Goodbye, Breaking Bad

Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad ended last night. An estimated 8 million people tuned in to watch the show end, which I bet undercounts all the folks downloading it two hours later from a torrent, or who watched it from a crowded bar or a friend's couch.

Today, on our last post-Breaking Bad Monday, I'm realizing what I'll miss most about the show isn't the show itself, but the way it reigned in and focused our cultural attention. Breaking Bad cross-pollinated every cultural channel I pay attention to.

Read More

Comment

This week of lies is over. Happy Friday!

Friday, September 27, 2013

What a strange week it's been. We found out our favorite spambot was an art project. Kanye West, furious about a Jimmy Kimmel sketch, tweeted a Slate article. Last night, I saw a dog on the train doing a very good impression of a sleepy, home-bound commuter.

Read More

Comments [3]

#2 - Stereotyped

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Christopher Hermelin has a project called "The Roving Typist," where he writes stories for people in the park on his typewriter. One day last summer, he found his photo posted to Reddit, and suddenly his image was the butt of jokes all over the internet. We talked to him about what it feels like to become a meme.

Read More

Comments [3]

New York Programmer Teaches A Homeless Man To Code

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Last month, Twenty-three year old programmer Patrick McConlogue came up with a pretty audacious plan. He'd offer a homeless person a choice: A) 100 dollars, or B) a cheap laptop, some programming books, and free coding lessons from McConlogue. McConologue's naive-sounding tone rubbed people the wrong way. Snarky things were written. But today, McConlogue told Business Insider that a few weeks in, the plan's going along pretty well. Leo, the homeless man he's working with, chose the lessons over the money, and he says he's learned a lot. Business Insider's video profile after the jump. 

Read More

Comments [1]

#1.5 - The Bonkers Conclusion to Pronunciation Book

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One last update to episode 1 of TLDR. We all found out on Monday that Pronunciation Book (along with horse_ebooks) were part of a collaborative stunt between Jacob Bakkila and Thomas Bender to promote their art project Alternate Reality Game, Bear Stearns Bravo. The Daily Dot's Gaby Dunn, who we spoke to for our original story, figured out that Bakkila was the guy behind Pronunciation Book months ago. In order to convince her not to publish her story, Bakkila manipulated Dunn with a very elaborate series of lies. Weirdly, many of the people in her life were in on those lies, in varying capacities. We did a follow-up interview with Gaby about living her own personal version of the Truman Show, and you should listen because it is bonkers. 

Read More

Comments [14]

Someone Lost Millions of Dollars Betting On Mitt Romney Last Year

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

In the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election, there was a lot of talk about prediction markets -- websites where people can bet online about the outcome of any given event. They're useful because they give outsiders a snapshot of what the crowd thinks is going to happen. They're also, in theory, vulnerable to manipulation. If someone were willing to buy tons of stock in an idea they support, they could make it look like a lot of people believe in it too. But no one would really do that. Because it'd be crazy and expensive. Right? From the Wall Street Journal

"...A single trader lost between $4 million and $7 million placing a flurry of Intrade bets on Mitt Romney—perhaps to make the Republican nominee’s chance of victory appear brighter.

Two economists who studied the data offer various rationales for the trader’s aggressive wagering on Mr. Romney in the final two weeks of the campaign. The anonymous trader placed 1.2 million pro-Romney contracts, some of which were actually in the form of bets against a Barack Obama victory.

The most plausible reason for the betting, the authors conclude, is that “this trader could have been attempting to manipulate beliefs about the odds of victory in an attempt to boost fundraising, campaign morale, and turnout.”

Oof. I never thought I'd feel so much sympathy for an anonymous tycoon. 

 

Read More

Comments [1]

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."

 

 

Read More

Comments [3]

Two Great Internet Mysteries, Solved (Or Ruined)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

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

Read More

Comments [8]

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. 

Read More

Comment

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? 

Read More

Comments [4]

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. 

Read More

Comments [1]

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.

Read More

Comments [8]

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.)

Read More

Comments [1]

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.

Read More

Comments [1]

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.

Read More

Comments [13]

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. 

Read More

Comment

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. 

Read More

Comment

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. 

 

Read More

Comments [7]

#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. 

Read More

Comments [11]