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Dear Slate, could you maybe watch the stuff you review?

I rely on Slate for the no-nonsense insight into every popular news story. The online-only magazine always finds the question the average newsreader is asking and gives an authoritative answer. Accustomed to trusting that authority, I felt kind of silly reading a Slate commentary on the Imus scandal when writer Stephen Metcalf admitted, “I usually caught him at about 7:40, for the 20 minutes when he had a Beltway muckety on to flog a book, or just as often, to flog his own muckety self.” Twenty minutes of a four-and-a-half-hour show and he’s the expert? All right, whatever, I guess this is a commentary, not a show review. It’s be silly to have a reviewer who wasn’t familiar with all the material, right?

Like, you know, the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie reviewer who “caught the show” (from which the movie spun off) “a few times.” Yeah, Dana Stevens says she’s paying homage to the show by giving a lazy review. That’s great. But I assume the ATHF movie is for fans of the show, and as one of those fans, could I please have a review by someone who likes that style of humor? This review tells me nothing — plenty of people could be bored by ATHF. It’s a screwed up style of comedy. Come on, Slate, be a little less lazy than the Aqua Teens.

Jimmy Kimmel vs. Gawker’s Emily Gould on Larry King Live

1. Emily Gould is no Jessica Coen. The former Gawker editor could jab out from a tight spot. She’s like a cornered puma. (Fellow alums Choire Sicha and Elizabeth Spiers? Other, similar pumas.) But when Kimmel criticizes the user-submitted “Gawker Stalker” celebrity-sighting feature, Gould acts like a flustered, wide-eyed audience member from The View. She gets a bit of the Gawker party line out (“You get an unfiltered — the way that people see celebrities in real time”), but then she lets everyone walk over her. (Oh no! Someone called Kevin Costner fat!) When Jimmy “least-deserving husband of Sarah Silverman ever” Kimmel says “I think you need to think about your life,” strike back! Dammit Gould, get some balls!

2. Why hasn’t anyone else cloned Gawker Stalker? It’s a cash cow; it doubled Gawker’s traffic in its first month!

Amanda Congdon broke her brain, inflicts pain on others

I’ll skip all the “Oh my god, this takes me back to freshman year communications class” commentary and just assure everyone that after watching this, ABC News must be so proud of having Amanda on board.



David Lynch is all “Game over, man!”

Alex Blagg is the new Chuck Klosterman

Alex Blagg is the new Chuck KlostermanAfter reading blogger Alex Blagg’s “Vote for Sanjay” manifesto (thesis: We can expose the inanity of American idol by making this charming but untalented performer win), a commenter remarked, “Alex Blagg is the new Chuck Klosterman.” You know what, the Best Week Ever blogger is better than Klosterman, the tired pop-culture reviewer who wrote Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. Compare Blagg’s stirring plan for televisual deconstruction with Klosterman’s sloppily written thoughts about the “amnesia pill” in the latest Esquire. Where the latter relies on the momentum of his name and irrelevant cultural references to push out unresearched swill, the former puts out one theory at a time derived from a single relevant piece of Americana. Klosterman is dead, long live Blagg!

Scripting News turns 10, will probably go to 11

RSS godfather Dave Winer announced that his blog Scripting News, the longest-running known blog on the web, turned 10 on Sunday. That’s despite Winer’s habit of promising to quit (the last fake deadline was 31 December 2006). Why has he kept it up so long? Well, when your blog is just a string of one-liners written on the fly, it’s a harder habit to break than to keep up.

Dave’s relations with bloggers hasn’t been the cuddliest — he exchanges abuse with bloggers Mark Pilgrim and Shelley Powers, and he threatened to withdraw his “endorsement” of Valleywag after I made something that’s not even quite a gay joke — but his drama mostly arises when he takes things too seriously. It’s not that Winer is a dick; it’s more that his brain can’t process irony.

So hard feelings aside, even I must applaud the Shaker-like simplicity of Winer’s blog. Every discrete thought is linkable, the text is readable, the page loads in a jiffy. Winer reliably chimes in about every major political event, and he unabashedly expresses his feelings in the open. To do that for a year behind a pseudonym would be simple. To keep it up for ten years is an admirable achievement. I’d send him cookies if I didn’t know he’d throw them out.

Can everyone shut up about Kathy Sierra?

My god, can we shut up about Kathy Sierra? As everyone who’s covered this story agrees, the death threats and murder-rape scenarios that anonymous forum users posted about the game developer and author are despicable. (The backstory: Sierra cancelled a speaking engagement at ETech, a major tech conference, after anonymous commenters on a third-party forum spewed the aforementioned hate speech at her.) Since Sierra announced the incident on her blog this Monday, readers have posted over a thousand comments. But the uproar didn’t stop there; every damn blogger has chimed in. Even the blogger-obsessed San Francisco Chronicle ran the debate on the front page. The topics: Whether the owners of the forum are responsible, whether women should protect themselves, whether men should protect women…It’s great that we all got a chance to spout off for a week. That’s fantastic, I’m proud of all of you for taking that BOLD STAND and not supporting rape and murder. But aren’t we forgetting to, you know, track down the perps? And maybe we should all shut up until that’s done?

Ask A Ninja interviews Will Ferrell and Jon Heder

What could I possibly say to improve this clip of the Internet’s most famous ninja interviewing the stars of Blades of Glory? “How many people did you kill with your blades?”

“Hey everybody, I’m skating circles around Scott Hamilton!”

Rumors on the Internets: Lockhart Steele to leave Gawker Media?

lock-santa.jpgI heard a rumor recently that Lockhart Steele, owner of the Curbed network and managing editor of Nick Denton’s Gawker Media empire, may leave the latter soon. That wouldn’t be a shock; Lock has the brains and the savvy to work on his own projects full time. What would be a shock is if he left just to work for another boss.

Unknown: Whether Lock has equity in Gawker Media, whether he’ll really leave this year (although it seems inevitable that he’ll jump ship some day), and whether he’ll continue expanding Curbed, which recently launched NYC shopping blog Racked.

(Disclosure; photo: ricksterbot)

Update: Lock says, “annnyway, for the record, bullshit.”

Reviewed: An orgy of fake MySpacers (it feels kinda like a RealDoll party)

I commissioned the following from Blogebrity’s new writer, Cole [last name withheld so Mom can't google him]. Give him a hand, everyone.

I wasn’t sure what to think when Nick asked me to make fun of this MySpace page of a fake person named Kayla. In case you didn’t know, Nick, making fun of MySpace pages is the internet equivalent of a Monica Lewinsky joke. Since Nick is in such dire need of edgy social commentary, here is a thing that I thought about this page.

1. It appears that all of Kayla’s commenters are other fakespacers. It’s kind of like those porn ads that link to other porn ads and you’re like “WHO IS PAYING FOR ALL THIS ADVERTISING?” but even more than that you’re like “WHO ACTUALLY PAYS FOR PORN?” Just when you thought that they couldn’t squeeze any more ads into the internet, MySpace comes along and provides a way to do it for free. At least they add a face to the company so I can have someone to run over my car with in my personal imaginary moments.

Is that enough for you, Nick? When you’re ready to move on from MySpace, I have so many more jokes up my sleeve. How about those “Punch the Monkey” ads? It’s like, I hate that monkey!

People in glass houses throw bones

When Wired Magazine promised last year to go “transparent,” I understood they’d be talking about their own writing and editing process in the webpages of Wired.com. I didn’t know they’d also air their innards at other sites.

When Wired writer Fred Vogelstein published a dossier on himself — a dossier Microsoft’s PR firm Waggener Edstrom had compiled to “steer” him toward writing a positive story of Microsoft for Wired — on Wired.com, Valleywag publisher and interim editor Nick Denton noticed that someone Wag-Ed thought Fogelstein would send the firm a copy of his article before it went to press. Of course, that’s something respectable magazines just don’t do. So Fogelstein and his editor Chris Anderson defended themselves — in the comments form on Valleywag. Having edited Valleywag for Denton (see my permanent disclosure), I know this must’ve filled Denton with sweet tabloidy glee. How lovely to get free content from the subjects! In fact, isn’t that the secret purpose of Valleywag?

Bonus: As of Wednesday evening, Wired.com is down and displaying a technical error. Aha, Fred and Chris realized the only way to get read tonight was to post somewhere else!

Interview with 24/7 camboy Justin.tv

I chatted over beers with the star of 24/7 Internet show Justin.tv. This video is also at my vlog, Look Shiny.

Okay, where can I see that guy killing himself on a webcam?

whitricknti2303_468×347.jpgIn what’s been called the first “death by Web 2.0,” 42-year-old Briton Kevin Whitrick threatened to kill himself, then hanged himself live on a webcam on the video chat site Paltalk after users in an “insult” channel encouraged him to, reports the Evening Standard. (Chatters told the Standard they had thought he was kidding.) It’s a tragic event, but someone out there must be looking for the video. How could they get their hands on it?

For now, they can’t. There’s no footage of the event on YouTube, and any copy would almost certainly be deleted for violating the site’s terms of service. Those present in the webcam chat room during the hanging aren’t revealing their identities to the press. And according to BBC News, investigators have asked people not to distribute images of the hanging.

What would it take to break through the silence? Presumably one could log into PalTalk and start searching around for people who were in the room. (Good luck figuring out which of these rooms is the “insult” room.)

Photo from Evening Standard

Amanda Congdon’s not a journalist, but she plays one on TV

amanda-dupont.jpg

“I don’t want a role as a traditional journalist now,” says ABC correspondent Amanda Congdon, “and I don’t believe I ever will in the future.”

A few months ago, Congdon acted in some online promo spots for DuPont. This week Advertising Age reported it, just as a normal blog post. But Radar Magazine turned it into a cutting story:

The DuPont deal isn’t doing anything to endear Congdon to ABC News staffers, who have already complained to Radar about her low traffic, cloying online persona, and snotty posts on her blog about how lame ABC News’s website is.

Eventually the story hit the Huffington Post with the headline “ABC Videocaster Congdon Caught Working For DuPont On The Side.” But Congdon wasn’t “caught” — she had pointed to the ads on her blog, and she later wrote that ABC and HBO had approved the DuPont work.

It’s not typical for a journalist to do promo work on the side; it’s seen as a conflict of interest. Amanda argues that okay, if those are the rules then she’s not a traditional journalist. Those who’ve seen her interview Dan Rather and parade around as a “new media” queen may call that bullshit. Well, I have to take Amanda’s side. She doesn’t really buy into the whole “do research, cooperate with the studio giving you resources and access, act like a professional” deal. She’s not a journalist, she just plays one on TV.

“Perez Hilton’s International News Affairs Blog Fails”

Cute story. Read it for the pictures.

TechCrunch: The Wal-Mart of Web App Reviews

Remember when the tech blog TechCrunch was all done by founder Michael Arrington, and in even the sketchiest product review, you could at least count on him for some insider knowledge? Well the site’s gone big, and it ain’t that special any more.

Take this review of Dodgeball and Twitter, for example. Writer Blake Robinson has, like, four Twitter friends, and he clearly hasn’t used Dodgeball. He proves the ignorance of the two mass-messaging services with his own screenshots. Blake treats the two services as competitors, even though Dodgeball is used for announcing location and Twitter is used for quipping or microblogging. (In other words, you use Dodgeball to announce you’re at the bar. You use Twitter to repeat what your drunk friend just whispered to you.) In fact, many of Dodgeball’s core users joined Twitter and now use both services.

But back to this useless TechCrunch review. The facts are wrong (you can use something other than SMS with Dodgeball). The analysis is wrong (Facebook’s web-based business model would make a Twitter clone an annoying side project). It’s just rubbish, and it’s clogging up a site that’s usually quite useful for tech news scoops. So all that to say: until TechCrunch hires some reviewers who bother to use the product, don’t trust a TechCrunch product review.