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

Feb 16, 2011

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.

This week on the Internet, a teacher was suspended after negative comments she had made about her students on her blog became public. One post: "They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying."

The teacher did not use her full name, her students names, or identify the school district she worked in.

What are your feelings on the suspension?

If you agree, why? What circumstances would have to be altered to change your mind?

If you disagree, why? What if she had identified her school district or name?

In other public mishaps occuring over private online accounts, journalist Nir Rosen resigned from his job at NYU after public outrage prompted by the Tweets he wrote in response to the  public assault of foreign correspondent Lara Logan. A sample, via the New York Daily News: "Look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women."

How are these two scenarios similar and/or different? Which do you find more outrageous, and why?


Also, anyone who missed this video of a grandmother beating off a pack of jewelry store thieves with her purse should probably watch it now.

Let's do it.

Just in case you've ever craved bacon at 2 am, thankfully Rachel Ray has pulled together a late night bacon recipe for you. The comments are priceless.

This is an excellent way to start the chat. Thank you.

I've been confused for awhile now about Microsoft's whole "The Cloud" ad campaign. My understanding was cloud computing was using lots of linked computers to solve a problem. Microsoft seems to be trying to just make a cool alternative to the Web, especially in that annoying commercial featuring the woman fixing her family photo ("Mr. Gates, Adobe Photoshop is calling from 1995 to complain. . . "). Or am I just woefully behind the times?

The problem is that your understanding of cloud computing is more advanced than the target viewer's understanding of cloud computing, which means you can tell that the ads make no sense.

I do kind of like "To the cloud," though.

Fascinating article. After reading it, I'm totally torn. On one level can sympathize with the teacher. Some of my teacher friends have verbally told me similar things about at lest a few of their students (although usually gentler). At the same time, if all I had was the news report to go on, I wouldn't want this woman teaching my kids. I'd want some young, Teach for America or Stand & Deliver type who inspires the lazy to learn. Not that most teachers (even probably Teach for America teachers) really get Stand & Deliver results, just that it would be tough knowing all your kid's teacher wants to do is vent. All around it IS a good notice to parents that something in that particular school district does not seem to be working with their kids - and it might be the parenting.

The news report doesn't paint a flattering portrait of her, I agree. But it's hard to tell how much of that is actual personality, and how much is someone lashing out about a situation they feel is deeply unfair.

It would have been useful to know whether these comments were characteristic, or whether they were infrequent blowing-off-of-steams.

It's been 6 minutes since you posted something? I'm worried. Are you ok? Was it something I said? Was it something I didn't say? I can't handle this relationship. I think I need to take a break. It's not you, it's me.

It's not you. It's not me. It's...Dinoputer!

It's also the fact that I usually publicize this chat on Facebook and Twitter and forgot to today, so was doing some last minute posts. Meanwhile, if y'all want to post that you're chatting here, that would be peachy.

... unless you want to get fired. I see people do it on Facebook all the time. Buy a clue!

Does "public forum" only constitute an online forum? What if the teacher was complaining at a bar or restaurant, and her comments were overheard by a parent with kids in her class?

I'd love to hear from teachers or friends of teachers, and how they negotiate this.

So have you seen this fake trailer mashing the best teen movies of the 80s with the Legend of Zelda? It has made my week, and I wish to share the love.

Now the reason it took me so long to answer that time was that I meant to just click and see if the link worked, but then had to watch the whole thing.

Speaking of: Last night some movie channel was showing "How I Got Into College." That 1980s movie is totally underrated, yes?

What happened to staff rooms? Wouldn't that be a more traditional place for teachers to let off steam?

Is -that- what they were doing in there? I just thought we weren't allowed because that's where they kept the off-limits vending machines.

Um, thanks? Or, I object?

This is a link to a piece about the new Atlas Shrugged trailer premiering at CPAC last week.

It is, however, Internet-related in that the trailer is only available online. Any Randroids here, feel free to go look.

This is only tangentially related to the Web, but I'm enjoying the Watson exhibition on Jeopardy. I can't decide whether I'm rooting for or against the computer though... As a computer scientist myself, I'm impressed, but at the same time I do want to see it say something completely stupid. I read that in one of the beta rounds, for the clue "A hit below the belt" in the "Rhyme Time" category, Watson answered "Wang Bang" instead of "Low Blow". I would giggle for hours if it said that on national TV.

Well, it -did- answer "Where is Toronto????" for a question about American cities.

It's no Wang Bang, though.

The teacher didn't like the staff room--she felt 'belittled', as she said in one interview.

Hmm. Feeling "belittled" in the staff room implies, perhaps, that she had different views of the students or school than the rest of her colleagues, which could be noteworthy.

Here. And in case people are wondering what the official beverage of Maryland and Virginia is...

Totally using this later. Both charts.

I think this whole teacher situation demonstrates a lack of tact and discretion, regardless of what forum, electronic or in- person. Case in point: I was riding on the Metro a few years ago when a summer associate was talking loudly (due to train noise) about a case he was working on. I learned much more than I should have given client confidentiality standards, and it just so happened I knew the partner in charge of the case. I told the partner, the young man was fired. In my opinion, appropriately. I think forums such as Facebook or blogs have increased the audience, but not changed the core issue.

Just posting. I think your observation about the core issue vs. the medium is apt.

They did her a favor...she obviously loathed her career choice.


Cloud computing's about not having your data stored on your PC - it's stored on the internet. Google Docs is a great example of crowd computing. Microsoft seems like it's trying to take a saying that not many people are aware of and kind of trademark it, despite that there are many other companies that do it better.

Isn't this what the other poster was saying? That cloud computing, as a concept, has been around for years -- and thus the treatment of it as a new thing was confusing?

Speaking of discussing work in public, I hear the Washington Post is an excellent place to work with very helpful and nice supervisors and management. Isn't that correct?

You know that I can't tell who you are, right?

I feel sorry for the teacher, but, if things get found out, you lose your credibility as a teacher. It's nothing personal, it's just business. The journalist's comments seem nasty and not aware of all the facts - for journalism, especially, commenting on this in such a manner is indefensible.

Twitter is always a difficult medium because everything is always a little out of context. That being said, the fact that they were posted at all is pretty shocking.

Totally great movie. Best ending line "There's always graduate school!!!!"

I remembered the video application essay as being much more awesome. But Lara Flynn Boyle's admission interview was as horrifying as ever!

I think there's quite a bit of similarity between Erin Andrews and Lara Logan and how some belittled what happened to both of them. They're really good reporters, but their looks (and people's singular focus on that aspect) can cause some people to react strangely.

Thanks for this comment, which I think is important.

I read a weird comment earlier today speculating that the Style section (rather than, say, the foreign desk) had reported on Logan because she was an attractive woman and we cover fashion. Um. No. It is because we cover the media and she is a well-known correspondent.

At least for a brief shining moment, intelligence and learning are being glorified to boffo ratings on American TV! As opposed to the steaming pile of stuff often aired.

Oh, just wait. After the Jeopardy streak is done, Watson will be the next contestant on The Bachelor.

Did the person for whom you recommended Cracked and Lamebook write back? Is s/he cured of her Internet malaise?

I don't know! Are you here, bored Internet person?

So, she was probably having a bad day. But I think it's a really bad idea if you hold a job to complain about it in writing in a public forum. Even emails. Don't write anything down that you don't want to have appear on the front page of the New York Times. Period.

As a bonus, this rule of thumb would also encourage us maintain offline friendships.

"Coffee Dates: Because you really shouldn't grouse online."

The teacher shouldn't have done it...but I kinda feel for her...lots of kids are awful brats. Have you ever seen "Tard Blog?" It's old, and totally anonymous, and hilarious, but I don't think that teacher ever got in trouble. The journalist is indefensible. Making jokes about someone's brutal beating and sexual assault is not funny. Ever.

- Posting with the knowledge that we all know that blog title is bad bad bad.

Who will program him to make me *happy*?

- Posting with the assumption that by *happy," you mean, "remember your birthday and "get along with your mother."

I'm curious, though: Since the general opinion seems to be that the teacher shouldn't have posted anything online -- have any of you ever posted something online that you later regretted? Either because someone else found it or your realized they could have? Or you just realized it was dumb dumb?

I never post anything online that I be upset if my mother, grandmother, Rabbi, or boss saw. If I wanted to complain about something, I did it via email to a friend or on the phone or in person. Or maybe here as it is so completely anonymous.

Anything you'd like to get off your chest?

After reading Ask Amy, Carolyn Hax, or any advice column I peruse the comments section. The same people seem to write in every day and have formed bonds with one another. I wonder who does that until I realize I am a dolt for reading all their comments in the first place.

You are not as much of a dolt as I was -- I once stopped visiting an Internet community because the anonymous comments of people I did not know convinced me that they were super cool and I was not worthy. Of hanging out. On an anonymous message board.

Uh, no. I meant satisfying, so to speak.

We are totally on the same page.

I need to clarify my earlier post about posting stuff you don't want on the front page of The New York Times. I think that it was a bad idea for her to do this, but I think that she's within her rights. According to the article, she didn't give anyone's name or location. She has a right to her opinion and the right to express it. (Of course, it may cost her job, but that's another issue.)

Ah, so you thought it was an unwise act, but not a punishable offense?

During the Bush v. Gore re. Chad era I posted a lot of newsgroup flames that I'd like to have back. A lot of my cow-orkers were listening to Limbaugh, I guess I wanted to vent.

I absolve you.

My co-worker is an idiot. He said that Pandora radio was "boring." I then pointed out that since you make your own stations, that would be his own fault.


The part that scares me about that ad is how easily the suburban mom can manipulate the photo into something that isn't "real." Imagine what a newspaper could do with that technology!

I think the suburban mom's photos probably looked crappy when she was done. Just saying.

"She has a right to her opinion and the right to express it. (Of course, it may cost her job, but that's another issue.) " We have the first amendment right to free speech but that only means the government can't stop us. Any employeer can have requirements that you not say/do things and if you do, you can get fired.

Exhibit A: Juan Williams?

When I was in high school, I slanderous picture of a classmate and posted it to my personal web page. I got in trouble for it... and now somewhere in my permanent record exists a horribly pixelated MSPaint drawing exaggerating the body mass of that classmate.

Oh, I absolve you, too. Maybe you could contact this classmate and offer to airbrush all of her Facebook pictures. The digital equivalent of a Hail Mary.

Exhibit B: Keith Olbermann (not fired but suspended before he quit)

Less about freedom of speech than about freedom of campaign donations?

If I have something delicate to say to someone (in my personal and work life), I do it in person. Always. I do not want to leave a written trail for someone to follow.

I can't decide whether you are very kind or just very crafty.

Whenever I see that ad, I can't help thinking that if she knows she's going to have to copy and paste the photo, plaid shirts were the worst possible choice to have everyone wear (because it's going to be a lot harder to line up the patterns correctly). I'm not sure what that says about me.

That you are a photo editor? That you have fashion sense? That you are a harried mom? There are so many interpretations.

I was on the Metro this morning, and the drunk guy in the seat behind me (why do they always sit behind me?) was serenading us with "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star". When a lady asked him to stop, he replied that he couldn't because he was retarded. I was then confused because he was offending retarded people.

Also, drunk people. Also, humanity.

In 2002 a friend created this version of "The Last Supper" with 13 of the Azores Islands' most esteemed poets and literati:  (scroll down to view image)

This seems like a good things to end on. Now, off to go remember where the Azores islands are...

Right. Of course, I may be wrong but I guess we will see. I must ask my teacher friends about this. I know one teacher friend didn't even want to get a Facebook account because she was leery of this sort of thing.

Please report back what they say -- next week! That's all for today. See you next Wednesday and GSTQ.

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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.

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