Folder: Words

Online ads are stuck in the ’90s

The Outline’s Josh Topolsky waxing eloquent on Recode Media podcast:

The TV ad works because it’s good for TV. The magazine ad works because it’s good for magazines. You know what Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook (to some degree) and Pinterest figured out? There’s an internet ad that works really well, it just isn’t the box that is on every website.

Figuring that out is the key to unlocking what advertising should be on the internet, and the key to unlocking what good advertising looks like, and very few people have done it well. Almost no one – I would say zero – publications have built a system that is holistically, like from the ground up, designed around the marriage of both interesting, digital-first content and interesting, digital-first advertising.

Nailed it.

The Outline isn’t for everyone, and that’s by design. Their content/ad strategy has been super fascinating to watch, especially in connection to the media manifesto Topolsky published in 2016. It appears to be going very well indeed.

It’s been doubly interesting to compare The Outline to the launch of The Ringer, Bill Simmons’ media company, which he spun up after breaking from ESPN. The Ringer launched on Medium first to minimise their launch runway, but moved to the Vox media stack less than a year later. The Ringer is a heavily staffed blog, and I think it can be safely argued that their written content is not particularly compelling or well presented, and there has certainly been very “bog-standard” approach to advertising (with Vox handling the ad sales after the move).

Now – all that said – in addition to the site, The Ringer has a hugely successful podcast network with Bill’s podcast alone estimated to be bringing in around $50,000 per episode. Simmons is clearly leaning heavily into podcasting (as well as experimenting with a variety of video stream/show formats), with the development of the site and it’s associated ad strategy taking a relative back seat.

None of this is zero-sum, of course. There’s room for a lot of ‘winners’ in the online media space. But watching it all unfold is a great spectator sport.


The Pod Pod is a selection of recommended single podcast episodes.

Google Play Music to be rolled into “YouTube Remix”

Droidlife:

When Google finally launches its rumored YouTube Remix platform this year, one of its other services will be put to rest. According to a reliable source, Google Play Music will be replaced as Google’s go-to music service with YouTube Remix. Not only that, but users will be forced off of Play Music by the end of 2018 and onto Remix.

Weird.

Obviously Play Music hasn’t gained the traction Google hoped it would; it’s routinely omitted from share-links like this one. In my experience it’s actually a very good service, and it helps that the ad-free YouTube Red is bundled in to the subscription. But for a while now it’s felt like the mobile and web apps needed an update, and now we know why that hasn’t happened yet.

That a change is upcoming isn’t what’s weird though, it’s the name of that new service… YouTube Remix. That is a terrible name for a music service. Google obviously really sees value in YouTube as a music destination, and indeed a partner for the major labels. But will users readily make the mental leap from “cat videos” to “music destination”? I’m doubtful.

Red Dead 4K: The Redemptioning

In the midst of announcing a massive drop of backwards compatible and enhanced games, Microsoft released a 500MB update to Red Dead Redemption enabling 4K on the world’s most powerful console.

This. Is. Fucking. Amazing.

Most observers reckoned 4K for RDR would never come due to the engineering of the game – many thought the resolution was baked-in for performance reasons. But it seems the Back Compat team at Microsoft are wizards indeed.

So how does it look?

Stunning.

I mean, it’s ridiculous how good it looks. The 360 version (which is also what ran on the initial Back Compat version) was noticeably blurry and shimmery, especially in motion. It still looked great though, and you did get the impression that R* had put a lot more under the hood than the hardware was capable of displaying. And now we know that’s the case.

The result is that Read Dead Redemption is now – again – a joy to play.


More recommended Read Dead:

Finding John Marsden – A wonderful short doc from Polygon about Rob Weithoff, the voice of John Marsden

In depth review (thinreaper) – One of the best game reviews/critiques I’ve ever invested an hour and a half in

Ends and means

Jeremy Keith:

I remember feeling very heartened to see WikiPedia, Google and others take a stand on January 18th, 2012. But I also remember feeling uneasy. In this particular case, companies were lobbying for a cause I agreed with. But what if they were lobbying for a cause I didn’t agree with? Large corporations using their power to influence politics seems like a very bad idea. Isn’t it still a bad idea, even if I happen to agree with the cause?

There’s an uncomfortable tension here. When do the ends justify the means? Isn’t the whole point of having principles that they hold true even in the direst circumstances? Why even claim that corporations shouldn’t influence politics if you’re going to make an exception for net neutrality? Why even claim that free speech is sacrosanct if you make an exception for nazi scum?

Those two examples are pretty extreme and I can easily justify the exceptions to myself. Net neutrality is too important. Stopping fascism is too important. But where do I draw the line? At what point does something become “too important?”

There are more subtle examples of corporations wielding their power. Google are constantly using their monopoly position in search and browser marketshare to exert influence over website-builders. In theory, that’s bad. But in practice, I find myself agreeing with specific instances. Prioritising mobile-friendly sites? Sounds good to me. Penalising intrusive ads? Again, that seems okey-dokey to me. But surely that’s not the point. So what if I happen to agree with the ends being pursued? The fact that a company the size and power of Google is using their monopoly for any influence is worrying, regardless of whether I agree with the specific instances.

Google’s handling of HTTPS and AMP is fascinating to watch. It seems that really smart people are worried about how this will all end up. I find myself identifying strongly with the above. Read the whole piece.

Daily Links

“The Newsroom Feels Embarrassed”: Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Crisis

“The Newsroom Feels Embarrassed”: Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Crisis

A yoga-pants refusenik, a climate-science skeptic, and a tech writer with a neo-Nazi pal have put James Bennet in the crosshairs.

www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/new-york-times-op-ed-crisis-james-bennet/

KFC Responds to U.K. Chicken Shortage Scandal With a Timely ‘FCK, We’re Sorry’

Sucuri WebSite Firewall – Access Denied

KFC went through a highly publicized, somewhat bizarre crisis in the U.K. this week: The fast food joint known for its fried chicken ran out of chicken. Now, KFC is apologizing with a creative stunt: rearranging its name to spell “FCK.”

www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-responds-to-u-k-chicken-shortage-scandal-with-a-timely-fck-were-sorry/

Gobee.bike pulls out of France due to ‘mass destruction’ of its dockless bike fleet

Gobee.bike pulls out of France due to ‘mass destruction’ of its dockless bike fleet

Thousands of its bikes have been stolen or damaged, says company that had 150,000 users across the country

www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/25/gobeebike-france-mass-destruction-dockless-bikes/

A Researcher Just Found A 9,000-Video Network Of YouTube Conspiracy Videos

Buzzfeed:

Albright said the results suggest that the conspiracy genre is embedded so deeply into YouTube’s video culture that it could be nearly impossible to eradicate.

“It’s already tipped in favor of the conspiracists, I think,” Albright told BuzzFeed News. “There are a handful of debunking videos in the data. They can’t make up for the thousands of videos with false claims and rumors.”

Albright also suggested that the proliferation of these videos makes it more attractive for others to create this content.

To anyone who dabbles in occasional conspiracy-theory deep dives on YouTube, this rings true. There is an absolute avalanche of dipshit conspiracies on YouTube, and most people lack the mental dexterity to tell that a video is playing loose with the facts – especially if it meshes nicely with their existing worldview.

Less common is the conspiracy parody. The Outline absolutely nailed it with this gem:

I’ve often thought a conspiracy channel would be an easy way to make some quick beer money, but it seems I’m much too late to the game.

Or am I?

Yes, I am.

Twitter: You can actually ban the Nazis

Paris Martineau writing for The Outline:

THE MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS WAS A LIE

Years of outbursts from hate group after hate group have forced these companies to realize that the laissez-faire attitude they’ve leaned on for so long doesn’t actually work, but rather, makes the entire thing rot from the inside. But the fact that platforms won’t fully commit to managing the content that people spew on these platforms leaves a vacuum of confusion and hypotheticals, which generally (like all things nowadays) lead to conspiracies and misinformation.

In all this time, no company has actually tried totally depriving bad ideas of oxygen. Trust me, this is a sentence I never thought I’d say, but in times like these, Twitter (and the tech world as a whole, really) could learn a thing or two from Medium.

One of the multitude of problems Twitter is currently facing is that they just can’t make up their mind about what they want their platform to be.

I recently copped a 7-day account suspension for calling Dinesh D’Souza a cunt and a piece of shit (more on that episode later). Plenty of people replied telling him to go fuck himself, Ron Perlman quoted him calling him a piece of shit multiple times and suggesting it would be best if D’Souza disappeared himself, CPAC (seriously) called D’Souza’s comments “indefensible”, and D’Souza eventually deleted his tweet and apologised.

For some reason though, I’m still in the time-out corner.

The truth is, Twitter has no real expected standard of behaviour. They’re happy to put me in time out for using the word “cunt” while simultaneously leaving this disgusting tweet up on their platform…

… in spite of the fact Coulter’s tweet blatantly violates Twitter’s Hateful conduct policy, and calling someone a “cunt” definitively doesn’t.

Twitter, you are pretty broken for a lot of reasons, but one thing you might want to focus on is the quality of the content of some of the biggest voices on your platform. And if Speech (capital “S”) really is your North Star, maybe don’t haphazardly hand out suspensions to passionate, long-time users for using “bad words”. You silly cunts.

Humans fighting giant beasts! I’ll pass.

How many games shown at E3 featured humans fighting giants, or giant beasts, or zombies? I’ll admit the games look well executed, but can we get some new concepts? God damn.

Over the last few days I’ve actually convinced myself that Steep from Ubisoft might be a game I could really get into. The intro/reveal felt stiff (can scripted game intros get any worse?) but the idea of it has grown on me. I described it to a friend as Skate but on a mountain range – which seems like a phrase the PR people should have used to sell it.

Increasingly I’m looking for fun gameplay experiences that don’t demand solid 2-3 hour blocks of my time (sorry, Metal Gear Solid V, I love you so much but I’m also a husband and dad). Ori and the Blind Forest filled that spot really well for me – a game that is as rewarding in 20 minute blocks as it is in 2 hours of play.

Steep genuinely looks like something I can add into my unwind-at-home routine really easily: an open world mountain I can ride pretty much endlessly, while finding new lines and spots.


Register for the Steep beta.
15 mins of gameplay (Polygon).
15 mins of gameplay (IGN).

Blogging? Blogging.

I’ve finally re-re-re-fired up this blog as a blog.

Regularly reading Dave Winer write about the open web, and where blogging fits in around all these walled gardens, has made a lot of sense to me lately.

I post very regularly on Google+ (you should follow me there), and for a while I’ve felt like my mini-rants were worthwhile, but perhaps not ‘blog worthy’. That line of thinking is horse shit, of course. A blog can be whatever you want it to be, and whether people are actively reading it or not shouldn’t necessarily be the primary motivator for me.

So here I am, desperately trying to post daily-ish, even if it’s just sharing a great link or two. I’m hoping that staying motivated by staying disciplined will help me become a better writer (of blog posts, at least).

And at the very least if no one ever reads this, at least it’s still mine.


Further reading:

“A good blog exists independently of people reading it. Even if no one read my blog, I’d still write it. Not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s something like this — I would still cook even if I was the only person eating.” – A note about blogging

“We can avoid this, it’s not too late. You have a choice. Post your writing to places other than Medium. And when you see something that’s interesting and not on Medium, give it some extra love. Push it to your friends. Like it on Facebook, RT it on Twitter. Give people more reasons to promote diversity on the web, not just in who we read, but who controls what we read.” – Anywhere but Medium

“Other than writing a daily blog (a practice that’s free, and priceless), reading more blogs is one of the best ways to become smarter, more effective and more engaged in what’s going on. The last great online bargain.” – Read more blogs

“I’ve said this 1,000 times before and I’ll continue to repeat myself (since I get new readers fairly consistently) but the only thing that matters when writing (publicly, privately, for personal use or professionally) is that you write. Period. Nothing else really matters.” – Results from a Blog Experiment: 365 Days and 5,000 Posts

Don’t Call It A Choke

Photo credit: ESPN

After The Oklahoma Thunder lost Game 6 to the Golden State Warriors, tying the series at 3 all, the “choke” echo chamber started firing up.

Honestly, I’m completely over the ‘choking narrative’.

It’s lazy.

Why analyse the series when you can just yell “CHOKE”, right? Seven games worth of defensive rotations, pick and roll coverage, cross matches, game-to-game adjustments, shooting slumps – don’t worry about it. Just yell ‘choke’.

It’s dismissive.

The choke narrative completely ignores the fact that another team (The Warriors) was actively trying to beat them. And it completely minimises the sacrifice and hard work that the OKC players and coaches and staff made, not only for this series, but for the entire season.


It’s myopic.

Klay Thompson shot an NBA record 11 threes in Game 6. Klay and Steph beat the Playoff record for threes in a series, each. Yeah, OKC ‘choked’ though. The choke narrative ignores context.

It’s arbitrary.

What’s an appropriate number of wins or losses before a team chokes? If OKC went up 3-2 after a 2-2 tie and lost, is that still a choke?

It’s dickish, and do we really need more dick behaviour in the world?

If you’re a genuine GSW fan you’re excused, but for the rest of you: ease up. You just witnessed an incredible series in which both teams laid it all on the line in a Conference Finals matchup for the ages. Maybe take some time to appreciate it.

Vaundog

My dear friend Vaughan would have turned 40 this year.

Vaughan and I bonded through music and basketball. We sat for hours with a Dr Sample SP-202, a Tascam 4 track, and an old hi-fi record player with a paper towel ‘slipmat’, creating loops and beats and experimenting with sound.

loops

Some time around 2000, Vaughan bought a Pentium computer with a decent sound card, which upgraded our musical noodlings from 4 tracks on tape to 16 tracks of digital thanks to a free version Cool Edit Pro. Over the years Vaughan wrote and recorded many songs in his various Auckland flats, on the farm in Kaihere, and alone in the Coromandel while renovating his parents’ new house. I’ve had a collection of his tracks backed up for years now (first on old data CDs, then an iPod and now in the cloud).

Since Vaughan’s passing I’ve struggled to listen to his music at all. Attempting to do so has brought on a deep sadness which conflicts heavily with my enjoyment of his music and those golden memories of hanging out.

But this changed for me in March when his sisters celebrated his memory on his 40th birthday in a Facebook post. Listening to his music now I still feel his loss, but the sadness has diminished over time. I’m able to enjoy his art again. I miss you Vaughan, but I’m glad I can still hear your voice in your music.

Twitter’s Mobile App Timeline is a Clusterf*ck

I had to leave work early on Wednesday and with just over a quarter left of the Thunder vs the Warriors game I thought I’d stream the rest of the contest on my commute. Sadly, I had no such luck as the NBA app doesn’t stream video on Android N at the moment (sadface).

So I decided to follow along on Twitter.

I’m rubbish at curating Twitter lists (the concept and execution is pretty obtuse, which doesn’t help) but I follow a bunch of great NBA Twitter profiles, so my timeline lights up during these Conference Finals playoff games.

Instead of using Falcon Pro, my go-to 3rd party Twitter client, I thought I’d give the native Twitter app a shot to enjoy those sweet, juicy in-line Vines people share during the game. What I experienced instead, was an avalanche of fail as Twitter bombarded me with everything BUT the tweets I was interested in.

Let’s take a quick look.

I Have Recurring Corneal Erosion Syndrome – What The Shit?

My daughter, for as long as she’s been able to move her arms and grab things, has held our ears for comfort. Even now – she’s two and a half – she’ll demand “EAR! EAR!” if she needs to ‘recharge’, as we call it.

EAR!

When she was smaller and we’d read stories and settle her before bed, she’d quickly reach up behind her, searching for an ear. Three separate times in the space of about a year she reached blindly and thumbed me directly in the right eye. Thumbnail first. Oh dear God, those tiny, razor sharp toddler thumbnails. The pain of eye trauma is unique and comes in waves. All three times I thought I was going to vomit.

The pain subsided after a night’s sleep each time, with the assistance of painkillers and ice. But since the last incident I’ve had ongoing problems with my eye. I’ve regularly woken up in the night feeling like my eyeball is stuck, and simply moving my eyeball (close your eyes now and try not to move your bloody eyeballs!) would quickly spark intense pain and tears making it very difficult to sleep.

After several relatively unhelpful visits to local doctors and optometrists, I finally went to the Eye and Ear Hospital in the city and got a diagnosis! Recurring Corneal Erosion Syndrome. It sounds bad but put simply, due to ‘mechanical trauma’ (EG: a thumb to the fucking eye) the cornea gets damaged, and this tends to dry out the eye. The cornea can then stick to the eyelid, and separating them too quickly can cause more damage to the cornea… a vicious cycle. Treatment is pretty simple: gel and drops in the eye every day.

Every time I go through a relatively obtuse but non-life-threatening medical incident I wonder: how the hell did people manage to get through this kind of thing 100 years ago? 800 years ago? We’re extremely fortunate to be living when and where we live. To be able to wander into a building that’s packed to the rafters with experts and walk out with a solution to my problem is incredible, and we take it for granted.

A few thoughts as I move forward with my life and hopefully out of eye-hell.

Advice for prospective parents: your kids will beat the hell out of you.

Yes, even when they’re babies. They’ll swing their arms around, flail wildly, hang from your neck, kick you in the balls, pinch you, poke your fucking eyes, jump on you, jump off you, and play the drums on your head with cutlery. And more. Yes, even the babies. If you have your first newborn in the house: beware. You weren’t previously living in a house where the other residents were learning to do things like breathe or use their muscles for the first time. You are now.

Medical science is incredible.

Not only did I get a prompt diagnosis, I was prescribed a course of treatment, and the ingredients of the medicine for my eye sound like the names of an alien’s stepmother. It’s absolutely gob smacking to me how completely idiotic humans can be, and yet we have centuries upon centuries of learning and discovery that has progressively protected us, and kept us safe, and healed us faster and better, and stopped us from dying as easily. The next time you get great medical treatment, take a little time to really appreciate it.

Donate to a medical charity. Today.

I live in Australia where most healthcare is free and the standard of care is high, but many people don’t have access to basic health services and care. Our family regularly donates to Doctors Without Borders. Do a quick bit of research and choose a medical/health charity to send a few dollars to a few times a year. Wink.

UK Artists Make More Money from Vinyl than YouTube

Vinyl | punyweakling.com

“The fact that sales revenues dipped in a record year for British music shows clearly that something is fundamentally broken in the music market,” BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor told the Guardian. So who’s responsible? Taylor places the blame on “dominant tech platforms like YouTube,” which he says are “dictating terms so they can grab the value from music for themselves, at the expense of artists.”

Recorded music as a consumer item is less than 100 years old as an industry, and the tech behind it has changed rapidly. Taking a long view historically, there’s been very little stability in the music industry as a commercial undertaking at all. The Internet has redefined an industry that’s already been completely redefined multiple times since records became popular. We’re still at the very start of this adjustment period, and the entrenched entities are flailing about a bit while the dust is starting to settle.

Blaming dominant tech platforms for year-on-year discrepancies is myopic, but the music industry as a whole – and record companies in particular – have never been particularly visionary beyond the hunt for profits. “…dictating terms so they can grab the value from music for themselves, at the expense of artists” – yeah, that sounds familiar.

Read: Music artists are still making more money from vinyl than YouTube (qz.com)


Related:

Subscription-based music streaming, on the other hand, has yet to prove itself to be a viable model, even after hundreds of millions of investment dollars raised and spent. For our part, we are committed to offering an alternative that we know works. As long as there are fans who care about the welfare of their favorite artists and want to help them keep making music, we will continue to provide that direct connection. And as long as there are fans who want to own, not rent, their music, that is a service we will continue to provide, and that is a model whose benefits we will continue to champion.? – Bandcamp

Don’t Use Allo…?

Google is giving consumers two options: Insecure with a wonderful user experience, or secure with an inferior experience. What do you think the masses are going to choose? – Motherboard

I think this article misses the point somewhat. When you need the app to be useful you’ll use the useful features, and when you need it to be secure you’ll turn encryption on.

The fact is, for me at least, 99.9% of my comms are completely innocuous. If the Google assistant can make a small handful of things easier for me, then I’m totally fine with that.

Also this cracked me up:

Early sentiment about Allo is overwhelmingly positive…

They’re obviously not on G+.


Link: Don’t Use Allo (Motherboard)

Google Save

Google Saves

So Google Save is pretty interesting. I tend to keep stuff in a weird combination of Pocket (for articles), Pinterest (for mood board stuff), a Twitter “read later” list and a few other places. I wonder if this could become a real catch-all for me.

A few observations:

  • You can edit the link title AND description, which is pretty interesting
  • No inline player for YouTube, seem like an oversight
  • No reading mode, so Pocket will still be my go-to place for a raw reading list
  • This seems best used for making Collections of links – think: researching a topic, or collecting links on areas of specific interest
  • You can’t currently share a Tag/collection, but surely that’s coming…

Links: