Last week, David Grann and I met in his office at The New Yorker, in midtown Manhattan. It is a glorious fire hazard because he doesn't throw anything away. Grann has been a staff writer at the magazine since 2003 and published two books, the enthralling The Lost City of Z, and The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, a collection of his reportage. Stacks of papers related to finished stories ("That's Z, that's Cuba, that's Willingham…") line the walls, while the floor is devoted to a book-in-progress, as yet untitled, on the Osage Indian murders and the birth of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
If you're thinking of starting a We The People online petition to force the White House to respond to some nonsense like "building a Death Star" or "declaring the Sasquatch a threatened species" or "bringing our barbarian gun laws maybe halfway up to the basic standards of 21st Century civilization," you will need more online friends to share your dream. As of now, White House petitions require 100,000 electronic signatures, which is a fourfold increase from the 25,000 required to make the Obama Administration do a cute response to the Death Star thing, even as the Obama Administration rains death from imperial robots upon the rebels (and [...]
Jessica Grose: We're here to talk about hate-blogs. In my novel, Sad Desk Salad (shameless self promotion alert), the heroine and her coworkers at a women's website called Chick Habit are plagued by a hate-blogger who reblogs their posts and puts up incriminating, embarrassing personal information about them.
For those who aren't familiar with the phenomenon, hate-blogs are an actual thing. I based the hate-blog in my book (Breaking the Chick Habit, or BTCH) on the hate-blogs I had read up till then: The ones about Jezebel, the Pioneer Woman, and Julia Allison.
I asked you to join me in this chat because you’ve covered [...]
Last week, gracious youngsters from Google, Inc. were stationed below 14th Street, handing cards to commuters. The cards confirmed that those wireless signal bars appearing on certain subway platforms weren’t phishing expeditions by identity thieves or digital phantoms. Rather, they were the fruit borne of a partnership between Google and a wireless Internet provider named Boingo. Log in to their hotspot and get a summer of free Wi-Fi access all over New York City. In return, Google gets to hoard the information they generate, assembling an accurate picture of [...]
I am what you might call a casual cat-video viewer. There are people out there—I know a lot of them, and I’d wager you do, too—who spend hours plowing through YouTube and Buzzfeed, clicking from one cat video to the next and urging anyone within earshot to watch along with them. While I'm far less enthusiastic than that, if you send me a link to a cat staring down an alligator, or a cat trapping another cat in a box, I will most happily watch and probably even discuss it. I suspect I’m pretty close to the norm: who doesn't like a good cat video?
During Hurricane Irene weekend, while holed up in a friend’s apartment and looking for some stimulation, I got friend-requested and emailed by an obvious scammer on Facebook. The con artist, under the name “Claire Anrie,” used a few professional photos of an attractive young woman (whom I later reverse-image-searched and discovered was a personal trainer in New York) and a typo- and contradiction-filled profile.
"Claire" quickly asked me to send her money by Western Union so she could come back to the U.S. and be with me, her "husband." Over the next three months, I kept up an ongoing dialogue via Facebook messages and chat in which I [...]
Profanity is alive and well on Twitter, except in Utah, apparently. You'd expect heathen citydwellers to swear, and we do not disappoint, but the Bible belt is pretty foul-mouthed too (no word whether language there trended cleaner on Sundays). Thanks to tweets, blog comments and unlocked Facebook feeds, we know more than ever before about the way regular people—in New York, Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles, and [...]
"The online stranger is the great boogeyman of the information age; in the mid-2000s, media reports might have had you believe that MySpace was essentially an easily-searchable catalogue of fresh victims for serial killers, rapists, cyberstalkers, and Tila Tequila…. [But] Internet friendship yields a connection that is selfconsciously pointless and pointed at the same time: Out of all of the millions of bullshitters on the World Wide Web, we somehow found each other, liked each other enough to bullshit together, and built our own Fortress of Bullshit. The majority of my interactions with online friends is perpetuating some injoke so arcane that nobody remembers how it started or what [...]
The suicide of Aaron Swartz last week has brought attention to a lot of things in need of immediate and substantial change: the unchecked power of ambitious, self-serving federal prosecutors; the curious disconnect between the ferocity with which those prosecutors hunted down a 20-something political activist, and their respectful reluctance to disturb the potentates of Wall Street; the absurdity of our current copyright laws; ditto, the outmoded laws still on the books with respect to "hacking."
There's also an important point to reiterate. I've seen a number of angry commenters on Twitter and elsewhere claiming that JSTOR "has blood on its hands." This is false. JSTOR declined involvement in [...]
There are things in this world that need to be nurtured, cared for, and protected. Floating crates of mewing kittens, hatchling turtles disoriented by artificial lighting, baby seagulls ensnared by fishing nets. Likewise, we must nurture and care for Ketan Vora, the internet’s newest multinational rising star. Ketan is quickly gaining a following on Tumblr for his disarmingly friendly interactions, and his straightforward style of gifting tagged images of flower bouquets and sweets to his female (and, sometimes, male) fans.
Late last Friday, news broke that the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link, an online discussion board and community commonly referred to as the WELL, was on the verge of being shut down. Founded in 1985 as a dial-up BBS, the WELL is an enormously important part of internet history, both as a place where things happened and as a model for how discussion and community should work on the web; the comments system below this post owes its existence, in many ways, to the WELL. The site's ethos [...]
Here's some maybe-potential copyright infringement that someone else made that is hosted by Google and "embedded" here to celebrate our freedom today! I think the hardest thing about yesterday's protest blackout was, stealthily, the lack of Craigslist, not Wikipedia, actually.
If you've seen the opening credits for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," you've heard the music of Nerf Herder. The Santa Barbara "geek rock" band got its name from the scruffy alien Princess Leia pretends not to like in The Empire Strikes Back, and the group's best known non-Buffy track was a novelty song about Van Halen. This was all part of a larger SoCal scene that shared members and shows and houses with The Rentals, Lagwagon, Weezer, Psoma, Ridel High, the Lapdancers, Popsicko and other such groups popular with the college-educated irony crowd. The late 1990s and early 2000s, everybody!
Actually, Farhad Manjoo makes a few good points in his Slate screed against the overuse of "trolling." Because, yes: some people who look like trolls are just trawling, for pageviews (or book deals, or maybe sex, who knows what dark things people want). Like for instance, if you have to say "Sure, my piece and its headline were hyperbolic," then you are probably just trawling the Internet with a big, loud net, but you are not actually trolling, because you do believe what you are saying. Despite being hyperbolic. Which, understandably, gives readers confusion.
And then probably some famous trolls aren't actually trolls! It sometimes happens that people [...]
The title of the Wikipedia entry for "Real life" differs from its disambiguation page "Real Life" through the absence of one capital letter. But while the "Real Life" (upper case) page will lead you to many films and books and songs of that name, the "Real life" entry affirms, alas, that there is only one real life. "Real life." The topic is abstract, speculative, and possibly even redundant. (Since when, after all, was life ever un-real?) Still, as the extensive entry for "In Real Life" shows us, we have more sure things to say about reality television than we do about "real life." Turn [...]
While the ultra-Orthodox steadily streamed down the 7 train platform and onto the pavilion, a group of four teenagers sat around the big red New York Mets apple, waiting for their friends. This was last night, an hour or so before the Citi Field gates opened. Outside the stadium, a few hundred ultra-Orthodox Jewish men stood around, waiting for the masses to arrive to this rally about the dangers of the internet. The 40,000-stadium tickets had sold out the week before and the event organizers—The Union of Communities for the Purity of the Camp—had scrambled to rent nearby Arthur Ashe Stadium for the 10,000 or more attendee spillover. These boys [...]
Maybe what I am about to say will come as a surprise to some. But it's something I've known about myself for years.
I have a hard time networking with white guys. And I think they have a hard time networking with me, too.
I’m not saying I don’t have any white male friends—I do. But within my social network, the ratio of white men to any other group is disproportionately small.
I’m so bad at networking with white guys that even the most serendipitous circumstances are foiled. I once had an interview with a Boston-based founder of a certain “game layer on top of the world.” I [...]
The word "hated" adorns Hunter Moore's social-media bios. He has drawn the ire of the music industry, young people from all over the United States (as well as Canada, England and Australia), of privacy defenders—and, well, of many, many other people who happen to come across his website, Is Anyone Up?, and find it appalling. The death threats have not fazed him. Nor has the spectre of lawsuits; while many have been threatened, to Moore's knowledge, not one has been filed.
The stabbing, though; that did get his attention. A young woman, unhappy to have had her pictures posted on his site, ambushed Moore one afternoon in March as [...]