Casio F-91W range

Casio F-91W: terrorist watch

Casio F-91W disassembled

Reading a blog post about the Apple Watch today, I became aware of the fact that the old Casio F-91W I wore as a teenager is still in production! Then I was reminded of the story from 2011 that this model of watch is favoured by hipsters and… terrorists:

It is cheap, basic and widely available around the world. Yet the Casio F-91W digital watch was declared to be “the sign of al-Qaida” and a contributing factor to continued detention of prisoners by the analysts stationed at Guantánamo Bay.

Osama bin Laden wearing a Casio F-91W

Osama bin Laden wearing a Casio F-91W. The image is genuine, as far as I can tell.

The report states: “The Casio was known to be given to the students at al-Qaida bomb-making training courses in Afghanistan at which the students received instruction in the preparation of timing devices using the watch.

Casio A-159W

Casio A-159W

“Approximately one-third of the JTF-GTMO detainees that were captured with these models of watches have known connections to explosives, either having attended explosives training, having association with a facility where IEDs were made or where explosives training was given, or having association with a person identified as an explosives expert.”

More than 50 detainee reports refer to the Casio timepieces. The records of 32 detainees refer to the black Casio F-91W, while a further 20 make reference to the silver version, the A-159W.

Al Qaida watch timer on perf board

This improvised timer for a time bomb was captured in the early 2000s

“We purposely don’t market it as anything cool or trendy,” Tim Gould, head of marketing at Casio UK told the BBC.

“It’s not pretentious and doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. It just a basic watch that is reliable and good value.”

The Casio Retro Range

I’m definitely going to buy one of these watches — in fact I may get a variety of colours and the steel A-159W. I’m also tempted to get one of these ‘Reworks’ editions…

Finn Magee – Reworks

The reworks series gets inside the Casio F-91W digital wristwatch, one of the most commonplace items of consumer electronics.

Casio F-91W Rework - Steel colour range

Mass produced Casio F-91Ws are stripped down and their components reworked using a combination of industrial and craft processes. They’re then carefully reassembled to build at once familiar and unique timepieces.

The Reworks story begins with growing up in the 1980’s. Back then a Casio digital watch was mandatory and when the F-91W was introduced 1991 it was the model to have. The watch felt hi-tech and was reliable, accurate and cheap too. It achieved near ubiquitous product status, gracing first and third world wrists alike.

Further reading


Business Town

Welcome to Business TownAn ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry. By Tony Ruth (aka @Lunchbreath)
Humans and other animals

Business Town

“An ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated.”

Sam Harris
Shape of things to come

Sam Harris on the problem of artificial intelligence

“The fact that we seem to be hastening towards some sort of digital apocalypse poses several intellectual and ethical challenges. For instance, in order to have any hope that a super-intelligent AGI would have values commensurate with our own we would have to instil those values in it, or otherwise get it to emulate us. But whose values should count? Should everyone get a vote in creating the utility function of our new colossus?

“If nothing else the invention of an AGI would force us to resolve some very old and boring arguments in moral philosophy.

“It’s interesting that once you imagine having to build values into a super-intelligent AGI, you then realise that you need to get straight about what you think is good, and I think the advent of this technology would cut through moral relativism like a laser. I mean, who is going to want to engineer into this thing the values of theocracy?”

Sam Harris in the most recent episode of his podcast.

See also: Sam Harris on the mechanics of defamation and other posts tagged ‘philosophy’

David Ogilvy
Use your words

David Ogilvy: “How to Write”

A memo sent out by David Ogilvy to everyone at Ogilvy & Mather on September 7th, 1982:

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

(via Boing Boing / Open Culture)

More like this: Posts tagged writing.


YouTube video removed

What if Man of Steel was IN COLOR?

VideoLab attempts to turn back time and restore the natural color & brightness in shots from DC’s Man of Steel. Turns out there was a beautiful Zack Snyder movie hiding underneath the bleak coloring.

Would Man of Steel have been more successful at the box office if it wasn’t colored like Schindler’s List? What do you think?

Superman should fly in blue skies – not grey ones.

Man of Steel, in colour

The colour grade wasn’t the only thing wrong with Man of Steel, but I like this look much more.

Pantone Minion Yellow
Shape of things to come

Pantone announces new colour: ‘Minion Yellow’

PANTONE Minion Yellow Swatch Card The press release is pretty hilarious too, and not in a deliberate way:

“Just as the sun’s rays enliven us, PANTONE Minion Yellow is a color that heightens awareness and creates clarity, lighting the way to the intelligence, originality and the resourcefulness of an open mind – this is the color of hope, joy and optimism,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute.

“An extroverted hue, it projects playfulness and warmth and is suggestive of intellectual curiosity and enlightenment.”

Pantone Announces PANTONE Minion Yellow

Now I’m no colour expert at the Pantone Color Institute®, but this officially licensed hue seems a little too pale to my eye. You only have to look at these images of the Minions themselves holding up the Pantone swatch card to see that they’re not exactly the same colour.

Via the highly technical process of using Photoshop’s blur and colour dropper tools for a few minutes I’ve sampled what I think looks like a more Minion-y yellow.

Use your words

The BuzzFeed editorial style guide

Editorial style guides fascinate me, and the BuzzFeed style guide makes for an interesting browse. The word list in particular provides a brilliant snapshot of Internet popular culture as it stands in 2015.

Don’t hyphenate blow job, but do hyphenate butt-dial. Uppercase TARDIS but a subreddit is a lowercase place. T. rex, but T. Swift. Make sure to capitalise Apple Store (and most brands) but you can leave the exclamation mark off of Yahoo.

See also: The BuzzFeed Editorial Standards And Ethics Guide

The BuzzFeed style guide word list →

The Buddha Dordenma statue in Thimphu
Humans and other animals

“You need to think about death for five minutes every day”

“It is this thing, this fear of death, this fear of dying before we have accomplished what we want or seen our children grow. This is what is troubling you.”

Advice given to a western traveller by Karma Ura, director of the Centre for Bhutan Studies.

“Rich people in the West, they have not touched dead bodies, fresh wounds, rotten things. This is a problem. This is the human condition. We have to be ready for the moment we cease to exist.”

BBC Travel: Bhutan’s dark secret to happiness, by Eric Weiner, a self-described “recovering malcontent and philosophical traveler”.

Use your words

Tip: Avoid using filter words in your writing

Suzannah Windsor Freeman:

Filter words are those that unnecessarily filter the reader’s experience through a character’s point of view.

For example:

Sarah felt a sinking feeling as she realized she’d forgotten her purse back at the cafe across the street. She saw cars filing past, their bumpers end-to-end. She heard the impatient honk of horns and wondered how she could quickly cross the busy road before someone took off with her bag. But the traffic seemed impenetrable, and she decided to run to the intersection at the end of the block.

Eliminating the bolded words removes the filters that distances us, the readers, from this character’s experience:

Sarah’s stomach sank. Her purse—she’d forgotten it back at the cafe across the street. Cars filed past, their bumpers end-to-end. Horns honked impatiently. Could she make it across the road before someone took off with her bag? She ran past the impenetrable stream of traffic, toward the intersection at the end of the block.

Are These Filter Words Weakening Your Fiction?


The Directors Series — David Fincher

The Directors Series is an educational non-profit collection of video and text essays by filmmaker Cameron Beyl exploring the works of contemporary and classic film directors.

This is the first part in a series on David Fincher, with the rest to follow. Beyl has already completed a series of five episodes on the life and work of Stanley Kubrick.

(via kottke)

Rachel Levit
Humans and other animals

The Moral Bucket List

David Brooks in his New York Times column:

It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

I came to the conclusion that wonderful people are made, not born — that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.

If we wanted to be gimmicky, we could say these accomplishments amounted to a moral bucket list, the experiences one should have on the way toward the richest possible inner life. Here, quickly, are some of them:

  • The humility shift: “…all the people I’ve ever deeply admired are profoundly honest about their own weaknesses.”
  • Self-defeat: “…character is built during the confrontation with your own weakness.”
  • The dependency leap: “We all need redemptive assistance from outside. Character is defined by how deeply rooted you are.”
  • Energized love: Dorothy Day — “No human creature could receive or contain so vast a flood of love and joy as I often felt after the birth of my child. With this came the need to worship, to adore.”
  • The call within the call: “We all go into professions for many reasons: money, status, security. But some people have experiences that turn a career into a calling.”
  • The conscience leap: “In most lives there’s a moment when people strip away all the branding and status symbols, all the prestige that goes with having gone to a certain school or been born into a certain family. They leap out beyond the utilitarian logic and crash through the barriers of their fears.”

Although I’ve excerpted much more than I usually would from this column, you should absolutely read it in its entirety:
David Brooks — The Moral Bucket List


Watchtower of Turkey

By Leonardo Dalessandri:

Over than 3500 km traveled in 20 days, capturing landscapes from the bluish tones of Pamukkale to the warm ones of Cappadocia, the all passing by a great variation of colors, lights and weathers through six other cities.

I’ve crossed Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Ephesus, Istanbul, Konya; and tasted baklava, kunefe, doner, the turkish tea; and got the chance to meet the soul of Turkey, its people.. and got their smiles and their hospitality.

This is Turkey lived by me from north to south, and I hope you enjoy it 🙂

See also: Watchtower of Morocco

Is the Parthenon designed after the Golden Ratio? NOPE!
Craft and creativity

The Golden Ratio is total nonsense

Co.Design: The Golden Ratio: Design’s Biggest Myth

Those who believe the golden ratio is the hidden math behind beauty are falling for a 150-year-old scam. The golden ratio has any relationship to aesthetics at all comes primarily from two people, one of whom was misquoted, and the other of whom was just making shit up.

The first guy was Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan friar who wrote a book called ‘De Divina Proportione’ back in 1509, which was named after the golden ratio. Weirdly, in his book, Pacioli didn’t argue for a golden ratio-based theory of aesthetics as it should be applied to art, architecture, and design: he instead espoused the Vitruvian system of rational proportions. The golden ratio view was misattributed to Pacioli in 1799.

The other guy was Adolf Zeising, a German psychologist who argued that the golden ratio was a universal law that described “beauty and completeness in the realms of both nature and art… which permeates, as a paramount spiritual ideal, all structures, forms and proportions, whether cosmic or individual, organic or inorganic, acoustic or optical.”

He was a long-winded guy. The only problem with Zeising was he saw patterns where none exist. For example, Zeising argued that the golden ratio could be applied to the human body by taking the height from a person’s navel to his toes, then dividing it by the person’s total height. These are just arbitrary body parts, crammed into a formula.

Continue reading


Brand by Hand is a collision at the intersection of two dominant design trends today. By introducing the personal, hand-treated and flowery nature of hand lettering into the minimalism of the cold corporate world, Sara Marshall explores the defining attributes of select major brands.

“Furthermore, an attempt has been made to explore a variety of lettering styles and examine contemporary trends within lettering itself – custom scripts and brushwork, calligraffiti, contemporary signpainting.”
Sara Marshall

Just gorgeous. (via)

Craft and creativity

Brand by Hand: An experimental lettering project

“The examples in this body of work vary in the extent of the reworking. Some examples have taken the salient features of each brand and conceptualised them in workable ways while others really challenge minimalist ideals through ornamentation and embellishment – the typical nature of lettering.”

Iranian anti-US graffiti
Humans and other animals

Seven things you didn’t know the United States and its allies did to Iran

Jon Schwarz writing for The Intercept:

Not only have the U.S. and our allies done horrendous things to Iran, we’re not even polite enough to remember it.

Street art in Iran

  1. The founder of Reuters purchased Iran in 1872Lord Curzon called it “the most complete and extraordinary surrender of the entire industrial resources of a kingdom into foreign hands that has probably ever been dreamed of.”
  2. The BBC lent a hand to the CIA’s 1953 overthrow of Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammad MosaddeghSoon enough the U.S. was training the regime’s secret police in how to interrogate Iranians with methods a CIA analyst said were “based on German torture techniques from World War II.”
  3. We had extensive plans to use nuclear weapons in IranIf the Soviets began massing their troops, we would use small nuclear weapons to destroy the mountain passes in northern Iran the Soviets needed to move their troops into the country.
  4. We were cool with Saudi Arabia giving Saddam $5 billion to build nukes during the Iran-Iraq war…and the Reagan administration knew all about it and didn’t care.
  5. U.S. leaders have repeatedly threatened to outright destroy Iran“Bomb bomb bomb Iran.”
  6. We shot down a civilian Iranian airliner — killing 290 people, including 66 childrenTwo years later the U.S. Navy gave the Vincennes’s commander the highly prestigious Legion of Merit commendation.
  7. We worry about Iranian nukes because they would deter our own military strikesThis perspective — that we must prevent other countries from being able to deter us from waging war — is a bedrock belief of the U.S. establishment, and in fact was touted as a major reason to invade Iraq.

Seven Things You Didn’t Know the U.S. and Its Allies Did to Iran


Narita International Airport Terminal 3

Narita International Airport Terminal 3 is for the exclusive use of low-cost carriers, and was constructed with a budget of approximately half of what a project this size would usually get.

“To cut costs, we opted not to install the typical moving walkways or illuminated signs. Instead, to offer an exciting walking experience that is easy on the feet, we implemented running tracks used for track and field, and added signage for user-friendly guidance.”

“The key to the architecture and design is “more than 2 into 1.” Consolidating two or more functionalities into one in pursuit of economic reasonability.”

“It would be our great honor if Narita International Airport Terminal 3 is frequently used and forever loved by economically savvy travelers.”


See also

Craft and creativity

Narita International Airport Terminal 3




Kate Parker first started photographing her girls several years ago, with the hope of teaching them that “Whatever you are…that’s okay.”

See also

Light-based media

Strong is the new pretty

“There’s a lot of pressure for girls (and women) to look a certain way, act in a certain manner, and I wanted to let my daughters know that who they naturally are is enough.” — Kate Parker


Not bloody Helvetica

Neue Haas Unica is Monotype’s revival of a typeface that has attained almost mythical status in the type community. Unica was an attempt to create the ultimate sans-serif – a hybrid of Helvetica, Univers and Akzidenz Grotesk.

“People knew about Unica. But since it wasn’t widely available, a lot of people did not have a chance to work with it and see if it was as good as the legend that had grown up around it. It really was this sort of lost treasure.”
Dan Rhatigan, Monotype type director

Scans of the Team’77 Haas Unica brochure:

This is the promotional publication by Team’77, outlining the strategy and realization of Haas Unica. In 1980, Team’77 (consisting of André Gürtler, Erich Gschwind and Christian Mengelt) set out to ‘correct’ common issues found in the grotesk typefaces at the time, including Helvetica.

I’m fascinated by these alternate takes on Helvetica, like Neue Haas Grotesk and Aktiv Grotesk.


See also: The History of Helvetica, Attempting a completely ‘Neutral’ typeface & other posts tagged typography.

Use your words

Neue Haas Unica

Originally released in 1980 by the Haas Type Foundry for phototypesetting technology of the day, the design was never successfully updated for today’s digital environments – until now. Toshi Omagari of the Monotype Studio has given this classic a fresh, digital facelift with more weights, more languages and more letters to meet today’s digital and print needs. —


Matthew Florianz, audio designer for Elite Dangerous

Recorded looking through the roof of a slow spinning Eagle. Highlights dynamic environment ambiences for outpost, star, galaxy background radiation and planet as objects come into view. Additional audio includes ship flyby, gui notifications and ship internal cockpit ambiences.

(Game audio was gained 12db in post-production for this video, recorded in Full Range mode.)

(via Andy Kelly)

Here’s another, less subtle video about the sounds of the Elite Dangerous universe. I particularly like the space station ambience.

See also: Other Places, A series celebrating beautiful video game worlds by Andy kelly.

What do the Rich really Want?

Imagine if oddly, wealthy capitalists didn’t primarily want money; but something odder and more hopeful: respect.

What do the Rich really Want? Prestige.

“The prestige should be enormous; a bit like winning the Nobel Prize, the Victoria Cross or the Pulitzer Prize. In other words, a fitting target for capitalists, the most ambitious and narcissistically craven and damaged people in any society.”


A video by The School of Life, produced in collaboration with Ana Stefaniak.

See also: This video will make you angry & The myth of race, debunked.

This Is Why You Overshop in Ikea

How IKEA gets us to buy more than we need, explained by TIME writer Josh Sanburn.

IKEA “When the question is why do we have so much stuff, one reason is because we can,” says Annie Leonard, executive director of the environmental group Greenpeace USA and the creator of The Story of Stuff, an animated video about excessive consumerism. “For a huge percentage of this country, there is no longer an economic obstacle to having the illusion of luxury. It’s just that this stuff is so cheap.”

The Story of Stuff →

The life of a type designer
Craft and creativity

The Art of Eyeballing

A series of articles by Fábio Duarte Martins (aka Scannerlicker) about the less tangible aspects of type design: Overshoot, prception versus geometry, mass, whitespace, counterforms (negative space), optical adjustments and other esoterica.

One of the things that our brain excels in is recognizing faces: it has to deal with a lot of details, within a very extensive catalog of faces, and yet we recognize people we barely know in a split second.

I’m sure everyone knows identical twins. If we don’t know that someone has a twin, we easily mistake two people as being the same. But if we know that someone has an identical twin and never met them, chances are, we can spot the difference. And by spending time with one or the two of them, it gets easier and easier to tell them apart, up to the point of saying “but they’re so different!”.

So, with type, it’s the same thing: the more of your time you spend looking at subtle differences, while preserving a need to spot them, the better you get.


So take what you’ve learned today and trust your eye. If it looks awkward, well, it’s awkward. Teach yourself to pay attention to the forms, counterforms and whitespace. Inspect the curve/line segments on by one and compare them to the whole form. And to the whole group of forms.

Even if we dabble in maths and geometry, here, keep in mind that these are means to an end, not the end itself.

Scannerlicker has some other excellent educational on typography, like 10 Tips On Kerning And Metrics and How much is an em?

Related →


A diagram of the geological time scale

The Geologic Time Spiral — Designed by Joseph Graham, William Newman, and John Stacy

The Earth is very old—4.5 billion years or more according to scientific estimates. Most of the evidence for an ancient Earth is contained in the rocks that form the Earth’s crust. The rock layers themselves—like pages in a long and complicated history—record the events of the past, and buried within them are the remains of life—the plants and animals that evolved from organic structures that existed 3 billion years ago.

USGS: The Geologic Time Spiral (via Wikipedia)

See also: 4,000 years of human history in one chart


The Geologic Time Spiral

This timeline of evolution of life represents the current scientific theory outlining the major events during the development of life on planet Earth. […] The similarities between all present day organisms indicate the presence of a common ancestor from which all known species, living and extinct, have diverged through the process of evolution. Although more than 99 percent of all species that ever lived on the planet are estimated to be extinct, there are currently 10–14 million species of life on the Earth. –Wikipedia


Slow Life, by Daniel Stoupin

The most important living organisms that play the key functions in the biosphere might not seem exciting when it comes to motion. Plants, fungi, sponges, corals, plankton, and microorganisms make life on Earth possible and do all the hard biochemical job. Similarly to all living things, they are dynamic, mobile, and fundamentally have the same motion properties as us. They grow, reproduce, spread, move towards source of energy, and away from unfavorable conditions. However, their speeds happen to be out of sync with our narrow perception. Our brains are wired to comprehend and follow fast and dynamic events better, especially those very few that happen at speeds comparable to ours. In a world of blazingly fast predators and escaping prey events where it takes minutes, hours, or days to notice any changes are harder to grasp.

“Slow” marine life is particularly mysterious. As colorful, bizarre-looking, and environmentally important as we know corals and sponges are, their simple day-to-day life is hidden. We know some bits about their biochemistry, corals’ interaction with zooxanthella algae, their life cycles, and systematics. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell what we don’t know about the rest, and particularly when it comes to interaction with other organisms happening over long periods of time.

Time lapse cinematography reveals a whole different world full of hypnotic motion and my idea was to make coral reef life more spectacular and thus closer to our awareness. I had a bigger picture in my mind for my clip. But after many months of processing hundreds of thousands of photos and trying to capture various elements of coral and sponge behavior I realized that I have to take it one step at a time. For now, the clip just focuses on beauty of microscopic reef “landscapes.” The close-up patterns and colors of this type of fauna hardly resemble anything from the terrestrial environments. Corals become even less familiar if you consider their daily “activities.” — Daniel Stoupin

(via Mental Floss)

See also: Wellcome Image Awards 2015: The art behind the science of life, death, sex, and disease and other posts tagged photography.

Humans and other animals

Timelapse: The “slow life” of a coral reef, sped up

“Slow” marine animals show their secret life under high magnification. Corals and sponges build coral reefs and play crucial roles in the biosphere, yet we know almost nothing about their daily lives. These animals are actually very mobile creatures, however their motion is only detectable at different time scales compared to ours and requires time lapses to be seen.



This post marks the two-year (and one day*) anniversary of this Rapid Notes, so I thought I would celebrate with an epic gallery post. This blog now has 456 posts! Which is rather a lot considering that I’ve never really figured out what this blog should be about. Browsing through this post will probably give you a better idea than any description I could write.

Another way to explore is via the table of contents (or the menu at the top of the site).

Thank you if you are one of the 315 subscribers to this blog! I know that number is inflated by bots, spammers and the like, but I figure some of you have to be real. If you want to join the ranks of the non-bot subscribers you can find the option at the bottom of this post (or again, in the menu above). I have bigger plans for this blog, so it should only get better!

April 2013

May 2013

More. So much more →


Two years of Rapid Notes

Celebrating two years of this blog with a scroll-tastic gallery post.

Wired has some gorgeous UI graphics in its feature on the Apple Watch

In a sense the first true Apple Watch prototype was, like 10,000 Kickstarter projects, just a weird iPhone case with a strange accessory sticking out of it.

On such a small display, small things assume outsize importance, and the human interface team designed some novel ways of interacting with the device. There’s the digital crown, of course, and also the so-called Force Touch that lets you press a little harder on the screen to access hidden menus. They also designed an entirely new typeface, called San Francisco, which is more readable on a small display than Apple’s standard Helvetica. The letters are more square, Dye says, “but with gentle, curved corners,” mimicking the Watch’s case. It’s wide and legible at small sizes, but when it gets larger the letters tighten up a little more.

Options were central to the plan from the beginning: two sizes, three tiers, easily interchangeable straps, and tons of watch faces and so-called complications, digital add-ons that show relevant information like the weather and your activity level, to make your Watch uniquely yours. (The term complication is a nod to high-end watchmaking and refers to a function a watch performs beyond telling the hour and minute.)

Personal note →

Shape of things to come

A close look at the interface design of the Apple Watch

“Questions started coalescing around the idea of a watch: What could it add to people’s lives? What new things could you do with a device that you wear? Around this time, Ive began a deep investigation of horology, studying how reading the position of the sun evolved into clocks, which evolved into watches. Horology became an obsession. That obsession became a product.” –Wired

Bigfoot in Russia?
Use your words

Rumours, misinformation and the debunking problem

Over the last several months, Craig Silverman, author of Poynter’s Regret the Error blog, has been tracking the way rumors and unverified claims spiral through the news. He founded the website Emergent not only to trace the rumors, but to track how the press deals with debunking them. Well, patterns are already emerging…and they will make you sad.

Some notes from an On The Media segment that I found fascinating…

‘Headline-body dissonance’ is when the reporting of the news in the body of an article doesn’t pair up with the headline summary, typically by making a seeming factual statement in the headline and then walking that back in the article using language like ‘allegedly’ and ‘reportedly’.

An ‘innuendo headline’ is one that makes claim or an accusation, but with a question mark on the end of it. Eg: ‘Bigfoot sighted in Russia?’ (See also: Betteridge’s law of headlines: “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

These innuendo headlines are problematic as first readers have to understand the claim seemingly being made, so they naturally process it as true. Even after reaching the question mark in most cases readers lean towards the headline being true.

For news organisations the simple act of addressing rumours can give them an air of credibility, even when the intention is to correct the record.

“Theres a connection between repetition and belief.”

The very process of debunking a rumour can have the effect of cementing the misinformation in the minds of those that prefer the false narrative.

Silverman: “This is called the ‘backfire effect’. When deeply held views are challenged our instinct is not to say ‘oh, let me understand your point of view on this’ it’s to double down on those beliefs and to reject what’s being told to us, and this is one of the reasons why debunking is so difficult.”

“Another reason is that when you’re the debunker you’re almost like a spoilsport. You’re kind of ruining the joke, especially when it comes to an entertaining story.”

On The Media: Uncorrected Rumors

See also