August 15, 2019  12:12 PM

God is a fridge

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A teenage girl has turned to her family’s smart fridge in a desperate quest to reach Twitter followers, after her mum confiscated her electronic devices one by one.

The 15-year-old, known to her online friends as Dorothy, was initially stopped from tweeting from her Ariana Grande fan account when she had her phone taken away. So she took to her Nintendo DS to update her followers instead.

When the mum identified that loophole, tweeting that she’d “seen that Dorothy has been using Twitter on her Nintendo”, she shut that down, too. Dorothy then resumed makeshift communications from her Wii U, until – you’ve guessed it – this by now mythical, Pac-Manesque parent grabbed the final device and left her daughter with nothing.

The walls were closing in on our protagonist. The phone was nowhere to be found, the DS had been snuffed out, and we can only pray the mum didn’t go full Kirstie Allsopp on the Wii U. If Dorothy couldn’t tweet, her hard-earned follower count was sure to dwindle. The feed sat dormant. It had lost its author to a brutal programme of censorship. But then came hope:

“I do not know if this is going to tweet I am talking to my fridge what the heck my mom confiscated all of my electronics again.”

August 7, 2019  11:54 AM

8chan history

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As we watched a former porn site merchant’s video statement, him sat there in front of a Benjamin Franklin backdrop to the sound of a military bugle call, defending 8chan’s white supremacist propaganda from his pig farm in the Philippines, we couldn’t help but marvel at another darling of Donald’s Trump’s America.

Jim Watkins is the owner of nefarious message board 8chan, a website originally created for people who found 4chan a bit too tame. He’s feeling sorry for himself because his Wild West hotbed of hate speech (rebranded as free speech, butter wouldn’t melt) was driven offline due to its role in promoting mass shootings.

Watkins, unshackled by things like dignity and shame, defiantly claims 8chan is “one of the last independent companies that offers a place you may write down your thoughts, free from having to worry about whether they are offensive to one group or another”. And now it’s gone, you say? Good!

Who started letting this idea through that human adults should not have to worry about how their online behaviour affects others? Why is this absolute nut, asking where users can go now to spout their racist and homophobic bile, being so tenderly echoed by the BBC? Isn’t it more pertinent to ask why they can’t grow up and stop being such poisonous little freaks?

August 2, 2019  12:09 PM

Welcome to Limmy’s Twitch

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Amazon-owned live video streaming platform Twitch has lost one of its biggest stars to Microsoft-owned rival site Mixer, but rather than lament the departure of Ninja, one clandestine member of the Twitch community has taken it as cause for celebration.

Scottish comedian Limmy responded to Ninja’s announcement with unabashed jubilance, convinced a space has opened up for him to now become the platform’s top streamer. One fan remarked: “Clear indication that Ninja fears Limmy and has chosen to bow out rather than face the challenge presented by Twitch’s oldest and worst gamer.”

So what do you get when you subscribe to Limmy’s channel? If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’re gifted one free subscription to a Twitch streamer of your choice every month, but why would you pick him? Well, when he’s not testing the site’s terms of service with his offensive conduct, he can often be found telling improv stories. AI enthusiasts might be particularly interested in his tale of a voice assistant that goes rogue.

He also broadcasts compelling Truck Simulator games for hours on end, takes radio presenters to task for stealing his material and performs karaoke duets with other members of the community.

What soon becomes clear when you watch his content is that Limmy desperately needs this, so please subscribe today.

July 26, 2019  9:18 AM

Apologising with Nick Clegg

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Nick Clegg – Sir Nick to you – continues to flourish as Facebook’s hired appeaser, most recently resurfacing from his Atherton mansion with a sound bite about how his employer was “rocked to its very foundations” over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

This culture of politicians cocking up their jobs before getting even more lucrative ones has been kind to Facebook. Bringing in the former deputy prime minister might have once looked odd, but we’ve become used to news like chancellors metamorphosing into newspaper editors and Chris Grayling not living in a bin. It’s allowed Mark Zuckerberg to sign up Clegg and his special talent.

You see, for Nick Clegg, sorry seems to be the easiest word in the world. While many would hide from an entire nation’s contempt, he’s carved out a niche in professionally letting people down. It requires a unique energy, but he’s got it. It’s like someone took the moment Rupert Murdoch said “this is the most humble day of my life” and made it into a person. And that’s just what Zuck needed.

Let’s take a closer look at him in action. Referring to Facebook’s £4bn fine from the US Federal Trade Commission, Clegg said: “I totally accept that you could double, quadruple the fine and I expect people would still say it’s not enough.” Be honest. You feel a bit sorry for Facebook now, don’t you. The guy’s a maestro.

July 11, 2019  9:54 AM

Let us troll

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This month saw the Church of England release its own Digital charter, intended to improve the online community’s “common sense, kindness and sound judgement”.

Now, you can sit there and have a go at the pomposity of thinking a list of arbitrary rules is going to make notorious online trolls turn their lives around, but just know you’ll be doing so in contravention of the charter.

It might have taken over a decade of widespread social media chaos for the Church of England to produce these guidelines, but, in its defence, is that really such a long time when you consider the 200,000-odd years we had to wait before God put some ideas forward?

Credit where it’s due – you can’t argue with the sentiment of calling for a bit more kindness on the internet. But let’s not get too carried away. Liz Morgan, the Church of England’s digital champion (congratulations), wrote a piece in The Metro saying the guidelines are about “how we can all be better humans online”.

Honestly, we’re trying to remain respectful here, but it really can’t be right that we’re taking lessons on humanity from an organisation still struggling with the concept of equal marriage.

July 3, 2019  3:47 PM

Buffer load stance

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Neneh Cherry’s Glastonbury performance gained some unexpected attention from the tech world at this year’s festival, after the laptop playing the evergreen singer’s backing visuals crashed and rebooted mid-set.

The main point of interest came from the fact the laptop was running Windows XP, an operating system right on the cusp of retro status, but not quite there yet. It’s like football shirts. If it had been Windows 98, for example, everyone there would have probably celebrated the throwback aesthetic as a knowing nod to the past. But XP? It just looks like you don’t look after yourself.

It gives us an early taste of the future of entertainment. The last generation’s insatiable thirst for being reminded about the days before we had any computers at all will pass the baton to a generation that in a few years will sell out Peter Kay’s Windows Vista-inspired comeback tour. “Who remembers opening Windows Sidebar and finding gadgets?” he’ll ask a hysterical audience in front of a Sony Vaio projecting its own disk defragmentation.

“That Neneh Cherry’s been at it again at Glastonbury,” he’ll go on. “She brought t’CD-ROM with her, you remember t’CD-ROM? She tried to give her laptop a last-minute upgrade this time, but needed to get on stage with Windows 7 seconds away…”

June 26, 2019  2:01 PM

Toronto adapters

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Toronto residents are grappling with a quandary posed by the plans of Google sister company Sidewalk Labs to build a smart city on its eastern waterfront.

It’s always fun to learn about Google’s various madcap capers, typically carried out under cheerful, ungainly named subsidiaries supposedly living it up independently from its legal guardian. When a corporate restructuring saw Google give itself a Sesame Street-evoking parent company called Alphabet in 2015, it was like watching a six-year-old billionaire orphan enlisting a clown to build them a benevolent new mum out of balloons.

Google, after all, wasn’t nominally responsible for its boisterous brother Boston Dynamics, provider of those butt-clenching robots. It was Alphabet that cut it loose from the family for damaging its reputation in, to be fair, the most apocalyptic fashion imaginable.

But it’s tempting to only see the positives of a futuristic city, with streets that “blur the line between indoors and outdoors”, some nice shops and highly reliable Wi-Fi. It’s also reasonable, however, to relate to locals who worry they’re being treated like lab rats. This city would be the first of its kind, and if the wrong person hacks into it, the whole place could be programmed into something from a Saw film based in a Westfield.

June 19, 2019  2:52 PM

Puss in briefs

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A Pakistani politician has played down the embarrassment of one of his briefings being streamed live to Facebook with the cat filter on.

“The cat filter was turned on by mistake,” said Shaukat Yousafzai. “Let’s not take everything so seriously.”

But it’s our job to take everything seriously, and we have some questions. Can it just be accepted as a coincidence, for a start, that his first name sounds a bit like “show cat”? And who accidentally streams themselves as a cat? We’ve never heard of that before. Generally speaking, these filters take some seeking out. It’s not like they’re the default setting.

Is it not more likely that Yousafzai actually is a cat? Not an ordinary one, but one that relies on a team of experts to activate a human filter from which he can sustain a credible political career. Groundbreaking technology that briefly crashed that day in Peshawar to expose him and his peers in their true feline forms. If so, they needn’t have worried, because people generally like cats.

But imagine how that technology could have humanised the Tory leadership race in the UK; a contest that recently forced Emily Maitlis to chair a hubristic five-way squabble between a lizard, a toad, a pig, a rat and a ginormous, self-gratifying blobfish in full Donald Trump fancy dress.

June 13, 2019  11:37 AM

Some reflections on Black Mirror

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The fifth series of Charlie Brooker’s anthology series Black Mirror landed on Netflix this month, and we were surprised to find it’s moved away from making terrifying technology predictions to become an unwitting homage to the Not a cell phone in sight meme.

The second episode, Smithereens, is gripping drama, but it hardly evokes the show’s trademark dystopian dread of yore. Its main insight, that everyone’s addicted to their phones, is the same one your dad started making 10 years ago – and no one cared then!

It’s calming, though, to know that in a world of supposedly uncontrollable exponential technology, one of the country’s most vivid creative minds can currently only come up with an Uber driver-type demanding to speak to a Twitter CEO-type about the trappings of his ruefully engaging social media platform.

That got us thinking; technology’s often used as a scapegoat for human confusion and fear, isn’t it? The antagonist’s angry with the Jack Dorsey figure for creating something that once fatally distracted him, but what if instead he’d been spirited away by a bucket of KFC? Would he have gone on a mission to give Colonel Sanders a dressing down for his irresponsible fusion of 11 herbs and spices?

The answer is “no”, because the Colonel is dead, and no trope works quite like “technology is bad” to absolve us of our own scattiness.

June 7, 2019  2:05 PM

No tunes left to buy

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

The absorption of iTunes as we know it into three new entertainment apps – Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV – has sent us down yet another nostalgic rabbit hole.

It’s the app we’ve come to associate with banishing the moment it starts bouncing up and down when we charge our iPhone on a MacBook, but iTunes once swore in our first digital music libraries (once it overcame early competition from Windows Media Player and those dazzling visualisations).

Some, we’re reliably informed, turned to peer-to-peer file sharing clients such as LimeWire to bolster their newly digitised CD collections. AOL routers would more often than not find the strain of downloading albums too much to bear – and the process of obtaining a new release would invariably cost an amount of time and effort that came to outweigh any financial hit a trip to Zavvi involved – but that was, we can only imagine, all part of the experience.

When the download was finally complete, these pirate music pioneers would then return to iTunes with their illegal sonic acorns, squirrelling them away via painstaking in-app edits to all-lowercase filenames to make them look legit. We wouldn’t need to do that now, of course, with the likes of Ariana Grande titling her songs like a lazy child anyway, but dear God, those were the days. Apparently.

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