The best of The Spinoff this week

Compiling the best reading from your friendly local website.

David Farrier: ‘Hello, my name is Ally’ – how children are being exploited by YouTube predators

“Josh believes it is highly unlikely Ally & Maddie are two young female YouTubers. He believes the account is run by an adult male. His suspicions are based on the type of content the channel is soliciting from the young girls, and the account’s methodical patterns.”

Kurt Taogaga: On cycle lanes, ethnicity and class: Why nothing screams missing the point quite like slamming safer cycling

“Public transport has a role to play, sure, but there are few other modes of transport that can tackle the twin problem of obesity and the increasing cost of transport more effectively than cycling. Cycling, and the infrastructure necessary to make it a safe and enjoyable activity, offers that choice to both rich and poor, with outsized benefits for those lower on the socioeconomic ladder. In the past we have gravely underestimated the effect that the design of our cities have on our wellbeing. No longer.”

Cameron Walker: No, Duterte is not Hitler: why one-sided criticism of the Philippine president won’t help the Philippine people

“Of all the Philippine presidents since 1986, only Duterte has been singled out for such extreme international condemnation. This risks letting other political factions responsible for serious human rights abuses off the hook.

The exaggerated criticism of Duterte fails to acknowledge some positive developments under his leadership. His administration has restarted peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which represents the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP/NPA), in talks with the government. On this issue Duterte may prove to be less bloody than his predecessors.”

Michele A’Court: What happens when you tell men to shush on Facebook

“With this post, I wanted any men who felt so moved to read the article as an insight into one of the “bubbles” that exist on social media. (I’m defining “bubble” here as a group of people who think differently from you.) And in my experience, you get a better insight when you read and think quietly than when you distract yourself by cutting and pasting a link to something which may or may not be related because you didn’t read the original article in the first place.

So I was offering something I thought was terrific for people to read, and then simply asking people who were not women not to comment on this one post, on this one day.”

Richard Clark and William Power: Watch the tsunami triggered by the monster Kaikoura quake in this startling animation

“Comparing the quake drum and tidal gauge nearest to the Kaikoura quake, web developer Richard Clark has created an animated reconstruction of what happened following the violent magnitude 7.8 midnight quake.”

Richard Easther: The Kaikoura quake brought out the best in GeoNet. Not so much in some politicians

“My own take as both a scientist and a citizen is that Gledhill was doing exactly the job I want him to do, and doing it well – not only running GeoNet through a major event, but letting me know how the system could be improved to be ready for the next one. Given Gledhill’s role and track record it is hard to imagine anyone better able to keep the public informed about GeoNet, and his opinion was stated carefully and without rancour.

Worryingly, Brownlee’s reaction came within a larger context where scientists who work directly for the government find it difficult to share their expertise with the public.”

Leonie Hayden: Aaradhna, ‘urban’ music and the privilege of definitions

“Listen to what makes them feel belittled. Listen when they say “I don’t think this is fair”. If you are responsible for the thing they are questioning, stop, think, ask before you cry “But I’m not racist!” You may not be, but the whole damn system is and we’re all cogs that need to figure out how to start turning in another direction.”

Siouxsie Wiles: Calling a vagina a vagina: why cutesy code words are terrible for our sexual health

“My daughter is rapidly approaching tweenagehood, and last year her class at primary school started on the first level of the NZ health and physical education curriculum: “describing changes in growth patterns and identifying body parts”. She came home after their first lesson astonished and a little deflated. She was the only one in her class who knew the words vulva and vagina. From what I can gather, her classmates reacted with a mixture of shock, horror and giggling when, without a hint of embarrassment or shame, she spoke up and named both male and female genitals. An even sadder thing happened after that lesson though. She was asked by one of the teachers not to talk about vulvas and vaginas outside of the class. She learnt an awful lesson that day: our genitals are something to be ashamed of, to keep quiet about. This is how it starts.”

Peter Douglas: Is this new Metallica atrocity the worst album cover ever?


“It’s hard to imagine four middle-aged millionaires sitting in a boardroom, looking at this ugly, mangled, monstrosity of their likeness, mashed together in one grotesque blob, and saying, ‘Yeah that’s pretty cool. Can we have some more random bright colours in there do ya think?’. It’s a garish, tasteless, ugly mess.”

Charlotte Graham: It’s not satire, although it is funny, and by the way the world is fucked: Charlotte Graham on the winner of the Man Booker prize

“I flicked back to the election conversation on Twitter, which by this point was masturbating itself to sleep in a frenzy of hot takes. Voting had essentially split along racial lines. Lady Gaga was protesting on a sanitation truck outside Trump Tower. The Onion was posting its “special live election coverage” in a kind of ambivalent whisper, as though seeming to understand that at some point the ridiculousness of real life had overtaken it, left it in the dust, and that no one gave a shit about joke headlines anymore. Barack Obama told everyone the sun would come up in the morning but he sounded maybe like 15% sure.

I went back to the satirical novel, where the narrator was describing his feeling of emptiness “the day after the black dude was inaugurated.” “What about the Chinese, the Japanese, the Mexicans, the poor, the forests, the water, the air, the fucking California condor?” he asks. Satire. Ha. I cried and went to bed.”

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