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 walking anachronism

Inside Adobe’s innovation kit. I can’t work out if this is douchebaggery of the highest order, or will genuinely inspire better ideas: “The Kickbox is a small, red cardboard box containing everything an employee needs to generate, prototype, and test a new idea […] you’ll find instruction cards, a pen, two Post-It note pads, two notebooks, a Starbucks gift card, a bar of chocolate and (mostly importantly) a $1,000 prepaid credit card. The card can be used on anything the employee would like or need without ever having to justify it or fill out an expense report.”

The age of the super-subscriber. “With newsstand and ad page sales ever on the decline, magazine companies looking to monetize the influence of their brands are test driving tiered-subscription models that offer the most loyal readers increased access to the editors who create the glossies they read and the celebrities who appear in them.” I’m surprised this isn’t already the standard approach. Kickstarter and Patreon (to name only two) have tiered support at their hearts. Surely this is more valuable $-wise than the one-size-fits-none, ad-saturated but untargeted approach of most publications. Slightly related: Stack is a great way to read and support interesting, less-popular publications. (And you can thank Phil for that recommendation.)

When it’s ok to use word clouds. I’d say never, but: “It’s ok to use word clouds if your goal is to encourage reading of a large set of otherwise unrelated words that are connected to one or two interesting values (and word count in a text doesn’t qualify as interesting).” I had a meeting in a colleague’s office a few days ago and I put my glass of water down on a coaster emblazoned with a cloud of ‘engage’, ‘solutions’, ‘energise’ and the like. I nearly vomited.

Trying to keep a ‘celebrity class of commenters’ happy. Some of the challenges of allowing comments on a large site. “ ‘We’re lucky to have a celebrity class of commenters,’ [NYT community editor Bassey Etim] said, referring to the generally high quality of the discourse he sees, ‘and we want to elevate and recognize them in new ways.’ Just how to do that, with limited resources, is a current topic of discussion among audience development people at The Times.” I can really only think of one site where the comments even approach the quality of the posts, and it’s rarely updated these days.

The last of the typewriter men. “Well aware of his status as a walking anachronism, Schweitzer, 76, now fixes approximately 20 typewriters a week. Some of them are used as props for movies or television shows recreating eras he was a part of, a fact that makes him laugh when he happens to see his machines while flipping through reruns. Schweitzer’s clientele, recorded in two boxes of handwritten notecards behind his desk, includes several high-profile names, including noted typewriter aficionado Tom Hanks.”

Conspiracy revealed: The Simpsons has been lying to you. “Springfield is not in the United States at all. It’s not even in our half of the world. Springfield is in the Southern Hemisphere!”

Editor in Chief of The Guardian: indicative ballot. Who will replace Rusbridger?

Father John Misty: “Bored in the USA” – David Letterman. An album that gets better with each listen. A friend couldn’t understand why I was smiling all the way through this—“why is the audience laughing?”—so I hope the source is obvious. Misty (well, J. Tillman) seems to be one of the few that realises you can combine wit with chops and showmanship. I suppose as a Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson fan I was always going to like this.