Recently, I wrote a little piece over on Ganymede & Titan which was ostensibly about the popular science fiction comedy series Red Dwarf. In fact, it was bugger all to do with Red Dwarf. It was actually about the transient nature of the web – a bit of a recurring theme of mine these days.
To summarise, then: I went back and looked at a random day of G&T’s output from ten years ago – and the result surprised even me. Every single external link used in those news stories from 10 years ago no longer works correctly. I expected some – perhaps even most – to be dead. But every single one to succumb to linkrot? That’s completely ridiculous.
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“Our biggest struggle after filming the pilot was cutting it down to time. We were something like six minutes long, which is a lot. We cut and cut and cut some more. We cut things we liked and we cut things we loved. Still, after 6 or 7 passes at the show we were still a minute long. We felt we had cut it to the bare bones. Any more cuts could damage the show so we went to Paramount with our dilemma. Thankfully, they agreed with us and asked NBC to give us some extra time. After viewing what we hoped would be our final cut, NBC agreed to give us that extra minute which was a very big favor. So, how do they come up with that extra minute of programming time for us? Don’t think that all they have to do is cut a commercial or two. Are you crazy? That’s money. No, to give us that extra minute, they asked the three other comedies and one drama on that Thursday night to each cut 15 seconds out of their programs. It’s not something that’s done very often and it’s not something the network likes to do, but for that pilot of Frasier they felt it was worth it.”
— How Frasier Came To Be (Part 3), Peter Casey, December 2006
Six minutes, cut out of one of the best sitcom pilots ever made? Oh, man, wouldn’t it be amazing to see what was cut? But I guess we’ll never find out, unless there happens to be a script of the pilot hanging around online anywhere…
…oh, hello. Marked “REVISED FINAL DRAFT”, and dated April 29th 1993. Let’s dig right in.
Material which is only in the script is indicated like this; material which is only in the episode as broadcast is indicated like this. I won’t detail every single difference in phrasing between the script and the final show, minor trims to dialogue, or every change in staging, but all major differences will be noted.1
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It’s a normal day, and as usual, an innocuous tweet sends me into a spiral of links.
Alyssa Milano? Tweetie 2? What’s all that about?
One quick Google search later leads us to this Business Insider article, from 2009:
“B-list bombshell Alyssa Milano, a self-professed Twitter addict, is also apparently a cheapskate. And it has the iPhone nerds very amused.
Yesterday, after finding out that Tweetie 2, a major update to the popular iPhone Twitter app, would cost $2.99, she tweeted: “Boooooo!!!”
This triggered a bit of an uproar from the iPhone developer community, half-amused and half-angered that a celebrity would be such a cheapskate to complain about paying $3 for a software app she could end up using for hours a week. (And that an independent programmer just spent months working on.)”
“Responding to someone else’s complaint about the upgrade price, Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber made two solid points:
- If you don’t think it’s worth $3, don’t buy it.
- Keep in mind we’re talking about $3 for an app that only runs on handheld devices that cost at least $200, most of which come with a $70/month service.
Both valid. And, seriously… it’s just $3!”
Oooh, what’s that, a Daring Fireball link? What else did John Gruber have to say about the subject?1
“Jeff LaMarche has a sharp response to this goofy rant by Patrick Jordan complaining that the upcoming Tweetie 2, which costs just $3, is not a free upgrade for existing users.”
Excellent, a goofy rant to laugh at:
“My thought is that this is a very,very,very Bad Call. I just can ‘t find a way to think of this as anything less than spitting in the face of existing Tweetie users.”
Your article is bad and you should feel bad.
Enough of that nonsense. Let’s read Jeff LaMarche’s rebuttal post:
“Blog has been removed
Sorry, the blog at iphonedevelopment.blogspot.com has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs.”
For fuck’s sake.
OK, OK, so you can read Jeff’s post via the Wayback Machine. And seeing as that post is called “A Sense of Entitlement”, I guess I have to be really careful about what I say next.
So I’ll just say this: it’s really, really annoying when a badly-written piece of tosh manages to stay online, and a thorough and well-reasoned argument ends up being deleted. God knows the world needs more well-argued pieces, and less goofy rants. For the crap piece to survive and the good piece to fall offline just feels fundamentally wrong.
Think about what you leave behind. At first glance this looks like a silly story… but it touches on issues of real importance about paying developers for their work. That’s a topic which is well worth looking back on, and very little has changed today. Don’t delete your part of the story.
Otherwise, you risk leaving the public record to just be a series of goofy rants.
Over the years, I’ve used many sites as a research tool for writing about comedy. Hey, I’m sure a lot of you know this one, run by a certain Philip Hill. I used to reference his episode guides constantly – in fact, for many years, it was the very first place I looked to for TX dates.
What you may not know about the site: it’s now gone. Disappeared offline. The last version the Wayback Machine has archived is from June 2016. And the WHOIS indicates the domain phill.co.uk has a brand new owner from January this year.
It’s perhaps worth noting that while the site remained online until 2016, it stopped updating long before that. The listing for Citizen Khan only details the show’s first series; before the site fell offline there had been four complete series broadcast. A quick check in the Wayback Machine indicates the site had indeed been dormant since 2012.
As far as I can tell, there is no indication anywhere of what happened to the site. Perhaps Philip got bored with his hobby. Perhaps personal circumstances took precedence. Perhaps he gazed over at Wikipedia, and thought there was little point in carrying on with episode guides. We’ll probably never know.
So I will shed a small tear for a site which was tirelessly updated for years, was an endlessly useful and widely-referenced resource… and has ended up disappearing into the digital ether. Whether it was ever going to be updated again or not, the site deserved better than to just fall offline, with no warning or goodbye.
As ever, let’s try to remember this stuff.
Welcome to a secret post. I mean, as secret as any post can get which is blatantly published on the front page of this site. But I won’t be linking to this on Twitter, and that’s where the majority of my hits come from these days. I want this to fly at least a little under the radar.
Back in 2013, mobile company Three produced a very silly advert. An advert which by all accounts should have irritated the hell out of me. A CGI moonwalking Shetland pony, painfully asking to go viral, with the slogan “Keep on internetting”? And yet… man, something about the ad just made me love it regardless. Maybe the choice of song, maybe the quality of the animation… or maybe the other slogan: “Silly stuff. It matters.” I almost want to nick that slogan for Dirty Feed.
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So, here we are. After looking at the pilot, Series 1, and Series 2 through 5, we reach the conclusion of our series of articles comparing Hi-de-Hi! as released on DVD, and the version repeated on BBC Two last year. Unfortunately, we run into a little bit of a problem.
Throughout the whole rest of the show – the entire Dempster run, in fact – the two versions are absolutely identical. Sure, one episode wasn’t shown, as detailed below, but every single other episode had precisely no edits made to it whatsoever. Which even for Dirty Feed, leaves us with a bit of a damp squib of an ending.
In an attempt to save this piece from being an entire waste of time then, I have a few other notes on the remaining episodes of the series…
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What an excellent time for BBC One to broadcast an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo. True, it was done in tribute to Gorden Kaye who died on Monday, but it feels like this was a good week to laugh at some Nazis.
However, you know me by now. Ignore the laughter, or moral truths, we all know why we’re really here. “Oh, I wonder whether there have been any edits made to the show…” And blow my chickens up, there has been. To clarify then, here’s the two versions of the episode Pigeon Post I’m comparing:
- The episode broadcast on BBC One on Wednesday 25th January at 7:30pm, with a duration of 28’56”.
- The version Playback released on DVD in Region 2 way back in August 2002, with a duration of 31’39”.
In other words, the version broadcast by BBC One on Wednesday is 2’43” shorter than the version on DVD.
Without either an off-air of the very original broadcast or paperwork to hand1, we’re left with a bit of guesswork – but I think we can work out what happened with reasonable certainty. The longer version on DVD is probably the original broadcast (aside from the episode title caption), and the episode broadcast on Wednesday is a cut-down version for repeat transmission to fit a standard slot – which I suspect is the version the BBC have been showing for years.2
Let’s see what’s missing, shall we? Cuts to the repeat broadcast are indicated like this.
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Mike Davidson, “Is This Helpful?”:
“For the past several years, we’ve been moving from an information diet of deliberate, substantive reading to a staccato of disconnected one-line thoughts, culminating in a walking, squawking pile of disconnected one-line thoughts who now has the keys to the White House.”
I’ve always found this a weird one. Because I definitely read more substantive articles online than I ever used to without Twitter, simply because Twitter helps me find such material.
Is it like this for most people? Maybe not. I’d love to know, but I have no idea how you’d accurately measure it.
“As I type this post, I think about how hard it is – for me at least – to write long-form content, as compared to 5 or 10 years ago. I’ve heard similar thoughts from others, many of whom haven’t touched their blogs or Medium accounts in years. I wonder where that feeling comes from.”
It is definitely the case that many people I’ve followed online for years have stopped writing longer stuff, and it makes me sad. For Mike, the reasons are as follows:
“The feeling that I can probably fit an article I want to write into a Tweet or two and be done with it.”
I’ve definitely fallen foul of this. Sometimes I do manage to take a series of tweets and write it up into an article. But there are definitely series of tweets which I should have written up, and never got round to.
Mind you, sometimes that can be a good thing. This series of tweets was very popular, and could have been a very popular article… except look what happens halfway through. A couple of people point things out, and in fact my rant isn’t quite as OBVIOUSLY CORRECT as it appears to be. The world was saved from a dodgy one-note article, and there’s Twitter to thank for that.
“The feeling that I’ve consumed so much information in a typical day that it seems like everything that needs to be said is already being said (and then some!).”
“The feeling that the things which seemed important or interesting before the election are not important at all now. For example, I can’t even think of a single design-related subject that feels important enough to write about right now, in comparison to other issues that need attention.”
I’m quoting these two together because I think they’re linked. To take the second point first: Trump or no Trump, or indeed Brexit or no Brexit, I think there is a serious false dichotomy when it comes to this. There are hideous things going on in the world, and we should all – to the best of our ability – do something about it. But I just don’t think that means everything else we do is irrelevant. See my essay “The World is Burning” for my full views on that; it stands as my mission statement for the year.
We can then tackle the previous point: that everything that needs to be said is already being said. But this is only true if we take a narrow point-of-view on what “needs to be said”. Hell, I’m not going to write much about the current specific political situation on here: there are people far more qualified to write about it than me.
But look, I can happily justify writing about old sitcoms; something as important as design can definitely be justified. Good design is important regardless of any political situation; in fact, good design can help you put your particular political message across. Justifications on writing about your pet topic – whatever your pet topic happens to be – are easy to come by. And on your pet topic, there are always things which nobody else is writing on that subject. Those are the things you should write.
“The feeling that most reading occurs on Twitter and Facebook now.”
It’s difficult to judge this one. All I can say is: most of the hits to my site come from Twitter… but hell, they come from Twitter, to read something more substantive.
“The feeling that what I am even semi-uniquely qualified to write about isn’t really what’s important anymore.”
This is exactly the same as Point 3. See above.
Mike then goes on to discuss things he’s doing personally this year to make things better, and it’s well worth a read. (Donating both time and money to good causes should be on everybody’s radar this year – if you have either to spare.) I’m going to skip to his final remark:
“Specifically, when we spend our energy creating anything, we should stop asking ‘do people want this’ and start asking ‘is this helpful?'”
Whenever I’m creating something – at least, on my own time, without getting paid for it – I ask neither of the above questions. I simply ask the following:
“Do I want this?”
If it’s something I want to exist in the world, that’s all the validation I need to create something. It may find an audience, or it may not. But if I spent time second-guessing my own work, some of my best pieces would never have been written.
If you feel like it: write. And write about anything. Write about something silly. Write about something serious. Write about something superficially silly which actually ends up being serious. Or write about something superficially serious which actually ends up being very silly indeed.
But crucially: only writing about what fits some narrow definition of important won’t help us get through this shit. Becoming a one-note bore won’t help us build a better world.
In late 2009, a project was announced with a great deal of excitement.
“Fox announced on Wednesday that it is seeking participants for a new game show that will allow parents of young geniuses – age 6 to 12 – to put their kids’ knowledge to use winning “life-changing money.”
The series, to be called Our Little Genius, will feature the children competing to answer “increasingly difficult questions as they work their way up to win their family hundreds of thousands of dollars.” The new series is being created by Mark Burnett, the producer behind Survivor and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.”
– The New York Times, 11th November 2009
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As I’m working on the upcoming redesign of this place, I’m trying to reassess every single decision I ever made when originally creating Dirty Feed. Everything from the category structure, through to comments, and even the URL structure of the site.
Whilst thinking of that latter point, I’ve been considering this post from Matt Gemmell:
“Can we talk, briefly, about the URLs on your blog?
If you’re like most people, your permalinks (the permanent links to individual posts) probably look like this:
We’re all familiar with those URLs. The date of the post is explicit, so you need never wonder when it was written, or how recent it is.
Here’s the thing, though: they’re horrible.”
Oh dear. I am a naughty boy.
In fact, I end up disagreeing with the vast majority of his piece1 – but let’s skip right to his main point, as I think it’s the most interesting.
“But there’s another reason, and it’s more compelling than any of the above. Date-encumbered URLs dilute your article’s standing.
Here’s what each style says to me:
macro-gurber.co/2014/02/14/about-smartwatches: This is what Macro thought about smartwatches on Valentine’s Day last year. Which raises some other questions, admittedly.
macro-gurber.co/about-smartwatches: This is Macro’s definitive goddamned opinion on smartwatches.
That’s the distinction. Have a think about it for a moment. The latter, shorter style is what you want.”
My problem with this: I am never going to have a definitive goddamned opinion on anything. And frankly, I worry about anyone who thinks that they have one. We should all be open to changing our minds. The latter, shorter style here very much is not what I want.
To take an example, let’s take a look at what the URL for this article would be, if I followed Matt’s advice:
www.dirtyfeed.org is going to be the place I use for my random nonsense for many years to come, whatever that random nonsense happens to be. If I live 50 more years, I think I’m more likely to be using this domain than not. So, the above URL indicates: “What I think about permalinks, forever.” And I may have very different opinions on permalinks in 50 years.2 I may not, of course, but how can you tell? I can’t see into the future to tell what I’ll think of this article in 50 years time.
Instead, the current URL format makes more sense to me:
This article is what I had to say about permalinks, in January 2017. Perhaps there’s an argument for simplifying things a bit, removing the “01”, and just indicating it’s how I felt about permalinks in 2017. (Unlike Matt’s original example, I already don’t include the day, which I agree is pointless.) But the crucial thing is: it doesn’t indicate that it’s my definitive goddamn opinion on permalinks, and that’s entirely intentional.
It very much isn’t.