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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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  • 03/08/13--07:00: The future of Reddit
  • Reddit's best year ever might also have been its worst.

    The massive online community whiplashed between public-relations extremes in 2012, from a presidential visit to a series of high-profile controversies that culminated with the outing and shaming of one its most notorious users. The social news site became an Internet behemoth, leading and beating the news, and directing jaw-dropping traffic to any site lucky enough to get a link on its front page. By the end of 2012, about 50 million people were visiting the site every month.

    For every admirable deed, redditors had an equal or greater negative action. Theyhelped raise nearly a million dollars to support a bullied bus monitor in upstate New York, even as others were gleefully sharing sexually suggestive photos of women taken without their permission. 

    What has Reddit learned from the highs and lows of the past year? According to cofounder Alexis Ohanian and general manager Erik Martin, in the realm of Reddit, the best way to keep moving forward is to keep your hands off the steering wheel.

    Reddit's future is just a more distilled version of its past: The mob rules, for better or worse.

    ...

    In October, Gawker's Adrian Chen exposed the real identity of violentacrez, one of the site's most notorious trolls, to be Michael Brutsch, a middle-aged programmer and military father in Dallas.  The exposé sparked an interwebsite war; Reddit moderators, convinced the article set a precedent that threatened their safety, launched a ban on Gawker links.

    Reddit's refusal to take action against violentacrez and related purveyors of hate and exploitive content appeared to many as either tacit approval or callous disinterest. Reddit, after all, is not the United States government, bound by the First Amendment. Why not kick out sleazebags and jerks? The sentiment again came to prominence late last month when unlikely redditor William Shatner tore into the site's speech policies:

    "The fact that someone could come here, debase and degrade people based on race, religion, ethnicity or sexual preference because 'they have a right' to do so without worry of any kind of moderation is sending the wrong message."

    Yet despite the media (and Shatner) heat, Reddit's not about to step back and reexamine its speech policies. Martin insisted that, despite what it may have seemed from the outside, Gawker's story didn't cause much concern at Reddit HQ. "I don't think it had that big of an impact," he said.

    Reddit's philosophical foundation is the same techno-libertarian idealism that informed many of the Internet's oldest and most influential communities, from Usenet and 4chan to the early World Wide Web itself. Reddit staff, from CEO Yishan Wong down, believe that the good of free speech outweighs the bad. While Reddit made minor concession to controversies—most notably, by banning sexualized images of minors in Feb. 2012—its not about to start policing other forms of speech, no matter how hateful or harmful.

    "We believe that, even if things are offensive, even if we disagree with people, it's better to leave them out in the open than sweep them under the rug," Martin said.

    "We've taken the exact same approach as our peers," Ohanian added, citing the case of Innocence of Muslims, the anti-Islam film that sparked riots and deaths in the Muslim world after it was posted to YouTube last September. "YouTube hosted that content. They said they would not take this down. In spite of the fact very clearly offending millions of people. It had a right to be there. That decision was generally very applauded in the West."

    (It's worth noting that many social-media companies, including YouTube, do have policies against hate speech.)

    The best way to combat hateful speech is with more speech, Ohanian said. Part of that is giving Reddit's thousands of moderators better tools for managing the communities themselves. The site will "slightly improve moderator tools" in the coming year, Martin said, though he declined to go into specifics. By making small improvements to the community management system, "redditors will do what redditors will do and create really cool things with those," Martin said.

    "We believe the majority of people on Reddit, online, want to create really good communities, and they're spending hours and hours on Reddit all day because they want to create something they enjoy--something meaningful."

    Over the years, violentacrez had come to personify Reddit's dark and exploitative side, thanks to his significant power and influence on the site. As Chen wrote in his exposé :

    “When Violentacrez first joined the site and started filling it with filth, administrators were wary and they often clashed. But eventually administrators and Violentacrez came to an uneasy truce ... For all his unpleasantness, they realized that Violentacrez was an excellent community moderator and could be counted on to keep the administrators abreast of any illegal content he came across.” 

    Reddit promotes the idea of a kind of free-market competition between communities, but in practice it doesn't really work that way. The site's "default subreddits" are a group of about 20 communities that every new user subscribes to automatically. Other subreddits depend on users finding them and clicking a subscribe button. In other words, the defaults balloon to disproportionate sizes based not on merit, but status. To newbies, the defaults appear to be Reddit. The "default" status gives them a veneer of official approval; likewise, the user moderators who run them also seem to speak with official capacity.

    At their top is an old-boys club of volunteer moderators who take control thanks to connections and friendships. Violentacrez had long been a member of this exclusive network. Before deleting his account, he shared control of some of the site's biggest communities, from r/WTF to r/Funny.

    The problem is two-fold: For starters, Reddit relies almost exclusively on volunteers to manage its millions of users. And two, the user, as a result can wield significant power and authority. Ostensibly, once Reddit stopped funneling users into the defaults, the population would become less concentrated. That should make it harder for moderators to accumulate too much power.

    Both Martin and Ohanian agreed that the default system was a problem and that "better subreddit discovery" options were on the way, though again they weren't willing to go into specifics.

    "It's a complicated problem," Martin said. “The defaults deservedly get a lot of criticism, but the system still somehow works. people find about new subreddits somewhere."

    Again, he suggested that solution may bubble up organically from Reddit itself.

    "Maybe what fixes the defaults isn't going to come from an employee. It's just going to evolve and evolve in a way that makes a more fair market."

    Reddit has only three staff members tasked with community management. Does it need more, to take responsibilities away from user moderators? Ohanian said "no" and again brought up the idea of improving moderator tools.

    "Software always scales better than people," he said.  

    ...

    Asked if Reddit had an image problem over the past year, Ohanian quickly said "no."

    "It's not been the impression I've gotten. The mayor of Ottawa just did an AMA yesterday. We had one from space the other day. That was awesome. The general public, they look at a platform like Reddit, Twitter, Wordpress, and they see that. They can separate the fact that the Westboro Baptist Church uses Twitter to do their awful stuff. And they can separate it from the platform."

    Indeed, despite what seemed an avalanche of bad press in the fall, Reddit's only been rewarded when it comes to traffic, hitting 56 million in February. Not only are mayors and astronauts stopping by, but celebrities continue to see the site's r/IAMA as a legitimate watering hole in press tours. Recent guests have included Anthony Bourdain, Nascar star Jimmy Johnson, and Bill Gates.

    Those big names are coming to the site to interact directly with fans and the Internet at large. A public relations goldmine in the age of the social Web r/IAmA has become the face of Reddit and an Internet phenomenon in its own right. And like the rest of the site, the forum was conceived and is now run by users.

    Reddit's success has come from giving the crowd freedom to control Reddit, from voting buttons to SubredditDrama subscriptions to community creation. When that causes problems, Reddit's admins see only one viable solution: more user freedom.

    "Reddit's a living breathing thing," Martin said. "We're the ones who give it food and water and check it for fleas. But it's going to do what it wants to do."

    • SXSW Panel: It's Reddit's Web. We Just Live In It
    • Friday, March 8, 5pm
    • Sheraton Austin, Capitol EFGH (701 E. 11th St.)

    Illustrations by Jason Reed


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    Your Twitter past will haunt you. 

    Egyptian activist Samira Ibrahim was set to be feted in Washington today for taking on the country's powerful military after she and other protesters were subjected to "virginity tests" during protests at Tahrir Square in March, 2011. But the State Department has removed Ibrahim from a list of recipients of the International Women of Courage Award after Twitter users dug up a series of racist and anti-American tweets.

    “An explosion on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas airport in Bulgaria on the Black Sea," read one Tweet Ibrahim published on July 18, 2012, after five Israelis were killed in a bombing. "Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news." (The New York Timestranslated.)

    In another, she quoted an anti-Semitic line attributed to Hitler: "‘I have discovered with the passage of days, that no act contrary to morality, no crime against society, takes place, except with the Jews having a hand in it.’ Hitler.” 

    And on the anniversary of Sept. 11 last year, Ibrahim took an anti-America turn: "May America burn every year,” she wrote.

    Ibrahim initially blamed the tweets on hackers, but has since backed off that stance. She tweeted on Wednesday, “I refused to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America for previous comments hostile towards Zionism under pressure from the American government so the prize was withdrawn.” 

    A State Department official suggested to The New York Times that Ibrahim was still under consideration for the award, but that it needed more to investigate the comments. Ibrahim had become "a real leader in her country in trying to address gender-based violence and other human rights abuses," the official said. 

    Indeed, as vile as Ibrahim's comments may be, they change little about her work on behalf of women. She is both a brave human rights activist and an anti-Semite. Two characteristics that are, unfortunately, not mutually exclusive.

    Photo via Samira Ibrahim/Twitter


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    Yet another Internet meme is a mystery no more.

    In September 2010, an unidentified female student attended a football game at the University of Arizona. As the game progressed, her excitement turned to disgust. It was while she wore this look of despair that she noticed an ESPN camera had chosen that moment to zero in on her reaction. Immediately flipping her frown upside-down, she giggled before lightheartedly demanding that the camera operator "stop!"

    In the coming months, footage of the "Stop Girl" made its way around the Internet. In May 2012, the r/thestopgirl subreddit was created and immediately exploded in popularity. To this day, its 11,900+ subscribers post the GIF in response to almost any topic, from a redditor's marriage proposal to even the very meta "Stop Girl upon seeing r/thestopgirl."

    In a March 7 post on ESPN's blog, the "Stop Girl" expanded her single-word vocabulary in an interview. Identifying herself only as "Sarah," she expressed her reaction at the popularity of the rather simple meme.

    "I look at it every once in awhile. I’m just like surprised at how popular it’s been, and it’s only getting more popular, it seems," she told ESPN. "People watch this over and over for two hours straight. That’s weird."

    In the interview, she also quelled any and all rumors that she was actually saying "No" to the approaching camera.

    "I love the debate over whether I said ‘No’ or ‘Stop,’” Sarah told ESPN. “I said ‘Stop,’ because I thought, ‘I can’t yell at this cameraman.’ I guess the whole argument is because my lips didn’t close at the end of the word."

    Sorry, r/thenogirl, but you have effectively been disproven.

    Sarah also stated that, while she isn't really recognized in public as the "Stop Girl," longtime friends and associates who have spotted the meme will contact her. To the disappointment of a large number of her fans, Sarah also admitted to having a boyfriend.

    Subscribers to r/thestopgirl did not stop themselves from reacting to the article.

    "[Sarah] obviously knows about us and owes us an AMA. Well, she doesn't owe anything, but, I mean, she should do an AMA," redditor ChillPenguinX said.

    "AND NOW I HAVE CLOSURE, I CAN UNSUBSCRIBE, I'M FREE," redditor Truck_Thunders said.

    "Before I read this, I wanted to know who she was. Now I wish I wouldn't have read it. If it was still a secret it would be better. I also don't like the idea, that she is creeped out a bit by this gif being such a famous meme (or did I read this wrong?)," redditor LDiabolo posed.

    With Sarah's recent exposure, r/thestopgirl and its various competing subreddits, such as r/stopgirl, could possibly come to a final, perhaps overdue...

    Or will Stop Girl live on, inadvertently commenting on Reddit activity, world headlines, and the personal lives of her fans?

    Perhaps Jennifer Lawrence and the subscribers of r/YeahGirl can fill the Stop Girl's shoes. It's safe to say that they would be quite enthused to undertake such a task.

    Photo via ESPN


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    A megachurch in Houston, Texas is telling its congregants to keep their cell phones in the on position during Sunday services, and encouraging them to tweet, Facebook, and use other social media apps to spread the good word.

    Rector Jim Liberatore of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church decided to implement the pro-phone policy, citing that social media is heavy influence in his young congregations' lives and he thinks it's an idea that Jesus would approve of.

    “We have a pretty young congregation—the median age is 33—and so many of them I deal with them on social media as much as I do in presence of them,” said Liberatore to KRLD Radio.

    “I just think this is a different way for people to connect with each other, to share their faith—and I think Jesus would make use of it.”

    That’s not to mention the free publicity his sermons would be receiving from the flock of updates on multiple social media websites. Liberatore also stated that he thinks Jesus would be on Twitter.

    “I do… I’m not sure what his handle would be, but I’d think he’d have one,” he said.

    Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, echoed Liberatore's thoughts about a digitally connected Jesus spreading his sermon in 140 characters or less.

    “After all, Jesus told us we need to preach the gospel to all people, and I think if he had an iPhone, he might’ve used technology in his day as well," said Jeffress.

    Photo via _jack_bramlett/Hashgram


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    With a population of a billion people, most of whom seem to be on the Web at any given time, China is the acknowledged champion of online censorship. It’s no small task, combining filtering technology, societal pressure, laws and the threat of imprisonment to keep the riotous Chinese Internet in line.

    Now, Rice University, Bowdoin College and the University of New Mexico have released a study that took a detailed look at how the Chinese authorities censor Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like microblogging service that is hugely popular in the country. Weibo has almost 400 million registered users who post about 100 million messages a day.

    The findings outlined in “The Velocity of Censorship: High-Fidelity Detection of Microblog Post Deletions” are based on a study of “users likely to participate in sensitive topics” on Weibo.

    • Authorities take down 12 percent of posts on Weibo, about 12 million posts per day.
    • 30 percent of deleted posts are taken down within five to 30 minutes.
    • 90 percent of deletions happen within 24 hours.
    • Topics where “mass removal happens the fastest” combine events that are popular on Weibo (Beijing rainstorms or a sex scandal) with themes common to sensitive posts (Beijing, government, China, and policeman).

    The research led the study’s authors to a set of hypotheses about how Chinese authorities recognize and delete posts on Weibo, backed up with data from the study.

    These methods are analogous to what the Chinese authorities do to the Internet as a whole insofar as they cast a wide net and attack the “problem” from a number of different angles. As the authors write, “Our results suggest that Weibo employs a distributed, heterogeneous strategy for censorship that has a great amount of defense-in-depth.”

    Based on past patterns of Weibo censorship, this is how the researchers assume the social network’s moderators operate:

    • There is a surveillance keyword list that triggers for posts to be looked at by a moderator for possible deletion.
    • Weibo targets specific users, such as those who frequently post sensitive content.
    • When a sensitive post is found, a moderator will find all of its related reposts (parent, child, etc.), and delete them all at once.
    • Weibo removes posts retroactively via keyword search, causing spikes in the deletion rate of a particular keyword within a short amount of time.
    • The censors work relatively independently, in a distributed fashion. Some of them may work in their spare time.
    • Deletion speed is related to the topic; that is, particular topics are targeted for deletion based on how sensitive they are.

    Even though it’s nearly impossible to suppress ideas on the Internet, this system manages a pretty close approximation by quickly and efficiently censoring keywords and individual users.

    Photo from Sina Weibo via Cronkite

     


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    The Vatican has elected to block access to BishopAccountability.org, a site devoted to “documenting the abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.” It's either a jackass move or just a glitch.

    Internet users in Vatican City, the heart of the Catholic Church and an independent state, will no longer be able to access the site, at least not on Vatican servers. (Presumably some may have access to servers that operate in the city of Rome, which surrounds the Vatican.) 

    Given that most users of the Vatican servers are members of the Catholic clergy and the Vatican government, along with journalists, and given that the papal conclave to elect the next pope is set to convene next Tuesday, a cynical observer might conclude that the Vatican does not want the records of the possible papal candidates (or their supporters) scrutinized too closely.

    However, Vatican spokesman Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica told the National Catholic Reporter’s Joshua McElwee, “the site may be blocked because of an automatic filter system that checks words that appear on websites for explicit nature or inappropriateness. Some court documents that appear on the site might contain such language” He quoted Fr. Rosica as saying, “It would make sense they would block the words, not knowing it’s a clergy abuse website.”

    This apparent act against online speech puts the Vatican in the company of some pretty awful state actors. As Foreign Policy put it, by blocking this site, the Vatican “has torn a page out of the Chinese playbook for stifling dissent.”

    As McElwee observed, “Users on Vatican servers who try to access one of the four Web addresses for Bishopaccountability.org” receive a message saying, “This page has been blocked by the Vatican protection system” and categorizes the site under “Hate/Racism.” 

    The NCR has filed a request with the Vatican to unblock the site. If it is a filtering overstep, it will no doubt be unblocked immediately. If it is a strategic move to limit free discussion, it will no doubt remain blocked, at least for the duration of the conclave. 

    Photo by Michael Swann/Flickr


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    Don’t be put off by Fandom_Wank’s rather dubious name. By its own definition, this popular community is dedicated to “Self-aggrandizing posturing. Fannish absurdities. Circular ego-stroking. Endless flamewars.” 

    In other words, it’s fandom’s most scurrilous gossip site, combining amateur investigative reporting with a kind of early warning system against Internet trolls and drama.

    Fandom_Wank is 10 years old, and looks it. Hosted on the LiveJournal clone site Journalfen for the past decade, it was previously ejected from Livejournal and Blurty for terms of service violations. The community’s subtitle is “mockity mock mock,” but although each post is written with a healthy dose of schadenfreude, Fandom_Wank provides a useful resource for people in fandom.

    Image via Fandom_Wank

    With “fandom” being such an all-encompassing term, there isn’t really a single source of news for the entire community. Sherlock fans don’t care about minor dramas and updates from the Pokémon fandom, and vice versa. Fandom_Wank, however, concentrates on stories so bizarre that they offer a kind of car-crash appeal to anyone.

    In celebration of its 10th anniversary next week, the community is holding a poll for the biggest “wank all-stars” of the past decade. Competition is fierce, featuring everything from the “Snapewives” who believed they were married to Harry Potter’s Professor Snape on the astral plane, to the infamous case of Msscribe, a compulsive liar who maintained dozens of sockpuppet accounts which were at the center of years of drama and flame wars—including the destruction of an entire fanfic archive, Gryffindor Tower. 

    The question is, will Fandom_Wank live on beyond the 10 year mark? Its most popular posts have garnered thousands of comments, as well as spawning slang phrases and in-jokes that became part of the fandom lexicon (“what are your thoughts on yaoi”, anyone?). 

    On the other hand, its LiveJournal-era format may not hold much appeal for a generation of fans used to the changeability of a Tumblr dashboard. Typical Fandom_Wank posts can be anywhere from a single paragraph in length to pages of meticulously researched screencaps and quotes from the latest scandal. In the current climate of GIF-heavy Tumblr fandom, F_W looks dangerously outdated.

    While its Journalfen account has 6,000 regular subscribers and countless casual readers from more popular social media sites, most younger fans from the so-called “Tumblr generation” don’t even know that Fandom_Wank exists. An unfortunate development, considering the fact that it’s easier for misinformation and flame wars to spread on Tumblr than it ever was on blogging platforms like Livejournal. 

    Just last month, we reported on how a seemingly minor misunderstanding between Sherlock and Teen Wolf fans erupted into tens of thousands of enraged Tumblr reblogs and anonymous hate messages.

    Image via ughsherlockfandom

    Fandom_Wank’s longevity is down to the fact that no matter how much fan culture changes and grows, there will always be wank. It just remains to be seen whether fandom will be able to develop a F_W equivalent for its new home on Tumblr and Twitter. While accounts like ughsherlockfandom uncover the trolling and infighting taking place within individual communities, the nature of Tumblr makes it difficult to create a centralised, multi-fandom news source.

    For evidence of a Tumblr-era scenario where Fandom_Wank has proven its continuing relevance, look no further than the return of Andy Blake, AKA Tumblr user thanfiction. A longtime fandom participant, Blake is better known under his previous pseudonyms Victoria Bitter and Jordan Wood, and is particularly infamous for starting a cult and scamming Lord of the Rings fans (and actor Sean Astin) into funding a fake charity. Not just limited to sites like Fandom_Wank, this incident actually ended up being published as a memoir by one of the scheme’s victims: When a Fan Hits the Shit: The Rise and Fall of a Phony Charity.

    Image via swearitbyiceandfire/Tumblr

    Recently, posts began popping up on the Tumblr tags for thanfiction, alerting fans that Andy Blake was back, this time in Supernatural fandom. Fandom_Wank is the most comprehensive source of information regarding Blake’s history, meaning that a new generation of fans can easily learn about his previous pseudonyms. Gossip and an early warning system, all in one click. 

    Image via Quickmeme


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    In celebration of International Women’s Day, people are taking to the Internet to complain about Anita Sarkeesian. The first installment of her long-awaited video series about sexism in video games was released yesterday, inspiring an inevitable torrent of backlash. Aside from suggestions that she “stole” the Kickstarter funding for the Women vs. Tropes in Video Games series, much of the criticism is because she disabled comments on the YouTube video. In the words of Tumblr user robbiebaldwin:

    “She says she wants to ‘create a dialogue’ or ‘force video games into open debate,’  except she turns off both comments and even ratings on her videos. Wanting to hear your own voice in an echo chamber is the total opposite of ‘open debate.’”

    As a direct result of her work as a critic of sexism in pop culture, Sarkeesian has been receiving death threats and misogynistic slurs for years. When she first set up the Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the "Tropes vs. Women" series, the sheer amount of vitriol she inspired was astonishing. Her social media accounts were flooded with hate mail, and someone even designed a video game where players could punch her in the face.

    Eventually she was invited to speak at TED about her experiences with online harassment—at which point the TED website had to shut down comments on her lecture because the trolls had returned. Knowing this, it doesn’t seem hugely shocking that Sarkeesian decided to disable comments on the YouTube show’s first episode.

    Image via theamazingatheist

    Leading the charge against Sarkeesian’s decision is Tumblr user amazingatheist, who posted a ten-minute video entitled "Who’s The Damsel Now?" Arguing that Sarkeesian’s “censorship” of YouTube comments counteracts her message about strong women, and that her TED talk about online harassment amounts to “whining,” amazingatheist says:

    “What are you afraid of, Anita? Why can’t people have a discourse about your material? Why can’t people make their opinions towards your content known? I understand that some comments will be abusive in nature -- probably most will -- but so what?”

    Ironically, the existence of this response means by definition that amazingatheist is making his opinion known, as well as participating in a discourse about Sarkeesian’s material. If Sarkeesian had indeed been attempting to censor discussion about her video, she didn’t do a very efficient job. Both her Tumblr tag and subReddits such as r/gaming are full of commentary on Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, from the predictable misogynist slurs to glowing praise from supporters.

    Image via @Edcrab_

    Image via FeministFrequency


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    Everyone is excited to be in Austin. Except for Grumpy Cat.

    The Internet's beloved cat, named Tardar Sauce or “Tard” for short, was at South By Southwest's Interactive festival Thursday as part of a promotion for Friskies cat food.

    While Tard can't help but look grumpy because of feline dwarfism, the kitty was not happy to be under the hot camera lights.

    "She's very calm," Tard owner Bryan Bundesen told the Austin Chronicle. "She likes confined spaces, so when she's in her carrier she's super-calm and just goes to sleep. She travels well."

    Artist duo Mr. GIF paid a visit to the web's grumpiest kitty to capture the following GIF.

    GIF by Mr. GIF


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    One Direction pulled a Twitter and Facebook request for fans to send in photos of their 1D tattoos over concern that it would encourage underage fans to ink "I <3 HARRY" on themselves.

    "Have a real #1D tattoo? Show us! Submit a 90 sec YouTube video to 1d3dfan@gmail.com and show us why you should be in the @1D3Dmovie," the group wrote on Saturday, according to the Daily Mail. The tweet and Facebook post were deleted the following day.

    "This tweet was posted in error and has now been removed. One Direction do not want to encourage any of their fans to get 1D tattoos," said 1D spokesman Simon Jones.

    The message had more than 4,000 retweets and around 6,000 likes before it was removed.

    It's worth noting that every member of One Direction except Niall Horan is tatted up—which, for a minor, is as much of a tacit endorsement as a Facebook post.

    Photo by anabela_xx/Instagram


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    Scottish prisoners are using Facebook to obtain drugs behind bars, take pictures, and brag about their illegal activities. But now the fun's over: Authorities are cracking down.

    Inmates, convicted of various crimes, post the updates on mobile phones smuggled in to access the social networking site. They are asking visitors to bring in a plethora of narcotics, such as cocaine and valium. It's part of a growing trend rocking Scottish prisons as it sees an uptick of inmates being caught with illegal materials.

    An investigation by Scotland's Daily Record revealed that the number of confiscations in prisons has hit a 10-year high, which the Scottish Prison Service explains is due to an increase in drug detection. 

    Convicted killer John Edgar posted a status update on his page, writing that he's anticipating a "buket," slang for a stash of hash. "Gym done football done bring on the buket happydaze," he joyfully explained. 

    Scott Nesbitt, another prisoner, who slashed a person across the face with a sword, is using his Facebook under an alias. "Chillin skining a doobwa," he wrote—meaning he's smoking a doobie. In a separate post, he bragged about sitting in prison and "chillaxin" with a joint, listening to rapper Biggie Smalls. 

    Prisoners bragging of the drugs didn't stop with those two men. Other posts uncovered by the newspaper reveal an inmate smoking up behind bars and taking "blues," a reference to valium. 

    These recent flurry of posts uncovered by the newspaper comes a month after Scottish officials claimed to have shuttered 200 Facebook accounts that inmates used via mobile phones. More than five prisoners in the country's jail are busted daily, the newspaper said, totally 2,000 a year.

    A Scottish Prison System spokesperson said the organization is actively trying to end this trend. 

    “What kind of message does it send to the victims of crime that prisoners can openly brag about the kind of life they are living behind bars?" said spokesman Lewis MacDonald. “It is time we got serious about taking drugs out of prison and cracked down on the use of mobile phones by prisoners.”

    Photo via Hudson_Ranga/Hashgram


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    A Bronx man who lifted a cellphone is wanted by police after taking a photo of himself seemingly getting high—and uploading it to his victim's Facebook page.

    He didn't realize the woman had her phone set up to automatically post new photos to her Facebook account. 

    "Police say the perp robbed the 27-year-old victim’s phone on March 2 near East Tremont Avenue and the Grand Concourse at around 3:00am before running off," the Post reported. "Police said they are working to identify the perp who was last seen wearing a blue hat, blue sneakers and an orange jacket."

    Police claim the smoke is marijuana smoke. The New York Post claims it's marijuana smoke. But there's seemingly no evidence of that other than what you see above.

    In early January, a New Zealand couple stole a phone and took a photo of themselves, automatically sending the snapshot to the phone's owner. Police uploaded the selfie to Facebook, where it collected more than 7,200 likes. It is unclear whether the couple was ever apprehended.

    Photo via the New York Post


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    An Oklahoma woman was arrested last week after police found that she'd used Facebook to try to sell her two children.

    Sallisaw native Misty Van Horn, 22, was taken to Sequoyah County Jail Wednesday night after police learned that she'd contacted a woman who lived 30 minutes away in Fort Smith, Ark., to offer her youngest child, a 10-month old girl.

    According to a police report, Van Horn contacted the Fort Smith woman by sending a Facebook message: "Just come to Sallisaw, it's only 30 minutes away and I'll give you all of her stuff and let y'all have her forever for $1,000."

    NewsOK reports that in addition to the $1,000 price tag laid on her infant daughter, Van Horn tried selling a package deal including her 2-year-old child for $4,000. Both children were taken into state custody.

    Police have reported that they believe Van Horn was attempting to sell her children so that she could accumulate the bond money to get her boyfriend out of jail.

    Now she's in jail, awaiting charges of attempting to traffic minors, and facing a $40,000 bond.

    Don't sell your kids, okay? They're not for sale.

    Photo via Sequoyah County Police Department


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    We've finally found the most important and useful thing Twitter has done in its seven-year history.

    Creative agency iStrategyLabs has set up a paintball gun so it will fire when you use the hashtag #ISLPaint. When it receives such a command, it fires one of the painful pellets at a poor, defenseless whiteboard.

    Alas, you may have to wait a bit before firing the weapon. iStrategyLabs says the PaintBot is offline for cleaning at the time of writing.

    As Betabeat and DVice point out, there's another catch in that there's not a livestream of the PaintBot hurling the paintballs of doom toward their target. You'll just have to take iStrategyLabs at its word.

    There is a GoPro camera attached to the device, though, so maybe you'll see the footage of your mischievous action down the line. In any case, here's what the PaintBot looks like in action: 

    While we live in hope that PaintBot comes to market (hopefully mounted on a remote control car, and maybe replaced with a NERF gun to make it a little safer round the office), here are some other things a single tweet can do:

    Those are all impressive enough, but they seem just a little less fun than firing a paintball gun. Kersplat.

    Photo via iStrategyLabs


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    If you missed out on your Oscar ballot predictions or are a fan of Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, then FantasyPope.com may be the site for you.

    Created by Texas law professor Josh Blackman, Fantasy Pope is like any other fantasy league: you pick your favorites, and the site tracks the popularity of the various papal candidates (or “Papables”) until the real-world conclave picks a winner.


    Image via fantasypope.com

    Blackman previously helped create FantasySCOTUS, where Supreme Court enthusiasts compete to predict the court’s decisions. Fantasy Pope is a little simpler, offering a single choice between a selection of Cardinals, plus one empty slot for wild-card candidates. In answer to the question of whether it’s appropriate to make predictions about the next leader of the Catholic Church, the site says:

    “The point isn’t to be right, but to see if all together, our collective wisdom can come to the same decision as the conclave. Help us to determine whom you think, by your imperfect knowledge, should be the next Holy Father.”

    The site is free to use, with the only prize being bragging rights if you manage to back the winning cardinal. If you like your Papal predictions with a little more incentive behind them, then there’s always the Fantasy Conclave League. While Fantasy Pope focuses on an academic interest in statistics, fantasyconclave.com is offering a cash prize of $300 to its winner. With admirable attention to canonical detail, their homepage points out that due to an idiosyncrasy of Catholic law, gambling on Papal elections has not been illegal since 1918.

    Image via Flickr/gabdurakhmanov


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    Fandom Wank may be languishing away in an unappreciated corner of fandom the days, away from a new generation of Tumblr-centric fans, but the Internet’s premier fandom gossip site has given us a decade of fun, laughs, and for some fans, moments of immortalized embarrassment.

    It's also given us a valuable repository of fandom in-jokes, cultural memes, and ways of understanding our own bizarre Internet communities.

    On Friday, we brought you a look at the cultural and social importance of FW through the years. Today, we'll bring you our very favorite highlights from the last 10 years of fans (and sometimes creators) behaving badly.

    Why should you care about fans from 10 years ago?  Firstly, because some of them are still around and causing trouble. And secondly, because this level of bad behavior transcends fandom and becomes sheer universal WTFery—it’s fun for the whole Internet!

    No one does drama on the Internet better than fans. And no fan proves this better than our #1.

    1) MsScribe: The Nanny Did It

    Illustration via dop12/deviantART

    MsScribe, a former Harry Potter fan and LiveJournal user, is an unabashed fandom legend. Encyclopedia Dramatica considers her"one of the greatest trolls in the history of the internets." She's been called a real-life Mary Sue—star of her own fanfic. Only the fanfiction was reality, and the bit players in her story were well-known members of Harry Potter fandom.

    To understand why the long, convoluted, and dense story of Ms Scribe captivated thousands of people who read it when it turned up on exposé journal Bad Penny in 2006, you have to understand five very important things about the early days of the Harry Potter fandom:

    • The fandom, in the tumultuous time frame between roughly 2000 and 2004, was a smaller, more insular place where everyone knew each other, and rivalries—especially among rival fan sites and communities—ran long and deep.
       
    • Many fans had a deep and bizarre amount of reverence for a group of fans who made up what was known in the fandom as the "Inner Circle," an imagined hierarchy of fandom celebrity which could have been a secret papist cabal for all the mystery and cult worship surrounding it—not to mention all the things people would do to get into it.
       
    • The early days of Harry Potter fandom had been full of non-stop drama, including a period of some months where homophobic, racist trolls using fake LiveJournal accounts harassed numerous members of fandom, prominently members of the Inner Circle and their friends. These "nutty Christians" were widely thought to be the work of bitter members of a defunct fan website that no one had ever liked anyway. (At least no one worth knowing.)
       
    • But that was years ago, and everyone had moved on.
       
    • Or so they thought.

    What made the MsScribe story extraordinary was not just that it steadily dropped the bombshell that everything HP fans thought they knew about what went down in 2003 was a lie. It wasn't just the revelation that a well-liked and respected member of the community had apparently spent years cultivating an extended and successful attempt at trolling the entire fandom. 

    Nor was it that in the process she allegedly managed to blame her own trolling on an entire fan website, singlehandedly causing its ridicule, disgrace, and eventual complete shutdown.

    Nor was it even that the writers of the exposé had spent years meticulously investigating, tracking, and compiling IP evidence to make their case, then spent three more years patiently waiting to reveal their evidence.

    It was that none of this should have been news at all. 

    In 2003, when MsScribe accused the fanfiction archive Gryffindor Tower of being behind the spate of trolls, the archive members triumphantly countered with evidence proving that she had orchestrated the months and months of fan harassment.

    But in 2003, starstruck and held under the sway of the faultless Inner Circle, many of whom hated Gryffindor Tower, no one in the Harry Potter fandom ad wanted to listen. Instead, fans met the collected evidence of the website moderators with even more ridicule, and the entire archive community was laughed down by MsScribe's larger and louder social circle.

    The MsScribe saga isn't just a story about one woman. It's a story about an entire Internet community trapped in a cult of belief so intense that one woman was able to manipulate its entire social structure to benefit herself. In the tale the Bad Penny writeup unfolds, MsScribe's trolling wasn't mindless; it was designed to highlight how fundamentally bizarre the social dynamics of early Harry Potter fandom were, and that just from a few calculated interactions with certain fans, anyone could rise through the ranks to become a BNF, or Big Name Fan

    MsScribe was a woman many fans had met and spent time with. In real life she is a successful entrepreneur with a family and a history of minor political involvement. In 2006, the Harry Potter series was winding down, fans had moved on, and the haze of groupthink had finally lifted—but many fans were still friends with MsScribe. 

    Bad Penny's account, posted in serial form, had readers clamoring for more like a mob of Dickensian orphans, as each new update revealed shocker after shocker: Stories of MsScribe creating fake identities, writing accounts of her real life that held a suspicious amount of smug liberal appeal, all while simultaneously trolling her friends with racial epithets and incendiary homophobia. And, of course, the ultimate, incidental, destruction of Gryffindor Tower. The utter shock waves that each of these subsequent revelations sent throughout the Harry Potter community brought on a spate of collective self-reflection that few fandoms since have had occasion to undertake.

    As for MsScribe? After a period of silence, she popped up the following year and posted a long denial, blaming the entire thing on her nanny. 

    That's what we call adventures in babysitting.

    2)  "When a Fan Hits the Shit"

     

     

    Photo via Open Library

    Andrew Blake is an accused scam artist and alleged cult-leader who's been unleashing his intense, often expensive spiritual guidance on unsuspecting fans for over a decade.

    Andrew Blake was born Amy Player. In the heyday of Lord of the Rings fandom, this charismatic fan was the center of a tiny group of friends who lived together as a dysfunctional mini-cult formed around Blake's belief that he could contact and connect with spirits from alternate realities. He was a multiple, or plural--someone who believes they can channel alternate fictional personas, a bit like the practice of recalling past lives.

    Sometimes the personas were fictional, like the female alter-ego known as "Victoria Bitter."  Sometimes the personas were the imagined alter-egos of real people, such as "Jordan Wood," supposedly an alter-ego of the actual Hollywood actor Elijah Wood. As Jordan Wood, Blake claimed to be able to speak the language of Hobbits and communicate with characters from J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, which supposedly existed in an alternate dimension. Or so he compelled his rapt circle of friends and admirers to believe.

    "Jordan Wood" was Blake's primary identity when he decided to organize a fan convention and tell everyone that Viggo Mortensen and Elijah Wood would be attending to raise money for charity. In the disaster that followed, Blake allegedly scammed his fellow fans out of thousands of dollars, and duped three Lord of the Rings actors into coming to California for a convention that never happened, where they wound up having to awkwardly couch-crash as "Jordan"'s friends realized that he'd defrauded them. An even greater shock came when online fans realized that "Jordan" and "Victoria" were the same person: Victoria had supposedly committed suicide on the fan forum months before.  

    One of the fraud victims wrote a hilarious and jaw-droppingly bizarre account of her experiences: When a Fan Hits the Shit.

    Blake (as Amy Player) was subsequently fined for fraud in Oregon, but returned to fandom a few years later as Andrew Blake, the LiveJournal user "thanfiction." Thanfiction grew—what else?—-a devoted cult of fan followers around his popular fanficDumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness. He held a fan meetupfor himself, and claimed various fictional identities, all while allegedly suffering from a strangely non-terminal terminal illness. 

    All of this is fun and games—like the part where he claimed to have lost "a son" in a fierce custody battle who turned out to be a bird—but it gets more disturbing when you learn that among the members of his early cultish household was a young teenage girl living unsupervised with Blake with the blessing of her blissfully ignorant parents. And in 2011, things took a horrific turn when Blake was involved in events leading up to a double murder-suicide, when the husband of a fan he had been rooming with shot and killed his wife and a fellow roommate before turning the gun on himself. Blake was shot in the ankle, and survived by hiding in the closet.

    Last week, Blake once again made waves in fandom by arriving on Tumblr, allegedly claiming to be "a vessel" for the Supernatural character Castiel—exactly as he did ten years ago when he channeled the spirits of Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, and other Lord of the Rings actors and characters.

    The more things change.

    3) "His 'wife?' A horse."

    Photo via lilia73/deviantART

    It's a good day on the Internet when you avoid anyone who takes “animals are people too” a little too far, but today is not that day. Fortunately, Fandom Wank offshoot otf_wank ("Other than Fandom") is here to hand you the brain bleach.

    Possibly because he didn't want to experience the reaction that he subsequently received, LiveJournal user darkhorseman was euphemistic when he posted to the Polyamory community looking for advice: He wanted multiple partners but wanted all his partners all to remain faithful to him. He described himself as having, er, a 'stallion mentality,' but took care to assure readers that his wife was cool with it:

    I have what a friend calls “The stallion mentality” I am poly but I prefer my partners not to be. This is not a problem with my wife as she is not poly and does not mind that I am. She has no interest in anyone else but me. 

    The polyamorous members of the community were positive in their responses until one of them put two and two together, and realized the awful truth: darkhorseman was not just a well-meaning Furry; he was an actual zoophile, and his "wife" was an abused mare.

    Darkhorseman responded that he and his “wife” were "soulmates," and his human companion showed up to defend his lifestyle choices, prompting a debate we're very glad we can no longer read about whether animals can give consent. 

    Amid the trauma, reader katienichol dug up this gem, a quote from darkhorseman on his own journal about his “wife”: 

    There is a chance right now that she may be pregnant. We arnt sure yet so I know this is going to change alot of things if she is but I am certianly happy.

    ...which prompted her classic response:

    o_O Maybe she's not as happy with monogamy after all? Because dude, I'm pretty sure it ain't yours.

    4) The Snapewives

    Andrew Blake's habit of channeling alternate personalities wasn't exactly unheard of in the world of fandom. Some people view this practice as an extended kind of roleplay; others see it as a lifestyle that deserves basic respect, understanding, and consideration.

    Fandom Wank, of course, showed none of the above when it stumbled across the Snapewives; but to be fair, the Snapewives don't seem to fit into an identifiable category of behavior. Were they multiples? Roleplayers? A really ambitious writer's circle?

    Or were they just a collective of well-meaning but deluded women who seemed to believe themselves to be married to Hogwarts Professor Severus Snape?

    If so, they certainly wouldn't be the first. Medieval women like Hildegaard Von Bingen and St. Theresa were visited by spiritual ecstasies from the Lord; female spiritualists in the 19th century like Emma Hardinge Britten spoke of communing with spirit mediums. Throughout the world, stories of religious leaders who "fall in love" with their chosen deity abound. 

    The Snapewives certainly revered their beloved fictional Harry Potter character enough to form a religious practice--one of them, a fan named Lady Darkness, even wrote him her wedding vows, under the title "My Unbreakable Vow to Severus Snape."

    Before the Snapewives saga was over, she would tearfully break up with Severus, recognizing that her love for him was keeping her away from caring for her kids, and acknowledging that "he was right" and she was not the woman for him. But not before Fandom Wank had a field day, combing through their blogs and finding endless examples of their views on Severus Snape ("do not call him just Snape, he hates that").

    The denizens of Fandom Wank discussed whether they were stirring an innocent nest of hornets with this one, since the Snapewives weren't exactly hurting anyone. And in the end, Lady Darkness herself might have had the last word: "It isn't forbidden to dream and love. And just because those morons don't know how to, doesn't mean we don't."

    Just so you don't dream and love during your next magical Potions class.

    5) Anne Rice: "Interrogating the Text from the Wrong Perspective"

     

    Photo via ladylestat88.deviantART

    The best part about Anne Rice wank is that when it happens, you know it's going to be epic. Like the time the Interview with the Vampire author explained to her fans in 2003 that she had evolved beyond the need for an editor. Or the time she called the vampires in Twilight "ridiculous." But best of all is her turn in the annals of Authors Behaving Badly, when she showed up on Amazon in 2004 to berate disappointed reviewers of her latest book.

    Rice was blistering in her attacks upon readers of Blood Canticle, possibly because her writing was so precious to her, as she stated in her previous essay:

    [T]he writing you are reading is quite deliberate, that it is informed and it is conscious, as well as being the result of intuition. It is the result of all that I am—my education, my mystic sensibilities, and the student in me.

    Fandom Wank, however, cared little for her mystic sensibilities, and much more for the logical fallacies behind her outrage—especially when she tossed up the gem that one reader was "interrogating this text from the wrong perspective."

    In a way, poor Anne Rice's pain served as the scapegoat for the resentment of every fan who's ever had to listen to a controlling creator tell them how wrong they were. Fans, who know full well that the author is dead, have little patience for whatever ideas about authorial intent might belong to the author's zombiefied corpse.

    But they do respond well to humor. "Interrogating the text from the wrong perspective" has proved such a handily amusing, misguided catchphrase that members of fandom still use it casually today--usually referring to entitled storytellers who think they know best how an audience should respond to what they have created.

    6) CrystalWank

     

    Photo via The Wayback Machine / Fandom Wank Wiki

    You had to be there for 2004's CrystalWank, the largest wank in FW history and the first one for which the owners of Journalfen, the domain where FW is housed, manually lifted the comment restriction for the community so that the party could continue. It was the largest wank in FW history--and it was comprised almost solely of bad photoshop art.

    The wank involved a Lord of the Rings artist named Crystal who was attempting to sell her fanart at conventions. The problem? The "art" was just clumsy Photoshop work of actor Dominic Monaghan, ranging from decent tries to the downright sloppy. In attempts to play around with their own "fanart," FW denizens spawned what is perhaps the community's most beloved phrase, in response to a guest appearance by Crystal herself, who showed up and offered "proof" that the real Dominic Monaghan was a good friend.

    Whoever was lying on her bed, it was obviously not Monaghan, whose "hed" had been "pastede" on. (Yay!)

    CrystalWank racked up a staggering 10,000 comments and is still spoken of fondly today.

    7)  "Now He Dead from Coke"

     

    Illustration via littlexb/deviantART

    The details of this wank are lost to time, but the catchphrase remains. Originally posted to old-school gossip site Fametracker, this story would instantly qualify for Copypasta Hall of Fame. Or at least it would if Fandom Wank ran the world:

    I dated a man who was much older than me when I was 20. he has a very fit body and was 45..think close to george cloony's age and he told me that if I went out w/ him, I could see what the nicer restaurants were like and how to meet men who had culture. (live in small town in sc..tired of men that chew tobacco)

    he had traveled the world, owned many businesses, drove a porche, had a yacht, mansion, he was perfect

    of course many other females wanted to date him and he decided we should be friends. and now he dead from coke.

    Sometimes the simplest wanks are the ones that keep on giving.

    8) Usagi Kou

    Photo via kou-usagi/deviantART

    Hell hath no fury like a cosplayer, er, copied. Or so the world learned when Fandom Wank discovered Sailor Moon cosplayer and fantasy-struck fangirl Usagi Kou. The many adventures of Usagi Kou included flipping out at the general existence of other Sailor Moon cosplayers, refusal to pay rent, forcing her boyfriend to buy back the engagement ring her ex-fiancee had returned, telling a transgender friend they were a "shell" of the body they were born with, and reportedly urging a rape victim to commit suicide.

    But the real reason Usagi Kou makes our Top 10 is that she and her on-again, off-again band of followers illustrate perfectly one of Fandom Wank's eternal truths--otherwise known as Snacky's Law, a corollary of Godwin's Law of the Internet.

    Snacky's Law, as created by Fandom Wank moderator Snacky, in Fandom Wank offshoot jurisimprudence:

    Whenever two (or more) groups of people are arguing, anywhere on the Web (usenet, mailing lists, message boards, blogs, etc.), inevitably, someone on one side of the argument (regardless of age or gender) will compare the group on the other side to "those bitchy girls who made everyone's life hell in high school."

    The Usagi Kou wank won Snacky's Law in this thread, but it's really Usagi Kou herself who embodied the principle.

    9) "But what are your thoughts on yaoi?"

    Illustration by thiscrispykat/deviantART

    This is frankly the most boring snorefest of a wank ever to spawn a cultural saying that has spanned decades. Once upon a time, a fan named bohemianfaerie wanted to share her "thoughts on yaoi" with us--and in the process she sparked a question fans are still asking to this day.

    Ideally, you should never ask someone's thoughts on yaoi if you actually want to know the answer; but this hasn't stopped the use of the phrase from becoming less ironic and more sincere over time.

    This is probably because in a world bursting at the seams with slash fangirls, everyone wants to tell you their thoughts on yaoi.

    10) Diana Gabaldon: "I think it's immoral, I know it's illegal."

     

    Illustration via shadesdarkeyes/Photobucket

    When the bestselling author of the beloved romantic fantasy series Outlander calls all of fandom a bunch of rapists, you can pretty much scratch off your fanfic bingo card and go home.  We would have put this endlessly hilarious wank higher on our list, except that it hasn't generated nearly as many famous quotes as the rest--which is a shame, what with great passages like this one

    You can’t break into somebody’s house, even if you don’t mean to steal anything. You can’t camp in someone’s backyard without permission, even if you aren’t raising a marijuana crop back there. And you can’t use someone’s copyrighted characters for your own purposes, no matter what those purposes are. Really. I’m not making it up; this is International Copyright Law.

    It seems Ms. Gabaldon doesn't believe in the existence of Fair Use, which is odd since it's how she was able to write professional fanfiction tie-ins for Disney, and how she was able to base her own character off of a character from Doctor Who. But she's more imaginative when it comes to analogies: over the several days in which she ranted magnificently at the thousands of incensed fans who turned out in response, including Cory Doctorow, she compared fanfiction writers to trespassers, husband stealers, junkies looking for their next fix, and thieves.  Oh, and then someone found the time she stated that fanfic was "revolting... Like someone selling your children into white slavery." 

    Fanfiction--it's like forcing someone into prostitution, in a way!

    Our favorite response to all of this hubbub is still this one

    Doing it for money is better than doing it for love? That's not what they taught us in sex ed!

    Full Disclosure: The writer has a longstanding association with Fandom Wank, and is closely connected to the events of the MsScribe story, in which she is briefly mentioned.

    Photo via lilia73/deviantART


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    Who the next Pope will be is important to many more people than there are Catholics. He’s both the head of a state and of a religion. He influences relations among peoples and religious communities in addition to influencing aspects of Catholic life including sex, death, and children.

    So whether your interest comes from within the Church or without, the papal conclave is worth paying attention to. But the Vatican, with its devotion to secrecy and history of valuing the institution over the people in it, is difficult to follow.

    So here five guides who can walk you through the conclave like Virgil guided Dante through the afterlife. These five come with arguably greater knowledge and more convincing analysis than the thousands of general assignment reporters that are wheeling around the dome of St. Peters.

    1) John Allen // 3,791 followers

    Allen is senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. He established the NCR’s Rome office in 2000 and is the author of “The Future Church.”


    Link

    2) Giovanna Chirri // 3,164 followers

    Chirri, who tweets in Italian, was the first reporter to break the news of Benedict’s retirement, her Latin skills allowing her to understand the statement in which he announced his resignation. She reports on the Vatican for Italy’s ANSA news agency.


    Link

    3) Robert Moynihan // 1,356 followers

    Moynihan is the founder and editor of the monthly magazine Inside the Vatican, published since 1993.


    Link

    4) John Thavis // 889 followers

    Thavis is the author of The Vatican Diaries and reported for the Catholic News Service from 1983 until last year.


    Link

    5) Andrea Tornielli // 9,779 followers

    Tornielli, who also tweets largely in Italian, is a Vatican reporter for La Stampa’s “Vatican Insider” and blogs at Sacri Palazzi (Sacred Buildings).


    Link

    Photo by Herb Neufeld/Flickr


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    Cody Wilson has moved on from guns.

    The 25-year-old face of Defense Distributed, a libertarian-leaning organization that hopes to build the world's first gun comprised entirely of 3-D-printed components, revealed via a YouTube video that he's launching a DefCad.com, a new for-profit and uncensored search engine for 3-D printing files.

    The announcement came on the same day that Wilson spoke at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference and Festival about his controversial mission.

    DefCad.com will be an evolved version of DefCad.org, a makeshift file hosting page Wilson and Defense Distributed launched in December 2012 as a response to Thingiverse's decision to delete any gun-related computer-aided design (CAD) files from its own site.

    The new site will also be a search engine for all types of 3-D printable files—not just gun-related ones—and promises never to censor or delete any content regardless of how controversial it might be, a clear knock on Thingiverse.

    That disdain for Thingiverse, its parent company MakerBot Industries, and its CEO Bre Pettis is apparent in the video.

    "When this guy decided that 'radically open' meant not so radical, not so open, DefCad was born," Wilson states over aphoto of Pettis's face.

    But DefCad.com, according to Wilson, is not a Thingiverse substitute or competitor.

    "This isn't even us going toe-to-toe with Thingiverse," he told the Daily Dot over the phone. "That'd be paying them too high of a compliment."

    He added, "They've already said and told us that they don't want to engage with us. We're filling a void that they refuse to fill."

    The move to expand beyond the gun is very much in line with Wilson's vision of  "Napsterizing" the world. It's also proof that he and Defense Distributed are about more than just promoting a pro-gun agenda. 

    "Our mission is to 3D scan every part in existence," DefCad.com states in its homepage

    This includes everything from hammers and shovels to firearms and pharmaceuticals. Over time, we anticipate that our efforts will move the frontiers of 3D printing forward, as the requirements of real products will produce rapid improvements in 3D printing speed and material quality.

    Wilson is employing a crowdfunding model to financially support his new venture. The new company is hoping to raise $100,000 in startup capital in 30 days.

    DefCad.com is offering Kickstarter-like rewards to its potential backers. The most interesting of these comes at the $500 level. For that amount, DefCad.com will send you what they call the "Offline Cache," a USB key dogtag that contains every single one of their printable files.

    Wilson's new venture  has embraced the decentralized cryptocurrency BitCoin as a method of payment, which isn't particularly surprising given the fact that Wilson has self-identified as a "crypto-anarchist."

    In the first day of the crowdfunding effort, DefCad.com raised $825 from 21 backers, less than one percent of the company's stated goal.

    Photo via Cody Wilson/YouTube


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    Are open-source hacks the way to finally achieve gender equality in games?

    Last year gamer dad Mike Hoye made ripples in geek culture when he genderbent the classic Legend of Zelda for his 3-year-old daughter. Hoye created a hack that swapped the gender pronouns for the game, so the hero, Link, became a girl.

    Now, another gamer has created a similar gender-friendly hack—this time, one that lets his 3-year-old become the heroine of another game classic: Donkey Kong.

    In an essay he wrote for Wired, game designer Mike Mika explains how much his daughter loves playing video games of all varieties. After playing as Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros 2the only game of the series in which she's a playable character—his daughter wanted to play the girl character in Donkey Kong as well.

    But Donkey Kong only has one playable character, Jumpman, who later became Mario in his own franchise. Pauline, the female character, is in Atari's 1981 hit solely to give Mario someone to rescue. But this time, for once, Mika's daughter wanted to be the one saving the boy.

    Mika explained that her subsequent question after returning to Donkey Kong had arrested him: “How can I play as the girl?” He swung into action, painstakingly swapping Mario's tiny pixelated image for Pauline's, chopping a few pixels off her height, and maneuvering her into the position of hero. His friends cheered him on from Facebook, where he shared his progress.

    Two days after he started, he had a playable demo, which he shared via YouTube before showing it to his daughter. Almost immediately, he had a viral phenomenon: In three days, the video got nearly a thousand comments on social news site Reddit and gained 600,000 views.

    The original Pauline comes from a long line of damsels in distress. Not only is her character based on Faye Wray's helpless blond in the 1933 classic King Kong, but her game designer originally intended her to be Olive Oyl in a Popeye game. She's so iconic that Anita Sarkeesian's just-released Tropes vs Women in Video Games: Damsels in Distress features her heavily.

    Now, in Mika's version, she leaps, runs, fights, and does everything the Mario character can do—even die and return to life. Mika admonishes the heavy round of resentment his actions have stirred up in YouTube comments. Given what seems to be an endless backlash against the presence of women in geek culture, it's not surprising that some gamers hate the idea of Mika's daughter being a gamer, much less having a playable character who resembles her. But Mika had some things to say in response:

    [H]aving a daughter is something special. I get the opportunity to see the world  j  nm76ythrough her eyes. And if this experience has taught me anything, it’s that the world could be just a bit more accommodating. And that if something as innocuous as having Mario be saved by Pauline brings out the crazy, maybe we aren’t as mature in our view of gender roles as we should be.

    Although he says he isn't trying to make any kind of statement, Mika did share the game hack with his friends and provided a download link for his YouTube viewers. For a non-statement, that's pretty loud. As Howe put it when he spoke of his own changes to Zelda to the Daily Dot, "the culture around software isn't carved in stone any more than the software itself is. If you're a bit smart and a lot determined, you can make the changes you want happen."

    Gender equality as a part of open-source culture has long been a subject of interest among software developers. But with Howe and Mika setting a precedent for hacks to come, it looks like open-source changes to game interfaces could be a way to grant an agency that's long-been denied female characters. Sure, it's not the same as having more female characters as the heroes of their own stories, but it's a start.

    Now we just need someone to complete the old-school trilogy. Come on, computer geeks: "We're sorry, Princess, but Mario is in another castle!"

    Screengrab via YouTube


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    Twitter's capacity for positive change came to the fore again as the community rallied behind the family of a woman stricken by a brain hemorrhage and small stroke.

    Matt Parise, a.k.a. @sucittaM, is a popular figure on Twitter, regularly entertaining around 35,000 followers with his jokes. But in early February, he shared a very serious note explaining what happened to his wife:

    “On Wednesday, January 30th, my wife Danielle suffered a cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM) rupture. She was immediately taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals where she underwent neurosurgery to relieve pressure on her brain. In second surgery, the artery that fed blood to the AVM was successfully stopped and Danielle has since minimally responded to commands to move her feet and hands and eyes. It will be a lengthy recovery process, but we are very optimistic that Danielle’s condition will continue to improve. We will update as we can, and appreciate everyone’s love, prayers, and support.”

    Doctors said Danielle, who was just a couple of weeks from finishing nursing school, is doing better than expected. While she isn't speaking, Matt told the Chicago Tribune he thinks she's aware of what's going on.

    With friends and family pledging their support, Matt, a graphic designer, set up a donation page to help cover care costs. It wasn't just those who're related to the family who helped though—the Twitter community has also rallied behind the couple.

    Followers began donating money, and others set up an auction site on Tumblr. Some of Matt's famous followers chipped in.

    Blink 182's Mark Hoppus offered a bass guitar signed by the band, and it sold for over $10,000. Modern Family executive producer Danny Zuker donated a cast-signed script. Writer Caprice Crane is giving one bidder the chance to name a character in her next book. Eli Yudin and Carey O’Donnell, the guys behindprominent Twitter parody @NotTildaSwinton, offered a signed copy of their book. Comic Jenny Johnson donated the Madonna T-shirt seen in her avatar.

    "People just started saying, 'I can get you this if it helps, I can do this for you,'" Matt told the Tribune. "It has been unreal."

    Danielle, 29, is at a brain injury rehab facility in Ankeny, Iowa, and Matt's with her every day. Doctors believe "she'll do well" because of her age, though it'll take some time.

    Matt will surely be by her side the whole way, with the support of thousands of friends brought together through laughter.

    Photo via @sucittaM/Twitter


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