Reviewing presidential candidate 404 pages

For the uninitiated, a 404 page is what you see when trying to view a page on a website that doesn’t exist. By default they’re pretty boring error pages, but it’s easy to customise them. And it turns out a lot of the 2016 US presidential candidates have done so, to varying degrees of success. So, let’s review them!

Disclaimers:

  • Being a Brit, I don’t know too much about American politics. Hence judging candidates based on 404 pages, rather than policies and track records and all that boring stuff.
  • After I started writing this post, Google told me it had been done several times already. However those were all written about 6 months ago, when there was a sudden outbreak of interest among journalists. 6 months is an eternity in Internet time, and a few things have changed.
  • I based my list of candidates off this one which was about the first that came up in Google. Apologies if your favourite is missed out. Also I think some have since dropped out because of the Iowa caucus thing.

Democrats

Hillary Clinton

Screenshot 2016-02-01 21.58.38Oh god, it’s a truly awful pun. Does include a photo showing Hillary as vaguely human, which is a plus. Interestingly contains Bill; I can never work out if he’s considered a positive or a negative by her campaign.

Wait a second… Bill! Did you really miss that chance to double down on the terrible duck puns? I mean in for a penny, in for a pound dollar, right?

Rocky De La Fuente

Screenshot 2016-02-01 21.58.53

Don’t know who this is. Bad-ass name. Boring-ass 404 page. The most interesting thing here is the eccentric approach to capitalisation for the red text.

Martin O’Malley

MOM-colonial

All I know about this guy is that no-one thinks he can win. Oh, and that he has the BEST 404 PAGE! Just look at it, he’s on a horse, smiling and looking dapper. Look at his horse, his horse is amazing. There’s even an American flag in the background, and if I know one thing about US elections it’s that you need flags all over. Plus the text very nicely ties it in with the 404 error, and the call-to-action.

The only blot on this perfection is the green-shirted guy in the background. Not that I have anything against him, but he surely ought to be swooning at this magnificent sight.

Top marks, and my non-existent vote.

Bernie Sanders

Screenshot 2016-02-02 13.14.14Someone sharing this is what started it all. Great effort by Sanders recording a special video for the 404 page, and a nice message. Personally I find his voice kind of annoying (especially in such a loud, echoey room) but I’m not going to hold that against him.

Just praying this doesn’t start a trend of autoplaying videos on 404 pages though.

Republicans

Jeb! Bush

Screenshot 2016-02-02 13.00.16Do people still do “wat”? Nice use of amusing retro photo, even if it’s a bit tenuous. Disappointed you didn’t bother to translate the Spanish version; I really wanted to find out the Spanish equivalent of “wat”.

Ben Carson

Screenshot 2016-02-02 13.01.23Literally zero effort. Come on Ben, making a custom 404 page isn’t exactly brain surgery. Also, please sort out your weird mix of button styles in the top right.

Chris Christie

Screenshot 2016-02-02 13.02.21Damn you Bernie, you started a trend! Dancing means this has to be the weirdest one. I know even less about American comedians than about politicians, but I’m going to go out on a limb and assume Christie is the one on the right?

Props for being willing to embarrass yourself though – and make a reference to that weird bridge scandal which is basically the only reason I’ve ever heard of you. I suppose once you’ve done all this on national television, putting it on the 404 page of your website isn’t really a big deal.

Ted Cruz

Screenshot 2016-02-02 13.03.32Spoke too soon, we may have topped Chris Christie for weirdness. “Machine-Gun Bacon” – are you for real? That’s just trying way too hard to score Internet points. And it doesn’t tie in with the 404 at all… does “cooked” even make sense here?

Sidenote: “Of course in Texas…” – how can you tell someone’s from Texas? THEY TELL YOU ALL THE TIME. I don’t have a clue where any of the other candidates are from, except that Trump is from New York (because his tower is there). Oh, and Sanders is from Vermont possibly? That doesn’t count because I don’t have any idea where Vermont is. But the fact that Ted Cruz is from Texas has been inescapably drilled into me every time I’ve heard him speak.

Carly Fiorina

Screenshot 2016-02-02 13.05.57Oh Carly. “This person didn’t find what they were looking for, great time to straight up ask them for $$$!”

Your main selling point is that you ran a tech company, but you can’t manage a real 404 page? Disappointing.

Jim Gilmore

Don’t know who you are. You have a very boring 404 page. So boring I couldn’t be bothered to take a screenshot.

Mike Huckabee

Screenshot 2016-02-02 13.05.14Fishing and petting his dog, just like a normal everyday American human!

Not bad I suppose, although I’m a little baffled why anyone would be so desperate to print this page that they need a special button.

John Kasich

Screenshot 2016-02-02 13.07.56Well done, the Internet likes kittens. I hope you paid your online consultants good money for that amazing insight.

Not pictured, but if you must try and be ‘hip’ by having a snapchat button, please make it line up with all the other social media buttons.

Rand Paul

Screenshot 2016-02-02 13.09.01Not the best photo, and there are some alignment issues, but “Even the NSA couldn’t find that page” is probably the best joke out of all of these. Full marks for American flags too.

Marco Rubio

FOOTBALL COACHING!

Honestly, this video (I mean the one on the page, not Coach McGuirk obviously!) was nice, but kind of makes it sound like Rubio doesn’t actually want to be President. Leave the poor guy alone, let him be a father and football coach.

Rick Santorum

(Oh my god why are there so many Republican candidates! Feels like I’ve been looking at 404 pages for hours.)

Screenshot 2016-02-02 13.10.49

I guess this is a dig at Hillary’s personal email server? Mmmm… negative campaigning. Well done, you’re not Hillary. Newsflash: nor are the people you’re competing against right now. Well executed though, I’ll give you that.

Donald Trump

Screenshot 2016-02-02 13.11.39Here’s a sentence you don’t read very often: I expected better from Donald Trump. Instead it’s just a standard, boring, 404 page.

Bonus potential candidate?

People keep talking about whether Michael Bloomberg could run. I don’t know much about his politics, but Bloomberg.com has a truly wonderful 404 page (and even a great custom 500 page) so here’s hoping!

Conclusions

Martin O’Malley is a king among men, and I have too much time on my hands.

My Best of the Internet 2014

2014 seemed to go by in a flash. It was a strange year for me, but one constant remained: I spent a lot of time on the Internet. Here’s some of my favourite discoveries.

Funniest video: “Mr Needlemouse”

5 minutes of comedy sketch perfection. “Fuck limpets!” Up there with the very best, yet criminally underviewed.

Honourable mention: Faramir Can’t Read Maps. Technically it was published at the end of 2013, but it gets a mention here because I crack up every time I’ve watched it and it’s so expertly done. It also means there’s yet another scene in Lord of the Rings that I can no longer take seriously.

Best music video featuring Star Trek TNG and sausages: SAUSAGE SAMBA

not a hotly contested category to be honest

Funniest piece of writing: The Wikipedia Entry for Guam, Retold as a YA Novel

Pushing confusing thoughts of United Airlines’ broad back muscles and status as a subsidiary of Chicago-based Continental Holdings aside, Inarajan looked up and realized they had arrived at their destination: The forbidding edifice that was the Duty Free Shoppers Galleria. She suppressed a shiver. Her very first non-binding Presidential straw poll. Surely she would not survive.

Bizarre and accurate and amazing and hilarious.

Best subreddit: /r/AskHistorians

Still endlessly fascinating, and responsible for reigniting my interest in history. A close contender was /r/DeepIntoYouTube, which is also endlessly fascinating but in entirely different ways.

Best artist: Chris (Simpsons artist)

How could it be anyone else?

Best Twitter bot: how 2 sext

WikiHow’s odd articles have often been a source of amusement. Even more so when how 2 sext tweets random snippets from it formatted as sexts.

Most horrifying Twitter: @BadSonicFanArt

The Internet can be a horrifying place. @BadSonicFanArt is a constant reminder of that. As the name suggests, it just tweets and retweets examples of the worst Sonic fan art. There’s genuine works and parody all mixed up in there, and some sort of fan art Poe’s law makes it difficult to tell which is which.

Best blog: Diamond Geezer

Yes, he writes a few long posts about bus journeys. Sometimes even I skip those for lack of time.

But skipping the occasional post hardly matters since you can be certain there will be another one along like clockwork the next day, and it’s very likely to be informative, amusing, or both. That’s why it’s generally the first site I check every day. I’m pretty sure the blog has never skipped a day, and he’s been posting for 12 years! A remarkable record.

Since I’ve moved to London, this blog has taught me a huge amount about the city and my local area. And I’m sure it will continue to do so in 2015 and beyond.

Google Glass

Oh wow, so I haven’t blogged here in a long time. But this annoyed me and was too lengthy for twitter, so here we go…

Saw an intriguing tweet from Google’s corporate account earlier:

Project Glass: building tech to help you explore your world & put you back in the moment. We’d love your feedback: g.co/projectglass

No context about what it actually was (sigh 1), but sounded interesting and I guessed it would be some kind of augmented reality thing based on recent news stories so clicked through on my phone. Was taken through to a Google+ profile page (sigh 2), which read:

We think technology should work for you—to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t.

We started Project Glass to build this kind of technology, one that helps you explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment.

Follow along as we share some of our ideas and stories. We’d love to hear yours, too.

Which again, told me basically nothing about the project (sigh 3). Clicked on the “Posts” link to see if that had more useful information. “Please sign in to Google+”. (Sigh 4)

Signed into Google+. Immediately taken back not to the Google Glass page, but to my home feed (sigh 5) populated by the few people I know who are still actually using Google+. There was however a helpful banner at the top of the page telling me I could download the Google+ app for Android. Which I already have (sigh 6), and which it should have opened in to start with to save the signing-in hassle.

So jumped back to Twitter, and clicked the link once again to get back where I was. Clicked on “Posts” and lo-and-behold, was able to read a single post:

We think technology should work for you—to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t.

A group of us from Google[x] started Project Glass to build this kind of technology, one that helps you explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment. We’re sharing this information now because we want to start a conversation and learn from your valuable input. So we took a few design photos to show what this technology could look like and created a video to demonstrate what it might enable you to do.

Please follow along as we share some of our ideas and stories. We’d love to hear yours, too. What would you like to see from Project Glass?

Again, basically information free. (Sigh 7). Still clicked on the video, since Google are apparently no longer capable of explaining things with text, only with cutesy videos. And boy was this cutesy and hipstery. (Sigh 8).

But anyway, my point is: this is definitely something I’m interested in. I wanted to learn more about it. So why were so many roadblocks in my way? They even say it themselves: “technology should work for you—to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t”, which is basically the exact opposite of my experience.

I do love Google, many of their tools are incredibly useful and they are still kings of search. But in my opinion they would be far better off fixing annoyances and doing a better job of explaining/marketing their existing products than constantly churning out new things. With an experience like this, there’s no way I’d want them in my eyes all day long.

Reddit – Doing it right

Over the past few weeks I’ve been spending more and more time at reddit.com. It’s a site I’d known about for a long time, but only through occasional links via it. I never had it in my favourites or made a habit of checking. Now I’ve delved a little deeper, and found it’s a remarkably nice community (well, actually a collection of separate communities, which is part of the attraction).

Things I really like:

  • The huge choice of sub-reddits, and how you can subscribe/unsubscribe to them for the front page
  • A remarkable self-policing community
  • A clean, simple interface
  • I switched off AdBlock Plus for reddit today, as I’d heard their ads were fairly unobtrusive and I want to support them. First thing I see? “Reddit would like to use this ad space to say: Thanks for not using AdBlock!” with a thumbs up from their cute alien logo. Clever both technically and psychologically, it raised a smile (and prompted me to write this post) :)

End of an æra

So Encyclopædia Dramatica is no more, replaced by the rather anodyne http://ohinternet.com/. At first glance I hated Oh Internet, it just seems so bland and corporate, but on a closer look some of the articles are fairly interesting. If it wasn’t for its predecessor I’d probably consider it a rather good site. I expect the creators will do fairly well out of it at least.

But there are plenty of blogs about internet culture, and we already have KnowYourMeme. ED was different. Sure, parts of its content were hateful and it had a nasty habit of harassing Wikipedia editors. Yet its “take no prisoners” style of humour and critique could be laugh-till-you-puke funny. And not just puke because someone stuck a Goatse pic in the middle of the article, but because its incisive style was just what some of the more self-important parts of the Internet needed.

I doubt we’ll see the like of ED again. Many might say that’s a good thing, but I’m not so sure.

Also: I wonder how long it will be until someone tries to delete ED’s Wikipedia article. Again.

Update: Here’s one of the mirrors that has sprung up http://encyclopediadramatica.ch (nsfw, obviously!) It looks to have a strong “campaignAnon” contingent. According to AnonNews the owners of Oh Internet have threatened to sue anyone who tries to replicate, mirror or redistribute the old ED. That should go down well. *grabs popcorn*

Update 2: I forgot to mention my favourite thing about ED. In amongst all the hate and bile was the article on b3ta (nsfw). It even said “the people on b3ta actually are pretty nice”. There was some discussion on the talk page (now lost) about making the article nastier, but no one ever did anything.

b3ta – so fluffy even ED can’t say anything bad about it

Conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories? On the Internet? Who’da thunk it?

But this time it’s different. These theories cut deep. They challenge our firmest beliefs, one of the very foundation stones of our society.

Ladies and gentleman, Andrew W.K. *may* not be “real”

http://www.metafilter.com/87905/Its-Time-To-Party
https://twitter.com/AndrewWK

*fnord*

Twitter: Global MST3K

Ever since I heard about Twitter, and even since I joined it, I’ve been wondering just what it is FOR, and why it is so popular and fun. And today I think I figured it out. It’s global MST3K.

Of course that’s only part of the story. It was designed to update family and friends on your life, and many still use it for that (as well as celebrities updating their fans). And it provides an alternative to email for sharing news/links. And of course there are the spammers and self-promoters.

But, just look at the trending topics. When X-factor was on earlier, it was almost entirely X-factor related tweets. Thousands upon thousands of jokes, comments, riffs, all delivered in real time, supplementing the show itself. Or the Peep Show characters – that turned out to be a fan, watching the show and throwing out more jokes in sync with what was happening on screen.

It’s not just limited to TV of course. Riffing of bad movies is popular obviously, but there’s also people’s experience of technology (Windows 7, Google Wave) and current events (Balloon Boy!). Sure, commentary, satire and parody always happened before, but never at this breakneck real-time pace. Except in things like MST3K.

Youtube

I think I may have found the finest example of a Youtube comment thread. On the video for ever controversial comic Frankie Boyle’s Most Offensive Jokes (of course, a hilarious video in itself) the following exchange takes place:

MrHeadingley (-9)
Please somebody write something on here which pertains to English. I am skimming Frankie’s videos and am yet to find an intelligent statement from anyone, or from Frankie himself. Frankie Boyle is full of comments for other people: straightforward insults that were funny for about 7 people back in 1976. He laughs at his own jokes and looks painfully nervous; he tries to dominate everything and repeats almost every joke night after night in his stand up. Val Doonican was more entertaining.

truemansparks (+1)
Dear Mr headingley the impression i get from your comments makes me think that you are nothing more than a vile turd chewing pile of putrid lizard excrement with the mental capacity of a slow worm on pot,so shut the fuck up you disgusting necrophiliac baboon felcher!p.s how dare you drag Val Doonnican into this his live shows were fucking blistering !!

MrHeadingley (0)
truemansparks,
Only one ‘n’ in the middle of Doonican

It helps that the middle comment was the first I saw, which made the sudden leap from foul-mouthed invective to a passionate defence of Val Doonican all the more entertaining. And MrHeadingley’s comeback is exquisite.

Catching Twitter spam accounts

I just noticed something interesting on Twitter. One of the hot topics at the moment is “LinkedIn Reaches 45 Million Users”. But that’s getting shortened to “LinkedIn Reaches 45” in the sidebar trending topics list. Now, one of the tricks spammers seem to be using is taking text from there and adding their link. So searching for “LinkedIn Reaches 45” without “Million” should flush them out