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Being Boring

Recently, a prominent startup founder tweeted the following:

“Twitter seems very boring lately.

Actually, maybe it’s the whole tech industry—there’s less drama, fewer interesting characters to follow.”

It struck me as one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen posted on Twitter. It seems to be based on the idea that they only follow people talking about the tech industry. And if you only follow people posting about the tech industry on Twitter, of course it’s going to get fucking boring.

I follow my fair share of people posting about tech on Twitter, obviously. Speaking purely personally, none of them are the most interesting people in my feed. (The most interesting people tend to tweet about old sitcoms, or sex, or sex in old sitcoms.) But what I love reading about on Twitter is merely my personal preference. The bigger issue here is: if you only surround yourself with voices which talk about tech, do you even care about the things that tech is supposed to be enabling?

You don’t write a blogging platform for the sake of writing a blogging platform; you write it to help people tell a story. You don’t write a messaging app for the sake of writing a messaging app; you write it to help people communicate. You don’t work on self-driving cars for the sake of working on self-driving cars; you do it to improve people’s lives. Stories, communication, lives… which are not about tech. If you aren’t interested in all the non-tech stuff going on around you, why even care about tech itself in the first place? Tech isn’t there just for the sake of tech; it’s there to free people to do a million and one other things.

I work in television transmission. And of course, I have a natural interest in the technology behind what I do, and the processes involved. Hell, I still get excited about counting the news on air. But that can’t be the only thing I’m interested in. I have to care about the material I’m putting out too – what the intent behind it is, and what it means to viewers. Otherwise, it’s a) impossible to do my job properly, and b) extremely boring.

I have to care about the people and stories my work is enabling, as well as the fucking mixing desk. Even if the mixing desk is also really interesting.

If you work in tech, but all you’re surrounding yourself with is voices of people in the tech industry, you’re doing a terrible job. If you aren’t listening to the voices of the people who use your tech, then for a start you’re not getting enough context about life in order to help develop the most effective technology in the first place. But then, I have no clue why somebody would only want to listen to people talking about tech anyway. It’s such a tiny part of what life is.

Only following people who talk about tech on Twitter and then being surprised to find it boring is just the same as only following fishmongers on Twitter, and then getting bored at endless complaints about the wholesale price of cod. At best, it shows a terrible lack of self-awareness. And it does nothing to persuade people who already think the tech industry is far too insular for its own good to think otherwise.

Go and follow writers. Go and follow archivists. Go and follow sex workers. Go and follow people who are just using Twitter to do stupid jokes. Go and follow anyone who isn’t just talking about the latest Apple rumours and Android Nougat. The world may suddenly seem an awful lot less boring.

■ Posted 26th August 2016 @ 2am in Internet. No Comments Yet.

Sometimes

BBC Two today at 2:45pm, before Yes, Minister:

TWO symbol

“You’re watching Afternoon Classics on Two. Now, in a tribute to Sir Antony Jay who died on Sunday, co-writer of one of BBC Two’s most witty, sharp, satirical comedies of the 80s. In the corridors of power, politics was never more popular… with Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.”

BBC Two today at 3:15pm, after Yes, Minister:

Anthony Jay obit caption

Sometimes, when somebody dies, you don’t need schedule changes. You don’t need to drop everything to run a tribute programme right now. Nor do you need endless rolling news coverage.

Sometimes, a thoughtful continuity announcement and an obit slide is enough. Enough to show that a channel is alive, that it cares about its output, and that it’s respectful of the talent which made the channel what it is.

Sometimes, that’s all you need to prove that there really are real people working on a channel, who are there to add context and do what linear television is best at… instead of doing all the work weeks ago, then buggering off and leaving the channel to just be a box running pointlessly in the corner.

Sometimes, a little thought is all that matters. No fireworks. No razzmatazz. No fawning. Just a channel calmly doing its job.

■ Posted 24th August 2016 @ 7pm in Television. No Comments Yet.

Congealed Smegma

As we enter the final run-up to Red Dwarf XI‘s broadcast in September, it occurs to me that I haven’t mentioned any of the stuff I’ve done over on Ganymede & Titan recently – the Red Dwarf fansite described by someone on Tumblr as “a shining example of how NOT to do fandom”.

A few articles I’ve written which may interest you, then:

It strikes me how most of the above aren’t really pieces purely about Red Dwarf. Whether it’s about the impact of ad breaks on TV shows, how productions and channels should be thinking about spoilers, how the web has changed since 2004, or how science-fiction style concepts are done in non-science fiction shows, there might be stuff that interests you above even if you aren’t a hardcore Red Dwarf fan.

For people who are hardcore Red Dwarf fans though, we have some fun stuff coming up over the next few weeks. Our DwarfCasts have really kicked into gear this year, with our commentaries on the episodes Queeg and Demons & Angels being some of my favourite ones we’ve done recently.1 In the lead-up to Red Dwarf XI, however, we’re going to be publishing new commentaries on Red Dwarf X every weekend – and the one for the first episode Trojan is already up.

I sometimes find writing and participating on Ganymede & Titan to be a weird experience these days, considering my extremely mixed opinions on any Red Dwarf made since 1993. And it can lead to some interesting moments. Our next Red Dwarf X commentary due this weekend is on the episode Fathers and Suns, and features the slightly bizarre sound of me – usually the person slagging off the show – defending an aspect of the episode to Ian, who is usually far more positive about the series than me. That tension will hopefully make for some good listening.

Or, y’know, just really fucking annoy everyone.


  1. There’s also this interview with Mac McDonald, which I had precisely nothing to do with, but is bloody great. 

■ Posted 9th August 2016 @ 11am in Comedy, Television. No Comments Yet.

A Guide to Social Media Done Right
for Game Developers

I don’t usually write this kind of thing, but I feel I just have to share this with you. Doing social media for games is hard, and media fragmentation makes getting attention for your product virtually impossible at times. If only somebody would write a clear, concise guide about best practices in order to give your game the edge it deserves in this crowded marketplace.

Fear not. @Origamiwars is here to show you how to do social media right. Rather than just give you a dry list of rules, let’s take a look at how this pioneering account did things. If you’re at all involved in social media in a commercial context, then what I’m about to tell you is well worth your time.

Incidentally, don’t worry that the account is currently called “AppleCustomerService”. There’s some spectacularly clever stuff that this account does later on which will explain everything. Suffice to say that until this morning, this account was called “OrigamiWars”. All will become clear.

[Read more →]

■ Posted 6th August 2016 @ 3pm in Internet. 1 Comment.

Mammy Gets The Snip

Mrs Brown's Boys Live title screen

“Now on BBC One, expect the unexpected – for the first time, Mrs Brown’s Boys goes completely live. Be prepared for strong language and adult humour. Agnes and her family are waiting in the wings – so it’s time to hand over to the director in BBC Scotland…”

— BBC One network continuity announcement into Mrs Brown’s Boys Live, 23rd July 2016

“Alan Carr hosts the comedy Live at the Apollo, now at 11:15. Before that on BBC One, strong language and adult humour, as we catch Agnes live – and on the hop…”

— BBC One network continuity announcement into Mrs Brown’s Boys “Live”, 30th July 2016

Last year, one of my most popular pieces here on Dirty Feed was this analysis of the 2005 live version of Quatermass – specifically, the differences between the original live show, and the edited version now widely available on DVD. Near the end of the piece, I wrote the following:

“Maybe we should be careful not to overstate the originality of the 2005 Quatermass. Sure, the BBC billed it as its first live drama for over 20 years. But looking to other broadcasters, Coronation Street did its first live programme in 2000, five years previously – and looking across to America, ER‘s live episode was in 1997. But still, as the beginning of the BBC’s renewed interest in live drama and comedy – through to EastEnders, Two Pints, Bollywood Carmen Live, and next year’s Mrs. Brown’s Boys live episode – it’s extremely important.”

One the 23rd July, that live Mrs Brown’s Boys episode was transmitted – and a week later on the 30th, we had a repeat. If ever there was a piece which I just had to write, this was it. Did much change between the two broadcasts? And if it did, will the show incur the hell and fury which Quatermass unleashed from these very fingertips?

Let’s take a look. All times given are from the repeat version of the episode, so you can watch along and see where the changes were, even if you haven’t got a copy of the original episode itself. Incidentally, the version now available on iPlayer is the edited repeat version.

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■ Posted 1st August 2016 @ 11am in Comedy. No Comments Yet.

# I had a dream on a backlot… #

Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of the first episode of Big Brother in the UK. And the Elstree Studios Twitter account saw fit to celebrate the occasion:

The tweet irritated me. Not in a “oh shit, what has 2016 got to offer us now” kind of way. Just a mild irritance, like an ingrown pube, or an itchy bumhole, or Steve Brookstein. It took me a little while to work out exactly why, though.

First, let’s eliminate some possibilities. Anyone thinking this is going to be a rant about how awful Big Brother is should probably go and read another site instead. If you think the show is a sign television has “dumbed down”1, perhaps consider that the beauty of Big Brother at its best is hours upon hours of investment in people… where suddenly, a single look shot across the room means everything. The greatest moments can be the most subtle, and take the most effort to truly get – it demands attention and commitment from the audience. The very opposite of dumbed-down television.

But I digress. A more valid point about the tweet is querying why Elstree Studios made it, when the first two series of Big Brother weren’t shot at Elstree at all, but in Bow, near the 3 Mills Studios.2 Still, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they know that full well, and thought that it was still worth linking to regardless. Fine.

The problems come, however, when you actually take a look at the linked-to video of the first episode. This isn’t an official upload, either by Channel 4 or Endemol. This is an unofficial upload by a fan, taken from a VHS off-air recording made back in 2000. Dodgy hiss throughout and all. And immediately, alarm bells start to ring.

Now, I have no moral problem with that video being uploaded – it’s not like the episode has had a commercial release. It’s perhaps slightly weird that Elstree would associate itself with an illegal upload of a show that they’re currently hosting at the studios – or, indeed, would associate itself with any illegal uploads at all. For a major studio to give out a slightly confused message about piracy is pretty strange in itself.

But that’s not what really bugs me about this. Ultimately my problem with the tweet: it makes the world-renowned Elstree Studios feel… small.

When I think of Elstree, I think of professional kit. As we’re talking about television I’ll skip over trying to romanticise 35mm or something, and instead try to romanticise broadcast quality signals being fibred over to BT Tower. (It gets me hard, anyway.) The image I have of Elstree is one of absolute professionalism – of trained crews working together to provide the highest quality final result it’s possible to offer.

What don’t I think of? Someone recording something off-air onto a manky VHS tape, and then years later sticking it on YouTube with a shitty hiss all over it. I just don’t think that’s something Elstree should be associated with.

If Elstree is linking to any televison programme it has even the slightest connection to, it should be an official, top-quality version of it. Yes, it was only a silly, throwaway tweet for an anniversary… but even silly tweets mean something. There really wouldn’t be any harm in Elstree’s Twitter account just being that bit more professional.

Because without professionalism, and a commitment to a quality end result, we can all just upload shit to YouTube that we recorded on our phones… and there’s no reason for Elstree to exist at all.


  1. I do actually have plenty of sympathy with the idea that too much television considers its audience less intelligent than it used to be, but unfortunately many people who use the phrase “dumbed down” don’t seem to say much interesting themselves – just repeatedly spout cliches. 

  2. Incidentally, see the section on 3 Mills on the brilliant History of Television Studios in London site for the full story behind those studios. 

■ Posted 19th July 2016 @ 6am in Television. 1 Comment.

The Only Post on Dirty Feed Which Will Ever Mention Megan Fox

Back in 2013, Megan Fox discovered Twitter:

Sadly, it didn’t last. Her last ever tweet:

Never has the question “What is the point?” been so easy to answer. If you check her profile page, how many people was Megan following? Answer: zero. Nought. 0. Precisely none. If you don’t actually follow anybody Twitter, no wonder you got fuck-all out of it. Following other people and reading what they have to say is pretty much the entire point of the thing.

Still, don’t worry! On her Twitter profile, Megan has helpfully included a link to her official Facebook page. I’m sure we’ll get something fun out of that! What’s her latest post, here in 2016?

Megan Fox Facebook post

Great. Thanks for that. Glad you figured out what the point of social media was.

OK, enough sneering. Admittedly, “Hollywood actor doesn’t get how Twitter works, and then gets her people to post a load of self-promotional guff on Facebook” is literally THE EXACT OPPOSITE of news. There’s no insight to be had there, even if I wasn’t dragging out tweets from 2013.

Still, the thing that really gets me is that from the very moment I first encountered the net, I always put a little piece of myself on there. And plenty of the fun was interacting with others. That’s not something I had to learn, or something which I think is difficult: just came naturally. Of course, famous actors can’t do it quite in the same way, but the absolute lack of anything human on those pages just makes my head hurt.

And crucially: I find it odd that an actor wouldn’t feel the same. Because being an actor is all about understanding people. And having an online presence which is nothing to do with people just feels incredibly odd. Fair enough if you have a job that allows you to be an automaton. But as an actor, I expect… more.

Megan Fox. I don’t understand you. I’m sure you’re gutted about that. Now, do you want to hear about Quatermass edits?

■ Posted 13th July 2016 @ 3am in Internet. No Comments Yet.

“Just as soon as the material is produced…”

Please join me, as we take a trip back in time through to the early days of the web. Mind your head on that <blink> tag.

Old websites which have (brilliantly) managed to cling to being online have been endlessly discussed; the Warner Bros Space Jam site from 1996 is the classic example. Abandoned projects online are nothing new either, although they endlessly fascinate me. The saddest example I can think of is the Save TV Centre Studios campaign – last updated in 2013, with absolutely no admission that hey, it didn’t work out, but they tried their best.1

I think I may have found the most perfect combination of both, however. Behold: Exposure, “The How-To eZine Covering The Art Of Illusion”. Oh, it’s all there. Six illusionists listed on the front page, all promising to give their secrets… only two of which are links. And when you visit the David Copperfield section, you’re greeted with a list of all his tricks… precisely none of which are clickable, or have any content whatsoever. In fact, there is only one single piece of content on the entire site.

But the real beauty comes when looking at the What’s New page. Please forgive me if I just quote all of it.

October 9, 1997 – EXPOSURE gets an overhaul. A new home page now shows some of the magicians that will be featured. Although David Copperfield is an active link, there are no illusions available for viewing – just a list of his television specials with a sub list of the illusions in each special. The illusions will have active links just as soon as the material is produced. The David Blaine link now includes an illusion breakdown of his recent television special, Street Magic. At this moment, the only available illusion is the Balducci Levitation. Others will be made available just as soon as the material is produced.

September 15, 1997 – EXPOSURE goes online, thanks to free web hosting from GeoCities. The Balducci Levitation is the only illusion available.

Yep, that’s it. A grand total of two updates… both done in 1997. Nearly 19 years ago.

And that’s odd. A site going online in 1997, having a total of two updates, and then being swiftly abandoned wasn’t exactly rare. But the fact the site is still online certainly is. Even more weirdly, the site was obviously originally hosted on Geocities, which has obviously long since closed – but the author bothered to find new hosting, buy a proper domain name for the site, and then continue to do nothing else with the site. Not even remove the little Geocities GIFs. Just to make things even stranger, through checking archive.org it appears the site had some inconsequential changes made in 1999, but the currently online site is an earlier version!

A bit of research indicates that the domain name was bought in 2005, although it seems to have only been active since 2010. Geocities closed in 2009. So it seems that the site was created in 1997, sat idle on Geocities for years until Geocities closed, then moved to its own hosting… but still with no updates whatsoever.

An old site falling off the web is a shame, but understandable. An active site moving hosts and continuing to be updated is understandable. Even an inactive site which has a huge archive of material moving hosts and staying online is understandable. But a website with no content, which is never updated, suddenly moving hosts after years, but still completely abandoned?

That’s just weird. Maybe someone’s got a magic trick up their sleeve and are just playing a really long game.


  1. I have never abandoned a project online, of course. 

■ Posted 8th July 2016 @ 5am in Internet. 2 Comments.

The New Journalism

Boing Boing’s entire article:

“This inquisitive fellow was unable to keep his hands off a delicate museum piece hanging from the wall at the National Watch & Clock Museum. After breaking it, he lost interest and walked away, leaving his companion to clean up the mess.”

Description on the video, posted directly by the museum itself:

“This is why we beg and plead with our visitors to please refrain from touching objects in museums. The couple did notify Museum staff immediately.”

A few points:

Still, aside from that, excellent work Boing Boing.

Oh, and did I mention that the writer of the piece works as a Research Director?

■ Posted 3rd July 2016 @ 6pm in Internet, Journalism. 2 Comments.

Mouthbox Redux

Just over a year ago, I wrote about a TV review site called Mouthbox. The short version of that piece: I noticed a rather odd practice where the same reviews were simply being republished with a new date, rather than new reviews being written. Not the journalistic scandal of the century, it must be said, but it amused me at the time.

Over the past year I’ve given the site an occasional visit, and noted that no more reviews have been posted. (Or, indeed, re-dated.) Still, a blog not updating for a year is hardly worth a follow-up article. However, recently something has changed on the site. No, I’m afraid it’s not a brand new TV review. Instead, rather awkwardly, a link to “Panto Scripts” has been added to the top navbar – so awkwardly, in fact, that the navbar splits onto two lines now when the site is viewed at full width. If we trust The Wayback Machine, the link was added between February and March of this year.

So, let’s take a look at what this new link is actually about.

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■ Posted 2nd July 2016 @ 8am in Internet. No Comments Yet.

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