Trivial Posts #21: Bond Themes, Vincent Price’s Team, And Nuclear Dreams

And now, live (ish) from the Dublin Web Summit, some links and thoughts from my recent web browsing. If you’re at the Summit, ping me and say hi. If you get Trivial Posts emailed over to you, just hit reply. Web readers can reach me via ewanspence@gmail.com.

What I’ve Been Up To

What does the 1000 True Fans theory offer performers entering the Eurovision Song Contest, or any TV talent show? Some thoughts on maximising the moments over on ESC Insight. My ‘Beyond Eurovision’ radio show continues to be broadcast four times a week on Radio Six International, tune in at these times.

I also reviewed the first of two smartphones from new British manufacturer Wileyfox. The Swift is £130, and is a pretty sweet device running the Cyanogen Android fork. Read my thoughts here.

Bond By The Numbers

Popbitch brings home the formulaic goods for the Bond theme.

Award-winning composers and lyricists tried and failed. Multi-platinum artists with record-breaking chart-toppers couldn’t crack it. Even Adele – who walked away with an Oscar for her attempt – didn’t manage it. And yet, somehow, Sam Smith has done it. With a song he claims took twenty minutes to write, Sam Smith has gone and taken a Bond theme to number one.

…So if the charts are so easy nowadays, why did Skyfall miss out? What is it about Writing’s On The Wall that has ‘number one smash’ written all over it? What was missing from enduring classics like Goldfinger, Nobody Does It Better and We Have All The Time In The World?

The only way to know for sure is to pull them all apart into their constituent bits and pieces and go pattern-searching.

Sam Smith did everything that was expected… and it’s still not a classic. Oh well…

Tuneraker

It’s Not Drive Time, It’s Home Time!

What happens when you build a radio station just for kids? Matt Deegan did just that with the London-based FunKids Radio. He talks to Jacobs Media Blog, in its latest ‘Radio’s Most Innovative’ section, and there are lessons here for everybody.

But our audience is natively multi-platform. A 7 year old’s assumption is that every element of a pop star coming in will be available all the places they go. Since our job is to be wherever the audience is, Fun Kids is a cross-platform media brand. The radio station is important, but it doesn’t have primacy over the web, video, or mobile. They all need to promote and support each other.

Instead, we try to think in terms of a content pipeline. A guest coming in likely means a specific video, a radio interview, a visualized radio interview, photos, a text write-up, social promotion, and on-demand audio. The team’s job is to create and deploy that material in a way that reaches the most people through our different distribution options.

Talking About FunKids Radio

What Does It Matter To Anyone?

In a perfect world, Vincent Price’s sexuality wouldn’t matter, it would be between him, his partners, and his family. But we don’t live in that world, and the importance of role models and acceptance is key to progressing society. Which leads to a fascinating article from his daughter, Victoria Price:

Price is well aware of America’s fixation with celebrity and the salacious, news-driven, “who had sex with who” culture in which we now live. But she also realizes as a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community that there remains a deeply rooted yearning for history and heroes and a personal connection to the past.

“To me, it’s interesting, because as I’ve learned more about my dad’s sexuality, and more than I knew then about different things, I’ve had the choice of what to reveal and what not to reveal,” Price explained. “Since I didn’t hear it from his mouth, I think that everything I hear comes with a measure of hearsay, right?”

Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography

…The Biggest Screw-Up In Our LIfetime

You could read this as fiction, or the mis-remembered moments of a veteran. Or you could read this as one more moment when someone put aside ‘orders’ and used common sense. Either way Aaron Tovish’s article on the secret nuclear missiles in Japan that were not fired during the Cuban Missile Crisis is a modern day horror story.

By Bordne’s account, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Air Force crews on Okinawa were ordered to launch 32 missiles, each carrying a large nuclear warhead. Only caution and the common sense and decisive action of the line personnel receiving those orders prevented the launches—and averted the nuclear war that most likely would have ensued.

The Okinawa Missiles Of October

What If ‘The Force Awakens’ Is Rubbish?

In some of the most eloquently angry writing this side of that trailer, Deadspin’s Albert Burneko lays into the hopes and dreams of every Star Wars fan to remind them of a basic truth. The odds are against the new Star Wars film actually being a good film. Digital cat-nip for money, yes. Toy selling behemoth, yes. But a quality film?

Maybe The Force Awakens will be great! I sure as fuck hope so. J.J. Abrams is at the controls, and his crack at the Star Trek franchise yielded one terrific film followed by a frustrating misfire. If that 50-percent success rate doesn’t look all that much like a reason to feel confident, it’s a hell of a lot better than the 33-percent Star Wars is batting so far. That’s Naked Gun territory, for chrissakes.

Two great movies, one mediocre one, and three of the worst major motion pictures ever made. The odds are against The Force Awakens. Minimum bet is the cost of one movie ticket, and I kinda feel like a sucker already. But I’ve already bought two.

…and in the process, he nails one of the greatest line-reads that should have happened in ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘. It’s sheer poetry.

What If The New Star Wars Film Sucks, Too?

The Robots Are Coming For Buzzfeed

You know what’s worrying? When an AI bot manages to create a perfectly serviceable ‘culture’ website. The articles might not be there, but the headlines are spot on. Lars Eidnes talks about the process behind Click-o-tron. Check out clickotron.com then read the science behind it.

 “F.D.R.’s War Plans!” reads a headline from a 1941 Chicago Daily Tribune. Had this article been written today, it might rather have said “21 War Plans F.D.R. Does Not Want You To Know About. Number 6 may shock you!”. Modern writers have become very good at squeezing out the maximum clickability out of every headline. But this sort of writing seems formulaic and unoriginal. What if we could automate the writing of these, thus freeing up clickbait writers to do useful work?

Auto-Generating Clickbait With Recurrent Neural Networks

This Week’s Long Read: WeChat And Mobile In China

If you’ve grown up with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp as being your main messaging clients, there’s every chance you won’t be aware of WeChat. With messaging clients looking to be the next battleground, what was once a way to use the internet to bypass high SMS fees has become a race to create a platform inside every mobile device that is independent of the OS. WeChat is further down the road than most, and Connie Chan illustrates why Chinas WeChat might be the biggest disruptor over the next five years.

Ultimately, however, WeChat should matter to all of us because it shows what’s possible when an entire country — which currently has a smartphone penetration of 62% (that’s almost 1/3 of its population) — “leapfrogs” over the PC era directly to mobile. WeChat was not a product that started as a website and then was adapted for mobile, it was (to paraphrase a certain movie) born into it, molded by it.

Most notable, however, for anyone in the tech business is WeChat’s average revenue per user or ARPU, which is estimated to be at least $7 USD — that’s 7X the ARPU of WhatsApp, the largest messaging platform in the world. How did WeChat do it?

When One App Rules Them All

‘Trivial Posts’ is a mostly weekly series of posts that brings together interesting posts, ideas, video clips, essays, images, and anything else that catches my eye on the Internet. Read it online, or subscribe to the email newsletter version here.