Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Apr 25, 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, and thanks for stopping by. I'll post a few tidbits before we get started at two.

This week on the Internet:

The woman behind "I [bleeping] Love Science," a Facebook group that I know many of you are fans of, has been accused of profiting from images that don't belong to her and are used without permission.

Also: American author Amanda Filipacchi wrote a recent op-ed  about the Wikipedia for American novelists. Because the list was so lengthy, editors were encouraged to place novelists in sub-categories whenever possible. The result: Women including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott and Ayn Rand had been removed from the list and placed into a sub-category of "women novelists." (There was no sub-category for male novelists).


Also: today the hacker group Anonymous plans to launch extensive DDOS attacks against pedophilia web sites. The reason: April 25 is reportedly known as "Alice Day" in some circles -- a sort of pedophile holiday.

Last week, you posed some questions about the spread of misinformation, especially as related to the Boston bombings. I was thinking about this on Thursday when I -- along with hundreds of other people -- became completely addicted to refreshing the Reddit thread following the search for Dhokhar Tsarnaev. I knew that a lot of the information was probably wrong, but I couldn't resist reading it anyway. My question is, does that make me a bad person? Are you complicit in bad information if you're part of the cohort that gobbles it up?

A fascinating question, to throw out to the crowd. It sounds, from your description, as if you weren't forwarding on the information, just reading it. True? If that's the case, then I think you're allowed to partake in the dubious information, so long as you do so with a critical eye. If for no other reason, seeing the origins of how rumors flare up in the beginning is a useful tool in helping you not get suckered in when the rumors later go viral. Read Alexis Madrigal's excellent investigation into how Reddit users began to falsely accuse missing college student Sunil Tripathi of being one of the bombers.

It occurs to me that we could use an insta-poll for that question:

Is reading scurrilous information online:

A) Acceptable, as long as you don't forward it.

B) Acceptable in all cases -- it's what the Internet is, and people should know to check their own facts.

C) Not acceptable. It creates a market for bad information and is bad for society.

D) Not acceptable. It will effect the reader, even if the reader doesn't realize it.

Thanks for the recommendation -- I am in love with the Bloggess! Fortunately for me, my daughter does not seem to mind me laughing uncontrollably while she is resting on my chest. I can see she will grow up to have excellent taste in entertainment.

I'm so overjoyed you like the recommendation!

(Who else needs me to match-make them with a site or blog to fit their personality today? I'm feeling good about my powers).

So I apparently just emerged from underneath a rock and discovered Buzzfeed. I had followed links from friends to specific articles but am just now appreciating the full array of offerings and time-wasting possibilities. Can you tell me more about it--who is behind it, how to classify it (best I can come up with is "curators of popular culture and lite current events), its reputation in the online world, if it has ever had a major coup/scandal/egg on its face/etc. PS I'm the reader who ask for Mommyish complements and while Buzzfeed is not exactly it, it is certainly filling a giant hole in my online life I didn't even know I had.

I believe that all of the answers you seek -- and more -- can be found in this recent New York magazine profile of Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti.

The FTC should know about this. By putting "free shipping" in an email subject line, then opening up the email and having to buy $100 of products does not equal free shipping. To me, this is false advertising. It erks me!

It's so brilliant, isn't it? With Amazon, it's something like $25 worth of merchandise = free shipping. Who among us hasn't purchased a random doo-dad just to push us over that limit?

I was much happier before knowing that there was a sort of pedo-holiday. In other news, just got the happy surprise that my husband and I are expecting. Any suggestions for common-sense pregnancy websites that aren't filled with crazies beginning their competitive parenting in the womb?

Congratulations! Chatters? Assistance, please. I know nothing of the pregnancy sites. I am, however, going to request that you periodically visit STFUParents throughout your site, just as an object lesson in what kind of person not to become during your pregnancy and parenthood.

And, chatters: if you send in suggestions, please specify why you like what you've recommended.

I'm getting ready to make the leap from career oriented mom of a 8 month old to SAHM. I could use a good site (besides your weekly chats which my daughter will have to learn to enjoy) to help keep me motivated as I become a mommy and full time student. Got any suggestions besides Pintrest? Pintrest is for night time feedings.

Ooh. A challenge! More information, please: Keep you motivated to do what? Schedule your life? Do cool crafts with your kids? Keep your sanity?

This parenting.com article has links to lots of types of sites for SAHMs that might fit what you're looking for.

I haven't used it in a long time, but I know a lot of people who are very grateful for: http://www.filleritem.com/

This is genius. My life is changed.

E. Reading scurrilous information online is essential, PROVIDED one sends a "Reply to All" to the sender and everyone on his/her list, with information factually refuting the scurrilous accusation.

Fight the power.

is coming! Next Saturday. Look out for all the adult males being driven to their local comic book stores in mom's minivan!. Ladies, these guys are available!

I can't tell if you're being fecetious or not, because these guys sound AWESOME.

And sadly missing student Sunil Tripathi is no longer missing...

Oh, I hadn't seen that. How awful.

Women novelists? Are you effing kidding me? Sigh. And people say there is no war on women. In B'more news this week (you can read all about it on www.baltimoresun.com or follow @justinfenton on Twitter), we discover that a gang is running the local jail. I am SHOCKED, I tell you, SHOCKED! The leader, and some of his disciples, got four women guards pregnant (one of them twice). The focus seems to have shifted to these women. What? The rest of the stuff isn't really bad? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

The story this chatter is referencing is like a season that went missing from The Wire.

Dear pregnant chatter: DO read them, so you can revel in knowing you'll be a vastly superior parent to them. And congratulations on your wonderful news!

Do read the crazy sites? Okay. But can we please give her some non-crazy sites, too? I know we have some Mommyish fans here...

Nope, not a bad person. The information coming from reddit and twitter was more accurate than NBC, who provided the best coverage. Social media defeated regular media hands down. The mainstream media pounding social media after was so transparent in their efforts to maintain their own relevancy. Reddit did have some issues with naming names, but that will happen in any crowd. The fact that they and fourchan had photos were the bombers were present and that they had identified the two as suspects (of several) I found incredible...and slightly frightening. But all in all I consider it a win for the web and people over traditional media.

Actually, I don't think that Reddit did have photos with the two suspects until after the FBI had released its own photos. (The next day, Reddit did post a photo that someone submitted from a Facebook page, in which Dzokhar can be seen leaving the scene). I could be wrong, but I spent hours and hours on the site, and I don't recall them ever having that information.

So is it good form or bad form, when one comes across something on say, Facebook, that one knows is completely inaccurate, to post a correction or a link to the correct information? For instance, correcting the misconception that the President or members of Congress get to retire with their full salary for life - no matter what your political proclivities, the info's just wrong. Is posting a link to the law covering that too pedantic for words? Is it better/more polite to just let the errancy lie?

Always correct. Always, always correct. Politely, deferentially ("Actually, I think that rumor has since been disproven"). The true stubborns won't believe your correction, but at least you can know that you tried.

Hello! My father-in-law likes to comment on things that my husband or his brother post on Facebook. That's no big deal. However, several of his comments have included the "F" word, sometimes spelled out. For example: "Where the f is this," on a historical city photo, and "what the f***" in response to a general news item. I think this weird and inappropriate. Am I overreacting? I think it's ridiculous for a 67 year old man to post stuff like that, and I would like to nicely say something to him, as he may not realize ALL my husbands "friends" can see it.

I don't know that you're overreacting -- but I do think that you don't have anything to worry about. His language choices reflect only on him, not on your or husband -- and most people reading them probably just think he's irascible and kooky.


However, if it does bother you, then I think you can frame it very much as you said: "Hey, Dad. Don't know if you knew this, but all my friends -- including my teenage kids and my old Sunday school teacher -- can see the potty language you write on Facebook. Could you tone it down?"

As the weather begins warming, I wish to remind viewers that the peak season for palhinthinstra disease will soon be amongst us. I know that some employers are not familiar with this malody, yet please feel to google past discussions on this serious topic. It is very hard to diagnose by trained medical personnel yet it is a very serious ailment that can only be treated by relaxing away from the worksite and eating chocolate or any food one wishes. I do hope that we encourage greater awareness of the seriousness of this disease and hope we all prepare ourselves for the proper steps to recovery from Palhinthinstar disease.

Guys, I think this chat has been going on for years. I know this is an inside joke that was developed in this very space, and yet I cannot remember what it refers to. I have failed you.

I gave a presentation this work this morning about the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (I said it was about updating content for new audiences, but whatever), and wound up trying to explain Tumblr to my colleagues. Which then involved trying to explain a gif and what STFU Parents was. I don't have a question, but that was awkward.

Oh wow. Who else has a story of awkward techological divides in the workforce?

I want to help stay in the know of things happening in the world and not just whats on sesame street, but also to find ways to remind myself that I am a woman and not just a mom. Whatd'got!

Okay, excellent parameters.

I think that you should read:

TheHairpin, for general cultural (and slightly woman/focused) commentary.

TheAwl, for a blend of digested tidbits, scientific studies, buzzy oddities. (The motto is "Be Less Stupid."

The Atlantic Wire, for news-in-brief versions of what's going on, plus smart analysis.

(Obviously, you are already reading The Washington Post, yes?)


I don't think there is anything wrong with it, but I did have a serious problem with people assuming what they read was true fact and re-sharing it. The theories that emerged from false information were shocking to me as I watched my normally level headed friends suddenly start posting rather horrific statements when the rumor of a Saudi person had been arrested. Nor did any of these people apologize for sharing information that was false. I was and am horrified by what happened in Boston, but I had to log off Facebook and other sites for a few days because Rumor became Truth, kind people showed a level of hatred and anger I did not know they had, and no one has addressed this.

It truly is like the analogy of rumors being like feathers from a slashed pillowcase. You might try to take them back, but it's nearly impossible to get as many people to listen to the truth as it was to listen to the initial rumor.

Is someone going to start an "Uncle Ruslan" account online, with common sense response to the Boston Marathon bombing etc.? He's my hero!

I hope so. Uncle Ruslan, as a refresher, is the uncle of the alleged bombers who, when asked what the problem was with his nephews, said that the problem was "being losers."

I recommend Scarymommy.com (for awesome, sarcastic but still useful parenting articles) and healthychildren.org, which is incredibly informative and trustworthy, since it's run by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

I just spent about five seconds on Scarymommy, and I love it already.

If the story being posted is really out of wack or intended to scare people (aren't most of them?) and I find it has been disproved, I post a reply or comment along the lines of, "Thank goodness this has been disproved and we don't really have to worry about it any more!" I usually get a response from the poster thanking me for the "update."

This wording is just perfect. I'm going to steal it myself. A wonderful, face-saving way of truth dissemination.

No, no it wasn't. For some reason no one remembers all the crap that was on Reddit and Twitter - they get a magic pass - and only point to the stuff they eventually had right. CNN though, ugh.

I agree with this. At the same time, I tended -- rightly or wrongly -- to give Reddit more of a pass. They always touted themselves as a place for theories. The news is supposed to be a place for facts.

One question: if, as another chatter pointed out, the original poster "DO[es] read them, so [she] can revel in knowing [she'll] be a vastly superior parent to them" won't she (the original poster) then be engaging in exactly the kind of competitive parenting (albeit passively) she was claiming she wanted to avoid? This regressive logic is starting to make my head hurt...

You are right. Sort of. And yet, if reading these blogs prevents one woman from naming her child Figg Newton and insisting that he only wear hand-woven hemp clothing while snacking on spirulina cakes -- well, I'm fine with the smug circle.

When the Internet first came on the scene, I remember my boss complaining that he'd be reading an online article and that he could never get back to the article because he'd click on all the ads simply because they told him to. I had to instruct him that just because it said, "Click here," that didn't mean that you had to.

Oh this is precious. Poor guy. He must have been so relieved once he was absolved of that clicking responsiblity.

Found it. From November 2, 2011: "I am going to tell the nurse I have a rare condition called Palhistinistra and, when you goggle (sic) Palhinthinstra, you will arrive at this discussion, where you learn that this is a rare condition that requires two weeks of vacation time to recover. Do you think this will work?" Your understated response was, "This Palhinthinstra plan is very good. I think it can be transmitted via the Internet. I think I caught it from you."

YES! Gold star for you. Palhinthinstra season is indeed upon us. Everyone be careful not to miss too much work.

C. Isn't this the exact argument that everyone has about Kardasho-celebrity news -- i.e. they wouldn't be famous if you visit the websites/buy the magazines (what a dated concept!) about them? I guess I'm now a little bit sadder that it's now spread to "real" news....

It's such a chicken/egg phenomenon, and it's something I see on lots of sites: the crud articles are promoted, so people click on them, so they are promoted more, so people click on them more. It's really hard to say how much people actually want to read them, and how much they read them just because they're crammed in people's faces.

Start subscribing to theSkimm.com "theSkimm is the daily newsletter that simplifies the headlines for the educated professional who knows enough to know she needs more. We do the reading for you and explain it with fresh editorial content, breaking down what you need to know to start the conversation."

Perfect! Thanks.

I thought her rant was funny - too bad she couldn't have done it without her name being attached to it. Her twitter, since taken down, was also quite outspoken and not at all PC. Think that now that she no longer has Delta Gamma to take up all her time, she'll get a book contract? She seems to have a lot to say.

I would not be at all surprised if that was the next step. In the meantime, I feel bad for her. I can't imagine going through finals week while being the girl who wrote that letter.

I agree that posting Snopes info is always appropriate, but be prepared for some folks to respond that Snopes is biased, not reliable, etc. At the risk of making a sweeping generalization, the people I have observed make this argument tend to be survivalists, convinced that the UN wants to overthrow the US government, and/or libertarians.

It's always hard to convince people who believe that the government and the media are behind all conspiracies. The more links you send them, the more they say, "Well OF COURSE the FDA would say that. Who do you think the FDA is working for?"

How do I tell my very intelligent, supposedly feminist friend that she's once again become her boyfriend? In the years I've known her as an adult, she's been a pothead football fanatic, a snotty hipster, and now a weird media-hating consipracy theorist. All of these personalities are perfect doubles of her boyfriend at the time. Is there a way to tell her she's a pod person?

Suggest a girls' night and rent Runaway Bride, in which Julia Roberts's character suffers from this exact malady?

I don't know. I do think that some rub-off is inevitable, and healthy, in a relationship. What's the point of being with someone if that person doesn't challenge us to try new things or think about things in new ways? I guess my question would be whether your friend's core being seems to have changed -- i.e. can you still laugh at the same jokes and confess the same fears? -- or whether she's just herself in different clothing.

If you've found that you don't like her anymore -- or at least the versions she's become in each new relationship -- then it almost doesn't matter if she's changed because of a dude or not. You just don't like her anymore. That's not a crime.

Your new spelling "fecetious" is great. Weingarten would approve.

I know. I actually realized it was wrong shortly after I hit "publish," but then thought, "Eh, let's go with it."

Apropos of nothing in today's chat: I think I could waste an endless amount of time reading & playing on AncientWorlds.net or Voice of the Shuttle ( http://vos.ucsb.edu/ ) or PanoramicEarth.com and hopping from link to link. These links are old (for the internet, that is) and probably quite untrendy but I'll pass them along as great ways to spend time.

Apropos of EVERYTHING, you mean. Thank you.

It would seem, then, that incubation time of Palhinthinstra is approximately 18 months. So, I suppose I'll need a two-week vacay in oh, something around November 2014. What would you suggest? :)

How about Palau or Nauru or Vanuatu? (I have an obsession with tiny countries).

That's what my cat does when he poops outside the litter box, and thinks it's funny.

Your cat is a jerk.

So, did they ever catch that dark skinned or Black person they were looking for, and whatever happened to suspect number three?

I don't know. One of many threads that seem to have disappeared in the past week, but who knows.

You know, I think I'm the only woman who read NOTHING about pregnancy while being pregnant. I kept meaning to, but never got around to it and then I had the baby and my free time evaporated (although he's four now, so things are better).

As a childless person, I can't really judge what works for expecting parents. But just running my mouth off and knowing nothing, I really admire this approach. Once you've got the basics covered -- no smoking or drinking, no trapeze lessons in the third trimester -- it seems like pregnancy would be a good time to become an expert in something obscure and fulfilling that you know you won't have time to do once the baby is born. I'm talking "become an expert banjo player" fulfilling. I mean, the pregnancy is going to progress and the kid is going to keep developing, whether you're reading pregnancy sites or not.

Try the Azores. Being in the North Atlantic, they're a lot closer and cheaper to get to (non-stop flight from Boston), yet just as isolated as those South Pacific places.

But are they tiiiiiny?

(Actually, you're the third person to mention the Azores this week. The Azores must be very hot right now.)

I hope it wasn't so awkward that you DIDN'T explain it. A person who knows and is willing to educate without being snarky or self-rightous is so helpful and frankly, uncommon. I am oldish now (40) but I think some of my promotions were based on the fact that I could and would explain this stuff without making people feel like old fools. And, the acronyms still drive me insane. I like complete words.

Good thoughts, thanks.

"Cmon, you're a boyfriend chameleon. You're so desperate for shared interests that you just adopt the hobbies of the person you're dating."

Excellent. (Let us all watch The League).

(I think I started a few minutes late today, so we'll go over if people want to talk more. Usually I'm dashing off and leaving a bunch of unanswered questions in the queue).

There's a false claim that Snopes is funded by parties that the wingnuts consider bogeymen -- but also a definitive refutation of that accusation on another debunking site. I can't recall its name, but perhaps you or one of the chatters knows, and could supply the link. Thanks.

I don't know this debunking that you speak of. But thinking about a debunking site debunking the bunk about another debunking site just makes me feel like I've wandered into a hall of mirrors.

Right now there are people going through life without the Internet, happily playing cassette tapes in their cars and watching VHS tapes on their 27" tube televisions. They wonder why nothing new comes out on VHS at Blockbuster Video anymore and what all this stuff they hear about twittering and tweeting means. They type things on typewriters and send letters to the editor of their favorite daily newspaper.

I do like hearing from these people. In newsrooms, we get calls from them from time to time -- like the woman who rang up after the Oscars telling me that her VCR cut off Ben Affleck's acceptance speech, and could I please tell her what he said.

Before I had Amazon Prime (thanks to a relative's family membership), I always made sure my orders were over $25. Instead of scrambling to buy something small on impulse, I kept a number of small items saved in my shopping cart (using "Save for later"). If I read an interesting book review, I added the book. Movies on DVD, CDs, small gadgets -- anything that I liked but didn't need to have right away. That way, I always had something priced around $10-$15 that I could tack on as needed.

Thank you.

And thank you all for stopping by. See you next week, same time and place. (And in the meantime, I'm on Twitter @monicahesse and emailable at hessem@washpost.com).

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: