The Web Hostess: Online manners, best new sites and must-see videos

May 19, 2010

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.

Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by!

You know how sometimes, in an effort to cover up our Facebook addictions, we make derisive jokes about how it's all a waste of time? Oh, how wrong we are, because it turns out that Facebook CAN PREDICT THE FUTURE! See this interesting blog post about a forthcoming book in which the writer explains how, by gathering information on who you post photos with, whose wall you comment on, and the frequency of your message exchanges, Facebook can predict which of your "friends" you will start dating.

In truth, this is probably gussied up sociology of old -- social scientists have long been able to predict many of our behaviors based on who we spent time with (Democrats hanging out with other Democrats, etc) -- it's just that now it's all easily collectable online.

Still, pretty fascinating. What do you think that Facebook would predict about you based on your profile? A study of mine would reveal that I spend an abnormal amount of time talking about Dippin' Dots, and that I appear to be in a relationship with my dog.

Other Facebook news: Producer Paul informs me that the company plans to simplify its privacy settings in the near future, so that we can all stop this collective head-scratching. I've gotta link somewhere, will post in a sec.

And one more housekeeping thing: Next week we're going to try an experiment and move this chat to 11. Because the earlier we talk about how to waste time, the earlier we can all get started.

Okay, I think that's it. My gosh I'm late...

Unicorn After Wisdom Teeth

Is nothing sacred anymore?

Okay, clearly I didn't get the good drugs after my wisdom tooth removal, because there were no unicorns in my experience, only pain.

Monica, has anyone written yet an analysis of the role of Web news or organizations in helping create yesterday's election results?

Explain a little more what you're thinking of? I'm not sure I'm following.

I found out about this video from the mike o'meara show podcast. You don't have to post that but I would like to give them a plug. Anyway, I heard about this -- Jerry Lewis Goat -- and I think it is hysterical.

And I think I'm going with Google docs for a submit form for my Web site.

P.S. -- I think this should be your avatar (from the movie "Cabin Boy.")

Thanks, cupcake.

Oh man, and here I was thinking I'd go with either the brain or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Goats are inherently funny animals, moreso than cows or sheep. Discuss.


Facebook has had complaints about its privacy policy? Really? I was unaware. Have the media covered this at all?

What is this Book of the Faces you speak of?

Why all the privacy issues with Facebook? I really enjoying using it, but don't like to worry so much about them randomly changing my privacy settings. Why does Facebook have a free pass to do that? Should we rebel to get them to change their policy?

Short answer -- they have a free pass because they've been giving us a free pass for five years now. Right now there are close to 500 million people *not paying* for a service that they use every day. And Facebook is not a non-profit.

How much would you pay every month for a premium, private version of your social networks ? I wonder if this is where we're heading.

They have those square pupils. And they'll get into anything! Have you seen the video about the waving goat at some petting zoo in the UK?

My God, you are right! How have I lived my whole life without noticing the rectangular pupils?


And what is this waving goat you speak of? Find it! Find it now!

You know how I waste the most time on the Internet? Reading the WaPo chats. Well, perhaps "waste" isn't quite the right word, but I sure spend a lot of time here.

And I know we all grouse about Facebook, but I gotta say, it's a lifeline for me. I work at home so it's a great way to keep connected with the outside world.

Also, I went to high school overseas and have managed to reconnect with my former classmates after 20 years of wondering what had happened to everyone and kicking myself for not keeping in better touch. It's been wonderful reconnecting with everyone. Just my two cents.

I think it's a lifeline -- or at least an incredibly useful tool -- for many people, which is why a mass stick-it-to-ya exodus like a previous poster suggested is probably unlikely.

This is amazing:

Tornado Forms in Front of Car

(language NSFW, understandably).


This is the kind of fortitude that we are now bred with. We can't do a single pull-up, but we have the mental wherewithal to keep the video rolling as a tornado passes over our cars.

Your stance does not make sense to me.  So many other "services" are free without invading privacy. What about YouTube? Washington Post? Wikipedia?

I could go on and on...Seems like many Web presences find some way to make money that doesn't involve distribution of my private info.

It's not my stance, actually -- Like everyone else, I've spent the last few weeks playing Privacy Whack-a-mole, logging on to realize that something I thought I'd adjusted was still public.

I brought up the "free service" example mostly to point out that it's an oxymoron -- someone has to pay for everything, whether through ads, other services, etc. I think a lot of Web sites are experimenting -- and often floundering -- as everyone tries to make money off of "free."

fainting goats > waving goats

Well, sure.

What was the first viral video? was it the monkey with his finger in his butt, then nose?

We'd have to clarify some terms -- are we talking about the first one to be e-mailed like mad among friends, or the first one to go viral on YouTube, which is going to have bigger numbers than anything passed via e-mail?

One of the "first" that I've commonly seen cited it Numa Numa. If you haven't seen it, prepare to smile.

I'm annoyed when I see people join those "I refuse to pay $[amount] per month to use Facebook after [date]!" groups, in part because, come on, stupid hoaxes. And in part because, please, I would totally pay to use Facebook. It's hugely useful to me. Of course, it only works if everybody else pays, too. Which may be a problem.

Right -- you're only going to find the service useful if all of your friends stay on it.

You guys are full of good stuff today!

Hmm. Did Numa Numa come before the Rickroll?

Indeed -- Numa Numa was made way back in 2004 and RickRolling didn't appear until 2007.

I don't get this whole "privacy" thing on Facebook. What exactly do people put up on the WORLD WIDE WEB that they don't want people seeing? Don't put your phone number or address up if you don't want people to see it.

So what's that leave? "Heaven forbid someone on the internet discovers that I like Bon Jovi or that I went to a state university."

It is annoying that FB changes these things constantly and puts them to public by default, but its the Internet: you don't have a lot of privacy on it anyway and should plan accordingly, which is what we always told the students at my school.

Wait, let me slip into something a little more comfortable...

Okay, now that I have on my tinfoil hat, I'll speculate that what worries the Big Brother types is actually not necessarily the University of Michigan credentials, but rather the fact that things that seem innocuous -- who we're friends with, etc -- can often be used to predict things we wouldn't anticipate. To Wit: Who we're dating (see above).

I dunno. Do we have a good conspiracy theorist out there?

Wow. And we thought cat's eyes were weird.

I just Google Image'd "Weird pupils" for more examples, and was confused about why I got all of these pictures of school kids until I remembered that "pupil" also means "student."

Well, she sounds like an idiot but he sounds as cool as a cucumber.


Her: Why are you opening the windows?

Him: To equalize the pressure in case we have to open the doors.

Would you have thought of that? Nope, I wouldn't have either.

Didn't you wonder if you were seeing a microcosm of their every day life together?

"Honey, why are the yogurt cups glued to the television?"

"To test my theory of blabiddy blah blah."

That marriage is doomed to fail.

A small coalition of classmates and I campaigned to make the Numa Numa song ("Dragostea din Tei" by O-Zone) our high school graduation theme... all of five years ago. In the end, we had the votes, but the snobby girls in charge refused to count them and went with "Graduation (Friends Forever)" by Vitamin C... only the most cliched song of the past decade.

I guess the Internet wasn't cool enough back then, and I wonder if songs like Numa Numa might have a better chance in this day and age... five years later.

As someone whose graduation song was Greenday's Time of Your Life, I feel your pain, Sister.

I don't want some stranger seeing photos of my daughter and then connecting that with all the random stuff I've posted to figure out where she might live or go to school or might be at a particular time.

I could totally see a predator scouring the Web for info they could use like that. But, not to be completely paranoid, I feel that posting them privately on Facebook is a reasonable enough way to share photos with a limited number of friends and family instead of e-mailing or snail mailing them photos.

Thank you, Conspiracy Theorist.

Okay, I know this acronym is about the oldest thing on the Internets, but do you say this like Fack or Eff-Ay-Cue? I'm asking because I just read a blog post titled "An FAQ" and it struck me as odd. Because I say Fack. An fack doesn't sound right.

Eff-Ay-Cue. It's too easy to confuse Fack with Fact. Or with Roberta Flack, which admittedly happens less frequently, but still.

Maybe people who live in tornado country have to take tornado survival training 101 and they learn these useful tidbits. He paid attention, she didn't. Or, he read it in one of those "disaster survival" books he found in someone's bathroom at a party.

No, I grew up in tornado country. All we learned to do was sit down cross-legged in the hallway and cover our heads with our textbooks while flirting with Quincy. The last part was optional.

I just had to post this link to a Flash graphic showing how Facebook's privacy defaults have changed over the years, always toward greater disclosure of the members' data.

This is from one of Rob Pegoraro's recent columns, but I'll bet a lot of people missed it.


I want to date Tornado Guy. I'm going to call him Lance.

Perhaps that is astronaut Mike Dexter! (30 Rock? Anyone?)

I bet we could find Tornado Guy for you. Who knows? Maybe his car companion was his sister and he's been waiting for a nerd like you.

Last month, I think it was, New Yorker ran an interesting piece on Amazon and future of publishing and, this month, Atlantic has interesting piece on Google and future of news reporting/publishing/newspapers. As consumer of books/news, I found them both thought-provoking. Is this something upon which you comment (or have read)?

I've actually set both of those aside to read, but haven't gotten to either one. Now I have extra incentive.

Bird Poops in Reporters Mouth

It just makes me laugh every time.

I'm not currently in the mood for any video with "Bird Poops" and "Mouth" at the same time, but I'm sure someone out there is...

I legitimately have a stalker. Like, a real one. Before, I could easily control what was publicly available just have my name and city displayed in search, without my photo and other details, so people could still find me but no information was available otherwise. Now, I'm probably going to have to get off FB, which is a bummer. Remember when it was just at your college? Those were the days.

Eesh. Thanks for the sobering warning.

He sounds like my husband. I once asked him how something worked on the computer and he said, "Well, computer code is in ones and zeros..." Never a short answer.

Engineer? Or physicist?

To answer the previous chatter's question, you used to be able to keep certain information limited to your own social network, and Facebook is making it harder and harder to do that.

For instance, I don't mind listing my e-mail address, interests, former jobs, etc. to the small universe of friends -- especially since I control that small universe, by accepting friend requests only from people I actually know. (And for those who grump about how we should get out and spend time with our "real" friends, I use FB to keep in touch with friends from the past -- high school, college, grad school, past jobs, etc. -- who are scattered around the country and even the world. But I do know them.)

But now some or all of that information can be visible to anyone on Facebook, not just my own friends. So yes, I had to delete some things I would have been happy to share with my own friends but not the world.

Another way of thinking about it is not simply as a privacy issue, but as a loss of the ability to control with whom you are networking. It's no longer as easy (or, at times, even possible) to maintained a closed network. And that does detract from what some of us have understood Facebook to be.

We're running out of time here, so I'm just posting this one.

Here's some extra, extra incentive. We're going to ask you about those articles next time!

And next time will be???

This chat goes to 11?

No. This chat will only feel like it goes until 11, once we all get slap happy from the videos.

However, next week this chat will START at 11 am, and go to noon. See you all then!


In This Chat
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 .
Recent Chats
  • Next: