‘Link in bio’ on Instagram

Alyssa Bereznak, for The Ringer, discusses the inability to add links in Instagram posts, and the community’s semi-popular workaround:

Take a moment to think about that. A network that hosts millions of people won’t let them do something that is second nature for digital natives. So its users have concocted their own clunky loophole to get around the problem. It’s as if there were a permanent snowstorm in a city, and the mayor refused to clear the sidewalks. Inevitably, pedestrians would just stomp out their own inelegant roundabout paths to navigate the dirty, urine-filled slush.

Anecdotally: when I’ve (reluctantly) used this tactic on our company’s Instagram account, very few people have followed the link compared to the number of likes and comments on the post. I’m not sure it’s worth the bother. Instagram will roll out usable links to organic posts before too long, I’d wager.

Behind the scenes of ‘Gosh’ by Jamie xx

Director Romain Gavras filmed in a fake version of Paris with 300 Chinese schoolchildren:

Here’s an interview with Gavras by Selim Bulut for Dazed:

Bulut: What’s the name of the actor who plays the main character?

Gavras: His name is Hassan Kone. We found him in Paris. He’s 17, still in high school. He was amazing because it was a first time thing, he was street-cast. At first – and this is what I was saying about the process – I didn’t want to cast him. I just went to my casting director and I was briefing him to find somebody interesting to be the main character, so there was, like, 20 guys to go by. I didn’t want just an interesting face, I wanted somebody that has an emotion that’s really strong. And there was that kid. He was the only albino (in the casting), and although I was not looking for that, I thought ‘Oh, he’s really interesting. He moves me, I don’t know why, but he moves me.’ So then when we were in China, we looked for Chinese albinos – which is not easy to find because they’re not accepted socially. We found them through Chinese Facebook links, and I ended up in a party of Chinese albinos. They hang out with each other, and some of them were great, and we cast them for the video.

As a reminder, here’s the finished video:

 

On Iggy and the Stooges

I didn’t know until reading Judy Berman’s article for Pitchfork that Jim Jarmusch has made a documentary about Iggy and the Stooges:

Berman describes the film:

If you came to this film looking for rollicking tales from a legendary wild man, then you might see Iggy’s calm, well-reasoned recollections of a time when he was often in some altered state as another flaw. His interviews may even make each stage of the Stooges’ emergence look more deliberate than it actually was.

I’m not sure if it is a US/UK thing, but the ‘intelligent’ Iggy has been in the ascendant here over the past few years. His 6 Music shows show him to be a laconic, intelligent, artistic and darkly funny man. I don’t think this detracts from his stage presence either now no 50 years ago.

Also of note: Jarmusch recruited James Kerr, the Scorpion Dagger guy, for some animation! I had no idea he was so widely known, but I’m glad he is.

Barcelona’s first ‘superblock’

Pablo Valerio, for Cities of the Future:

Two weeks ago, after nearly three decades of waiting, Barcelona urban designer Salvador Rueda finally saw the first “Superilla” (Superblock) installed in his city. The superblock faced some fierce opposition from unhappy residents and local businesses complaining about loss of curbside parking, and changes of bus stops and street direction. It was also criticized from within the city council as some council members from the opposition parties asked for it to be dismantled.

Superblocks are a straightforward concept. Take 9 square city blocks in a 3×3 grid. Currently, traffic flows all around and through these blocks. A superblock restricts all through traffic by implementing a one-way system within the superblock that’s used by local vehicles only. All other through traffic, freight and buses travel between superblocks, not between blocks:

Graphic explaining superblocks

(This is how I used to build cities in the original Sim City, by the way, although I’m not holding out any hope for greater recognition.)

One of the main aims is to help Barcelona meet the EU directive on air quality, but it also has the effect of reclaiming roads, parking bays and other space previously given over solely to cars: in short, non-places.

Rueda has faced opposition (some reasonable, some less so) from politicians and residents. If these hurdles can be overcome, more superblocks can be rolled out:

The superblocks offer similar and much broader benefits for a surprisingly cheap price tag. Implementing the first superblock took one weekend and €55,000 ($61,000). The city government has allocated €10 million to expand them to other areas of Barcelona over the next three years.

How Donald Trump answers a question

Evan Puschak, aka the Nerdwriter, breaks down a single Trump answer:

Pushak demonstrates Trump’s user-friendly approach to answering interviewer questions. He talks at a 4th grade level, he uses simple sentences, he addresses listeners in the second person and uses commands. He does everything an inclusive writer should do. Rather than dumbing down, it’s hardly a stretch to say that what he does is straight out of the GDS guide. I’m half-tempted to file this entry under ‘UX’.

And the rhetoric element of his answers? He goes out of his way to end a sentence with a strong point, even if it means an awkward start. It’s powerful and memorable.

The content of his answers is another matter, of course.

The important distinction: Trump isn’t smart, he’s a salesperson. He’s unlikely to be doing this deliberately, thinking in real-time. It’s probably highly internalised behaviour, absorbed over years of experience. But it’s working.

101 small ways you can improve your city

Patrick Sisson and Alissa Walker with a great list for Curbed. A few I think are particularly interesting (and/or I might do):

13. Begin a guerrilla garden uprising. Green thumbs often have private plots and backyards to grow, but they can also get on the front lines. Surreptitiously filling in unkempt lots or small patches of untendered land with plants and flowers, or tossing a “seedbomb” at a hard to reach patch of land, turns lost space into lush greenery. Richard Reynolds, one of the leaders of the movement, maintains a blog with invaluable tips on how to reclaim “unloved public spaces.”

30. Open a gallery in your living room. If you think your apartment is cramped, maybe all it needs is a few paintings on the wall: Paul Soto turned his 300 square-foot apartment in Los Angeles into a functioning gallery.

90. Start a mobile produce market. Running a new route through the city’s food deserts, a decommissioned Chicago Transit Authority bus now moves market-fresh produce, not riders. The Fresh Moves project helps underserved neighborhoods get access to the same farmer’s market finds sold in other parts of the city.

98. Map your public produce. After noticing how many figs hanging over property lines remained unplucked, Fallen Fruit started making maps to help neighbors discover unharvested edibles growing on sidewalks and alleys. For bumper crops, Food Forward will show up and pick unwanted fruit, distributing it to those in need.

Nintendo 64 turns 20

Scott Meslow for GQ:

But no home console was so deliberately engineered to deliver well-crafted, compulsively replayable multiplayer experiences like the Nintendo 64—a quality that eventually came to distinguish it from the rest of its competition. When you look back on the Sony Playstation, the games that stand out—Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil 2—were entirely single-player, designed to deliver an experience that was groundbreakingly immersive but essentially solitary.

The Nintendo 64, of course, had its own single-player masterpieces. (I’d submit Banjo-Kazooie, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, and two of the all-time great Zelda games, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask). But the majority of the N64’s truly memorable titles were best when you played them alongside a few friends. In short, the N64 was the first great social console—and 20 years later, it still hasn’t quite been surpassed.

I grew up in a staunch Nintendo household (I’ve still never owned a PlayStation or Xbox) and can attest to the multiplayer thrills of the N64. I’ve got some great memories of me and my teenage friends competing on Goldeneye or Mario Kart. Particularly when we should have been revising for exams. I must dig it out again—I’ve been wanting to revisit the Zelda games.

Housekeeping: subscribe by email and follow on Twitter

Two short updates:

  • You can subscribe by email. You’ll get posts emailed to you immediately—even before I’ve corrected typos. On a desktop, laptop or tablet, use the signup box on the right-hand side. On mobile, scroll to the bottom.
  • There’s a new Twitter account that (only) tweets new posts. These are collected and spread out over the day (UK time) rather than being instantly published.

The effect of wolves in Yellowstone

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 after a 70-year absence. The changes were more far-reaching than anyone expected.

It started with them thinning the deer population, and the resulting chain reaction saw a huge increase in biodiversity and even unexpected changes in physical geography. The wolves changed the rivers!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q

Apple Music’s new personalised playlists

Reggie Ugwu’s Inside Apple Music’s Second Act for Buzzfeed:

The other big change is the addition of two new personalized playlists: My Favorites Mix and My New Music Mix. The playlists are generated by algorithms, a first for the service, which has largely relied on human curation for its playlists up to this point. Revealing how the mixes operate for the first time to BuzzFeed News, Apple claimed a potential advantage over similar algorithmically personalized playlists, including Spotify’s Discover Weekly and Pandora’s Thumbprint Radio: deep historical knowledge of individual users’ tastes and habits, based on years of data carried over from iTunes.

If you gave high ratings to a song or album in your old iTunes library, or just played it a lot more than others, you’ll find that behavior reflected in your My Favorites Mix. Meanwhile, the My New Music Mix algorithm serves recently released songs — as well as songs that Apple Music knows you haven’t played before — that the service’s music experts have flagged as similar to others in your taste profile. Apple Music executives suggested even more personalized playlists will follow in the series; but only after prototypes have been vetted, with all possible outcomes — intentional and otherwise — given careful consideration.

I’m still using Spotify’s Discover Weekly and Release Radar on a daily basis, but the two Apple Music playlists are a good start. Looking forward to seeing more.

Update: Spotify are rolling out Daily Mix, similar to Apple Music’s My Favourites Mix.

Follow the white ball

Sam Knight’s profile of mercurial snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan for the New Yorker:

When discussing O’Sullivan’s game, commentators and rivals often talk about his unusual sequencing—the way he links shots together around the table. Phil Yates, who was the snooker correspondent for the Times of London for twenty years, compares O’Sullivan to a savant, able to perceive mathematical solutions without knowing how or why. “I don’t think he can break down why he is as good as he is,” Yates said. “He just is.” According to [artist Damien] Hirst, O’Sullivan often comes off the table in a fugue state: “I go, ‘What about that pink you potted?’ And he’ll go, ‘What pink?’ He’s blank. He’s totally startled. It’s like van Gogh. I go, ‘You did brilliantly there.’ And he goes, ‘Did I?’ ”

Foldscope: an origami microcope

Hannah Yi, for Quartz:

Foldscope is an origami microscope made with a single sheet of paper that’s embedded with electronics and lenses. It costs less than $1 to build. Manu Prakash is the inventor of this low-cost scientific tool. He wants microscopes to be as ubiquitous as pencils and plans on shipping one million Foldscopes by the end of 2017.

Prakash is a 2016 MacArthur follow, winning $625k to continue his ‘frugal science’ work.

Smart quotes for smart people

A cheat sheet for using the right quotation marks in your writing:

“Smart quotes,” the correct quotation marks and apostrophes, are curly or sloped. “Dumb quotes,” or straight quotes, are a vestigial constraint from typewriters when using one key for two different marks helped save space on a keyboard. Unfortunately, many improper marks make their way onto websites because of dumb defaults in applications and CMSs. Luckily, using correct quotation marks and apostrophes today is easier than you think.