Matthew Ingram talks to Reddit GM Erik Martin about the site's plans to build out crowdsourced reporting features—and how it will guard them against misuse and chaos.
Martin admitted the moderator system is flawed in some ways, or at least could be improved — by making it easier for users to switch from one sub-Reddit to another, for example — but he also argued that the democratic (some would anarchic) approach the site takes to virtually everything has positive impacts. Someone once asked who created a specific sub-Reddit, and Martin said he had to admit “I have no idea, someone just came along and did it… the fact that it even works at all, when you think about it, is just crazy. It shouldn’t work, but it does.”
Reddit's crowdsourced reporting threads are often the best places to find real-time aggregation of breaking news. But the screw-ups can't be dismissed glibly. If Reddit took a little more responsibility for the major subreddits (the ones that it promotes to the general public as central sections of the site, such as r/news) and applied a more policy-driven approach to how they're run, it would be much easier to communicate the implicit distinctions here between moderation and anarchy (i.e., journalism and histrionics).
Last week, Caleb Hannan wrote an article about a clever new golf club and its inventor, Dr. Essay Vanderbilt. Starting out as a profile, it briefly covers the scientific claims behind the design and Dr. V's eccentricities and pretensions. We learn, ultimately, that Dr. V defrauded investors, though none of those quoted seem terribly bothered about it. We also learn that she was a trans person. Finally, at the end, we learn she killed herself, shortly after Hannan notified her of her imminent outing in the press.
Initially achieving some praise, Hannan's story was soon criticized. Critics noticed how anxiously and quietly V's suicide was footnoted away, and how Hannan weaved discussion of her trans status into discussion of her fraudulent business activity. Read the rest
Read the rest
Tom Scocca writes that ostentatious positivity, pitched as a noble response to the web's omnipresent snark, typically amounts only to the worse thing that snark itself cures: smarm.
What is smarm, exactly? Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves. Smarm would rather talk about anything other than smarm. Why, smarm asks, can't everyone just be nicer?
The most significant explicator of the niceness rule—the loudest Thumper of all, the true prophetic voice of anti-negativity—is neither the cartoon rabbit nor the publicists' group nor Julavits, nor even David Denby. It is The Believer's founder and impresario, Dave Eggers.
Smarm is another word for Serious Culture—"In smarm is power"—and you know what to do with that.
A decade ago, the New York Times prepared the first, breaking story about warrantless domestic surveillance in America. But, at the Bush administration's urging, it delayed publication until after the next election. NYT public editor Margaret Sullivan reviews the ongoing sense of betrayal felt by its readers, and how it made the newspaper an unappealing port of call for whistleblowing sources such as Edward Snowden. Read the rest
Read the rest
Stalin always seemed to have a blue pencil on hand, and many of the ways he used it stand in direct contrast to common assumptions about his person and thoughts. He edited ideology out or played it down, cut references to himself and his achievements, and even exhibited flexibility of mind, reversing some of his own prior edits.
Teddy Wayne reports on a "postmodern art form"—the 160-character space that Twitter allow for biographies.
The standard bio is a staccato string of statuses and interests separated by commas or periods ... Beyond such clichés, the potential hazards of bios are well known to any social-media user: humble brags (“For some reason they put me in the movies”), unchecked self-promotion (“See my new movie, out this Christmas”) and the blandly literal (“I am a professional actor in a motion picture feature scheduled for wide release Dec. 25”).
1. I've gone bra-less during a live broadcast and no one was the wiser.
2. My best sources are the ones who secretly have a crush on me.
3. I am better live when I have no script and no idea what I'm talking about.
4. I've mastered the ability to contort my body into a position that makes me appear much skinner in front of the camera than I actually am.
5. I hate the right side of my face.
6. I'm frightened of old people and I refuse to do stories involving them or the places they reside.
7. Happy, fluffy, rainbow stories about good things make me depressed.
8. I've taken naps in the news car.
9. If you ramble and I deem you unnecessary for my story, I'll stop recording but let you think otherwise.
10. I've stolen mail and then put it back. (maybe)
Allen believes she was terminated without cause. Shea Allen investigates!
The core Digg experience is one of discovery: It constantly has to be showing you something new to work. ... This is where it gets neat: If Digg had its own news reader, it could immediately identify which stories people were actually reading—not just what they click on.
We are often accused of being cynics. But even we can see quite plainly that the Prism story is huge, important, and newsworthy, and that the person who made the story happen deserves credit for helping it come out. Oddly enough, the cynics on this story reside in the ultra-establishment. They are the journalists and pundits who feel compelled to demonstrate their own sophistication by dismissing these revelations as old hat (though documented proof of these programs has never been seen before). They are those who have grown so inured to the gross overreach of government power that they can no longer conceive of it as scandalous.
David Brooks' piece is particularly grotesque, and not simply because going to it means having to look at one of his weird Zoolanderesque mugshots. Check out this paragraph:
He betrayed the privacy of us all. If federal security agencies can’t do vast data sweeps, they will inevitably revert to the older, more intrusive eavesdropping methods.
Don't make me beat you, honey.