food for thought monsters

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An all-you-can-process scrapbook of the internetly things I like best. +
Someday I will write Park City stories and Marauder fic again.
.skrittimhit~ my GW2/games blog

fishingboatproceeds:

edwardspoonhands:

About a year ago, YouTube introduced a system that they thought would increase the level of discourse on the site and make it a better place for everyone. Instead of just showing you the most recent comments on a video, you would (by default) see algorithmically selected comments that would take into account who your friends were, how highly ranked commenters social media profiles were, how many people “like” the comment, and whether the comment inspiring discussion. 

I never liked that system because, basically, it ensured that the average comment would never be seen because it would be buried by previous comments or comments from famous people. But I didn’t think it would be this bad. 

Whether by design or by chance, Top Comments seems to weight whether comments inspire discussion extremely heavily. It also does not seem to take into account the number of downvotes a comment gets. As a result, the most controversial (and often disgusting) comments sit on the top of a video for everyone to see. Top Comments is a system that literally (and seemingly intentionally) promotes the worst sort of trolls.

Thus, every SciShow video has a promoted comment from the same guy arguing about creationism or global warming. Racist comments sit on top of the comments in Vlogbrothers videos. VLOGBROTHERS! The comments of Vlogbrothers used to be (and still largely are) the nicest place on the internet. 

But because people acting terribly get promoted, the comments appear to be a terrifying and disturbing place. 

I thought Top Comments was meant to prevent that…and it would be a very easy fix (simply weight downvotes heavily). And yet it hasn’t happened…which makes me wonder if YouTube actually likes the trolls. Maybe trolls in the comments increase time-on-site…a statistic that YouTube is praising very highly at the moment. That /really/ can’t be the case. I’m not allowing myself to walk down that line of reasoning because it indicates a lack of interest in the community that I cannot believe possible by my friends at YouTube.

So, for now, I believe that the YouTube comments team is bound up by some internal bureaucracy or logistical problem and wants very badly to fix this problem (that they MUST know about). That’s bad, but it’s not as bad as the alternative. 

But whatever the cause, fix it, because it’s making the platform hostile and unpleasant to my viewers and me, and there are other platforms out there…

In the meantime, I would like to call on Nerdfighters for a bit of a hack. Trolls will be trolls…when you reply to their trolling you are literally promoting them. So, instead, click on “newest first” every time you go to a video and leave reply comments to good comments. Funny comments. Insightful comments…or leave one yourself. This shit sucks, maybe we can make it a little better.

Great post, Hank! Top Comments blows chunks, and we can’t wait for it to get fixed. When you’re on YouTube, bury trolls by not replying to them, and instead reply to nerdfightastic comments. Thanks, and DFTBA.

Asked Anonymous

fishingboatproceeds:

I think this is a deeply flawed way of looking at the world.

Now, I have talked about Ferguson, and I’ve talked about Gaza. (In fact, I’ve been writing and talking about Israel and Palestine for more than a decade.) But there are many important problems facing the world that I haven’t talked about: I haven’t talked much about the civil war in South Sudan, or the epidemic of suicide among American military personnel, or the persecution of Muslim Rohingya people in Myanmar.

Is that okay? Is it okay for me to talk about, say, racism in football and lowering infant mortality in Ethiopia? Or must we all agree to discuss only  whatever is currently the ascendant news story? Is it disrespectful to Ferguson protesters to talk about continued political oppression in Egypt now that we are no longer reblogging images of the protests in Tahrir Square? I think this is a false choice: If you are talking about Ferguson and I am talking about Ethiopian health care, neither of us is hurting the other.

I think the challenge for activists and philanthropists online is in paying sustained attention, not over days or weeks but over years and decades. And I worry that when we turn our attention constantly from one outrage to another we end up not investing the time and work to facilitate actual change. We say “THE WORLD IS WATCHING,” and it is…until it isn’t. We’ve seen this again and again in Gaza and the West Bank. We’re seeing it in Iran. We’re seeing it in South Sudan. And we’re seeing it in the U.S., from net neutrality to Katrina recovery.

The truth is, these problems are complicated, and when the outrage passes we’re left with big and tangled and nuanced problems. I feel that too often that’s when we stop paying attention, because it gets really hard and there’s always a shiny new problem somewhere else that’s merely outrageous. I hope you’re paying attention to Ferguson in five years, anon, and I hope I am, too. I also hope I’m paying attention to child death in Ethiopia. I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive.

I really don’t want to minimize the effectiveness of online activism, because I know that it works: To use a personal example, I’ve learned a TON from the LGBT+ and sexual assault survivor communities in recent years online. People on tumblr make fun of me for apologizing all the time, but I apologize all the time because I am learning all the time, and every day I’m like, “Oh, man, Current Me has realized that Previous Me was so wrong about this!”

But we can only learn when we can listen. And when you call me a hypocrite for talking about X instead of talking about Y, it makes it really hard to listen.

At times, online discourse to me feels like we just sit in a circle screaming at each other until people get their feelings hurt and withdraw from the conversation, which leaves us with ever-smaller echo chambers, until finally we’re left only with those who entirely agree with us. I don’t think that’s how the overall worldwide level of suck gets decreased.

I might be wrong, of course. I often am. But I think we have to find ways to embrace nuance and complexity online. It’s hard—very, very hard—to make the most generous, most accepting, most forgiving assumptions about others. But I also really do think it’s the best way forward.

"Why I Love Makeup" by John Green

I love vlog brothers. I know it’s fun to poke fun at John Green, but he and his brother Hank are some of my favorite people in the world. His musings on makeup here and his shout out to Hank wearing makeup in high school in particular are perfect things.

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fishingboatproceeds:

lexcanroar:

phampants:

HOLY SHIT!!!

AHAHAHAHA

HIGHLIGHT OF MY LIFE.

fishingboatproceeds:

I mean, that scene is word-for-word from the book, so don’t blame the movie! :) Yes, Gus is super pretentious at the start of the story. it’s a character flaw.

Gus wants to have a big and important and remembered life, and so he acts like he imagines people who have such lives act. So he’s, like, says-soliloquy-when-he-means-monologue pretentious, which is the most pretentious variety of pretension in all the world.

And then his performative, over-the-top, hyper-self-aware pretentiousness must fall away for him to really connect to Hazel, just as her fear of being a grenade must fall away. That’s what the novel is about. That is its plot.

Gus must make the opposite of the traditional heroic journey—he must start out strong and end up weak in order to reimagine what constitutes a rich and well-lived life.

Basically, a 20-second clip from the first five minutes of a movie is not the movie.

(Standard acknowledgement here that I might be wrong, that I am inevitably defensive of TFIOS, that it has many flaws, that there’s nothing wrong with critical discussion, and that a strong case could be made that I should not insert myself into these conversations at all.)

Show me a person who is not pretentious about something at some point in their lives and I will show you the world: shining, shimmering, splendid.

-

John Green - (from the introduction of “This Star Won’t Go Out” by Esther Earl)

THIS BOOK COMES OUT TOMORROW. I AM SO EXCITED.

(via fishingboatproceeds)

I love you guys.

fishingboatproceeds:

You will at some point become aware that you are unworthy of the great things* happening in your life, and more generally that you are unworthy of a universe that would organize itself to allow a creature like you to marvel at, for instance, the canals of Amsterdam or the sound of rain on a windowpane**.

I hope you have many of these days, and soon.







* This is also true of terrible things, I think.

*** Windowpanes in and of themselves are pretty miraculous when you think about it; I mean, if you read the first sentence of the glass wikipedia entry, you get some sense of how astonishing it is. But anyway, yeah, you are also unworthy of a universe that could allow such a creature as you to exist but not care seemingly at all about your well-being or health or ability to continue to observe the universe. But on the other hand, you only have that awareness because you are for right now at least gifted with awareness and whoa just marvel at it all for a moment.

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lizthefangirl:

landofthefandoms:

Oh. My. Yes.

deAR LROD

Oh my god, he even makes a flower reference to lilies.

fishingboatproceeds:

88,000 notes?!

(By the way, you can follow Sarah on tumblr. Also the President.)

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edwardspoonhands:

starkidnerdfighters:

Yeah, does it need caption? DeviantArt Post 

Sometimes I think posting art of yourself on Tumblr is egotistical…but this is just too well done….

itscandidlycara:

ofpotterandwho:

John Green: What To Do With Your Life (x)

always reblog

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fishingboatproceeds:

Both these comments are rhetoric and not policy, so shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but the underlying ideas here are very important to me. 

When the President says that higher education is an economic necessity, he is absolutely correct. If you look at the industrialized economies that are struggling around the world, they line up very closely with higher education rates. (Look at Portugal, for instance.) 

So, like, “the U.S. experienced a fairly large growth in population from 2000 to 2009. During the period, the population increased 8.68% — the 12th highest among OECD countries. Meanwhile, the rate at which the share of the population with a tertiary [post high school] education is growing has slowed to an annual rate of 1.4% — the lowest among the 34 OECD countries. Just 71% of funding for educational institutions in the country comes from public funds, placing the U.S. sixth-lowest in this measure.” [source]

So we already have one of the lowest rates of public investment in education in the industrialized world, and the lowest rate of growth in post-secondary education.

This is a real long-term and structural problem for the US economy, because the only future growth available to industrialized nations is in jobs that require education. If we only offer higher education to people who can afford it, we will lose to the many nations where university education is more highly subsidized, because they’ll have better educated workforces that will earn more and in turn pay more in taxes, which will allow future generations to be better educated still. 

Both parties would like to take political credit or assign political blame for the unemployment rate and the pace of growth etc. But the truth is, government doesn’t have a lot of say in that stuff (unless of course they screw things up so royally that there’s a debt default or something). A lot of the government’s role in economic growth is much longer term—it’s stuff like infrastructure and long-term political stability and creating a better-educated workforce.

A way more eloquent version of what I tried to say to my father the other night when we discussed how manufacturing jobs will soon be largely robotic.

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fishingboatproceeds:

This is a photo of me stagediving at LeakyCon. It was taken by the lovely and charming Evanna Lynch. Life is weird/beautiful.

Anyway, while I was crowdsurfing—I was out there for quite a while—I had time to think about some things:

1. The Harry Potter fandom is uniquely wonderful, and the greatest luck of my professional life is probably that so many HP fans became early nerdfighters, because the whole culture of nerdfighteria came not primarily from us but from those early nerdfighters.

2. Although it is hard for me to express it in a meaningful, individual way, I am really grateful to everyone who identifies as a nerdfighter. We’ve done so much amazing stuff together that none of us could ever have done alone.

3. I love being a nerdfighter, and I love being a nerd, and I seeing people be so honestly themselves is such an inspiration to me.

4. How are all these people—many of whom are very small—holding me aloft?

5. The metaphor here is too obvious.

6. There’s probably a better, more interesting metaphor that I’m not thinking of.

7. I guess the real metaphor is not you-can-only-make-stuff-if-people-hold-you-up; the real metaphor here is that together-things-happen-that-can-never-happen-alone, which is a very important thing for an introverted and socially anxious person like me to realize. I guess these days this is a politically charged statement, but it seems to me manifestly true: You make nothing alone. Human beings are not mere competitors, and human life is not merely competition. We are collaborators. To be human is to catch the falling person.

fishingboatproceeds:

(Since I asked via this blog for this, I thought I’d post it here as well as the Paper Towns Q&A blog. It contains no spoilers. Thanks to Tamar for making it possible for me to post this publicly.)

Where did the strings metaphor inPaper Towns come from?

Someone said it to me once, after a friend had attempted suicide, that “maybe all the strings inside him broke,” and I liked that image a lot because 1. puppets, and 2. We are all aware that there is this emotional/psychological life inside of us, right? But it’s very difficult to talk about, because it doesn’t have a physical location.

When your back hurts, it’s relatively easy to address this problem using language: You say, “My back hurts,” and I can understand what you mean, because I also have a back, and it has hurt before, and I remember that pain, which makes it easier for me to empathize with you.

It is much harder for me to empathize with you if what hurts is abstract. When people are imagining sadness or despair, they often try to render it in terms we find familiar. You often hear, “My heart hurts,” for instance, or “My heart is broken.” This problem, of course, is not actually in the heart.

(I do think a lot of people feel emotional pain physically near the solar plexus, but it’s not the physical manifestation of emotional pain that makes it so difficult: It’s the emotional/psychological/spiritual/whatever pain itself, which you can’t describe easily in concrete terms.)

To talk about emotional pain (and lots of other emotional experiences), we are forced to use abstractions. (“My heart is broken,” is a symbolic statement.) And many people feel, in this world driven by data and statistics and concreteness, that abstractions are inherently kind of less valid than concrete observations. But emotional experience is as real and as valid as physical experience. And the fact that we have to use metaphor and symbolism to describe that pain effectively does not make it less real—just as abstract paintings are not inherently inferior to representational paintings.

You often hear in high school English classes, for instance, that thinking about symbols is dumb or useless or “ruining the book.” But underneath it all, this is why we have language in the first place. We don’t really need language to share the news of your back pain: You can point at your back and grimace to tell me that your back hurts, and I can nod sympathetically. 

But to explain to you the nature and nuance of my grief or pain or joy, I need abstractions. I need symbols. And the better our symbols are, the more clearly we’ll be able to communicate with each other, and the more fully we’ll be able to imagine each other’s experience. Good symbolism makes empathy easier.

So why the strings? The strings inside a person breaking struck me as a better and more accurate abstract description of despair than anthropomorphized symbols (broken heart, etc.).

And this is very important to remember when reading or writing or painting or talking or whatever: You are never, ever choosing whether to use symbols. You are choosing which symbols to use.

Those last four paragraphs. Yessss. This is what I want to rub in the face of people who whine about my brand of analysis, since my complaints usually have to do with poor use of imagery/complete lack of awareness of its use.

However, I kind of disagree about physical pain being somehow totally separate (linguistically) from emotional pain. I’ve read a few books on trauma language, and physical + mental/emotional pain share the characteristic of being wholly self-contained and generally unique, in that our attempts to describe both don’t work. A pain can be shooting, but it still doesn’t describe the feeling of the pain, it just describes the motion it moves in, etc.

And just like a back that’s been in pain, when you’ve been in a similar emotional place, you can empathize real easy to the point of reliving the pain in a phantom form. So. I don’t like the inherent mind/body duality this post seems to promote at all. But I love his larger point that internal machinations are the most difficult things to communicate.