Online quizzes explained

Online "character quizzes," suddenly ultra-viral thanks to adroit Facebook-centric designs at sites like Zimbio, are all the rage. Are they fueled by narcissism? No, says Devon Maloney: it's fear: "We crave the peace of mind that comes from believing the human condition is quantifiable." Which is to say, of course, our own conditions. It's the Myers-Briggs sorting hat for a new generation, telling you what you just told it.

Reddit eyes journalism

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).

The second-best headline of all time

With "Obama's pot dealer beaten to death for farting in gay lover's face", I think The Daily Mail may reasonably claim to have created the second-best newspaper headline in human history.

Dr. V's suicide and journalistic ethics

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.

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Top blogger scammed many

Choire Sicha reports on Mediaite managing editor Jon Nicosia, who turns out to be a con artist, Zachary Hildreth, with form. The "confession". The fallout. On the internet, no-one know you're a dog. But if they never see you because of "black ops", well, you'd think some suspicion would kick in... [The Awl, Mediaite, Gawker]

What happened next will restore your faith in snark

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.

The NYT on why it delayed first surveillance story

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.

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Things not to say

Buzzfeed's Alex Naidus advises you on how to avoid the easy pitfalls of perceived arrogance, smugness and sanctimony. I'm a frequent dropper of "I read this really interesting article…", sad to say!

Stalin: evil dictator, good editor

Holly Case on Joseph Stalin, editor. [via Kottke]
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.

UK papers' own regulation plan rejected

In the wake of the UK's "phone hacking" press misconduct scandal, the Leveson Report proposed statutory regulation of the media. The newspapers' own alternative, suggesting a special charter covering the press, was rejected this week, reports the BBC. But the outcome also officially reopens the debate, writes Ross Hawkins, at a time when politicians will be more willing to "stave off open warfare with the press in the run up to an election."

What your Twitter bio says about you

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”).

After the jump, our Twitter bios for your psychoanalytical pleasure. (Whatever you do, don't follow me on twitter!)

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NYPD officer who arrested NYT photographer indicted

Russ Buettner: "A New York City police officer who had arrested a photographer working for The New York Times has been indicted on three felony counts and five misdemeanors accusing him of fabricating the reasons for the arrest."

German newspapers go back to Google after winning right to be excluded from it

After lobbying for laws to allow them to opt out of Google's search results, German newspapers have opted right back in again. The publishers claim it's a temporary measure while they figure out how to "charge aggregators for their use of its material." Which might be a problem, because Google says it would rather just let them stay opted-out than pay to link to them. [AP]

Reporter fired after blogging about mail theft, naps and fearing the elderly

Shea Allen, an investigative reporter at an Alabama ABC affiliate, got fired after posting this little beauty:

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 cheats publishers use to juice their traffic tallies

$5 for 2000 Facebook shares or 500 retweets. $2 for a few thousand page views. "Money can't buy me love?" asks Wired's Mat Honan. "Nonsense"