A popular dong repository

1: How Minions destroyed the internet

I loathe those bastard Minions. Readers may remember them as the archetypal hashgag.

Minions have been engineered to be everything and nothing at once. They are not sexual, but they can develop romantic interest. They are androgynous but have distinctly male names. Their language is a hodge-podge of others. Their bodies have both a slender skinniness and the curves of fatness. They all need corrective eyewear […] They are paper-thin archetypes that we cast our own ideas, aspirations, and worries onto. […] Minions are “SCREAMING CORNPOPS WHO ARE TEARING APART SOCIETY THROUGH MIDDLE AGED MOM MEMES.”

2: How to read the internet

(via Today in Tabs.)

3: How the eggplant surpassed the banana as the most phallic fruit

Last November, 22-year-old Khiry Johnson took the stand on the syndicated daytime television show Divorce Court and accused his significant other, Erin Rodgers, of being sextually untrue. “We both have iPhones, and we both have emojis,” Johnson testified. “Now, I feel like certain emojis shouldn’t just get sent to anybody. I’m referring to emojis with the heart eyes. Blowing a heart kiss. … Even the eggplant that some people refer to as male genitalia.” […] Soon, the #EggplantFridays hashtag became such a popular dong repository that Instagram administrators were compelled to shut it down in an attempt to enforce the network’s strict nudity ban.

4: Exploring linguistic patterns in best-selling book series

Why do some books, as simple as they may be, succeed in becoming worldwide sensations? Do their authors treat the language differently? How do printed symbols lure us into epic worlds? I had to dig in. I picked the most successful book series of the last 20 years and applied text mining techniques, seeking for patterns and, well, a way to reverse engineer an author’s mind while writing.

5: How to design a metaphor

Can metaphors be designed? I’m here to tell you that they can, and are. For five years I worked full-time as a metaphor designer at the FrameWorks Institute, a think tank in Washington, DC, whose clients are typically large US foundations (never political campaigns or governments). I continue to shape and test metaphors for private-sector clients and others. In both cases, these metaphors are meant to help people to understand the unfamiliar. They aren’t supposed to make someone remark: ‘That’s beautiful.’ They’re meant to make someone realise that they’ve only been looking at one side of a thing.

Piano faces

1: Can Wikipedia survive?

A recent Pew Research Center report found that 39 of the top 50 news sites received more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop and laptop computers, sales of which have declined for years. This is a challenge for Wikipedia, which has always depended on contributors hunched over keyboards searching references, discussing changes and writing articles using a special markup code.

2: Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and the gendering of martyrdom

The way media dotes over its tortured male artists while undermining the personal struggles of women who suffer the same is nuanced, but a look into the archive suggests the phenomenon is well documented across race, genre, and generation. When Janis Joplin died on October 4, 1970 the New York Times called her a “misfit” whose “behavior was explosive” and remembers her as “drinking from a bottle at her concerts” and “screaming obscenities at a policeman in the audience”. Two weeks prior when Jimi Hendrix died— also at the age of 27— the same paper’s headline referred to him as a “Top of Music World Flamboyant Performer Noted for Sensuous Style” above an article that failed to highlight his fabled and widely-acknowledged affinity for mixing drugs with alcohol, even as new evidence emerged that he was wildly out of control during his final days.

3: Headline writing with NYT guru

Podcast: Kyle Massey on what catches readers’ attention, and why the “paper of record” never would have written, “Headless Body in Topless Bar.”

4: Tobias Jesso Jr. stars in new Pitchfork.tv documentary

Tobias Jesso Jr. is the subject of Pitchfork.tv’s latest documentary, “Goon”. Directed by Jon Leone, the film follows Jesso around New York City and Hollywood as he prepares for the release of Goon earlier this year. He discusses why he makes those “piano faces,” covers Ray Charles with help from his manager’s dog, and performs with Danielle Haim, Ariel Rechtshaid, and a string section on “Conan”.

One of my favourite albums of the year so far.

5: Why I answered my dad’s gay sex ad

In the Christian parenting books my dad wrote, we were always the most perfect devout family. When I found out he was secretly trolling for gay sex online, I became obsessed with unmasking the truth.

6:. A linguist explains how we write sarcasm on the internet

In context, sarcastic typography is part of a larger ecosystem of ways to convey emotional nuance and textual tone of voice — and it’s anything but random. Compared with all these subtle distinctions, a single sarcasm punctuation mark is too blunt an instrument: it defeats the entire saying-without-saying part of sarcasm that makes it engaging in the first place. Using a a percontation point or a SarcMark™ is like explaining why a joke is funny — if you have to bother, you’ve just ruined it anyway.

6a: See also: Welcome to Night Vale: where even “not” isn’t what it seems, and What part of “No, totally” don’t you understand?.

Seems to be made at least partially of dogs

1: This mystery photo haunting Reddit appears to be image recognition gone very weird

Ok, look again, closer this time. This squirrel has a weird amount of eyes, yeah? And seems to be made at least partially of dogs? Check out its weird rear appendage, which is composed of slug tentacles that are themselves composed of birds. A two-headed fish lurks in the foreground, and upon reexamination the background is not mere swirls, but a warped, repetitive city, like a long lost Borges story illustrated by a hungover chalk artist. What is going on?

2: A special feature

We’ve worked hard to make Twitterrific work well with the accessibility features in iOS. Hearing that these efforts make things easier for customers with disabilities is rewarding beyond words. […] But now there’s another incentive for thinking about accessibility: helping others also helps your downloads.

3: How to be amazing

Slightly strange to listen to Black in serious mode, when he’s spent so long honing a comedic personality based around insincerity. My favourite episode so far is with Bob Odenkirk.

How to Be Amazing is an in-depth interview show, hosted by comedian, author and actor Michael Ian Black. Black sits down with some of today’s most provocative writers, entertainers, artists, innovative thinkers and politicians for humorous, thought-provoking conversations that dive into the creative process and the intricate minds of some of the most influential voices of our time.

4: I once tried to cheat sleep, and for a year I succeeded

An experiment with polyphasic sleep, which requires you to take short naps multiple times per day.

5: I made a linguistics professor listen to a Blink-182 song and analyse the accent

But there are some more complex things going on in the pop-punk voice. Eckert walked me through the Blink-182 song word by word, pointing out places where DeLonge was playing around with accent. “When they say ‘to pick you up on our very first date,’ the interesting thing about ‘date’ is that he renders it as a monophthong ‘dehhht’ instead of ‘date,’ says Eckert. “In most American English it’s a diphthong.” A diphthong is a vowel sound with two simpler sounds in it; for most Americans, “date” is a kind of compound vowel made up of the “eh” sound and the “ee” sound. Not so much for Tom DeLonge, who eliminates all but the “eh,” making it a single sound, or a monophthong.

6: The Byrds’ isolated vocals on Mr Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!

For his part, Crosby applied his skills as a harmony singer in unconventional ways. Rather than attempting three-part harmonies like the Beatles (or five-part harmonies like the Beach Boys), the Byrds almost always employed the two-part harmony strategy of the Everly Brothers. But Crosby took the two-part approach a step further, based on his understanding of jazz and Indian modes. While McGuinn and Gene Clark sang the same notes in tandem, Crosby would move freely between a perfect fifth, flatted fifth, third, or seventh, resulting in an unusual sound that ranged from haunting to ethereal.

7: Helen Rosner: On chicken tenders

(AKA goujons, or fingers, or strippers, or dippers.)

It’s true that ribeyes and oysters and even pizza and tacos share a soothing simplicity, but nothing is more nothing than a chicken tender. A roast chicken has a certain dinner-party elegance to it, and you know at least the sketch of an origin story for your pizza or your taco—but a chicken tender is a chicken tender is a chicken tender. Some restaurants might try to gussy them up, gently carve each tender from the breast of a bird that lived a happy life and lovingly dust them in a custom spice blend, but a true chicken tender comes out of a five-hundred-count freezer bag. They come from nowhere in particular—when you eat them, you could be anywhere.

8: I was a teenage Little Chef supervisor

A service station is not the type of place you’d expect to have regulars, but there were plenty at our Little Chef. The toast lady who came in at 10am every day and wanted two slices of brown toast, no butter. And the handsome coffee man who came in at 11am every weekday, occasionally on Sundays. He looked a little like Kevin Spacey. There was also the guy who would come in late at night, order half a bottle of wine with his dinner and spend ages filling out the Daily Mail crossword, but mostly he was perving on the staff. And he never left a tip. A transvestite would frequent about once a month. One time a young businessman left me his number on a napkin.

Journalists vs. readers

Three new services in the amorphous sphere of news, "storytelling" and social media. What's most interesting to me is the way they describe themselves, and what that in turn tells us about how they perceive the ultimate audience: users.

Sure, I've cherry-picked the quotes and the services are aimed at different audiences, but there is a collosal gulf in language and expectation between those who make news services and the people who will ultimately read or use them.

Google launches First Draft Coalition to answer questions and offer training around social media reporting:

Launching today, the First Draft Coalition is a group of thought leaders and pioneers in social media journalism who are coming together to help you answer these questions, through training and analysis of eyewitness media.

What the fuck? Ugh. Imagine writing a sentence like this and making it bold in the middle of the launch article.

Google and Storyful are launching YouTube Newswire, a feed of verified user-generated videos:

The platforms for Storyful are both the source and the destination for great content and powerful storytelling [...] But those platforms are getting noisier and it’s our job to find the stories worth telling and help journalists do great journalism using the power of eyewitness media.

Slightly better?

BuzzFeed's new app is everything the site isn't: Short, news-focused and serious

It’s an interesting challenge, to get information to people who aren’t always swimming in it the way journalists like me are.

That makes sense! You should tell that to other people in your field.

This shit is toxic and it needs to die yesterday

1: A complete taxonomy of internet chum

Toward a grand unified theory of “Around the Web”, i.e. those terrible ad grids you see on desperate websites:

Chum is decomposing fish matter that elicits a purely neurological brain stem response in its target consumer: larger fish, like sharks. It signals that they should let go, deploy their nictitating membranes, and chomp down blindly on a morsel of fragrant, life-giving sustenance. Perhaps in a frenzied manner [...] This is a chumbox. It is a variation on the banner ad which takes the form of a grid of advertisements that sits at the bottom of a web page underneath the main content.

2: Visipedia.

Visipedia is a joint project between Pietro Perona's Vision Group at Caltech and Serge Belongie's Vision Group at Cornell Tech. Visipedia, short for “Visual Encyclopedia,” is an augmented version of Wikipedia, where pictures are first-class citizens alongside text. Goals of Visipedia include creation of hyperlinked, interactive images embedded in Wikipedia articles, scalable representations of visual knowledge, largescale machine vision datasets, and visual search capabilities. Toward achieving these goals, Visipedia advocates interaction and collaboration between machine vision and human users and experts.

3: NY Times: Trending

Billed as a real-time dashboard of popular Times content. Interesting to see the way they categorise content:

  • Fresh Eyes: stories that are popular with readers who are new to The Times
  • Page-Turner: stories that are holding the attention of our readers
  • Renewed Interest: older stories that are making a comeback and experiencing a second wind
  • Staying Power: stories that have been consistently popular since publication

4: Why “Agile” and especially Scrum are terrible

It’s probably not a secret that I dislike the “Agile” fad that has infested programming. One of the worst varieties of it, Scrum, is a nightmare that I’ve seen actually kill companies. By “kill” I don’t mean “the culture wasn’t as good afterward”; I mean a drop in the stock’s value of more than 85 percent. This shit is toxic and it needs to die yesterday. For those unfamiliar, let’s first define our terms. Then I’ll get into why this stuff is terrible and often detrimental to actual agility. Then I’ll discuss a single, temporary use case under which “Agile” development actually is a good idea, and from there explain why it is so harmful as a permanent arrangement.

5: The history of Henry Mancini's Moon River

I didn't realise how much I loved this song until relatively recently. I recorded a version of it, if you're inclined to listen.

6: Inside the cult of Secret Wedding Pinterest, where fiances are optional

One third of all boards on Pinterest are secret wedding-planning boards.

7: A plant by any other name

On botanical and common names of plants. No, really, it's a good short thing.

8: Abandoned fishing village in China reclaimed by nature

In the mouth of the Yangtze River off the eastern coast of China, a small island holds a secret haven lost to the forces of time and nature—an abandoned fishing village swallowed by dense layers of ivy slowly creeping over every brick and path.

9: On the fine art of the footnote

Ever since David Hume noted that, while reading Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, “One is also plagued with his Notes, according to the present Method of printing the Book” and suggested that they “only to be printed at the Margin or the Bottom of the Page,” footnotes have been the hallmark of academia. For centuries, then, the footnote existed as a blunt instrument, wielded by pedants and populists alike, primarily for the transmission of information, but occasionally to antagonize opponents with arch rhetorical asides. But it would take a couple hundred years until writers again took up the footnote for other, more artful purposes, discovering in this tiny technique emotional and intellectual depth far beyond the realm of the merely experimental.

Start with Hitler, and then go to Charles Lindbergh

Elliott Smith documentary chronicles late singer’s musical journey:

Heaven Adores You director Nickolas Rossi, on why his new documentary focuses on the positive aspects of Smith’s life:

I didn’t feel like there was this need to tell the world what I thought was wrong with Elliott Smith. It seemed like he was a normal dude who had normal problems, and there wasn’t really anything exceptional about the fact that he did drugs or was depressed. And if I was going to try to tell you where it came from, I might be wrong. I wanted something that was less about ‘Let’s psychoanalyze Elliott Smith’ and more: Let’s hear stories from his friends and from his sister and from Elliott talking about his journey. Here’s all this great music, so let’s continue to keep it alive and relevant, because it was special and it’s amazing that we should still be sharing it. We may never know how bad or weird or hard it was for him. But do you really need to know, or can you just listen to this amazing stuff and appreciate it for what it was?

Age of Robots: How Marvel Is killing the popcorn movie:

So I don’t object to Marvel, or to Avengers: Age of Ultron, just because it’s not an artful, subtle little movie. That’s part of it: A pop-culture intake comprised of nothing but big spectacle is just as bad for you as an all-cheeseburger diet. But if I wanted to see something artful, I could have gone to watch Ex Machina or whatever that new David Cronenberg movie is supposed to be. I didn’t. I went to see Avengers on opening weekend. What I really dislike about Marvel is what they’re doing to stupid popcorn movies. This is a genre I care about, and they’re fucking it up.

Instagram account of University of Pennsylvania runner showed only part of story:

A heartbreaking account of how our public and private selves can differ enormously.

Machine-Learning Algorithm Mines Rap Lyrics, Then Writes Its Own:

These guys have trained a machine-learning algorithm to recognize the salient features of a few lines of rap and then choose another line that rhymes in the same way on the same topic. The result is an algorithm that produces rap lyrics that rival human-generated ones for their complexity of rhyme.

Fake shack burger:

How to make a Shake Shack-style smashed burger.

An Animated History of 20th Century Hairstyles

The trouble with reference rot:

The impermanance of scholarly literature.

Random dystopia generator:

Example: “In the year 2056, Airstrip One is patrolled by wealthy dinosaur apologists, patronized by the unlikely presdent with a German-sounding last name. Hunting artificial people is as American as Mom and Apple Pie and little girls paralyse across the earth.”

For two years, this Kanye West game has been hiding a disturbing secret:

Conspiracy theorists rejoice! Kanye’s JRPG contains something very weird.

Scroll back: The theory and practice of cameras in side-scrollers:

An exhaustive look at an aspect of game mechanics and design that is taken for granted by most people.

A pixel artist renounces pixel art:

A similarly comprehensive look at what is and isn’t pixel art.

Glengarry Glen Ross had the brass balls to ignore conventional film wisdom:

This is a phenomenally thought-through film. It’s remarkably simple and basic in its execution. It was scripted, designed, and acted to feel, as Foley puts it, “primal.” And yet it’s immaculately controlled, with each line, and each line delivery, adding to the story in tiny but measurable ways.

Love is strange: The multitudes of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson:

An unusual love story that’s better read cold. But know that Nielson, as UMO, has recorded some of the best lo-fi indie-soul albums of the past few years.

London’s most mysterious mansion:

In May, 2008, I toured Witanhurst with a real-estate agent. There had been no parties there for half a century, and the house had not been occupied regularly since the seventies. The interiors were ravaged: water had leaked through holes in the roof, and, upstairs, the brittle floorboards cracked under our footsteps. The scale of the building lent it a vestigial grandeur, but it felt desolate and Ozymandian. A few weeks later, Witanhurst was sold for fifty million pounds, to a shell company named Safran Holdings Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands. No further information about the buyers was forthcoming.

The mysteries of London property ownership. Side note: A couple of my friends rent a flat in The Grove, and count Kate Moss et al as neighbours, if not quite acquaintances.

Everlasting speech:

It’s the tenth anniversary of David Foster Wallace’s brilliant commencement speech to the students of Kenyon College.

Other people’s playlists:

[Spotify’s] Related Artists is actually a social network for people with extremely eccentric friends: You can get from Nazis to an album of Kurt Vonnegut reading Slaughterhouse-Five in a few clicks. Here’s how: Start with Hitler, and then go to Charles Lindbergh. Take a left at Franklin D. Roosevelt, a hard left at Studs Terkel, and an even harder left at Ward Churchill. Veer slightly right (but you’re really still going left) to Howard Zinn, then Angela Davis. Enter a tunnel until you hit Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Next you’re at Gertrude Stein, who is unexpectedly close to Dorothy Parker. Head right until you see Rudyard Kipling, and after that you can’t miss Vonnegut.

Ta'izz:

Maciej Cegłowski is possibly best-known for his site Pinboard, the best bookmarking site around, and everything that Delicious once was and never will be again. I adore his travel writing just as much:

American drivers treat the car horn like a button marked EMERGENCY, to be used only at times of imminent danger or great injustice. A non-Bostonian can drive for weeks without touching the horn. If you disabled the car horns in Yemen, there would be an immediate nationwide car wreck. The horn is an essential part of Yemeni driving, and in skilled hands becomes an instrument of great subtlety. It can mean “I’m coming up behind you”, or “I’m about to turn left across five lanes of traffic”, or “I’m passing on this blind curve on a mountain road while digging with both my hands in a bag full of qat.” Drivers use it to communicate their intentions to the three-year-olds playing unsupervised in the street, and even to dogs and pack animals. Everyone speaks car horn.

Source code in TV and films

The hideous ecstasy of fear: Diamond Dogs 40 years on:

Probably my favourite Bowie album gets some well-earned coverage.

But, yeah, we might be living in a hologram

Wormhole entanglement and the firewall paradox

Amid some very recent “We’re definitely living in a hologram!!” 'science' reporting, I was reminded of this slightly less clickbaity, longer read about the implications of newly-discovered connections between two previously disparate theories about the universe. But, yeah, we might be living in a hologram.

Spoken

A curated email digest of ‘the best in story-driven podcasts’. Pair with Nick Quah’s Hot Pod, a Tinyletter about podcasts and podcasting.

Curious rituals (pdf)

This is marvellous:

The output of a research project conducted at Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA) in July-August 2012, the work presented here focuses on the body language of digital technologies used in everyday life: gestures, postures and rituals that appeared with the use of computers, cell phones, sensors or game controllers.

The backwards brain bicycle

Via Kottke, who wrote:

Do you think you could ride a bicycle that steers backwards… aka it turns left when you turn right and vice versa? It sounds easy but years of normal bike riding experience makes it almost impossible. Destin Sandlin of Smarter Everyday taught himself how to ride the backwards-steering bike; it took months. Then he tried riding a normal bicycle again…

Watching his brain click back and forth was pretty amazing.

Read an excerpt from the 33 1/3 book on Super Mario Bros. music

Why does Kondo take the most pride in his earliest hits? Because it was in these early pieces that he first understood how he was different from those who came before him. More than just a handful of catchy tunes, Super Mario Bros. is the cradle of Kondo’s lifelong contribution to video-game music. So it is only natural that he should cherish it as he does.

‘They,’ the singular pronoun, gets popular

Will the pronoun solve an old language problem?

Some neat apps/utilities/things

  • yozlet/randomrandom: See something interesting when you open a new empty browser tab.
  • StretchLink: Mac app that sits in the background, expanding shortened links and removing tracking code.
  • Syndicate: A Safari extension to quickly grab an RSS feed from the site you’re on.
  • Loading: See which Mac apps are using your network.
  • Spotmote: Control Spotify on your Mac with your iOS device.

I'm off to have a conversation with myself along these lines:

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.