Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Mar 28, 2013

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. Thanks for stopping by. I'm here, but just dashing to my desk, so my apologies for starting a few minutes late.


I meant to post this Kathleen Parker piece last week, but we had the last-minute cancellation. It's about the role of social media in the Steubenville rape case, and questioning whether its created more harm than good, in its dispersal of the crime, or whether it did more good than harm, in that it brought the perpetrators to justice. Heavy topic -- and a week old, at this point -- but I'd be interested in what you think.

I heard a blurb on NPR a few days ago about WashPost starting to charge for online content, but I haven't seen anything on the actual site. I live in the middle of the country but WashPost is my favorite news site and I WOULD be willing to pay if I could afford it...how will it be priced? I've said in many a chat I would pay extra for more chats, as they are my favorite thing on the Internet.

You're correct -- the news was on our site about 10 days ago, and I'm linking to the original article here. I don't think any further decisions have been made about specific pricing concerns, but the site will continue to be free for .edu and .gov sites.

Rushed to pick up the dog from the vet. Didn't want to miss your lovely chat for the third week in a row. xoxo

Oh, no bother. I missed it myself last week.

How big was the single day uproar over the latest feat by The Greatest Man In History, Mr. T? Did servers explode? Was air traffic interrupted?

What, Mr. T's triumphant hockey goal?  Who would win in a competition of general awesomeness, Mr. T or Shaq? I want to say Shaq, but something in my belly keeps whispering, "No. Mr. T."

So perhaps I am being old-fashioned or completely wrong-headed in my thinking about reporting and the internet, but I was reading the latest issue of The Atlantic (very slow day at work, such long articles) and lo and behold, the article on Donald Trump mentions by name (not handled) and city, state (and number of followers, as a means of demonstrating that Trump's tweets have much more reach) a friend of mine who tweeted back in December something or other about Trump going bankrupt to which Donald responded. I made mention of this to my friend on Facebook and he knew nothing about it. Shouldn't that be a courtesy thing? "Hey, I'd like to mention that you were one of four people Donald Trump tweeted at about bankruptcy, can I use your full name and location?" He also apparently got my friend's followers number wrong. Anyway, am I being silly?

So, this is a journalistic ethics question as much as its an Internet question, and I'm going to be answering it with that bias, but I think what the Atlantic writer did was fine. Twitter is quickly becoming a part of the public domain -- the Library of Congress archives all of our Tweets already -- and to me, this falls under the, "If you don't want your name used, don't use your name online" warning label.


As a journalist, I'd be more concerned that the Twitter  writer wasn't using his or her real name, and would worry about being scammed.


Thoughts. (From non-journalists?)

One benefit that having much of the evidence captured on social media is that it is easier to use this case as a teaching tool about rape for other young folks. One of the witnesses said something along the lines of that he didn't think it was rape because what he saw wasn't violent, the way (much rarer) stranger-in-the-dark-alley rapes are. With the way the evidence was captured, I think there are more ways to start conversations with teens about what rape is and what bystanders can do to stop it.

It's been scary, hasn't it, to hear the debates over whether this was or was not an assault? I hadn't thought about the issue of it being used as a teaching tool. (And actually, I'm not sure how I feel about the teaching tool concept. Because we want teens to learn -- but not at the continued expense of victims).

Oh no! I just retired from the .gov. Do I have to go back to work?


There is something to the bystander effect. I am aware of it which I was I have acted when I have seen things. Not that I have seen much. I remember watching students beat up a guy for his money every day and I said something to a teacher and a stop was put to it. I once saw a brutal fight where one woman was banging another woman's head on the sidewalk and she was visibly bleeding while a crowd watched. I called the police. The problem is, because the group mentality exists, we need to teach others: If you see something, say something. (I know that is a Homeland Security motto, but it applies in general.) We also need to do a better job of teaching young people what constitutes a sexual assault. While I am not too familiar with the study, I did reach a recent survey of high school students where, when asked when rape is OK (in all cases it was not), 10% to 30% of females and 30% to 50% of males were stating the incidences were fine, There is a lot of immaturity and ignorance in the word, and it is up to parents, teachers, media, etc. to better inform people.

By the way: the Kitty Genovese murder is often cited as the prime example for the Bystander Effect, but large parts of it have been discredited. i.e. There weren't as many witnesses as originally thought; the attack happened in a more secluded spot than was originally thought, etc. etc. I'm linking to an NPR transcript that discusses some of that. It makes you wonder how different our understandings might have been with accurate research.

Really? I didn't know this. This seems like an incredible amount of data to archive, much of it useless. What's the purpose?

Oh, but it's terribly useful! I wrote a piece on why back in 2010 when the program started.

Overall, I think social media has been a good thing regarding the Steubenville case. Not only because it brought the perpetrators to justice, but it brought about a lot of important conversations about rape, male privilege, victim-blaming, consent, etc.

Hmmm. But it seems like these conversations were more about the media attention, not the social media's role? Although I expect that much of the media attention came from the social media aspect.

I don't think parents should bookmark those photos for future reference, but if you're with your teen and come across a story on it, then that's a good opportunity to start the conversation. I had the same concern you did for the rape survivor, but I also feel like a real case going on right now is the right thing to talk about with your teen--no hypotheticals, a real "what would you do if you saw this?" kind of conversation.

Yes, the "what would you do" conversations are really important. Here's a letter from a mother to her sons about stopping rape that made a lot of rounds, and brings up that very issue: Here is What You Do.

I work at a school and we are an .edu. Any place I can read about how that will work to get through the payroll? PS - I would totally pay for you, but if I don't have to....

I don't think you'll have to do anything to get through the paywall -- so long as you're logging in from a campus computer, you'll be safe. (You meant paywall, right? Not payroll? If you figure out how to get through the payroll, please give all of us raises.)

When will Web Insites be returning to the Sunday Style?

Oh dear, did I never announce this? Web Insites will never be returning to Sunday Style. The whole format of Sunday Style changes, and they got rid of several regular features. So it's just Thursdays. Alas.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski states she is against gay marriage but that her views are "evolving". Does that mean she is bi-courious?

I...feel like there is a joke in here that I do not get.

The last video was just posted. I'm so sad. Excited about their Kickstarter, but between this and my work crush being out of the office for a few days, my life has no meaning at the moment.

You should probably do two things, if you already haven't:

1) Rent the British miniseries "Lost in Austen," about a woman who discovers that a door in her apartment leads to Jane Austen's novels.

2) Read "Austenland," a comedic novel about a woman who goes on a vacation to a manor set up to replicate Pemberley. (It's also being made into a movie).

Then call me in the morning.

Hi Monica – Hope you can help. I receive emails from several people - including owners of a couple of small businesses I deal with - who show all recipients. I’d really like to send them a link to a good explanation of why they should be using bcc. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Hmm. I would like to send you a link, but I can actually see pluses and minuses of showing all recipients, just like I can think of pluses and minuses of using Bcc. What particularly irks you about showing all recipients in this context?

How could anyone not like all the beautiful red box profile photos with the two lines that are appearing on Twitter, Facebook, etc. I like the various versions, such as the one with two matzos as lines, the one with a dog stating how dogs don't judge, the one with Bert and Ernie, etc. I wonder how many different red boxes there are.

Kentongo.com has a fascinating blog post up about how the pixels of the red equals sign deteriorate the more times that the sign is re-blogged -- so you can tell how early it was uploaded based on how clear the image is.

Out of curiosity, but does the Library of Congress make periodic sweeps of tweets, or does it have the ability of archiving every single tweet, even the ones that are deleted soon afterwards? Not that if affects me, yet I am sure there have been a few drunken (and I don't drink) tweets that some people hope have been deleted and lost for the ages (or vice versa, wouldn't it be great if we could look them up and read them)?

I think theyr'e still figuring all of that out (it's a massive undertaking). Someone in Style did a follow up piece a few months ago to check in on the LOC's progress, but I can't remember who at the moment in order to look it up.

Have you been following the Adria Richards saga? Any thoughts about her initial action? I hope most posters would agree that the subsequent internet attacks and death threats against her were wrong, but I'm not on her side about the initial insult.

I'm posting a recap here, for those who haven't been following -- and I'd love to know all of your thoughts. (Everyone scroll through realfast).

Honestly, in the beginning I wouldn't have defended her actions. But once I saw the reaction to her actions, I began to be glad that she had posted the Tweet. If for no other reason than the backlash perfectly illustrates the boorish behavior she was originally complaining about.

I have a .edu account. But what if I access the Internet from home, rather than from a computer on-campus?

Hey -- Lots of questions about the paywall coming in, but I swear, it's still all being decided, and once it is, there will be articles explaining it. I know nothing right now, so I'm not going to speculate more in this venue.

I'm not the OP, but I don't want everyone who uses my dog walker (or has ever emailed my dog walker, and now gets the marketing mailing) to have my email address.

Yes -- but I don't want to think that I'm on an email chain with one person (or a few close friends) only to find out that it's actually a big party. That's why I asked for a little more context about the particulars of the situation from the OP.

Kind of like the relationship I'm currently in, it eventually stopped having fits, and is now a thing of wonderful beauty and amazingness. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to jump ship from Google Reader!

Oh, fantastic! (Going back to our discussions about what to do when Google Reader dies).

I posted mine Monday evening California time, and by the time I woke up on Tuesday morning, I was amazed by the number of people who'd picked it up. And then it kept going! Watching FB turn red was an amazing communal social media experience. And then there were the people who said, (Hey, what's wrong with Facebook? Everyone's photos are showing up as red boxes with pink bars."

...Which was then the perfect outlet for people with red bars to educate their fellow Facebook friends.

I've done both of those. AND read the Austenland sequel. Am very excited about the movie adaptation! ...Maybe I need to rewatch Lost in Austen.

Are you the original poster? You might need more advanced help than I can give you. Have you watched the BBC Sherlock? I mean, it's completely different than Jane Austen, and yet remarkably feels similar in manner and wit.

Social media certainly play a part in the conviction - that's where all the evidence was. But it also blew the story up into something it wasn't. There was no coverup - the county prosecutor ask the state for a special prosecutor within three weeks of the crime, the football players weren't given special privledges - the two were arrested and sitting in jail less than two weeks from the rape ( and stayed there for 2 1/2 months until they were release on house-arrest). All this happened months before there was any national attention. All Facebook and Twitter did after Annonymous got involved was spread misinformation that was reported as fact by the national media.

Posting (without having had a chance to verify).

I'm not sure what point she was trying to make. First, she establishes the bystander effect going back decades. So, it's (sad) human nature. Then, she asks if technology is making people less inclined to get involved when they observe someone in distress/under attack/etc. So, it's technology's fault? Personally, I believe the former -- people are selfish and insensitive, with or without iPhones. From a crime-solving point-of-view, yes, technology helped bring the perps to justice. Conclusion: people stink, technology makes no difference in behavior in these situations but can aid in resolving crime.

It's the eternal question, isn't it? You know where I come down -- that technology reveals who we are more than it shapes who we are.

Well, by her own admission (right?), the girl said she wouldn't have known that anything had happened to her if she hadn't seen all the images on Twitter. I think in this case, that social media was helpful because it shone a light into a very dark place. I don't think that we can blame social media for people standing by and doing nothing--that was happening long before social media came on the scene.


say that three times fast.

I did, but all it made me do is keep thinking, "Sweep the leg."

The only thing internety about this question is that I am asking it on the internet. You're vegetarian, right? Our kitchen is out of service for a few days, and I am looking for some veg dinner options for my partner that aren't all veggie burger. (No indian or ethiopian either.) Anywhere in DC or southern MoCo is fine. Had pizza last night and am stumped. Thanks!

One of my favorite restaurants is in Takoma Park, which seems like the geographic sweet-spot you're trying to hit. It's a mediterranean place, and I can never remember the name, but it is directly next door to Mark's Kitchen. Thus, we always refer to it as "Mark's Next Door." Cheap, and lots of delicious vegetarian dishes.

Listening to a webinar for work while participating in your chat. It's like sitting in class at the end of the school day while it's warm and sunny outside (not that it is where I am) and one student just keeps asking stupid questions. I thought I could escape this as an adult. No question. Just a rant. Thanks.

Wait, which one of us is asking the stupid questions. (Is it me?)

I did not realize the pixels deteriorate that quickly. I have been observing the different shades of red, and I just presumed they were different sources. We knew there were (warning: very bad pun ahead) 50 shades of red.

I am only forgiving you this atrocious pun because I'm glad you are reiterating how interesting it is that pixels deteriorate.

I have a very important, life-altering question about....Facebook status "liking". I'm curious to know what it means when someone "likes" almost every single thing I post. I have no reason to believe he's a stalker or creepy, in fact, I would enjoy hanging out with him if our job (military) wouldn't make it a bit unauthorized. I asked a Facebook authority, my brother, and he said it means this person "wants to get in my knickers". So I'm curious to know if anyone "likes" every post someone else posts, and if so, why...

Does this person like lots of posts from lots of other people? (Have you checked?) It could mean they're googly-eyed for you -- but some people are just incredibly generous and friendly on Facebook. Or, third option: It's entirely possible that you and this other person both operate on the same Facebook biorhythms. i.e. You both frequently log on when you get home from work, which happens to be at the same time. So they like all of your posts for not other reason than those are the posts they most often see.

I read the story really quickly and might have missed something. But it seems to me that if she'd just turned around and asked the guys to stop, that might have been a better way to handle things. Yeah, maybe they were behaving like cads, but the problem with the Internet and pictures and Tweets is that someone's mistake can follow them around for the rest of their lives. You've branding them with a virtual "A." We have to learn not to hide behind our technology, and remember that talking face-to-face with people is often the best place to start. And if it's too hard for you to do that, then hold your tongue and don't gripe.

Going to post a few of these.

1. I think she crossed a line by making it that public - I probably would have just yelled at them a little, keeping the world at large in the dark and remaining gainfully employed. But then, maybe I'm misunderstanding exactly how badly they were acting. 2. The firing and threats were way more than she deserved for what she did, even if it was over-the-top.


I've got to say, I'm a bit uncomfortable with the "equal signs" profile photos, and I'm not sure whether I'm being a jerk or not. I gladly stand by my gay friends and wave the rainbow flag at Pride Day parades, so it's not an issue of not wanting to take a stand, but I'm not sure what effect changing my Facebook picture is supposed to have. I don't think I have any Facebook friends who DON'T support marriage equality, so it's not like changing my profile pic would spur debate with a dissenter. And the HRC has been accused of shooing away trans* people on several occasions, on the grounds that they don't want to distract from the marriage debate with side forays into an issue that makes more of the mainstream squeamish, so I'm not really comfortable with waving the banner designed by that particular organization. But I'm worried that I'm hurting or insulting my friends by NOT showing support in that particular way when they're pretty much united. Any thoughts?

What you're describing is an awareness of "slacktivism" -- the fact that people want activist credit for clicking a button rather than for getting out and doing something where the rubber meets the road. I think it's a little bit different with the red equals signs -- people aren't using them as acts of activism so much as they're using them to express tacit support -- and perhaps to open dialogue with people who might not know what the symbol means.


Either way, you should not feel at all guilty for choosing not to change your profile picture. Your everyday behavior and actions are far more important than what your Facebook avatar is.

How do you feel about Bronte? If you found any good at all in "Jane Eyre" and get a kick out of people messing about with literary themes, I highly recommend "The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Fforde. It's wacky (fantasy/alternate history version of our world, one in which literature is the THING that drives all culture) but fun.

Indeed! I can't believe I forgot to mention.

What bother me is that these messages include lots of people I don't know. I try to be careful with my email address and don't want it shared with strangers. If it's a group where I know everyone, showing all addresses is fine.

Ah -- then I don't think you need to have a link to send him. I think you can just send a straightforward email yourself, saying exactly that. "Hey -- If you wouldn't mind, can you use BCC for this emails? I try to reserve my email address for friends or acquaintances." Nothing at all to take offense about.

I'm amazed by the whole snowball rolling downhill nature of the story - a fairly innocuous but tacky "forking" and "dongle" joke, leading to an (in my mind, at least) moderate overreaction/public shaming attempt, leading to a mob mentality with the electronic equivalent of pitchforks (the DDS attacks), leading to the scorched earth of people on both sides of the whole thing being fired... amazed that nuclear weapons didn't come into this somehow at the end.


Our landscaper sent an email where all recipients were showing. One recipient replied to all which led to a week of back and forth email, unsubscribe requests and utter idiocy--all of which should've been avoided with BCC

I love the panic of the reply all. I love the initial reply all, and I love even more the dozens of angry emails that follow: "PLEASE STOP REPLYING ALL. NO REALLY, NOW STOP IT."

More fool you. Have you never heard of staff meetings?

And we nevvver get to hold those outside.

I know this subject probably has been exhausted, but I'm curious about your response. Recently, I used a computer that my 12 year-old niece had been using just before. She did not close her browser, so I noticed that she was updating a post on a blog site. I had no idea she had a blog (12 years old!). I didn't want to be nosy, so I closed the window (the blog as about random everyday stuff). I'm somewhat comfortable with kids have FB, etc., but this seems like it's too much sharing and potentially dangerous. The kids look up to me, so how can I bring up the subject without letting them know what I know?

What do her parents think?

I am increasingly worried that we are unable to have any nuanced conversations anymore because the internet and social media blow up any view point to the point of absurdity. I think about "Dongle-Gate" and it is clear that everyone behaved badly, to differing degrees. But much of the talk is 100% either one way or the other. "Those guys are sexist pigs!" "She totally overreacted and is a jerk!" It no longer seems possible to discuss the steps along the way and apportion blame accordingly. It really mirrors our current political climate where the extremes dominate (at least on the right) and compromise or the middle is viewed as being a sell out or weak. Life is shades of gray (not the book), not black and while. Do you see this also?

We're rapidly running out of time too quickly for me to post a proper response, so I'm posting this merely for people to ruminate over.


NEVER. You never get to be taken off this list. You have to come back and chat with us every Thursday for the rest of your life.

(See y'all next week)!

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.

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