Combating misogyny with information 

Andrew McMillen for Backchannel:

Across the internet, trolls disproportionately target women and members of other underrepresented groups. On Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, Wikipedia, and other open platforms, victims of harassment are forced to make a difficult choice — go silent and preserve their mental health, or try to ignore the abuse and continue expressing themselves openly online. As the wounds deepen, that latter choice becomes harder and harder to justify.

When people get forced off the web, their voices disappear from the internet’s public squares. The ideas and memes that dominate skew even further toward a white male perspective. The web becomes less interesting, less representative, less valuable. We all lose.

But on that Friday night, Temple-Wood had an idea. For every harassing email, death threat, or request for nude photos that she received, she resolved to create a Wikipedia biography on a notable woman scientist who was previously unknown to the free online encyclopedia. She thought of it as a giant “fuck you” to the anonymous idiots seeking to silence her.

I hardly need to state how stupid this sort of abuse is, but what a response. I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to do this.

A sort of reptilian Michael Fassbender-looking guy

1: There are sharks living in a volcano, and this is not a drill

Just when you think the world can’t get any surprise you any more, you learn that there are sharks swimming around in a volcano. Truth really is stranger than fiction: Syfy brought us Sharknado and then the universe counters with Sharkcano, otherwise known as Kavachi. This very, very active volcano off the Solomon Islands is 60 feet underwater, and sharks and rays have apparently been hanging out in its caldera between eruptions.

2: Twitter contest winning as a service

This is the story of how I wrote a Twitter bot to automatically enter contests and ended up winning on average 4 contests per day, every day, for about 9 months straight.

3: Wikiwand

Wikiwand is a modern interface for web and mobile that optimizes Wikipedia’s amazing content for a quicker and significantly improved reading experience.

4: 99% Invisible podcast’s brilliant response to criticism of women’s voices

You’ve written in to voice your dislike of one of our female reporter’s voices. You’re not alone. We have a filter set up that automatically sends these types of emails into a folder labeled ‘zero priority’. We’ll review this folder and consider the complaints within, well, never.

(See also: 13 tips on how to speak while female.)

5: How can you tell if you’re being sexually empowered or objectified? Ask yourself this simple question

There’s a long-standing debate in feminism about sexual empowerment: How do we know when someone is being sexually liberated versus being sexually objectified, since they sometimes can look similar from the outside? Well, the answer is simpler than you think: The difference is in who has the power.

6: Homme de Plume: What I learned sending my novel out under a male name

George sent out 50 queries, and had his manuscript requested 17 times. He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25. […] That was when George came to life. I imagined him as a sort of reptilian Michael Fassbender-looking guy, drinking whiskey and walking around train yards at night while I did the work. Most of the agents only heard from one or the other of us, but I did overlap a little. One who sent me a form rejection as Catherine not only wanted to read George’s book, but instead of rejecting it asked if he could send it along to a more senior agent. Even George’s rejections were polite and warm on a level that would have meant everything to me, except that they weren’t to the real me. George’s work was “clever,” it’s “well-constructed” and “exciting.” No one mentioned his sentences being lyrical or whether his main characters were feisty. A few of people sent deeply generous and thoughtful critiques, which made me both grateful and queasy for my dishonesty.

Piano faces

1: Can Wikipedia survive?

A recent Pew Research Center report found that 39 of the top 50 news sites received more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop and laptop computers, sales of which have declined for years. This is a challenge for Wikipedia, which has always depended on contributors hunched over keyboards searching references, discussing changes and writing articles using a special markup code.

2: Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and the gendering of martyrdom

The way media dotes over its tortured male artists while undermining the personal struggles of women who suffer the same is nuanced, but a look into the archive suggests the phenomenon is well documented across race, genre, and generation. When Janis Joplin died on October 4, 1970 the New York Times called her a “misfit” whose “behavior was explosive” and remembers her as “drinking from a bottle at her concerts” and “screaming obscenities at a policeman in the audience”. Two weeks prior when Jimi Hendrix died— also at the age of 27— the same paper’s headline referred to him as a “Top of Music World Flamboyant Performer Noted for Sensuous Style” above an article that failed to highlight his fabled and widely-acknowledged affinity for mixing drugs with alcohol, even as new evidence emerged that he was wildly out of control during his final days.

3: Headline writing with NYT guru

Podcast: Kyle Massey on what catches readers’ attention, and why the “paper of record” never would have written, “Headless Body in Topless Bar.”

4: Tobias Jesso Jr. stars in new Pitchfork.tv documentary

Tobias Jesso Jr. is the subject of Pitchfork.tv’s latest documentary, “Goon”. Directed by Jon Leone, the film follows Jesso around New York City and Hollywood as he prepares for the release of Goon earlier this year. He discusses why he makes those “piano faces,” covers Ray Charles with help from his manager’s dog, and performs with Danielle Haim, Ariel Rechtshaid, and a string section on “Conan”.

One of my favourite albums of the year so far.

5: Why I answered my dad’s gay sex ad

In the Christian parenting books my dad wrote, we were always the most perfect devout family. When I found out he was secretly trolling for gay sex online, I became obsessed with unmasking the truth.

6:. A linguist explains how we write sarcasm on the internet

In context, sarcastic typography is part of a larger ecosystem of ways to convey emotional nuance and textual tone of voice — and it’s anything but random. Compared with all these subtle distinctions, a single sarcasm punctuation mark is too blunt an instrument: it defeats the entire saying-without-saying part of sarcasm that makes it engaging in the first place. Using a a percontation point or a SarcMark™ is like explaining why a joke is funny — if you have to bother, you’ve just ruined it anyway.

6a: See also: Welcome to Night Vale: where even “not” isn’t what it seems, and What part of “No, totally” don’t you understand?.

This shit is toxic and it needs to die yesterday

1: A complete taxonomy of internet chum

Toward a grand unified theory of “Around the Web”, i.e. those terrible ad grids you see on desperate websites:

Chum is decomposing fish matter that elicits a purely neurological brain stem response in its target consumer: larger fish, like sharks. It signals that they should let go, deploy their nictitating membranes, and chomp down blindly on a morsel of fragrant, life-giving sustenance. Perhaps in a frenzied manner […] This is a chumbox. It is a variation on the banner ad which takes the form of a grid of advertisements that sits at the bottom of a web page underneath the main content.

2: Visipedia.

Visipedia is a joint project between Pietro Perona’s Vision Group at Caltech and Serge Belongie’s Vision Group at Cornell Tech. Visipedia, short for “Visual Encyclopedia,” is an augmented version of Wikipedia, where pictures are first-class citizens alongside text. Goals of Visipedia include creation of hyperlinked, interactive images embedded in Wikipedia articles, scalable representations of visual knowledge, largescale machine vision datasets, and visual search capabilities. Toward achieving these goals, Visipedia advocates interaction and collaboration between machine vision and human users and experts.

3: NY Times: Trending

Billed as a real-time dashboard of popular Times content. Interesting to see the way they categorise content:

  • Fresh Eyes: stories that are popular with readers who are new to The Times
  • Page-Turner: stories that are holding the attention of our readers
  • Renewed Interest: older stories that are making a comeback and experiencing a second wind
  • Staying Power: stories that have been consistently popular since publication

4: Why “Agile” and especially Scrum are terrible

It’s probably not a secret that I dislike the “Agile” fad that has infested programming. One of the worst varieties of it, Scrum, is a nightmare that I’ve seen actually kill companies. By “kill” I don’t mean “the culture wasn’t as good afterward”; I mean a drop in the stock’s value of more than 85 percent. This shit is toxic and it needs to die yesterday. For those unfamiliar, let’s first define our terms. Then I’ll get into why this stuff is terrible and often detrimental to actual agility. Then I’ll discuss a single, temporary use case under which “Agile” development actually is a good idea, and from there explain why it is so harmful as a permanent arrangement.

5: The history of Henry Mancini’s Moon River

I didn’t realise how much I loved this song until relatively recently. I recorded a version of it, if you’re inclined to listen.

6: Inside the cult of Secret Wedding Pinterest, where fiances are optional

One third of all boards on Pinterest are secret wedding-planning boards.

7: A plant by any other name

On botanical and common names of plants. No, really, it’s a good short thing.

8: Abandoned fishing village in China reclaimed by nature

In the mouth of the Yangtze River off the eastern coast of China, a small island holds a secret haven lost to the forces of time and nature—an abandoned fishing village swallowed by dense layers of ivy slowly creeping over every brick and path.

9: On the fine art of the footnote

Ever since David Hume noted that, while reading Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, “One is also plagued with his Notes, according to the present Method of printing the Book” and suggested that they “only to be printed at the Margin or the Bottom of the Page,” footnotes have been the hallmark of academia. For centuries, then, the footnote existed as a blunt instrument, wielded by pedants and populists alike, primarily for the transmission of information, but occasionally to antagonize opponents with arch rhetorical asides. But it would take a couple hundred years until writers again took up the footnote for other, more artful purposes, discovering in this tiny technique emotional and intellectual depth far beyond the realm of the merely experimental.

Nominally about Seville orange marmalade

How to lose weight in 4 easy steps. This is really great and I won’t spoil it for you. Ensure you get to step 3.

Why did everybody do the Harlem Shake?. “Experts said the ‘Harlem Shake’ phenomenon was emergent behavior from the hive mind of the internet—accidental, ad hoc, uncoordinated: a ‘meme’ that ‘went viral’. But this is untrue. The real story of the ‘Harlem Shake’ shows how much popular culture has changed and how much it has stayed the same.”

Some Genius named Rick Rubin is annotating Kanye West, Beastie Boys, and others. Yes, that Rick Rubin is nonchalantly tossing out facts about music that he helped make, and comments on music that he didn’t.

Facebook is bigger than anyone knew, even Facebook. “We all know Facebook is huge, and drives incredible amounts of traffic. But thanks to its recent efforts to uncloak the sources of content with no known referrer, we now know that the numbers are bigger than anyone believed.”

GDS Digital Services 2 – An Opportunity Missed. Amid the (rightful) celebration of the great work the UK’s Government Digital Services project has done, Clearleft’s Andy Budd describes his dissatisfaction at the process used to select designers and developers.

One man’s quest to rid Wikipedia of exactly one grammatical mistake. Wikipedia user ‘Giraffedata’ has made over 47,000 edits since 2007. Almost all were to fix incorrect use of ‘comprised of’. Be sure to read his explanation.

A bittersweet and brillig tale. I don’t think I’ve ever shared one of Rachel Roddy’s posts here—they are uniformly excellent; a combination of tremendous travel writing, beautiful insights into childhood (in England) and adult (in Rome) life, and invariably brilliant recipes. This one is nominally about Seville orange marmalade, but really much more than that.

Are you ready for your sunny day? I approach this with no small amount of personal bias. The speaker in this TEDx talk is Jay DeMerit, a professional footballer who played in the late ‘00s for the team I support, Watford, and who was part of one of the most unlikely teams to have reached England’s Premier League, the top division of professional soccer. His career—and there are many hugely unlikely events that he glosses over here, self-deprecatingly—is strange enough to have been made into a film, but in this talk he outlines his particular approach to life, which amounts to focusing on positives rather than negatives. This includes a particularly nasty sounding injury, which to my knowledge was never revealed until now. Suspend your snark and irony: this is an upbeat talk—by a intelligent professional footballer, no less!—about being positive and preparing for the best, not the worst. There are many terrible TED talks out there, but this is a good ‘un.