Archive for July, 2011

That’s right. On a Jumbotron. In Times Square.

Friday, July 29th, 2011




Here’s the full clip.

Here’s why.

That is all.

Dan the Downer

Monday, July 18th, 2011

For some reason Lee saw this and thought of me:

To see a world in a grain of sand…

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

More here.

Knight breaks

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Couldn’t quite bring myself to go with ‘Knight at the End of the Tunnel’. Still managed to slip it in though, haven’t I? See what I’ve done there?

I could only make out one word. ‘Disappointed.’

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Putting aside what is surely the best of today’s headlines, what immediately struck me about the Telegraph’s front page is the photograph. Specifically, that look in big Rupe’s eyes, full of paternal fondness, and satisfaction, admiration even, only just detectable behind the folds of cankerous, sun-starved flesh he passes off for a face.

It must be a point of unparalleled frustration for the big man that, even having accumulated a vast and uniquely influential media network, he’s still worm-fodder-in-waiting like the rest of us.

What greater satisfaction then than to see that he has moulded a dark prince worthy of inheriting such riches, a son imbued with the same vaulting lust for wealth and power as put his pa atop his game?

And imagine the old man’s dismay if he knew that, even as he lies quivering on his deathbed, I will be mounting a raid deep into the mind of James Murdoch, wherewithin I’ll convince him to dismantle News Corporation at the earliest opportunity, upon the ruins of which to build his own more imaginatively named media empire.

I’ll be sure to let you know what I find, hidden in the stolen dreams of James Murdoch.

I’m not expecting it to be pretty.

If Rupert Murdoch hadn’t been born…

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

“They live off his dark energy in the way that small electrical appliances can be powered at a distance, by a Tesla coil. In Australia, this reverse morality has turned the national broadsheet into a variant of the Baader-Meinhof gang — it spends so much of its energy trying to regain captured comrades and settling scores that that becomes its whole project.”

Guy Rundle, writing at Crikey

Is Facebook the new Hotmail?

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Remember when you first signed up to Hotmail? Wasn’t it exciting, being able to send email, and get email, and send more email? Emma and I fell in love, in no small measure, through the medium of Hotmail. We’ve kept the messages to this day.

Originally launched as ‘HoTMaiL’ exactly fifteen years ago today, it was acquired by Microsoft little over a year later for a reported $400 million having already accumulated over 8.5 million users.

It went on to surpass 30 million users in just 30 months, driven in part by one of the first examples of ‘viral’ marketing – a short message appearing at the end of every email sent that simply read “Get your private, free email at”.

Seen in the context of how much less widespread Internet access was at the time, Hotmail’s growth stands up as the same kind of cultural phenomenon we’ve become accustomed to in the past few years with the rise of social media.

Hotmail’s imperious rise, putting it on a par with the other major webmail provider, Yahoo! Mail, was such that for several years it was hard to imagine anybody keeping pace, let alone successfully playing catch-up.

And yet, for Emma and I, those first emails are pretty much the only reason either of us would log into our Hotmail accounts today. To revisit those first innocent exchanges back when our love, like the Internet, was still new, and young, and waiting to be discovered.


It was Gmail that changed things. Launched by Google in 2004, this signalled their entry into the webmail space. It’s difficult to remember now exactly why Gmail was so much better than Hotmail. It just was.

First up, they took on spam. Which isn’t to say they got rid of it, they just found a way to deal with it so that you wouldn’t have to. This came around the time millions of Hotmail users were coming to terms with the fact that signing up to all those mailing lists, well, it might have been a mistake.

More broadly, the Gmail ethos was anchored in the simplest of conceits – search don’t sort. Speaking to the single greatest strength of the Google brand as it was then, here was their explicit permission – encouragement even – not to tidy up after ourselves.

Sure, they were creating a platform and audience for their commercial products, but even their advertising bucked the trend, being less garish and condescending than your average common or garden banner ad.

On top of all of which, Gmail’s invite-only mechanic was visionary, making the service deeply aspirational at a time when Hotmail was stagnating, robbed of whatever novelty it might have once had to offer.

I guess that was Gmail’s magic formula, as far as I was concerned anyway: get rid of the clutter; save time and legwork; treat us like customers, even if – as Rushkoff points out – we’re actually the product.


Now take a look at Facebook. Facebook spam – those posts that pop up in your feed promising some titillating treat carefully conceived to appeal to each of our lesser angels – is a particularly hardy variety.

Even when you report it as spam half a dozen times its still seems to come back, like some nasty weed that leaves its root in the ground no matter how many times you yank the head off.

Then there’s the quasi-spam, the stuff you opted in for but that’s built up over time, and now threatens to overwhelm you. Think ‘Pages’. Think ‘Apps’. Think ‘Groups’. Think ‘Friends’.

Not all of them mind. Just the people you ‘friended’ without stopping to ask the question, with whom you’re now trapped in a clumsy binary, tethered together by guilt, curiosity and common courtesy all intertwined.

Finally, ask yourself how Facebook makes you feel. Do you feel like the customer, when you read that facial recognition software is now picking you out in other people’s photographs, without you even being consulted on the matter?

Wouldn’t you rather they were contributing to the debate about the more sinister applications of such technology, showing a little cognisance of the fact that a global social network also has the potential to be used as a global surveillance network.


Nowadays Hotmail is like a garden I neglected over a dozen winters, such that I feel a twinge of fear at the mere thought of venturing back into it. The good news is that moving home’s much easier on the web, playing to our nomadic instincts, giving us room to breathe. We can leave a Hotmail behind, let it be reclaimed by nature, as we move on to pastures new. The same is equally true of Facebook.

Of course, there will be some who are slow to follow, others who settle down. As of August 2009 ComScore was reporting that Windows Live Hotmail was still winning the webmail wars, with 364 million users, with Yahoo second (280 million) and Gmail third (191 million).

That’s only part of the story though, and likely less than half. Gmail has the greatest traction in precisely the same markets where Facebook was recently reported to be faltering – markets where the platform is mature, and users may finally be ready to shop around.

Ready to look for something, well, better?

Super-Secret Security Agency

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Working from home today.

Loving that this batch of documents declassified by the NSA a couple of years ago includes an article from the National Enquirer describing a report from the ‘Super-Secret Security Agency’ raising the possibility of ‘a Pearl Harbor-type UFO invasion’. It’s not even like anyone’s scribbled any willies on it. They could almost be taking it seriously. That’s right. The same National Enquirer that brought you…

Almost time. Almost.

Something fishy

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Another day, another link to The Guardian, this time to experience the extent of David McCandless and Derek Guo’s ‘Which Fish are Okay to Eat?’ infographic. Behind its reflective surface is a grim picture, just one dimension of the ‘catastrophe’ facing the world’s oceans as foretold by a panel of marine scientists brought together in Oxford earlier in the year.

As we trade Big Tobacco and Big Oil for the age of Big Data, information design has an ever greater part to play reconstituting the facts for ease of consumption. What works for me about this example is that it speaks to the extraordinary otherworldly diversity of the fish species living in our seas while simultaneously conveying the severity with which they have been overfished in recent decades. That being so, I impeach you to pick up your own hi-res PDF for a piffling £1.50 (payable by Paypal), with all the profits going to the Marine Conservation Society.