Apr 23 2014

The Reading List, 4/23/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

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Apr 22 2014

What Courage Looks Like

Our narratives around courage are lopsided. We recognize derring do, rushing into bad situations. Even when it’s poorly thought out or downright suicidal, we reward that kind of behavior by calling it bravery.

We’re not nearly as good at recognizing the courage required to hold our ground. I don’t know why exactly, maybe because we want to be able to intimidate people with our strength rather than having to use it. Whatever the reason, it’s wrong to forget or discount this kind of courage. It takes real bravery to face opposition with the power to hurt you–physically, emotionally, or through damage to your social standing–and persevere.

So I got a little emotional when I saw this today.

Screen cap of pic from Melody Hensley. Text in the post.

I will relapse. I will be retraumatized. I will come back. One day I hope to conquer this disorder and feel in control every day.

She shared a pic of one of her dogs with David Futrelle, too, after he wrote a very supportive post over at Man Boobz. It’s not business as usual, but it is claiming her Twitter account as something harassment can’t take from her. That’s brave as hell, especially given that the abuse goes on.

If you’d like to reward Melody’s bravery, you can send her a supportive message, either on Twitter or here (where the comments are screened for her), or you can donate to a campaign she set up to raise money earmarked for PTSD research. Even if you don’t do that, though, at the very least you should recognize it for the courage it is.

Apr 21 2014

The Failure Mode of Naked

Note: This post contains an image you may not want to view at work. You can also read a pdf of the post with a description of the painting rather than the painting, produced for an art teacher who wanted to share this with their students. This pdf may be reproduced for use in an educational setting.

A few years back, John Scalzi wrote a blog post with a line that has made its way around the internet. “The failure mode of clever is ‘asshole.’” It’s a useful thing to remember on its own, but it’s even more useful in the context in which it was presented in the post.

1. The effectiveness of clever on other people is highly contingent on outside factors, over which you have no control and of which you may not have any knowledge; i.e., just because you intended to be clever doesn’t mean you will be perceived as clever, for all sorts of reasons.

2. The failure mode of clever is “asshole.”

It isn’t just that you really need to succeed at being clever. It’s also that clever is ridiculously difficult, because it’s a two-party interaction. You can put work and thought into being clever, you can test your material on other people first, and you can still find that your audience isn’t in the mood, has heard the joke too many times, has a sore spot under what you intended as a gentle poke, or just has a very different sense of humor.

While Scalzi is talking about dealing with strangers in this post, I’ve seen clever fail among friends for all these reasons too, particularly during times of stress. The difference in that case is that your friends are somewhat less likely to dub you an asshole for one failed case of clever.

Why do I bring this up nearly four years after Scalzi’s post? Because I’ve been chewing over a different case of failed communication in the last few days, and I realized that it can be generalized to a rule very much like the one Scalzi posited: The failure mode of naked is “objectification”. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 20 2014

The Reading List, 4/20/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Apr 19 2014

Saturday Storytime: Little Faces

Vonda McIntyre is one of the earliest women to be nominated for a Hugo. She’s been nominated several more times for several more awards since then. It will be unsurprising to anyone who reads this story that it was multiply nominated as well.

“Zorargul,” Yalnis whispered. She had never lost a companion. She chose them carefully, and cherished them, and Zorargul had been her first, the gift of her first lover. She looked up at Seyyan, confused and horrified, shocked by loss and pain.

“Come back.” Seyyan spoke with soft urgency. She stretched out her graceful hand. “Come back to bed.” Her voice intensified. “Come back to me.”

Yalnis shrank from her touch. Seyyan followed her, sliding over the fading bloodstain in the comfortable nest of ship silk. Her first companion extruded itself, just below her navel, staring intently at Zorargul’s body.

Seyyan stroked Yalnis’ shoulder. Yalnis pushed her away with her free hand, leaving bloody fingerprints on Seyyan’s golden skin.

Seyyan grabbed her wrist and held her, moved to face her squarely, touched her beneath her chin and raised her head to look her in the eyes. Yalnis tried to blink away her tears, baffled and dizzy, flooded with the molecular messages of anger and distress her remaining companions pumped into her blood.

“Come back to me,” Seyyan said again. “We’re ready for you.”

Her first companion, drawing back into her, pulsed and muttered. Seyyan caught her breath.

“I never asked for this!” Yalnis cried.

Seyyan sat back on her heels, as lithe as a girl, but a million years old.

“I thought you wanted me,” she said. “You welcomed me—invited me—took me to your bed—”

Yalnis shook her head, though it was true. “Not for this,” she whispered.

“It didn’t even fight,” Seyyan said, dismissing Zorargul’s remains with a quick gesture. “It wasn’t worthy of its place with you.”

“Who are you to decide that?”

“I didn’t,” Seyyan said. “It’s the way of companions.” She touched the reddening bulge of a son-spot just below the face of her first companion. “This one will be worthy of you.”

Yalnis stared at her, horrified and furious. Seyyan, the legend, had come to her, exotic, alluring, and exciting. All the amazement and attraction Yalnis felt washed away in Zorargul’s blood.

“I don’t want it,” she said. “I won’t accept it.”

Seyyan’s companion reacted to the refusal, blinking, snarling. For a moment Yalnis feared Seyyan too would snarl at her, assault her and force a new companion upon her.

Seyyan sat back, frowning in confusion. “But I thought—did you invite me, just to refuse me? Why—?”

“For pleasure,” Yalnis said. “For friendship. And maybe for love—maybe you would offer, and I would accept—”

“How is this different?” Seyyan asked.

Keep reading.

Apr 17 2014

How Twitter Can Combat Harassment in Three Easy Steps

Dear Twitter:

A language hotspot map using color to designate threat level.

Shouldn’t hotspots always receive the most attention?

I can see that you’re overwhelmed with the idea of policing your service. It’s been obvious for a while, but when you start issuing service ticket numbers for complaints without having any way for people to check the status of those tickets, then you’re shouting it from the rooftops. So here’s a little suggestion about how to make your own lives easier while still cleaning up your service to keep people on it long enough to see your sponsored tweets. And it will only take three easy steps.

  1. You already have an algorithm that detects spikes in the use of phrases or hashtags. It’s what you use to create your trending topics. Use that algorithm to detect when people’s mentions spike. Sure, it will take a little bit of fine-tuning, because the spikes are smaller, but it will be worth it.
  2. Why? Because your next step is to set someone in Twitter support on the job of looking through that person’s mentions. Again, this will be an easy job, because all this person needs to do is determine whether this person’s mentions are full of something benign, like congratulations, or full of the kind of toxic crap my friend Melody Hensley is still receiving two days after I documented an onslaught of abuse. The difference is easy to spot. Go take a look.
  3. Once you’ve identified a thread with a high degree of abuse, go through and clean it out. Ban your repeat offenders and accounts freshly created for the purpose of abusing someone. Suspend and/or warn your first-timers depending on their degree of depravity, and mark their accounts as having been warned so you know when you see them again.

That’s it. You’re done. You’ve found the people who exist to make your service hell for other people, and you’ve dealt with them en masse. You’ve gone to the trouble spots and dealt with the troublemakers. You haven’t had to go through and individually look at tickets for each one and individually look at all the tweets involved. Sure, you’ll still get tickets on smaller situations, but there will be a whole lot fewer of them.

No need to thank me or credit me for making your jobs easier or your service more user-friendly. Just take the advice and make it happen. Clean the place up.

Image: “Language Hotspots” by whiteafrican.

Apr 16 2014

Secular Anti-Abortion Link Roundup

A friend is leading a discussion on reproductive justice and would like all the links related to last month’s blow-up in one place. I realized I’d tweeted many of them and, thus, had them collected in other posts already. This is just pulling them all together, though I’m sure I don’t have them all. If I missed anything that contributed to the discussion, please drop it in the comments. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 16 2014

The Reading List, 4/16/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Apr 15 2014

How Could Twitter Possibly Cause PTSD?

When I started this Storify, I didn’t expect it to be nearly this long. Then Thunderf00t stepped in, and the volume increased to multiple tweets per minute. It’s only starting to slow down in the last hour, but I have to stop somewhere if this is going to be published. If it gets to you, either in volume or in ugliness, then at least keep scrolling until you get to the part where they start contacting her boss and her organization. That should be witnessed.

If the embed on the Storify doesn’t work, you can read the whole thing here.

Apr 13 2014

But How Do You Know the MRAs Are Atheists?

Note: This is one of those posts you really want to read all the way through before commenting on or characterizing.

I think this question is mostly a thing of the past, but at one point, it was a favorite of those who didn’t like to see the atheist movement criticized were all over wanting to know how we could knew that the harassment and anti-feminism coming our way was coming from atheists. Typically, we pointed to the communities from which the bulk of the harassment came. Now, we can point to some numbers in yet another community that suggest we’re on the right track.

Or at least they make me laugh. Read the rest of this entry »

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