Social Media

St. Louis Today violates commenter trust

The St. Louis Today staff did it again.

The site asked a question of its readers: what was the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten. Evidently one person posted “pussy”. A crude answer, true, and a little vulgar, but also on-topic. At the most you’d expect the comment to be deleted, perhaps the person banned, if they’ve made a habit of writing semi-vulgar comments. What happened, though, is astonishing. In St. Louis Today’s Kurt Greenbaum’s own words:

someone posted in reply a single word, a vulgar expression for a part of a woman’s anatomy. It was there only a minute before a colleague deleted it.

A few minutes later, the same guy posted the same single-word comment again. I deleted it, but noticed in the WordPress e-mail alert that his comment had come from an IP address at a local school. So I called the school. They were happy to have me forward the e-mail, though I wasn’t sure what they’d be able to do with the meager information it included.

About six hours later, I heard from the school’s headmaster. The school’s IT director took a shine to the challenge. Long story short: Using the time-frame of the comments, our website location and the IP addresses in the WordPress e-mail, he tracked it back to a specific computer. The headmaster confronted the employee, who resigned on the spot.

The title of the article at St. Louis Today is “Post a vulgar comment while you’re at work, lose your job.” A more appropriate comment would be, “We get people fired because they write the word ‘pussy’ in a comment.” And Kurt Greenbaum hasn’t a clue why people are angry. What’s sadder is that Greenbaum is the Social Media director for the paper.


Change proposal for HTML5 dt/dd

Just posted an email to the HTML5 working group with my Change Proposal for dt/dd. This is in response to the dt/dd elements being redefined to be used with figure and details, as well as the dl element.

I have a couple of other bug reports to file based on this work, as well as other items. I hope to detail these in RealTech after I take a mental break.

Social Media Specs W3C

HTML5 status and when not to tweet

I’m in the process of rolling out some change proposals and bug reports for HTML5. I had volunteered to help with reviewing MathML during Last Call, and submitting comments for the HTML WG. Unfortunately, the process did not go smoothly.

In the meantime, this week was the W3C’s TPAC meeting, where all the boys and girls from all the W3C working groups get together for a face to face. Interesting stuff happened, including the TAG (TAG is the overall W3C architecture group) recommendation that HTML WG split Microdata from HTML5. We’ll see where that goes.

Twitter was very useful for those of us who were not at TAG. Those at TAG pointed out the IRC channels associated with each meeting, and where links to reports and presentations could be found. It was an example of good Twitter use.

What was not an example of good Twitter use last week were the “live” Twitter messages that came from a soldier in a hospital within Fort Hood during the recent tragic events. The inappropriate and less than helpful use of Twitter was detailed in an exceptionally good post at Techcrunch, written by Paul Carr.

In the writing, Paul makes the point that rather than help, or at least get out of the way, during a crises, we grab our cellphones and become mini-journalists—macabrely excited about being “live” at the event. We post photos of people hurt in accidents, or shot by a crazy man, regardless of who we might harm, including family members or the victims themselves. We exaggerate the event until one gunman becomes three, and an act of insanity becomes one of terrorism.

More importantly, we jam necessary cellphone lines in order to get that last tweet out, cause confusion, and aid and abet chaos.

Even outside a crises, we don’t seem to know when to turn off the spigot. How many of us woke up this morning to be met with the ultimate of absurdities: hundreds of messages from folks “live tweeting” a Congressional vote. My god, it’s just a bloody vote. There is nothing exciting about a vote until the vote is finished and the tabulation made.

Frankly, I would rather hear what people had for breakfast.

Anyway, more on HTML5 later, and do read Paul Carr’s writing.

update Suw Charman-Anderson has a detailed rebuttal. She has some good points, especially about the Iranians feeling reassured that people were listening.

What she misses, though, is the past tense: people were listening. People listened during the Iranian election, dyed their avatars green, and filled Twitter trends with the topic. And then…it all just went away. And that’s the point I think that Paul was making: social media’s ability to influence events is directly proportional to the attention of the participants, and the participants are being subjected to a continuous barrage of new events, and new outrages.

The green avatars are gone. Do the Iranian people still feel assured that people are listening?

Just Shelley

Just a cat

It was the shoe clawing that left me uncertain.

She was getting old, over 18 years old. Her arthritis was getting worse, but she could still make it upstairs: slowly and painfully, sometimes having to pull herself up with her front legs rather than push from behind.

She had good appetite, always wanting to have her tastes of whatever it was we were eating. She was particularly fond of the salmon steaks I made, and I must admit to having salmon more for her sake than ours.

Then, she stopped eating as much. It started with her midday treats, which began to go uneaten more often than not. Then it was her dry food, and her morning and evening wet food. By the time she lost interest in the salmon, we were desperately worried. She still chased her feather around, though slowly, and not for long. I sometimes think she chased the feather more for us than out of interest.

We knew that this would be her last year. It’s something that lurks in the back of your mind, but you don’t actively acknowledge in your thoughts. It manifested in little things, like whether I should buy a flat of her cat food, or just a few cans. I bought the flat.

Taking her into the vet was something we didn’t do lightly. As a young cat, she was abandoned, twice, at the Humane Society. I think she equated the carrier and the vet with loss, and fought against any trips with a desperation that left us shaken. The only good thing about taking her to the vet was returning home, when she would bound out of her box with a gladness that shown like a ray of silver hued sunshine— tail high, she would explore every nook and cranny of her home, and claw my shoes, to mark possession.

When she stopped eating, though, and could barely drink her water, we knew we had to take her in. During the exam, the vet tried to determine how far we wanted to take tests, because of her age, and the costs. But we had to give her a chance so ordered up the tests.

The results weren’t completely definitive. A beginning loss of kidney function was expected, but not the fluid around her lungs. Not good, and ultimately fatal, but neither of which would account for her loss of appetite. The doctor did think there was a good possibility of cancer, perhaps returning via her thyroid where she had a tumor once before. We had treated her for her thyroid tumor, but in rare cases the problems can return.

We took her home as we waited the blood tests, and to think about what we could do. At her age, surgery is a high risk, and anything else would require frequent visits to the vet, only to prolong her life a few months. She hated the vet though, and I hated the thought of her last months spent in an endless round of vet trips, needles, being force fed, and poked and prodded by strangers.

We tried hand feeding her using baby food. She’d take a lick or two, but that was it. Still, she purred when rubbed under her chin, snuggled in our arms, and clawed our shoes,

That last day was warm outside, and so I took her out on the front lawn. She was an indoor cat, so this was an extraordinary treat for her. She laid on the cement of the steps and felt the heat of the sun-warmed surface as it soaked into her stiff joints. She walked about on the grass, nibbling on the blades. People would stop when they walked past and comment on how beautiful she was. She was beautiful, silver stripes with white mittens, one eye green and one brown. They didn’t see what I saw though: the effort it took for her just to get to her feet, the weakness of her steps.

When not outside, she slept on my lap. After my roommate came home, she slept on his lap. That evening when we talked, asking each other if we were sure, she got up, came over to claw my shoe, and then laid down with her head on my foot.

At ten that night, roommate said good-bye to her and I put her in the carrier and took her to the vet one last time. In the room while we waited the vet, I held her in my arms and talked to her. I thanked her for the joy she brought us for 18 years. I told her how much we loved her.

The vet came in and picked her up to prepare her for the final injection. It would be given through a catheter, which is the quickest, painless approach. Little girl looked up at the vet, thinking she was roommate, and then hissing when she realized she was held by this strange person. My little girl still had fight. I felt pride, and even a faint hint of humor.

In a few minutes, the vet returned with her wrapped in a soft white towel. She was placed in my arms, and the vet asked if I needed more time. I held her close, and said, no, we had said good-byes. One shot, one last breath, a sigh really, and she was gone.

I left with the empty carrier. As I drove through dark streets I screamed—raw, primal cries of grief that stripped my throat. I drove until I couldn’t scream anymore and then went home.

I no longer see her shape out of the corner of my eye, and it’s no longer strange not to see her water and food bowls. I told myself I wouldn’t second guess the decision we made. I don’t most of the time, but every once in a while, when I put my shoes on, I remember that last time she clawed my shoe.


November is HTML5 Month

I’m not particularly good about compartmentalizing my interests. They say we women are good at multi-tasking, but I must be an exception to the rule.

I have sent off my first half of JavaScript Cookbook to my editor, and I hope to try to salvage an article I was doing for A List Apart, though I’ve run into some bandwidth issues that may be related to the technology covered. But my hope is to spend all of November working on HTML5: writing bugs, escalating bugs to issues, writing comments or change proposals, and, ultimately, going over every last bit of the HTML5 specification.

I can always sell my car to pay my bills.