Gather round the campfire, fellow pop culture writers. Uncle John has something to say. You can sit on my lap if you like. Of course I don’t insist you sit on my lap, Henry. Calm down.
What’s that, Betty? You don’t stick things on the internet for other people to enjoy for free? Go off and read some of my other stuff, then. This piece isn’t for you.
The rest of you: listen up. Recently, I’ve heard a lot of you complain how difficult it is to get your stuff noticed online these days. No, no, this isn’t about you, specifically. I’ve heard a lot of people say it. Hell, I put myself in that category. Take a look at this Tumblr post I made back in 2013.
I’m not going to patronise you and tell you I can make everything better. You might get something from this, or you might not. But the below is how I deal with writing online, when there’s just so much stuff out there it’s difficult to get any kind of attention at all. You might think I’m just talking load of old shit. But I’ve found it helpful, and I thought it was worth getting it all down in case anyone else found it helpful too. Especially seeing as it’s the the end of December, and we’re all busy figuring out our plans for next year.
(I’m also going to leave out any talk about money – from Patreon or otherwise. Whether the below is helpful or not, I definitely can’t make anyone rich.)
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This year, for my partner Tanya’s 40th birthday, I bought her a very special present. Don’t worry, this piece isn’t about what a great boyfriend I am.1 This piece is simply about how something fun can be brought into the world.
The theme for my gifts this year was obvious: the year 1977. Which means, of course, I could just go to town on eBay. But what else can you buy for the girl who has everything, if by “everything” I mean an original poster for Confessions from a Holiday Camp?2 And then it struck me. Wouldn’t a jingle singing her name be fun?
Not just any old jingle, however. A jingle from 1977. A jingle first sung four decades ago.
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Sometimes, you read something which manages to encompass a philosophy so different to your own, in just a few short words.
Take, for instance, this post on kottke.org. Not the image, by Jessica Hische, but the short blogpost underneath by Jason Kottke himself.
“It’s been a loooong couple of days / weeks / months / years / decades / centuries / millennia, hasn’t it? Sometimes you have to laugh, just a little. And then back to it. Thanks for the chuckle, Jessica Hische.”
The idea of laughter as a break, before you get back to the real stuff. I just can’t get my head around that.
Laughter is the real stuff, for me. As much as possible. It’s who I am, it’s what I think life is. Whether that’s sitting in front of Steptoe and Son, or whether it’s lying in a hospital bed in intensive care, convulsing with laughter because of something someone said, in pain for every single second of it.
Personally speaking, “and then back to it” reads like the most depressing five words in the world.
It means back to… nothing.
Another year, and another series of Red Dwarf. And if you’d told me a few years back that I’d be saying that in 2017, I’d have told you off for talking BOLLOCKS. Yet here we are.
Sadly, with another series of Red Dwarf comes another series of LIVE DwarfCasts over on Ganymede & Titan, the Red Dwarf website where I recently wrote about not liking Red Dwarf very much. So what better person to sit and pontificate about the show for the next five Fridays, starting at 9pm tonight? Just visit our Spreaker page twenty minutes before the show starts for some HOT STREAMING ACTION. Don’t worry, I’m just there to cause trouble – there are people far more qualified than me who are actually running the show.
We’re going at UKTV Play pace this year, rather than broadcast pace – so if you want to join us, make sure you watch the episode available for streaming late Thursday evening, not the episode broadcast on Dave the same day. (We know it’s confusing. We know.) This week, that’s the second episode in the series, Siliconia, available right now.
Oh, and as for the first episode? That was last week, and I couldn’t make it. Don’t worry, we got Clayton Hickman to do it instead. Go and visit his Redbubble store, BTW, if you like an obscure TV show called Doctor Who. I’ve never heard of it, personally. I prefer Starhyke.
The owner of a prominent podcast network tweets:
I sit here on holiday in France: a trip made possible by technology. I made that trip with my girlfriend: we met 15 years ago, through technology. I’m currently writing on a laptop, able to share my thoughts at the touch of a button: something made possible through technology. And I’m here at all because I survived pneumonia last year: an infection which nearly killed me, and which I only got through because of, y’know, technology.
Technology is what we make it, and we can make it for good or evil. And of course, there needs to be far more focus on making it work for good right now, which is something Silicon Valley needs a sharp lesson on. But to say “technology is generally bad for us” avoids the very issues which we need to focus on, just as much as the tech bros who laud technology over everything. Both are distasteful.
All of which I thought was obvious, and I’d never bother writing about this usually. But I thought the owner of a podcast network famous for many, many tech-orientated shows saying the above was especially perverse, and worth pointing out. Where wan platitudes replace considered thought we all lose, whatever those platitudes are. And much like this mistake from Jeffrey Zeldman, people look up to Dan and his like for an example.
Still, if I was making shows about something I thought was bad for us, I’d run as far away from them as possible. Through some flowers, perhaps, holding the hand of someone I loved. But don’t trip up and smash your head on a rock. You might need some of that damn technology to fix that.
A week on from Radio 1 Vintage – the BBC’s joyous three-day celebration of 50 years of Radio 1 – my brain is still buzzing. Much like 2011’s Radio 1’s Longest Show Ever, or 2014’s Phillip’s Live 24 Hour TV Marathon, I felt like this was something which was made just for me.1 My diseased brain often ponders the production values of old episodes of the The Radio 1 Chart Show: here was Radio 1 Vintage doing the same thing. My little obsessions were acknowledged… if only for a little while.
The sheer amount of stuff the station pumped out over those three days – 54 hours, across 53 separate programmes – is a treasure trove of material which deserves time to sit, ponder and reflect on. Though one thing is for sure: as delightful as Radio 1 Vintage was, it’s almost more delightful to see how happy it made people – people way beyond the usual radio anorak crowd. I love imagining brain synapses firing off across the UK, when a jingle someone hasn’t heard for 30 years comes blaring out the radio.
Ah yes, those jingles. Sure, they were far from the only great thing about Radio 1 Vintage, but they were a huge part of the fun. And if you loved those jingles, you might love this. Back in 2015, I linked to “The Jingles I Grew Up With” by my great mate Duncan Newmarch, celebrating his radio experiences across the years. For 2017, and in celebration of Radio 1’s 50th anniversary, he’s re-edited it to include loads of Radio 1 and Radio 2 stuff he missed the first time round.
So if you’re suffering from Radio 1 Vintage withdrawal symptoms, this might be just what you’re looking for. (If you get to the end of it, you might hear something fun to do with Dirty Feed too. But the real meat is those glorious Radio 1 and Radio 2 jingles.)
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Last month, I complained about The Independent not knowing that porn is allowed on Twitter. Today, I regret to inform you that TechCrunch does not know that porn is allowed on Twitter.
Yes, TechCrunch. The site self-described as “a leading technology media property, dedicated to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news”. Oh dear.
“I’ve been following the rise of social media for most of a decade and I was angry – but not surprised – when most social media services actively shut down erotic images a few years ago even as they simply accepted all other content without comment.”
Twitter has never shut down the posting of erotic images.
“It is obviously in Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook’s best interest to keep the kids from seeing boobs but where does that interest in public comfort stop?”
Twitter didn’t do this. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook all have very different attitudes towards “seeing boobs”.
“If we’re measuring from some esoteric vision of absolute freedom (except for boobs) then Twitter and Facebook shouldn’t be policed at all.”
TWITTER NOT ONLY ALLOWS BOOBS, BUT ALSO SPUNK-COVERED BOOBS.
If you’re going to write an article about what Twitter will and will not allow on its service, I suggest you read through their policy document. You might save yourself an awful lot of embarrassment.
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The final episode of Going Live! aired on the 17th April 1993. I was distraught. My favourite TV show: gone forever. I made sure I recorded the whole thing, and it was a treasured possession for years, until I gave the tape to a girl I tried – and failed – to have sex with. That’s the kind of symbolism which gets you chucked out of film school for being too obvious.
Regardless: let’s get back to being 11 years old. The one thing to cling onto from Going Live! ending was Trev and Simon’s tour – starting just a month later.1 I got my tickets for the Nottingham Theatre Royal date on the 30th May, a week after my birthday, and waited patiently.
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Have we all finished laughing yet at Ted Cruz’s Twitter account liking a porn video? I haven’t, you know. Just give me a second.
Right, I’m back. Now, I haven’t got anything useful to say on the actual incident. (Though I feel duty-bound to point out that I only find it funny because of hypocrisy, not because Sex Is Wrong. Go and check through the people I follow on Twitter and play spot-the-pornstar if you don’t believe me.) What I want to concentrate on is The Independent‘s reporting of the story.
We’ll skip past their description of “posted the pornography” – I don’t think likes count as posting, but whatever – and skip straight to the bit which is categorically wrong:
“Twitter prohibits pornography on its platform.”
Erm, no it bloody well does not. See Twitter’s media policy:
“…you may not feature graphic content (such as media containing pornography or excessive violence) in live video, or in your profile image or header image.”
So: no porn allowed in your profile image, header image, or live video streams. Fine. But there is absolutely no prohibition on posting pornographic images or normal videos.
The thing is, this isn’t some kind of obscure point. Twitter allowing porn is something which distinguishes it greatly from other services such as Instagram or Facebook. Surely a journalist tasked with writing a story about social media should know this? It’s pretty damn basic stuff.
It’s also important stuff. And it’s important because of the very next line in The Independent‘s article:
“Catherine Frazier, senior communications adviser to Mr Cruz, tweeted: ‘The offensive tweet posted on @tedcruz account earlier has been removed by staff and reported to Twitter.'”
Again, we’re going to have to ignore the clunky wording here – I don’t think a like counts as it being “posted”, but whatever. The crucial thing here is: Frazier stating the liked tweet was “reported to Twitter”. But the tweet wasn’t forbidden by Twitter’s rules of conduct. Catherine Frazier is bullshitting us all by pointing somewhere else and hoping we’ll all look over there instead.
But The Independent doesn’t mention any of that. Because the writer of The Independent‘s piece thinks that porn isn’t allowed on Twitter. And so Catherine Frazier isn’t held culpable for her nonsense.
As someone pointed out to me: The Independent‘s story was written by someone who couldn’t even work out that if Twitter prohibited porn, this whole story wouldn’t exist. A failure of research, a failure of logic, and a failure to bring people to account who should to be brought to account.
Excellent work, The Independent, well done.
I’ve written a lot in the past year or so about what I like to call internet archeology. Whether it’s revered web designers destroying communities, podcasts destroying their archives, or simply historically important web tutorials disappearing, there’s one recurring idea: hey, don’t just yank your stuff offline, man.
But you don’t need to take my word for it about how bad this is. A certain Tim Berners-Lee, in his seminal 1998 essay “Cool URIs don’t change”, covers everything you need to know on the subject.
“In theory, the domain name space owner owns the domain name space and therefore all URIs in it. Except insolvency, nothing prevents the domain name owner from keeping the name. And in theory the URI space under your domain name is totally under your control, so you can make it as stable as you like. Pretty much the only good reason for a document to disappear from the Web is that the company which owned the domain name went out of business or can no longer afford to keep the server running.”
But why should I care, Tim?
Why should I care?
When you change a URI on your server, you can never completely tell who will have links to the old URI. They might have made links from regular web pages. They might have bookmarked your page. They might have scrawled the URI in the margin of a letter to a friend.
When someone follows a link and it breaks, they generally lose confidence in the owner of the server. They also are frustrated – emotionally and practically from accomplishing their goal.
Enough people complain all the time about dangling links that I hope the damage is obvious. I hope it also obvious that the reputation damage is to the maintainer of the server whose document vanished.
Yep, makes sense to me. We’re all agreed, yes?
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