Optimising a WordPress news site for content editors

I’ve produced OU News, a news and media WordPress site for my employer, The Open University (OU). It complements and may eventually replace an existing press release repository.

It’s aimed at a wider audience than just journalists: students, staff, alumni as well as the general public.

I approached it with a firm focus on content strategy, and this post outlines some choices I made to make it useful and usable for its readers as well as making the content publishing process as quick and easy as possible for editors.

The existing OU news site

I believe the press release site to be nearly 15 years old. It’s had minor incremental improvements since then, but mostly to stop things breaking rather than proactive enhancements.[1] Various features have been removed or deprecated, such as the RSS feed.

The site isn’t terribly useful for its intended audience: navigation isn’t great, and it is quite restrictive in terms of what can be included in a post. Just text and a thumbnail image. I understand the content publishing process can be laborious and time-consuming.

New OU sites are typically built using Drupal[2] and OU ICE, a front-end HTML, CSS and Javascript framework for quick and easy production of accessible and brand-compliant sites. This suitable for the vast majority of cases. In the 5–10% where something more is needed, OU IT will produce and support custom Drupal themes or sub-themes. In this case, IT weren’t able to support the design and build, so we embarked upon it ourselves.[3]

Building a WordPress replacement

I hadn’t used WordPress in anger for several years and, if I’m honest, I didn’t have terrific memories of using it. When I started this site (the one you are reading) I didn’t even consider it.

I spent a couple of days downloading, installing and testing a dozen or so CMSs. The majority were wholly unsuited for this project. They required technical expertise beyond what would be expected of the team who manage the content—their skills are in media relations, not wrangling static site generators using the command line.

It was obvious that I should leave any bias behind. WordPress ticked the most boxes: a couple of the team had used it before, it’s thoroughly extensible, and there’s a huge support community in case things go wrong.

CMS chosen, I looked at themes. The intention was always to buy a flexible theme and to customise it to better suit our needs. We chose Sense. It has good navigation and UX out of the box while being much more visually appealing than the previous site. There are a large number of ways to organise and lay out posts.

There are several other good things about Sense. It has a highly usable drag and drop interface for building page layouts and uses widgets to build sidebars and footers in a intuitive way. Site editors can drop in URLs from media and social media sites and they automatically embed the content—no need for shortcodes or embed codes.[4]

Choosing plugins to help editors

Part of the reason I hadn’t had a terrific experience with WordPress on a previous project was that I had bad experience with plugins failing or being incompatible. This time round, I spent a lot of time searching for reliable plugins to make my life and the editors’ lives easier.

Here’s a rundown of the plugins I used:

  • Advanced Custom Fields. I ended up using this less than I expected. It allows you to customise the fields used in your posts in order to structure your content in a much more useful way. One for the content modellers out there. As the project developed, it was apparent that most of our content types were well served by WordPress’s standard content types and fields.
  • Avatar manager. Allows me to upload images of the site editors rather than them using Gravatar.
  • Better writing. Adds a readability score to all posts using the Flesch reading ease test. As a university we’re prone to unnecessary verbiage; this plugin is a reminder to editors to speak plainly for a general audience.
  • Broken Link Checker. Periodically scans your site for 404s (internal and external). Prints the results on the admin dashboard and emails them to the editor who published the post. I’m unsure how resource-intensive this plugin will be as the site grows, so I’ll keep my eye on it.
  • Google Analytics (Yoast). Makes it easy to add tracking code regardless of theme and see headline metrics in your WordPress admin interface.
  • ImageInject. Lets editors insert Creative Commons images based on the post title or a search string of their choosing. Adds them in the body of the post or as a featured image, and includes attribution information consistent with the licence.
  • Inline Tweet Sharer. Lets you turn quotes or other short passages of text into anchor text for Tweetable links. I might remove this as the editors haven’t really taken to using it.
  • P3: Plugin Performance Profiler. If you’ve looked at this list and thought, “That’s a long list of plugins”, you’ll like this one. It undertakes an on-demand scan of your site to see if any plugins are drastically affecting site performance. (For the record, there isn't anything in this list causing alarm.)
  • Radio Buttons for Taxonomies. I have a compulsion that all posts should sit in a single category and have multiple tags, so I’ve enforced that on the editors using this plugin. Forces editors to choose one term from your taxonomy or taxonomies.
  • UK Cookie Consent. Adds a cookie banner to the site and produces a cookie information page. I discarded the default text, preferring to rewrite the OU’s existing cookie information into slightly better text so that it explains what a cookie is, why we use them, and which cookies are used.
  • WP Help. This is pretty great—it allows administrators to add custom help documentation for editors. I’ve made it quite granular, so there are entries for how to source and use images, guidelines for categorising and tagging content, improving readability scores, that sort of thing.
  • WP Hide Post. Allows you to publish a post to the live site but hide it from the main page, or its category page, or the author page, etc. Limited use cases, but potentially very helpful.
  • WP Super Cache. If you’ve used WordPress before then you probably know this one: a fast caching plugin to speed up sites. I adjusted the settings while building the site so I could see changes as I made them.
  • Yoast SEO. Probably the most important plugin we use, and another one you’ve probably heard of. We expect the posts to be shared widely on social media, and it makes it trivially easy to add Open Graph and Twitter metadata for better presentation in Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. It reminds the editors to optimise their posts for search by adding a primary keyword and ensuring that it is included in the title, URL, metadata and body content. The editors seem to like it as it focuses them on the user and what they might search for. There’s a useful analysis tab where you can review how well your content is optimised for search and readability. There’s now an equivalent Drupal module which I’d like IT to add to our standard distribution.

We’ll likely add Yoast’s Google News plugin in order to create a dynamic XML sitemap that conforms with the Google News schema.

All in all I’m hugely impressed with the options available to optimise a WordPress site for better content strategy. And I only managed to delete all the site content once! (That was a hairy hour or so while I arranged for it to be restored from a recent backup. Don’t tell my boss.) WordPress and its community hardly need my patronage but I’ll definitely use it for future projects (where appropriate). I’m considering moving this site across to it.

  1. I haven’t worked at the OU for this long, so this is what I’ve heard rather than experienced.  ↩

  2. The major exception being the prospectus site, which was rebuilt using Kentico in 2014.  ↩

  3. This explains the current URL. The site may well move to become part of the main OU information architecture, but for the moment it uses a non- *open.ac.uk domain name and is hosted externally.  ↩

  4. I think this is the theme doing this—since this site was produced I’ve played with other themes where it hasn’t done this.  ↩

The current abbrev trend has been increasing

1: Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared 5

I hadn’t seen or heard of the previous five episodes of this bafflingly brilliant series.

2: Ermahgerddon: The untold story of the ermahgerd girl

Meet Maggie Goldenberger, who helplessly watched an Internet meme spawn from her awkward adolescent photo. Except, maybe the “Gershberms” girl never existed at all?

3: The biggest man: understanding Andre the Giant, wrestling’s massive, indefinable contradiction

Andre Roussimoff, a.k.a. Monster Roussimoff, a.k.a. Monster Eiffel Tower, a.k.a. Géant Ferré, a.k.a. Giant Machine, a.k.a. Andre the Giant, was neither particularly childlike nor particularly averse to fly-hurting. Very large men who deal in violence for a living are seldom unchanged by what they do, even when the violence is mostly symbolic and theatrical, as it was for Andre.

4: Jonathan Gliniak’s answer to ‘What are the best true scary stories?’

About 7 years ago I got an invitation to attend my cousins dinner party. I have never seen my cousin before and only spoke to him on the phone. I was surprised that his family unexpectedly invited me after all these years.

5: A melody written by a crowd

This is an experiment in crowd-sourced songwriting. A melody is currently being generated, note by note, in real-time, using the popular vote of the crowd.

Will the Wisdom of the Crowd create something special?

6: Elliott Smith is sad, like you

The singer, who died on October 21, 2003, always maintained that he loved making his music, even as his music usually claimed that he didn’t love much at all.

7: Cast of characters

Taking a closer look at new Medium fonts: Charter and Kievit.

8: Wind and solar keep getting cheaper and cheaper

The report was based on analysis of some 55,000 projects around the world, says Henbest. And it found that globally, onshore wind now on average costs $83 per megawatt-hour of electricity ($2 cheaper than in the first half of the year), and thin film solar photovoltaics costs $122 per megawatt-hour — a drop of $7 in just half a year.

That presents an increasingly favorable comparison with fossil fuels — though it still depends greatly on where you are located. Coal-fired electricity cost $75 per megawatt-hour in the Americas, but $105 in Europe. Gas-fired generation cost $82 in the Americas and $118 in Europe, on average, the report found.

9: I went under the sheets of New York's professional cuddling industry — here's what I found

Liza Stahl's head bobbed gently as it rested on my chest; her breathing was calm and measured. With my left arm I held her close to me. We joked and giggled as our bodies intertwined. It was a spectacular day; sunlight poured into her East Harlem, New York City, apartment. It was a scene from a movie. In another world, she was my girlfriend; in another place, we were madly in love.

Stahl, however, was not my girlfriend, and we were not in love. In fact, we had only met minutes before. Stahl (which is not her real name) is a professional cuddler, and for $80 an hour, she will cuddle, spoon, comfort and caress just about any man who walks through her door.

10: Why are your fav abbrevs totes legit hard to spell?

Linguist Rebecca Starr points out that while there are some earlier abbrevs, like commish (from commissioner) from 1910 and delish from 1920, the current abbrev trend has been increasing since the mid-2000s.

The interesting thing about abbrevs is that they're based on sound, not on spelling. Just think about how we have to respell certain words when making them into abbrevs, such as delish, presh, profesh, unfortch, and sitch. And with words like funksh (function), relash (relationship), fuche (future), natch (naturally), or sosh (sociology), you might not even be able to tell from the abbrev what the original word was.

11: Mike Rugnetta’s answer to “how do I read interesting and challenging stuff?”

Ah! This is a great question! And one I don’t think have a great answer to. My interest in reading difficult stuff didn’t really develop until well after I was in a position to be taught, by professional Readers of Difficult Stuff, how to do so. BUT! I’ve learned some things on my own and they work for me and maybe they’ll be of some assistance?

12: Subscribe by email

Most readers of this blog subscribe by RSS. If you’d rather get posts by email, or know someone else who might like to, visit the subscribe page.

Gluten-free economic meritocracy

1: Why I unfollowed you on Instagram

I’m looking for an intelligent feed of my interests. A feed of stuff I’m going to like, drawn from a white-list of trusted curators but personalized for me. Not specific to one vertical (News, Music, Stuff to Buy, etc) or one content type (movies, photos, text, links). Ordered by the most relevant, the stuff I need to see RIGHT NOW. [...] We would do ourselves a favor to stop lumping all these tools together and calling them “Social Networks” or “Social Media” and instead note what makes each service uniquely great and push these companies to improve what they’re best at. What they all are is “distribution”, ways of building direct connections between people and each other or brands. Person -> Person, Brand -> Person, Person -> Brand.

2: A new use for the @-symbol

This is a gorgeous old carousel in Jerez, Spain. Both adults and kids likely want to ride it. Let's look closely at the motorcycle, too small for adults to ride. The sign says it's exclusively for niñ@s to ride. I believe they are using the @ to be an a and o simultaneously, creating a clever all-encompassing plural for "boys and girls".

3: Computer Show

Today’s technology transplanted to 1983. Made by the wonderful @lonelysandwich.

4: Women who sniff this Hawaiian mushroom have spontaneous orgasms

According to a 2001 publication in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, the smell of the fresh fungus can trigger spontaneous orgasms in human females. In the trial involving 16 women, 6 had orgasms while smelling the fruit body, and the other ten, who received smaller doses, experienced physiological changes such as increased heart rate. All of the 20 men tested considered the smell disgusting. According to the authors, the results suggest that the hormone-like compounds present in the volatile portion of the gleba may have some similarity to human neurotransmitters released in females during sexual activity. The study used the species found in Hawaii, not the edible variety cultivated in China.

5: The most mysterious star in our galaxy

Astronomers have spotted a strange mess of objects whirling around a distant star. Scientists who search for extraterrestrial civilizations are scrambling to get a closer look.

6: Business Town

An ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry.

7: Why ‘social justice warrior,’ a Gamergate insult, is now a dictionary entry

Most people hadn’t heard of a “social justice warrior” until about a year ago, when it emerged as the preferred term among the Gamergate movement for the people they believed to be their greatest enemies. Now, the word has crossed over enough into mainstream use that in August, “Social Justice Warrior” was included in the latest batch of words added to Oxford Dictionaries. The online dictionary from Oxford University Press defined the phrase as an informal, derogatory noun referring to “a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views.”

8: How urban planning made Motown Records possible

The family piano’s role in the music that flowed out of the residential streets of Detroit cannot be overstated. The piano, and its availability to children of the black working class and middle class, is essential to understanding what happened in that time and place, and why it happened, not just with Berry Gordy, Jr. but with so many other young black musicians who came of age there from the late forties to the early sixties. What was special then about pianos and Detroit?

9: Most readers of this blog subscribe by RSS. If you’d rather get posts by email, or know someone else who might like to, visit the subscribe page.

Beyond personal hygiene

1: Reclaiming social: Content strategy for social media

This is one of the best things I've read about content strategy or social media. Terrific.

“We want to go viral!” says the chief communications officer. “Can’t help you” used to be our standard answer. But by doing this, we’ve left social media in the hands of marketers and self-appointed “gurus” more concerned with Klout than user needs. It’s about time we reclaimed social media.

2: Please be patient--this page is under construction

'Under construction' GIFs rescued from Geocities by the Archive Team.

3: Sad Topographies on Instagram

Places on Google Maps with desperately sad names.

4: What’s really hot on dating sites? Proper grammar

Dating site Match asked more than 5,000 singles in the U.S. what criteria they used most in assessing dates. Beyond personal hygiene—which 96% of women valued most, as compared with 91% of men—singles said they judged a date foremost by the person’s grammar. The survey found 88% of women and 75% of men said they cared about grammar most, putting it ahead of a person’s confidence and teeth.

5: When I'm gone

Death is always a surprise. No one expects it. Not even terminal patients think they are going to die in a day or two. In a week, maybe. But only when this particular week is the next week.

6: Lessons From Five Years in Mobile News Apps: #1 Don’t have a news app

I spent five years working on a mobile news app — first as an editor helping curate and package content and then as a product manager shepherding it through a complex visual and technical redesign.

And here’s the #1 lesson from my experience: If you are a small or medium sized publisher don’t have a news app. If you already have one, shut it down. Use your resources to make your mobile web site better. Kudos to The Atavist for making this decision.

7: Think the floppy disk is dead? Think again! Here’s why it still stands between us and a nuclear apocalypse

When was the last time that you used a floppy disk? While still used as the save icon in modern software packages like Microsoft’s Office suite, it’s unusual to see one out in the wild. Given that a typical floppy disk offers up a minuscule 1.44MB of space — not even enough to house a three-minute pop song in MP3 format — there’s seemingly no reason for these disks to stay in circulation.

But while the average user might not have any cause to use a floppy disk, there are those out there who can’t settle for anything else. They’re in dire need of the disks, which most manufacturers have stopped producing. The floppy disk might seem like something better left in the 1990s. Instead it’s a product that’s alive and well in the 21st century.

8: Uncovering the secret history of Myers-Briggs

Not one article details how Myers, an award-winning mystery writer who possessed no formal training in psychology or sociology, concocted a test routinely deployed by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies, the US government, hundreds of universities, and online dating sites like Perfect Match, Project Evolove and Type Tango. And not one expert in the field of psychometric testing, a $500 million industry with over 2,500 different tests on offer in the US alone, can explain why Myers-Briggs has so thoroughly surpassed its competition, emerging as a household name on par with the Atkins Diet or The Secret.

On what street did you lose your childlike sense of wonder

1: Karaoke ebooks

This is terrific. As you might guess from the ebooks part of the name, it creates Markov chains from your tweets, but it forms rhyming couplets and sets them to MIDI music. Brilliant.

2: Stop your team using technical terms and jargon – disambiguity

Most weeks I am ridiculed by someone for insisting on plain language – avoiding acronyms and technical language / jargon in particular. People tell me that I’m slowing the team down by making them use proper words, and that their end users or stakeholders expect them to use technical language.

These things are both true. You should still use plain language.

3: Across the USA by train for just $213

Traveling coast-to-coast across the United States by train is one of the world’s greatest travel experiences. Amazingly, it’s also one of the world’s greatest travel bargains — the 3,400-mile trip can cost as little as $213.

4: Scenes from our unproduced screenplay: ‘Strunk & White: Grammar Police’

It’s over here, detectives. The body was found about an hour ago.

Use the active voice, rookie.

5: As the Guardian Berliner format turns ten, we look back at a decade of design change

Ten years ago this month the Guardian launched its Berliner format. We talk to its creative team about a decade of rapid change at the paper, and examine how design is now more important than ever in helping us navigate an increasingly complicated media landscape…

6: How to Have 106 babies (and counting)

Ed Houben is Europe’s most virile man. And after years of donating sperm the “normal” way (sterile room, cup, cash), he and some women looking to get pregnant for free began cutting out the middlemen and getting it done as nature prefers it (sex!). Today, Houben has over a hundred children—and Ed the Babymaker is in greater demand than ever. We imagine you have some questions

7: How Spotify’s Discover Weekly cracked human curation at internet scale

The algorithms behind Discover Weekly finds users who have built playlists featuring the songs and artists you love. It then goes through songs that a number of your kindred spirits have added to playlists but you haven’t heard, knowing there is a good chance you might like them, too. Finally, it uses your taste profile to filter those findings by your areas of affinity and exploration. Because the playlist, that explicit act of curation, is both the source of the signal and the final output, the technique can achieve results far more interesting than run of the mill collaborative filtering.

8: Me Inc.

The paradoxical, pressure-filled quest to build a “personal brand.”

9: P.G. Wodehouse On The Dangers Of Literature

It was one of the dullest speeches I ever heard. The Agee woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required.


Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy’s Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day’s work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city’s reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle empty.

10: Apologies To The Queen Mary turns 10

A truly terrific album gets a good anniversary review.

Apologies To The Queen Mary is far more approachable, an album that spins universal reverie out of family trauma, relational struggle, and spiritual crisis. It’s music that renders the horror and delight of life on Earth as an epic struggle we all share. “I’ll believe in anything!” Krug sings at the album’s peak, desperately reaching for a fresh start and the freedom of some anti-Cheers: “where nobody knows you and nobody gives a damn.” Apologies To The Queen Mary itself can function as that kind of common ground, a set of inspiring songs many kinds of people can rally around, if only for a few fleeting moments. A decade into its history, it remains music worth believing in.

11: Future reading

I’m not entirely swayed by this piece—straw men abound—but it seems to have gotten a lot of people talking about books and reading and formats and focus, and that can only be a good thing.

From 2009 to 2013, every book I read, I read on a screen. And then I stopped. You could call my four years of devout screen‑reading an experiment. I felt a duty – not to anyone or anything specifically, but more vaguely to the idea of ‘books’. I wanted to understand how their boundaries were changing and being affected by technology. Committing myself to the screen felt like the best way to do it.

11: Nihilistic password security questions

On what street did you lose your childlike sense of wonder?


Critiquing the Ewoks

1: Curiosity and the cat: quantum theory and the Coen brothers

I didn’t expect to read an article about quantum mechanics and the Coen’s ouvre. But I’m glad I did.

We’re used to a world in which seeing is believing, which we test through the evidence of our own eyes. It’s why expressions like these exist in the first place. Whether we’re scientists, artists or just looking at the view, what we see is a Newtonian world. Apples drop from trees, capsules hurtle into space and Van Gogh’s sunflowers can’t be anything else, no matter how hard we screw up our eyes in an effort to see something different. Anything outside of our Newtonian comfort zone seems immediately counter-intuitive, unreal, and often disturbing. But we’re in a comfort-zone nonetheless, because what we might like to think of as ‘real’ is bigger. We know that now. At the level of ultimate detail, the one on which everything else is built, the rules of engagement are different. Welcome to the quantum level. And welcome, too, to the Coen Brothers, those frustrating indie auteurs whose films seem most at ease when they occupy a space which seems both recognisable and alien in turn. Now we see it… or do we?

2: Notion

This looks very interesting: drag and drop elements to create and edit documents; link them together to create a hierarchy and publish them; collaborate with other within the doc and by video chat.

Beautiful. Lightweight. Always organized. Notion is an expressive and collaborative document editor that gives your ideas a place to grow.

3: I reviewed jail on Yelp because I couldn’t afford a therapist

User-review sites have become an unlikely destination for raw, informative accounts of Americans’ everyday interactions with our criminal justice system. Yelp declined to provide the number of prison and jail reviews on its site, but dozens of correctional facilities are filed under “Public Services & Government” alongside DMVs and post offices. Search for your local prison or jail and chances are that Google reviews will pop up alongside more traditional hits. (Even TripAdvisor once hosted a lively debate about whether a tourist visit to Sing Sing Correctional Facility or Rikers Island would be ethical, if such a thing were allowed.)

4: Mobile-friendly web pages using app banners

I missed this Google announcement from the beginning of the month about websites that take mobile users to an interstitial page to drive app installations:

After November 1, mobile web pages that show an app install interstitial that hides a significant amount of content on the transition from the search result page will no longer be considered mobile-friendly. This does not affect other types of interstitials. As an alternative to app install interstitials, browsers provide ways to promote an app that are more user-friendly.

5: If you like Return Of The Jedi but hate the Ewoks, you understand feminist criticism

When I tweeted about my frustration with the female characters in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (one human, one primate, both of whom contribute very little to the plot), a friend replied, “Sorry to hear it’s a bad movie.” But it isn’t a bad movie. In fact, it was one of my favorite action blockbusters of last summer. Yet my specific feminist frustrations were extrapolated into a larger condemnation of the film. No one assumes that critiquing the Ewoks means you dislike Star Wars. So why did my complaints imply I hated Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes?

6: A terrible perfect couple

A very short story about a couple who are a little too alike.

7: Exist

Exist links various services (calendar, fitness tracking, location, weather, social stuff) and provides feedback based on averages rather than goals. I’m not completely sold on the quantified self moment, but have signed up for a 14-day trial to see what this is like.

8: NASA Graphics Standards Manual

The original manual from 1976.

9: The hunt for a possible Pynchon novel leads to a name

I obviously had my eyes and ears closed while this was playing out on the literary scene last week:

The post went viral. How could it not? Even without proof, the possibility that Pynchon was playing a giant practical joke on all of us was too enticing. Even after Pynchon’s publisher, Penguin Press, told New York magazine’s Nate Jones, "We are Thomas Pynchon's publisher and this is not a book by Thomas Pynchon,” people kept sharing Winslow’s piece, and the subsequent, inevitable writeups in Vice and The New York Times. In fact, many saw Penguin’s denial as proof of Pynchon’s involvement. Jones himself ended his piece with a wink: “But, then again, they would say that, wouldn't they?”

10: How Google's new logo is just 305 bytes

By using standard geometric shapes with fewer anchor points Google have reduced their logo’s size from 14,000 bytes.

11: Where do languages go to die?

If a Middle Eastern man from 2,500 years ago found himself on his home territory in 2015, he would be shocked by the modern innovations, and not just electricity, airplanes, and iPhones. Arabic as an official language in over two dozen countries would also seem as counterintuitive to him as if people had suddenly started keeping aardvarks as pets.

In our time-traveler’s era, after all, Arabic was an also-ran tongue spoken by obscure nomads. The probability that he even spoke it would be low. There were countless other languages in the Middle East in his time that he’d be more likely to know. His idea of a “proper” language would have been Aramaic, which ruled what he knew as the world and served, between 600 and 200 B.C.E., as the lingua franca from Greece and Egypt, across Mesopotamia and Persia, all the way through to India. Yet today the language of Jesus Christ is hardly spoken anywhere, and indeed is likely to be extinct within the next century. Young people learn it ever less. Only about half a million people now speak Aramaic—compared to, for example, the five and a half million people who speak Albanian.

12: The mind-bending physics of a teen ball’s spin

How tennis players create spin is about as complicated a physics question you can set about solving without invoking subatomic particles.

13: “This is a shady business we in, fam”

Here’s another post about ‘parody’ Twitter accounts, the content they steal, and Twitter’s new (sort-of) stance against them.

14: Amazon web services in Plain English

Hey, have you heard of the new AWS services: ContainerCache, ElastiCast and QR72? Of course not, I just made those up.

But with 50 plus opaquely named services, we decided that enough was enough and that some plain english descriptions were needed.

15: Waluigi's Unbearable Existence

The new Mario Maker game for the Wii U looks fantastic—the levels some people are making are brilliant. Here’s a particularly unsettling one.

Migrants are too wealthy

1: Spotify is getting unbelievably good at picking music — here’s an inside look at how

There’s a playlist on Spotify I love called Discover Weekly. It’s updated every Monday with a mix of songs, some I know and some I’ve never heard, crossing into almost every genre with no discernible pattern. Like magic, it just knows what I want to hear.

It’s one of the reasons why I’m listening to Spotify more than ever. And I’m not alone.

I’m pleased with Spotify’s Discover playlist. Mine this week is 30 songs (2hr 1m) and is a nice mix of bands I’ve never heard of, back-catalogue songs by bands I know, and a handful of songs I own and/or I’ve listened to (on Spotify) multiple times. I think this last tactic is deliberate; relatively few people will want two hours of music that they’re completely new to, and will appreciate a bit of familiarity along the way. I'd like more new (to me) music, but I’m a bit odd: maybe ‘Discover’ could be an integral part of the Spotify app, along with ‘Browse’ and ‘Radio’ and the like, that we could tinker with using filters and settings depending on what we want to expose ourselves to.

I still like Apple Music, by the way, and I’ll likely carry on paying for it and using the free version of Spotify, which I downgraded to a couple of months ago. But the excitement of the ‘For You’ section in Apple Music has worn off. There’s only so many times I want to see ‘An Introduction To’ an act whose back catalogue I own in its entirety, nor ‘Deep Cuts’.

2: Social decay: How Tweets can predict the death of an app

We used Twitter data to analyze the health of social apps and find out which ones might be in trouble — or, as we call it, in social decay.

Interesting to see the slow decline of This Is My Jam, and how Ello has peaked, dropped and plateaued.

3: How to write a great error message

Your job as product manager, designer or developer of an app is to recognize that writing copy in your app is not something that you can just do on the side. It’s just as important as having the application work correctly and the user interface being easy and efficient to use.

4: Surprised that Syrian refugees have smartphones? Sorry to break this to you, but you’re an idiot

On the surface this may look like xenophobia searching for something to grab on to following a shift in the public mood towards refugees from the Middle East. But it is actually a fairly progressive stance: just weeks ago the anti-immigration brigade were complaining that migrants are unskilled and just want our benefits. And now they’re arguing that migrants are too wealthy instead, implicitly arguing we should prioritise helping the poor. But in any case, it does raise an interesting question: Exactly how surprised should we be that people from Syria carry smartphones?

5: How media ‘fluff’ helped Hitler rise to power

In the years preceding World War II, news outlets from home magazines to the New York Times ran profiles of the Nazi leader that portrayed him as a country gentleman — a man who ate vegetarian, played catch with his dogs and took post-meal strolls outside his mountain estate […] The 1930s marked the rise of celebrity culture, in the era of talking movies, radio and new lifestyle magazines […] Hitler’s propagandists took advantage of the new celebrity culture and even helped to shape it.

6: Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto explaining World 1-1 is the best game design lesson of the week

Miyamoto talks level design.

To cheep, as a young bird

1: An interactive guide to ambiguous grammar

This might be the best thing I’ve read all year. I didn't guess where it was going.

2: The great big Twitter purge (you probably haven’t heard about)

Specifically the millions of followers that have been wiped from dozens of so-called parody accounts, the influential profiles that satirize celebrities or pop culture. The most powerful accounts have audiences in the millions, and their owners can make thousands of dollars per day through sponsored posts. But many accounts are being accused of stealing the content they share.

3: Facebook's new spam-killer hints at the future of coding

When Facebook engineers needed to build new anti-spam system, they turned to Haskell, a relatively niche programming language. Here’s why. (This is of broader appeal than it might first appear!)

4: Today I fucked up by letting my brother take advantage of my Yu-Gi-Oh! card addiction

A cautionary tale of why you should always follow doctor’s orders. No matter if your siblings bribe you.

5: How podcasts have changed in ten years: By the numbers

I’ve noticed since starting a podcast of my own that research on the field is scant. Most of the research I’ve read has focused on listener behavior, which is fine for marketers, but other questions about the medium have gone unanswered. I decided to address a few.

  • What iTunes categories have the most podcasts?
  • How many podcasts are launched per month?
  • How many podcasts are active?
  • How long is a typical podcast episode? How often is a typical podcast updated?
  • How many podcasts have explicit content?
  • How many podcasts are not in English?
  • How many ratings or reviews does a typical podcast receive?

6: Tools we use 1: Publishing print newspapers online: CMSs

Which newspaper sites use which CMSs? I expected to see a big difference between BLOX for U.S. dailies and Wordpress for everything else, but the gap is huge.

7: A brief history of yippee-ki-yay

The yip part of yippee is old. It originated in the 15th century and meant “to cheep, as a young bird,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The more well-known meaning, to emit a high-pitched bark, came about around 1907, as per the OED, and gained the figurative meaning “to shout; to complain.”

8: Create free brand & design style guides with Frontify style guide

Manage logos, images, colours, typography etc. See also Canva for Work.

9: Tips for writing and editing news stories involving trans people.

10: Dear pedants: Your fave grammar rule is probably fake

It turns out, virtually all authoritative sources agree these rules are nonsense. We can consider the authority of historical texts before the advent of these pop grammar rules. Does historical record show that speakers were breaking these rules before they even existed? Yes. Or we can appeal to literary usage by expert wielders of the English language such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, James Joyce, Mark Twain to name just a few. They’ve all had their fair share of grammatical ‘errors’. There are examples throughout the history of the English language of many of these grammar rules being blithely broken by speakers. Even the style guides of contemporary publications such as The Economist admit that “Happy the man who has never been told that it is wrong to split an infinitive: the ban is pointless. Unfortunately, to see it broken is so annoying to so many people that you should observe it.” Or as Geoffrey K. Pullum wryly translates it “this mythical and pointless prohibition against a natural syntactic construction has never been defended by any serious grammarian; but observe it anyway, because we’re scared of our readers.”

11: Lastly, type I’m feeling curious into Google.

Ballet Slipper, Spice Route, Jurassic Gold, and Sea Turtle

1: What it’s like to run the Twitter handle “@message”

It’s an increasingly important part of any publication on the web, and it’s always changing and moving. Doing it successfully takes more than being good at Twitter, being good at talking to people, coming up with headlines or snappy descriptions, paying attention to traffic and timing, being willing to experiment and learn from it. It’s also depressingly easy to screw up and send the wrong tweet from the wrong account, which I managed to do more than once. Social media is a full-time job, and anyone who does it well has my admiration and respect.

2: Movie lists

Analysing the sentiment and volume of Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb ratings to find lists of the best recent, best unknown, most underestimated, and most overrated movies. Lots to dig through.

3: Rain is sizzling bacon, cars are lions roaring: the art of sound in movies

Skip Lievsay is one of the most talented men in Hollywood. He has created audioscapes for Martin Scorsese and is the only sound man the Coen brothers go to. But the key to this work is more than clever effects: it is understanding the human mind.

4: A blankness full of meaning

The app, OMBY, is a game that you win by unscrambling Moby-Dick, a few words at a time. The complete text of the book has been broken into 10,395 consecutive morsels of about twenty words each, but with each morsel missing a few words, and the missing words’ letters mixed up like Scrabble tiles. Rearrange the alphabetic chaos of those tiles to form the missing words, and swipe forward to the next puzzle. Now do that 10,394 more times, in order, all the way through the book […] What I love about this is the occasion it provides to engage Moby-Dick on the level of the word, which might be Moby-Dick’s weirdest and most delicious level.

5: How pantone is still turning color into money

Some 210 new colors came into the world last week. Ballet Slipper, Spice Route, Jurassic Gold, and Sea Turtle, among others. These shades always existed in nature, but now they are official—dramatic names and all. One can buy them from Pantone, a small company in Carlstadt, N.J., that literally snatches its products out of the air.

6: The secret history of “Y’all”: The murky origins of a legendary Southern slang word

Many discussions of the word connect it to the history of second-person pronouns in English. Old English had singular and plural forms of “you,” and these eventually morphed into the formal “you” and informal “thou” pronouns you find in Shakespeare and the King James Bible. But “y’all” isn’t a descendant of these, and there’s still debate about its origins.

7: Bar chart baselines start at zero

There are visualization rules and there are visualization suggestions. Most are suggestions. The ones that are rules exist because of how our brains process visual information. There’s just no getting around it.

I already covered the small handful of rules that pertain mostly to traditional statistical graphics. The first one—to always start your bar charts with a zero baseline—unexpectedly drew some disagreement, and I am unexpectedly compelled to go into more depth.

It’s true that every rule has its exception. It’s just that with this particular rule, I haven’t seen a worthwhile reason to bend it yet.

How most people experience ink

1: The momentary compression of design

It’s not that designers coding is totally irrelevant right now; I would happily debate that with anyone interested. But if software is eating the world, software design ought to be as diverse as the world itself. I would encourage designers to think about their roles and skills in the broadest sense, in terms of their knowledge of humanity and the world, rather than the technical deliverables of today. Divergent processes will become mandatory for survival and in the future I expect the question “should designers code?” to make as much sense as “should urban planners carve wood?” Our practice on the other end of this moment has a good chance of entering the most diverse, vital era we’ve ever known, which should be celebrated and encouraged rather than squashed and judged.

2: Limetown

New fiction podcast: part Serial, part X-Files. A bit hammy at times, but promising.

Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again.

In this seven-part podcast, American Public Radio host Lia Haddock asks the question once more, "What happened to the people of Limetown?"

3: Radical sandcastles

These aren't your prototypical bucket-and-pail sand structures. Matt Kaliner's creations deserve an architectural category all their own.

See also Renzo Piano: how to build the perfect sandcastle.

4: Woman with no recollection of last 10 years asked to run major media company

She has a knack for a good story, she’s great with people. Sure she couldn’t remember whether the Prime Minister of Great Britain attended her 40th birthday party. But then, who does remember these sorts of finer details?

5: The guy who owns .xyz will only get $8 from Google every year

Sure, but he’s making over $160k per day on new registrations.

6: The hamburger menu doesn't work

It's a beautiful, elegant solution that gets it all wrong, and it's time to move on.

7: How the ballpoint pen killed cursive

The ballpoint’s universal success has changed how most people experience ink. Its thicker ink was less likely to leak than that of its predecessors. For most purposes, this was a win—no more ink-stained shirts, no need for those stereotypically geeky pocket protectors. However, thicker ink also changes the physical experience of writing, not necessarily all for the better.

See also Bic uses the same photo to advertise their pens and razors.

Memory is like a text that cannot change

1: Secretive fusion company claims reactor breakthrough

In a suburban industrial park south of Los Angeles, researchers have taken a significant step toward mastering nuclear fusion—a process that could provide abundant, cheap, and clean energy. A privately funded company called Tri Alpha Energy has built a machine that forms a ball of superheated gas—at about 10 million degrees Celsius—and holds it steady for 5 milliseconds without decaying away. That may seem a mere blink of an eye, but it is far longer than other efforts with the technique and shows for the first time that it is possible to hold the gas in a steady state—the researchers stopped only when their machine ran out of juice.

2: Inspirograph

Nathan Friend’s digital replica of the classic Spirograph toy. Written in TypeScript, using D3.js.

3: Writing.Rocks: Tighten This! challenge

I like this weekly challenge to readers to rewrite a sentence as concisely as possible. It’s likely that by the time you read this, the answers to this week’s challenge will be posted. The sentence to shorten is ‘This tool helps companies identify which of the 60 the most likely cyberattack scenarios are relevant to their situation’.

4: Introducing the MailChimp Style Guide

I forgot to post this last week. MailChimp have released their internal style guide under a Creative Commons licence. See also Voice and tone their guide to, well, those two things.

5: Emoji mosaic

THIS IS CRAZY MAGIC. Upload an image to turn into a mosaic made out of emoji. (Emojis?)

6: In defense of the present tense

In the present tense, you aren’t stuck to the moment—you can go forward and backward in time. In fiction, the demands of the present tense are in some ways the opposite of that exploration of uncertainty—the tense places a demand for the elimination of all other possibilities in the writer’s imagination—this is what happened and is what is still happening whenever this memory returns to this character or whenever this moment matters. Granted, it requires a belief that memory is like a text that cannot change, in the way writing can, once printed, be permanent and collectible. But the best writers play with this, say, as in Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, where she moves from the past tense recollections of an adult painter returned to her hometown to the present tense narrative of the child that painter was—and the subject is soon what she has chosen to remember and what to forget—and this is given to the reader, not to the narrator, to discover.

Write a comma using a mailbox

1: Laugh factory

Read this one even if you read none of the rest of the links today.

It’s not just the Fat Jew. A whole online ecosystem exists to cut, paste, and cash in on other people’s jokes.

2: Wired Style: A linguist explains vintage internet slang

Two of my favourite topics collide: linguistic style and internet history. Gretchen McCulloch digs out Wired’s style guide to explore the evolution of internet slang and the importance of having a personal style guide.

3: Philosophy: the subject that improves children’s literacy, numeracy and conduct

We’re only about 2,500 years behind the Greeks but Philosophy is finally making it on to the school curriculum. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is drafting plans for a short course in the subject to be introduced as part of the new Junior Cycle curriculum.

4: Replacing “crazy” for ableism and preciseness of language

If you’ve arrived at the conclusion that the word “crazy” is ableist, or at least makes some people uncomfortable, or is commonly misused and overused to the point of losing its meaning, you may be struggling to find substitute words. This post is for you. I’ve put together a list of many words that convey better what you mean when you say “crazy” and the specific usages and contexts where they make sense. And fear not: many of them are colorful, and all of them pack punch.

5: Imgur Is the last true internet culture remaining — but can it survive?

There is no more popular online destination for the modern male than Imgur. By the numbers, this humble photo-sharing site is in firm command of the millennial dude, blowing BuzzFeed, Reddit and even Tumblr out of the water with over 150 million monthly visitors and the highest concentration of millennial males in the U.S.

But you wouldn't know it unless you've stared Imgur right in its eyes. Or unless you're part of the club.

6: The hidden bias of science’s universal language

The vast majority of scientific papers today are published in English. What gets lost when other languages get left out?

7: Why the Wingdings font exists

It seems as bizarre as it is ubiquitous. What is Wingdings thinking? Why would someone want to write a comma using a mailbox? Why would anyone think we want to compose in peace signs and crosses and heart shapes?

Harry and the rest of the Connick Jrs

1: The rise of phone reading

Since the release of the bigger, sharper iPhone 6 and 6 Plus last September, Apple has seen an increase in the number of people downloading books onto iPhones through its iBooks app. Some 45% of iBooks purchases are now downloaded onto iPhones, an Apple spokeswoman said. Before that, only 28% were downloaded onto phones, with most of the remainder downloaded onto iPads and a small percentage onto computers.

2: Europe shouldn’t worry about migrants. It should worry about creeping fascism

The greatest threat to our “way of life” is not migration. It is that we will swallow the lie that some human lives matter less than others.

3: One of these images is Jupiter’s moon Europa, the rest are frying pans

4: 'Space Jam' forever: The website that wouldn't die

How a ragtag group of young coders skirted the studio and created a pop culture sensation that's still standing two decades later.

5: The danger of being neighborly without a permit

All over America, people have put small ‘give one, take one’ book exchanges in front of their homes. Then they were told to tear them down.

6: How SETI will understand messages broadcast by an alien intelligence

Imagine the day when we finally receive a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence, only to find that there’s a message embedded within. Given that we don’t speak the same language, how could we ever hope to make sense of it? We spoke to the experts to find out.

7: Guy annoys girlfriend with puns at Ikea

This is funnier than it should be.

8: A conspiracy theorist’s guide to understanding Anna Kendrick’s 2012 film “Pitch Perfect.”

How long was Harry and the rest of the Connick Jrs working for the Taliban?

Nothing to do with abdominal glandular organs

1: Timelike

Another time-travel based short. Because why break the habit of a lifetime?

Madeline and her boyfriend are enjoying a quiet evening at home when they are interrupted by a visit from a stranger bearing a message from Madeline’s future self. (An explanation of sorts?)

2: How London’s terminal stations got their names

St Pancras International: The international part is fairly obvious, given that this is the London home of Eurostar services to the continent. But who was this St Pancras? London's most magnificent station and the surrounding area take their name from a Roman teenager, who was beheaded for converting to Christianity at a time when this was outlawed (c. 304 AD). Young master Pancras had probably never even heard of Londinium, and it's unclear exactly why the founders of the first church on the site should choose him as their dedicatee. It may be that Pancratic relics found their way to the region, or perhaps his memory was promoted by members of a nearby Roman camp, established at a date when Christianity was more widespread within the Roman Empire. Either way, this is thought to be one of the most ancient sites of Christian worship in the country. The name has nothing to do with abdominal glandular organs.

3: 2 kinds of people

There are only 2 kinds of people in this world, those that find this blog hilarious and those that have no sense of humor whatsoever.

4: Something fishy

The true story behind four curiosities of everyday sushi.

5: Design a cover for the twentieth anniversary edition of Infinite Jest

There are two routes to literary immortality:

  • Slave for years—if not decades—over a work of fiction so searingly sui generis, so well and truly fused with an authentic zeitgeist, so deeply attuned to life’s vicissitudes and the mysteries of the soul, that establishment and nonestablishment figures alike have no choice but to revere you and send you soaring toward the firmament, never to be forgotten.

  • Hitch your wagon to David Foster Wallace’s star.

6: Time is a privacy setting

John Herrman on the ephemerality of Twitter and Facebook posts. Social networks change with such frequency, and the passing of time removes context and meaning from our posts. How do we deal with this? Herman deletes things after a week.

Facebook’s Timehop-esque feature was interesting to me at first until it started showing me things from my early days on the service that made me shudder and squirm. I initially used it as a prompt to delete old stuff that was just awful. Now I can barely use that feature. Seeing the ‘You have memories’ notification is enough to send waves of undiluted cringe flowing through my body.

7: Inside the manipulative world of film color correction

Professional colorists reveal their secrets—and a neuroscientist explains why they work.

8: All hail the Ned Flanders-themed metal band Okilly Dokilly

Nekrogoblikon, a band with a goblin mascot, once famously sang “We Need a Gimmick.” Phoenix band Okilly Dokilly have found one, and it’s blowing up the internet. The five-piece band are entirely inspired by and about Homer Simpson’s neighbor Ned Flanders. They’re hardly the first band to be inspired by The Simpsons (hello, Fall Out Boy), or even the first metal band to take their name from the show (what’s up, Evergreen Terrace?), but the world’s only “Nedal” band are fully committed to their shtick. All five of them dress like Homer’s nemesis (green sweaters, gray pants and spectacles, and three of them even have mustaches.

You’ll come across an unnerving reality

1: New Zealand announces 40 potential new flag designs

New Zealanders are to get a chance to vote on a new flag for their country, which could replace its existing graphic featuring the Union Jack.

2: Attack on the pentagon results in discovery of new mathematical tile | Science | The Guardian

Joy as mathematicians discover a new type of pentagon that can cover the plane leaving no gaps and with no overlaps. It becomes only the 15th type of pentagon known that can do this, and the first discovered in 30 years.

3: Love boat rejects: Unforgettable photos of people on cruise ships in the 1990s

Love Boat Rejects is a collection of pictures taken by Ian Hughes and his fellow photographers onboard American, Norwegian and Italian cruise ships throughout the 1990s.

4: Tech’s enduring great-man myth

The idea that particular individuals drive history has long been discredited. Yet it persists in the tech industry, obscuring some of the fundamental factors in innovation.

5: Guy walks into a bar

So a guy walks into a bar one day and he can’t believe his eyes. There, in the corner, there’s this one-foot-tall man, in a little tuxedo, playing a tiny grand piano.

So the guy asks the bartender, “Where’d he come from?”

And the bartender’s, like, “There’s a genie in the men’s room who grants wishes.”

Make sure you read the rest. It doesn't proceed as you'd expect.

6: The music web is now so closed, you can’t share your favorite song

First, This Is My Jam announced they're closing the service. (Note how classily they're doing this: the site will go read-only with a permanent archive and API, all the data is being open sourced, users can export their data and/or opt-out it being archived.)

In the link above, Peter Kirn bemoans the devolution of our web-based music services:

Call it a jam session that has completely fallen apart.

Having Web services go dark is certainly not news in this day and age. We’ve come to expect that Internet services won’t be there forever. (Google Reader, anyone?)

But if you pull apart some of the backstory behind the end of a service called “This Is My Jam,” you’ll come across an unnerving reality of the way music on the Web is evolving (or devolving).

See also Rev Dan Catt's post on how he's manually archiving anything that isn't persistent, like Spotify playlists.

A depressed, laconic Luigi

1: Ennuigi

Spend some time with a depressed, laconic Luigi as he chain smokes and wanders through a crumbling Mushroom Kingdom, ruminating on ontology, ethics, family, identity, and the mistakes he and his brother have made.

2: I’m You, Dickhead

Another great time-travel short.

In a world where time travel is a simple hospital procedure, a man jumps back in time to force his 10-year-old self to learn guitar so that he can get more action with the ladies in the present day.

3: The earthquake that will devastate the Pacific Northwest

I have some thoughts on this but they mostly echo my Twitter pal Charlie Loyd's, who repeatedly brings so much more considered thought to everything, it's unfair on the rest of us.

When the Cascadia fault line ruptures, it could be our worst natural disaster in recorded history.

4: Briefly

I thought twice about including this as I read something similar most days. But the point of this blog is that not everyone reads what I read and, anyway, I'm such fan of brevity (stop laughing, Twitter followers and Facebook friends) that I want to press this home to everyone. Omit needless words!

Getting things into 140 characters might be teaching young writers one of the most cherished virtues among those who deal professionally with writing: brevity.

5: Haruki Murakami: The moment I became a novelist

If you’ve read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running then you’ve heard a version of this story before, but it’s supremely interesting anyway.

I think Hiroshima’s starting pitcher that day was Yoshiro Sotokoba. Yakult countered with Takeshi Yasuda. In the bottom of the first inning, Hilton slammed Sotokoba’s first pitch into left field for a clean double. The satisfying crack when the bat met the ball resounded throughout Jingu Stadium. Scattered applause rose around me. In that instant, for no reason and on no grounds whatsoever, the thought suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel.

6: The persistence of vinyl

I hadn’t ever heard of this site before (Stories from the American South) but, boy howdy, is it ever good.

For almost 70 years, United Record Pressing has been in the business of pressing vinyl records. A quarter century ago, everyone thought those old black disks were going the way of the dodo. Then a few years ago, a funny thing happened: The kids started buying vinyl again. And now, one of Nashville’s oldest manufacturing businesses is growing to beat the band.

7: Joanna Newsom announces new album, Divers, shares “Sapokanikan”

Joanna Newsom has announced her first new album in five years. Entitled Divers, the follow-up to 2010’s Have One on Me is due from Drag City on October 23rd.

8: The Proclaimers: how we made I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

When I first learned to play the guitar I would often ‘entertain’ people, half-joking/half-serious, with a slow, angsty, fingerpicked version of this song. People laugh about the track but as far as I can see, it’s completely truly objectively brilliant.

A sort of reptilian Michael Fassbender-looking guy

1: There are sharks living in a volcano, and this is not a drill

Just when you think the world can’t get any surprise you any more, you learn that there are sharks swimming around in a volcano. Truth really is stranger than fiction: Syfy brought us Sharknado and then the universe counters with Sharkcano, otherwise known as Kavachi. This very, very active volcano off the Solomon Islands is 60 feet underwater, and sharks and rays have apparently been hanging out in its caldera between eruptions.

2: Twitter contest winning as a service

This is the story of how I wrote a Twitter bot to automatically enter contests and ended up winning on average 4 contests per day, every day, for about 9 months straight.

3: Wikiwand

Wikiwand is a modern interface for web and mobile that optimizes Wikipedia's amazing content for a quicker and significantly improved reading experience.

4: 99% Invisible podcast’s brilliant response to criticism of women’s voices

You've written in to voice your dislike of one of our female reporter's voices. You're not alone. We have a filter set up that automatically sends these types of emails into a folder labeled 'zero priority'. We'll review this folder and consider the complaints within, well, never.

(See also: 13 tips on how to speak while female.)

5: How can you tell if you’re being sexually empowered or objectified? Ask yourself this simple question

There’s a long-standing debate in feminism about sexual empowerment: How do we know when someone is being sexually liberated versus being sexually objectified, since they sometimes can look similar from the outside? Well, the answer is simpler than you think: The difference is in who has the power.

6: Homme de Plume: What I learned sending my novel out under a male name

George sent out 50 queries, and had his manuscript requested 17 times. He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25. [...] That was when George came to life. I imagined him as a sort of reptilian Michael Fassbender-looking guy, drinking whiskey and walking around train yards at night while I did the work. Most of the agents only heard from one or the other of us, but I did overlap a little. One who sent me a form rejection as Catherine not only wanted to read George’s book, but instead of rejecting it asked if he could send it along to a more senior agent. Even George’s rejections were polite and warm on a level that would have meant everything to me, except that they weren’t to the real me. George’s work was “clever,” it’s “well-constructed” and “exciting.” No one mentioned his sentences being lyrical or whether his main characters were feisty. A few of people sent deeply generous and thoughtful critiques, which made me both grateful and queasy for my dishonesty.

I begin to hate their smiling faces

1: Grimes in reality

Grimes started as a fantasy project, then became too real. Now Claire Boucher is taking back control and showing the world that pop stars can be producers too.

2: Happy Birthday copyright bombshell: New evidence Warner Music previously hid shows song is public domain

Last minute evidence that completely turns a legal case on its head doesn't come about all that often—despite what you see in Hollywood movies and TV shows. The discovery process in a lawsuit generally reveals most of the evidence revealed to everyone pretty early on. And yet... in the high profile lawsuit over the copyright status of the song "Happy Birthday," the plaintiffs "Good Morning to You Productions" (who are making a documentary about the song and are arguing that the song is in the public domain) have popped up with a last minute filing, saying they have just come across evidence that the song is absolutely in the public domain.

3: No. 32: Who’s your daddy?

I could read burger blogs all day every day.

4: I Poked all of my 615 Facebook friends. Here’s what happened

At first, it is delightful. I don’t know Facebook’s algorithm – if there is a rhyme or reason to why people appear in the list the way they do. But in the beginning they are all dear friends, and I flick through their pages, seeing profile pictures of them with loving spouses or beautiful children. The messages on their homepages vary – from inspirational quotes to cartoons to outrage over Sandra Bland’s death. I am proud of my friends. They care about people. They are politically aware. I love them. After 108 pokes, barely scratching the surface of my list of more than 600 friends, I begin to hate their smiling faces. I start poking out of spite.

5: Prune for iPhone

A lovely relaxing puzzle game in the same mould as Monument Valley.

Prune is a love letter to trees. A game about the beauty and joy of cultivation. With a swipe of a finger, grow and shape your tree into the sunlight while avoiding the dangers of a hostile world. Bring life to a forgotten landscape, and uncover a story hidden deep beneath the soil.

6: Spaghetti in cones might be NYC's most loved street food

But however frivolous and gimmicky it might seem, the spaghetti cone is a highly utilitarian innovation. A cardboard cone, it turns out, is an ideal delivery system for spaghetti [...] The cone shape facilitates the trick by giving natural purchase to the tines of the fork as they twist. The curved sides of the cone help guide the strands of spaghetti into a ball around the fork. The twirl excludes the need for spearing any bit of food with the fork.

7: Domain stories: Citizen Ex

Tales of techno-geo-socio-politics.

Behind each domain you visit are other stories, that might happen to other people. As part of Citizen Ex, James Bridle explores six of these domains: Libya, Syria, Scotland, Wales, Yugoslavia, and the British Indian Ocean Territory, all of which are available to read online.

8: Reading War and Peace on my iPhone

Will our flighty brains ever get as much out of phone screens as paper? Are the great works of literature doomed to fade away like ghosts? I wanted to find out. So I did an experiment. I pulled out my iPhone and downloaded the hugest, weightiest tome I could think of. War and Peace.

They pay in faeces

1: A/B tests are destroying your conversion rate

Have I heard clients tell me that they incur performance slowdowns due to their use of A/B tests? Absolutely. But when I hear that, I don’t hear “A/B tests are the problem.” I hear “maybe you need to put in a bit more work until you get it right.”

2: Ultimate steak sandwich: rib-eye, Boursin & watercress

This really does look excellent.

3: The 33 best 33 1/3 books

The 33 1/3 series has revealed a way that we can save the album: by dislocating it from history and letting a new generation develop their own canon. Recently announced titles suggest this trend will continue, but while we wait for new editions on Beat Happening, the Raincoats, and the Geto Boys, here are the 33 best 33 1/3 titles in alphabetical order by artist.

4: Incubus on Instagram

The mostly-forgotten band Incubus are doing something extremely interesting with their Instagram feed. (This looks much better in the app as there is less padding between posts.)

5: A brief note to readers new to Infinite Jest (and a very incomplete list of motifs in the novel)

Yes, I am still re-reading this goddamn novel.

6: When you give a tree an email address

This is wonderful:

The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.

7: leejohnphillips on Instagram

Spending the next 4 years of my life drawing every item in my late grandfather's tool shed.

8: lightyear.fm

Radio broadcasts leave Earth at the speed of light. Scroll away from Earth and hear how far the biggest hits of the past have travelled. The farther away you get, the longer the waves take to travel there—and the older the music you’ll hear.

9: My burger manifesto

10: One-minute time machine

A great short film.

11: God tier: Facebook moms run the meme game

The advice meme as we knew it (original characters captioned in Impact) is dead. But while the internet cultural vanguard moved on, a newer class of internet user, the well-connected mainstreamer, reinvented it. We live in the age of the post-meme.

12: This plant is a hotel for bats, and they pay in faeces.

13: Archeologists have found 2,000 ancient golden spirals and they have no idea what they are

I was also surprised to find out that I live about 1 mile away from one of the biggest concentrations of Bronze Age gold known from Great Britain, valued at £290,000.

14: Species in pieces

30 species. 30 pieces. 1 fragmented survival. A CSS-based interactive exhibition celebrating evolutionary distinction.