The War On Bad Commenters

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's strange what you can get used to. Since its inception, we've all mostly agreed that it's normal for YouTube's comments section to be a maw of hateful idiocy. 

Imagine if, in the 60's, CBS had a comments crawl where racial slurs and non-sequiturs scrolled beneath whatever program you were watching. An alternate reality where, when the Beatles were playing on Ed Sullivan, underneath we got to learn that Eric201 from Cincinnati thinks that they all look like idiots or that World War 2 was an inside job. 

Anyway. This week, YouTube announced they'll roll out a system meant to clean up their comments system. Commenters will still have anonymity, but a system of reputation and moderation will be exist to help mute the worst dreck. Assuming it works, or even half-works, we can look forward to a future where we're able to browse the latest Louis CK late night clips without sorting through a ton of hateful garbage on the way. 

Meanwhile, over at PopSci, the editors have decided to do away with comments entirely. They're surely not the first publication to do it, but what I found charming was their rationale, which is, of course, firmly grounded in science. 

...Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story, recent research suggests. In one study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Dominique Brossard, 1,183 Americans read a fake blog post on nanotechnology and revealed in survey questions how they felt about the subject (are they wary of the benefits or supportive?). Then, through a randomly assigned condition, they read either epithet- and insult-laden comments ("If you don't see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you're an idiot" ) or civil comments. The results, as Brossard and coauthor Dietram A. Scheufele wrote in a New York Times op-ed: "Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself."

 

 

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Two Great Internet Mysteries, Solved (Or Ruined)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

This morning, Pronunciation Book, the ominous, apocalyptic count-downing YouTube channel, hit zero. 

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Why Fake Reviews Will Never, Ever Go Away

Monday, September 23, 2013

New York regulators announced today that nineteen companies would be fined $350,000 for paying for fake reviews on sites like Yelp. How'd they catch them? Regulators posed as employees at a struggling Brooklyn yogurt shop, and then called SEO firms to ask them to astroturf on their behalf. But even if every shady operator on the internet is sufficiently frightened by these fines, it's unlikely to stop the tide of fake reviews. 

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The New iPhone Fingerprint Sensor is Hackable

Monday, September 23, 2013

When Apple unveiled its new iPhone two weeks ago, one of the immediate questions concerned the phone's new fingerprint sensor. The sensor's supposed to automate security. Rather than typing in a password every time you unlock your phone, you just press your finger to the phone's home button. It's supposed to create a world wherein stolen iPhones are useless to thieves. But does it actually work? 

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Happy Friday!

Friday, September 20, 2013

That most glorious day is once again upon us. Here's some of the cool, interesting, or weird stuff we could not find a home for on the blog this week. 

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The Breaking News Consumer's Handbook

Friday, September 20, 2013

This week's shooting at the DC Navy Yard was the latest in a long string of breaking news reporting to get many of the essential facts wrong. 

In fact, the rampant misreporting that follows shootings like this is so predictable that OTM has unintentionally developed a formula for covering them. We look at how all the bad information came out. We suggest ways that the news media could better report breaking news. This time, we're doing something different.

This is our Breaking News Consumer's Handbook.  Rather than counting on news outlets to get it right, we're looking at the other end. Below are some tips for how, in the wake of a big, tragic story, you can sort good information from bad. We've even made a handy, printable PDF that you can tape to your wall the next time you encounter a big news event.

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Habanero Interviews

Friday, September 20, 2013

A while back, my colleague Alex Goldman and I got very into watching this one clip, of comedian Chris Thayer interviewing comedian Pete Holmes after they've both eaten habanero peppers. Watching two human beings writhe in pain is much more charming than you'd think. (The language is pretty salty, so if you don't like salty language, skip to videos two and three please.)

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A Retweet Can Send You to Jail, A Like is Free Speech

Thursday, September 19, 2013

So here's two strange stories from opposite sides of the world.

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Upworthy Co-Founder Eli Pariser Explains What Upworthy's Doing And Why It Annoys Me So Much

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Last week, Upworthy, the website built for viral progressive political content, secured $8 million in funding. I wrote a piece about how annoying I find it. I compared it to San Francisco, which is the deepest epithet in my epithet bullpen.

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FOIA Our Competitors, Please

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Earlier this week, government transparency site Muckrock published a story about how the NSA bought hacking exploits from Vupen, a French hacker company. Muckrock unearthed that information via FOIA, and in response, Vupen did something unusual. 

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What Does the Government Want with LinkedIn's Data?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Yesterday, LinkedIn's general counsel published a letter to the site's users expressing frustration that the company's not allowed to disclose the number of national security-related data requests it receives each year. 

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Grand Theft Auto 5's Gender Problem

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Grand Theft Auto Five is out today. It'll most certainly be another huge hit for Rockstar Games. And it's already the highest-rated game ever reviewed on Metacritic. It also, unfortunately, has the crappy gender politics of every blockbuster video game release since the beginning of time. 

 

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#1 - Something Is Going to Happen in 7 Days

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A YouTube channel dedicated to pronouncing words suddenly starts issuing ominous warnings, and a reporter tries to get to the bottom of it. 

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If You're Following the DC Navy Yard Shooting, Here's a Few Good Sources

Monday, September 16, 2013

We'll update this throughout the afternoon, please add any feeds you're finding useful in the comments. 

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Upworthy, The SIte That Learned How to Pander Progressively, Receives 8 Million Dollars in Funding

Monday, September 16, 2013

Upworthy announced they've received 8 million dollars in funding this morning, which means much more Upworthy for the foreseeable future. 

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Happy Friday Everyone!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The week's over! The radio show'll be up on the site in a couple hours. Here're a bunch of things that I wanted to tell you about this week and didn't have time to: 

A great HitFix interview with the Parks & Recs guys that shows you how smart sitcom writers think about making TV.

The BBC is doing a reality show about a trio of American Evangelicals who go to London to perform exorcisms. It seems like it'll be interesting in a "This is what England thinks of the U.S." way.

Yelp's suing a law firm for posting fake reviews. Seems wonk-ish, but it's interesting because it's novel. A couple years ago, it seemed like Yelp was being sued every few months by angry businesses that didn't quite understand the internet. Which makes this kind of a man-bites-dog story, albeit instead of a man biting a dog it's a business that usually gets sued suing someone instead. 

If you watch Breaking Bad but aren't listening to the Breaking Bad Insider podcast, you should. It's Kelley Dixon, the show's editor, who is an over-the-top charming gruff genius, and usually Vince Gilligan, breaking down all the little choices that go into the show. It's sort of like the Parks & Rec interview - there's something endlessly satisfying about listening to creative geniuses think out loud. 

 

And lastly, for your weekend, here are two videos of young children wholesomely pursuing fame. 

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Was "Worst Twerk Fail EVER" A Betrayal of Wonder and All That is Good In the World?

Friday, September 13, 2013

This week we learned that Worst Twerk Fail EVER, the viral clip that had captured the hearts and minds of America was in fact a hoax. 

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Twitter's going public. Now what?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Twitter announced its IPO this evening. Like Google or Facebook before it, the company spent a long time proving itself indispensable before it worried about proving itself profitable. Bob spoke to Twitter co-founder Evan Williams awhile back about how you make money off the world's favorite microblog. 

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Goodbye Voyager

Thursday, September 12, 2013

After thirty-six years, NASA's Voyager spacecraft has finally left our solar system. It's the furthest a man-made object has ever been from space. And it's sending us back the sound of interstellar space. So what's that sound like, anyway? 

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Movies To Bring Your iPad To

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Disney's re-releasing The Little Mermaid, with a twist: they're encouraging audiences to bring along their iPads for a second-screen experience. 

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