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11.06.17

How Strong Are Your Moral Values?

Posted 11th June 2017

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The Real You logo

Hey! You, over there! Ever wonder how moral you are? Don’t look at me like that. It’s a straightforward enough question, and easy enough to answer. Isn’t it? No?

Well, never fear. I have a BBC Micro program here which will tell you ALL you need to know. Published by Collins Soft in 1985, The Real You contains 16 tests to – and I quote the back of the packaging – “inspire you and challenge you to discover who you really are”. And one of those tests is simply titled: Morals.

The test consists of 50 questions, and I thought I’d run through some of the most interesting ones here. Feel free to download a copy and play along at home1, though the below gives you enough of a flavour, I feel.

[Read more →]


  1. You’ll need a BBC Micro emulator, and the disc doesn’t auto-boot unfortunately. Type CHAIN"REAL" to get it working. 

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02.06.17

One Way To Make Better Self-Help Videos

Posted 2nd June 2017

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The other day, I snapped. And I snapped because of the following video, “7 Ways To Maximize Misery”.

The thing which especially annoyed me? Point #2:

“Which brings us to: Screw With Your Sleep. The Wraith of Insomnia will be your co-pilot on the Sea of Sadness. Her mere presence is unpleasant, but she also helps confuse the productive part of your brain which might look to navigate you toward the Islands of Happiness on the horizon. (More on that later.) A regular sleep cycle is a fragile thing and takes at least three days to establish. Be sure then to vary your bedtime, by several hours twice at week – at least. Even better: vary your wake time. Sleep in late, preferably very late, some – but not all – days. And tell yourself you are making up for sleep to feel like you’re doing something healthy, even though you feel terrible when you wake up early, and when you wake up late. Irregular sleep is another of the sea’s accelerating currents.

The more you vary your sleep, the harder regular sleep becomes, which makes your sleep more variable. To never sleep or wake at the same time naturally is the goal.”

Yeah, that does sound bad, and I get your clever reversal. Now, let me take you through my weekend.

In fact, I’ve actually been off work since Monday, which has been lovely. But just at the time when a lot of people are thinking about what to do with their days off, I’m gearing up for four 12-hour shifts at work. 7:30pm – 7:30am: going into work this Friday night, and coming off shift Tuesday morning.

So, what will I be doing? I work as a Playout Director, so when I get in I’ll take over transmitting TV shows for your primetime. I’ll do a bit of sport in the early hours, and then I’ll get to prepping tomorrow’s schedules. If there’s a problem with a programme that’s transmitting tomorrow afternoon, best we find out about it at 3am when there’s a chance of fixing it, instead of discoving the issue half an hour before broadcast.

In my job, I do many different kinds of awkward hours. Depending on my shift, I can end up starting work early in the morning, at lunchtime, mid-afternoon, or in the evening. In fact, the only time I’m never going to arrive at work is bang on 9am. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love my job. There are certain health risks associated with it, and planning your life can be fraught at times. But those are just things I have to deal with.

What I find frustrating though, is when people talk about the issues with irregular sleep patterns as though all anybody has to do is just “go to bed at a sensible time, man”. For me, that is just impossible. And let’s not forget: somebody has to do all these jobs, and many of those jobs are rather more important than mine. Somebody needs to make sure you have running water and electricity at all hours. Somebody needs to come and put out fires. And somebody – like my sister, a nurse – has to be around to pump you full of morphine and save your life.1 Regular sleep patterns are literally impossible for a great many people in the service industry. And I’m sick of being scolded and/or patronised for a job which if I didn’t do, somebody else would have to do instead.

Maybe it’s unfair to pin all of this on one seven minute video. This is a cumulation of things, and it just wandered into my life at exactly the wrong time. Still, let’s take another short section from it, and something else designed to cause misery:

“Make your bedroom your allroom. Live and work and play in the smallest radius you can.”

Some people literally have no choice but to live like this. In fact, I was one of those people until very recently. Lack of money is very much a thing these days. And all days. Forever.

The concept of the video is, of course, about turning typical self-help advice on its head in an attempt to get the point across in a more engaging way. But the advice it’s trying to get across is exactly the same as if you’d done the video straight. And the problem with all this advice is that it often assumes that you can create perfect circumstances for yourself. Hey, want to be happier? Live in a bigger house, and work 9-5! That’ll sort you out!

Anybody can paint a picture of a perfect life – or, in this case, a perfectly imperfect life. Advice on how to live better within the constraints society puts on us? That’s worth rather more.


  1. Me and my sister have had many conversations about how similar our jobs are. On the other hand, if my channel falls off-air, nobody dies. 

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26.05.17

Overflowing emotions and wild opinions

Posted 26th May 2017

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Last week, The New York Times published this interview with Ev Williams, one of the people behind Blogger and Twitter. The interview has been endlessly dissected elsewhere, and I don’t have anything particular to add to that debate.

I simply want to focus on the opening paragraph of David Streitfeld’s article:

“Evan Williams is the guy who opened up Pandora’s box. Until he came along, people had few places to go with their overflowing emotions and wild opinions, other than writing a letter to the newspaper or haranguing the neighbors.”

Now, here’s the thing. This isn’t actually true, is it?

I mean, I don’t even need to give counter-examples tracing back through the years – online forums, Usenet, fanzines, etc. What I’m thinking of is something rather more basic, and rather more popular. It’s called talking to people. My living room often features “overflowing emotions”, and my local pub echoes with the sound of “wild opinions”. And I can’t believe an article in The New York Times has made it necessary for me to state this rather obvious fact.

Now, is there a point to be made about Ev’s work making it easier to reach a worldwide audience? Yes, of course there is, and the article brings this up in the very next paragraph. But that doesn’t stop the initial opening being a massive load of crap. There is no such qualifier in the section I quote above.

I must admit, I couldn’t figure out why anybody would actually write this. Luckily, the article answers this for us:

“The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes.”

Why write an article with a sensible opening, when you can write something attention-grabbing which blatantly isn’t true?

The internet rewards extremes indeed.

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21.05.17

Dirty Feed III

Posted 21st May 2017

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Ah, how time changes. Back in 2010, changing the name of this site from Transistorized to Dirty Feed only warranted a tweet, not a proper mention on here. In 2011, the same was true for a brand new design for the site. These days, however, I’m prone to long, rambling posts on the subject instead. Many apologies. On the other hand, I have been promising a redesign of this place for fucking years, so finally launching it deserves at least a little ceremony.

So, what’s new?

A responsive design
The old site was pretty unfriendly on mobile, and I’m not entirely sure it being designed in 2011 is much excuse. Finally, you can view the site on your phone without it being a pain in the arse. (Though knowledgeable people shouldn’t dig through my CSS too much. And beginners shouldn’t try to learn anything from it. In fact, nobody should go near it, ever.)

Proper archive pages
Trying to navigate the archives of the old site was rather annoying, and I always meant to fix it… but never did. You can now view a chronological list of articles by year, and I’ve also vastly improved the categorisation of articles. Finally, you can see all my edits articles in one place. Or perhaps you’d like to help me with my collection of sitcom recording leaflets?

Best Of
Speaking of categorisation, all the articles which aren’t quite as shit as the other ones are now to be found in one handy place.

Comments
I very nearly got rid of comments on the new site entirely1 – partly because some articles on here don’t really suit having comments at the bottom, and partly to get rid of the spam problem – but that seemed a blunt instrument considering comments can be really useful. So I’ve decided to take a more selective approach – articles where comments are useful will have comments open for a couple of months or so. Other pieces will never have comments open in the first place.

Have a mess around, and let me know of any issues you find – either on Twitter, via email at jhoare@gmail.com, or in the comments below. The previous design rather stagnated – think of this one as a living, breathing thing, which will hopefully improve over time. It’s nowhere near perfect – and some articles from 2010-2013 aren’t fully converted to the new design yet – but hey, it’s a start.

Right, I’m off to watch every single episode of Come Back Mrs. Noah and attempt to extract something meaningful from the experience.


  1. More exactly, I nearly got rid of being able to add new comments to the site. I never would have got rid of the old ones

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17.05.17

The only post on the internet which uses McDonald’s to talk about the intricacies of television playout

Posted 17th May 2017

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4 Comments

McDonald's logo on black

Let’s take one of this site’s brief excursions into something which is actually a current news story.

“McDonald’s has decided to withdraw its latest TV advert, which was criticised for exploiting childhood bereavement.

The fast food giant had already apologised for “upset” caused by the advert, first aired on 12 May.

It features a boy who struggles to find something in common with his dead father until he goes to McDonald’s.

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s said the British advert will be removed from all media this week and it will review its creative process to avoid a repeat.”

I don’t really want to get into whether the advert is offensive or not; there are plenty of places elsewhere where you can get into that kind of debate. I want to pull my usual trick and pick out one sentence in the story and talk about something entirely different instead.

Today, that sentence is the following:

“Due to the lead-times required by some broadcasters, the last advert will air on Wednesday 17 May.”

My response: what the fuck?

[Read more →]

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25.04.17

Wikitribune: The Real Revolution

Posted 25th April 2017

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So, today sees the announcement of Wikitribune, a brand new news site:

Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, is launching a new online publication which will aim to fight fake news by pairing professional journalists with an army of volunteer community contributors.

Wikitribune plans to pay for the reporters by raising money from a crowdfunding campaign.

Wales intends to cover general issues, such as US and UK politics, through to specialist science and technology.

Those who donate will become supporters, who in turn will have a say in which subjects and story threads the site focuses on. And Wales intends that the community of readers will fact-check and subedit published articles.

Describing Wikitribune as ‘news by the people and for the people,’ Wales said: ‘This will be the first time that professional journalists and citizen journalists will work side-by-side as equals writing stories as they happen, editing them live as they develop, and at all times backed by a community checking and rechecking all facts.'”

I shall leave it to others to ponder whether this style of journalism is a good thing, or even if it will actually work in any way whatsoever. (I find the launch video ridiculously simplistic – there was some bad journalism in the old days, and some great journalism now – but maybe a more nuanced take is impossible when you’re launching something like this.) As ever, I want to concentrate on something else.

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13.04.17

The Layer Tennis Archives

Posted 13th April 2017

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“We’ll be playing matches using lots of different applications, from Adobe® Photoshop® to Adobe® Flash®, but the basic idea is the same no matter what tools are in use. Two artists (or two small teams of artists) will swap a file back and forth in real-time, adding to and embellishing the work. Each artist gets fifteen minutes to complete a “volley” and then we post that to the site. A third participant, a writer, provides play-by-play commentary on the action, as it happens. The matches last for ten volleys and when it’s complete, everyone with an opinion sounds off in the Forums and we declare a winner.”

“How The Game Works”, layertennis.com (2009)

One of my favourite things to do on Fridays used to be to sit and watch a game of Layer Tennis. It’s a very difficult thing to describe exactly how much fun watching this was, and I never thought anyone involved with the game quite managed it either. It’s something you really have to experience, moment by moment, to fully get how much fun the game is.

The other day, I was thinking back to one of the game’s most memorable matches. That was between Shaun Inman and Gregory Hubacek; the final of Season 2, back in 2009. This was notable for the huge delay on one of Hubacek’s serves – I distinctly remember the tension in the air as we all waited… and waited… and waited. With all the genuinely brilliant serves from the many talented participants, this being a particular memory is probably massively unfair, but what are you going to do? Memorable sporting moments come from somebody breaking their leg in half as well as genuine sporting achievement.

Full of all these memories, recently I decided to search for the match in the site’s archives. But oddly enough, there was no record of the match there at all. Which is really, really weird, considering it was the final of Season 2. What kind of archive doesn’t include the final match of a whole season of play? And if the archives miss out that match, then what other matches have gone AWOL?

With the help of The Wayback Machine, I’ve done some investigating. There have been four seasons of the game under the name Layer Tennis. (The previous incarnation of the game, Photoshop Tennis, is not examined here.) Of those four seasons, the fourth has every match included in the archive in full. But matches are missing for each of the first three seasons.

Let’s take a look at which ones, shall we?

[Read more →]

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10.04.17

Customs Clearance Ltd

Posted 10th April 2017

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Today, I had to pay a customs charge on a t-shirt order from Threadless.1 This article is not moaning about that customs charge. Sure, I don’t expect to be hit with one when I select the “Standard Plus with Prepaid Customs” shipping option, but that’s not my real issue.2

No, my real issue is: why the hell does brokerage company Customs Clearance Ltd do everything possible to make themselves look like a scam site, even though they aren’t?

[Read more →]


  1. I’m especially looking forward to this one

  2. UPDATE @ 11:25pm: Here’s customer service for you. I idly complained about this on Twitter, and Threadless’s help team found the tweet and refunded the extra customs charge within five minutes of contacting me. That’s some of the best service I’ve ever experienced with any company. Fantastic. 

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06.04.17

History of a Joke: Enid Blyton’s Been Keeping Busy

Posted 6th April 2017

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The following is the most popular tweet I have ever written. (In fact, the only tweet I’ve ever made which has seriously gone viral in any meaningful way.)

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02.04.17

Now That’s What I Call Alan Partridge:
2017 Mixcloud Edition

Posted 2nd April 2017

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3 Comments

Back in 2010 – long before this bugger was released – I created an I’m Alan Partridge soundtrack album. It featured not only songs from the show, but also clips and jingles and a few surprises, hopefully all mixed together in something approaching a fun way. It’s by far the best thing I’ve done on this site, and it’s been a slow inexorable decline ever since.

Originally it was hosted by MediaFire, until it got booted off for copyright infringement. Then it was hosted on my Dropbox, where amazingly it managed to survive until very recently. But with the latest disabling of all Dropbox public folders, it managed to fall offline yet again. So I thought it was about time I uploaded it somewhere legal rather than trying my luck once more.

Enjoy.

Now, I really must get round to making that Maid Marian and Her Merry Men album…

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