerge.”

The Gary Glitter fans who still follow the leader. “Perhaps understandably, not everyone was terribly enamoured of Thomas’s renewed interest in, arguably, one of the most reviled figures in British pop history. ‘I started getting a bit of shit,’ he says. ‘A lot of my mates started getting a bit funny about things when they saw Gary Glitter videos on my Facebook page.’ ”

Vince Vaughn and co-stars pose for idiotic stock photos you can have for free. “Enter the new Vince Vaughn movie Unfinished Business, which comes out Friday. Twentieth Century Fox has teamed up with iStock by Getty Images to create a set of stock photos featuring Vaughn along with co-stars Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco and others.”

The iron lungs of the city. Looking at street tree grates in New York.

Silicon Valley and the end of architecture. “The public architecture of Silicon Valley is like the interior design of a hotel that rents by the hour.”

This guy probably engineered your favorite DIY rock record. “Kyle Gilbride [of Swearin’] recorded Waxahatchee, Girlpool, Quarterbacks, and more. Here, he shares the stories behind six songs.”

Top Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris lives by his own code. “The truth is even stranger: The Van Man has a consistent 92-mile-an-hour fastball, a $2 million signing bonus, a deal with Nike and a growing fan club, yet he has decided the best way to prepare for the grind of a 162-game season is to live here, in the back of a 1978 Westfalia camper he purchased for $10,000. The van is his escape from the pressures of the major leagues, his way of dropping off the grid before a season in which his every movement will be measured, catalogued and analyzed. If a baseball life requires notoriety, the van offers seclusion.”

Futures of text. A survey of all the current innovation in text as a medium.

Walmart has sent me a C&D order about http://t.co/cwz8qGVbru http://t.co/ROSdTmUy36

— Jacques Frost (@jephjacques) March 8, 2015

A walking anachronism

Inside Adobe’s innovation kit. I can’t work out if this is douchebaggery of the highest order, or will genuinely inspire better ideas: “The Kickbox is a small, red cardboard box containing everything an employee needs to generate, prototype, and test a new idea […] you’ll find instruction cards, a pen, two Post-It note pads, two notebooks, a Starbucks gift card, a bar of chocolate and (mostly importantly) a $1,000 prepaid credit card. The card can be used on anything the employee would like or need without ever having to justify it or fill out an expense report.”

The age of the super-subscriber. “With newsstand and ad page sales ever on the decline, magazine companies looking to monetize the influence of their brands are test driving tiered-subscription models that offer the most loyal readers increased access to the editors who create the glossies they read and the celebrities who appear in them.” I’m surprised this isn’t already the standard approach. Kickstarter and Patreon (to name only two) have tiered support at their hearts. Surely this is more valuable $-wise than the one-size-fits-none, ad-saturated but untargeted approach of most publications. Slightly related: Stack is a great way to read and support interesting, less-popular publications. (And you can thank Phil for that recommendation.)

When it’s ok to use word clouds. I’d say never, but: “It’s ok to use word clouds if your goal is to encourage reading of a large set of otherwise unrelated words that are connected to one or two interesting values (and word count in a text doesn’t qualify as interesting).” I had a meeting in a colleague’s office a few days ago and I put my glass of water down on a coaster emblazoned with a cloud of ‘engage’, ‘solutions’, ‘energise’ and the like. I nearly vomited.

Trying to keep a ‘celebrity class of commenters’ happy. Some of the challenges of allowing comments on a large site. “ ‘We’re lucky to have a celebrity class of commenters,’ [NYT community editor Bassey Etim] said, referring to the generally high quality of the discourse he sees, ‘and we want to elevate and recognize them in new ways.’ Just how to do that, with limited resources, is a current topic of discussion among audience development people at The Times.” I can really only think of one site where the comments even approach the quality of the posts, and it’s rarely updated these days.

The last of the typewriter men. “Well aware of his status as a walking anachronism, Schweitzer, 76, now fixes approximately 20 typewriters a week. Some of them are used as props for movies or television shows recreating eras he was a part of, a fact that makes him laugh when he happens to see his machines while flipping through reruns. Schweitzer’s clientele, recorded in two boxes of handwritten notecards behind his desk, includes several high-profile names, including noted typewriter aficionado Tom Hanks.”

Conspiracy revealed: The Simpsons has been lying to you. “Springfield is not in the United States at all. It’s not even in our half of the world. Springfield is in the Southern Hemisphere!”

Editor in Chief of The Guardian: indicative ballot. Who will replace Rusbridger?

Father John Misty: “Bored in the USA” - David Letterman. An album that gets better with each listen. A friend couldn’t understand why I was smiling all the way through this—“why is the audience laughing?”—so I hope the source is obvious. Misty (well, J. Tillman) seems to be one of the few that realises you can combine wit with chops and showmanship. I suppose as a Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson fan I was always going to like this.

You’re wearing a dustbin liner

When the NME was the best place in the world to be. Harking back to the glory days. “Like many titles, the NME is under pressure. Britain’s last-remaining weekly music magazine, the champion of new bands for generations, has just denied reports of staff discussions about plans to become a free publication as its circulation nears the 15,000 mark and threatens its value to the industry—and its existence.” For context, a few magazines and their circulations: Q (50,161), Mojo (70,693), Uncut (53,282), Kerrang (30,300), Metal Hammer (24,552). The current NME circulation is less than half that of the Melody Maker when it folded in 2000. The fat lady may not be singing yet, but she’s doing a very thorough soundcheck.

Don’t call it a Britpop comeback. “Call it what you will, stoke the flames of a no longer existing feud, but this ‘comeback’ isn’t really a return of Britpop; it’s a return of bands that used to be Britpop. Neither Blur nor Oasis is going to stir the nation, or young music fans, the same way they once did. Part of why a ‘Battle of Britpop’ won’t work this time around is that Blur hasn’t been very ‘British’ in about 20 years. These aren’t the same chaps who made ‘Parklife’—nothing from Blur (or anyone, for that matter) will ever sound as British as that. The sound of guitar pop cum middle-class hedonism that once defined them is lost in the past. Albarn’s other, far less British projects have made that kind of stylistic cloister impossible.”

Booze, Blood and Noise: The Violent Roots of Manchester Punk. A fantastic retrospective. “Still, that didn’t stop me the next week from chopping off my Bryan Ferry-style hairdo, buying a dog collar and black garbage bag on which I stenciled ‘I Hate Pink Floyd,’ much to the amusement of my poor Irish mom. ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph, just look at yourself,’ she said between gales of laughter. ‘You’re wearing a dustbin liner.’ ”

A new lease of life for Italy’s aqua vitae? “The French have brandy, the Scots and the Irish have whisk(e)y and the Italians have… grappa. Outside Italy it’s often been seen as a rough old stomach-burner, and even inside Italy it’s not exactly fashionable. But could this ancient drink be on the verge of a revival?” I haven’t had enough grappa in my life to say that I love it, but a few post-prandial sips during an Italian holiday a few years ago told me I’m going to be a fan, long-term. (Incidentally, the BBC’s new responsive site serves m.bbc.co.uk URLs, even full-screen on my desktop Mac. How odd.)

Magazine apps are about to get better, but will anyone use them? “With this new suite, Adobe is softening its all-in approach to putting magazines on mobile devices and creating a publication that is a smarter halfway point between the static traditionalism of print and the ephemeral rush of the web. This means that the publications you currently subscribe to on mobile devices and download month-to-month will now update constantly instead of periodically. In other words, they’ll be more like websites and less like print magazines.”

It is expected that passive voice will continue to annoy me. “To me, someone who writes ‘snowfall is expected to end about lunchtime’ just doesn’t sound all warm and fuzzy that what they’re saying is true. Passive voice is the unconfident, if subconscious, mind’s trick of deflecting responsibility from itself into abstract nothingness. I mean, who expects snowfall to end about lunchtime? The writer? The local news station meteorologist? Dark Sky? Nostradamus?”

My time as a cheese

A guy complained no one had wished him happy birthday on Twitter and things got weird. “On 13 January, Daniel was a bit miffed because people hadn’t wished him a happy birthday.” This gets super weird.

I tweeted to kids as a piece of cheese for a year. “My time as a cheese taught me that the internet is run by pre-teen girls (they were clearly that young, from their profile pictures and dodgy spelling), and that their fandoms demarcate the geography of Twitter. That social media, all its self-promotion and factions and bitching, was made not for childish adults so much as for actual children.”

Architects I work for just gave the best reactions I've ever seen in person. “I work as an intern at an office for a few architects as a draftsman. I make 2D drawings and 3D visualizations. I came with the idea to make one of their project into a VR experience and they liked the idea. They gave me a project to work with, which was a perfect fit for VR (a brand new college in Amsterdam with beautiful inside and outside spaces).”

An obsession - brutal, beautiful bus stop design of the former Soviet states.

The gorgeous typeface that drove men mad and sparked a 100-year mystery. “Over the course of more than a hundred illicit nightly trips, this man was committing a crime—against his partner, a man who owned half of what was being heaved into the Thames, and against himself, the force that had spurred its creation. This venerable figure, founder of the legendary Doves Press and the mastermind of its typeface, was a man named T.J. Cobden Sanderson. And he was taking the metal type that he had painstakingly overseen and dumping thousands of pounds of it into the river.”

A new index to measure sprawl gives high marks to Los Angeles. “There is perhaps no more vexing issue for urban policy makers than sprawl. And yet, there’s little consensus on how best to accurately measure it. It’s one thing to impugn the phenomenon for contributing to everything from long commutes, congested highways and worsening air pollution to growing segregation, poverty, obesity and mounting health problems. But it’s another to actually gauge the connection between sprawl and that daunting list of social and economic ills.” The curious and surprising thing here being that the 'high marks' in the article title refer to LA's low levels of sprawl.

Influenced by. Ryan Boudinot (among other writers) on David Foster Wallace: “I don’t think I’ve ever had such a strong feeling that a book was going to change my writing so thoroughly. And of course it did, to the point where a lot of what I wrote for years afterward sounded imitative. That’s always the scary thing—we want so badly to be considered sui generis and hide our influences, but I go back to what Stevie Wonder once said about being afraid of not being influenced by great art. Infinite Jest seemed to me to continue the project that Pynchon was working on, to marry erudition to verbal looseness.” I'm slowly working my way through IJ for the second time. My first was a cold read, not really prepared for its density and length. Coming at it after having read so much about the book, its author, genesis and cultural reception, it is a very different experience. It feels like we're nearing a Jeff Buckley-type situation, where DFW is over-romanticised to near-cliche by melancholy straight white males, but I'm hopeful his brilliance will outshine any such dismissal.

An eight-pound horseradish with a lisp

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time by Robert Weide & Don Argott. A KV Kickstarter. “Recounting the extraordinary life of author Kurt Vonnegut, and the 25-year friendship with the filmmaker who set out to document it.”

Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless. “But the test was developed in the 1940s based off the untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community. Even Jung warned that his personality "types" were just rough tendencies he'd observed, rather than strict classifications. Several analyses have shown the test is totally ineffective at predicting people's success in various jobs, and that about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time.” I did one of these recently and came out as ENTJ which doesn't feel quite right.

The Straight Dope: 2, 4, 8, 16 ... how can you always have MORE ancestors as you go back in time? . On pedigree collapse, which explains why generations of ancestors don't usually follow an exact 2n pattern. “Consider an extreme case. Mr. and Mrs. Nosepicker have two children, a girl and a boy. These two develop an unnatural yen for one another and marry. Six months later the girl gives birth to an eight-pound horseradish with a lisp. In theory, the horseradish has four grandparents. In reality, its maternal and paternal grandparents are identical. Two of the four grandparent slots are thus filled by duplicates — pedigree collapse with a vengeance. Only slightly less extreme is the case of Alfonso XIII of Spain (1886-1941). Because of inbreeding in the royal family, he had only ten great-great-grandparents instead of the expected 16.”

Secret Lives: Katherine Heiny’s ‘Single, Carefree, Mellow’. “When you tell a friend that no one wants your story, she asks you what The New Yorker said about it. You admit you have not sent it to that magazine, and your friend laughs. She says you were supposed to start with The New Yorker. So, on a Thursday, you send the story there, and the next day Roger Angell, the fiction editor, calls you — early enough that he wakes you up — and says he wants to publish it [...] That story helps you get an agent, but you and she later part ways and it takes more than 20 years before you finally publish, at age 47, a book under your own name, a collection of stories called Single, Carefree, Mellow.”

The reluctant king of the hidden internet. “The Hidden Wiki holds the keys to a secret internet. To reach it, you need a special browser that can access ‘Tor Hidden Services’ – websites that have chosen to obscure their physical location. But even this browser isn’t enough. Like the Isla de Muerta in the film Pirates of the Caribbean, the landmarks of this hidden internet can be discovered only by those who already know where they are.” Silk Road: libertarianism, crime and the Internet.

Introducing introji – emoji for introverts. “Designer Rebecca Lynch found she couldn’t express herself through standard emoji when she was feeling unsociable. So she created her own.”

How public transit agencies deal with all your angry, mean, and terrible tweets. “Some cities ignore the abuse, but others have found success engaging it head on.” Somewhat related: yesterday, due to a 2-minute delay, 30-odd train passengers and I were delayed by a little over an hour at Grantham, a small station in the East Midlands. The abuse the platform worker got was unsurprisingly horrendous—but what struck me was the age of the abusers. I doubt any of them were under 60.

Indecipherable noise

An illustrated history of sushi. “The nigiri and tuna rolls we eat today are a far cry from the pungent, rice-less, barrel-fermented stuff that originated during the 3rd century BC. Japanese cooking instructor Yoko Isassi breaks down sushi's five evolutionary stages.”

Have you ever felt a deep personal connection to a person you met in a dream only to wake up feeling terrible because you realise they never existed?

Homeward. “When Hugo Lucitante was a boy, his tribe sent him away to learn about the outside world so that, one day, he might return and save their village. Can he live up to their hopes?”

Special weapons and no tactics. “Tenuously topical tweeting or tweeting by numbers. You’d have thought brands would have grown out of this by now. They haven’t.”

This is what happens when you repost an Instagram photo 90 times. “Ashton named the experiment I Am Sitting In Stagram as a throwback to Lucier’s 1969 experiment I Am Sitting In A Room, which involved the artist recording himself, then recording that recording over and over until all that he could hear was indecipherable noise, just like Ashton's own mess of a final photograph.” So, basically, deliberate shitpics.

A place for ugly kids to go

What news can do for Google (and itself). “Editors and publishers shouldn’t be surrendering their news judgment to Google. Shouldn’t they, the news professionals, be telling Google how Google should judge the news? Shouldn’t they be identifying the news that is original, relevant, and important and urging Google to point to that?”

That Guardian’s digital CMS is now producing content for the print version.

Ten years of Google Maps, from Slashdot to Ground Truth. “On the occasion of this 10th anniversary, Re/code spoke with the people who were there at the beginning, and brought back their stories of how something that now seems so fundamental came to be.”

Calendars, timelines, and collages: mapping the imaginary. "I got curious about the other visual aids that novelists create to manage their books, so I asked around and gathered a variety of notebook pages, diagrams, and timelines."

Death to typewriters. “You see, I blame typewriters for double-handedly setting typography back by centuries. Type before typewriters was a beautiful world filled with hard-earned nuance and richness, a universe of tradition and craftsmanship where letters and their arrangement could tell as many stories as the words and passages they portrayed.“

I'm Brianna Wu, and I'm risking my life standing up to Gamergate. "This weekend, a man wearing a skull mask posted a video on YouTube outlining his plans to murder me. I know his real name. I documented it and sent it to law enforcement, praying something is finally done. I have received these death threats and 43 others in the last five months."

Our hole in the wall: an oral history of the CBGB scene. "This was a place for ugly kids to go. It wasn’t the beautiful people; it was the dirty people."

Jupiter Ascending (2015). Last night I fell asleep in the cinema for the first time in my life. It really is that bad.

The water in my heart has fallen

Why Cambodians never get ‘depressed’. “People in Cambodia experience what we Americans call depression. But there’s no direct translation for the word ‘depression’ in the Cambodian Khmer language. Instead, people may say thelea tdeuk ceut, which literally means ‘the water in my heart has fallen.’ ”

Why Is the dollar sign a letter S? “There’s a good story behind it, but here’s a big hint: the dollar sign isn’t a dollar sign. It’s a peso sign.”

My week of dangerous self-indulgence . “I'm not a person of modest appetites: I love drinking, overeating, gambling, certain drugs, and having casual sex with horrible people. [...] Here is what I did — for one week — that was bad for me. And also ‘exactly what I wanted.’ ”

Printing Medium stories. “Printing articles off of Medium might not be commonplace, but we want it to be a great experience […] The idea that printing could leave your words mangled or stories disfigured, felt like breaking our part of the deal we feel we have with everyone who writes and reads on Medium.”

Where art meets Gif: the hypnotic animated Gifs of David Szakaly. “Since 2008 Hungarian/German graphic designer David Szakaly has been churning out some of the most dizzying, hypnotic and wholly original gifs on the web under the name Davidope.”

"Every Breath You Take" in minor key. I think I might like this more than the original. Added creep factor!

Emojicons. “Welcome to Emojicons, your one-stop plot of internet land for every ლ(╹◡╹ლ), ¯\(ツ)/¯, ಠ_ಠ, and (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ you can possibly imagine.”

Amplitude of the mouth may be limited

Incredible photos from the construction site of the new Bay Bridge. “A photographer spent more than a decade shooting from hellish, confined spaces and fog-shrouded eagles’ nests.”

Jim Gordon's answer to ‘What are the big problems of sandwiches and how do you solve them?’. “The ideal ingredient has a nice flat shape, a structural consistency and cohesiveness, and conforms to the adjacent ingredients. Thin is indeed a highly useful characteristic that enhances the tongue’s access to flavors. An ingredient should also have some moisture to aid chewing and flavor sensing, but with a minimum of surface wetness/lubrication or leakage — this is why tomato slices are so dangerous. Thick bread, as Bob suggests, has its attraction, but it steals space when the amplitude of the mouth may be limited.”

The beginner’s field guide to dim sum.

64 ways to think about a news homepage. Information architecture and design ideas to steal.

Human data. Cities visualised by human movement. “Human helps people move almost twice as much in six weeks. Every day, people track millions of activities with our app. We visualized 7.5 Million miles of activity in major cities all across the globe to get an insight into Human activity. Walking, running, cycling, and motorized transportation data tell us different stories.”

Under the covers: second hand songs that matter. An extremely comprehensive overview of cover versions. “Artists have performed other people’s music since the beginning. Here we salute the best and worst, the career-making, the career-breaking and other highlights from the wide world of borrowed sounds.”

“My friends are holding their official band meetings in Shane Warne’s Instagram comments.”

The amazing life of sand. “There’s a story in every grain of sand: tales of life and death, fire and water. If you scooped up a handful of sand from every beach, you’d have a history of the world sifting through your fingers. From mountain boulders to the shells of tiny ocean creatures, follow the journey that sand takes through thousands of years across entire continents to wind up stuck between your toes.”

Nominally about Seville orange marmalade

How to lose weight in 4 easy steps. This is really great and I won’t spoil it for you. Ensure you get to step 3.

Why did everybody do the Harlem Shake?. “Experts said the ‘Harlem Shake’ phenomenon was emergent behavior from the hive mind of the internet—accidental, ad hoc, uncoordinated: a ‘meme’ that ‘went viral’. But this is untrue. The real story of the ‘Harlem Shake’ shows how much popular culture has changed and how much it has stayed the same.”

Some Genius named Rick Rubin is annotating Kanye West, Beastie Boys, and others. Yes, that Rick Rubin is nonchalantly tossing out facts about music that he helped make, and comments on music that he didn’t.

Facebook is bigger than anyone knew, even Facebook. “We all know Facebook is huge, and drives incredible amounts of traffic. But thanks to its recent efforts to uncloak the sources of content with no known referrer, we now know that the numbers are bigger than anyone believed.”

GDS Digital Services 2 - An Opportunity Missed. Amid the (rightful) celebration of the great work the UK’s Government Digital Services project has done, Clearleft’s Andy Budd describes his dissatisfaction at the process used to select designers and developers.

One man’s quest to rid Wikipedia of exactly one grammatical mistake. Wikipedia user ‘Giraffedata’ has made over 47,000 edits since 2007. Almost all were to fix incorrect use of ‘comprised of’. Be sure to read his explanation.

A bittersweet and brillig tale. I don’t think I’ve ever shared one of Rachel Roddy’s posts here—they are uniformly excellent; a combination of tremendous travel writing, beautiful insights into childhood (in England) and adult (in Rome) life, and invariably brilliant recipes. This one is nominally about Seville orange marmalade, but really much more than that.

Are you ready for your sunny day? I approach this with no small amount of personal bias. The speaker in this TEDx talk is Jay DeMerit, a professional footballer who played in the late ‘00s for the team I support, Watford, and who was part of one of the most unlikely teams to have reached England’s Premier League, the top division of professional soccer. His career—and there are many hugely unlikely events that he glosses over here, self-deprecatingly—is strange enough to have been made into a film, but in this talk he outlines his particular approach to life, which amounts to focusing on positives rather than negatives. This includes a particularly nasty sounding injury, which to my knowledge was never revealed until now. Suspend your snark and irony: this is an upbeat talk—by a intelligent professional footballer, no less!—about being positive and preparing for the best, not the worst. There are many terrible TED talks out there, but this is a good 'un.

Whispering from across a trackless infinity

Solving an unsolvable math problem. In a different universe, I carried on studying pure mathematics and I sit in my mum's basement wearing week-old clothes trying to solve obscure number theory problems. Instead, I sit in my mum's basement wearing etcetera and so on. But I still love reading this sort of story: “The problem that Zhang chose, in 2010, is from number theory, a branch of pure mathematics. Pure mathematics, as opposed to applied mathematics, is done with no practical purposes in mind. It is as close to art and philosophy as it is to engineering […] Having discovered that there is a gap, Zhang wasn’t interested in finding the smallest number defining the gap. This was work that he regarded as a mere technical problem, a type of manual labor—‘ambulance chasing’ is what a prominent mathematician called it.”

Amazing radiology images: How sharing them is changing medicine. “In 2005, a Melbourne radiology student started uploading his notes onto the web as a way of keeping track of them. Ten years later, millions of people from around the world visit his site every month to share their images and knowledge.”

Manifesto of the Committee to Abolish Outer Space. “They told us that outer space is beautiful. They showed us nebulae, big pink and blue clouds draped in braids of purple stars, always resolving themselves at the pace of cosmic infinity into genital forms, cocks and cunts light years wide. They superimposed puddle-thin quotes over these pictures, so that the galaxies could speak to you in the depths of your loneliness, whispering from across a trackless infinity that you’re so much better than everyone else, because you fucking love science.”

How the White House found a publishing ally in Medium. “This year, the White House decided to make it a Medium publication—a collection of 25 sub-sections of the budget—that details such policies as the president’s plans to build ‘a 21st century infrastructure,’ provide ‘high-quality, affordable education’ to kids, and reform Wall Street again. It’s part of an effort to ‘make the document more accessible and shareable than ever before,’ a White House official familiar with the decision told Mashable, adding that ‘it’s important for the White House to provide a range of ways for people to consume information.’ ”

The web was supposed to be well beyond .com and .net by now. What happened? “The hundreds of new TLDs combined have managed only 4.1 million registrations in the year since the launch. Many of the new websites don’t actually seem to have anything on them. In contrast, .com and .net raked up nearly 26 million new domain registrations in the first nine months of 2014 alone.”

The curious case of the disappearing Polish S. “We don’t really special-case any language in any way, and even if we did… out of 32 Polish characters, why would this random one be the only one causing problems? Turns out, it wasn’t so random. This is a story of how four incidental ingredients spanning decades (if not centuries) came together to cause the most curious of bugs, and how we fixed it.”

blink link. Create a link that disappears after a certain number of people have seen it.

You are in a library that may not exist

Holy shit, I interviewed the President. “The shift in media consumption from television and newspaper to Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter has left a generation without a source of information that they can trust. In my experience, people under the age of 30 tend to simply assume that all media are biased. They find ways to engage, but those conversations are isolated from the broader culture and certainly from politics. If their values are not incorporated into the future of this country, it will be a worse future. If Google and the White House want to use me as a pawn to counteract this bullshit, sign me up. Especially if politicians are OK with a bit more of their legitimacy springing from honesty as well.”

How to tell if you are in a Jorge Luis Borges story. “You are in a library that may not exist. You are having a terrible time. It is unclear whether you have been writing the story, or the story has been writing you.”

Digital Archeology: How Double Fine, Disney, LucasArts and Sony resurrected Grim Fandango. Big companies in working-together-for-customer-benefit shock: “The frozen bits and bytes that combined to form the Land of the Dead and populate it with characters like Manuel “Manny” Calavera were released to critical acclaim in 1998, when Grim Fandango arrived in retail stores inside of boxes holding CDs. It was a time before widespread broadband and direct download services made purchases easy and games evergreen. In time, like all retail products, new boxes arrived and demanded shelf space. To those who hadn’t purchased LucasArts’ PC adventure game, Grim Fandango effectively disappeared.”

“i’ve discovered that if you put @dril’s name on richard dawkins tweets they actually make more sense”

Lingua Obscura: Young women’s language patterns at the forefront of linguistic change. “Young women, even those in positions of authority, might be met with derision or disapproval if they use these linguistic features which, as it happens, are naturally found not only in the speech of their peers but increasingly in older generations of speakers else as well.” (I hope you’ve seen Lake Bell’s wonderful 2013 comedy-drama In A World.)

What’s in an aroma? Languages with odour vocabularies. “New linguistic research emerging on a cluster of Southeast Asian languages, however, suggests that our inability to smell with precision might be a cultural problem, not an invariant limit of human nature. Our language may undermine (or support) our ability to perceive some sensory experiences. When it comes to how language affects perception, the nose may know… but only if it has the language to pin down what it perceives.”

Up pops Kevin-Prince Boateng, just living life

Links are broken. These three alternatives have improved our readers’ reading experience. "One of the most distracting phenomenons during reading are links. They keep pointing us to directions that are probably valuable, but at the same time force us to make a decision: to click or not to click. These links are the backbone of the internet. And yet, no improvements have made to this quintessential part of the web for decades. We took up the challenge. Here’s how." This strikes me as unneccessary—in 95% of cases, these three 'problems' can all be solved with better writing, more thoughtful anchor text, and (sparingly) footnotes.

Don’t Try to Be a Publisher and a Platform at the Same Time. “The ‘platform’ is a new media company model that has been perfected by the tech industry. Platforms can easily scale to serve gigantic audiences, and their lucrative possibilities beckon to established players that are often called ‘publishers.’ Meanwhile, many publishers have solid brand identities that are alluring to platforms. So publishers and platforms are experimenting with new combinations—but is it really possible to combine a publisher with a platform over the long term?”

Is the Innanet RUINING teh English Language??? "But interpersonal communication prevailed despite technology, and doubtless will continue to do so. Text remains the dominant language of the web. It's the medium through which our online emotions flow, whether by emoji or ASCII, asterisks or all-caps. Just so we're all sure we can understand each other, here's a short dictionary of contemporary internet English."

The strange world of professional footballers’ websites. “”It basically feels like a cross between a Terry Gilliam film and a first-person shoot-em-up, but instead of zombies or Nazis to kill, up pops [Kevin-Prince Boateng], just living life. The inevitable question is ‘Why?’ There seems to be little point to the site other than to show-off, which is not necessarily a reason not to have a preposterous website, so one assumes it’s simply another status symbol. From cars to houses to wage demands that look like telephone numbers, footballers crave status symbols – how else can you explain a player on £200,000-a-week demanding a raise to £250,000-a-week? There is surely nothing that one could afford with the latter but not the former, so the numbers just become a measurable value of worth, one-upmanship on a payslip. This, it seems, has extended to the internet world. Either that, or he’s just a fan of innovative web design. Or ‘Doom’.”

Forking Apple Brands. "The Apple logo is a stamp of excellence that’s proudly worn by the Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch… why is it withheld from one of Apple’s other major group of products?"

Repelled by a magic force field

Two decades of digital government strategies. “April fool’s day this year—just a month before the general election—will mark the month of reckoning for the Government Digital Strategy. That is the deadline set in November 2012 for when high volume “exemplar” service transformations from seven Whitehall departments are to be implemented. According to the Government Digital Service dashboard, eight are now live and 15 in beta testing.”

Draw Me: A History of MOOCs. “The parallels between the correspondence courses of the early twentieth century and the MOOCs (their venture-funded variety, I should be clear) are quite indicative of how we have long viewed educational ‘content delivery,’ particularly when developed and delivered by a for-profit enterprise.”

Working at Netflix. “When I joined Netflix, I expected many aspects to be excellent: the technical challenges, my colleagues, the compensation, the mission, and the ambition of the company—and they are. What surprised me most by its excellence was the culture. It’s made me think differently about our industry: Netflix is proving that company culture doesn’t just have to be accepted: it can be engineered to be positive.” Don’t miss the slide deck about Netflix culture if you’ve not seen it.

It’s not you, it’s us: apartment hunting in Brooklyn. This is really great: “The next afternoon my Nike Fuelband said that I had already walked 15 miles. I ruptured something along the top of my foot because of the 10-year-old Pumas Mom told me not to wear, and then I drank 2 liters of coconut water in order to rehydrate, only to find out afterwards that coconut water can be a really powerful laxative for some people — but I’m getting ahead of myself […] It was 2:30 when I limped into the real estate agency that had a dusty neon sign out front that was only partially lit. Inside it smelled like burnt coffee, but coffee that had pockets of morning breath in it that I kept accidentally walking into and then, like a tired boxer, weaving away from long after I’d already been hit.”

DO IT NOW. “ArnoldC, a language devised by Finnish computer programmer Lauri Hartikka, assigns programming functions to catch phrases from Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.”

New amazing metal is so hydrophobic it makes water bounce like magic. “Scientists at the University of Rochester have created a metal that is so extremely hydrophobic that the water bounces on it as if it were repelled by a magic force field. Instead of using chemical coatings they used lasers to etch a nanostructure on the metal itself. It will not wear off, like current less effective methods.”

Violating the safety rules

When a cartoonist landed in L.A. County Jail, she drew what she saw, using only a golf pencil. “In June 2014, I was arrested for violating a court order. I bailed out on July 3. But because I had no money and an overworked public defender, I knew I’d have to serve time for my violation. That’s when my mentor, animator-director Ralph Bakshi, advised me to ‘document my exploits.’ Jailed in the women’s division of the Los Angeles County jail system for two months, I was sent first to Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF) in Lynwood and then to Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles for my final three weeks. Armed with nothing more than a golf pencil and whatever paper I could get my hands on, I drew the strange world into which I’d been dropped.”

Miscellany № 57: ampersand, plus, and _?. The wide variety of ‘and’ signs in use.

The four undramatic plot structures. “The hero is confronted by an antagonistic force and ignores it until it goes away.”

The pilots of Instagram: beautiful views from the cockpit, violating rules of the air. “But taking photos, or using most any electronic device, while piloting a commercial aircraft is prohibited by American and European regulators. Pilots for airlines large and small, flying planes of all sizes, seem to be violating the safety rules, taking photos with their phones as well as GoPro cameras mounted inside the cockpit. Some also appear to be flouting even stricter regulations for takeoff and landing, when not even idle conversation is allowed in the cockpit.”

Is ‘SimCity’ Homelessness a Bug or a Feature?. “Bittanti collected, selected, and transcribed thousands of these messages exchanged by players on publisher Electronic Arts’ official forums, Reddit, and the largest online SimCity community Simtropolis, who experienced and then tried to ‘eradicate’ the phenomenon of homelessness that ‘plagued’ SimCity.

Computers we have allowed to replace gods

132-year-old cowboy’s rifle found propped up against tree in Nevada desert. “Archaeologists conducting a survey in Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada have stumbled upon a 132-year-old Winchester rifle propped against a tree, possibly having been left there more than a century ago.”

The Cathedral of Computation. “Here’s an exercise: The next time you see someone talking about algorithms, replace the term with ‘God’ and ask yourself if the sense changes any. Our supposedly algorithmic culture is not a material phenomenon so much as a devotional one, a supplication made to the computers we have allowed to replace gods in our minds, even as we simultaneously claim that science has made us impervious to religion.”

The disappearing Ama: Japan’s tough, topless, free-diving mermaids. “In the 1920s, a young law school graduate named Yoshiyuki Iwase left Tokyo and returned to his hometown of Onjuku, a fishing village in eastern Japan. With an early Kodak camera, he began documenting the traditions of the ama, women who dove for seaweed, shellfish, and most famously, pearls. What remains of Iwase’s multi-decade career is the most comprehensive record of a legendarily tough, beautiful female community that today is almost all but gone.”

The Beach Boys “California Girls” isolated vocals. These sorts of things pop up on YouTube every so often and they’re invariably great—see Dave Grohl’s frankly absurd drumming on ‘No One Knows’, or more Beach Boys, this time ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’—but this blog post adds context and technical things to look out for.

Assorted Quora answers:

The vagina is cool

Swedes are going nuts for this kids’ song about genitals. “It goes ’snippity, snippity, snippity snop’ and you will never be able to get it out of your head. Not even when you learn that the translated lyrics are: ‘The vagina is cool, you better believe it, even on an old lady. It just sits there so elegantly.’

English 3.0 is a 20 minute documentary that explores how the internet has influenced the way we communicate in the digital age and whether the changes witnessed have had a positive effect on the language.

To make us feel less alone: on ‘The David Foster Wallace Reader’. “The argument here is going to be that David Foster Wallace not only wrote about literature, lobsters, cruises, David Lynch, Roger Federer, grammar and John McCain, but he also wrote about writing about literature, lobster, cruises, etc. In nearly every published essay, Wallace first established the parameters of his project, the limitations of his assignment and even the crass, subtextual thesis of all book reviews. He dissected the very idea of reviewing a book, or covering a festival, or interviewing a radio host. In other words, Wallace wrote metanonfiction.”

Flirting on Instagram: deep thoughts on deep liking. “A few weeks ago, I spent an evening flirting with a super-cute bartender in Brooklyn. After many generous Gruner refills, we added each other on Instagram. When I got home later that night—his number written on a cocktail napkin in my purse—I checked my Instagram to find that Mr. Bartender had Deep Liked me. As in, he had taken the time to scroll back through at least most of my 850 photos and “liked” a handful of my finest work—or more accurately, my finest selfies. So I did what any interested girl would do and scrolled through his feed, too.”

An artist finds a little bit of Los Angeles everywhere. “The typefaces that people used to use to make signs for buildingswere not the same from coast to coast […] ’On the East Coast, all the fonts are these sans-serif fonts that are kind of boring,’ [Cynthia Connolly] says. The photographer grew up in Los Angeles, where the type was more stylish and unabashed: ‘thick-and-thins,’ Connolly calls them.”

Moors and Marrakech. Why we spell it ‘Morocco’.

The 24 most perfect dad moments in the history of dads. Not usually a fan of this sort of thing, but I laughed too hard not to include it.