Ten Stories From This Week

22nd August 2021

Did America just lose Afghanistan because of WhatsApp? ‘It appears the Taliban tried something different this time around. Open source reporting shows that rather than rocking up and going toe to toe with the Afghan national army, they appear to have simply called everyone in the entire country, instead, told them they were in control, and began assuming the functions of government as they went.’

Another instance in which Bitcoin is seen to be helping individuals achieve some form of economic independence in an authoritarian regime. As political demonstrations show the world that Cubans are tired of dictatorship, Bitcoin is providing an option to peacefully protest and opt out of a broken system.

Is anyone surprised? Harvard just discovered that PowerPoint is worse than useless.

Five truths about covid that defy our intuitions by Tim Harford. ‘It’s striking how much Covid confusion still reigns. Some of the informational miasma is deliberate — there’s profit for some in the bewilderment of others — but much of it stems from the fact that epidemics defy our intuition.’

Beauty filters are changing the way young girls see themselves. When augmented-reality face filters first appeared on social media, they were a gimmick. They allowed users to play a kind of virtual dress-up: change your face to look like an animal, or suddenly grow a moustache, for example. Today, though, more and more young people—and especially teenage girls—are using filters that “beautify” their appearance and promise to deliver model-esque looks by sharpening, shrinking, enhancing, and recolouring their faces and bodies.

Wonderful. Adam&eveDDB launches worlds biggest inclusivity movement for people with disabilities – ‘#WeThe15’. Supported by the International Paralympic Committee, the film supports the 15% of the global population who have a disability. (1’51”)

Perhaps the true value of an adventure is that it shrinks our ego. From Conde Nast Traveller – For the most intrepid travellers, exploration has more to do with mental resilience than trying to reach a destination.

Asteroid update. Scientists think they know where the asteroid which killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago came from. Researchers simulated more than 100,000 asteroid trajectories, finding that an asteroid more than six miles wide hurtled towards Earth 250 million years ago. Frequency of occurrence is five times more common than previously thought. Nasa has increased the odds of an asteroid hitting Earth before the year 2300, from 1 in 2,700 to 1 in 1,750. The riskiest single date is 24 September 2182, so make sure to pop that in your diaries.

Pixel: a biography. ‘An exact mathematical concept, pixels are the elementary particles of pictures, based on a subtle unpacking of infinity’. This brief history of the pixel begins with Joseph Fourier in the French Revolution and ends in the year 2000.

Blip is a short 2D animation that explores the topic of digital addiction, an issue increasing year by year and especially during the pandemic lockdown. (1′ 12′)

Ten Stories From This Week

14th August 2021

Media that were once free or easily accessible — including news websites, podcasts, TV shows and games — rushed to get behind paywalls during the pandemic. This accelerating trend is carving theinternet into many niche audiences, Balkanizing our collective media diets.

Photos of the newest UNESCO World Heritage sites.

‘When brands stop advertising for a year or more, we find sales often decline year-on-year following the stop (on average, sales fell 16% after one year, and 25% after two years)’. Ehrenberg-Bass research takes a look at what happens when brands stop advertising.

National Geographic is an Instagram powerhouse. The publisher has just topped 175 million followers, which makes it the 12th most followed account on the platform and the only media brand to crack the top 50. Their photographs and stories reach tens of millions of people around theworld each day. Inspiring through Instagram: Exploring NatGeo’s socially responsible strategy.

Five lessons from China’s internet businesses Bullet Commentary & the Hive Mentality, Social Serendipity, Participatory Experiences, Collaborative Learning, Social Commerce & Livestreaming. HT @zoescaman

Lack of travel getting you down? Take an online architecture tour around some of the world’s best buildings.

I try to keep off excel as much as possible….. ‘The European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group’ looks into risks associated with errors in Excel. Here are some of the horror stories featured.

IKEA has decided to release a candle that smells like its Swedish meatballs.

Why are CAPTCHA pictures just… so deeply depressing? They are by AI, for AI.

This dog has the best method for going downstairs.

Ten Stories From This Week

7th August 2021

A worn pair of nurse’s shoes. That coronavirus model Anthony Fauci used in public briefings. Oral histories, iconic photos and social media posts. All of us are curators now, and what we preserve — as well as what we don’t — will write the pandemic story. What will history say about Covid? Museums scurry to collect — and prepare to remember.

‘Before launching a new campaign, marketers, branding experts, and advertising practitioners often spend months trying to define what a brand should stand for. They are very fond of the concept of “brand meaning.” This is driven by the belief that consumers impute specific attributes to brands and exercise their buying prerogatives based on themeaning they assign to the brand, and how well that meaning aligns with their values. Or something like that….’ Adcontrarian on The Power of Familiarity.

This weekend, tens of millions will watch and interact with an Ariana Grande avatar for a concert in video game Fortnite – the latest in a growing, lucrative market. ‘Limits are non-existent in the metaverse’

Having just finished my first year studying for a Masters in Psychology (Mindfulness) at Bangor University, this rather tickled me – Tsundoku, theJapanese concept of buying books and never reading them.

From GQ. The brain-changing magic of new experiences. Thepsychological reasons why novelty—from visiting new places to socialising—makes us happier and healthier people. (the importance of paying attention, of course)

Brilliant (because I have a dog and a mini). MINI UK opens its doors to paws for a happier travel partnership with the Dogs Trust. (30″)

What makes the perfect vehicle? The reality of driving in cities is a far cry from what the advertising tells us. Nice spoof from @Specialized_UK (1′ 04″).

Find the farthest city on earth from where you are. Mine was Dunedin.

The 1001 Albums generator recommends a different album every day taken from the the book ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’.

Interview with a horse after the Olympics Equestrian Dressage.

Ten Stories From This Week

1st August 2021

From @storythings. The Death of Counterculture: Where Are All The New Style Tribes?
‘In the early days of the teenager we had mods and rockers fighting on Brighton beach. But since grunge, the idea of style tribes has faded. This piece looks at a few ideas as to what happened: “Put simply, thanks to the internet, the churn of ideas, and the speed with which those spread – and become co-opted by fashion brands – makes the establishment of a style tribe a seriously tall order. Style tribes need time to bed in – those cited above didn’t just explode, but seeded and grew over the best part of a decade – and the internet’s info torrent does not allow that: the new is old almost instantaneously.”

From the excellent Tortoisemedia. ‘First he came for your friends, with a mission to bring the world closer together. Now Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, has announced an even bigger ambition: to build Facebook into a unified and interconnected digital world…. a goal to “transition” Facebook into a “metaverse company”? To Zuck, it’s a “successor to a mobile internet” where “instead of just viewing content – you are in it”. That means that Facebook users would feel as present in it, as if they were in the real world. 

Apparently, TikTok never drops below 95% in the proportion of installed users that open up the app weekly. Here is a useful WSJ video on how the TikTok algorithm works.

The world first learned of Sophie Zhang in September 2020, when BuzzFeed News obtained and published highlights from her nearly 8,000-word exit memo from Facebook. Zhang has supplied concrete evidence to support what critics had long been saying on the outside: Facebook makes election interference easy, and that unless such activity hurts the company’s business interests, it can’t be bothered to fix the problem.

A good read on the problem of link rot – the phenomenon of article links no longer pointing to their original target. This story reveals the extent to which the internet, which holds so much of our knowledge, is rotting: overall, more than half of all articles in The New York Times that contain deep links, have at least one rotted link.”

Interesting perspective from The Atlantic, on a remote work future. ‘Remote work empowers those who produce and disempowers those who have succeeded by being excellent diplomats and poor workers, along with those who have succeeded by always finding someone to blame for their failures. It removes the ability to seem productive (by sitting at your desk looking stressed or always being on the phone), and also, crucially, may reveal how many bosses and managers simply don’t contribute to the bottom line.’

Naomi Oreskes, a science historian and expert on climate denial at Harvard, says the anti-vax movement is following the same playbook. “The doubt mongers have a much easier job than scientists because they don’t have to prove anything.”

Young people can make real money selling vintage clothes online — if they can stay on the right side of the algorithm. These are the Teen Tycoons of Depop.

Great piece from The Guardian. Mental health memes are everywhere – can they offer more than comic relief? A meme may help, but it doesn’t come close to a hug.

As a keen paddler, I particularly liked this piece – Swimming gives your brain a boost – but scientists don’t know yet why it’s better than other aerobic activities. 

Ten Stories From This Week

18th July

Super Human: Channel 4’s Awesome Paralympic Games Advert. This moving and upbeat film by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young shows a real human side to Britain’s elite athletes competing in Tokyo this summer. Top marks for featuring a Bugsy Malone song as a soundtrack and the line “To be a Paralympian there’s gotta be something wrong with you.”
(3′:00″) (HT@storythings)

“To be an optimist is to be highly familiar with the historical situation of mankind throughout most of its existence.” This piece, explores thenotion of “reflexive modernity”. As a society, we have progressed from “unconscious modernity,” where science and technology developed without any concern for the consequences of its evolution, to a world where what humanity does is reflexively examined for its potential future risks.

The Faults. Mountains are huge creatures on a scale of billions of years, and this work presents a fast-forward look at the changes in these mountains, not only in the form of growth, but also in the form of fractures and destruction. These movements are driven by different noise algorithms. (1′ : 41″)

After Twitter’s launch fifteen years ago, the LA Times described it as an alternative to “your MySpace page”.

No cults, no politics, no ghouls: how China censors the video game world. The number of gamers there, is bigger than the entire populations of the US, Japan, Germany, France and the UK combined.

For years, mathematicians have said it’s unknowable. New proof suggests otherwise. How many numbers exist? We might know one day.  Not every infinity is the same.

Wonderful. Watch Beluga whales migrating on this livestream.

You should use emojis at work 👍 A well-placed emoji can save you a whole lot of words...and apparently, Clippy’s coming back. This time as an emoji.

Video tricks by a stop motion animator. This wizardry is outrageously good. (30″)


  1. Just marvellous. This quirky Pedigree campaign imagines thefantastical former lives of shelter pets. (1′:00″)

Ten Stories From This Week

10th July 2021

Great piece on the current period of uncertainty, considered from the parallel, historical perspective of the eruption on Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815. The devastating impact this event had and how, out of the crisis, modern agriculture was born- ‘We Have No Idea What Happens Next’.

Really like this from from Business Insider. ‘Time is seen in a particularly different light by Eastern and Western cultures, and even within these groupings assumes quite dissimilar aspects from country to country.’ This is how different cultures understand time. (we have linear, multi-active and cyclic).

Smashing idea, wonderful result. 100% of bars supported by Heineken’s Grand Prix-Winning, Shutter Ads idea, have re-opened. This campaign turned locked down bar shutters into media space and showed that purpose-driven and commercially impactful creative ideas are not mutually exclusive.

Nice from @geniusteals. Culture & trends report from YouTube. References specific videos or channels which you can add to your playlist. You could use it for your next presentation, or simply for a way to discover some new YouTube content.

TikTok is upending the book industry. “BookTok” has sent old books back to the top of bestseller lists and helped launch the careers of new authors. Videos with the BookTok hashtag have been viewed a collective 12.6 billion times and getting more people to take up the hugely fulfilling habit of reading.

GOGOSOHO: Celebrating the independent spirit of the eternally cool London neighbourhood.

Nice guide from, friend of The Filter, Greenwood Campbell. The Human Guide to Tech, Summer 2021 Edition. Challenge, Adapt and Thrive.

Artist Jan Is De Man asked residents of an apartment building to identify a treasured possession — then painted an image of that possession on the side of the building. Images on Street Art Utopia.

Magnum gives poet Dante and muse Beatrice a kiss to remember for International Kissing Day (6th July). Over 700 years ago Dante fell in love with his muse Beatrice and some of his most famous works were inspired by her. But despite his dedication, their love never happened. To celebrate Dante’s anniversary and International Kissing Day, Magnum, the brand that is about pleasure and art, has finally brought them together. (1’28”)

Take a virtual tour of the Statue of Liberty.

Ten Stories From This Week

4th July 2021

From Wunderman Thompson. Reunion and reconnection are the themes for the upcoming months, and brands are toasting to optimism and human interaction. Advertising Togetherness.

Great ‘freemium’ update last week from Zoe Scaman – on the ‘Power of Fandoms’. ‘Last year, I wrote a piece titled ‘The Future Of Fandoms’, in which I posited that fandom would become the dominant currency, both culturally and commercially, within the realms of music, sports, movies, TV and more. What I hadn’t realised is just how fast this prediction would turn from theory into reality and how expansive and exciting the developments would be.’

The Hottest Streamer (Right Now).  Who is winning the platform wars? Netflix’s streaming supremacy is being challenged as never before. The digital TV universe has dramatically expanded over the past 18 months with the launch of well-funded platforms from conglomerates old (Disney, WarnerMedia, Comcast) and new (Apple).

The World’s Best Adverts In One Place . A fantastic collection of all the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Grand Prix Cannes Lions winners. This could seriously eat a big chunk of your day…..

From NiemanLab. As the pandemic recedes in the United States, publishers opt to keep experimenting with virtual events. ‘In the transition into post-Covid life, more and more news outlets in the U.S. are opting to keep putting on some virtual events even as in-person ones return.’

You don’t have to be vegan to be vegan.The ongoing war between “belonging” and “doing the right thing” is invisible, but epic.

This ‘Wasted Potential’ Beer is Made From Goose Poop.

A nice short read on Alfred Hitchcock’s use of suggestion, and the role of surveillance in his films: “In an earlier, 1970, interview, the director offered a distinction: ‘Mystery is when the spectator knows less than the characters in the movie. Suspense is when the spectator knows more than the characters’ — usually because they have been spying on the characters. Such illicit knowledge reverses the gaze. Neither able to remain aloof nor stop the horrors they see coming.” (3 min read)

This BBC Tokyo Olympic Trailer is really very good. “The trailer boasts an aesthetic inspired by Japanese anime and video games and we watch as the camera moves seamlessly from a music video where real life singers transform into anime versions of themselves to an arcade screen displaying Olympic athletes in the style of Street Fighter characters.” (1 min watch).

Compelling drone footage of a giant herd of sheep. Honestly, it’s better than it may initially sound.

Ten Stories From This Week

27th June 2021

The TV Hit Isn’t Just Dying – It May Already Be Dead. Two years ago, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” gathered 20 million viewers to watch its finale. Nothing on the current pay-TV landscape would stand a chance of coming close. A new culture of niche TV has given a platform to more voices for narrower audiences and is helping to retain subscribers: If you’re Netflix, it makes a lot more sense to have five small shows that are liked by five different family members than one show that all five family members can watch together, you’re much less likely to unsubscribe from the service in the first option. There’s always going to be something someone wants.” (ht @storythings).

Google’s Chrome web browser will not fully block tracking cookies until late 2023, the Alphabet company said on Thursday, delaying by nearly two years a move that has drawn antitrust concerns from competitors and regulators. Rivals accuse the world’s biggest online ads seller by revenue, of using improved privacy as a pretence to gain greater market share.

Here are all the Cannes Lions 2021 ‘Reach’ Grand Prix Winners. Pakistan takes its first ever Grand Prix and Reddit goes large.

Little Amal’ – Not so ‘little’ at 3.5 metres, this 9 year old Syrian child was created by The Handspring Puppet Company & The Good Chance Theatre and will be travelling across Europe to spread awareness of theplight of refugees. Along with hundreds of artists and cultural organisations, you can help her along her way HERE.

Here, a couple of social media stories of import this week. TikTok is launching ‘TikTok Jump’ which enables brands and creators to build mini-programs and services that they can link to from their videos…and Instagram are testing ‘Fan-Club’ Stories – exclusive content that can only be viewed by members of an approved group.

From The Guardian. NFTs and me: meet the people trying to sell their memes for millions.

A chilling video from Australian charity, Anglicare WA makes you feel colder through ‘temperature contagion’. This is a scientific phenomenon where people unknowingly cool their own body temperature by up to 1-degree when seeing or hearing someone who is suffering from the cold. Here the presenting actor is experiencing mild hypothermia after spending one hour in a commercial freezer. (45″)

This is why small museums are stealing the show on TikTok.Museums can sometimes have a reputation for being distant and static — scattered with ‘Do Not Touch’ signs and often incomprehensible plaques. On TikTok, however, innovative institutions have seen great success, bringing their collections and knowledge base to life by leaning into opportunities to bring lighthearted humour to serious history and culture. 

A former NRA president unknowingly delivered a commencement speech to 3,044 victims of gun violence. (1.56″).

The famous Easter Island heads, have bodies which are buried underground.

Ten Stories From This Week

13th June 2021

From Wired. Twitch turns 10, and the creator economy is in Its debt. The livestreaming platform for gamers helped pioneer the patronage systems that prop up so much of the internet today.

The app that monetised doing nothing. Inside the meteoric, chilled-out, totally paradoxical rise of Calm.

London’s Wigmore Hall celebrated its 120th birthday recently. From The Guardian –  Its artistic director picks 12 of the hall’s greatest and most unexpected – moments : sexual congress, cigarettes and David Bowie: the Wigmore Hall’s hidden history.

Click on this interactive map of the US and see where a rain drop willl end up after it falls. Into streams, rivers, oceans..

This Wired article (sub reqd) expresses what a lot of people are possibly misunderstanding about crypto – that it is less about Bitcoin and more about financialising fandoms (HT @zoescaman)

Very cool. Who better to share words of wisdom than an activist, artist, father of seven children, and creator of 144 (!) albums? To celebrate his 88th birthday, world-famous musician Willie Nelson has kindly provided us with his 10 rules for life which are, unsurprisingly, sage, epic and smile-inducing, just like Willie himself.

Interesting. Apparently, depression amongst teenagers went DOWN in the last 12 months. Why? Because they’re getting more sleep.

From Vanity Fair. The 25 Most Influential Movie Scenes of the Past 25 Years. Great scrolling design and a few surprises here (for me anyway).

Just love this apology for missing a deadline. From the wonderful Dorothy Parker.

Sad to hear of the death of Edward De Bono this week. When setting up my business ten years ago, I was hugely influenced by his work and by the book ‘Lateral Thinking – A textbook of creativity’; in particular. The father of creative thinking, I don’t believe there is a creative thinking blog, book or podcast in existence, that doesn’t owe him a debt of gratitude. As he said, If you never change your mind, why have one? 

No newsletter next week as I’m taking a few days out. Next edition on the 27th. ❤️🙏

Ten Stories From This Week

29th May 2021

Can Apple change ads? The ad market is a mess, and now very unstable, and poised, perhaps, to move to a very different idea of what ‘privacy’ means and how it works. Apple has both the market power and the brand to launch a new privacy-based tracking and targeting ad model, and offer it on hundreds of millions of high-spending users’ devices.

Some graphs from @benedictevans. Interesting to watch UK e-commerce emerge from lockdown. Very clear we are settling at significantly higher penetration. UK is now clearly at 30%, where the US is at 20%.

From the British Library. Music can give you goosebumps. Scenery can give you goosebumps. But can a word give you goosebumps? It sure can. And in Georgian, they even have a word for it: ჟრუანტელი / zhruanteli, ‘a beautiful word that gives you goosebumps’. So with English Language Day on Friday, here is a selection of the BL’s favourite words.

Why QAnon is disappearing from online view. ‘Aggressive content moderation aimed at limiting extremist content can work, but decisions to enforce rules and address threats of extremism are often prompted by tragedy instead of proactive thinking’.

From Creative Review. Stonewall’s new identity embraces a more activist future. 

For our American readers or those who may travel over there, soon. Have to say I swum in the ones in Texas and they are special. From CNTraveler – 8 Stunning U.S. Swimming Holes to Cool off in This Summer

Typically bonkers from XKCD cartoon. I have a collection of Wikipedia links to throw behind my car if I’m ever being chased…

Very true. Embracing boredom will change your life. You see, boredom isn’t just boredom, but rather, it’s the anxiety around being with self—one’s thoughts, emotions and ideas. Because when we are truly present, what seems to be mundane is really an opportunity for introspection.

Does Amazon know what it is selling? ….and just how extraordinary (terrifying?) they could be if they did.

Not the best acronym in the world