• Why the internet is broken

    The internet is garbage

    The internet is garbage. Nearly all of it is awful. There are still pockets of good all over the place but the overwhelming trend towards big tech platforms, trapping you in walled gardens and exerting monopolistic power is incredibly depressing. What started out as a utopian dream now seems much more like a dystopian vision. Black Mirror episodes that once seemed outlandish are now basically history lessons.

    It’s money. The relentless desire to monetise everything has pushed us down this road. For a good portion of Web 1.0 the internet was weirdly blasé about money. Services were generally free. People made stuff for the sake of it, out of interest or curiosity.

    SEO has broken everything

    Nowadays it’s all plastered with ads. They’re everywhere. And the places that aren’t actively ramming autoplaying video ads down your throat are busy collecting data about what you’re interested in so they can sell it to someone else to force feed you ads.

    The inherent competition in selling ads (there’s only so much time anyone spends looking at the internet) means the push to be top of the search page heap and trample all your competitors is all consuming. SEO is a nightmare. Search engines are broken. Google is objectively much less useful for finding information on than it was a decade ago. Is this what progress looks like?

    a lot of cables

    Communities are harder to find

    One of the real paradoxes of how the internet has changed over the last 15 years is how much harder social media has made it to find real communities. The relentless drive to make every platform bigger and to suck in more and more users has torn apart the many weird little communities that spent years just doing their own thing. I spent years on forums: music, film, food, books - niche little worlds where people chattered away. Reddit, twitter and Facebook are a poor alternative. All 3 are clearly ailing and beginning to fall apart but it’s not at all clear what replaces them.

    AI is the next wave of awful

    As if all this wasn’t enough, here comes GPT. Why wade through tonnes of lazily churned out SEO optimised copy when you could instead drown in gigatonnes of AI generated SEO optimised copy? This is the future and it doesn’t look like the search engines are ready for it. If you thought that finding information was hard now, just wait till 90% of it is AI hallucinations lies.

    a dusty computer

    Human voices

    Unsurprisingly, I don’t have the answers to any of these problems. I’ve no idea how this is going to pan out. However it goes, though, I feel like the need for human voices, for recommendations, for curation, for selection, is only going to become more important. The AI generated playlists on Spotify are boring. The Netflix recommendation algorithm is terrible. And who’s going to trust an AI to review a restaurant?

    As we drown in a sea of algorithmically generated junk, it feels inevitable that we’re going to long for human voices. But will it be too late?

    All images generated with Midjourney (because of course they are!)

  • The Hyde Park Picture House is back!

    Back in 2019…

    It’s been too long. Back in 2019, as Friends of the Picture House I remember going to an open event, full of models of the cinema and architects renders of what it might look like one day. As exciting as it was, at that point losing our favourite cinema for a whole year seemed incredibly sad. How would we have felt if we’d known it would be 3?

    The best laid plans go awry and 2020 obviously tore apart everyone’s plans everywhere. I don’t think we went to the cinema all year, so the loss of the Picture House was just a small part of the overall sadness (the short notice lockdown of Leeds specifically that killed off the 2020 film festival sticks out as a crushing disappointment). But in 2021 cinemas were back, the film festival was back, and The Hyde park remained closed. And for 2022 as well.

    Seats with our names on

    Even the most optimistic of film fans might have started to doubt it’d ever open at this point. Any fears were staved off by the fact you could physically see the work happening. On nice days we’d add a detour to outside wanders just to go see the massive hole in the ground next to the picture house. Concrete was torn up, foundations went in, all sorts of activity was going on.

    Eventually things were starting to look up. The cinema introduced a number of crowd funding programs - from sponsoring lights to tiles to seats. We leapt at the chance for a seat. Or two. And now we have our names on little brass plaques on the backs of the best seats in the house (in my opinion, at least).

    Good memories

    It wasn’t a hard choice to sponsor the cinema. It’s been such a source of joy over the 15 or so years I’ve been in Leeds. I still can’t quite work out what the first film I saw there was, but it might have been a student trip to see Aliens, accompanied by a free slice of pizza.

    Subsequent happy times have been many and varied. I worked the film festival Night of the Dead a couple of times, emerging bleary eyed into Sunday sunshine after wall to wall splatter horror, and have fond memories of seeing all sorts of stuff there, from indie funded Iron Sky to a whole bunch of Greek weird wave and the adorable animation of A Town Called Panic.

    HPPH into the future

    I’m so pleased it’s back open again and really looking forward to seeing what they make of the space now. With a second screen, a bar area, accessible entrances, it feels like it has a lot of exciting times ahead.

  • LIFF2021

    Here we go! The 35th Leeds International Film Festival launches its programme this week, ahead of the first screening in November. I think its fair to say I’m a bit excited.

    Last year’s last-minute scrapping of the whole festival was such a cruel blow. Mid-October we had a 3 tier system of lockdown (remember that?) and, as the film festival proudly announced, every one of the tiers allowed in-person cinema screenings, the festival was safe! Of course, at the very end of October the government announced Leeds would move into the (previously non-existent) tier 4. And all the screenings had to be scrapped. (And then actually they put the whole country on lockdown just as few days later).

    They made the best of it, and we watched a lot of stuff on the online player but it wasn’t really the same. So this year it’s so exciting to be heading back into the cinema for it. Opening film is Spencer, which I’d struggle to care less about, but much like a music festival is never really about the headline acts, the film festival is all about the hidden gems. Fingers crossed for a good year.

  • Fleece

    Beans and peas sown last week, but the ground has been so cold and frosty! We’re hoping they’re helped out with a little bit of fleece. Hopefully it’ll keep the pigeons off too.

  • Compost bin

    Even more digging! Got one really long thin plot ready for carrots and beetroot in a short while.

    And the big addition is the new compost bin! It’s… massive. I think we might have overestimated how much compost we would generate. We’ll see.

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