Ballet Slipper, Spice Route, Jurassic Gold, and Sea Turtle

1: What it’s like to run the Twitter handle “@message”

It’s an increasingly important part of any publication on the web, and it’s always changing and moving. Doing it successfully takes more than being good at Twitter, being good at talking to people, coming up with headlines or snappy descriptions, paying attention to traffic and timing, being willing to experiment and learn from it. It’s also depressingly easy to screw up and send the wrong tweet from the wrong account, which I managed to do more than once. Social media is a full-time job, and anyone who does it well has my admiration and respect.

2: Movie lists

Analysing the sentiment and volume of Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb ratings to find lists of the best recent, best unknown, most underestimated, and most overrated movies. Lots to dig through.

3: Rain is sizzling bacon, cars are lions roaring: the art of sound in movies

Skip Lievsay is one of the most talented men in Hollywood. He has created audioscapes for Martin Scorsese and is the only sound man the Coen brothers go to. But the key to this work is more than clever effects: it is understanding the human mind.

4: A blankness full of meaning

The app, OMBY, is a game that you win by unscrambling Moby-Dick, a few words at a time. The complete text of the book has been broken into 10,395 consecutive morsels of about twenty words each, but with each morsel missing a few words, and the missing words’ letters mixed up like Scrabble tiles. Rearrange the alphabetic chaos of those tiles to form the missing words, and swipe forward to the next puzzle. Now do that 10,394 more times, in order, all the way through the book […] What I love about this is the occasion it provides to engage Moby-Dick on the level of the word, which might be Moby-Dick’s weirdest and most delicious level.

5: How pantone is still turning color into money

Some 210 new colors came into the world last week. Ballet Slipper, Spice Route, Jurassic Gold, and Sea Turtle, among others. These shades always existed in nature, but now they are official—dramatic names and all. One can buy them from Pantone, a small company in Carlstadt, N.J., that literally snatches its products out of the air.

6: The secret history of “Y’all”: The murky origins of a legendary Southern slang word

Many discussions of the word connect it to the history of second-person pronouns in English. Old English had singular and plural forms of “you,” and these eventually morphed into the formal “you” and informal “thou” pronouns you find in Shakespeare and the King James Bible. But “y’all” isn’t a descendant of these, and there’s still debate about its origins.

7: Bar chart baselines start at zero

There are visualization rules and there are visualization suggestions. Most are suggestions. The ones that are rules exist because of how our brains process visual information. There’s just no getting around it.

I already covered the small handful of rules that pertain mostly to traditional statistical graphics. The first one—to always start your bar charts with a zero baseline—unexpectedly drew some disagreement, and I am unexpectedly compelled to go into more depth.

It’s true that every rule has its exception. It’s just that with this particular rule, I haven’t seen a worthwhile reason to bend it yet.

A sort of reptilian Michael Fassbender-looking guy

1: There are sharks living in a volcano, and this is not a drill

Just when you think the world can’t get any surprise you any more, you learn that there are sharks swimming around in a volcano. Truth really is stranger than fiction: Syfy brought us Sharknado and then the universe counters with Sharkcano, otherwise known as Kavachi. This very, very active volcano off the Solomon Islands is 60 feet underwater, and sharks and rays have apparently been hanging out in its caldera between eruptions.

2: Twitter contest winning as a service

This is the story of how I wrote a Twitter bot to automatically enter contests and ended up winning on average 4 contests per day, every day, for about 9 months straight.

3: Wikiwand

Wikiwand is a modern interface for web and mobile that optimizes Wikipedia’s amazing content for a quicker and significantly improved reading experience.

4: 99% Invisible podcast’s brilliant response to criticism of women’s voices

You’ve written in to voice your dislike of one of our female reporter’s voices. You’re not alone. We have a filter set up that automatically sends these types of emails into a folder labeled ‘zero priority’. We’ll review this folder and consider the complaints within, well, never.

(See also: 13 tips on how to speak while female.)

5: How can you tell if you’re being sexually empowered or objectified? Ask yourself this simple question

There’s a long-standing debate in feminism about sexual empowerment: How do we know when someone is being sexually liberated versus being sexually objectified, since they sometimes can look similar from the outside? Well, the answer is simpler than you think: The difference is in who has the power.

6: Homme de Plume: What I learned sending my novel out under a male name

George sent out 50 queries, and had his manuscript requested 17 times. He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25. […] That was when George came to life. I imagined him as a sort of reptilian Michael Fassbender-looking guy, drinking whiskey and walking around train yards at night while I did the work. Most of the agents only heard from one or the other of us, but I did overlap a little. One who sent me a form rejection as Catherine not only wanted to read George’s book, but instead of rejecting it asked if he could send it along to a more senior agent. Even George’s rejections were polite and warm on a level that would have meant everything to me, except that they weren’t to the real me. George’s work was “clever,” it’s “well-constructed” and “exciting.” No one mentioned his sentences being lyrical or whether his main characters were feisty. A few of people sent deeply generous and thoughtful critiques, which made me both grateful and queasy for my dishonesty.

My time as a cheese

A guy complained no one had wished him happy birthday on Twitter and things got weird. “On 13 January, Daniel was a bit miffed because people hadn’t wished him a happy birthday.” This gets super weird.

I tweeted to kids as a piece of cheese for a year. “My time as a cheese taught me that the internet is run by pre-teen girls (they were clearly that young, from their profile pictures and dodgy spelling), and that their fandoms demarcate the geography of Twitter. That social media, all its self-promotion and factions and bitching, was made not for childish adults so much as for actual children.”

Architects I work for just gave the best reactions I’ve ever seen in person. “I work as an intern at an office for a few architects as a draftsman. I make 2D drawings and 3D visualizations. I came with the idea to make one of their project into a VR experience and they liked the idea. They gave me a project to work with, which was a perfect fit for VR (a brand new college in Amsterdam with beautiful inside and outside spaces).”

An obsession – brutal, beautiful bus stop design of the former Soviet states.

The gorgeous typeface that drove men mad and sparked a 100-year mystery. “Over the course of more than a hundred illicit nightly trips, this man was committing a crime—against his partner, a man who owned half of what was being heaved into the Thames, and against himself, the force that had spurred its creation. This venerable figure, founder of the legendary Doves Press and the mastermind of its typeface, was a man named T.J. Cobden Sanderson. And he was taking the metal type that he had painstakingly overseen and dumping thousands of pounds of it into the river.”

A new index to measure sprawl gives high marks to Los Angeles. “There is perhaps no more vexing issue for urban policy makers than sprawl. And yet, there’s little consensus on how best to accurately measure it. It’s one thing to impugn the phenomenon for contributing to everything from long commutes, congested highways and worsening air pollution to growing segregation, poverty, obesity and mounting health problems. But it’s another to actually gauge the connection between sprawl and that daunting list of social and economic ills.” The curious and surprising thing here being that the ‘high marks’ in the article title refer to LA’s low levels of sprawl.

Influenced by. Ryan Boudinot (among other writers) on David Foster Wallace: “I don’t think I’ve ever had such a strong feeling that a book was going to change my writing so thoroughly. And of course it did, to the point where a lot of what I wrote for years afterward sounded imitative. That’s always the scary thing—we want so badly to be considered sui generis and hide our influences, but I go back to what Stevie Wonder once said about being afraid of not being influenced by great art. Infinite Jest seemed to me to continue the project that Pynchon was working on, to marry erudition to verbal looseness.” I’m slowly working my way through IJ for the second time. My first was a cold read, not really prepared for its density and length. Coming at it after having read so much about the book, its author, genesis and cultural reception, it is a very different experience. It feels like we’re nearing a Jeff Buckley-type situation, where DFW is over-romanticised to near-cliche by melancholy straight white males, but I’m hopeful his brilliance will outshine any such dismissal.

An eight-pound horseradish with a lisp

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time by Robert Weide & Don Argott. A KV Kickstarter. “Recounting the extraordinary life of author Kurt Vonnegut, and the 25-year friendship with the filmmaker who set out to document it.”

Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless. “But the test was developed in the 1940s based off the untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community. Even Jung warned that his personality “types” were just rough tendencies he’d observed, rather than strict classifications. Several analyses have shown the test is totally ineffective at predicting people’s success in various jobs, and that about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time.” I did one of these recently and came out as ENTJ which doesn’t feel quite right.

The Straight Dope: 2, 4, 8, 16 … how can you always have MORE ancestors as you go back in time? . On pedigree collapse, which explains why generations of ancestors don’t usually follow an exact 2n pattern. “Consider an extreme case. Mr. and Mrs. Nosepicker have two children, a girl and a boy. These two develop an unnatural yen for one another and marry. Six months later the girl gives birth to an eight-pound horseradish with a lisp. In theory, the horseradish has four grandparents. In reality, its maternal and paternal grandparents are identical. Two of the four grandparent slots are thus filled by duplicates — pedigree collapse with a vengeance. Only slightly less extreme is the case of Alfonso XIII of Spain (1886-1941). Because of inbreeding in the royal family, he had only ten great-great-grandparents instead of the expected 16.”

Secret Lives: Katherine Heiny’s ‘Single, Carefree, Mellow’. “When you tell a friend that no one wants your story, she asks you what The New Yorker said about it. You admit you have not sent it to that magazine, and your friend laughs. She says you were supposed to start with The New Yorker. So, on a Thursday, you send the story there, and the next day Roger Angell, the fiction editor, calls you — early enough that he wakes you up — and says he wants to publish it […] That story helps you get an agent, but you and she later part ways and it takes more than 20 years before you finally publish, at age 47, a book under your own name, a collection of stories called Single, Carefree, Mellow.”

The reluctant king of the hidden internet. “The Hidden Wiki holds the keys to a secret internet. To reach it, you need a special browser that can access ‘Tor Hidden Services’ – websites that have chosen to obscure their physical location. But even this browser isn’t enough. Like the Isla de Muerta in the film Pirates of the Caribbean, the landmarks of this hidden internet can be discovered only by those who already know where they are.” Silk Road: libertarianism, crime and the Internet.

Introducing introji – emoji for introverts. “Designer Rebecca Lynch found she couldn’t express herself through standard emoji when she was feeling unsociable. So she created her own.”

How public transit agencies deal with all your angry, mean, and terrible tweets. “Some cities ignore the abuse, but others have found success engaging it head on.” Somewhat related: yesterday, due to a 2-minute delay, 30-odd train passengers and I were delayed by a little over an hour at Grantham, a small station in the East Midlands. The abuse the platform worker got was unsurprisingly horrendous—but what struck me was the age of the abusers. I doubt any of them were under 60.

Indecipherable noise

An illustrated history of sushi. “The nigiri and tuna rolls we eat today are a far cry from the pungent, rice-less, barrel-fermented stuff that originated during the 3rd century BC. Japanese cooking instructor Yoko Isassi breaks down sushi’s five evolutionary stages.”

Have you ever felt a deep personal connection to a person you met in a dream only to wake up feeling terrible because you realise they never existed?

Homeward. “When Hugo Lucitante was a boy, his tribe sent him away to learn about the outside world so that, one day, he might return and save their village. Can he live up to their hopes?”

Special weapons and no tactics. “Tenuously topical tweeting or tweeting by numbers. You’d have thought brands would have grown out of this by now. They haven’t.”

This is what happens when you repost an Instagram photo 90 times. “Ashton named the experiment I Am Sitting In Stagram as a throwback to Lucier’s 1969 experiment I Am Sitting In A Room, which involved the artist recording himself, then recording that recording over and over until all that he could hear was indecipherable noise, just like Ashton’s own mess of a final photograph.” So, basically, deliberate shitpics.