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September 14, 2011

1:59
P.M.

The Web Hostess: Online manners, memes and must-see video

Total Responses: 55

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Monica Hesse

Monica Hesse

Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

Read the The Web Hostess Archive .

About the topic

A weekly chat about the best ways to kill time online. Our Web Hostess, Monica Hesse, sifts the Internet so you don't have to, searching for meaning, manners and the next great meme.
Q.

Monica Hesse :

Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by.

This week on the Internet, a new site was launched. AttackWatch.com is a site created by Barack Obama's campaign, aiming to dispel untruths about the President.

Have a look. Knowing what you know about the Internet, and about what the design of a site might communicate to you about  the site's content or the people running it, what does this site say to you? What impressions do you take away from it?Would emotions does it cause you to feel?

These questions are obviously a little leading -- I have my own thoughts -- but I'm interested to hear what you think.

I am also interested in any Liger or Tiglon videos that people would like to share, as well as anything else happening on, or related to, the Internet. Or to dorkery.

Q.

Real Life vs. Online

I recently encountered, for the first time, someone who referred to doing some work activity "offline." It struck me that the default has changed from most activities being conducted in my work place on a face-to-face basis--or over the phone--to now being conducted online. In fact, so much is done online that the term "offline" describes the rare activity that doesn't occur via a keyboard and screen. This is particularly true for the under 30 crowd. I just wonder if others are experiencing the same thing.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Was this term used in the course of an online email exchange? As in "Let's continue this discussion offline instead of just shooting emails at each other." Because that would make sense. However, if it was just two people chatting in the stairwell, and one was saying to the other, "This is an offline conversation that we are currently having," that would be kind of weird.

Online/Offline, anyone?

– September 14, 2011 2:01 PM
Q.

The name for my next pet

Noam Chompsky. Thanks internets.
A.
Monica Hesse :

I feel like this works especially well if your pet is a parrot. Or a hamster. Don't ask me why.

– September 14, 2011 2:02 PM
Q.

Public computer use

Hi Monica - I'm catching up on last week's topic of using a public computer where the previous user didn't sign out. About five years ago before in-room internet access was widespread in hotels, I went down to the Business Center about 11:00 pm to print out my boarding pass. No one else was there. As I sat down at the computer and moved the mouse, up popped a screen showing a bunch of guys dressed up like little girls. These guys looked like they were seriously into it. So what did I do? I moved over and used the next computer and left the "girls" for someone else to discover. Ha!
A.
Monica Hesse :

This was absolutely the correct move. I am glad that you realized this.

– September 14, 2011 2:03 PM
Q.

Cute Old People...

 I would die if there were videos of me trying to figure things out, but these two are so dang cute.

A.
Monica Hesse :

"I can do Mrs. Doubfire, too!"

Ohhhhh.

– September 14, 2011 2:04 PM
Q.

AttackWatch.com

It seems like it's trying to be edgy. It actually reminds me of the Rock The Vote site from 2008, which probably helped the Obama campaign some, only like they hired one not-too-great freelancer to copy the Rock The Vote site. And so instead it's just got too high contrast making your eyes hurt and looks a little less than professional.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Edgy -- interesting. So do you think it's edgy in a way that would entice younger voters -- as Rock the Vote was intended to? Or in a way that a designer would think would entice younger voters? Or does age have nothing to do with it?

– September 14, 2011 2:06 PM
Q.

What impressions do you take away from it? Would emotions does it cause you to feel?

It made me feel panicky. Like I'd accidentally gotten onto a questionable website that was about to harm my computer. I don't like websites that aren't very immediately clear about who is the author of the content. Looks scammy.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Yes, I think that the lack of identification does make it a little virusy. Or Big Brothery. Oceania is at war with Eurasia, etc etc.

– September 14, 2011 2:08 PM
Q.

Public computer use

"So what did I do? I moved over and used the next computer and left the "girls" for someone else to discover. Ha! " Even better if somebody saw you leaving the business center, entered after you, and went to that same computer. Now they think YOU were looking at that site and forgot to log out.
A.
Monica Hesse :

That is a chance this person was willing to take, and I think that it was a boldly American risk.

– September 14, 2011 2:08 PM
Q.

AttackWatch.com

I personally like the fact that they give supporting evidence and links to it. Seriously though, are we still talking about the birth certificate?? Sigh.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Question: If I had not told you that the site was created by President Obama's campaign -- if you did not have surrounding information about the site and had just landed on it through a random link -- do you think you would have the same reaction?

– September 14, 2011 2:09 PM
Q.

Re: Use of Offline

I definitely have heard this used in our office more in more, including my boss being reprimanded for saying she would be "offline" during vacation (as in, not checking emails through blackberry or reachable) which our senior leadership has deemed unacceptable.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Wait. Has your senior leadership deemed it unacceptable that she would be OFFline, or that she would be ONline.

InstaPoll: How many of you are expected to be available via email and Blackberry/iPhone even while you are on vacation?

– September 14, 2011 2:11 PM
Q.

What emoticons does it cause you to feel?

>; ] ;-) ;) *-) *) ;-] ;] ;D, >:[ :-( :( :-c (that's how I read your question)
A.
Monica Hesse :

You do not spend enough time offline.

– September 14, 2011 2:11 PM
Q.

AttackWatch

WOW!!! Black, white and red. Very bold. Not a site I would associate with Obama. Interesting though to see him stand up to the untruths. There are many out there.
A.
Monica Hesse :

"Not a site I would associate with Obama."

This is the impression that I had, too. I wonder if it's intentional, or no. Got to be intentional, one would think?

 

– September 14, 2011 2:12 PM
Q.

Attackwatch.com

The black background immediately turned me off because it hurt my eyes. Ick.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Yes, the login makes me feel like we are all about to embark on an MMPORG together.

– September 14, 2011 2:14 PM
Q.

Noam Chompsky

My childhood dog was named Chomsky (due to the fact my mother was studying him at the time we got the dog), and EVERYONE misspelled it as Chompsky.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Or everyone spelled it exactly how it should have been spelled.

– September 14, 2011 2:15 PM
Q.

This helped me get through a pretty bad day yesterday...

I am normally "anti" spraying children with water bottles, but this is just great.  It may be old, my apologies if you have already seen it.

A.
Monica Hesse :

Though it does kind of make you wonder how the parent thought of the whole spraying-directly-in-the-face thing anyway.

(P.S. I once used this trick on my dog while training her. She did not giggle.)

– September 14, 2011 2:17 PM
Q.

Attackwatch.com

Umm, no. I personally like to get my news from independent journalism, and the site just looks like something Colbert would rip on ;)
A.
Monica Hesse :

...or that Colbert would create. As a testament to truthiness.

– September 14, 2011 2:17 PM
Q.

Attack Watch

If I didn't have the background info from you, I would 've agreed with the poster who thought it was a somewhat dodgy site. Also agree that you can't tell who is sponsoring it/paying for it immediately.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Thanks for writing back.

– September 14, 2011 2:18 PM
Q.

Re: Offline

Unacceptable that she would be OFFline. We're expected to be checking our emails over the weekend, at night, on vacation, etc. (It's brutal.)
A.
Monica Hesse :

And your industry is...?

We all do that here, I think, but I get that for journalism.

– September 14, 2011 2:19 PM
Q.

An entrant for fun time-waster of the week

Have you seen this comic-tribute blog at http://stanleystories.blogspot.com/ ? With judicious use of tabbing, you can click on the single-page images and quickly read whole comic books printed before you were born. Yes, I am an adult, and probably wouldn't write this if not for anonymity.

A.
Monica Hesse :

Oh, this is lovely!

And you have come to the right place since I just finished writing a story about a new comic book celebrating the life of RICHARD FEYNMAN. Eeee!

– September 14, 2011 2:20 PM
Q.

I guess I'm old then

because I first heard the expression "he's off-line" about 30 years ago, working in a shift operation at Defense, referring to someone being away from their position for the moment.
A.
Monica Hesse :

And plus, there are the parts of the country where people refer to standing "on line" instead of "in line."

And in certain counties near where I am from, people will say "7 of the morning" instead of "7 in the morning."

Always throws me.

– September 14, 2011 2:22 PM
Q.

Re: AttackWatch

I think it was trying to be edgy, without really being edgy. It looks like a low budget site (or virus site) for that matter. Not sure it's going to appeal to younger voters, or anyone who wouldn't already be voting for Obama -- it just seems like it's trying too hard.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Posting.

– September 14, 2011 2:22 PM
Q.

attack watch

My first impression: this looks like an anarchist website. Perhaps it was the color scheme and font. In any case, though I sympathize with their intent, I have no desire to poke around the site. Too much text too close together on the "more info" pages, and the colors hurt my eyes.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Posting...

– September 14, 2011 2:22 PM
Q.

AttackWatch.com

It looks like a website left over from 2006 but with better flash. That font is horrific too. And the black background? I they chose it because they want to look severe but, it just makes the site look old.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Posting...

– September 14, 2011 2:23 PM
Q.

It seems like it's trying to be edgy

Edgy? I think it's like what some Nazis would put together. One thing I always liked about Obama was he seemed like a voice of reason, a person who wanted to pull people together. This does not give me that image. This looks like the work of someone who wants to censor any negative comments about him on wikipedia. If the look was more professional and the language less inflammatory I'd think differently. I have no problem with a website designed to answer stuff other candidates have said.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Yes. This is what I think is so fascinating about choosing to go with this site. It seems like Barack Obama is taking one of the things that has always been a selling point -- his calmness, his rational behavior -- and tossed it in favor of something that comes across as scare-mongering and alarmist. It's a really unusual move.

– September 14, 2011 2:25 PM
Q.

Attach Watch

So I browsed around a bit. Here are my impressions: The color scheme gives me a really negative impression of both the people who created it and the people its trying to "attack" back. I think the idea that it is promoting truth is sort of misguided, because it seems to be addressing only things that candidates or more extremist pundits (ie, Glenn Beck) are saying. Even if I didn't know it was a campaign grab, I would immediately think of it, because of the colors and the tone. I think a better way to do it would be a more neutral color scheme, instead of one that makes me think of hunting and targets, and a much more basic presentation, such as CLAIM (with whoever said what, and a link to it), then RESPONSE, with back up materials and links, charts, etc. The way it's set up is really antagonistic, and even though I KNOW that it's going to be, going in, it turned me off.
A.
Monica Hesse :

What you just described -- the CLAIM and RESPONSE tactic -- is what I would have expected from President Obama. And you reaction -- being turned off -- is what a lot of people have been saying.

I'll be really fascinated to see whether they keep this site as is.

– September 14, 2011 2:27 PM
Q.

Online/Offline

It occurred during a conference call, if that makes any difference. The reference was to how we were going to communicate certain information and the assumption was that everything would be done online. Then someone said maybe there were merits to sharing some of the information "offline" which indicated that they thought we could just talk to people about what we were doing.
A.
Monica Hesse :

But "offline" has so many fewer syllables. I guess?

– September 14, 2011 2:27 PM
Q.

AttackWatch.com

They have a section to "report an attack." Are we still living in America here?
A.
Monica Hesse :

Hahahasadness.

– September 14, 2011 2:28 PM
Q.

Or a hamster. Don't ask me why.

Because they like to nom and chomp! Nom nom nom. Chomp chomp chomp. Gimme more lettuce.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Exactly!

– September 14, 2011 2:28 PM
Q.

not-so Public computer use

My roommate/boyfriend and I both have laptops that we leave lying around the apartment. We've gotten in the habit of using whichever one is closest and then leaving fake google searches for the other to find. Any suggestions?
A.
Monica Hesse :

Yes. My first suggestion is that you invite me to move in with you.

Chatters? Give the lady/gentleman some assistance please.

– September 14, 2011 2:29 PM
Q.

Being OFFline

I love the fact that I have a mac, because our IT guys do not have a way for us to remote access the network from macs--only windows. And I do not have a blackberry or smart phone. I like to be, ahem, 'off'line when I leave the office. If people REALLY need me, I'm reachable, but I don't like the idea of being constantly on call. (I work in communications so it's not life or death)
A.
Monica Hesse :

Unless you are a reporter on deadline. Whenever we can't reach communications people we act as if it is life or death.

– September 14, 2011 2:31 PM
Q.

Comic book about Richard Feynman

Surely you must be joking. BTW, I'd like that potato cutter if it's available publicaly.
A.
Monica Hesse :

I jest not. It is many many pages of adventures of a curious character.

– September 14, 2011 2:32 PM
Q.

re: Noam Chompsky

Nah, not a hamster or parrot -- needs to be a biting animal, like a pet alligator.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Too obvious. Like naming a bulldog "Biff." You need to name a Chihuahua "Biff."

Except now I think that's gotten overdone, the whole 7-lb "Killer" dog naming trend. So maybe a bulldog named Biff would be surprising after all.

– September 14, 2011 2:34 PM
Q.

"Standing On Line"

New Yorker here! I do that, and never realized there was anything weird about it until I read an article about the quirks of the "New York dialect" and went, "But how else would you say... oh, wait." I did some research and came across a great theory that we say it that way because we don't consider ourselves to be an active member of the line. The line is yet another obstacle we are FORCED to endure before getting on with the rest of our busy days filled with Very Important New York Things.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Hahahahaha!

Okay, this randomly reminds me of Richard Feynman's favorite joke, which I just learned yesterday and will now proceed to butcher. I cannot remember the correct cities, so I'm just going to make up some cities, okay?

Ready?

Two old men are on a train. One says to the other, "Where are you going?" The second man says, "New York." The first man says, "If you were going to New York, you would tell me you were going to Boston. But I happen to know for a fact that you ARE going to New York, so why are you lying?"

It was really funny when I heard it on the phone.

 

– September 14, 2011 2:38 PM
Q.

Working On Vacation = Not A Vacation

Ummm, if you are checking work email on "vacation", then how can you call it vacation? And by extension, if you are checking work email on your fake vacation, I certainly hope that you don't have to use personal leave, since you are, after all, "working." Shame on you, Nefarious Nameless Senior Leadership!
A.
Monica Hesse :

Catch 22. Catch 22.

– September 14, 2011 2:39 PM
Q.

Horrible name

"Attack watch"? Maybe I just live too close to NYC, but my first thought before clicking through was that it would be a social media site dedicated to reporting possible suspicious behavior, via Twitter or similar. Not a catchy name at all.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Interesting -- you're right, it might cause some people to think that it was the place to email if you saw a purse left on the subway.

– September 14, 2011 2:40 PM
Q.

Fake Google Search

"undetectable poisons"
A.
Monica Hesse :

Hahaha

– September 14, 2011 2:40 PM
Q.

Not so subtle hints

You could leave pages up that shows what you'd like to do that night...
A.
Monica Hesse :

"How to clean a bathtub," in other words?

– September 14, 2011 2:41 PM
Q.

funny google search

2 words: Ninja Buns
A.
Monica Hesse :

I hope that's a recipe. I would make it.

– September 14, 2011 2:41 PM
Q.

Attack Watch

I'm going to chime in with those who mentioned the font. I can't identify it off-hand, but the kerning is just atrocious - everything is cramped together, and it's hard on the eyes. It's something a graphic designer would never use for that purpose, but an amateur might pick it because he thinks it looks cool and striking without factoring legibility into account.
A.
Monica Hesse :

You used "kerning" and I swooned.

– September 14, 2011 2:42 PM
Q.

attack=loaded language

Following up the general impression that the site's tone, voice and look & feel are out of sync with the President's style, I think the mere word "attack" suggests a combative attitude that I don't typically associate with him, for better or worse. I'd expect him to approach this from the angle of promoting truth, not defending against "attacks." I think it would be better if it were presented as a factual resource for anyone, not just Obama supporters who need ammo to fire back at those who disagree. (for the record I'm a liberal living in san francisco, nuff said)
A.
Monica Hesse :

Thanks. You're right -- it definitely puts forth an "us vs. them" mentality.

– September 14, 2011 2:43 PM
Q.

Online expectations:

Interesting topic. My boss expects me to be online 24/7 because he is (when he FEELS like it). I work-part time with set hours and am a single mom; I refuse to buy a Blackberry or similar device. This makes Boss occasionally peeved. A colleague (equal in rank to Boss, another dept.) told me, "Don't you dare work one minute of unpaid overtime. Especially on weekends. Don't get taken advantage of." And so I don't. Annual review's coming up and I'm sure this will be a topic. I plan to offer to schedule online time on the clock if required to check email on weekends.
A.
Monica Hesse :

I like your solution.

Another might be to spend one week doing all of the online things that he expects you to, just so you have an idea of how long that takes up. That way if your boss says, "You must, it is required for your job," then you can say, "All right. That adds an additional five hours to my work week. I know that I have been hired for a 20 hour a week position. What should we do about that?"

– September 14, 2011 2:45 PM
Q.

"Surely you must be joking"

That was an allusion to Richard Feynman's memoir.
A.
Monica Hesse :

I know. So was my answer, dude.

– September 14, 2011 2:46 PM
Q.

site recommendation

what do you think of jezebel.com? I'm still not too sure about it.....
A.
Monica Hesse :

Love, loved the content for several years. I thought it was often witty and funny, not to mention thoughtful and provocative.

I hate their new design, though (which, by now, is months and months old). In fact, I hate it so much that I very rarely visit. So I'm not sure what I think of this iteration.

– September 14, 2011 2:47 PM
Q.

fake google search suggestion

I love this request!! How about "homoerotic butter sculpture competitions" ?
A.
Monica Hesse :

How ABOUT them!

– September 14, 2011 2:48 PM
Q.

the whole 7-lb "Killer" dog naming trend

Long before "Legally Blonde," we had a cat named Bruiser, but it was not out of any sense of irony. He'd been the neighborhood bully for several years before we moved in and he adopted us (and we had the vet neuter him).
A.
Monica Hesse :

I would believe this. I live next door to a terrifying cat.

– September 14, 2011 2:48 PM
Q.

digital agency life

i work with people who are online sending emails ALL THE TIME. They might take a few hours off when they get home to eat dinner, be with the fam, put the kids to bed, but they're back on email from 9pm on. I regularly get emails that were sent in the middle of the night. My favorite was the one that came in at 12:50am asking the team for a status check. Uh, our status was asleep? He sent another one at 2:43am thanking us for our hard work.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Three cheers for anyone who responded to that status request with, "Teeth brushed and jammies on, Sir!"

– September 14, 2011 2:49 PM
Q.

Online/Offline

I am home sick in bed. First sick day I have taken all year. And I have had 7 work calls so far. There is no OFFline.
A.
Monica Hesse :

I would tell you to shut down the computer and turn off the ringer...But I really think you should do that -after- the chat ends at 3.

– September 14, 2011 2:50 PM
Q.

AttackWatch.com

It looks kind of amateurish -- like an updated version of those AOL personal sites from the mid-90s. Given that, I would question whether it's just another personal partisan website trying to counter the "lies" being told, kind of a counter-point to the crazy right-wing sites claiming that there's a NWO conspiracy, and linking to other crazy sites to support their arguments. Of course, then I would wonder if the amateurishness (is that even a word. well, it is now) was part of the message and whether it was really a professional effort to look amateurish. Of course, during all this deliberation, I would completely forget anything I read on the site, thereby negating its intended purpose. So, overall, fail.
A.
Monica Hesse :

And then I would send you emails at 12:50 am asking about your status updates as you thought through the site, anyway.

– September 14, 2011 2:51 PM
Q.

Fake Google Search

"Henry Kissinger currently dating?"
A.
Monica Hesse :

This is the best.

– September 14, 2011 2:51 PM
Q.

Fake Roommate Google Search

"Ebola symptoms"
A.
Monica Hesse :

"Henry Kissinger Ebola Symptoms."

– September 14, 2011 2:52 PM
Q.

new subject please

We have discussed only three topics during this entire chat. Enough with the attack site and offline please!
A.
Monica Hesse :

Give us a new topic!

I'm wading through tons of unanswered questions, and they're mostly attack and offline related. If you would like a topic change, please clearly mark it NEW TOPIC.

Additionally, you are incorrect. We have also discussed bad Richard Feynman jokes.

– September 14, 2011 2:53 PM
Q.

Atrocious kerning

My first thought was "too bad it's negative, otherwise it'd be a great band name." So maybe a good name would be something like "Bodacious Kerning." Only way I can make this on-topic today would be to suggest it for the Google searchers.
A.
Monica Hesse :

Atrocious Kerning is an excellent band name.

– September 14, 2011 2:54 PM
Q.

fake google search

"Edible gloves"
A.
Monica Hesse :

Yes. Henry Kissinger Edible Gloves.

Do you see where I'm going here? It appears that adding "Henry Kissinger" to any fake Google search results in an improvement. We need more phrases like this -- things that can be inserted next to any words for an immediate boost in comedic value. We also need a name for these phrases. Though there probably is one already.

– September 14, 2011 2:56 PM
Q.

Weingarten and Schrödinger

I sent in my guess as to his dark secret, but he never posted it. Does this mean that I was right? His comment back seems to refer to my guess.
A.
Monica Hesse :

What was your guess?

MY guess is that his non-response just means that your question got buried in the chat queue and he never saw it. It happens.

– September 14, 2011 2:56 PM
Q.

NEW TOPIC

Salahi abduction?
A.
Monica Hesse :

As a search topic?

– September 14, 2011 2:59 PM
Q.

Monica Hesse :

Salahi's abducted by Henry Kissinger?

Q.

Three Strikes?

I am the New Yorker who mentioned kerning and gave the Kissinger suggestion. Do I win the chat?
A.
Monica Hesse :

Yes! You absolutely win the chat.

And unfortunatley, my editor just came over and put me on deadline for tomorrow, so we have to end right at 3.

Sadness.

But we shall return next week, same time and place. GSTQ.

– September 14, 2011 3:01 PM
Q.

 

A.
Host: