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Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Last week, Google NewsBlog announced:

Starting this week, we’ll be displaying reader comments on stories in Google News, but with a bit of a twist… We’ll be trying out a mechanism for publishing comments from a special subset of readers: those people or organizations who were actual participants in the story in question. Our long-term vision is that any participant will be able to send in their comments, and we’ll show them next to the articles about the story. Comments will be published in full, without any edits, but marked as “comments” so readers know it’s the individual’s perspective, rather than part of a journalist’s report.

I don’t really see how this is a radical departure from anything being done, uh, anywhere else? It’s not as if Google’s allowing interested parties to go in and change the news stories, just add comments after the story. You can already do that on blogs. You can already do that on WaPo.

But a blogger at IP Democracy is in a tizzy over Google’s new feature. In a post titled “Google Loses Mind; Now Accepts News Comments,” Cynthia Brumfield hems and haws over the fact that Google will not exercise editorial jurisprudence over the comments:

Doesn’t Google have some responsibility for the comments its publishes aside from merely ensuring the identity of the commenter? There are a lot of crazy, mean people out there who hold down responsible jobs and get quoted in news articles and blog items. So, can these people just say what they want after only having met the low threshold of 1. being cited in the article and 2. proving they are who they say they are?

Um, yes? Yes they can? They’ve been doing it for years? What?

(More on journalistic reaction to this here)

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I’ve decided that I’m taking a hiatus from libertarian posts. How often can I post that I’m against banning things and for individual rights? Don’t answer that. I’ll probably post something that irks me the wrong way soon.

So, anyway I like new techie things. Here’s a fun link to play with via my old friend from high school Jeff.

The link, Built With, has you identify a web site and it will tell you what it’s built with (ie CSS, HTML, AJAX, the list goes on).

Fun times had by all, really no joke.

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Ugh. In the grand scheme of intense angry blog fights that seem omnipresent in certain circles and make it damn hard to forget that it’s only about .000005 percent of the US population who has any indication that this is going on, — we’ve got quite a doozy on our hands.

Here is the summary, from what I can gather: A woman named Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff, age 55, (who also goes by the name “Heart”) started a blog and forum called Women’s Space. Heart does seem a bit, uh, odd – she’s running for presidency on the “Free Soil” ticket, for one thing. And she’s that kind of old-school-hippie-feminist who kind of makes you cringe a bit because dear-god-no-wonder-people-get-such-misconceptions-about-feminism-when-you-have-people-like-her-running-around. Still, off-kilter or not, she seems intelligent, as well as harmless and well intentioned, and her Women’s Space community obviously fills a need for like-minded souls, and that’s fine. Great. Good for them.

Except ….

A woman named Biting Beaver – the kind of person that also makes me cringe because she refers to women as “womyn” and such — wrote a post on one of Heart’s forums about how she was very upset to find her teenage son looking at porn on the Internet, and sometimes she wishes she would have aborted him. What we can see here is a woman who is clearly (if not a parody) somewhat mentally and emotionally disturbed. A few commenters make some disturbing comments as well.

And that’s that, right?

Well … no. I don’t know where the attacks began, but somewhere in the dark nether-regions of those-people-who-give-Internet-geeks-a-bad-name, someone coordinated an “attack” on Heart’s Web site, presumably to teach her a lesson for having positions they don’t agree with and allowing other people to post in her forums with positions they don’t agree with (the horror!). They sent enough traffic to her site to shut it down, and they filled the comments section with frightening remarks such as this:

Heart, this is horrible. I’m sorry that this is happening to you. These people want nothing to do but to hurt you and your cause. I feel for you. In fact, I want to feel you now. I’d like to tie you down, take a knife, and slit your throat. I’d penetrate you over and over in all orifices, and create some of my own to stick myself in.

Begging the question of Um, really? Really? Who is more nuts in this situation????? One emotionally disturbed woman makes a post on a site run and frequented by a group of slightly kooky individuals, and they are met with a coordinated Internet attack and hundreds and hundreds of threats containing truly disturbing and graphic descriptions of violence? Who is more nuts, a woman who says she wishes she’d had an abortion or a person who says they’d like to slit someone’s throats and penetrate all their orifices?

Of course, people are chiming in now and trying to say that the words of Biting Beaver and a few of her supporters at that site constitute proof that ALL FEMINIST BLOGGERS ARE MURDEROUS MAN-HATING HARPIES. For instance, the comments at Riehl World View read mostly like this:

At any rate, the batshit behavior exhibited by Biting Beaver is considered nowadays to be normal and protected by the feminist groups who share similar conditions. Meanwhile, legions of young men held in the crossfire of these womyn’s rage and anger will grow to be mentally and emotionally dysfunctional creatures who will either self-terminate themselves or be removed from society after fulfilling the very prophecies embedded into them by the very womyn who raised them.

And God help us all if they stumble upon Islam as a way to reclaim the manhood stripped of them by these womyn. If there is ever a growing trend for disaffected males to turn to the Religion of Peace in lieu of a patriarchal figure, the feminists will be responsible for condemning their fellow womynfolk to a religion which views them in the same regard that the womyn viewed the “evil rapist” men. Just notice how Islamic cultures don’t have the “rabid feminist” problem. And there is a very good reason for that.

And again, I ask you, what is loonier? Some old-school-hippie-feminists still using the term “womyn” (which is something they harp on in a good majority of the comments there), or someone who believes that “rabid feminists” are going to lead to Islamic jihad committed by America’s own children?

[I love this, though. Riehl asks in the post’s title, “Are some radical feminists child abusers?” to which Jill replies “Uh, yeah, probably. Lots of different kinds of people are child abusers — being an asshole certainly crosses ideological lines.”]

A Web site called Encyclopedia Dramatica has a round-up of the whole thing, although I warn you, this place is like the dark unkempt labyrinth of hatred, hysteria and lameness. It seems to be an entire wiki documenting Internet memes and flame wars while simultaneously spewing insults at women, gays and liberals, with links upon links that take you to more and more weird wiki entries, like the 7th Circle of Wingnut Internet Hell.

Update: According to Shakespeare’s Sister, a lot of the original “quotes” from Biting Beaver that provoked such outrage and such weren’t even real quotes, but from a parody site. (Edit 2 — which, as someone in the comments points out, may or may not be true).

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According to Mother Jones open-source politics issue, the median political blog reader is a 43-year-old man with a household income of $80,000 and 75 percent of political blog readers are male.

Seventy-five percent of the total political blogosphere audience is male? Because a good portion of the blogs I frequent are feminist blogs written by women and full of women readers and commenters, I guess I was just sort of surprised by these statistics (do you think they are counting feminist blogs as “political blogs?” or what about “mom blogs” that are partially about parenting but also about social issues and politics?).

I was also sort of surprised by the median age … most blog readers and writers I know are in their 20s. Interesting but not exactly suprising? 98 percent of Daily Kos readers and 87 percent of YouTube users are white.

Blogads has its own stats, which are roughly similar on the gender and age thing. Their stats are also broken down by political blog readers of various partisan persuasions. Of the Democrats who read political blogs, 66 percent were male; of Republicans, 81 percent were male; of Libertarians, 88 percent.

So ….

1. Why aren’t women reading political blogs?

2. OR, are women reading political blogs, but just not the sort that are being lumped into this “political blog” category? (I noticed that in the categories Blogads uses to lump blogs together into “hives” for ad sales, Feministing and Pandagon are both listed under “women’s issues” or something like that, although Pandagon is also listed under “liberal blogs”).

3. Why are libertarian blogs in particular so predominantly male?

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This has already been everywhere, but oh well. There are just so many interesting things about danah boyd’s social-neworking/class analysis I don’t know where to start. A few weeks ago I mused that “Myspace will remain as the go-to site for musicians, aspiring porn stars and people looking to hook-up with strangers; Facebook for college kids, hipsters, tech geeks, activists and academics.”

Turns out I’m mostly right, according to danah. She has been interviewing young people across the nation about their relationship with social networking and other technological phenomenon, and writes a series of academic and non-acedmic articles about her observations. One of her latest discussions is on class divisions evident in the Facebook/MySpace divide.

Until recently, American teenagers were flocking to MySpace. The picture is now being blurred. Some teens are flocking to MySpace. And some teens are flocking to Facebook. Who goes where gets kinda sticky… probably because it seems to primarily have to do with socio-economic class.

After hashing out the obvious origins of this divide (facebook’s original .edu account only membership policy), danah attempts to briefly deal with just what “class” actually means in U.S. society, which I thought was one of the most interesting parts of the essay. She cites sociologist Nalini Kotamraju, who argued that lifestyle and “social stratification” are more indicative of class in the U.S. than income.

In other words,” danah writes, “all of my anti-capitalist college friends who work in cafes and read Engels are not working class just because they make $14K a year and have no benefits. Class divisions in the United States have more to do with social networks (the real ones, not FB/MS), social capital, cultural capital, and attitudes than income.

Ezra picks up this thread and adds

I’m not making very much right now, but … there’s an issue of potential here. I’m choosing a low-income field, but it would be easy enough for me to take the LSAT, dart off to law school, and quintuple my salary. Not choosing that option doesn’t mean it’s not there. Should class actually be tired to the most-renumerative reality you could feasibly inhabit?

Similarly, I’ve been in grad school this year, and making practically nothing, like most of my fellow students. But no one would look at us, our lives, our possessions, and call us “working class.” We have ikea furniture and laptops and iPods and embarrassingly high weekly bar tabs, though combinations of previous incarnations in the working world, help from parents, student loans, meager part-time incomes, school stipends, etc. (for the record, my parents are not paying for anything for me, lest you think I’m one of those subsidized academic brats). And we have post-grad prospects that, while dismally not as bright-and-shiny as we’d like, at least mean that we’ll be able to make our way in the world and keep drinking expensive beer and maybe even open a savings account some day soon. Commenters at Ezra’s point out that, really, education is what we’re talking about here. And upward mobility. But education is the clearest predictor of upward mobility, so … class can be boiled down to education.

This is gonna get me off on a tangent here, but … I never realized how much the type of education you had predicts your future success until I moved to DC. I went to a state school in Ohio and entered the job market in Ohio and pretty much everybody else I was competing with went to school in Ohio and nobody much cared if you went to a private school or a state school or a community college. But in DC, which can afford to be much more picky, I’ve noticed that certain internships, certain types of jobs, certain networks, are nearly exclusively brimming with Ivy-leaguers or people with equally impressive academic credentials. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like because you didn’t do the right internships at 20, you’re never gonna get where you want to be. But this is neither here nor there. Back to the class thing … I think it’s about education, but also about mindset. Which is what danah was originally saying, I think. So back to danah’s essay. Danah posits that:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities. MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

She points out that this is visually represented by the difference in Myspace and Facebook aesthetics. Personally I am horrified when someone (usually not a current friend but someone I went to high school with or something) posts a glittery blinking loony toon flash graphic on my MySpace comments section. Similarly by people whose pages have, like, sixteen slide shows of their friends or their kids, graphic memes, and blinking backgrounds. But danah points out that in certain cultures, “showy, sparkly, brash visual displays are acceptable and valued” (that explains all those moving-waterfall-florescent-wall-hangings that are so popular in my home town).

The look and feel of MySpace resonates far better with subaltern communities than it does with the upwardly mobile hegemonic teens. This is even clear in the blogosphere where people talk about how gauche MySpace is while commending Facebook on its aesthetics. I’m sure that a visual analyst would be able to explain how classed aesthetics are, but aesthetics are more than simply the “eye of the beholder” – they are culturally narrated and replicated. That “clean” or “modern” look of Facebook is akin to West Elm or Pottery Barn or any poshy Scandinavian design house (that I admit I’m drawn to) while the more flashy look of MySpace resembles the Las Vegas imagery that attracts millions every year. I suspect that lifestyles have aesthetic values and that these are being reproduced on MySpace and Facebook.

This is getting really long, but the last thing I want to share from danah’s essay is her analysis of class divisions in military use of social networking sites.

A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because the division in the military reflects the division in high schools. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. MySpace is the primary way that young soldiers communicate with their peers. When I first started tracking soldiers’ MySpace profiles, I had to take a long deep breath. Many of them were extremely pro-war, pro-guns, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, pro-killing, and xenophobic as hell. Over the last year, I’ve watched more and more profiles emerge from soldiers who aren’t quite sure what they are doing in Iraq.

I can’t help but wonder if part of the goal is to cut off communication between current soldiers and the group that the military hopes to recruit. Many young soldiers’ profiles aren’t public so it’s not about making a bad public impression. That said, young soldiers tend to have reasonably large networks because they tend to accept friend requests of anyone that they knew back home which means that they’re connecting to almost everyone from their high school. Many of these familiar strangers write comments supporting them. But what happens if the soldiers start to question why they’re in Iraq? And if this is witnessed by high school students from working class communities who the Army intends to recruit?”

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Mother Jones July/August issue is all about “open-source” politics. Haven’t read through much of it yet, but it looks like there’s some interesting stuff,

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Looking for even more ways to avoid interaaction with the real world? Ning is a “meta-networking” site that allows users to create their own social networks for whatever they want to. On the front page of the site right now (I’m assuming it changes daily) are networks for something called the Brooklyn Art Project, the “Sick Puppies Network,” and the “One Tree Hill VIP Lounge.” Ning’s passion, they tell us, is “putting new social networks in the hands of anyone with a good idea.”

With Ning, your social network can be anything and for anyone. You start by choosing a combination of features (videos, blogs, photos, forums, etc.) from an ever-growing list of options. Then customize how it looks, decide if it’s public or private, add your brand logo if you have one, and enable the people on your network to create their own custom personal profile pages.

I read about this today on Cultureby, and my first thought was, oh, that’s kind of cool, because I think I’m kind of conditioned to think that about every new Web platform that gets introduced. But then one of the commenters asked, “what is the value?”

Indeed.

What is the value added here? What do people get out of this? Why does everyone keep joining these things? At a certain point, do you really gain anything from joining a newer/bigger/more-compartmentalized/whatever network? Or do you just spend more time out of your day checking out 13.5 million sites, with absolutely nothing added for belonging to more than one? It’s kind of like blogrolls — the more blogs I read, the more other blogs I get led to, and the more blogs I, in turn, add to my RSS reader. At this point, I just look at my massive list of feeds every morning and feel daunted. I resort to skimming just about everything. I was probably better informed about life, the world and the blogosphere when I only read 5 blogs total.

(Another commenter at Cultureby pointed out that everyone keeps talking about how there needs to be one giant aggregator, something where you can combine Flickr, YouTube, blogging platforms, Facebook, LinkedIn, your RSS reader, etc., but if we got to that place, “would the security issues freak us all out?”)

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