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26.08.16

Being Boring

Posted 26th August 2016

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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.

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06.08.16

A Guide to Social Media Done Right for Game Developers

Posted 6th August 2016

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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 →]

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19.07.16

# I had a dream on a backlot… #

Posted 19th July 2016

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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. 

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13.07.16

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

Posted 13th July 2016

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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?

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02.01.15

@ComedyCentralUK: Getting social media wrong

Posted 2nd January 2015

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Sunday morning, 28th December 2014, and something unpleasant is going down on Comedy Central UK.

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22.09.14

Tumblr, there

Posted 22nd September 2014

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I don’t tend to talk much about my Tumblr blog on this site. I use it for posting little pictures, thoughts, or snatches of audio, some of which develop into something more substantial over here. But I do feel I have to acknowledge by far my post popular post over there. It’s just hit over 200 likes/reblogs.

Extraordinarily unsafe for work.

Maybe I should stop talking about old radio airchecks or obscure sitcom edits on here, and just concentrate on women enjoying dog cock.

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17.09.14

BAMMA Bummer

Posted 17th September 2014

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This is the tale of one of the more ridiculous things that happened to me when I worked in Channel 5 TX.

Saturday, 14th December, 2013. I’m sitting at home, preparing for my first day back in work after a short illness. It’s live BAMMA coverage that evening – mixed martial arts, which usually involves the floor being entirely smeared with blood by the end of the night – and I decide to have a look at BAMMA’s Twitter feed to see what’s going on.1

So, I scroll down their feed… and something catches my eye. Something horrible. I reproduce it below – but I’ve had to blur out the relevant bits, I’m afraid. I’m sure you’ll understand when I tell you what they are.

[Read more →]


  1. All TX ops should do a little research on the show they’re going to be working on. Not all do. To be fair, I did once find myself in the middle of a live sporting event and suddenly realised I didn’t know the scoring system. Never. Again. 

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14.01.14

A Personal Anthology

Posted 14th January 2014

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Emotional Public Domain Software.

That’s what the opening title of the program reads. This is BBC Micro public domain disc BBC PD #171, “Something About Me”. The catalogue description reads: “…by Oliver Debus. A personal anthology of graphics, digitised images and scanned pictures.”

And that’s what we get. Dated 1989 in one of the program files, you can download the disc image file from 8BS – but I’ve captured a video of it below, to save you the trouble of emulating. (Contains brief, low resolution nudity.)

At first pixellated glance, at a slideshow of 320 x 256 black and white photos, this might seem far removed from anything teenagers are doing now. But come on – pictures of yourself, of famous people you like, of things you’re interested in, of silly cartoons, all with captions – sent out into the world for other people to see?

This is just a 1989 version of Tumblr. How fabulous.


  1. Technically, in fact, this disc only runs on a BBC Master. Disc #75 however, dated 1991, contains an amended version by Duncan Lilly, which changes the visual transitions to work on a normal BBC Micro. 

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27.10.13

“Historical” Pics

Posted 27th October 2013

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Fake, photoshopped picture of the Golden Gate Bridge
Real picture of The Golden Gate Bridge


Two images of the Golden Gate Bridge. On the left, a fake picture posted by the Twitter account @HistoricalPics. On the right, the real picture which it took me all of two minutes to find.1

Unsurprisingly the account failed to post a correction, even with numerous people – myself included – pointing out that the image was fake. I say “unsurprisingly”, because the account smacks of the kind of thing that doesn’t care what it posts, as long as it continues to gain followers. The Twitter bio of the person who owns the account does nothing to dissuade that impression.

Let me be perfectly clear. If you post any kind of content to the internet – professional or amateur, paid or unpaid – and aren’t willing to post corrections when someone points out when you are wrong: you stink. Not only are you spreading misinformation rather than truth – the very opposite thing an account called “Historical Pics” should be doing – but you also come across as someone who is massively, massively insecure. You really think so little of yourself that posting the odd correction is just too much to bear?

That’s just… embarrassing.


  1. As was pointed out to me, why the hell was this ever photoshopped in the first place, when the original looks so much more impressive? 

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07.02.13

Self-Righteous Twitter Rant #782332

Posted 7th February 2013

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Robert’s Web. Safely one of the worst television programmes I have ever seen. Not that that’s my main point here, but I’ll take any chance I can get to slag off that wretched show. No, my point here is to do with the show’s Twitter account.

Let’s ignore the fact that the last tweet there is advertising the third show of the series, despite there being four episodes – a sure sign the team had given up by the last one. More importantly: there’s no goodbye message. No “thanks for watching, hope you enjoyed it”. Nowt. Zilch. Abandoned. Production office wound up, nobody there to even tweet a farewell.

Which altogether gives the impression that the account meant nothing to the makers of the show than what they could get out of it. Nobody could spare a minute to even pretend they gave a fuck, and post a goodbye. There is little more transparent than an account just abandoned like that. They never really engaged; it was all a front to try and whip up interest, then abandoned when the show failed.

In comparison, when the online game Glitch had to wind up, their Twitter feed was full of updates, proper goodbyes and fun stuff. The absolute right way to go about ending a project. Engaging with your audience to the last, not running away with your tail between your legs. It was obvious that the people running that site cared about their audience.

It’s not a hard and fast rule, obviously. I’ve seen excellent Twitter accounts run by TV people, and I’ve seen awful ones run by web companies. But it happens enough to spot a pattern, and it’s not a pleasant one when it comes to television shows.

Which makes me sad. Telly can benefit hugely from social media, done right. Done wrong, it exposes some rather uncomfortable truths.

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