Friday Reading S08E02

Friday Reading is a weekly series of recommended reads from the Guardian’s Martin Belam, covering journalism, media and technology, and other interesting nerdy things. It is also available as an email newsletter. Sign up here.

“I would welcome the opportunity for you to come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for for a few minutes, and then call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face. That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity.”

Honestly I haven’t stopped laughing about this “bedbug” business. As is always the case, right-wing grifters complaining about free speech being shut down only care about protecting their own free speech. As soon as you dare criticise them, they reach for “Can I speak to the manager?”

“I Called Bret Stephens a Bedbug. Then He Tried to Squelch My Freedom of Speech. What a Day.” – David Karpf

By far the funniest tweet I saw about it was this: “Now that Bret Stephens is off Twitter, he has to go back to Craigslist to find people to come over and humiliate him in front of his wife.”

“A single tag typo saw me lose hundreds of potential readers every day because Google’s algorithms stripped my AMP boost as soon as it broke.”

You’ll never convince me AMP did anything other than reward news sites for not giving a toss about speed and user experience as they could just sling up an AMP version and Google would shower it with search traffic. Here’s Owen Williams articulating some of the issues five years on: “Google Is Tightening Its Grip on Your Website”

“A report on anti-disinformation initiatives”, written & researched by BBC Monitoring’s specialist Disinformation Team, investigates fake news landscapes around the world and analyses a range of measures adopted by governments to combat disinformation.

Launching 1,000 conspiracy “They are going to start charging for Facebook” memes near you soon: “Facebook quietly ditched the ‘It’s free and always will be’ slogan from its homepage”.

“The loading noise was a stuttering series of electronic snare drum taps, accompanied by the baseline hum of the computer itself. There was something almost organic about it, like a CT scan or ultrasound. To me it seemed incredible that typing something on a screen could cause the disk to start loading, as though I was talking to the computer”

“Click, whir, ping: the lost sounds of loading video games” – Keith Stuart

Arguing that you must be allowed to include the phrase “Fagbag” in your game otherwise it is censorship is a hell of a hill for the Ion Fury team to decide to try and die on.

“Instead of Fixing Its White Extremism Problem, iFunny Is Forcing Its Moderators To Sign NDAs” – Ryan Broderick, Buzzfeed News

This article got my goat for basically taking 1,000 words to say “Disney has made Star Wars a category” – but YMMV: “The Disney+ interface feels empty but elegant compared to Netflix” – Julia Alexander, The Verge

“Though no country formally recognizes Sealand, its sovereignty has been hard to deny. Half a dozen times, the British government and assorted other groups, backed by mercenaries, have tried and failed to take over the platform by force.”

A great piece on the curious case of Sealand which is hilarious from an international law point of view, but you know that the guy holding on to Sealand is just basically a terrible “common law/freeman/Magna Carta” pub bore of the highest order who happened to have a boat.

This is just such a chilling sentence:

“Many of these mass shootings are angry suicides” says James Densley, professor of criminal justice at Minnesota’s Metropolitan State University.

“Can We Prevent Mass Shootings By Preventing Suicide?” – Maggie Koerth-Baker


Bad news everyone, you have to put Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” on the pile marked ‘30 years old’ this week. It came out 29 August 1989.

You can pre-order Marie Le Conte’s book: “Haven’t You Heard?: Gossip, power, and how politics really works”

I absolutely love everything about this piece:

“The fairy tales that were supposed to guide my understanding of gender and romance had left me without any conception of what a queer, adult relationship would look like. Fortunately, I discovered an unexpected underworld of sexy vampires that gave me what I’d been missing.”

How Campy, Lesbian Vampire Movies Showed Me What Queer Adulthood Could Be” – Rory Gory, Bustle.


Leyton Orient are looking for a media officer.

Who Targets Me are doing interesting stuff monitoring how political parties are using Facebook ads. They are looking for a contract front end developer to join them to work on UK General Election projects. Send an email with your CV to ‘contact at whotargets dot me’

The Guardian are looking for an Assistant Audience Editor “to be responsible for finding the widest possible audience for the Guardian’s editorial digital content, both on and off the Guardian’s platform, particularly search engines and major social media platforms”. The only downside to this job is you have to sit two desks away and I’m even more annoying in real life than I am on Twitter.


“Nestled in the Himalayas sits Roopkund Lake. It is frozen for much of the year, a frosty pond in a lonely, snowbound valley. But on warmer days, it delivers a macabre performance, as hundreds of human skeletons, some with flesh still attached, emerge from what has become known as Skeleton Lake.”

“The Mystery of the Himalayas’ Skeleton Lake Just Got Weirder” – Robin George Andrews

There’s a new version of NetNewsWire out for the Mac if surfing the web via RSS feeds like it is 2007 is still your thing.

“On the one hand, the diversity of the charts has doubled, or even tripled: Now there are significantly more albums making it to the top 100 or top 40 in a year. On the other hand, we now see that an album either starts off immediately as number one – or never reaches the top.”

For some unknown reason some theoretical physicists carry out a study which proves that music charts are increasingly short-lived.

My kids have got me back into playing Minecraft and then I suddenly thought “Oh this is literally a game where you play at deforestation and mining for fossil fuels” and ruined it for myself. Then Simon Willison pointed out to me that there is an entire subset of the Minecraft community dedicated to playing the game only using renewable in-game resources.

Mind you, he also pointed out some of it uses pretty dubious ethics to class items as renewables: “Iron is a renewable resource if you set up an automated Iron Golem farm, where imprisoned villagers are used to automatically spawn Iron Golems which are then murdered for their iron.”

Oh, OK.

Twitter account recommendation of the week: @VinylStupidity – “Tweeting ridiculous record listings & all other assorted music & vinyl stupidity”

Starting at page 15 in this PDF, in the year of our lord 2019, somebody at Ofcom has had to sit down and write four pages examining whether the lyrics to Melting Pot by Blue Mink are racist. Sample line: “Ofcom’s research does not provide direct evidence for the offensiveness of the term ‘curly Latin kinkies'”

Lovely interview with Paul from OMD, the highlight of which is him talking about how one night, when they were trying to cobble back together replacements for their original equipment to go out on tour, he and Andy ended up spending an evening furiously bidding against each other for the same vintage synth on eBay.

I make electronic music about the paranormal. I’ve just done my first gig for over 20 years and I’ll be supporting Agent Side Grinder in Dalston in October. You could come and watch me if you wanted.