Cyber Culture: One man's attempt to find the diamonds in the rough of YouTube comments

 

WTF? YouTube's head of product, Dror Shimshowitz, revealed over the summer that his colleagues are working on ways to improve the standard of comments on the site. LOL. Of course, if you're the kind of person who feels compelled to act upon messages urging you to "repost this comment below three videos or you will die in two days", or you rant about Mossad underneath innocuous pop videos, you probably see YouTube as an essential opinion forum.

But it's long been derided as a battleground for the anonymously witless; a Firefox plug-in called Comment Snob renders invisible any YouTube comments that satisfy various criteria – number of spelling mistakes, excessive or limited use of capital letters or punctuation and so on. It doesn't legislate for literate idiots, but it's a pretty effective filter.

The Canadian film-maker Mark Slutsky is, however, no comment snob. He describes himself as being "fascinated by the medium", and has launched a blog at sadyoutube.com where he picks out rare "nuggets of humanity" he has found on the site. Recent entries include a comment under "Telstar" by The Tornadoes', pictured, from someone who tells the story of how, at the age of 12, he was the sole witness of a car crash and heard the song playing on the vehicle's radio as he discovered the dead bodies. Another explains how a particular Rush song is hugely important to him as it was the first song he heard after coming out of six years of isolation in a Communist prison. Belly laughs are thin on the ground, but it's a reminder that YouTube isn't all WTF and LOL.

And for this we can all be hugely thankful.

Art.sy uses data science to suggest paintings you may like… but is that really art?

I don't know much about art. I'm not even sure what I like. But this deficiency may be remedied by the launch last week of art.sy, a recommendation engine that's been described as "data science meets art history". The start-up has spent the past two years raising a few million dollars in venture capital and constructing a taxonomy system to categorise the world's art. Some 20,000 works are on the site, thanks to partnerships with museums and galleries across the world; each work is assigned a certain number of "genotypes" – perhaps concerning its age, subject, use of symbolism, colour and so on – with experts ranking each genotype from 1 to 100. This enables the site to offer an "if you like this, then you might like this" service, much in the same way that Pandora has done with music.

Of course, there are those in the art world who have voiced concern about the reductive nature of such a process. After all, artists spend their lives attempting to defy categorisation and mark their differences with others, and then a website comes along to state that their work is "a bit like Jeff Koons". But for anyone curious about art it's fascinating; its aim is not necessarily to be exhaustive (the Google Art Project is nearly twice the size) but merely helpful. So if you're fond of the abstract expressionism of Camino Real (II) by Cy Twombly, pictured, art.sy will guide you towards other abstract expressionist works by Jonathan Lasker or Grace Hartigan. Or if you just like the fact that it's a bit orange, you can see paintings that are similarly orange. Different brush strokes for different folks.

Apple maps, a month on – still as useful as a chocolate fireguard

Owing to poor time management on my part I'm writing this on holiday in France, where Apple's much-criticised Maps app has managed to demonstrate one of its advantages – perhaps its only advantage: data efficiency. My network charges me £10 for every 50MB of data I use when abroad, and with Maps' vector-based mapping system using around 80 per cent less data than the version of Google Maps I was using a month ago, it's been cheap to explore the local area using it. Even if there's a nagging worry that it'll send me up a cliff-face to reach the local supermarché.

Apple's app is so far behind Google's in terms of search technology that you wonder whether it'll ever catch up. Search for my neighbourhood of "Tooting" and it directs me to a cake decorator in Hackney, and if I specify "Tooting SW17" it reports "Not Found". The same goes for the data set; the Google Maps team merges imperfect data from hundreds of sources to establish the best likelihood of the map being correct. Apple's data, however, appears to rely on user corrections to improve errors, but users seem keener on complaining rather than helping, whether it's about multiple versions of the same landmark being in the wrong postcode, or defunct businesses situated 20 doors away from where they used to be.

Feeling vaguely altruistic, I just spent 20 minutes reorganising the Tooting area, including renaming "South Thames Collage" so it sounds more like an institution of learning and less like a collaborative artwork. My eyes are now peeled to see how long it takes for those changes to be updated in the app.

For 3D to be super we need to make like Clark Kent and lose the specs

It's a pattern we seem doomed to repeat: to become briefly enthralled with the idea of 3D then quickly feel lukewarm about it – a bit like a holiday romance, or using a cross-trainer in early January.

Ultimately, we don't want to strap on a pair of special specs to experience entertainment, no matter how sleekly styled they might be – and particularly if we're already wearing a pair of spectacles in the first place. In a moment of honesty last week, Fergal Gara, the UK head of Sony Computer Entertainment, admitted our 3D ambivalence in an interview with Eurogamer. "Consumers decide how relevant it is," he said. "It's fair to say that consumers have decided it's not hugely important at this time."

This echoes the words of the president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, who told this newspaper in an interview back in July that it's "too much" to have to strap on a pair of 3D specs. Colossal sums have been splurged by media companies in the past couple of years to try to persuade us of the added value of 3D, but it seems that the "wow" factor has become more of an "oh" factor. Perhaps the last chance to seduce us will be when (or if) a convincing spectacles-less 3D solution is found, but as Gara said in the same interview, "I don't have a firm view on whether that will happen."

Rap Genius turns from deciphering Lethal Bizzle to legal bizzle

If you're unfamiliar with the argot of American rap music you may have stumbled across Rap Genius, a wiki-style website that crowdsources translations of phrases such as Chuck D's (left) "My 98's a-boomin' with a trunk o' funk", thus bringing clarity and meaning to the rap-listening experience.

But in the past few weeks, it's taken a sideways move into legalese, with the site's members turning their attention to deciphering iTunes' terms of service. The technology guru Clay Shirky has weighed in, underlining (for example) the fact that Americans are prohibited from using iTunes outside the US, and that Apple has the right to check up on where they're using it. Next up on Rap Genius, if you please: Ulysses, the Digital Economy Act and Ikea wardrobe-assembly innstructions.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

    £70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

    Ashdown Group: European Recruitment Manager - Cheshire - up to £48,000

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: European Recrui...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions