Trivial Posts #26: Fast Scripts, Slow Games, And A Martian Graveyard

Another week, and another collection of internet links that have made me stop and think during the last week. Hopefully they’ll make you do the same. Never forget you can sign up to have this posted out to you every week, subscribe to the newsletter version here.

When Reality Shows Meet Reality

As the reality TV season kicks in on prime-time Saturday night television in the United Kingdom, ‘Strictly Come Dancing‘ and ‘The X-Factor‘ are set to dominate the schedules and the social media chat. It’s also a time where the power of the producers and scriptwriters of the shows can be seen impacting the fortunes of the contestants. Alongside a primer on how these shows work in practice, Sofabet’s Daniel Gould’s retrospective of the scriptwriting behind a previous contestant on ‘The X-Factor‘ illustrates just little power the contestants have:

Today’s article is an in-depth case study on the treatment of recent eliminee Abi Alton. We hope it will be an accessible introduction for newbies to the kind of tactics used to manipulate viewers’ perceptions of acts. For more seasoned observers, too, I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I believe that rewatching an act’s entire journey with the benefit of hindsight, as I did to write this piece, is always a worthwhile learning exercise. It sharpens our ability to read future clues.

Abi’s Journey: A Case Study in X Factor Manipulation

Were You ‘Deadly’?

No Man’s Sky‘ is the reason I asked for a PlayStation 4 for Christmas…. last year. Now it has arrived I’ve been entranced with its eighties throwback nature, lack of competitive online combat, leisurely pace, and a meta of finding your own reason to live in this world. You know, how gaming used to be when I were a lad.

Turns out Martin Belam agrees, and agrees in a far more coherent form than me!

So it doesn’t strike me as odd that the four or five people I know who have really got into No Man’s Sky are all of a similar-ish age and generation to me. I feel like the game fulfils an 80’s vision of games, the kind of thing I could have played years ago. Except infinitely bigger and brighter than anything we had back then. The features that it “lacks”, that have made people angry, are almost exactly the same features that make it appeal to me and some of my peers.

How No Man’s Sky Exposes The Gaming Generation Gap For 80’s Kids

Facebook Instant Articles… Worth The Hassle?

The little lightning symbol on articles linked on Facebook means you can read them in a Facebook formatted post, with pre-fetched data, and generally it feels like reading in the Facebook app. Many major publishers are using the ‘Instant Article’ system, but is it worth it in terms of revenue and handing over user ownership to Mark Zuckerberg?

The revenue is improving too. In February, the CPM was $1.30. In the summer, it rose to $3.40; now, it’s back down to $2.10 — double the Instant Articles ad revenue it made last year, when it pulled in around €10,000 ($11,200). On its own mobile sites, CPM is less than $1.

Not everyone, however, is seeing the same success with yields. The commercial chief of a major digital media publisher, who wished to stay anonymous, likened the yields on Instant Articles to the equivalent of remnant inventory traded programmatically.

UK Publishers Are Mixed On Performance Of Facebook Instant Articles

Get Your Musk To Mars!

Bond villain in training Elon Musk wants to die on Mars and be buried there. This week he’ll make a big speech about how everyone should be funding his program to get to the red planet (presumably while stroking a white cat on his lap):

Meanwhile, during the next five years Musk might fly his Red Dragons to Mars. He might continue to develop and test the Raptor engines that would power his next-generation rocket. He could make reusable rocketry a reality. He could fly commercial crew missions safely and demonstrate his reliability with US astronauts. He could continue do all of this at a fraction of the cost of similar government programs. If he does this, a commercial pathway to Mars, offered by SpaceX at a cost of $50 billion to $100 billion might have some credibility with a future president and Congress. And if NASA doesn’t buy it, perhaps another foreign government might.

Between A Rocket And A Hard Place

I’m Sorry Dave, I Can’t Print That

Got an HP printer? A number of the devices stopped accepting third-party ink cartridges this month, following on from code that was part of March’s firmware update. If it’s not HP in HP, you won’t be able to print anything. That’s the long-game right there to make sure the code was in place before it was triggered. More at Boingboing from Cory Doctorow:

On September 13, owners of HP OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X began contacting third-party ink vendors by the thousand, reporting that their HP printers no longer accepted third-party ink.

The last HP printer firmware update was pushed in March 2016, and it appears that with that update (or possibly an earlier one), HP had set a time-bomb ticking in its customers’ printers counting down to the date when they’d begin refusing to follow their owners’ orders.

HP says that the March update’s purpose was “to protect HP’s innovations and intellectual property.”

Of course. And it’s nothing to do with selling printer ink that costs in the region of $2,700 per gallon.

HP Detonates Its Printer Timebomb

Quick Hits

The once-dominant Symbian OS had a Twitter client called ‘Gravity’. The developer now has a version available on Android, called ‘Gravity Forever‘.

Tom Forth’s automatic Guardian comment generator.

American sportswriters love Marriott, which goes some way to explaining the power of points-driven loyalty schemes in the travel industry.

What Have I Been Up To?

I’ve written up some of the strategy behind the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus for Forbes where I ask ‘Is Apple Flying or Dying?‘ along with the weekly Apple and Android news columns.

Away from technology the weekly radio show that is ‘Europe’s Heartbeat’ continues to air weekly on various radio stations around the world. It debuts every Saturday morning on Radio Six, and you can listen to the previous week’s show on demand at

Before the end of the year I’ll be attending the Web Summit (Lisbon 7-10 November 2016), and I’m planning to be at Tech Crunch Disrupt in London (5-6 December 2016). Next year’s plans include attending SXSW (Austin, 10-20 March 2017). If you want to meet up at any of these events, let me know.

‘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.