BBC2's The Net, first episode from April 1994

“As computer technology becomes part of everyday life, a new program comes to BBC2 now: be you beginner, buff, or somewhere in between.”

Thanks to Martin Brewer, here’s the first episode of The Net, a documentary series that ran for four seasons from 1994 to 1998. Despite the name, this first episode has very little to do with the Internet. Instead, it’s an almost perfect video equivalent of the early Wired Magazine, covering a mish-mash of digital culture from video games to virtual reality.

This episode has five segments.

Continue reading “BBC2's The Net, first episode from April 1994”

Rom Check Fail — crazy mashup of retro gaming graphics and gameplay into a new game
PownceFS — fakes a local directory for your friends with the files they’ve uploaded in each

Olympia School District's Technology Program from 1995

The second in my series of Internet Videos from the VHS Era was contributed by James Burke. Here’s what he said about it:

“I enjoyed the Internet Power VHS tape and dug up an old VHS tape from my old school district. It’s a 20-minute video from June 1995 that discusses the district’s technology plan with lots of funny and archaic technology and it’s an interesting look at a school district that was on the cutting edge back in the mid nineties.”

After watching the whole film, it’s clear this public school district was way ahead of their time. Some of the video was a bit fluffy, so I edited the original video to focus on the technology and screen captures.


Josh Lake’s awesome homepage. Dig that big blue throbber on Netscape 1.0.

A breathless 3rd grader checks her email before learning about “Netscaping and writing our own homepages.”



Searching Webcrawler in Netscape 2.0.

The Clinton-era Whitehouse homepage in Netscape 1.0.



The sexy Netscape homepage, with interlaced GIF banner.

Telnet in Windows 3.1. The only PC in this video.



A pile of US Robotics modems jammed into holes in a cardboard box for dial-in network access.

Mildly-creepy student profiling application.



IP address as official URL. Charming!


Abort, Retry, or EPIC FAIL


“This is not language. This chart is a fucking lie.”
Anil Dash, Battledecks 2008

A few years ago, I wrote an entry about knee-jerk contrarians on the Internet: those delightful people who find fault in anything and everything, dismissing months or years of work with a few words.

This is nothing new. It’s as old as communication itself. I’m sure that the moment man discovered fire, there was some guy nearby saying, “Too smoky. Can burn you. Lame.

In the modern age, we’ve found a much more efficient way to express disdain, distilled into only four letters: FAIL. This usage as a standalone interjection has been around for years, since at least 2003, but its recent explosion in popularity comes from 4chan and the Lolcats memes. Dedicated blogs like FAIL Blog, Shipment of FAIL and Fail Dogs further spread the meme.

On Twitter, the conservation of space combined with a meme-savvy audience creates a perfect storm for spreading FAIL. With only 140 characters, it’s not surprising that people have taken to using this often as a shorthand for longer criticism.

Here’s a recent example from Chris Messina (who hopefully won’t mind me picking on him):

factoryjoe: @skitch Nice Twitter + Email integration, but where’s the OAuth?? FAIL!

Obviously, Chris adores Skitch. It’s the best screenshot application ever made, he uses it constantly, and evangelized it to friends (I found out about it from him, in fact). I’m sure he intended it as a gentle ribbing, but the message is pretty straightforward: Skitch has failed because it doesn’t support an emerging standard he feels strongly about. Pretend you’re one of the Skitch developers, and compare the original to this slight reworking:

@skitch Nice Twitter + Email integration! I’d love OAuth support, too.

Part of the problem is that “FAIL” implies objective truth, when it’s just your personal opinion. Tantek Çelik pointed out that, in LOLspeak, “DO NOT WANT” would be more appropriate since it clearly conveys a personal opinion.

I know many people who make stuff for the web, all of them very passionate about what they do. And every time I see a “FAIL” assigned to their work, it makes me sad. Yes, I know you’re trying to be funny. But I’m starting to see a trend away from the funny, and towards the angry, bitchy, or mean. So please, mind yer words.</missmanners>

24 Hours of FAIL on Twitter

The following is a small sampling of tweets mentioning “fail,” pulled from this Tweetscan search. Among the failures in the last day or so: Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Gmail, and Scrubs.

petroldarling: Oh my god. Metrotransit’s website is made of fail. In reality, the 84 stopped running an HOUR AGO. Now I am stuck in Midway.

nikete: facebook lacks a way to search the messages in your inbox. FAIL

jremsikjr: hulu.com FAIL! They cut out of full screen video to take me to the sponsors website at a commercial break 🙁

DjDATZ: skype = fail.

madpilot: Paypal development sandbox allows you to send payments to accounts that don’t exist. FAIL

93octane: top chef dumbass can’t follow directions. FAIL

rv510: San Francisco protest —–> FAIL

boyafraid: Twitter is currently looking broken. Word wrap/line breaking has experienced epic FAIL.

CocoaSamurai: I can’t rent “I am Legend”? iTMS FAIL

AndrewTerry: YouTube on iPod Touch; wotta lotta fail….

jkestr: you would think a movie called blackjack would come out on the 21st rather then the 28th. Marketing dept: fail.

nrturner: Safari 3.1 is *still* using the blue ‘RSS’ icon that looks like ‘ass’ in the address bar. Fail!

montythestrange: Google Mail spam filter in EPIC FAIL mode again.

px: BofA is really good at sales I suppose. But when it comes to training their employees in regards to the issues I am facing they FAIL.

rob_ballou: not allowing symbols in passwords = FAIL

sambrown: Billings only uses my System Preferences currency settings? I can’t change it per project? What a waste of time that was. *sigh* Major Fail.

aeoth: Oh I’m loving VicLink today. I want croydon -> mt waverley, it gives me Scorsby -> mt w. NOT EVEN CLOSE. EPIC FAIL

bobthecow: kronos webapp standards compliance FAIL.

tdcool: UK broadband = fail

ferhr: Used a 15 year old /usr/share/X11 over a 2007 one. Total FAIL. Gnome/gtk is really a fragile piece of software.

Pistachio: Oh FAIL. Quickbooks online does not run on a mac. MUAH, Quicken. I love you too.

ourfounder: Valve software requires you to update your warez very very slowly before you delete them. “Fail!”

dosminos: Friday Night Lights pilot – win, Scrubs pilot – fail. Supernatural and One Tree Hill pilots – maybe.

mjjames: Visual studio doesnt use jsdoc it uses its xml way. Fail

stevefleischer: very hazy and smoggy in HK today. Air has an orangy tinge to it. Mainland fatctories EPIC FAIL.

muffinresearch: No seats what a pile of FAIL

ndw: The Scala beginner’s guide is a PDF? FAIL

knufflebunneh: I have a prediction for 2008: you fail.

"Hot Hot Sex" Video Removed from YouTube

After weeks of criticism from YouTube commenters, the creator of the popular fan-made “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex” video finally pulled it offline. (It’s still mirrored here.)

On March 7, YouTube administrators removed it from its #1 spot on the rankings while they investigated it. Apparently, no foul play was detected and it was reinstated. Stephen Hutcheon from the Sydney Morning Herald has more on the story, including a screenshot from the leaderboard on the day it was removed.

It’s hard to get a sense of the scale, which roused suspicions in the first place. To put it in perspective, in the seven days from March 7-13, the CSS video gained 17 million new views. That’s more views than this week’s top 20 videos received, combined.

In one week, the CSS video got nearly as many views as the insanely huge Crank That (Souljah Boy) received in 7 months. It was six times as popular as Mariah Carey’s new video, in half the time. More popular in a week than the all-time views for Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” Tay Zonday’s “Chocolate Rain” or Chris Crocker’s “Leave Britney Alone.”

Assuming YouTube’s numbers are accurate, what was the mystery source of traffic? Now that the video is gone, I don’t think we’ll ever know. There have been a number of theories, but none of them really pan out.

  • Popular search terms like “hot sex” and “obama.” Unlikely, since the video never ranked well with those queries. Searching for “sex” or “hot sex” didn’t return the video anywhere in the top 100 results.
  • Social network embeds. It’s still possible that there’s a single source of traffic from an embedded video on an extraordinarily popular website on autoplay. If so, it’s managed to evade YouTube’s referral tracking, while still getting counted in views.
  • Leaderboard traffic. Once in the top 10, could traffic have snowballed from people clicking from the all-time most viewed page? No, since the video gained an additional 25 million views in the week it was removed from the leaderboard. Also, other videos in the top 5 only saw a small fraction of the growth.
  • Chinese users. Someone noted that Chinese users watch YouTube, but won’t (or can’t) sign in to rate/review/comment. Could they be coming from China?
  • Buzz from the iPod Touch ad. That might make sense in the days following the original commercial’s release last October, but the video’s growth was highest in the last two months.

Rajeev Kadam from Divinity Metrics, a company that provides video metrics for media companies, got in touch with me and provided these historical stats for the CSS video for the last five weeks. Here’s a chart of that data, or you can see the spreadsheet.

Philip Rogosky asked Clarus Bartel why he removed the video. Clarus reminded Philip that he’d contemplated deleting it before, but his friends advised him to wait to see if it would reappear on the leaderboard, clearing his reputation. At that point, he decided to delete it only because of the critical comments he was receiving on his other videos.

Asked how he felt when he pressed “delete,” Bartel responded, “Sad but relieved! If only I’d earned a buck or two or a job offer, I’d feel different today.”