We can all agree the internet could be better
Read to the end for a truly great meme about French politics
Only few more days to vote for Garbage Day for a Webby! If you feel like voting for me, you can do that here or here (or both!). The voting ends on Thursday! Speaking of Thursday, there’s a Garbage Day meetup that same night! Which is a pretty cool coincidence! It’s free, but if you want to RSVP, there’s an Eventbrite for that here.
A New Way To Inflict Psychic Damage On Tumblr
One of the most interesting things about our current moment online is that, for the most part, everyone actually agrees on a couple big new ideas:
Our online lives matter just as much as our offline lives.
Internet content, the people who make it, and even some of the ones that curate it have cultural, political, and financial value.
The online platforms that we live our lives on and use to consume and create internet content are not built for a world where the first and second points above are true.
This explains why big platforms like Facebook want to pivot to the metaverse, it explains why creators like black TikTokers or Brazilian Twitch streamers are going on strikes, why the writers at digital media companies are unionizing, why conservatives are so terrified by cancel culture and deplatforming, and why hypercapitalists are so feverishly devoted to cryptocurrency.
What’s even crazier is the three points above were borderline laughable within mainstream culture as little as five years ago! And, so, we’re now at a place where platforms and people alike are all trying to figure out what we do next. And, within this race to redefine the internet, I’m particularly interested in what platforms that are a little off the radar are trying to do. For instance, this week, Tumblr users stumbled across a Zendesk post outlining a new feature that is being slowly rolled out called Tumblr Blaze.
This new feature, which appears as a little fire icon underneath posts, will allow users to pay Tumblr directly to promote their content. According to a post on Tumblr’s Changes blog, posts that have been boosted by Blaze will show up as sponsored posts in other user’s feeds. On its face, it’s pretty similar to how Facebook’s ad library or Twitter’s promoted tweets work, but with an interesting emphasis on the user, rather than outside marketers or brands. At least, that’s how I’m reading the documentation about it: “Put your post in front of more people.” And that’s also how users on the site seem to be interpreting it, as well.
A search for “Tumblr Blaze” on the site brings up a lot of fan art about the Sonic the Hedgehog character Blaze the Cat (obviously), but it also surfaces a bunch of posts from users brainstorming ways to use Blaze to mess with each other. “I’m so excited for tumblr blaze actually, I can’t wait for someone to pay one hundred and fifty american dollars to boost their callout post over niche fandom drama to 50,000 people chosen completely at random,” Tumblr user asimovsideburns wrote. Or, as Tumblr user gnarlystarships wrote, “someone should do this with yaoi hentai or something.” (“Yaoi hentai” is gay cartoon pornography.) Even more interesting, Tumblr’s FAQ about the Blaze feature said there’s no targeting. $10 to blindly blast a piece of content at the other users of the platform.
Now, knowing Tumblr’s user base, this sounds like a recipe for disaster. I mean, the feature’s not even officially out yet and people are already dreaming up ways to torment each other with it. But I actually think making monetization features focused on users, rather than brands, is the right step forward for this stuff. Twitch, Discord, and Reddit already do this in various ways — letting users pay little bits of money to support other users or to unlock the ability to flash certain kinds of digital flare. Plus, the ad industry is still so tangled up in ridiculous (and often fraudulent) adtech promising unethical and impossible levels of scale that there’s really no point in waiting around for them to realize internet users are moving away from mass appeal social platforms.
As I wrote above, the cultural shift from “user generated content is ubiquitous and worthless” to “posting has value” happened so quickly that most of the companies that run the internet still haven’t figured out how to make products that let us spend money in ways that fit with how we use the web. Which is, incidentally, one thing that both the Redditors over at r/wallstreetbets, as well as crypto people actually figured rather quickly. If you want people to spend money on internet content, you have to give them a way to shitpost with their wallets.
I Figured Out Where The Sausage Video Came From
This was sent to me by a reader named Casey. It’s not NSFW, per se, but I feel like it should be? It was shared by the absolutely essential @FleetsGood Twitter account, which is such a good resource for following the viral content rot happening on Facebook.
The most viral version of this video on Facebook is titled, “Easy cheesy hand mold is so nice for dinner parties!” and was published by a page called Lily’s Page. It has over a million views and the top comment reads, “This is some of the worst shit I've ever seen. Stop making these dumb ass videos,” just in case you think anyone on Facebook actually likes this stuff. Lily’s Page is fairly small compared to the massive pages that typically share videos like this. It only has around 300,000 followers.
But here’s the thing, it doesn’t appear that Lily’s Page was where this video actually originated from. The smiling white woman in the page’s profile picture appears to be a stock photo and most of the videos appear to be stolen from the pages run by gross food magicians like Rick Lax and his collaborators.
The actual page this video came from is called The Anna Show, where it was watched around 750,000 times. The Anna Show is run by Rick Lax’s network and most of the videos star a woman named Anna Rothfuss. She was the one who ate ice cream out of a toilet.
This may not have been a mystery anyone was really wondering about, but I figured I’d go and solve it anyways!
A Good Tweet
Why Does Web3 Look Like That?
My hunch is that a lot of these design tropes are very cheap and easy ways to signal some kind of vague “future”. Unsure about the monument sans font though.
While we’re talking about crypto, a YouTuber named Coffeezilla caught a UK YouTuber allegedly hyping up a cryptocurrency called SafeMoon while dumping millions of dollars worth of it. I highly recommend watching Coffeezilla’s whole video, but also his whole channel. He’s doing some really amazing investigations into the world of Web3 fraud. It seems like the YouTuber that was allegedly pumping and dumping SafeMoon was caught by investors because he tweeted out his wallet address, which gave them the ability to watch all of his transactions. Remember, blockchains are very easy to track if you know where to look!!
There’s also a bunch of drama in the anime world this week after it was announced that famous American anime voice actor, Vic Mignogna, would be voicing a lead character in an animated series based off the humanimals.X NFT. It seems like we’ve officially entered the stage of the NFT boom where these groups are desperate to figure out what they can actually do with their tokens beyond just getting people to buy them, so I’d say it’s safe to assume there will be a lot of very bad TV show pitches circulating very shortly. In fact, I’ve been lurking in the Discord for the DAO that tried to make their own version of Dune, but didn’t understand that buying a script bible wasn’t the same as buying movie rights. Today, mods sent out a message announcing that “Spice DAO Animation Inc. is ready to sign a legally binding contract with Emmy Award-winning screenwriter Phil Gelatt who has agreed to write the official Series Bible for our original animated limited series and, when the production is produced or picked up, be its sole writer.”
And, lastly, there’s been a rash of hacked Twitter accounts promoting an NFT called Moonbirds. The most recent victim was Levi Sanders, the son of Bernie Sanders. Definitely recommend following Decrypt’s Andrew Hayward who has been covering NFT Twitter hacks closely.
We Need To Shut Down The YouTube Film Essay Industry Until We Can Figure Out What’s Going On Here
So I would normally skip this sort of thing, but I saw so many passing references to it over the weekend that I figured it might be helpful for people who are out of the loop. A smaller YouTuber named TheMysteriousMrEnter reviewed Turning Red last week and, about half way through the review, delivers an absolutely baffling critique of the film, arguing that because it’s set in 2002, it should have acknowledged the September 11th terror attacks. You can watch a clip of the review here.
Now, I don’t want to pile on to TheMysteriousMrEnter, but on his website he describes his channel as, “I review animated films and episodes from cartoons, usually focusing on why they don't work.” And this is something I do want to zero in on. There’s an entire universe of guys who do this on YouTube. They make 10-20 minute long videos attacking whatever animated show is popular with girls or people of color or queer kids, coming up with increasingly bizarre and pedantic ways to crap on it. And TheMysteriousMrEnter’s Turning Red 9/11 review is a fantastic example of how silly this can get.
There were, of course, always miserable cranks hanging out online. And, before the internet, all of those guys would emotionally terrorize their local comic and video stores. But now they’re rewarded for being reactionary and miserable with ad dollars and placement in various recommendation algorithms. idk man! Seems like a really sad way to live.
A tweet from an inventor based in Glasgow is making the rounds again in light of Elon Musk’s campaign to buy Twitter. The tweet, which was originally posted by a user named Darren Tarbard, describes an invention he made that lights up in different colors depending on what kind of trash day it is. Tarbard called it the bindicator.
The attention the bindicator is getting inspired Tarbard to post an update today. It’s looking pretty good! I, also, embarrassingly, didn’t realize that this is probably something small that sits on your desk. When I saw the original photo, I stupidly imagined it was like, a massive glowing trashcan in the corner of the room.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a truly great meme about French politics.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***