Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Jun 27, 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 things to get discussions going, and we'll start at 2.

First. Last week Instagram announced it would begin allowing videos, a la Vine, as well as the photographs it is known for. I wrote about what that might mean, artistry-wise, here.


Not surprisingly, a lot of outlets have already begun composing collections of  "The 10 Best Instagram Videos So Far," and the like. Here is one example of such a collection. Watch them all -- you have time, they each top out at 15 seconds, after all.


My question: Which of these do you think is the "best?" Do you think any of them are, in fact, "good?" Personally, I think only one of them is an example is interesting, and it's not the one I would have anticipated liking, and it, too is imperfect. I'll disclose my pick later on in the chat.


And if you've seen others that you think are brilliant -- or made any yourselves -- please send them in.


Did I pass?

(Let's get started. Since I build the chat late this week, it's not appearing on the homepage. We will need contributions from everyone in order to stay afloat. It takes a village to raise a chat.)


I don't know -- are we? I hope so. Submit some!

and I loved it! can't wait for the sequel (and for your American distribution deal)

That's so nice of you! I'm editing the sequel now. Sequels are hard, my gosh.

I was the OP who was worried about excessive googling of exes. Thank you for declaring me not totally abnormal. :)


As far as stories that turned up, in addition to finding one ex dating someone 30 years his junior, I also looked up the guy I always jokingly referred to as My One Good Boyfriend (MOGB). Novella coming... He was a really good guy, bright, hard working, emotionally stable, very rational. He wanted to make a lot of money and retire early so he could spend his time coaching kid's soccer. We were both cautious about settling down and wanted to never divorce. We dated for about a year in college, I dumped him kind of abruptly for no great reason (me, a not so good girlfriend).


A couple of years later, he came wooing again, and we started dating again, long distance. The plan was for me to move out there once I finished my grad program. Then I abruptly dumped him again. We kept in sporadic touch, and he met a better person and was pretty much living his dream in a house overlooking the ocean with his lovely wife and kids. We'd been out of touch for a few years when I googled him and contacted him for a friendly catch up, but felt like I should quit so as not to be the weird ex making his wife uncomfortable. Few more years went by, I googled him again, and found articles about his son having brain cancer. I felt really awful for them, but since I didn't have any right to that information, didn't want to send a card or anything.


So I've googled a couple of times just to see how the son is doing. This last time, I found a caring bridge site that his wife has been using essentially as a personal blog for years. The good news is, the son is enough years past treatment that he's considered cured, yay! But the first blog entry I read, the wife referred to the difficulties of being a single parent. Oh no, don't tell me MOGB died!!! No, shortly after the son hit the 5 year cancer free mark, MOGB told his wife he wanted a divorce. She didn't go into details, but mentioned infidelity and betrayal, with a 2 year battle over money before finalizing. And she said he'd remarried 2 months after the divorce, to someone long distance.


Safe to say I'll never ever contact MOGB again. So now if your real life isn't disillusioning enough, you can find your disillusionment over the internet.

What an epic saga. Of course, as I don't need to tell you, some people would take the divorce as a sign that he was meant to be with you all along, and was just married to the wrong person. Many congratulations on your curiosity cure.

I see a bear was captured in DC. It was only responding to a personals ad from a red panda.

I was simultaneously relieved to see the red panda returned home so quickly, and also slightly disappointed that the whole ordeal ended before we could enter the truly weird speculative territory of where the missing red panda might be doing, and with who. (The "Red panda is with Edward Snowdon" theme seemed to peak and play out very,  very fast.)


And naturally, there was the whole: "Is calling this a panda really just false advertising?" debate. Panda looked decidedly raccoonish.

I only follow my family on instagram with one exception, username: avianrecon. It's a lady who works with birds of prey in Florida, so she posts lots of pictures of falcons and eagles and owls. She's just started posting videos and I'm looking forward to seeing more of them, the birds are so interesting! Today's instagrams include a grumpy baby screech owl, so cute.

This lady? I am fascinated that out of all of the thousands of Instagrams in the entire world, this is the one you've brought into your inner circle. Are you a birdwatcher in real life?

Also, perhaps you might enjoy this NPR piece on the Smithsonian's animal CSI unit. It's a lady who analyzes feathers and such. And apparently she's the only one in the country who does it. And she needs a successor. (Can someone get on being her successor?)

Since my mother is now departed, I need help with an etiquette question. I've looked all over the web for an answer and can't find it. (Is that a good enough tie in?) What should I wear to a 4:30 p.m. outdoor wedding in Maine in August? Clearly not formal, but I believe weddings are inherently more formal than most 4:30 p.m. summer activities. For the record, I am a 51-year-old woman. Help me, please. Oh, and your hair looks lovely this afternoon.

(Are you mocking me? My hair is a birdnest today. Also, are you sitting behind me? What is going on?)


Where a light-colored sheath-dress. Something like, I don't know, this. But not a $400 version. Right, chatters who know about such things? Pair it with a shawl or cardigan if you don't like showing your arms.

New Yorker here. We were lucky: When our cobra escaped from the Bronx Zoo, we got a Twitter with epic tourist updates from around the city: "On the Sex and the City Tour. I think I'm Samantha." "At Planet Rose in the East Village to get my karaoke on. Gonna sing some "White Snake." #snakeonthetown #likeadrifteriwasborntowalkalone"

See, this is what I'm talking about. That was wonderful and silly and creative for the whole city. We efficiently found our panda in four hours.

Yesterday my FB page was full of people celebrating the SCOTUS decision. I notice that my small handful of very conservative friends are notably (and surprisingly) silent on the topic.

Well, good for your conservative friends for not turning someone else's celebratory day into a bitter debate online. (And maybe your conservative friends support gay marriage. I think recent polls have said that an increasing number of conservatives do.)

hi! - I seem to be able share my pics quickly and easily without it - so what is the advantage? I only have time/energy for a few s/network type things... But I've always been considered cutting edge techie by my friends (we're old)... So do I HAVE to? If not, which sharing/networks do I need to stay up on? I've tried to Twitter, but it seems less personal. Also have been trying to gear up on Google+ It all takes Time. Have a great day, Monica and Thanks. OH, PS Your chat is the reason my friends think I'm cutting edge - I find out about Gangnam style and that here.

Oh, abandon Google+. I don't know anyone who's on it, truly. But you should try Instagram. It's about the ease of sharing pictures, sure, but it's also about the easy artistry that the service provides. The filters make everyone's pictures look 100 times better, and it's sort of like artistic boot camp 101, which I talk about a little in my piece.

(And I cannot believe no one is responding to the discussion prompt. I thought this was an interesting prompt).

Sounds to me as though the MOGB was ISO a long-distance fantasy lady friend, so when you didn't pan out he looked for another one. So what he did is in no way the OP's fault.

I don't think she thinks it is -- and I certainly don't. Apologies if something came across wrong.

So I did, a guy who had a lot to do with what I am today (writer, smart ass, etc.). After 35 years, he still remembered me and KEPT SOME OF MY WRITING! He's a published Young Adult author and lecturer, retired for 12 years, and we're getting together next time I'm up in New York. Thank you for the suggestion!

This is the best possible outcome from a chat that we could hope for! Have a wonderful time, tell him how much his instruction meant to you, and maybe write some sort of Tuesdays With Morrie bestseller about your reunion.

I'm not a birdwatcher but I do like them, especially raptors. Instagram is kind of overwhelming with so many thousands of users that I just haven't really added anyone I don't know except this one, which I saw in an article, and which has been great. So it works out that I follow birds, my husband follows cats, and when we get home from work we show each other the best instagrams of the day.

I feel like this: "So it works out that I follow birds, my husband follows cats, and when we get home from work we show each other the best instagrams of the day" just told us something very important about modern marriage today.

Just make a reality show about it. "THIS SUMMER, 20 SCIENTISTS WILL COMPETE TO BE AMERICA'S NEXT TOP FORENSIC ORNITHOLOGIST." (Smash cut to a young blonde woman in a lab coat staring down a parrot.) Young blonde scientist: "C'mere little guy..." Parrot: "SQUAWK! I DIDN'T COME HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS!" (Smash cut to a lake with a dead flamingo lying in it, feet up in the air, flies buzzing around it. A smarmy host and 20 recruits stand by it, looking down) Smarmy Host: We've had 10 reports of flamingo deaths in the last month. Rotted from the inside. Your job... will be to identify the bacteria causing it." (Cut to recruits pulling off feathers and retching from the smell. One man jumps up.) Man: "OH HELL NO, HELL NO, I JUST TOUCHED A WORM." Announcer: "19 WILL BE TARRED. ONLY ONE WILL BE FEATHERED."

This is the best possible line for a reality show auf wiedersehen.

National Organization for Marriage was doing Scumbag SCOTUS memes.

And yet I cannot find them when I Google.

I googled my ex. It was horrifying to learn the truth about my ex. My ex is now a member of Congress.

Oh, but we know who now holds the real power. If he/she ever wrote or sent anything embarrassing during the course of your relationship, he/she now lives in fear.

I liked the geese.

I -liked- the geese, too (How did we land on this bird theme today?). But I don't think that the geese were the best example of what an Instagram video can/should be. I thought something else got closer.


Also, were those geese trying to get to a lake behind the housing development? Or have they just rented out a summer house next door?

Sorry, I just can't get excited about video on Instagram. Seems to be done badly, as if no one who uses it learned from Vine, which is finally starting to be slightly more interesting. On the DOMA meme, not sure this qualifies, but this image of the San Fran courthouse all lit up like a rainbow was all over FB yesterday. Gorgeous and fitting.  And, I'm having a somewhat crappy day, so I appreciate this overdose of animal cuteness. No idea why sloths are always adorable, but they are.

What is that sloth really doing? I fear that sloth is not doing something as G-rated as pretending to play the piano.

There, I said it. I hate it so much. I hate it when people post pretty scenery pictures, all brown and jacked up. I hate it when people's kids are filtered through whatever 70s filter they have. I hate it when I'm on a crappy connection and loading pics takes FOREVER in twitter, instead of just popping up quickly. I do not see the point of Instagram at all, other than to make yourself seem cooler than you are. Obviously, I am not cool. I'm cool with that.

Interesting. I don't see Instagram as an attempt to seem cooler. I do see it as an attempt to add another layer of meaning onto photographs. It seems like a window into what emotions the photographer was trying to tap into when taking the photograph -- which is something that professionals can probably pretty easily do, but which I need some assistance with.


Example: My brother takes some photographs of us visiting an amusement park last year, and decides to Instagram them with a vintage filter that made the photos look slightly 1980s when we were really young. Suddenly, I look at the pictures and I'm not just seeing us visiting the roller coasters that day -- I'm thinking of our whole relationship, of what it was like when we were 7 and 4, of the great expanse of our sibling-hood.


I think the filters add another piece of emotion and information to the photos.

I liked the spying cat. And I hate most of those cats theme vids/blogs/sites/whatevers. The ungraceful plunge just seemed sorta nicely ironic I guess.

Any videos of cats falling make me fear that they are harmed.

The spying cat was cute. But I feel like what I wanted out of a 15-second movie was something with a narrative arc. Something that had a message, rather than just seeming like a funny video that might have appeared on America's Funniest Home Videos.

Monica, I love you. And I mean that, in an un-creepy "I've grown a deep affection for our weekly time together" kind of way. However, much like I think the hassle of signing up & paying to get through the firewall is way too much to bother, I also think signing up for Amazon.co.uk and spending money to buy your book is too much of a hassle with which to be bothered. I already feel sorta' bad about this, but clearly not enough to change my position on the issue. Irrespective of whether this makes me a bad person, does it make me unwelcome here, or should I just stomp down the slightly paranoid feeling that everybody here would hate me if they knew I wasn't going to bother going through the hassle, no matter how minor an inconvenience, of trying to acquire your book.

I dunno if everyone will hate you. Should we take a tarred/feathered vote?

An author named Donna Andrews has a series of mysteries with bird names, such as "We'll Always Have Parrots" but she has a lesser-known series starring an artificial intelligence called Turing Hopper. I recommend the Turing Hopper books.

I've just gone and read the description for We'll Always Have Parrots on Amazon, and I swear to you, I cannot tell from it whether or not the protagonist is literally a bird.

I would state overall they were interesting yet not fantastic. If these were the best, I would not want to see the others.

I'm sure we would have said the same thing about Youtube, too, in its first week. And probaby in its first three months. And probably, now, we would still say that about 90% of the content on YouTube.

I've avoided Instagram because 1) I just don't have that kind of time; 2) the terms of service flap put me off; 3) the mass-deletion-of-accounts-scare put me off and 4) I use Flipbooks, which "image-fies" most of my feeds/Twitter. I get that people like it, but me...meh.

Tying a few threads together, did you know that this flipbooked version of Gangnam Style existed?

I've said (to myself) for several years that I love WP so much and that some of my best friends are WP writers / hosts (even though I'm not *your* best friend) that I'd totally pay for it. So when it did, I signed up to pay on Day 1. I don't expect others to do the same. I'm just not going to limit myself to 20 articles a month. I need you all. I will be here reading.

Talking to people about the paywall really does make me feel very Sally Struthers. "For just 75 cents a day..." (And then the screen pans to a bunch of starving journalists.)

and Alex and Adrian and Gene and Gene and I really miss Michael D's weekly chats (yes, still). And I"m willing to pay for them. Although I do think that since I am a print subscriber, I should get the on-line content for free. But I don't think that's gonna happen.

Oh, I do think that's going to happen -- I was almost sure I read that print subscribers will get online for free.

Thought you and your minions might like to know that Cheetos is running yet another contest whereby you could win your own piece of Cheetos "artwork." It's one of the minions from Despicable Me 2, which frankly is a lot less creepy looking than CheetObama, which I'm still trying to politely/respectfully rehome.

No, this contest is not nearly as good as CheetObama. CheetObama had historical significance. Who, in 10 years, will even remember who the characters from Despicable Me are? No no no. I vote for a Cheeto Ruth Bader Ginsburg, maybe.

Clearly, meant "Flipboard" not "Flipbooks." But hey, if it gets a cool link... I was distracted by the very happy sloth. And distressed by the idea that someone wouldn't want your book.

I thought that was maybe what you meant, but wasn't going to pass up a chance to share that link.

Or maybe they're starting to have a long hard think about it.

It was very interesting, outside of the court yesterday, so see how vastly pro-gay marriage supporters seemed to outmatch anti-gay marriage supporters. I only saw about two anti-gay signs down there on the pavillion.

Those of us at work who know each other as either LBGT or allies to the LBGT community were all sneaking around to discretely high five, grin, and silently cheer. My fb feed was all totally-pro with none of my conservative friends saying a word. I would like to believe that your "maybe they support it" hagiographic attitude is correct but suspect that George Takei's "ick" reaction still probably applies to many of them.

Any time George Takei is in the Washington Post, for any reason, it's a pretty good day.

I've found a work-around that requires only a little bit of extra work, but am really afraid to share it with everybody because i don't want it discovered and shut down. Should I be worried about Katherine Graham's private drone fleet?

Of course not. We are definitely not tracking you. At all. No one is looking at this conversation. No chance.

Does it bother you to be internet famous? I was thinking about it the other day, because I said something to my husband, and his response was "?!?", so I said, Whatever, I'll call Monica and tell her, she'd understand. Then I realized that I don't actually know you. Awkward.

1) First of all, what did you want to tell your husband, because I bet you are right, we will all understand.


2) I'm not any kind of famous. I'm just a gal with a keyboard.

Not buying the book doesn't sound like that big a deal to me -- dystopia is not for everyone -- but point-blank telling someone that their huge project finally coming to fruition isn't worth $18 and three minutes is a little toasty. Time to turn the filter back on, OP.

Hahaha. (But $18 is a lot of money. I get that. A few friends of mine have purchased one collective copy, which they have passed between them.)

Upon reconsideration, Intagram could become something useful. This first "best" examples presented the limitations of 15 seconds, though. I feared the cat and fisherman may have been hurt, even if just a bit. Lebron James captured an interesting side to him that is not good, although I may give him a pass. If you can do the walk you can do the talk, and he has two championships. Yet he promised three, so he should realize someday it will come to an end. There needs to be more creativity and more endings that have a message and not just 15 seconds of the same thing in order to more captivating.

You know which video I liked? The Lululemon one. I know that it was a commercial, and that makes me feel squicky about liking it, but it was something that at least used the technology and the time frame to do something creative and offer a message, even if that message was only, "You can do yoga anywhere. A sun salutation is the same in the park as it is in an office." It was commercial, yes, but it showed the kind of ingenuity that I hope individuals brainstorm with.

I know you do not follow sports, yet if you ever get the chance to interview Bryce Harper, please find out his views of Ringling Brothers entertainers.


And that's it for today -- I have a 3 pm meeting to get to.

Reminder:  We will not be chatting next week because it's our nation's birthday and I'm out of the office. We will resume next week, however. In the meantime, burning and pertinent questions can be addressed to @MonicaHesse on Twitter or hessem@washpost.com.


Early happy 4th of July, and see you in a few weeks. GSTQ

I remembered a book I was fond of as a tween, but couldn't remember the name, so I googled, and discovered that the author had written several other books I remembered, and a sequel to the one I started looking for, which I hadn't read. I checked the local library site for it, or anything by the author, and nothing came up. So I announced to my husband that we had to move, because I didn't want to live in a jurisdiction that didn't have these books. (It was Remember Me to Harold Square by Paula Danziger, and it turned out I was spelling her name wrong and they did have them, so I was able to start unpacking. But I knew you'd understand).

Remember Me To Harold Square is an amazing book, and you absolutely must find it and read it again, and then you must also reread This Place Has No Atmosphere, also by Paula Danziger. Okay that's all.

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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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