Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Nov 14, 2012

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.

Stand by, guys, I am alive.

Ahem. As I was saying. I am alive, and present.


Furthermore, I have since learned that the monstrous chat malfunctions that plagued us last week (mysteriously disappearing questions, Scott Bakula black holes) actually occured across the board on many chats last week. Some, like Dear Prudence, were forced to cancel altogether. The fact that we persevered is something to brag about and/or question the sanity of.


This week, I hope the chat will be plague-free because -- reminder -- it's my last one until December 5. I'll be away the next two weeks with limited Internet access, and then be back at the Post fulltime.


Let's get to it -- who wants to begin?

Monica - I have a linked in account, but I never use it proactively. Periodically I get a request to "link" and if I know the person, I accept. that's it. So - in the last week, I have received several "endorsements for my skills and expertise" from former coworkers who I have not seen nor spoken with in years. I never knew them particularly well in the first place. They are from different companies, so it's not like one place told all their people to endorse everyone they know. What's up with this? What's going on? do I owe these people a response? am I supposed to endorse them back? I would appreciate any insight! Thanks!

Are these people whose work you would endorse, based on your long-ago interactions with them? If so, I don't see the harm, especially as social networks like Linked In can be good for building up a broad, long-term picture of someone's work history. 


Chatters? Your thoughts?

The more I hear about the Patraeus-Broadwell-Others web of intrigue the more troubled I feel, but not for the fact that a CIA head and respected general had an affair. If you can set aside the immorality of that for a moment, it appears that a woman complained to her FBI friend that she was getting disrespectful emails, the FBI friend began using the investigative powers of the FBI on her personal request, the FBI then began reading messages left on a personal GMail account (drop-box style)... without a warrant or oversight of any kind... thereby upending the lives of the main players as well as kids, spouses, friends, etc. Yes, one can make the argument that each player did it to themselves but how this whole thing got started by raiding a personal email account really illustrates that NOTHING electronic is private.

Truly. This part of the development made me feel squicky as well.

And as for those drop-box style email addresses, here's an interesting Foreign Policy article on how shared Gmail addresses are used by spies as virtual drop locations.

Does that mean if we submitted a question to the live chat earlier today, it won't have been saved?

Hmmm. I do not know. Why don't you resubmit, and if I see it in here twice, I shall only answer once? (And if you submitted something last week that I didn't get to, chances are almost 100 percent that it was transported to a distant galaxy and I never saw it. Feel free to resend).

To all men who are attempting to use online dating sites: If your initial message consists of something more than "hi" or "how are you", you will increase your response rate. Your response rate will also increase if you, in your initial message, are actually able to prove that you have read the woman's profile. (Hint: A good method of doing this is by asking a question about something she mentions in her profile.) [Okay, getting off my soapbox now.]

This has to be the virtual equivalent of shouting "Hey baby" at someone on the street, no? He's playing the odds. He knows that 99 out of 100 women are not going to respond, but he thinks that the last one just might. So much simpler than bothering with a real personal connection. 

I got one recently from a woman I barely spoke with at a job I left over 2 years ago. I thought it was strange but didn't really think much of it. Now hearing of this other poster getting some random ones too, I'm starting to wonder if it's a virus? I barely use Linkedin myself so haven't gone in to check to see what she wrote about me (I hope it was nice!).

It is not a virus. Not if you mean the computer kind. If you mean the kind of virus wherein we all feel compelled to connect, all the time, with people we haven't seen in years, then yeah, it is that kind of virus.

I hope this is you/your chat. The link on the right side of the page keeps taking me to the Reliable Source chat!

Curses, Amy and Rox! Did anyone chat with them today? Did they seem to have an inordinately large amount of questions related to the Internet?

I'd just like to give a shout out and recommend to the other chatters a web series that I'm enjoying. It's actually the first web series I've watched. It's called "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries." It's cute, although a bit low budget, but the low budget isn't so bad since it's meant to made a one-person vlogging operation. Kind of surprised (a bit disappointed) I didn't hear about it from WaPo first since it seems like something you'd let us good people know about. Did you like it?

I'm glad you're enjoying it. I know of the show, but haven't been following it myself. And though you didn't hear about it from the Washington Post, thanks to your post, a bunch of other people will have.

Linked In has actually started doing something where it will send its members listings of their connections and the skills they have entered. You just click on "Endorse" and then it shows you have endorsed that person's skills. It seems pretty silly to me because you end up endorsing things such as "Microsoft Word" and "Microsoft Excel," but I guess it never hurts to have people know that you are capable of using those programs. I know I spent about 10 minutes endorsing my connections on all sorts of things just to see if it would stop by itself (it didn't), but I certainly don't think the poster must, in turn, endorse or even respond to those who have endorsed their skills.


No, all Amy did was field Petraeus questions. Roxanne was absentee.

Oh, Amy and I should have teamed up. I bet she was lonely.

this is what my guy friends used to tell me when I was younger and "beaux" would drunk text, booty text, etc. it only takes one positive response, and then all that work is worth it.


Strange men appear to do this on Facebook as well. It makes the "unfriend" decision so easy.

Hi Monica! I saw your Facebook post about finishing your draft and wanted to ask a question about writing. I'm a biology grad student (shout-out to the microbiologist out there) who loves her project but is facing major writer's block. Somehow, the act of synthesizing years of hard thinking and data collection into a concrete product is turning into an insurmountable goal. I know part of my problem has to do with technical issues, like making sure my stats are solid. But the other part is this fear of publishing something with errors (like glaring absences in my theoretical framework of works cited) that will be permanently out there. So I have a major back-up of half-written papers that are going to account for ALL the things and become towering monographs that no one wants to read. My question is, how do you deal with all the moving parts? How do you transform all the notes into a cohesive product? And how do you develop a sense of what to cut? In appreciation, please have a video of a snoring hummingbird

First, the link you sent did not take me to a snoring hummingbird, but it did take me to a wonderful nerd site that I had never been to before, and for that I am profoundly grateful.



Second: I've never had to write a massive science paper like the one you're embarking on. But the advice that transfers, I think, is about using the people surrounding you as resources. Editors/advisors/beta-readers/colleagues -- all of them are smart people who are going to ask you hard questions. The hard questions will stress you out, but they will help you see where your holes are, and you will fill them in. As soon as you see that there is a safety network of people who are going to prevent you from crashing and burning, you will have taken care of some of the fear that comes with publishing something. If you write something bad/dubious/poorly researched, then your advisor will not pass it. If your advisor passes it, then it must not have been bad.

It isn't too hard to chat up on since an episode is usually between 4 to 7 minutes.

I think you mean catch up on, but we can chat up on it, too. That's the beauty of web series, no? You can feel so accomplished, knocking out a whole series in 45 minutes.

I saw it on Alyssa Rosenberg's blog.  I think the show must have read her review since they adjusted the way they portray the character that was often gleefully called a slut. 


After being on LinkedIn (passively) for several years without giving or receiving endorsements, I, too, was endorsed last week by someone I worked somewhat with for about a year 2-3 years ago. Am I supposed to endorse him back? I liked working with him well enough, but I know he got fired for being (somewhat) incompetent by the managing partner with whom I work closely with and trust. I also know my company didn't even interview him for what would have been an ideal position when the project he helped me with had a vacancy. So two people who knew him better than me and whose judgements I very much trust don't have a very high opinion of him, though both people are too polite to go into specifics. Should I take that into account in endorsing him? It's true his resume shows he doesn't spend more than a year or two max at any given job, so I suspect he's looking for another again.

No, of course don't endorse him! If he had gone out of his way to contact you directly, via email or phone or some such, and asked for a recommendation from you, then you might have to figure out a way to gracefully offer it or bow out. But if you have no faith in his abilities, there's no reason to reciprocate this endorsement.

Thanks fellow chatter! I am sure that it is the new Linked In endorsement service. Excellent. I shall continue to ignore.

Glad we could help.

...in the number of ways to misspell Gen. Petraeus's name.

I haven't even mentioned General P by name, have I? And now you got me all worried about it, so I shan't, not ever.

You might want to see if your college/university has a writing center--that would be a place to start. I'm sure the staff deals with this sort of problem all the time.

Yes, of course. Excellent and practical suggestion.

I have published my thesis, dissertation and many manuscripts. I was fortunate in that my advisor allowed me to cobble together my individual manuscripts already published into my thesis or dissertation, with an very large background section up front. Even if you advisor does not allow you to construct your thesis and dissertation this way, this framework helps you to put together your document in manageable chunks. At this point, it is too late to worry about major errors in strcuture of your research, that was hammered out and decided when you committee approved your project plan.

I'm going to post a few more of these as they come in. So long as they're helping. Are they helping, science writer? Or do you feel we've all just gotten too up in your business?

on Friday. Right?

Incorrect. I am going TONIGHT. To a press screening. For my job.

No prob. Hopefully you get some time to catch up on it and ask about it again in a later chat.

FWIW, I did see a few episodes in the beginning. It just wasn't something I latched onto. I'm so glad it's worked for you -- but if this is the first Web series you've tried out, I hope you find many more you like as well or better. 


I'm holding out until Jane Eyre has a web series, personally.

Just remember: "A? EEE! Eww..." PatrAEUs

It's useful for everyone.

Exceedingly useful information.

No more Twilight! I can't wait to not hear about these books anymore!!

You should be so lucky. I give it a year before we get a spin-off television series, and five years before someone starts talking remakes.


Here's something that no one ever told me when I was in my dissertation program (genetics), nor would I have believed it until I went throug it myself - for all that science is supposed to be dispassionate, pursuing it is oddly emotional. There's a reason why there are so many ABDs (all but dissertations) out there, though it doesn't make sense on paper. It is oddly difficult to finally sit down and put years of work on paper, with every glaring omission, thinly-supported conclusion and imperfect lab result. You don't realize it while you're doing the work, but seeing it in total can really open up all the emotions you don't realize are tied up in it. I budgeted an ample 6 weeks to write up about 4 years of work, and it took me 6 months. After about 4-6 weeks of spiralling into a self-loathing procrastination spiral of intellectual inadequacy (ok, maybe I exaggerate), I decided to switch gears and volunteer to work with lab mates' projects part time just to give me structure and get me out of my own head. And you know what? My dissertation and papers were perfectly fine. And yours will be, too. You just have to find whatever way works for you to push on. Good luck!

This advice is so, so useful. And yes -- it's worth remembering that, though you think you're afraid of your analytical and writing abilities, you might just be reacting to the enormity of suddenly synthesizing everything you've been doing for the past four years. It's a big, emotional, important deal. But you will be fine.

Consider the timing: In the past week there was an election, so perhaps these folks are looking for new jobs as a consequence of their favored party or candidate winning (or losing).

From the responses I've got, it sounds more like a LinkedIn rollout, but you never know.

And you can't even click on your very own employer's page to get the correct spelling, since the Post has apparently fired all its copy editors.

Oh pshaw. Do you have any idea how many thousands of words our brilliant copy editors slog through every day?  Nobody can be 100% all of the time, not even Strunk and White.

Why is it that some chats remain in the "Live Discussions" hours after they're done, while others go to the "Earlier Today" section as soon as the last question is answered. Is it all whether or not someone clicks the "End" button?

Isn't it always about whether or not someone clicks the end button?

(Truthfully, I don't know. I have given up ever understanding the mysteries of the chat. I'm just glad that you all manage to show up here, week after week).

I'm the one who recommended you start with your school's writing center. One more thing. (Hey--Columbo!) Monica suggested that you use colleagues, etc., to read your paper, which is good advice. But at some point, you should get someone who is not in your field to read it because that person will be able to identify holes or leaps in logic that will not be evident to you or your colleagues because you all know too much about your subject--your brain fills in the missing information. A good editor will be able to identify those places in your paper so that you can fix them. (I'm a freelance editor, btw, so I know whereof I speak.) Good luck.


What did you think of the casting of Jena Malone as Johanna in Catching Fire. I loved her as Lydia in P&P, and think she can pull off Johanna. My only hesitation is that I pictured Johanna as a larger tougher girl, and Jena seems more small and snarky.

Not at all what I pictured, either. But then, none of the casting of the Hunger Games movies went the way I thought it should . Not Katniss, not Effie, not Haymitch. But we fans soldier on.

Yes, the plan is to cobble together individual manuscripts and call it a dissertation. And I am lucky to be surrounded by fabulous colleagues. I think I just need to buckle down and start writing, while not being discouraged by my slow/methodical approach. (My friends' NaNoWriMo updates are mind-boggling to me.) Thanks for the advice! I'll see if I can add you all to my acknowledgments.

Start Writing is always a good idea, in my experience. You don't even have to ultimately keep what you write. But forcing yourself to type some words on a paper will make the paper far less daunting. It's like learning to swim. You can buy the Speedo, and apply the sun lotion, and test the water temperature, but sooner or later you have to actually get in the pool.

One of the few nearly perfect books ever written. If you write, make it your bible... and it's so short.

Even if you don't write, really.

Okay, gang, I'm going to bundle up a little bit early today to make an afternoon appointment. Remember: No chat next week -- Happy Thanksgiving! No chat the week after. Meet me back here on Wednesday, December 5.

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: