Best of the Internet 2012

The Bureau editors and friends talk about their favorite internet things of the year.

Britt Julious

One doesn’t need further confirmation of the underrated brilliance of Azealia Banks or Selena or Nicki Minaj, but Trill Wave Feminism provides that outlet for those of us who grew up with “alternative” icons of feminist praxis. For those paying attention, 2012 was a year in which mainstream feminism (as in white, as in middle class) was consistently and thankfully challenged by some of the keenest writers, scholars, and average viewers online and in print for its tendency to exclude rather than include. Trill Wave Feminism feels like the natural progression of these challenges, affirming the strength and empowering essence inherent in performers, writers, and artists who are often denied a place in feminist iconography and rhetoric. The carefully “curated” selection of GIFs, videos, images, quotes, songs, and other media always feels just right. I nod my head every day and say, “Yes! THIS is my feminism!” But also, how can you hate a space that features Kat Stacks, Charo, Le1f, Fatima Al Qadiri, and Gertrudis Bocanegra in the same month? Answer: You can’t.

Britt Julious is the senior editor at This Recording, and a freelance writer and essayist based in Chicago. She blogs at BRITTICISMS.

Sarah Pavis

If I had to pick one favorite internet thing of 2012 it’d probably be Story Bundle. I love my Kindle but I hate paying hardcover prices for non-lendable, DRMified ebooks that Amazon can yank whenever they want. StoryBundle does a pay-what-you-want format for a handpicked bunch of DRM-free indie ebooks, often all in a particular genre. Yeah, I haven’t loved all the books I’ve bought but I love the concept (as did the Humble Bundle folks). And another group, Bundle Dragon, seeks to democratize the process by giving individuals a set of tools that let you create your own bundles. I dunno. I just love buying shit in bundles. Bundles, bundles, bundles.

Other cool 2012 things: the rise of verticals, the rise of videogame blogs, and the rise of videogame verticals. BuzzFeed putting on its big boy pants this past year has been fun to watch (and, disclosure, participate in). And The Verge launching Polygon has been awesome. I love their in-depth stories and browser defying layouts. Though I hate the Penny Arcade comic, Ben Kuchera is bringing some honest to goodness videogame reporting to the Penny Arcade Report. After a great Kickstarter, Venus Patrol took a while to launch and it’s taking a while to find its feet. I enjoy it but, since Venus Patrol is a one man operation, it seems like Brandon Boyer has more ambition than time. Finally, though I like the AV Club’s Gameological Society, the suddenly crowded video game blog space leaves it feeling like the forgettable best friend in a rom-com. I’d say this is an unstable growth rate for video game blogs but I am managing to read them all. Now if only I had time to play some video games.

Sarah Pavis is a mechanical engineer and writer who wants to play boardgames with you.

Jonathan Gourlay

13 Ways of Looking @horse_ebooks

I

your bird, the sky for the times when Kool-Aid soaks in paper towels. The only thing moving

II

I was one of three Wedding Blondes and a black bird. To become, to become, to become, to become, THEN successfully market

III

you keep a schedule and work insurance. Be internet, be savvy, be cheap, be yourself, htis value + value + value + value + value +

IV

tern and swallow. This thing listens to itself. SHUT IT OFF!

V

thisman, every bird, inflections

VI

indecipherable (be)cause indecipherable (be)cause indecipherable (be)cause indecipherable

VII

FEET EFEET FE FET FEE TFE EET FEET TETEFEFE F EE E E E T [O] [O] WOMEN

VIII

Realize Your Dream Of Becoming Inescapable. Money Systems Know Shame Searching For Heart Broken Man. How To Earn Targeted http://tinyurl.com/brcpvts

IX

ABC. A, A Attention. Interest. Decision. Action. Attention.

X

What even is this? Why do I even have this? I don’t understand. I come home and want the pdf manuals.

XI

He rode over Connecticut in a glass coach. DEEPLY SHOCKING!! Then very likely the most (without

XII

She looked at him closely and thought, I, for one, have a bird that becomes agitated by the color of the afternoon when

XIII

laughing ah! Tin k. . . harmful if swallowed now become serious

Jonathan Gourlay is an editor at The Bygone Bureau.

C. Max Magee

I’m not an early adopter (I fall somewhere between over-caffeinated tech blogger and AOL-using septuagenarian in terms of new tech uptake), so I have added nothing of note this year to my tech regimen that was actually unveiled to the public in 2012. I have, however, become an avid user of a number of services that the more aggressively plugged-in were likely hep to in the 2009 to 2011 timeframe. One of my favorites has been WeatherSpark. Since discovering this beautiful and very useful visualization of recent weather conditions and the upcoming forecast, I can’t bear to look at Weather.com’s generic five-day forecast, which now feels quite staid in comparison. Other discoveries this year: I joined the rest of the planet in experiencing the wonders of Spotify (and followed some instructions somewhere and have managed to turn off those nefarious updates on Facebook). And as someone who runs a decent-sized online magazine, Asana is my new favorite dead simple tool for managing a team, while the newish “Real-Time” feature of Google Analytics is a daily dose of info-crack.

C. Max Magee created and edits The Millions.

Ryan Bateman

Twitter is a perfect platform for comedy. Its ephemeral nature and 140-character restriction acts as a catalyst for the punsters, comeback kings, and armchair comedians of the world, giving everyone a chance to put out their zinger. It has also slowly become home to professionals like Conan O’Brien, Steve Martin, Kyle Kinane, and countless others, each using the platform to spin out their own particular brand of comedy within its bounds. The platform also slowly began to give rise to less conventional comedy stars. Parody accounts became prolific. @horse_ebooks, ostensibly an automated bot tweeting parts of the ebooks it tries to sell, rose to Twitter stardom in 2011 once its non-sequiturs and disconnected turns of phrase (“Worms—oh my god WORMS”) began spreading across the internet. 2012 seems to have been the year of a new kind of comedy—“weirdtwitter”. Rather than aiming to appeal to shared experience or to twist an expectation, Tweeters like @ActualPerson084 or @ConorTripler instead seem to aim for a brand of bizarre, unwieldy comedy that wouldn’t work on any other platform.

 

 

While aiming specifically to subvert our expectation of humor isn’t a new approach to comedy, both do so in such a way that feels more native to the internet and its culture than the stand-up comedy of old. And it seems to be paying off. @ConorTripler’s 13,000 followers have awarded him over 110,000 faves, while @ActualPerson084′s Lovecraftian #NightOfTheFreeIpad tweets set off a minor trendstorm each time he sends them out into the twittersphere.

Whether it’s a new genre of comedy in and of itself is debatable, but as reallyreallyreallytrying asks, “Yo how come Goofy can talk but Pluto is just [A STRANGE & MALEVOLENT DRONE ENACTING THE WILL OF THE UNKNOWABLE DARKNESS]?”

Ryan Bateman is a freelance software developer currently living in London. He is insoluble in water.

Aaron Cohen

I thought dub step cat was really good and some boats in a race was really good, but was this commercial for DollarShaveClub.com any good? No. It was fucking great. The video is the kind of great where you envy people watching it for the first time, nostalgic for their glee, jealous of their surprise. It’s the kind of great you can’t be bothered to email or IM to friends. That’s not good enough. This video demands more, so you have to get all dark social and walk around the office making sure the right people see it as soon as possible.

While the ad is hilarious and features the right level of dryness and absurdity, I wonder if it took off like it did because it spoke to a greater question in our world. Why are razor cartridge replacements so expensive? In any case, I haven’t heard much about Dollar Shave Club since this ad heralded their launch, but if they never do end up reaching the volume of memberships surely required to make it as a company, they will have at least added 2012′s best web video.

Aaron Cohen is the founder of Eat Boston, Super Precious Art Gallery, and Pets Are Superheroes. He blogs at Unlikely Words and Kottke.org. He’s on Twitter.

Leah Reich

For whatever reason, I don’t like to put a lot of stuff on my fridge. Maybe because I don’t have the right magnets and stuff always falls down, or maybe because it always looks cluttered rather than charming like it does in other people’s houses. But for about seven or eight months this year, I pinned a piece of paper, a face peering out from it with half a smile and a name emblazoned down the side:

LOUIS CK

The best, newest thing for me on the internet in 2012 was watching Louis CK go out on a limb with ticketing for his shows after successfully selling his standup show through his website for a flat, $5 fee in 2011. Ticketing has to be one of the most loathed parts of the entertainment industry for artists and audiences alike. He ditched Ticketmaster to sell tickets directly through his website with a flat fee, including tax. But more than just selling tickets directly, what Louis CK did was bring back an important human element to the ticketing process: He humanized it, explaining why he was doing it and why it was important for him to take this risk. He made each step transparent. He was open and communicative, including fans in the process and further endearing him to them.

The success of his ticketing experiment—135,600 tickets in the first week of sales and a major reduction in scalping—was immediately apparent and astonishing. The entire process was beneficial for both parties, rather than only for a third party. Let’s hope his success will spur others to follow his lead, perhaps even with Kickstarter-like tools to help emerging artists manage their audiences and ticket sales.

Leah Reich has a PhD in sociology and works as a researcher at Mule Design Studio in San Francisco. She lives in Oakland, where she subsists mostly on avocados and is writing a paean to her love of the trumpet. She is on Twitter.

Hallie Bateman

ikea_monkey

Hallie Bateman is an art director at The Bygone Bureau.

Kevin Nguyen

I’ve never understood the appeal of the YouTube talking head. Despite the popularity of this style, someone talking into a webcam, no matter how quickly cut or zany or funny the personality is, has ever made a compelling argument to me. (And trust me: I’ve seen my fair share of these things. My middle school-aged cousins post them on Facebook all the time.)

PBS and Mike Rugnetta’s Idea Channel has changed my mind about that (and it’s not just because he has a record cover of Televisions Marquee Moon featured in the backdrop). Rugnetta is adorable and nerdy, but also articulate enough to guide his enthusiasm into a coherent and well-researched argument. It’s made me realize that this format, which I previously thought to be lazy, can actually make for a condensed, hyperspeed lecture of sorts. My favorite from the past year is Rugnetta’s posit that Minecraft and Makerbot are the first signs of a post-scarcity economy, which argues that maybe a world where we can make things out of thin air is not so far-fetched.

Even when Rugnetta’s ideas don’t entirely come together, you’re still treated to a fascinating history lesson and Rugnetta’s charming mug. Like every YouTube series, Idea Channel videos end with a plea to subscribe. This is the first time I’ve been happy to oblige.

Kevin Nguyen is a founding editor at The Bygone Bureau.

Nick Martens

This June, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency launched a modest Kickstarter campaign to raise $6,000 to fund a video series called “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” Then, for daring to discuss the topic of sexism in a medium that has brought us such strong female characters as Lara Croft, BloodRayne, Cammy, and The New Lara Croft, she became the target of a viscous campaign of misogynistic YouTube comments, Wikipedia vandalism, and pornographic images. The story blew up, her Kickstarter swelled to nearly $160,000 and 7,000 backers, and the mob grew more hateful.

Sarkeesian is amazing for having the fortitude to withstand 30 days in that maelstrom. But she didn’t stop there. She’s spoken about her experiences with online harassment all year, most recently in a brilliant talk at the TEDxWomen conference, where she somehow manages to be depressing and inspiring in equal measure. And in their sickeningly predictable way, her harassers have continued their silencing tactics, using each of her media appearances as an excuse to unleash another wave of sexist venom.

This relentless bigotry shows the staggering magnitude of the problem women face in gaming, to say nothing of the plight of queer gamers, gamers of color, or disabled gamers. It almost seems hopeless, until you remember we have people like Anita Sarkeesian to help us turn the tide.

Nick Martens is a founding editor at The Bygone Bureau.

Darryl Campbell

In the wake of the Newtown shootings, Jason Kottke at Kottke.org started devoting a significant chunk of time to covering the ongoing debate about the place of guns in the United States — from the words we use to talk about it to a look at the issue from a public health perspective.

I love the aw-shucks, look-at-this-cool-stuff-I-found tone of most linkblogs as much as the next guy. But in the gun debate, Kottke has presented it in way that only a linkblogger could. That is, he can be opinionated to a degree that would get a “real journalist” crucified; he can support someone and point out their hypocrisy in the same day; he can pack an op-ed column’s worth of irony into a tweet’s worth of words. Most of all, he can do the legwork of filtering the messy public sphere into a few digestible cross-sections, and, to his credit, do so without being shrill or melodramatic—something that takes a significant amount of self-awareness, or self-restraint.

In the wake of the shooting, even the professional commentariat seemed reluctant to engage in the usual cant that dominated the discourse about guns before the 14th. And into that discursive pause came Kottke, with thirty-five posts’ worth of statistics, essays, and marginalia about gun violence and its effects. (Among many others, of course; but to my knowledge no one has delved not just into hard news and opinions, but also history, literature, movie criticism, and public policy.)

Like many Americans, I spent last Friday following the news in a state of mute shock. As a society we claim to regard public schools as sacred, innocent, inviolable spaces. Doubly so for me: I have spent at least one day a year for the last fifteen years volunteering or visiting at my mom’s elementary school classrooms. I was also in high school when the Columbine shooting happened, and watched live TV coverage as it happened.

I am not sure why, when these shootings happen, we are quick to express outrage but slow to do something about their ultimate—not proximate—causes. Maybe this time, with politicians, businesspeople, and even Rupert Murdoch signaling their willingness to revisit the central place that guns have in American society, we can do something else. And I think that the broad, public, but also highly personal overview of the gun question that Kottke has been writing over the past few days can help us cut through the Gordian knot of sublimated partisan interests and uninformed hyperbole.

(On a more lighthearted note, this year I also enjoyed the proliferation of Russian dash-cam footage, which more or less speaks for itself.)

Darryl Campbell is an editor at The Bygone Bureau.