Why Violet Beauregarde should have succeeded Wonka

It's irrational that successful confectionary mogul Willy Wonka would pass on his wealth and his business to a naive, well-meaning boy. Violet Beauregarde, last seen suffering from bloat, was the obvious and superior choice.

Violet is already basically Wonka. She’s passionate, sarcastic, candy-obsessed, free thinking, and a total firecracker. She’s even better than Wonka, because she doesn’t endanger others.

Violet should’ve been picked to inherit the chocolate factory.

Previously. Read the rest

Tumblr bans all adult content, such as "female-presenting nipples"

Tumblr, the mainstream web's last redoubt for niche smut in general and queer smut in particular, is going to clean house. The social blogging platform is banning all adult material on December 17.

Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations. The exceptions include nude classical statues and political protests that feature nudity. The new guidelines exclude text, so erotica remains permitted. Illustrations and art that feature nudity are still okay — so long as sex acts aren’t depicted — and so are breast-feeding and after birth photos. "Users have a chance to appeal flagged content"

The policy change takes effect on December 17th. From then on, any explicit posts will be flagged and deleted by algorithms. For now, Tumblr is emailing users who have posted adult content flagged by algorithms and notifying that their content will soon be hidden from view. Posts with porn content will be set to private, which will prevent them from being reblogged or shared elsewhere in the Tumblr community.

Even the cold dead embrace of a Yahoo! acquision could not end Tumblr, such was the power of fandom gathered there. But Yahoo never knew what it owned in Tumblr and was indifferent to its continued existence. The management of new Yahoo owner Verizon, however, has a pulse. It knows what Tumblr is and it hates it. It will hack it down until a perfectly clean advertising- and appstore-friendly traffic center remains.

That phrase Tumblr uses, "female-presenting nipples", is rather on the nose. Read the rest

Google to delete all YouTube video annotations

Google killed the YouTube video annotations editor last year, and in an "update" to the announcement now says it will be deleting existing annotations in 2019.

Update: We will stop showing existing annotations to viewers starting January 15, 2019. All existing annotations will be removed. ...

...As adoption of end screens and cards has grown, the use of annotations has decreased by over 70%. For this reason, we discontinued annotations editor in May 2017.

This means you can no longer add new or edit existing annotations, only delete them.

Annotations were replaced by "cards", which among other things are integrated into the contemporary advertising and tracking infrastructure built around YouTube, and can coexist better with the underlying video on mobile platforms (especially iOS, which is under another company's control).

Though few loved annotations and they were often grossly hostile to viewers, it's also true that they were put to all sorts of legitimate and necessary purposes. None of which interest Google, so they disappear at its convenience. Read the rest

Disturbing, uncloseable, emotionally manipulative advertising infests childrens' apps

The New York Times reports that apps intended for children are "crammed" with ads, many of them disturbing, inappropriate and effectively impossible to dismiss.

Dancing treasure chests would give young players points for watching video ads, potentially endlessly. The vast majority of ads were not marked at all. Characters in children’s games gently pressured the kids to make purchases, a practice known as host-selling, banned in children’s TV programs in 1974 by the Federal Trade Commission. At other times an onscreen character would cry if the child did not buy something.

“The first word that comes to mind is furious,” said Dr. Radesky, an assistant professor of developmental behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School. “I’m a researcher. I want to stay objective. We started this study really just trying to look at distraction. My frustrated response is about all the surprising, potentially deceptive stuff we found.”

95 percent of the tested apps marketed for kids under 5 had these ads in them. It's not a trend, or even the norm: it's the nature of the business of childrens' apps. It's been this way for years: here's a 2015 story from The Guardian about explicit sex ads in childrens' apps.

A company promoting sexual liaisons using pictures of a naked woman has been reprimanded for running ads in a children’s smartphone game. The Advertising Standards Authority received complaints from parents after they discovered their children had seen the explicit ads, which included the line “wanna fuck?”, within the My Talking Tom app.

Read the rest

Walmart blockchains lettuce

Walmart is blockchaining its supply chain, including the lettuce. The Wall Street Journal:

Pinpointing the source of food contamination can improve public safety, cut the amount of time illness goes unchecked and could save money for retailers and farmers who can be swept into overly broad product recalls, said Frank Yiannas, head of food safety at Walmart. Millions of bags and heads of romaine lettuce had to be thrown out as an eruption of E.coli linked to romaine spread through 36 states early this year. As investigators worked, 210 people got sick and five died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you thought all the blockchain corporate pivoting of last year was a joke, you underestimated something about the intended customer.

Read the rest

Facebook allowed job ads to exclude women

A group of women jobseekers, working with the Communications Workers of America and the American Civil Liberties Union, are "filing charges with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday against Facebook and 9 employers," reports the New York Times.

It's a simple case, as least in abstraction: Facebook let job advertisers target users by gender, but it is a violation of federal law to discriminate on the basis of gender or to aid and abet such discrimination.

“That seems pretty egregious,” said Ms. Katz, who specializes in bringing discrimination cases. She said Facebook’s technology made it akin to an employment agency. “The fact that they’re using this tool to facilitate discrimination absolves neither the hiring business nor Facebook.”

Facebook delenda est. Read the rest

Twitter to let you turn reverse-chronological feed back on

Bravo, Twitter! Something that users are asking for made it in: "Twitter will now let you completely turn off its algorithmic timeline. So now you can revert completely to a reverse-chronological feed of only people you follow."

Twitter has made a surprise change to how it shows tweets to its users, following a viral thread earlier today that discussed ways to reverse the platform’s algorithmic timeline. Now, when you uncheck the settings box reading “Show the best tweets first,” Twitter will completely revert your timeline to a non-algorithmic, reverse-chronological order, which is how Twitter was originally designed and operated for years until the company introduced a default algorithmic model in early 2016.

The company's hand was being gently forced. A few weeks ago, Andy Baio discovered and publicized Twitter search flags that generated a reverse-chronological snapshot of your follows, and last week Enna Kinema discovered that you could vanquish suggested tweets and highlights by muting their metadata tags. Read the rest

Grim times for indie game devs

That pie chart shows the number of games released on Steam. The number of new titles being published there is overwhelming, almost doubling in 2015 alone and increasing anually by between a quarter and a third since. The sheer volume of absolute garbage is making it impossible to find good stuff, and indie developers, unable to market their way out of the sewer, can't make a living. Welcome to life in the Indie Post-Apocalypse.

Do you have the answer yet? In reviews? Sales? Dollars? Actually it doesn’t matter what units you chose. Because to a first approximation they’re all the same.

• Zero reviews • Zero comments on announcements of the game launching • One curator, who has depressingly enough not even played the game • Two comments in the entire forum section

Things have been asymptotically approaching zero. Now we’ve arrived. We’ve arrived at the worst it can get because you can’t sell less than zero. An experienced game designer with multiple shipped titles and a moderately sized following shouting into the void and getting no response whatsoever.

Steam's dominating position in digital game distribution means that market saturation is converted into some weird form of attention-economy inflation. The currency -- the games -- can be devalued at will. Privately-owned, Valve/Steam could eat a recession or even a collapse of its own internal market and not skip a beat. Products representing years of labor (or, more likely, mere hours of it) all take on the same ephemeral, vaporous quality, disappearing into the void as easily as tweets. Read the rest

Google admits it tracks users' location after they turn off location history

A few days ago, the AP, working with Princeton University, demonstrated that Google tracked the location of users even after they disabled location tracking on their devices. Today they admitted it, reports the AP.

It has now "clarified" its tracking policy; pray they do not "clarify" it further.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google has revised a help page that erroneously described how its "Location History" setting works, clarifying for users that it still tracks their location even if they turn the setting off. On Monday, an Associated Press investigation revealed that several Google apps and websites store user location even if users have turned off Location History. Google has not changed that practice. But its help page now states: "This setting does not affect other location services on your device."

Business Insider's Sean Wolfe describes how to disable location tracking completely on iPhone and Android. What a headache. Read the rest

Tech platforms quit Alex Jones and InfoWars

Apple has joined Facebook, Spotify and YouTube in tossing Alex Jones and InfoWars material from their platforms.

Apple has removed the entire library for five of Infowars' six podcasts from its iTunes and Podcast apps, BuzzFeed News has learned. Among the podcasts, which were removed from Apples' iTunes directory, are the show "War Room" as well as the popular Alex Jones Show podcast, which is hosted daily by the prominent conspiracy theorist.

The Guardian:

Facebook has banned four pages run by the American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for “repeated violations of community standards”, the company said on Monday. The removal of the pages – the Alex Jones Channel Page, the Alex Jones Page, the Infowars Page and the Infowars Nightly News Page – comes after Facebook imposed a 30-day ban on Jones personally “for his role in posting violating content to these pages”.

Until recent days, tech platforms found it hard to understand why they shouldn't support Jones, a conspiracy theorist who claimed that the Sandy Hook parents were paid actors, that 9/11 was perpretrated not by Al Queda but by "globalists", and that the government is poisoning children to make them gay.

The public is growing keenly aware that Silicon Valley's supposed free-speech principles are not only self-serving but plainly up for sale, so there's little point supporting someone whose makes them look this bad. Read the rest

Condé Nast selling off mags after $120,000,000 loss

"Anna Wintour is staying," leads the New York Times, in the journalistic despite of the century: staggering losses, insane mountains of cash blown on everything from failed websites to occupying 23 floors of 1 World Trade Center.

Condé Nast has made some bad bets. It pulled the plug last year on its attempt at an online fashion retail site, Style.com, after nine months of development and an investment of more than $100 million.

$100 million! On one website!

MIRANDA

All those links look exactly the same to me. Red is fine. You know, I'm still learning about all this stuff and, uh...

WEB NERD (shouty)

THIS STUFF? OH OK. I SEE. YOU THINK THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. YOU LOOK AT THE COLOR PICKER AND YOU SELECT OHHHHHH I DON'T KNOOOW "RED" BECASUE YOU WANT TO LOOK CLASSY AND YOU DON'T WANT BLUE LIKE A PLEB WEBSITE BUT IT'S NOT RED IT'S #A60505 AND YOU'RE (shrieking now) BLITHELY UNAWARE OF THE FACT THAT IN 2009 CSS ZENGARDEN FEATURED A RENAISSANCE-INSPIRED LAYOUT AND THEN IN 2010 BOING BOING, YES IT WAS BOING BOING, REDESIGNED WITH IT AS THE STANDARD ANCHOR TAG COLOR, AND THEN IT SHOWED UP IN THE STYLESHEETS OF EIGHT DIFFERENT FACEBOOK CHUM FARMS AND THEN IT FILTERED DOWN THROUGH THE (screaming uncontrollably) TRAGIC FREE TUMBLR THEMES UNTIL YOU PICKED IT OUT FROM A MATTE INKJET PRINTOUT. THAT RED REPRESENTS MILLIONS OF BLOG POSTS AND COUNTLESS CLICKS AND (breathless croaking) it's sort of comical how you think you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when in fact you're wearing the CSS that was selected for you 10 years ago. Read the rest

Freelancers moving to small towns

Small towns are the new (insert hip city neighborhood). It's all about "creatives" and money, isn't it? Sort of.

“In the last couple of years we’ve seen the rise of the exodus of big cities,” said Steven Pedigo, an expert in economic and urban development who teaches at NYU and directs the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate Urban Lab. “Places are taking the ideas of what people want in urban communities, and smaller and suburban communities are trying to recreate this.” In the past few years he’s seen more people opt out of the less-affordable “superstar” cities and retreat to midsize and smaller cities, many of which have rebranded themselves and begun to attract new residents.

I had a disturbing thought the other day, reading a twitterer who is popular but on the margins of their profession and whose twittering constantly reinforces that self-branding: being a very online sort of person can signify low income and status.

Online is mostly celebrities and celebrants, the hardly trying and the trying hard, and around them is an increasingly disenchanted middle who can no longer find The Others online and whose interest in Being Online more than absolutely necessary is fading. No-one wants to talk about this, despite Having Been Online becoming a Richelieuan menace to professional wellbeing – so long as the famous still tweet, few will feel the ground shifting underfoot.

Which is to say, you shouldn't put roots anywhere you aren't willing to spend the rest of your life. Read the rest

Big tech stocks tumble

Facebook's down 20% and Twitter's down 14%, for reasons that everyone now says are obvious.

But the same pundit class was boosting them until reality bit:

One of the funny things about news aggregators, and filtered feeds in general (as opposed to chronological ones) is how they hide time and change and make everything seem immediate. Yesterday's confident bullshit gets posed against today's naked truth, competing with it until no-one's left who believes anything there. Read the rest

Realtor used inflatable T-Rex to jazz up home photos

We've all heard of staging a home for sale but this is outrageous.

Among the lovely shots of hardwood floors, lake views, and a screened-in patio, we see ol' Tyrannosaurus raiding the fridge, taking a nap, fishing in the lake, and even mowing the grass. That's pretty impressive for a guy with such tiny arms, no? "We came up with the idea a few years ago and have been waiting for the right client and right house to try it," explains listing agent Casey Lewis. "It was a great way to get extra exposure to an already great property."

That exact model of inflatable T-Rex is on Amazon, which I know because it's my go-to gift for people who are hard to shop for. Read the rest

The Joy of Missing Out

In the NYT, Hayley Phelan recommends disengagement from the information rat race.

If you’re wondering whether you may also be engaging in unhealthy tech habits, here’s a helpful pop quiz:

Do you own a smartphone?

That’s it. Because if you answered yes, you’re essentially carrying around what the Center for Humane Technology, an organization working to spur reform in the tech and media industries, calls a “slot machine” in your pocket. Play it enough times, and you’re bound to get hooked. This isn’t an accident. This is big business.

There are further tips in the article, all of which amount to "be less online" and, euphemized, "remember that capitalism is bad."

The phrase "Joy of Missing Out" and the ideas behind it have already been appropriated by those it obviously aims to subvert. Pictured below is Google CEO Sundar Pichai, selling you the idea of using Google to cut down on everything except Google.

This means that if you talk about this stuff in its intended or meaningful sense, gentlemen will explain it to you or tell you to use some app that stops you using other apps, then turn weirdly aggressive when you disagree. Read the rest

Streamers who broadcast to no-one

Streaming is the new blogging, some say, where total committment to doing something interesting or offbeat in public attracts vast (and monetizable) audiences. But the long tail is still a dream: most people who attempt it have no audience whatsoever. And yet many persist, that 0 slowly burning a soul hole. Patricia Hernandez:

According to people who have gone through it, lacking an audience is one of the most demoralizing things you can experience online. ... If live streaming is a practice, the person behind the camera is the product. While there are things you can practice and improve, your popularity as a streamer comes down to whether or not people like you or find you interesting. “I [initially] kept internalizing the viewership numbers to mean that I was the problem, that I wasn’t funny enough, that I wasn’t good enough at games.” After a year of hard work, he estimates that he now gets around 10 concurrent viewers per stream.

Some eventually get a fan or a few, after a few months of nothing....

“Lots of days with 0 viewers, just did my thing, learned what works, still am,” Khryn_Tzu said. “Then it happened. There was one viewer. And they stayed. They didn’t say anything for a few streams, but they kept coming back. Then one night I had to go AFK so I put on some Metallica. Out pops a ‘Good choice in music. I like Metallica.’ It was such an exhilarating feeling to have someone completely unknown to me to stick around for MY content.

Read the rest

Government costs rise when the local newspaper dies

A study (inspired by a John Oliver segment about the decline of local newspapers) looked at data from 1,266 counties and found that the loss of watchdogs leads to less efficient government. The Guardian:

The researchers concluded that Rocky Mountain News stories had served as a watchdog agent. Without it, the spread or yield of newly issued local municipal bonds increased by 37 basis points... The researchers also looked at the Cincinnati Post, which closed in 2007. In that instance too, the median yield spread for newly issued local municipal bonds increased by about 66.1 basis points – another indication, according to the authors, that public finances suffer when a newspaper closes.

Read the rest

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