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?