that was a week, 19 January 2020

Let’s get back on the horse.

I was away for 3 weeks over Christmas and the New Year. It was fun, and I’ll try to write something up, but I didn’t get the weird timeless lull of days doing nothing. Tried to do very little over the last few weekends to recreate some rest.

Finished the second season of Sex Education on Netflix. Maybe a touch more unbelievable than the first series (even set in the hyper world of US education facilities in small town UK). Weird pacing too, with a real lull in the middle and of course the last episode is trying to sort out way too much. Only cried 5 times.

There’s nothing new to say about Netflix’s relentless pushing of the next thing to watch, in audio & video, but some kind of soft landing after a boxset would be really nice. Maybe with the horrible fragmentation of video on demand, viewer’s experience may become more important again.

It’s January, so unlike December, all the supermarkets are full of vegan and plant based meals. The no chicken kiev from M&S is, if anything, better than the original. You’re eating a kiev for the crunch and the garlic, rarely for the chicken. I’m not vegan, or vegetarian, but I don’t see the point in eating meat, if the meat isn’t the point.

Channel 5 ended up doing slow TV better than the BBC – watch the train go from Glasgow to Mallaig.

Two of Clive James’ Postcards series were shown by BBC4. Maybe more withering on the 80s, and class, in retrospect.

Was pointed to papicocafe on Instagram, highlighting some old timey Japan. Something to pair with craigmod’s epic essay about pizza toast and kissatens.

Rob Auton’s podcast is good but the novel format (2-5ish minutes daily) doesn’t fit with the created strictures of modern podcasting (30 seconds of bad adverts at the beginning and end).

Was looking for something else on the Ikea website, but found this very cheap plant water sensor. I’m intrigued by the new acoustic panels too.

Keeping an eye on this court case over a piece of light art. It feels really at the edge of art expression, but also involves Chinese product manufacturers advertising how to recreate.

The Guardian’s post on European city museums is good. Lots of gems in the comments, for once.

Mostly I’ve spent a lot of time watching TikTok. Once you get over the initial headspin and general revulsion of the first half an hour it’s both interesting and fun. I know Vine was something similar, but I never really got into that, and the scale of this is massive. It’s different to most social media in that it’s generally watching strangers, and very different to YouTube due to the length of the posts (10-20 seconds of video).

Given it doesn’t know anything about you at the start, its filters start very location specific (UK), but the main page (For You) is completely atemporal. There’s nothing to indicate when the post was from, so even now, I’m getting some posts from before Christmas. It feels like the algo thrashes about, giving you 10 minutes of cat videos before heading off to another data point. It’s very receptive to “full watches” of videos.

The first half an hour was horrible. If you’re used to Instagram, it’s very… ITV1/2/3/4 compared to Instagram’s Channel 4. You’re in a lot of people’s houses, workplaces and schools. There’s a lot of singing and dancing. There’s weirdly specific TikTok lighting for teenager bedrooms. There’s also a lot of privilege on display, from “private school check” to “rich person check” and the inevitable shysters selling drop shipping, cryptocurrencies and forex trading as get rich quick schemes (which if anything lends credence to the platform, as a place where people are and things are happening). And sure, there was some very upfront homophobia – the blocking and reporting tools are pretty meagre but are there. Between some blocking and giving it a few hashtags, people and songs to watch for, it became a far more manageable place.

The flip side to potential abuse is that it’s also got lots of LGBT+ and other minorities finding themselves, and finding others.

It feels like a richer description of humanity than Twitter or Instagram. It’s bored people at work or school or at home – I don’t know if the social media policies of all the large companies hasn’t caught up yet, or if they don’t care. Tesco and McDonalds seem to do pretty well out of it in the UK. Also seeing people reacting to their university and Oxbridge places over the last week has been quite something.

I spent a good half an hour in tears laughing at the “sent these lyrics” thing. With the in-phone green screen effect, it’s people singing and laughing over the text conversation they had. It’s different and new. And funny (and already splintered into several different memes – find the ones where they text old(er) people).

Beverley Knight is really good at it. And can’t quite understand, like all over 25s on the app, famous or not, why she’s not more popular. I don’t want to post any videos on there, but I kinda want to learn the dances just to be able to jump in the back of anyone I see recording.

It’s people having a moment of fun. The kids are alright. It is nice to see people having fun on the Internet, again.