phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

Canada 150canada.pch.gc.ca

In 2017 Canada will celebrate 150 years since its confederation. The Canadian government commissioned type designer Raymond Larabie to adapt Mesmerize into an official national typeface.

The typeface includes all Latin characters and accents, common Cyrillic characters, and syllabic and diacritical elements contained in Canada’s Aboriginal languages. The typeface is provided in two weights: light and regular.

Canada is home to [over 60 aboriginal languages](http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/98-314-x/98-314-x2011003_3-eng.cfm)
Canada is home to over 60 aboriginal languages

Oddly, if you want to use the official font you must apply for permission.

See also: Clearview, the federally-approved highway typeface

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The Great Big Adam Curtis Binge-Watchwww.listmuse.com

A comprehensive list of all of Adam Curtis’s documentaries, conveniently linked in one long list. There are a few I didn’t realize I hadn’t seen. I’ve heard that some of the videos include advertising breaks, so you may want to seek out alternate versions for those ones.

See also: that time I called into WFMU and asked Adam Curtis if he thought his use of imagery was manipulative (around 50 minutes in)

Link via Kevin Slavin

On the Border of Greece and Macedoniahomebrave.squarespace.com

From Scott Carrier’s Home of the Brave podcast:

Four days ago, the European Union decided to allow only refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan into Northern Europe, stranding thousands of people at the Idomeni transit camp on the border of Greece and Macedonia. This report is from the Idomeni camp, where a variety of protests are ongoing by Iranians, Pakistanis, Moroccans, and Somalis who say they’d rather die than be sent home.

Download MP3

See also: an earlier episode with interviews of Donald Trump supporters

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On Encryption and Terroristsnadim.computer

Nadim Kobeissi, maker of Crypto.cat and Minilock:

The premise driving the people writing encryption software is not exactly that we’re giving people new rights or taking some away: it’s the hope that we can enforce existing rights using algorithms that guarantee your ability to free speech, to a reasonable expectation of privacy in your daily life. When you make a credit card payment or log into Facebook, you’re using the same fundamental encryption that, in another continent, an activist could be using to organize a protest against a failed regime.

In a way, we’re implementing a fundamental technological advancement not dissimilar from the invention of cars or airplanes. Ford and Toyota build automobiles so that the entire world can have access to faster transportation and a better quality of life. If a terrorist is suspected of using a Toyota as a car bomb, it’s not reasonable to expect Toyota to start screening who it sells cars to, or to stop selling cars altogether.

Link via Matthias Bruggmann

How to go to spacewww.youtube.com

A video adapted from Randall Munroe’s Thing Explainer, where complex subjects are explained “using only drawings and a vocabulary of the 1,000 (or ‘ten hundred’) most common words.” I believe this all started with the XKCD cartoon Up Goer Five, “the only flying space car that’s taken anyone to another world.”

Video

I love this part at the end of the video.

You can find Thing Explainer at book stores, or by using your computer to search the place where computers think together.

See also: Time Magazine’s interview with Munroe, where his responses are all stick figure drawings. And also the MinutePhysics YouTube channel.

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Christina Xu’s setupusesthis.com

I don’t usually follow this sort of equipment connoisseurism, but I enjoyed reading about ethnographer Christina Xu’s international phone setup.

Having two phones went out of style in China a few years ago because most phones for the Chinese market can use (at least) 2 SIM cards simultaneously, but no such luck the Galaxy S6 I got in the US. There’s no way I’m giving up my T-Mobile SIM card, either: my plan comes with unlimited free data while roaming internationally, and while it’s not terribly fast, it’s a real lifesaver in China. You see, the Great Firewall is designed to limit access to information for locals, not foreigners, so it doesn’t even bother blocking mobile data if you’re roaming. This means that—wonder of wonders!!—I have slow but steady, constant access to Instagram, Twitter, and all of the Google services I use regularly.

But at the same time, having a local Chinese number is indispensable, not least because many local mobile and web services require one for verification purposes. And the Great Firewall goes in both directions: Chinese apps run incredibly slowly outside of it. My solution was to get a second phone in China that I could use just for phone calls and Chinese apps, and I ended up with the Oppo, a low-end Android smartphone designed for the Chinese and Indian market.

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Untitled (social media, variable dimensions). 2015.twitter.com

I’ve collected some images that were circulating on Mlkshk recently, based on a Tweet by Brett O’Connor.

twitter.com/negatendo/status/628611950168117248

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CUBL1sgXAAAbL5_.png

CUDMfDlUsAIHQKf.jpg (474×127)

CUDMfDlUsAIHQKf.jpg (474×127)

jpg 95 dpi 31.2 KB

jpg 95 dpi 31.2 KB
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On Facebook’s Safety Checkwww.theatlantic.com

Facebook’s Safety Check lets you notify friends and family that you’re safe after a natural disaster or “human disaster.” Robinson Meyer wrote about it in the Atlantic.

To know, within an hour or two of an event, that someone is safe: It’s so valuable, so emotionally practical, as to be almost priceless. It is anti-terror, in a way: It says, be not afraid. And in the three places where it was first deployed—Afghanistan, Chile, and Nepal, all three after major earthquakes—its activation made a lot of sense, because earthquakes are events which by their nature can affect millions over huge swaths of territory.

But earthquakes and cyclones are not themselves public-facing events. Terrorist attacks are. As Brian Jenkins, a terrorism scholar at the RAND Corporation, writes, “terrorism is aimed at the people watching.” Terrorism is a public-relations campaign with guns and bombs. It weaponizes culture, and it exploits journalistic concern for heinous violence to grab media attention and get pathology taken instead as politics.

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How to escape the advertising bubble

Maciej Cegłowski has interesting things to say about big data and the online advertising business. He argues—persuasively, I think—that the advertising technology (adtech) sector is overvalued. In a recent essay, he describes what will happen when that adtech bubble finally bursts.

The problem is not that these companies will fail (may they all die in agony), but that the survivors will take desperate measures to stay alive as the failure spiral tightens.

These companies have been collecting and trafficking in our most personal data for many years. It’s going to get ugly.

Remember when, in its death throes, RadioShack sold off the customer data of 67 million people? This will probably be worse than that. And a whole lot of the web is built on top of adtech spaghetti business (think: spaghetti code, but for business).

The prognosis for publishers is grim. Repent! Find a way out of the adtech racket before it collapses around you. Ditch your tracking, show dumb ads that you sell directly (not through a thicket of intermediaries), and beg your readers for mercy. Respect their privacy, bandwidth, and intelligence, flatter their vanity, and maybe they’ll subscribe to something.

One way I could see publishers phasing in this more-respectful business model is through existing web browsers’ do-not-track differentiation. Every modern browser has privacy settings that let an individual user opt out of online tracking. That do-not-track preference gets included with each and every web request, but it’s up to the website operator to act on it. As far as I can tell, all adtech companies seem to ignore this preference completely.

Firefox privacy preferences
Firefox privacy preferences

Okay, so are you ready for my idea for how publishers can escape the adtech bubble? Stay with me here, because this is a crazy suggestion: if I’ve signaled through my preferences that I prefer not to be tracked, then … I dunno, maybe don’t track me.

A typical ad-driven website relies on dozens of companies to show me slow loading, poorly-customized advertising. But there’s nothing stopping the website itself from simply not letting those companies’ code onto the page.

I would say just switch to dumb (non-tracking) ads for everyone, but I know how this would play out: “it’s too extreme, we can’t afford it!” But here’s the thing, if you think this adtech spaghetti business is going to collapse, you’ll have to start switching traffic over to something else eventually. Why not start out with current and future subscribers (aka “users”) who’ve already indicated they prefer not to be tracked by the adtech industry? Just do what we’ve been asking for in the first place.

Here’s how: if a given visitor has checked the do-not-track box, you’ll be able to detect it. Adjust your ad libraries and CDNs to detect the DNT: 1 HTTP header and then show a small message congratulating yourself, and set aside those ad spots for “artisanal” ads. Once things are rolling along you can ditch the old bloated, crappy ads for everybody else.

You can already tell what proportion of visitors have do-not-track enabled, it’s there in the traffic stats if you look for it. You could pitch this to the higher ups with real numbers, and spin it as a Premium Advertising Experience, like organic fair trade traffic without all the slow bandwidth-bloat and creepy surveillance.

The big challenge, of course, is this type of effort involves cooperation between many departments that may not currently get along well. But getting the ad sales people and the ad tech people and the web developers to get along is important.

Nobody likes working on ads, and I know it’s hard to just get buy-in, let alone actually launch a new thing. But an adtech collapse might be an existential threat, better to get in front of this now rather than wait for it to happen.

Also posted on Medium.com

Next Epoch Seed Librarynextepochseedlibrary.com

I made Ellie and Anne a website for their project, the Next Epoch Seed Library.

[nextepochseedlibrary.com](http://nextepochseedlibrary.com)
nextepochseedlibrary.com

If the website design looks familiar, it’s because I used the same WordPress theme I developed for Ellie’s website.

See also: Ellie’s essay about the project

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On faves, likes, and hearts

Filed under: Celebration
Filed under: Celebration

This week’s On the Media includes a discussion with the Tow Center’s Emily Bell, talking about a piece she wrote in The Guardian.

Yes, it’s about Twitter faves/likes/hearts. And yes, website design choices do influence user behavior!

I found myself not bookmarking, as I would have done a day earlier, a horrifying image retweeted by journalists depicting men using phones to film a woman being stoned to death for adultery. I did not “like” let alone “love” the image but wanted to note it as important. We must have a system which allows for capturing the significant as well as the appealing.

You may have experienced a version of this when a friend or loved one shares bad news on Facebook. I don’t “like” this, but I want to acknowledge it, and express my empathy. Facebook makes it easy to give that post a thumbs up. The cynical conspiracy theorist in me says this is an effort to make the site more compatible for a sale to Zuckerberg & Co.

The most baffling part is how Twitter is saying the new heart icon is “a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones.” But then in the following sentence claiming that it is “more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people.”

It may be true that newer users—from a wider range of backgrounds—may find ❤️ symbols more familiar, but the ⭐️ undoubtedly offers greater flexibility in terms of which “emotions” are being conveyed.

It’s a small change, and I understand that complaining about social media software is tedious, but it does point to how Twitter is first and foremost a profit-seeking company. This change was meant to get their monthly active users numbers up (and by extension, their stock price). And perhaps the strategy is working:

“It’s a change that’s been fantastic for the platform,” said Weil. “We see now 6% more hearts, 6% more likes on Twitter than we saw with favorites.” He also noted that new users tend to engage 9% more with this change.

Back to Emily Bell in The Guardian:

The inherent tension at the centre of all modern communication businesses—including every news organisation—is that only the likable is reliably bankable.

The relaying of trauma, devastation and cruelty is not inherently profitable in the same way that the relaying of how awesome the new Adele track is or how much we adore kittens might be.

What people like on social media has consequences; not just the marginal economic kinds, but also for how the public publics (a verb) on the network. As Zeynep Tufekci has written in The Message:

What if Ferguson had started to bubble, but there was no Twitter to catch on nationally? Would it ever make it through the algorithmic filtering on Facebook? Maybe, but with no transparency to the decisions, I cannot be sure.

Would Ferguson be buried in algorithmic censorship?

Anyway, here’s a small selection of the 19,500+ (!!) tweets I’ve faved so far: