Another week, another set of people yapping away at each other on the internet in the mistaken belief that what they say matters. Earlier this week, the web watched AGHAST as two sets of people pitted themselves against each other in a BITTER WAR OF WORDS, in what turned out to be a massively unedifying spectacle both for the journalist involved and, frankly, for everyone else who participated.
DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE? Anyway, enough of that inconsequential rubbish. ONWARDS! Let us focus on better, cleaner, more wholesome things. Did you know that, since we last spoke, the world has a whole new country? That it is possible to undress ‘like a clumsy virgin with the skill of a stripper’? That this Sunday is Record Store day? That LOCOG don’t appear to be taking enough care with the representation of lovable alien mascot duo Wenlock and Mandeville by certain corporate sponsors? I bet you didn’t. These facts, though, remarkable as they are, are NOTHING when compared to the veritable avalanche of knowledge that awaits you after the inevitable picture that you are about to see below this paragraph. I am going to vomit information from my brain straight into yours, like a distressing scene in some awful 70s sci-fi film. ENJOY!
Workish Things (it’s actually been quite quiet in terms of OMG AMAZING NEW SOCIAL MEDIA THINGS, but let’s ignore that for the moment):
- Google+ Redesign: You know, that Google thing that apparently more and more people are using (though God knows who these people are) ? Well, it’s had a redesign! Yep, it’s that exciting. No major differences in functionality, just a lot more white space, which people have been making fun of in moderately amusing fashion here.
- Facebook REALLY wants you to buy adverts: Like you didn’t know already. This is an interesting look at how the platform’s shifting to actively penalise those who don’t pony up for FB ads – it’s increasingly clear that unless your Facebook strategy includes some form of advertising, you may well struggle to reach people and get value out of it. Oh, and this is all about some new analytics that ad buyers will soon get - you’ll be able to get more information about what actions your ads make people take on FB.
- Running polls on Twitter: Twitter’s actually pretty light on built-in functionality – whilst Facebook has its core apps, which it’s built on and enhanced over its lifespan, Twitter’s very much a bare bones service (even the much-misunderstood hashtag is an almost accidental afterthought). This service is a potentially useful one, allowing users to poll their followers and get the data back in a moderately polished fashion. Useful for brands, I think. Possibly.
- Raising money through Twitter: This one’s really interesting. I might have mentioned before here that I think that a fundraising / payments mechanic is one of the priority functionality additions which Twitter will look to implement; this is effectively how such a service would work, but provided by a 3rd party. It’s a decent interim solution, though as ever with these things a lack of broad awareness of the service will likely scupper it long-term. Possibly (I’m caveating hard this week).
- A bit like Twitter – BUT WITH SOUND: I’m including this mainly because I’m so baffled by it. Hubbub is a new (well, to me at least) proto social network based on a similar principle to Twitter, but allowing people to share shortform audio clips instead. Why anyone would choose to use it is a total puzzle to me – if anyone has any decent ideas, please do let me know. I’ll probably steal them for a pitch.
- A bit like Pinterest – BUT FOR MEN: Sick of people banging on about Pinterest and trying to shoehorn its use into even the most unsuitable of areas? Well why not trump them by suggesting that your client or brand use this instead. It’s like Pinterest but MANLY. Actually, even writing this has made me really quite sad and my brow is furrowing unpleasantly, so I’m going to stop now.
- Nike Twitter RSVP thingy: Nike are using Twitter in a smart way – allowing users to sign up to new product launches at their stores by providing details to verified Nike Twitter accounts. Slick, smart and a relatively frictionless way of managing events.
- Pin digital content to real-world locations: On reflection, I probably didn’t need to use the term ‘pin’ there – but I just can’t help myself! Repudo is a very clever idea indeed – a mobile app which lets you ‘drop’ digital content (audio, video, pictures, etc) in real places. Huge possibilities for this – an interesting spin on the oh-so-tired-but-still-in-every-pitch DIGITALLY ENABLED TREASURE HUNT idea; an interesting way of using content from celebrity ambassadors; a really cool way to enhance a walking tour; a digital equivalent of the dead letterbox; almost certainly loads of stuff involving sex. I think this is awesome, which almost certainly dooms it to long-term irrelevance.
- National Trust Campaign: I really like this. Taking as inspiration the bucket list phenomenon, the National Trust are encouraging kids to get outdoors and DO STUFF. This is a lovely website for a nice initiative – and given that it’s aimed at the under-12s, it’s entirely appropriate that it doesn’t use Facebook. Well done them.
- Smart Advertising by IKEA: This is the cleverest piece of digital advertising I’ve seen in a while. IKEA are amazingly, consistently good at the internet. I think it’s because they’re Swedish.
- Domino’s Pizza App: This isn’t per se new – it’s been knocking about for a while now (the app, if you’re too lazy to click the link, allows people to make their own pizza as a ‘game’). What’s interesting is the new functionality that they’ve added in – not only can you directly order the pizza you create from your nearest Domino’s directly through the app, but it’s also being used as a recruitment tool – those who display particular ap(p)titude at pizzamaking get directed to the Domino’s recruitment website. Slick.
Other Internetty Things That Have Caught My Eye:
- Vimeo Awards: Vimeo’s annual awards ceremony takes place in early June in LA. I won’t be going. That won’t stop me from trawling through this year’s nominees, though – there are some AWESOME things on here, particularly in the ‘Experimental’ category, and if the weather continues to suck you could do worse than spend a couple of hours this weekend enjoying some of the best short-form filmmaking out there at the moment.
- Shock Bottoms: I had thought that the Kony2012 video was the high (low?) water mark in terms of crap, passive activism – but oh how wrong I was! Why bother to do ANYTHING about a serious issue, other than showing that you know and care about it via the medium of words emblazoned on a cheap velour tracksuit? Whilst all the proceeds from the site apparently go to Save Darfur, and it might all be an elaborate joke, it still left me somewhat open-mouthed. It also meant that I was the recipient of the oddest tweet I’ve ever woken up to, ever.
- The Art Of Pho: This is a beautifully designed site, built to complement the graphic novel of the same name by Julian Hanshaw. The story is a very cute one, particularly for foodies, but the real star is the animation / interface that takes the original story and subtly internetises it, making it gently interactive without ever feeling that said interactivity is forced or intrusive. Really beautiful, and a deserved nominee for this year’s Webby awards (which are also worth checking out).
- 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Photography: Whilst the jury were unable to decide upon a winner in the ‘Fiction’ category this year, they awarded the Photography prize to the Denver Post’s Craig F Walker for his photoessay on former US Marine Brian Scott Ostrom’s experiences dealing with PTSD. Brilliant pictures, though as cheering as one would expect from the description.
- Dastoli Digital: You won’t have heard of these people, but they make films. Really, really, really bad films. It’s worth clicking on that link for ‘Cats in Space’ alone – it really is as goodbad as it sounds.
- Though Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies: Sick of people arguing illogically with you? Tired of setting fire to straw men? Generally just a bit of a pedantic irritant (*raises hand, guiltily*)? You’ll like this website, in that case, and it will probably like you too.
- The Safety Pin Review: This is either awesomely punk or toe-curlingly pretentious, depending on one’s point of view. The Safety Pin Review is a magazine designed to be worn – very short stories that exist for a week in the wild. It’s ART, kids.
- Secret 7″: This isn’t actually internetty (neither was the above, in fact – I’m evidently slipping) but it is very cool. It would actually be more suited to my lovely colleague Kat’s free things blog (which is very good, honest), but I forgot to mention it to her. Anyway, as mentioned it’s Record Store Day this weekend – Secret 7″ is a project not unlike the RCA’s annual ‘Secret’ exhibition, in which you can buy postcards of original, one-off art – without knowing in advance who they’re by. This does much the same thing, but on record sleeves – I went to the opening on Tuesday and there are some BEAUTIFUL ones there. As of tomorrow morning, they’re available to buy for £40 – which is potentially a bargain, and all proceeds go to the Teenage Cancer Trust. Which is great.
- Scandy Music Motherlode: I got into Scandinavian music courtesy of the IMMENSE Gus Gus many years ago – this website is a brilliant resource if you’re into that sort of thing.
- The Tutu Project: A man, in a tutu. A pink tutu. Over, and over, and over again. Fighting cancer. What’s not to love?
- Stickers on the Central Line: I wish I’d thought of this. Also, in case you’re not aware of it, this page will make all Londoners fall in love with their city again, a bit.
The Long Stuff That I Reckon Maybe 3 People Read:
- Vanity Fair on the Camorra: You may have seen the film ‘Gomorra‘ – if you haven’t, do so; it’s very good (and the book’s even better). This fascinating piece from Vanity Fair looks at many of the same issues – it’s long, but it’s very thorough, and is an excellent insight into an Italy that you won’t believe exists.
- Jason Silva, ‘Performance Philosopher’: I hadn’t heard of Jason Silva before reading this, but I spent a good hour afterwards going through the man’s videos. He’s got lots of interesting things to say on internet culture, technology, the singularity, and how to transmit complex ideas to a large audience who don’t know that they are interested in those ideas in the first place. It’s good stuff, and worth a read even if you’re not into the slightly sci-fi-esque futurology of ‘what happens when the internet learns to think?’ questions.
- Moving Beyond Facebook: This piece from The Atlantic has been everywhere this week, and rightly so. It’s a critical look at the state of the web and, crucially, what we are doing with it (the answer is ‘not enough’), and it takes a well-aimed swipe at the ad-centric revenue model that’s at the core of much modern web app design and which has led us to this point. Definitely worth reading if you’re at all internetty, or if you’re just a curious person with an IQ in treble figures.
- On the ‘New Aesthetic’: I’m not going to lie, this one’s quite ‘high concept’ (read: wanky). That said, it’s an interesting look at the ‘New Aesthetic’ movement – that is, the physical/cultural/social/emotional/anthropological nodes where technology and humanity and art and stuff all meet. Dear God, that’s probably the worst sentence I’ve ever written, ever. Sorry about that. Anyway, it’s more interesting than I made it sound – this piece by Bruce Sterling is a longer dissertation on similar themes. Oh, and this Tumblr probably explains it better in pictures than I can in words.
- Interactivity, Passivity & Power: Interesting essay reflecting on the extent to which new ‘interactive’ media consumption can on reflection be considered to be as damaging, and as much part of a cultural power dynamic, as old-style passive consumption. Just because we can click doesn’t mean we’re in charge, basically.
- Travel Tips: This is a great article on top tips for travellers. Well written, and will absolutely make you want to run off to somewhere vastly more interesting than where you probably are as you’re reading this.
- 101 Spectacular Non-Fiction Stories: This is brilliant – 101 of the best pieces of journalism/non-fiction writing from the past 12 months. There are some absolute gems in here – enjoy.
2) If, like me, you are both pretentious and old, you may recall the much-feted Dogme movement of the 90s, pioneered by laugh-a-minute director Lars Von Trier amongst others. This short film, which is apparently from an Icelandic comedy show, looks at how Donald Duck might fare if given the Dogme treatment. Those CRAZY Icelanders!
3) One of the Vimeo award nominees alluded to below, this is Sugar – a short film about exes getting back in touch, all told through what looks like an exchange of texts. Beautiful, minimal, sad, and with a gorgeous soundtrack:
4) Alt-J. Never heard of them before this week (though apparently they’ve been on the radio, so I’m probably just out of touch). This song’s called Breezeblocks, it’s been knocking around in my head for a few days now, and the video is an excellent piece of storytelling. You may need to watch it more than once to get the story:
5) Divers. Starts slow, but becomes properly hypnotic – WATCH:
6) I don’t know whether this is Kazakh in the real sense or in the Borat sense – nontheless, it’s a great piece of music in a sort of Gogol Bordello / David Goo sort of way, and the video’s awesome (and a bit NSFW) – ah, the tales hotel rooms could tell:
7) There’s a touch of Paper Planes to the beat to this one, but I love the song (and the video’s decent too). Porcelain Raft with ‘If You Speak From Your Heart’:
This is a short teaser sample of Benga’s single I will never change. I absolutely love the way they’ve done the video. Such a clever idea, and great use of stop-motion:
9) Finally, some ART. No, really, this is art. It’s also really, really distressing. This man is Olivier de Sagazan. I call him ClayMan (he doesn’t know that).