✩ Want You To Know: “Our promises were a series of possibilities”

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The Brexit is getting Brexitier. I suppose I could just leave it there and sign off for another few days. But as is the way of events, other things continue to happen, some of them even positive things.

The US Supreme Court overturned Texas' abortion restrictions.

"We add that, when directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case."

CafePress removed a t-shirt describing presidential hopeful Donald Trump as a 'cheeto-faced shitgibbon' from its store for spurious trademark reasons.

Maciej Ceglowski has some thoughts on surveillance and the way the technology industry functions right now which are almost precisely the same as mine. Except he makes his points far more concisely and coherently than I usually do.

While we're on the subject of surveillance capitalism, Facebook said on Friday it was doing some very dodgy things to recommend new friends to you. After a bit of solemn reflection and some very negative reaction to Facebook being, as is now traditional, skeevy as anything, Facebook decided it wasn't doing those things after all. So that's OK, I guess?

Worth Pondering

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Eye Candy

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'The Surprising History of the Infographic'

Totally Confused

Steve McLaren supreme, sad boner confessionals, spherical Droste effect, digital doppelgängers and anti-fascist anthems.

Yours etc., @loughlin


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✩ Want You To Know: Obligatory Grim Brexit Edition

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ICYMI, Brexit has happened. Nobody has much of a notion what happens next.

Here are some highlights from my 'as it happened' notes.

The Irish government publishes its contingency plan. As this contingency plan is a badly formatted table that sprawls over eight pages and is titled 'Appendix', I'm not entirely filled with confidence for the future.

For some reason the ever-cautious Michael Martin decides it is now safe to give David Cameron a few kicks.

A woman loudly calls Boris Johnson a twat as he gets into a car outside his London home. Sky News is there to capture the moment. Continuing this theme, I feel the only word to describe the framing on display here is 'masterful'.

The Irish Times publishes a witty letter that reads simply 'Perfidious Albion, eh?', which I've no doubt the author is inordinately proud of.

Ian Paisley Jr. advises his constituents to get their hands on Irish passports if they are eligible to do so. These waters are indeed uncharted.

Some other Brexit reading below. I've no idea when normal service will be resumed.

When all you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like David Cameron’s face.

'I want my country back', Laurie Penny

Combined with that, there is the folly of allowing a billionaire from Australia to corrupt our press. A good deal of it was already corrupt (the Zinoviev Letter, for instance, a forgery published by the Daily Mail to ensure a Conservative victory in 1924), but the depth to which the bulk of our newspapers have sunk, the extent to which they are nothing more than mouthpieces for spittle-flecked xenophobia (“Up Yours Delors”, from the Sun, 1990), is a wonder of the civilised world.

'Philip Pullman on the 1,000 causes of Brexit', Philip Pullman

In place of facts, we now live in a world of data. Instead of trusted measures and methodologies being used to produce numbers, a dizzying array of numbers is produced by default, to be mined, visualised, analysed and interpreted however we wish. If risk modelling (using notions of statistical normality) was the defining research technique of the 19th and 20th centuries, sentiment analysis is the defining one of the emerging digital era.

'Thoughts on the sociology of Brexit', Will Davies

The real division in Britain is not between London and the north, Scotland and Wales or the old and young, but between Johnson, Gove and Farage and the voters they defrauded. What tale will serve them now?

'There are liars and then there’s Boris Johnson and Michael Gove', Nick Cohen

A different, more durable and threatening kind of inequality is also at stake here. A majority of people around the United Kingdom are feeling like non-people, un-citizens, their lives jerked about like marionettes by wire-pullers far away. In those circumstances, very bad things indeed can be expected.

'Britain's EU Problem is a London Problem', Peter Mandler

Worth Pondering

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Eye Candy

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Lithographed Portugese seafood cans

Totally Confused

Mac n' Cheetos, fire walk with me, bloviating flesh bag, autocomplete Pi poetry and a grope for Brexit (and art).

Yours etc., @loughlin


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✩ Want You To Know: Potholes

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The Irish Data Protection Commissioner published her annual report for 2015 [direct PDF link]. Highlights include a novel spin on the old 'a dog ate my homework and then the dog burst into flames and then it fell off a tall cliff' excuse once beloved of schoolchildren everywhere, and the potentially detrimental effect of search engine results forever connecting one's name to a story about potholes. The Irish Times has more.

Records of an internal complaint made by a member of the Defence Forces were destroyed in a flood and a burglary at a military investigating officer’s private house.

The Defence Forces told the commissioner it prohibited the removal of records and that such action may constitute an offence under the Defence Act. But as the military investigation officer was no longer a serving member, he was not subject to military law.

What an extraordinarily unfortunate sequence of events. Let us hope that such a thing can never, ever happen again.

From the report itself –

Of the complaints that were upheld, one related to an interview given by an individual to a local newspaper 7 years previously regarding potholes on the local roads, which on a search of the individual’s name was the first listed result. With the repairs to the potholes completed, the issue was resolved but the individual was unhappy that a search
against their name still produced this story in the results. Arguing with Google on the complainant’s behalf, we successfully made the case that the story was out of date and therefore no longer relevant.

I'm now desperately curious to find out what results do show up in a search for this individual's name, and why they urgently needed to excise their pothole past. Have they come under pressure from the pothole lobby for being a visible anti-pothole voice? Are they looking to find a job in the pothole industry and are afraid their anti-pothole past will catch up with them?

For a pretty accurate assessment of where Donald Trump's presidential campaign is right now, read this thread. Despite any appearances to the contrary, the United States is still the land of opportunity, where any huckster with ambition can turn a campaign to hold the highest office in the land into a Ponzi scheme.

Twitter, still struggling to understand what Twitter is, has launched a thing that helps celebrities push their banalities and sponsored posts to a wider audience of people who don't particularly care. Meanwhile Facebook is paying considerable amounts of money to entice folks to come and play in their live video garden.

Worth Pondering

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Eye Candy

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'Unequal Scenes'

Totally Confused

Seinfeld in Doom, typography in Blade Runner, a world without Barnes & Noble, when Uber leaves and robot's rights.

Yours etc., @loughlin


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✩ Want You To Know: Broken Overton Windows Theory

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It's been a hellish week for news, and with the media still showing a reluctance to use the word homophobia in relation to the Orlando killings or to admit how complicit many outlets have been in fanning the flames of white nationalism in England which led to Jo Cox's murder, you're probably better off not watching any TV or reading any newspapers for a bit.

You could always give the latest episode of Note to Self a whirl instead. It's about one specific email newsletter and how we don't really consume the news any more, but perhaps an abstraction of the news. News is entirely a product now, we've all been segmented and soon we'll be aggressively targeted by the emoji we tweet. ::appropriate emoji::

Then you could marvel at the human ingenuity that's allowed us to sit at our keyboards like the I have no idea what I'm doing dog and watch video of a space capsule beginning its return to the Earth with the moon as a backdrop.

Back in Ireland, with the gurning approval of battery of government figures (Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs), Google opened a warehouse in Dublin earlier this week. At the same time it announced it was throwing even more money at super exciting AI research and development. Except this high value engineering work will be done in Zurich. Although headquartered in Dublin for CERTAINLY NOT SOLELY TAX reasons, Zurich "is home to Google’s largest engineering office outside the U.S." Actually, another reason they're headquartered here might be easy access to sympathetic government ears.

Worth Pondering

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Eye Candy

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'Nature has Eyes'

Totally Confused

'Likes' like sex, giant spider crabs, dog eats glue, honest restaurant slogans and The Secret World of Foley

Yours etc., @loughlin


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✩ Want You To Know: “white men appropriating it last night of all nights was a bit too much for me”

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Looks like app downloads are slowing down in a very dramatic way. I can probably still count on one hand the number of apps I've used since 2009 that were a well designed pleasure to use, and not just an awkward resizing of a website / web app with a horrendous number of display ads obscuring, well, everything else. You know, the functional bits that I'd installed the app for in the first place.

“They apparently had zero appreciation of the irony,” an exasperated Olin told Intersect by DM. “Honestly I think it’s a wider anthropological sign of what the Internet is like now and I’m resigned to that — but the white men appropriating it last night of all nights was a bit too much for me.”

'A woman came up with this clever meme. Men quickly pretended the idea was theirs.'

(amongst other things, Laura Olin currently publishes The Awl's newsletter Everything Changes which is great and well worth subscribing to if you like rankings of Port–a-Potty names in your inbox)

Speaking of The Awl, what would you choose to leave behind if we could remake the Web from scratch?

I got a little taste of what the future of technology has in store recently when a pedantic bot got in touch with a bot of mine to take issue with its spelling.

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Worth Pondering

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Eye Candy

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'Cinemagraphs of Summery Landscapes in Croatia'

Totally Confused

Macro viruses reborn, modern music box, 2001: A Picasso Odyssey, Strange Trees, and life advice: ignore life advice .

Yours etc., @loughlin


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✩ Want You To Know: Corporate Communications Crushing It

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For my sins, I've spent a lot of my working life in and around the world of corporate communications. Crafting and disseminating messages. Writing and editing copy for websites, wrestling with obscure technology product descriptions (anyone for a next-generation SMSC? Anyone at all?), constructing the information architecture and style guides for large intranets and more besides. Politely disagreeing with colleagues over jargon, accuracy and basic grammar.

In this time I've seen an awful lot of very bad communications materials get signed off on and wend their merry way out into the world. This is a constant. I think most people are pretty well inured to corporate messaging at this stage and don't notice just how very, very bad much of it is. I know I try hard not to pay attention, but often just cannot help myself. The week just gone has dished up some howlers.

There was a widely covered massive data breach over at Myspace. The people there were minded to make a show of acting like good corporate citizens who are concerned about their users' data privacy, and set about informing the folks who might have been affected. An email showed up in my inbox from the impressive sounding sender 'Myspace Legal'. At a scan of the headings in the body of the email it looked like they'd got a lot of the basics of crisis communications right. It starts with a 'Notice of Data Breach', which is reasonable, as I'm eager to know what this correspondence is about. This is followed by 'What Happened?', 'What Information Was Involved?', 'What We Are Doing' and 'What You Can Do'. All reasonably good so far. I mean, it could be much worse. But,

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This notification is nice. However, as it tacitly acknowledges, things have happened in the wrong order. As a user of Myspace I shouldn't have found out that my personal data was at risk through something that happened with their systems through the news media. I should have known before the story was widely reported. Now it looks to me as if this welcome communication from Myspace was something of an afterthought, and would likely not have happened if the breach hadn't been reported.

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Memorial Day is a holiday in the US. It is not a holiday anywhere else. People from outside the US aren't at all likely to know that Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May each year. Nor should they have to. I'm assuming this email was reviewed multiple times by multiple Myspace employees, yet still nobody picked up on this. It's bad even for US residents, because Memorial Day is a movable public holiday and the date on which it falls is not constant. Put in the damn date, Myspace, and don't make your audience do this work.

The email closes with a copywriting flourish, a traditional call to action livened up with a dash of reassurance.

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This seems positive, right? They've gone above and beyond just putting a team on the case. Except the multiple teams phrasing seems to be the go to weapon in the arsenal of reassurance in communications these days. Just last week LinkedIn told me the same.

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Of course, the effort being made does largely depend on the amount of appropriate people allocated to the task. And a team is any number larger than one.

Enough of that and back to the big corporate comms story of the week, the month, possibly the year. This was tronc. If you haven't heard of tronc, just roll the word around your mouth a few times before we proceed. How does it feel? Satisfying? Slightly uneven? Pleasant with a hard to discern aftertaste?

tronc

I had planned to write a bit about tronc, because I have some moderate to strong feelings about tronc, but I don't feel there's anything I can say about tronc that Allison Hantschel hasn't said better in 'On #Tronc, Journalism and Its Value'.

It's reminded me that whilst expensive corporate communications exercises gone badly awry like this should always be laughed at, they should also be highlighted as a reason why journalists are losing their jobs and journalism is suffering as a result. That the piece is a nice understated hymn to city journalism is an added bonus.

What has happened to newspaper companies in the past two decades is not about “industry shifts” and it’s not about “digital paradigms” and it sure as hell isn’t about Kids Today not reading. Nobody checking Facebook on an iPhone made the Tribune a national joke today, and if there was no internet at all in the world, newspaper companies would still be imploding because stupidity is a constant, whereas technology changes with the times.

In other newsy news, Simon McGarr has a brand spanking new newsletter which keeps you right up to date with the news you'd be better off not hearing about in the first place. Highly recommended.

Worth Pondering

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Eye Candy

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'The Taking Of Thailand's Temple Tigers'

Totally Confused

He's number one, stolen licence plates, horse yoga, cats versus bathtubs and Woodstock couple still in love.

Yours etc., @loughlin


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✩ Want You To Know: This Is What We Do Now

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‘We ask the reality TV star who may become leader of the free world how tough he would be on large zoo animals.’

Publishers hand ‘their futures over to Silicon Valley billionaires’

We ‘have come to depend on GPS, a technology that, in theory, makes it impossible to get lost.’

We have data doppelgängers who like ‘water, ice, oranges, day spas, Chinese New Year, cervical verte­brae, and human skin color.’

We have ‘“fans” on Instagram who were surprised to learn we were more than just a bot that posted pictures of Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice every four hours.’

This is what we do now.

Worth Pondering

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Eye Candy

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Natural Palettes

Totally Confused

Player Two, unstoppable content flow, Mosh Pit Simulator trailer, who marries whom and Put Your Head Into Gallery.

Yours etc., @loughlin


 

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✩ Want You To Know: It Was All Yellow

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Hello.

Yellow

Bananas

It might be said that the only bananas the EU has had a significant impact upon are the politicians who repeat this myth, in the face of evidence to the contrary in any branch of Tesco. Boris is the yellowest of all.

Book covers

This year, disparate works like Sunil Yapa’s literary novel “Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist,” Tim Dorsey’s serial-killer comedy “Coconut Cowboy” and Lauren Weedman’s memoir “Miss Fortune,” all have come jacketed in straight 100% yellow, the most basic yellow in printing ink.

Canaries

In the last month the number of searches for warrant canaries grew by an order of magnitude. This is likely thanks in large part to the disappearance of reddit's warrant canary from their 2016 transparency report. The last year has, without a doubt, been a banner year for awareness of warrant canaries.

Yarn

"Days later this conversation echoes around my mind while I’m listening to the song as I walk past a typical Scottish woollen knitwear shop. My eyes flit over a ball of wool in the window while the vid2word “unwinding” is sung and pretty quickly I’m leaving a garbled over-excited message on Tim’s phone about the music video I have in my head”

Undercover police cars

Herman Yung is an enthusiastic photographer/taxi-spotter and over the years, he's managed to spot seven NYPD police cars disguised as yellow cabs.

Worth Pondering

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♫ Corner

This Nicolas Jaar Essential Mix, which starts with a clip of Angelo Badalamenti talking about composing for Twin Peaks, with David Lynch sitting next to him dictating atmospheres is very much my current jam.

Eye Candy

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'A Kinetic Sculpture of 15 Moving LEDs Mimics a Walking Person'

Totally Confused

Didgeridoo yerself to sleep, Museum of Obsolete Media, violent margin rabbits, sad lonely smut storms and slugs work out.

Yours etc., @loughlin


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✩ Want You To Know: Actually, It’s About Ethics In Design

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Google has, or at least had, a design ethicist. Who is, or at least was, also a magician.

It's all about hijacking. And distracting. The attention economy

Pecking at screens looking for insight under glass in apps may not be the future for us though. If it isn't then Marco Arment thinks Apple may be in trouble.

ProPublica is running a series on the way technology is shaping our lives, often in completely unseen ways. This instalment about racist bias in police risk assessment systems makes for pretty grim reading. Someone made the algorithm. It is not neutral. That's not an excuse to hide behind.

Worth Pondering

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Eye Candy

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'Behind the Scenes of Alien'

Totally Confused

Camera traps, hallucinogens for your ears, an accidental meme, the Internet's favourite book and 'Kill the Wabbit'.

Finally, Ruth and Martin's Album Club is a must-read for me every week and last Friday's edition in which some bloke called Iain Lee listens to Yo La Tengo's I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One is particularly good. It's worth reading if you love, hate or have never heard of Yo La Tengo.

Yours etc., @loughlin


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✩ Want You To Know: Why Do Good Things Never Wanna Stay?

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Back in the mists of time when the Internet was young, we used to share a piece of advice with friends and clients which could be roughly phrased as 'don't write anything on the Internet with your name attached that you wouldn't be happy to see on a billboard near your house'. There were many variants of the same advice such as 'don't put anything on the Internet that you wouldn't be happy for your grandmother to see on the front page of her local newspaper while drinking her morning coffee', and so on. The message was that nothing can ever really be effectively removed from the Internet, and statements made may well come back to haunt you at some unspecified point in the future.

This was all long before social networks and nymwars, and a parade of mildly salacious stories about people losing jobs or not being hired in the first place because they'd posted opinions or pictures online that marked them out as being 'not a good fit' or whatever the euphemism du jour was. This resulted in people being somewhat more cautious in what they posted online and who they allowed see it, which was a good thing. A vague understanding of the permanence of things on the Internet became ingrained in the collective consciousness.

This week we're seeing the reverse of that, that plenty of things on the Internet are far from permanent, and that the Tories might be able to take away your lovingly curated lists of recipes because recipes on a website are a projection of soft imperialist power – no, I've no idea how Osborne got there either.

The Internet, a land of transient permanence, in which the bad things can hang around forever while many of the good things go away.

TL;DR Always keep a local copy.

Worth Pondering

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Eye Candy

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'Guide To Computing'

Totally Confused

Cell phone tower trees, blown away, Hello Woorld!, stupid random delivery app and intergenerational mobility.

Yours etc., @loughlin


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