A non-binding contract?

Last year, Tim Berners-Lee launched his Contract for the Web, setting out what he hopes will be our rights and freedoms on the internet. It wasn’t received entirely positively at the time, but Tim’s persisting.

Contract for the Web
Everyone has a role to play in safeguarding the future of the Web. The Contract for the Web was created by representatives from over 80 organizations, representing governments, companies and civil society, and sets out commitments to guide digital policy agendas. To achieve the Contract’s goals, governments, companies, civil society and individuals must commit to sustained policy development, advocacy, and implementation of the Contract text.

We can all get involved — governments, corporations, individuals.

Contract for the Web: Tim Berners-Lee calls on world governments (and us all) to make the web a force for goodBoingBoing
Governments that sign on are asked to promise to “ensure everyone can connect to the internet,” to “keep all the internet available all the time,” and to “respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights.”

Corporate signatories promise that they will “make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone,” “respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust,” and “develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst.”

Individuals are asked to “be creators and collaborators on the Web,” “build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity,” and “fight for the Web.”

It’s the digital equivalent of the climate crisis.

Tim Berners-Lee unveils global plan to save the webThe Guardian
“I think people’s fear of bad things happening on the internet is becoming, justifiably, greater and greater,” Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, told the Guardian. “If we leave the web as it is, there’s a very large number of things that will go wrong. We could end up with a digital dystopia if we don’t turn things around. It’s not that we need a 10-year plan for the web, we need to turn the web around now.”

But, as before, doubts remain.

Tim Berners-Lee: web inventor’s plan to save the internet is admirable, but doomed to failThe Conversation
But the fact that Google and Facebook back the contract raises some questions. Do they really want to help reform the web to curb their worst behaviour or will manipulation continue to be the cost of access?

The algorithms of Google, Facebook and Twitter determine what people see online, whether that is adverts or political content. The contract does nothing to resolve this huge imbalance in influence and power. Many of us feel like we have no choice but to use their services, and they often use openness – such as free email and free apps like Google Maps – as a way of furthering their control over everything people do online.

Google makes money from people using free services, mostly by hoovering up our data to fuel targeted ads, and its business model isn’t likely to change overnight. For internet reform to succeed, it would need international collaboration between governments for effective regulation, along with pressure from users.

Sounds unlikely, to be honest. Unfortunately.

Update 05/12/2019

I’ve just come across this article that I thought fits well here, trying to imagine an internet that serves the public interest. It seems such a quaint idea, but one with a solid history behind, thanks in part to radio and the BBC.

Building a more honest internetColumbia Journalism Review
Of the world’s top hundred websites, Wikipedia is the sole noncommercial site. If the contemporary internet is a city, Wikipedia is the lone public park; all the rest of our public spaces are shopping malls—open to the general public, but subject to the rules and logic of commerce.

Hiding noise with more noise

A few days after that post on tinnitus, this Quartz Obsession email arrived in my inbox, all about white noise. Apparently white noise technology is big business now, as more and more of us get increasingly fed up with noise pollution and are seeking a way out.

White noiseQuartz
The business of white noise has been commodified and packaged as a path to “silence” in a noisy world. Therapists and attorneys place white noise machines outside their office doors, like tiny privacy sentries. Parents clip white noise machines masquerading as cuddly lambs and owls to car seats and cribs to soothe babies to sleep. Apps offer personalizable white noise soundtracks.

As the world gets louder and noise pollution scales to what some claim as a public health crisis, white noise technology is facing a demand like never before, and business is quietly booming.

I hadn’t realised how much it can help with tinnitus, though.

Tinnitus is a chronic condition associated with the misfiring of neurons damaged by high excessive noise-exposure that leads to hearing phantom sounds. People affected by extreme noise are also more likely to develop dementia, anxiety, and have their learning ability impaired, suggesting sound exposure may have even wider neural effects. White noise is being pitched as one of the solutions to the problem. Research backed up by studies done on mice suggests low-level noise can reduce symptoms of tinnitus, and has become a recommended treatment method.

And it can come in all sorts of flavours, too.

Colored noise, and how it can help you focusYouTube
Colors like white, pink and brown aren’t just for clouds, flowers and cows! They also describe special sounds that can actually help you focus and sleep!

But let one of my favourite authors have the last word.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
William Gibson, Neuromancer

A welcome video art refresher

I enjoyed this trip down memory lane, care of the BBC and Vic Reeves.

Kill Your TV: Jim Moir’s Weird World of Video ArtBBC iPlayer
With contributions from leading British artists such as Isaac Julien and Rachel Maclean, Jim shows how the arrival of the portable video camera in the 1960s allowed artists to create work that set out to take on the power of corporate media. New York-based artist Nam June Paik, credited as video art’s inventor, once declared, ‘television has been attacking us all our lives – now we can attack it back.’

It took me back to my student days, messing around with sound and video in an attempt to forge a new ‘interactive’ art. The work of Brian Eno featured quite heavily in those days (he was an ex-student of our Head of Programme, as our Head of Programme was always keen to point out), and I see he was in the news again the other day.

Brian Eno’s latest composition: A giant Christmas card with Julian Assange on itThe Register
Acclaimed lift music composer Brian Eno is orchestrating a mass mail-in to Brit home secretary Priti Patel so the great unwashed can tell her: “Don’t Extradite Assange.”

At 3pm on 3 December, the background muzak technician will pull the sheets off an oversized digital Christmas card (pictured) outside the Home Office’s Westminster premises, featuring a snap of white-haired WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and emblazoned with the cheery message: “This Christmas journalism is on trial.”

Up our street

A strange juxtaposition — a sophisticated New York arts magazine highlighting some very familiar terraced streets from the north of England.

Shirley Baker’s half century of street photographyThe New Yorker
Shirley Baker was born in Kersal, North Salford, England, in 1932. The body of work for which she is remembered is fairly limited, encompassing her street photography of Manchester and Salford, shot between the 1960 and 1973 (and including early experiments with color, beginning in 1965). The images reflect on a time of rapid economic and social change, when the British-built environment, and ideals of home and community, were upturned. In the wake of the Housing Repairs and Rents Act, of 1954, 1.3 million homes were demolished between 1955 and 1973. In Baker’s images, we see the clash of old and new as sooty children play in front of decrepit houses, with tower blocks emerging in the distance. “I did know that fundamental changes were taking place … and nobody seemed to be interested in recording the face of the people or anything in their lives,” Baker wrote in “Street Photographs: Manchester and Salford,” in 1989. “My interest grew into a compulsion even though the notion of someone wandering the unpicturesque streets of Manchester and Salford with a camera seemed quite crazy to most people then.”

up-our-street

As Colin Ford, the first director of the National Museum of Photography, wrote, of Baker, “Not since the photographs of the Farm Security Administration in America in the thirties have I seen someone photographing people in deprived states and getting herself so involved.”

(See this earlier post for more about the Farm Security Administration project.)

VICE has an interview with Lou Stoppard, the editor of a new book showcasing her work.

Glorious photos of life up northVICE
She was born in Salford, so it was her stomping ground. These terraced houses are being cleared and she was aware that no one was documenting that process. She very much sees herself as one of her subjects, too, and she talks about all the energy that would have gone into putting those homes together, and how no one was really documenting it. All of those lives that had been destroyed and those narratives that had been acted out, and that was all going to be swept away. So she started wandering around and making pictures, and the people there came to know her and trust her. So there’s definitely a connection in the sense of: this is her hometown.

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Meanwhile, across the Atlantic.

Vancouver street photographer Fred Herzog has died, age 88The Art Newspaper
The passing of the Vancouver-based photographer Fred Herzog on Monday, at age 88, marked not only the loss of a great artist, but also the end of an era, since the city he documented over more than half a century has itself vanished. The Kodachrome images of mid-century street life he became famous for late in his career show Vancouver before it became overrun by luxury apartment towers and international real estate speculation.

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But if you’re wanting a little more glamour with your street photography, try these.

Bill Cunningham: On the StreetKottke
Until his death in 2016, Bill Cunningham captured the fashions of people walking the streets and catwalks of NYC and elsewhere, mostly for the NY Times over the past five decades. A new book, Bill Cunningham: On the Street, is the first published collection of his work and includes more than 700 photos along with a number of essays by friends, subjects, and cultural critics.

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Faking a moon landing disaster

This July saw the 50th annivesary of the moon landing, and I shared a number of landing related links, including one about a speech for President Nixon in case the worst should happen, titled “In the Event of Moon Disaster.”

Well, it’s been given the deepfake treatment.

A deepfake Nixon delivers eulogy for the Apollo 11 astronautsKottke
Fifty years ago, not even Stanley Kubrick could have faked the Moon landing. But today, visual effects and techniques driven by machine learning are so good that it might be relatively simple, at least the television broadcast part of it. In a short demonstration of that technical supremacy, a group from MIT has created a deepfake version of Nixon delivering that disaster speech. …

The implications of being able to so convincingly fake the televised appearance of a former US President are left as an exercise to the reader.

In event of moon disaster – Nixon deepfake clipsYouTube

Resisting political negativity

It’s hard to stay positive about politics these days.

Chief Rabbi launches unprecedented attack on ‘mendacious’ Jeremy Corbyn over Jew hateThe Jewish Chronicle
Also highlighting shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s claim that the party is now “doing everything” to tackle the crisis, the Chief Rabbi says: “The claims by leadership figures in the Labour Party that it is ‘doing everything’ it reasonably can to tackle the scourge of anti-Jewish racism and that it has ‘investigated every single case’ are a mendacious fiction.” …

In a clear reference to Jewish MPs such as Dame Louise Ellman, Luciana Berger and also to the whistleblowers who spoke out about Labour’s failure to tackle the problem in a BBC Panorama documentary, he writes: “We sit powerless, watching with incredulity as supporters of the Labour leadership have hounded parliamentarians, party members and even staff out of the party for facing down anti-Jewish racism.”

Harry Dunn’s family urge voters to unseat Dominic RaabThe Guardian
They said: “We are not political people. Whatever political thoughts we hold we generally keep to ourselves. But the enormity and shocking nature of what has happened to us have left us feeling compelled to come to Esher and Walton this evening in the midst of the current election campaign. We feel that his handling of our situation has been so outrageously dishonourable and disrespectful that we have a duty to respectfully bring these matters to the direct attention of that local community that have until now voted him into this position.”

Tony Blair says Tories and Labour engaged in ‘populism running riot’The Guardian
“We’re a mess,” Blair said. “The buoyancy of the world economy has kept us going up to now, but should that falter, we will be in deep trouble. Investment is down; jobs in certain sectors are already moving; our currency stays devalued sharply; and market sentiment swings between anxiety and alarm.

“And across a range of international issues which matter to us, we’re irrelevant – too preoccupied to spare overstretched bandwidth of attention. Our politics is utterly dysfunctional.”

Nine key facts about the election everyone keeps getting wrongWired UK
The 2019 general election is proving to be one of the most complicated to discern, as candidates and political parties move away from traditional truth-stretching and fact-massaging to more malicious potential falsehoods.

The public have also picked up on it, too, becoming more tribal, overlooking obvious facts when they do not chime with their viewpoint. It’s also an immensely important election, so we’ve taken the time to look at several key areas and bust some “facts” you may hear from the mouths of politicians, pundits and the general public that prove to be… less than factual.

I need to revisit my earlier post, I think, It’s not all bad news, and its links to Hans Rosling’s work. I’m currently reading and thoroughly enjoying his “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think”, a book needed now more than ever.

FactfulnessGapminder
Factfulness is a relaxing habit for critical thinking. It helps you maintain a fact-based worldview. It teaches you how to recognise and avoid the most common ways information gets misinterpreted.

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Trumped typography

Trump’s handwriting was in the news the other day, when cameras caught a glimpse of the notes he’d made for himself before meeting reporters.

Handwriting expert says Trump’s ‘I WANT NOTHING’ note bears ‘the sign of a liar’Rolling Stone
As for the large, blocky writing, Lowe attributes that to him being “someone who has a strong need for security and to be in control, to be looked up to.” The way the letters disconnect point to “someone who was unable to assimilate the difficulties he experienced in childhood, which leaves him open to life’s various adversities. He lacks good coping mechanisms and has trouble relating fully to himself and to others.”

Now you too can write like the president, though why on earth you’d want to is another matter.

Final Word From The Pres

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Write your own notes in Trump’s handwriting with this new web generatorFast Company
Part of what made the photo notable was that it revealed that the unique writing style the president uses online—the Twitter-friendly brevity of character count and a seemingly unpredictable all-caps emphasis—applies to good old pen on paper, too. For the website, called Final Word From the Pres, the Jones Knowles Ritchie team took those characteristics and automated them. The generator will autocorrect words, turning “we” to “I,” “Trump” to “Stable Genius,” “big” to “yuuge,” and “SNL” to “unfunny,” so the note you write is adapted to the president’s voice. But there are many more autocorrections, with over one hundred Easter eggs up for discovery as you uncover the distinctive language patterns of a very stable genius.

This isn’t the first time such a typeface has been created.

Tiny Hand will be your new Comic SansBuzzfeed News
I was struck not only by the peculiar delivery of the notes, but also by the idiosyncratic way Trump writes the alphabet. At that moment it was clear to me — as it surely must be to you, dear reader — I had to make a font based on Donald Trump’s handwriting.

Mad to think that’s from 2016. Here we are, nearly 2020, and he and his juvenile writing/thinking is still here.

The sea and the Kroner

The inspiration behind the redesign of the new Norwegian banknotes.

Norwegian banknotes: Original design and main conceptMetric
Norway is a coastal nation. The Norwegian coastline is unique on a world scale; it is Europe’s longest and extends over 13 latitudes. 90% of Norway’s population live within 10 km of the ocean. When it comes to productivity, diversity in species and distinctive character, it is unparalleled throughout the world. The Norwegian livelihood is the ocean – it is the origin of our most important resources. It is our food basket and our major source of income. It is also the origin of our shared history and knowledge – a source to our worldview and our identity.

The banknote motifs are all about how Norwegians use the ocean; about how we combine our access to resources with knowledge and how the ocean affects the Norwegian way of life and social model – both politically and socially.

the-sea-and-the-kroner-1

I love the way black and white photography is used here, to contrast with the macro shots of the notes themselves.

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Quitting your pocket slot machine

Political misinformation, privacy screw-ups , harmful and manipulative content — let’s just switch it off.

The case for deleting your social media accounts & doing valuable “deep work” instead, according to Prof. Cal NewportOpen Culture
As for the claim that we should join him in the wilderness of the real—his argument is persuasive. Social media, says Newport, is not a “fundamental technology.” It is akin to the slot machine, an “entertainment machine,” with an insidious added dimension—the soul stealing. Paraphrasing tech guru and iconoclast Jaron Lanier, Newport says, “these companies offer you shiny treats in exchange for minutes of your attention and bytes of your personal data, which can then be packaged up and sold.” But like the slot machine, the social media network is a “somewhat unsavory source of entertainment” given the express intent of its engineers to make their product “as addictive as possible,” comparable to what dietitians now call “ultra-processed foods”—all sugar and fat, no nutrients.

It’s from three years ago now, but doesn’t get any less relevant.

Quit social media | Dr. Cal NewportYouTube
‘Deep work’ will make you better at what you do. You will achieve more in less time. And feel the sense of true fulfillment that comes from the mastery of a skill.

Too much of a good thing?

Looking for something to watch when you’ve got too much time on your hands?

The top 10 best 10-hour long videos on YouTubeLifewire
It’s pretty unlikely that most viewers actually sit there to watch one of these excruciatingly long videos in full, but that’s not really the point. The point is that a 10-hour version of a popular video or meme simply exists, and that’s what makes it at least ten times funnier than the original.

I see there’s an epic version of the catchy/creepy Russian Trololo guy, which I think I’ll pass. Though if they made a 10 hour version of any of these old Russian tunes I won’t complain.

Like to be by the sea

We always knew it to be the case, but now science backs it up.

Blue spaces: why time spent near water is the secret of happiness
In recent years, stressed-out urbanites have been seeking refuge in green spaces, for which the proven positive impacts on physical and mental health are often cited in arguments for more inner-city parks and accessible woodlands. The benefits of “blue space” – the sea and coastline, but also rivers, lakes, canals, waterfalls, even fountains – are less well publicised, yet the science has been consistent for at least a decade: being by water is good for body and mind.

like-to-be-beside-the-sea-1

White says there are three established pathways by which the presence of water is positively related to health, wellbeing and happiness. First, there are the beneficial environmental factors typical of aquatic environments, such as less polluted air and more sunlight. Second, people who live by water tend to be more physically active – not just with water sports, but walking and cycling.

Third – and this is where blue space seems to have an edge over other natural environments – water has a psychologically restorative effect. White says spending time in and around aquatic environments has consistently been shown to lead to significantly higher benefits, in inducing positive mood and reducing negative mood and stress, than green space does.

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“People work with what they have,” says Kelly. When she lived in London, she would head for the Thames when she had a spare 10 minutes “and recalibrate”. Then, four times a year, she would go to Brighton “and the benefits would keep me going for the next few months – so I didn’t get into a place of being overwhelmed or stressed, just keeping myself topped up”.

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All the more reason to be looking after our natural environment.

Pragmatic password pointers

It’s 2019 and we’re still having a problem with passwords.

The Disney+ hack shows why you need to up your password gameWired UK
Although it can still be referred to as a ‘hack’, it wasn’t Disney’s servers that were compromised – but its customers.

“What hackers do is they have a huge list of previously stolen username and password combinations and they use hacking tools to automatically check those username and password combinations against the target website,” says Andrew Martin, CEO of DynaRisk, a cybersecurity company. “They throw hundreds of millions of account details at them, and they see they see what sticks.”

Here’s some essential digital literacy advice that should be a compulsory part of every school’s curriculum. And every company’s induction programme.

The ultimate guide to passwords in 2019Fleetsmith
Putting to rest some of the most persistent falsehoods about passwords and what it takes to come up with strong passwords and practice good password security in 2019.

The main points:

  • How long should my password be? 10 characters long, minimum, but make it as long as possible. Length is the most important factor to strength.
  • Does my password need special characters to be strong? Nope.
  • Does my password need numbers to be strong? Nope.
  • What about switching numbers for letters(1337 speak)? This does nothing.
  • How often should I change my password? Only change it if you think it’s been compromised. Never force users to rotate passwords, this actually lowers security.
  • Can I use the same password on multiple sites? Absolutely not. Every service should have its own unique password so that you don’t have to change all of them when (not if) they get breached.
  • How can I remember my password? Don’t try to remember your passwords, use a password manager. If you don’t want to, write it down. If you have to make a long, memorable password, use the diceware method. But never reuse a password.
  • What about two-factor authentication? Always turn on 2FA if it’s an option. Use the strongest 2FA method you can. A text message is weaker than an authenticator app is weaker than hardware-based authentication. Never give a service your phone number if you can help it.
  • What about password recovery questions? Don’t give honest answers to these. For maximum security, generate a secondary random password for each question and store it in your password manager.

Via Khoi Vinh, who goes on to examine the poor user experience of passwords across platforms and products that almost encourages carelessness.

Passwords are a design problemSubtraction.com
Create six different accounts at six different web sites and you’ll very likely encounter six different approaches to encouraging and enforcing password strength and security, some egregiously lax and others excessively restrictive. That inconsistency alone undermines much of the vigilance that otherwise responsible users might bring to password creation.

Democracy damaged

It seems the Conservatives have shown themselves to be factually untrustworthy. I can’t imagine they thought they’d get away with this. I guess they mustn’t care.

Or perhaps it’s just a classic Trumpian move: the more we’re talking about this concocted social media controversy, the less we’re talking about the real issues at stake. Either way, (more) trust is lost.

Tories under fire for ‘fake’ fact-checking Twitter accountThe Telegraph

Tories pretend to be factchecking service during leaders’ debateThe Guardian

Fact Check HQ: Tories condemned over fake Twitter accountThe Herald

Tory HQ slammed for ‘dystopian’ rebranding of Twitter account during leaders’ debateHuffpost

Election debate: Conservatives criticised for renaming Twitter profile ‘factcheckUK’BBC News

Britain’s ruling political party masqueraded as a fact-checker on Twitter during a TV debateCNBC

The Tories just used a disinformation trick that deserves to get them banned from TwitterNew Statesman

Twitter says PM Johnson’s party misled public with ‘factcheck’ accountReuters

The debate itself left no clear winner. Perhaps, as suggested in the latest B3TA newsletter, the format should be dropped entirely and substituted for something more testing.

Forget leaders debates, prospective Prime Ministers should do a series of tasks without losing cool: switch phone to a different tariff; retrieve ball from grumpy neighbour; submit tax return to HMRC website; take a driving test etc.

In an earlier newsletter they had some pointers on how to improve voting, which, joking aside, might really be worth considering.

16 year olds should get TWO votes as they’ve got to live with the consequences longer.

Blank ballot papers so votes only count if you can remember the name of the candidate.

One person, one vote and that person is Sir David Attenborough.

 

We have rights, but who pays?

Two more think pieces on Labour’s plans to provide free broadband to everyone in the UK, if elected.

Free broadband: internet access is now a human right, no matter who pays the billsThe Conversation
Before the internet, most people in democracies had roughly equal opportunities to exercise their political rights. They could vote, write to newspapers or their political representative, attend public meetings and join organisations.

But when some people gained internet access, their opportunities to exercise political rights became much greater compared to those without the internet. They could publish their views online for potentially millions of people to see, join forces with other people without having to physically attend regular meetings, and obtain a wealth of previously inaccessible political information.

Today, a large proportion of our political debates take place online, so in some ways our political rights can only be exercised via the internet. This means internet access is required for people to have roughly equal opportunities to make use of their political freedoms, and why we should recognise internet access as a human right.

Economics of Labour’s plan to nationalise broadband – £20 billion cost is unrealisticThe Conversation
While there is no nationalised and free full-fibre scheme to compare Labour’s proposal to, Australia carried out a government-funded broadband rollout scheme that is widely viewed as a relative failure. This policy was not identical – it was not for full-fibre connections – but costs of the programme spiralled and it became a political football.

Expanding access to super-fast broadband is clearly an important policy goal and rural communities would likely be the biggest beneficiaries, as market forces are unlikely to provide this in the short or medium term. But Labour appears to significantly underestimate the costs, while possibly overestimating the savings.

Ultimately, the question to ask is whether guaranteed full-fibre connections in every home is justifiable if the programme started to run several times over budget, as seems likely. There would be a very real risk of non-delivery if the project keeps going over budget. Then, a lack of private sector provision would leave little alternative for consumers to turn to.

Past and future of gaming

Google’s leapt into gaming with the launch of Stadia.

Why Google Stadia is a ‘leap forward’ for gaming, according to its bossBBC News
“I don’t think what we’re doing is particularly revolutionary when you consider what’s happened in the music, television and film industries,” Google Vice President Phil Harrison tells Radio 1 Newsbeat. “They’ve moved from being packaged goods, discs, CDs, DVDs, blu rays, to almost exclusively an online and streaming experience.” And he believes Google will be just the first of many companies who ditch consoles and discs forever, and make the switch to a browser-led game streaming service.

No launch is ever perfect, though.

Google Stadia review: a terrible but tantalising glimpse of the futureWired UK
So, does it work? Kinda. Or, to be slightly harsher, not as such. At launch, Stadia does not live up to its promise of being able to play anywhere, on any screen, just by connecting a controller and accessing your library. It is utterly, expectedly, beholden to the stability and speed of your internet connection, which means for the great majority of players staying at home – just as they would with a console.

Stadia: Google’s online game streaming service launches to complaints about lagSky News
Gamers are finding that the process of communicating with Google’s servers where the games are being run is adding significant delays between when they press a button and when that action is carried out in-game.

These games might not have those heavy server demands and latency issues.

TweetTweetJam 3: Make a game in 560 characters of codeitch.io
Why 560? Because you don’t always need a ton of code to make something fun. Because sometimes it’s nice to scale back. But mostly because it’s the length of two tweets.

But let’s not lose sight of where we’ve been. Have a stroll down memory lane with this collection of gaming graphic design. It’s just one of several collections of logos Reagan has on his website.

Video game console logosReagan Ray
This list covers the second (1976) through eighth (present) generation consoles. According to Wikipedia, there were 687 first-generation consoles produced, so I decided that was a rabbit hole I didn’t want to enter. I had fun designing the page to look like an old video game ad or one of those posters that came in Nintendo Power. The TV screen borders even made me nostalgic for playing games on an old crappy 19-inch TV.

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And if you want to learn the dark truth about what’s behind platform games, watch this.

Little Runmo

Extreme archives

That 10,000 year clock is being built in remote, mountainous west Texas, a location thought to be safe from whatever the future might have in store for us. Here’s news of another.

Microsoft apocalypse-proofs open source code in an Arctic caveBloomberg
This is the Arctic World Archive, the seed vault’s much less sexy cousin. Friedman unlocks the container door with a simple door key and, inside, deposits much of the world’s open source software code. Servers and flash drives aren’t durable enough for this purpose, so the data is encoded on what look like old-school movie reels, each weighing a few pounds and stored in a white plastic container about the size of a pizza box. It’s basically microfilm. With the help of a magnifying glass, you—or, say, a band of End Times survivors—can see the data, be it pictures, text, or lines of code.

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What starts out as a quirky vanity project/photo op for the GitHub CEO becomes to be seen, at the very end of the article, and for him personally, as a timely precaution against a world “fundamentally weirder than it was 20 years ago”.

Mixing yesterday’s politics with tomorrow’s technology

I must admit I was as incredulous as everybody else when this was announced. Any talk of nationalisation makes me cringe.

Full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on Labour’s British Broadband announcementThe Labour Party
A Labour government will make broadband free for everybody. And not just any broadband, but the very fastest. Full-fibre broadband to every home, in every part of our country, for free – as a universal public service.

And once it’s up and running, instead of you forking out for your monthly bill, we’ll tax the giant corporations fairly – the Facebooks and the Googles – to cover the running costs.

But perhaps I’m being too hasty to dismiss this?

The Conservative’s own research shows why Labour’s broadband plan makes perfect senseWired UK
Research commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) last year argued that current major providers are competing for a slice of just 75 per cent of the UK broadband market – and largely ignoring rural areas that they consider unprofitable. …

Openreach was even identified as the best (and only) contender for the job, and advised against “competitive tendering”. In a similar way to Australia and Singapore, this model could deliver coverage at a lower cost than a model that relies more heavily on the private sector, analysts argued.

We’ll have to wait and see. It could all be academic anyway, come 12 December.

Being an astronaut isn’t plain sailing

One way of escaping our worries here on Earth could be to take a trip to the International Space Station. That might not work out so well, though.

Life on the Space Station is about to get really weird and lonelyWired UK
Right now, there are six astronauts aboard the International Space Station, floating 408km above our heads. But soon things could be about to get a lot lonelier up there. Delays in building new spacecraft to get astronauts into space mean that the next trio of astronauts set to join the ISS in April 2020 are facing the possibility of being the space station’s lone occupants for six months.

Space can make your blood flow backwardsBGR
On Earth, gravity aids in draining blood from the head and ensuring a steady flow. In space, that assistance just isn’t there, and slow-moving or stagnant blood can cause clotting. In fact, two of the crew members were found to have clots or partial clots in their left internal jugular vein. Blood clotting is incredibly dangerous when it happens within the body, and if a clot were to form and then travel to the lungs it could create a pulmonary embolism, which is a potentially fatal condition that requires immediate treatment.

Who to vote for? Who to trust?

This election’s quickly getting complicated. Let’s start at the beginning.

General election 2019: A really simple guideBBC
The UK’s main parties are gearing up for a general election on 12 December. These national votes, to choose a government to run the country, are supposed to be held every five years. But this would be the third since 2015. …

The issues UK voters care most about have changed a lot, according to the polls. The National Health Service (NHS) and immigration were the things that most concerned voters in 2015. The European Union (EU) was of far less interest. Now, however, Brexit – the UK’s departure from the EU – is by far the biggest issue.

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As this explainer from the BBC shows, there are marginal seats, with a majority of less than 10%, and now there are ultra-marginals, those with a majority of less than 2%.

Election 2019 in maps: Where are the seats that could turn the election?BBC
In 2017 there were 51 of these ultra-marginals – considerably more than in previous elections. In fact there were eight seats with a majority under 50.

All those will be hotly contested. The Conservatives will be hoping to win back some of the seats they lost last time – like Canterbury, Keighley and Kensington – while Labour will try to take seats where it got within a whisker – such as Arfon, Pudsey and Southampton Itchen.

Lots of talk about pacts and alliances between parties, though that’s far from straightforward.

The Lib Dem-Green-Plaid pact isn’t really a remain allianceIndependent
It’s perfectly legitimate for parties to tactically stand down against each other to increase their chances of winning. To describe this particular arrangement as being in aid of Remain however seems like a stretch given some of the seats involved. The selection seems more driven by which seats the parties want to win, rather than an assessment of whether the sitting MP supports a Final Say or not.

Remain alliance hit by candidates backlash over centrally-imposed pactTelegraph
The Green candidate in former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith’s Chingford seat is now backing Labour even though the pact between LibDems, Greens and Plaid Cymru explicitly ruled out any deals with Labour because of Jeremy Corbyn’s backing for a Brexit deal. John Tyne, a Green activist, said he was “tactically withdrawing” from the contest and would instead work with Labour to overturn Mr Duncan Smith’s 2,400 majority.

UK election 2019: everything you need to know about Brexit Party’s Leave ‘pact’The Conversation
Electoral deals, unilateral standing aside and tactical voting seem to have become the hallmark of this election campaign so far. And, if the assumption that in the absence of a Brexit party, or of UKIP, supporters will tend to vote Conservative holds, then this is both good and bad news for the Tories. Because although it may help some defences, it undermines Johnson’s team in their attack seats. And it may not do wonders for its brand in other areas.

And no shortage of people telling us who to vote for, however surprisingly.

Second ex-Labour MP urges people to vote for Boris Johnson to stop Jeremy CorbynIndependent
Mr Woodcock, who held Barrow and Furness for Labour for eight years before resigning the party to go independent in 2018, said he would be voting Conservative in order to prevent Mr Corbyn taking control of the UK’s defence and security.

Vote Lib Dem, urges former Conservative minister David GaukeThe Guardian
The former chief secretary to the Treasury said getting enough Liberal Democrats and independents returned to parliament would create a parliament opposed to no deal and that would also block the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, from becoming prime minister.

At least we’re clear who the leaders say we should vote for, right?

The fake video where Johnson and Corbyn endorse each other BBC
A fake social media video where Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn endorse each other for prime minister has been posted online in an attempt to show the potential of so-called ‘deepfake’ videos to undermine democracy.

Rather than voting for the party you want, perhaps we should vote tactically, against the party we don’t. But how?

And then there were three: Remain tactical voting sites fail to agreeThe Guardian
While tactical voting could play a key role in shaping the result of a volatile election, there are already concerns that the three sites disagree on which party voters should back in dozens of seats around the country.

Under current plans, Miller’s site will back about 50 Liberal Democrat candidates. Another major site already up and running, run by the Best for Britain campaign, recommends about 180 Lib Dems. Remain United’s model suggests that the Lib Dems are likely to win only 33 seats if there is a significant tactical voting drive. A third site, run by the People’s Vote campaign, also launched this weekend with its own set of recommendations.

I live in one of those ultra-marginals mentioned earlier, a constituency on the People’s Vote top 100 key target list, and all three sites suggest the same for me. This is how Best for Britain sees the result going. We’ll see.

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How much faith should we have in these sites and their differing methodologies? And what on earth is multilevel regression and poststratification?

Can you actually trust tactical voting websites?Wired UK
Because there are very few rules ensuring transparency in MRP modelling, it’s almost impossible to know where this variance comes from. People are being advised to vote for a political party without knowing that advice’s true impact. While Remain United has posted its results and general methodology online, Best for Britain has been less open. … John Curtice, who is also the President of the British Polling Council, told me that the regulatory organisation is “in the process of developing” transparency rules for publishing data from MRP modelling.

But perhaps we’re seeing this whole election from the wrong angle. Perhaps we’re overestimating the significance of the pacts and alliances, of the tactical voting models and strategies — of Brexit, itself.

Tactical pacts won’t turn this into a Brexit electionThe Guardian
Most people are not party members. Only the eccentric few follow every twist of the debate. The nerds who monitor cabinet reshuffles as if they were football transfer windows relish an election. It is our world cup. But the rest see it more like a trip to the dentist, necessary but unwelcome. It is something that should happen regularly but not often; definitely not recreational. Those are the people who decide the result and, hard though it may be for the obsessives like me to accept, their perspective is often better than ours. …

The ambition for pacts comes from the belief that this election is a referendum in disguise, and that voters must be channelled into leave and remain streams before they can be let loose in a polling booth. That isn’t how most people will see things, because it isn’t how general elections work. They are a tangle of old habits and first-time departures, local cultures and personal priorities, of which Brexit is only one. For some it is the NHS, or crime, or just a nasty taste in the mouth when Johnson or Corbyn appear on television – which is as valid a test as any, frustrating though it can be for people who wish the electorate could be organised into tidy ideological compartments.

Disaster averted

Switzerland decides to keep emergency coffee stockpile after public outcry
In April, the Swiss government announced it would scrap its emergency stores of coffee beans because it considered the item to be “nonessential.” The public emphatically disagreed and, on Monday, the Swiss government announced it would not proceed with its controversial plan, according to Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.

Better safe than sorry.