Monthly Archives: January 2017

8.75 Web Comics You Need To Check Out!

Lol, it’s a listicle! But seriously, this is a great way to format this kind of content.

I want to talk about web comics. By which I mean comics specifically made for the internet. I don’t mean comics that are simply available online (like you’ll find on Marvel Unlimited, or just uploaded scans). Web comics are a unique breed, free to play around with form and style in a way that the traditional formats don’t always allow.

But enough babbling, here’s the list. No particular order.

1. Dinosaur Comics

My first love, and still one of the best. The premise of the comic is that the panel is exactly the same every day, but the text changes. Author Ryan North has somehow managed to find a way to make this work 3,086 times so far, and shows no signs of stopping.

It’s also very funny. The character of T-Rex is really well established as basically being this loud-mouth with wacky ideas (IT ME??!!). A great one is this one, where T-Rex renames his knuckles, or this one where T-Rex explores the use of slang, and ends up talking about gravy with God. It frequently makes me ‘laugh out loud’, out loud.

2. Hark, a vagrant

Like, the most beautiful thing ever. I love Kate Beaton’s sketches so much. They all have so much mirth and character in them, like those old Quentin Blake illustrations. She mostly does funnies about people from history and literature, so you’re learning stuff too! Hit the random button a few times and see what you find. Hard to pick a favourite (they’re all amazing), but this Les Mis one is pretty great.

3. XKCD

The most unpronounceable of these picks. It describes itself as ‘a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language’ which sums it up pretty well. Basically, it’s just a really really nerdy comic about technology and things. The art is literally just stick people most of the time, but don’t let that put you off – the actual content is great.

3.5 XKCD – What If?

A spin-off form XKCD in which author Randall Munroe uses his science brain to answer pressing questions. Questions like ‘Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward firing machine guns?‘ It’s a lot of fun, but I can only count it for half because it’s basically just more of XKCD.

4. Homestuck

The comic that changed the internet. Oh boy, this is a big one – literally. It’s over 10,000 pages. When I first started reading, it took me months to get up to date. It’s finished now though, so you can enjoy the whole thing in one (very long) sitting without having to wait on updates.

But what is it? Well, it’s a multimedia comic about teens. It’s at once unlike anything else ever, and also a full-on parody of everything from pop culture ever. There’s music, games, animations, chat logs, and more. There’s Nick Cage love, Guy Fieri fan fiction, and everything in between. At all times, my reaction to reading an update was literally this. If you want a great example of how it pushes the boundaries of all formats, just watch the Cascade update, which famously crashed the Newsground website when it went up.

Please watch it, just so we can talk about it.

4.25 Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff

SBAHJ is a comic written by one of the characters in Homestuck. So it actually exists within their universe and the characters talk about it. It’s intentionally terribly made – which I’m sure took so much effort it’s unreal. It’s a fascinating work of art – so check out the entire website. It also inspired me to make my own comics – for which I can only apologise.

I only count it as a .25 because it’s not really its own thing.

5. A Softer World

It’s over now, but for a time ‘A Softer World’ was the most heart-breaking web comic. It was just text on photos, but it was always poetic and beautiful – each strip almost a haiku. Read for some lovely, and funny, thoughts.

6. Buttersafe

The closest to what might be considered a traditional ‘web comic’ that I like. Just stick men drawn in a very simple fashion; y’know, the kind of style that Cyanide & Happiness made popular. But unlike C&H, Buttersafe is really good. I remember laughing at this one in particular for ages in 2007. I guess it’s aged ok.

7. The Perry Bible Fellowship

TPBF is very special. The styles in the panels are so varied, and the jokes always hit their mark. Typically, something is set up, but then something totally unexpected happens (like in ‘Martha’s Orphanage‘). It’s worth clicking through a lot of them to get the idea. Another favourite: Bip.

8. Whomp!

A funny comic about a self-deprecating chubby man who loves anime. Pretty amusing. Features a character who is a literal personification of the authors self-doubt and loathing. If you’re into that.


I hope you give at least some of these comics a go. It’s a shame really that we have to use the word ‘comics’ at all for these, given how different they actually are. But don’t let the term put you off. Just like ‘graphic novels’ have become a respectable thing in their own right, so too are ‘web comics’ just as legitimate a format for telling stories and jokes as anything else.

Happy reading!

What’s the deal with online stock videos?

Let’s just cut right to the chase: watch this.

What you just watched was a stock video. The title of the video is “An old man with hypnotic glasses witnessing the destruction of a world, hiding his face. Close-up shot, red background.” Yes, the last bits are part of the title too, not the description.

The video is eight seconds long. The aspect ratio is 16:9. And you can buy it for £14 in a “426 X 240 @ 25 fps MOV” format.

It is also inexplicable.

Now, we all know that stock imagery is a world of madness. Pop over to /r/wtfstockphotos for an idea. “Blank-faced man deflates and loses his spine”, “Woman licking a cactus”, and “Green alien traveler in white desert lunar landscape reading electronic map on future technology flexible display tablet” are just some of the current highlights. So, WHAT IS THE DEAL?

The business model of stock imagery is fascinating to me. You just take hundreds and hundreds of photos of absolutely anything, in the hope that one day some of them will be useful to someone. You can then make some money from that use.

For instance, “An old man with hypnotic glasses witnessing the destruction of a world, hiding his face. Close-up shot, red background.” appears to be part of a video series of similar clips. These include:

  • An old man with hypnotic glasses, pre-keyed with pure green, looking at the viewer. Close-up shot, red background.
  • An old man with hypnotic glasses, with analogue old CRT TV test card with color bars, full of noise, static, grain, scanlines. He hides his face. Close-up shot, red background.
  • An old man with hypnotic glasses, looking like he’s got bigger funny eyes, hiding his face. Close-up shot, red background.
  • An old man with hypnotic glasses, looking at the viewer. Heavily distorted stylized eyes move into his eyeglasses. Red background.

There’s no indication that the ‘model’ in the clips is also the person who made them. But that is what I choose to believe. And fair play to him, he’s providing a public service. For, as the old saying goes, it’s better to have an eight second clip of an old man with hypnotic glasses, with analogue old CRT TV test card with color bars, full of noise, static, grain, scanlines and not need an eight second clip of an old man with hypnotic glasses, with analogue old CRT TV test card with color bars, full of noise, static, grain, scanlines, than need an eight second clip of an old man with hypnotic glasses, with analogue old CRT TV test card with color bars, full of noise, static, grain, scanlines and not have an eight second clip of an old man with hypnotic glasses, with analogue old CRT TV test card with color bars, full of noise, static, grain, scanlines. 

And there’s the whole SEO thing. The reason the title is so full of words is that it makes it more likely to come up in search results.

But I just don’t think anyone will ever want to use any of these videos. They’re just not very good. And if you really were desperate enough to want one, you’d probably be able to make one yourself for less than they’re asking.

So, what’s the deal with online stock videos? They’re weird, bad, and basically entirely stupid and useless.

What’s the deal with this Nicorette QuickMist ad?

Watch this:

Looks like a great product, huh? A nice little spray you mist into your gob that makes you stop smoking. I’m not doubting the science behind this. I’m sure the science is very good. It’s the maths at the end I don’t get.

Tackle your cravings fast, making you 150% more likely to quit. For good.

150% likely to quit! Wow! So I’m not only 100% GUARANTEED to quit, but I’ll also have an extra 50% of quittiness for free as well? I might as well start smoking now!

But of course, that’s not what it means. It’s not even what it says. It says “150% more likely to quit.” But what does that mean?

More likely than what? There’s no quantifiable unit of quittingness. You can’t up your quitting stats with a magic mist spray. But they’ve got this number from somewhere, which means they must have derived it from something.

The most likely candidate is they had two samples of people trying to quit and used one as a control. Of the group that used the QuickMist product, 150% more people ended up quitting. Great.

No. Not great. You stupid idiot.

I still don’t know what “150% more” means. Let’s work some numbers.

Say both groups were 100 people. In the control group (ie. the willpower alone group), 50 people successfully gave up. So BY MATHS, we can figure out that in the NICORETTE group…

50 * 150% gave up, which = 75. So 25 more people.

BUT WAIT…

50 * 150% isn’t “150% more” is it? That’s 150% of 50. “150% more” sounds like an increase-of 150%.

are you following all this

So what we’d need to do is take the 150% amount and then add that onto the original amount. EASY.

(50 * 150%) + 50 = 125

Fantastic! The QuickMist product is so effective that not only did every single person in the 100-person group quit smoking, but 25 other people also showed up and quit too!

This is what in philosophy we call a reductio ad absurdum. Our conclusion is clearly ridiculous, so we’ve made an error in reasoning somewhere. But where?

Maybe our numbers our wrong. Let’s try a different scenario. Imagine there’s originally only ONE person quitting in the willpower-only control group. In the QuickMist group, ((1*150%)+1) would quit, which is 2.5.

But why wouldn’t they just say “You’re 2.5 times as likely to quit with…” rather than “150% times more?” Sure, 150 is a bigger number than 2.5, but you can also express that as “250%”. Did they maybe think that 250% was too big a number for people to comprehend? Why else wouldn’t they go for the bigger number?

Maybe it’s because they don’t like “as likely”. “As likely” is less powerful sounding than “more likely”, even though it’s preceded by a big ol’ percentage. Why bother trying to give up with this product if you’re still only something-something as likely as someone just trying really hard on their own?

So basically, I think they meant “50% more” but that was too low. They saw that “50% more” = “150% of” and did some slight-of-hand to replace the word “of” with “more.”

In other words, the only thing this product helps you quit is your grasp on the principles of mathematics!!!!

Behold, the magic of marketing.