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Conversations With Caricatures Who Hate Me

“It is a pity that youth is wasted on the young.” anonymous quote, often erroneously credited to George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde

This week noted SJW Dylan Marron launched what might well be the summer’s single most anticipated podcast gimmick, Conversations With People Who Hate Me1  I have had a lot of emails over the past week asking if had listened to it, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here.

First, however, I should probably begin with the caveat that I am letting the podcast stand on its own merits. Although I have been told be a few people that I should have heard of Dylan Marron before now, I had not. There well may be a book or essay Marron has written previously that would, were I to read it, provide needed context regarding what he is trying to accomplish with Conversations. If so, know that I have not read it. 2

Here’s the pitch-gimmick for Conversations With People Who Hate Me: In each episode, Marron records a phone conversation with someone he does not know who has left a particularly mean-spirited comment about him on his own social media. As Marron notes in the show’s introduction, this conversation is not intended to be a debate, nor an attempt to find common ground. Rather, he says, the point of the podcast is to see if greater understanding can be fostered even among those who disagree on issues important to them.

If all of that sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Although Marron does not appear to ever give credit, Conversations With People Who Hate Me is clearly a vehicle meant to capitalize on the success and popularity of Lindy West’s classic This American Life segment, Ask Not For Whom The Bell Trolls; It Trolls for Thee. In that classic TAL segment, West confronts via telephone a particularly vile troll who managed to inflict serious emotional damage after the death of West’s father.  The resulting conversation between the two is nothing short of incredible — which is why it has become such a talked-about fan favorite. It’s packed with moments of vileness and hate, yes, but it’s packed as well with moments of humanity, grace, and perhaps redemption. It achieves, in its mere 22 minutes, a level of raw, unscripted, human drama that even the best reality television programs can only hint at delivering.

This, then, is the real pitch-gimmick behind Conversations With People Who Hate Me: Repeated rides on Lindy West’s internet-troll roller coaster, sans West, delivered fresh to your iPhone each week. It’s easy to see why it created so much buzz. I will confess that when I first heard about it, I myself was among those most anticipating its arrival.

Sadly, as it turns out, Dylan Marron is no Lindy West. Although Conversations With People Who Hate Me claims to be all about understanding those who stand across the divide, the degree to which no understanding is even attempted becomes painful by the first episode’s end.

That episode, entitled You’re A Piece of S**t, centers around a troll named Chris, an angry man who wrote on Marron’s YouTube page,

You’re a piece of shit. Good thing nobody watches your shit. You’re so dumb, you regularly say things that 100% makes the situation worse and you do it to signal how virtuous you are. Again, good thing nobody watches your shit, but hey, you’re probably getting $10 a video so whatever.

In the conversation with Marron, Chris is much nicer and more polite. At one point early on he begins to explain that he was having some things going on the day he wrote his screed, and one would think, in the spirit of understanding, Marron would listen to what those things might have been. But Marron doesn’t really seem to care, and instead he and Chris just sort of rifle through various cultural litmus-test issues — BLM, undocumented workers, people who are transgender in bathrooms, etc. — to establish one another as the one-dimensional characters of people on the right/left that they want to continue seeing one another as being.

In Chris, Marron has chosen to “understand” someone who seems ill-informed and incurious. For example, although Chris acknowledges that Native Americans were treated poorly in the past, he also believes that all Native Americans today are incredibly wealthy because they all own casinos and they are constantly checking www.PokieGuide.nz to get better everyday. This makes Chris an easy and disposable foil, obviously, but he might still be interesting as a case study were Marron to be even be slightly curious as to why Chris thinks the way he does. Indeed, the show might be interesting were Marron to dig into his own life or thought process. Instead, Marron seems concerned only with making sure his (not-at-all-in-question) stances on cultural litmus-test issues are stated. The one time I heard Chris say something I knew was factually correct, it was that he thought the KKK today was a small and powerless joke we probably didn’t have to worry about. Marron scoffed and dismissed this point casually, apparently without ever wondering if it might be correct, proving that although he’s far more intelligent and well-read than Chris, Marron can match his troll’s incuriosity about things outside of himself step for step.

Perhaps the best illustration of just how lazy an attempt at “understanding one another” Conversations With People Who Hate Me is comes around the show’s 22-minute mark. Chris, who actually supports same-sex marriage as well as gay men’s right to hold hands in public without being harassed, says this:

And far as gay men being able to hold hands in society, the government can’t dictate how that happens. Society has to change.

Marron, who is gay, takes issue with Chris’s opinion, and speaking with the authority of one who has actually traveled in those shoes, counters with this rebuttal:

I am a gay man, and I understand that laws protect against crime, but my husband and I don’t hold hands in the street because of the shit we get for it.

That exchange, to me, is Conversations With People Who Hate Me in a nutshell: A podcast supposedly about fostering understanding, where the host is so busy carving out his bona fides for his audience that he never once picks up on the fact that the person he is disagreeing with is actually saying the same thing he is. This is why the first episode of Conversations With People Who Hate Me is, to me anyway, what a Tweet would be if it were magically brought to life. Trite, incurious, under the false illusion that it was somehow deep and profound, and existing for no reason other than signal to it’s own kind. But the way it most resembles a tweet is that it is simply lazy, which is a damn shame.

I hope that, before all of his episodes are in the can, Marron goes back and re-listens to the Lindy West piece from which he has borrowed so heavily, and pays closer attention. The West piece achieved what it did because West herself was willing to open up and be entirely and uncomfortably vulnerable in front of her audience. Similarly, even though I am sure West hated her own troll, she genuinely cared about learning who he was, and what inspired him to do what he had done.

The process Lindy West went through to confront her troll was, I can only imagine, painful and difficult. But what she produced through all of that was something that was truly capital-g Great. I don’t think anyone who has heard West’s Ask Not For Whom The Bell Trolls; It Trolls for Thee will ever forget it.

I’m not sure I’ll remember Marron’s poor copy of Lindy West next month.

 

 Notes:

  1. Please note that I do not use “gimmicky” here in a negatory sense. Most fledgling podcasts, looking to grab those Blue Apron and Casper Mattress promotional dollars, couch whatever they are planning on doing in a gimmick that makes it easier to pitch than, say, simply saying “I think I can talk about a lot of interesting things for ten hours.” Thus are fantastic podcasts such as Revisionist History, Call Your Girlfriend, and The Read greenlighted. []
  2. As best I can tell, prior to Conversations Marron has presented himself to the world as a kind of playful but pointed SJW imp via various Youtube series, each itself couched in an elevator-pitch-ready gimmick. These gimmicks range from truly brilliant, to the truly clever idea that seems unlikely to remain interesting over time, to the not at all clever, sophomoric, and cringe-worthy. []

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Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular contributor for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter. ...more →

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106 thoughts on “Conversations With Caricatures Who Hate Me

  1. I didn’t know who this guy was before reading this article, so I googled him. I hate him already because he looks annoying in his pics. That was before I read your post Tod. Now I hate him not only because he’s annoying to look at but he’s an intelligent idiot. Thanks for forewarning me about a douche I don’t need to listen to.

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  2. I would never agree to participate in any version of this as the interviewee, because the interviewer has the power of editing. I need to be comfortable that the editing will be done in good faith, and this concept is not one that would give me this confidence.

    As it happens, I was recently interviewed for a podcast. It is a newish podcast named Today Then. The gimmick is that it comes out the last Tuesday of the month, and each episode is devoted to something that happened on that date in history (not generally sports related). Three times in major league history, by pure meaningless coincidence, on June 25 a baseball game involved batting out of order, so that was the hook for last June’s episode. They wanted to go into the background of the concept of a batting order, which led them to the SABR 19th century committee, the chairman of which pointed them in my direction.

    The thing is, I have talked with mainstream reporters enough to have a bad taste in my mouth about them. All too often they don’t care about getting the story right. They care about getting one line quote from an “expert” that fits the narrative they are pushing. feh. So I listened to some earlier episodes of the podcast before agreeing to talk to them. I ended up spending a couple of hours on the phone. I am in the final edit perhaps five minutes total, but this is fine. They took what I said seriously and rewrote the story to take it into account. The process was honest, and that is what I ask. The podcast is here, episode five.

    But a phone call to talk about politics with someone I disagree with, giving him the power of editing? Not a chance.

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    • 1. I got interviewed for a podcast earlier this year, and I had a blast. It’s called Dreamweavers, and its gimmick is people who are working in their dream jobs.

      2. As to issue of reporters, that’s a tougher nut to crack than first appears.

      There are usually one of two things going on when I hear this complaint, and it’s not always easy to suss out which is which.

      The first is that a reporter has a narrative they are going to run with no matter what, and they will edit/cherrypick to ensure that it does. This happens a lot in most most television journalism I have seen, and it’s why you get things like the reporting on things like NAMBLA or Sharia being a half step away from taking over our country. (A lot of Trump journalism does this too, btw.)

      That being said…

      Everyone tends to feel that the world has a True Solidity to it which they can see quite clearly, and that everyone else should see as well. So if a reporter tells a different story than the one someone was hoping would be told when he or she got interviewed, that person tends to assume laziness/dishonesty/agenda. And while those things can certainly happen, the reality is that a reporter’s job often isn’t to merely be a stenographer of whoever they are interviewing. And a reporter putting interviewed content into different context than the interviewee would have is not a sign of a bad actor, or even that the reporter is wrong about the context.

      If I interview a Klansman or an MRA, it’s important to me that I understand their position and where they are coming from — but it is not my job to produce a piece that reflects and/or advocates their worldview, or present their quotes in a way that they would prefer. The KKK and MRM are extreme examples I’m using for illustrative simplicity, but that principle holds in every other scenario: government official, PR person of a company I’m reporting on, academic/expert I’m getting background from on a larger story, etc.

      When I interview someone, I always give them the opportunity to understand how I am using their quotes after I write but before I file, so that if I have misunderstood what they were saying they can correct me. But even with that, once a piece is published a lot of those same people insist everything was carefully edited (which is obviously and necessarily true) and taken out of context (they never point out I run the context by them prior) and that I have produced a dishonest piece. And most times, I don’t think that they are being dishonest when they say that. It’s just that it simply never occurred to them that I would interview them, understand what they were trying to communicate, and then come away with a story that did not make them out to be the hero of the story/main focus of the piece/most important person interviewed.

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      • I have an amateur interest in linguistics. Over at Language Log they will sometimes play a game where they examine a quote of a linguist in some general journalism publication having the guy spouting gibberish, and try to figure out what he actually said. Of course they could just ask him, but that would be cheating. Based on the discussions there, as well as my limited personal experience, your policy of letting the interviewees review your work product before publication is rare. Based on the discussions, many genuine experts are reluctant to talk to reporters due to bad experiences.

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        • Happens in less expert situations too. I’ve been interviewed for one or another not super important local story maybe 5 times in the last 20 years, and every time the reporter botched things, sometimes things I corrected them on that were also public record.

          I STILL run into people in this town that think I was the owner of a business I worked for and had zero ownership of, based on an article in the local paper that ran maybe 15 years ago…

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          • I actually blame the decline of fact-checking rather than the decline of reporting for the issues I’ve had (most of which aren’t really “they quoted me unfairly!” so much as “I *TOLD* her fact x and now she’s gone and printed utter non-fact y”), but that’s solely based on the idealized version of fact-checking I gleaned from watching Herman’s Head as a young teenager, so I don’t have a lot of faith in my hypothesis.

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            • Local papers have always been pretty much a disaster, especially for stories that might be classified as “human interest” soft news. Those never had any pretense that getting facts right mattered. The first time I ever spoke with a reporter was in the early-mid 1980s for one of those stories. The result was an utter disaster.

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  3. 1. You forgot Boll and Branch.

    2. I haven’t heard of this guy until know either but his websites look slick and professionally done.

    3. The thing I still wonder about with the whole on-line culture war is numbers and how much it spills into the real world or doesn’t. Obviously Trump is a thing so maybe it spills out more into the real world than I would like to admit but there is still a large part of me that believes that the hottest on-line warriors or culture warriors (either side) would be unknown to most of the population by name recognition or action. Generally people on the right-wing are better at taking on-line actions into mainstream success via book deals and the such. I can’t think of a leftie equivalent of Milo Y who was given a big book deal. Roxanne Gray?

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    • There is a recent book on the online culture wars and how the spill into the Real Life called “Kill All Normies” Its written by an Irish journalist who contributes for Jacobin but I forget her name. Vox interviewed her a couple of weeks ago about the book. She is part of the “Class Not Race” Left, which shouldn’t be a surprise for a Jacobin writer, so she also savagely criticizes what she calls the Tumblr Left in the book.

      Its really hard to determine how much the 4Chan Alt-Right and the Tumblr Left are spilling out into the real world. Most people are at best only vaguely aware of them even if they spend a lot of time online. Lots of at least semi-influential people do seem aware of them and they have caused some public and private pain for otherwise anonymous upper middle class or even more prominent people.

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  4. Carl Sandburg was once asked where he got his news. And though I can’t find the quote, to paraphrase “Books.” Anything else was too ephemeral, too biased. This strikes me as true in our era of social media. Podcasts seem to be more about a story than news. But remember Mr Daisy and the Apple Factory? Sometime that story is more of a tale, and a tall one at that.

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  5. where the host is so busy carving out his bona fides for his audience that he never once picks up on the fact that the person he is disagreeing with is actually saying the same thing he is

    This is always a wacky phenomenon.

    We saw it in the whole “Tea Party” vs. “Occupy Wall Street” thing a while back. While, sure, they didn’t agree about everything, there was a surprising amount of overlap between the two groups.

    But one side wanted to sing Lee Greenwood and the other wanted a drum circle and the differences between Lee Greenwood and drum circles is far more important than the overlap.

    Same here. Maybe they are saying the same thing… but there are some things that are more important than overlap.

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    • I’m remembering Robin Hanson’s famous “X is not about Y“.

      Food isn’t about Nutrition
      Clothes aren’t about Comfort
      Bedrooms aren’t about Sleep
      Marriage isn’t about Romance
      Talk isn’t about Info
      Laughter isn’t about Jokes
      Charity isn’t about Helping
      Church isn’t about God
      Art isn’t about Insight
      Medicine isn’t about Health
      Consulting isn’t about Advice
      School isn’t about Learning
      Research isn’t about Progress
      Politics isn’t about Policy

      From the sequel:

      To which I respond: really, “X is not about Y” is not about you. Yes, your forager ancestors were hyper-sensitive to being singled out by public accusations of norm violations, and in fact much of our reasoning and story abilities may have evolved to help us defend against such accusations, and to make such accusations against others. So yes your instincts naturally push you to react this way.

      But I’m talking about ways that we all violate the norms to which we all give lip service. I’m not trying to shame some of us, or even all of us, into trying harder to live up to our professed ideals. I’m focused first and foremost on making sense of our world. If I really believed that the sky might really be the roof of a cave held up by trees, or that we wear clothes to protect against frogs, I wouldn’t focus first on making sure that I was very publicly pro-tree and anti-frog; I’d instead ask what else I must rethink, given such revelations.

      All that to say: “Conversations With People Who Hate Me” is not about talking with people who hate him.

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    • Horseshoe theory of politics – the farther you get into any extreme, the closer it actually is to the other extreme.

      Or maybe it’s more like “kooks are tribal but are also more like other kooks than the rest of us,” or something. I don’t know. I just know the further you move from the middle in every direction, the weirder stuff gets, and kind of in the same way. (“We can’t stop here, this is bat country!”)

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      • The Tea Party’s solution was something like to let things happen, the government should not regulate business and should let the economic cycle happens on its own accord. They should not bail out failing businesses and should not help hard hit people. Occupy Wall Street wanted taxes on the wealthy, more regulation of banks and the financial industry, and for those hard it by the boom-bust cycle to get help through wealth redistribution.

        In slightly different terms, the Tea Party are the descendants of people who see the New Deal/Great Society as the worst thing to happen in America. Some of them even hate the entire Progressive Era as a wrong turn. Occupy Wall Street are the ideological descendants of people who see the New Deal/Great Society as the best things that happened in the United States. These two groups aren’t going to work well with each other.

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  6. I won’t comment on the value of the podcast, what it’s goals are, what it’s goals should be, whether it meets those goals, etc. I’ll say this, I’m not really so interested in “understanding” crass hateful bigots. Which is to say, I think I understand them pretty well already. It’s not as if I never hear from angry white guys. Nor is it as if I never am forced to guzzle down their viewpoint. They will justify themselves. They will explain at length. They will go on and on and on about how they’re the real victims.

    To understand them — go read this book. Then spend a few hours on the “angry dudes” parts of Reddit (or Breitbart if you can stomach it). You’ll understand them just fine. They aren’t complicated people.

    I don’t need to listen to “conversations with people who hate me” — cuz OMG that’s my fucking life.

    I suppose these conversations can “humanize” people. Fine. But I know they’re human. That’s obvious.

    If there is any dehumanization going on here — well I don’t think it’s the “angry dudes” who are on the wrong side of that equation.

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    • “I’ll say this, I’m not really so interested in “understanding” crass hateful bigots. Which is to say, I think I understand them pretty well already. ”

      It’s funny that here you are doing exactly the thing that Tod criticizes.

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      • DD,
        What’s fun is that v has specifically labeled me as a bigot (I’m not, just a garden variety asshole who was arguing about linguistics, and happens to know someone significantly better at the subject than Veronica Dire).

        I guess that means she understands me pretty well, which is kinda fun, as I don’t even understand myself most of the time.

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      • Honestly, that was my first thought. But then I realized that I’m seldom ever accosted simply because of who I am. So I see it as a “try to do it for yourself, but don’t force it on others” proposition.

        I also say that Marron set out to do something in the name of “understanding.” It’s fair to judge him against his stated purpose. He claims to be seeking to understand. (At least, I say that judging from Tod’s description, which I trust. I haven’t listened to the podcast.)

        I do agree that a bigot isn’t only their bigotry and that what seems like bigotry isn’t always, or not always merely, bigotry. I do believe there is room for understanding. But again, going back to my first paragraph, that’s an injunction best assigned to myself, from myself. And of course, I fail more than succeed.

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        • I feel like it can so quickly become this self-indulgent exercise in — forgive the term — “white liberalism.” It’s like, oh look at me! look at how understanding I am. Let’s all be so understanding and empathize!

          Fine, up to a point. But do you honestly think that minorities or queers or women go through their lives and never really learn about how bigots think? Do we never “humanize” them?

          Do queer people not have families? Do minorities not have shitty white bosses? How do you think the world works?

          I mean, I know my fucking brother pretty well, the hateful little turd. How deeply do I have to explore a ton of people who are more or less mirror images of my fucking brother?

          “But veronica!” you shout, “each is a unique snowflake!”

          No, bigots ain’t fucking unique snowflakes. They’re just bigots. They rhyme in boring ways.

          #####

          There is value in outreach. Sometimes you can make human connections. People grow and change. Yes indeed.

          Do you believe I never do that? Do you think I never talk to bigoted people in my life? Because I might choose to vent on this forum — a place where discuss ideas in their raw form — do you think I vent at the guy serving food in the lunch room, just doing his job?

          No I don’t. I suck it up and try to remain pleasant. Maybe he’ll change is mind about trans people if I’m nice.

          Every day on the subway I encounter bigots. Every time I sit down in a restaurant, I assure you, there is a bigot in earshot. Managing bigots, wiggling around the sharp edges of their shitty egos and beliefs — these are my day to day.

          Every time I go into a public bathroom to take a pee.

          (Well not literally every time. But still, can you image, the incessant sour looks? The muttered comments?)

          (And it is SO FUCKING NICE when, in a public bathroom, a cis woman gives me a big smile and says hi. Little things matter huge.)

          The point is, what makes anyone think that you can change “hearts and minds” as the content of an entertaining podcast? Why should the fucking hard work of being hated provide a nice distraction from your white, middle-class lives?

          Blah.

          Blah fucking blah.

          #####

          Seriously think about it.

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          • Thanks for your comment. I seriously didn’t mean to imply that you should have to do anything to “understand” those who harass you, or that I understand what you’re going through. I did mean to imply that I should look to my own self, and not preach to others.

            I value your participation at this blog and I’ve learned a lot from reading your commentary here.

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            • — Cool, thanks for saying that.

              To be clear, I didn’t mean to call you out individually. I was more adding to the conversation you were part of. (Which I should have made that more clear. My bad.)

              Anyway, there is something about these kinds of conversations. I’m not sure how to explain it.

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    • v,
      Mass Effect Andromeda.
      Seriously, do I need to go on?
      There’s tons of propaganda out there, some of it soft, some of it hard.
      Your Side does it too, and it’s all about whitewashing people till they ain’t got no flaws.

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  7. Podcasts puzzle me. I suspect it’s because of my age, precariously balanced between Gen X and the Millenials*, but having someone blathering in my ear is really annoying. I can either stop everything else I’m doing and pay attention to them or else I can try and focus on what I’m doing in which case I might as well listen to music. I run into the same difficulty with audiobooks. My hubby loves them and obviously the whole genre is a growth industry but I will read a hundred times more discourse in text than I’d ever be willing to listen to in podcast.
    God(ess?)! I miss the heady days of the full fledged blog-o-sphere. Also I probably need to learn how to use tumblr and reddit. Ugh.. someone get me a cane, I want to shake it and shout at clouds.

    *I read somewhere that makes me a Xennial or something like it, comfortable with computers and tech but remembers a world without it.

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    • what I’ve seen of tumblr, it’s a hive of scum and villainy, I think podcasts might be a little less crazy-inducing.

      I also long for the days of long-form blogs where people managed to complete a thought, usually without pictures.

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      • It’s also a hive of long-form blogs…. without scum or villainy to be found. it’s just *really hard* to find them in the sea of far more reshares.

        Someone needs to curate tumblr for good writing with the same attention that someones curate tumblr for porn… I suspect that someone is out there but I haven’t found them yet.

        Medium is starting to get pretty good long form essays but again it’s finding the 5 percent good stuff in the sea of dreck. They’re supposedly “customizable” but not to the degree of precision that would actually help.

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        • yeah, nearly all the tumblr blogs I’ve seen have been endless reshares of the same stuff, or someone lecturing on how everything someone else enjoys is “problematic” for arcane reasons, so I have sort of a slanted view.

          Maybe it’s kinda like Pinterest, where 99.9% of the stuff is reshared or drek, and it’s really really hard to find the good stuff.

          Also, I remember the heyday of blogspot. There used to be a lot of blogs I read where the authors have either had sufficiently large life changes (married, or married and kids, or in a job that eats up all their time) or have grown bored of writing them…..so there are relatively few of the ones from the mid 2000s still around.

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          • I hear you. I started reading blogs in 1997 and a lot of times it’s not the conglomeration I miss so much as *certain* *specific* *blogs* and/or *writers*. I mean, quite a few of those bloggers turned into actual internet friends that I even see in person sometimes, including one I work with on the daily, and/or people have gone on to write actual books and scripts that they get paid real money for, and my own early-2000s-vintage blog hasn’t been updated in .. a year and a half (which was a failed attempt at revival).. except when I occasionally post friends-locked content from other places about important life things that I want that circle of people to know too….. so I really should be counting my blessings instead of grumping.

            But there are plenty of days when I’m just like BRING BACK MY BLOGGERS AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

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            • oh yes, this so much.

              And in one or two cases, the person has died, which brings up another whole level of awful – I don’t think we’ve culturally figured out how to deal with the death of someone who is more than this author that you’ve read but didn’t know you existed, but not quite as much as an in-person friend.

              I also cringe when I know someone is going on the job market, because some of the career advice I see is “totally scrub and blandify your online presence” and I suspect a few of the deleted blogs I used to read were people who finished grad school and realized they had to conform to some kind of standard to make it in the jobs world.

              I know I’d be in a world of hurt, even given my relative obscurity, if I had to go back on the academic jobs market…

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        • Someone needs to curate tumblr for good writing with the same attention that someones curate tumblr for porn… I suspect that someone is out there but I haven’t found them yet.

          I can’t figure out how tumblr is supposed to be usable.

          I mean, it’s not just failing at usability, I literally cannot figure out how it is supposed to work. I just…click on hashtags until I find something I like, and then follow it?

          It is, frankly, astonishing how discussion technology has regressed since when I started on the internet.

          Originally, I started on Usenet, where there were specific categories (Aka, newsgroups), you subscribes to them, they all ended up in a threaded client where people demanded others follow the rule of replying below the quoted text and minimizing quotes and staying on topic. And you could mark threads as read, or uninteresting, and others you could follow in your client, and it all worked very well.

          Then we went to websites where we had some of that, but it was all hacked together and threading usually sucked and margins would create chaos and…well, heck, you guys all post here, you know what I mean. And the commenting systems have, frankly, not gotten much better.

          Then we went to Facebook, where no one quotes anything and threading is limited to two levels and most tools are crippled.

          And at this point people are just publishing random unconnected shit on Tumblr, with no real search capabilities or categories or anything beyond the ability to say ‘I am interested in everything this person says’, and they sorta kinda show you other relevant things based on random formulas.

          What. The. Hell.

          Next we will probably be just, I dunno, editing a Wiki page to talk to each other.

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            • Oh, I didn’t even get into my actual problem with tumblr, which is the moronic lazyloading of images.

              Hey, idiots at tumblr: Some of us are still on slow DSL, and we do not enjoy having to scroll the page and waiting for everything to load.

              Seriously, we went from a system where I could download everything offline, to a system where I can’t even connect and have the damn page load in the background.

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          • I have friends who are using IFTTT (If This, Then That) to make their web content ingestion process behave the way they want it to in ways that make me envious, but it has such a steep-seeming learning curve / setup effort that I haven’t ever sat down to figure out if it would actually make me happy or not. And that only helps with input and cross-posting, not with conversations….

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            • (note, they aren’t generally using random applets on that site, they’re making their own which they claim is trivially simple to do and very delightful in its results. sometimes having a ton of friends who are life-long admins, programmers, developers, etc. can be rather humbling.)

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              • Ah, I went and checked to see if IFTTT Tumblr’s support had gotten better since I looked at it last, and it hadn’t…it basically is a way to post to Tumblr and notice when someone mentions you or replies to a post. So I was wondering what you were talking about.

                Really, it’s hard to figure out how IFTTT could make Tumblr usable anyway. Tumblr is fundamentally unusable. It’s not, like, ‘broken’, there’s not some feature they could fix to make it work. It does not have a concept of usability at all, it’s a damn stream of consciousness of either random hashtags that anyone can use regardless of relevancy, or a stream of consciousness of random people that, at one point, I apparently thought were interesting enough to follow. (Or whatever it’s called on Tumblr.)

                My feed (Or whatever it is called) appear mostly to be Shoot (Shaw/Root) posts from Person of Interest for some reason (Because that was the show I was watching when I actually made a Tumblr account, and tried to use it, and I guess I followed some people, hell if I know.), and thus in turn other lesbian TV fictional couples. And…that’s it. I mean, I don’t mind, and sometimes the PoI stuff is interesting, but…is there a point to this?

                I hear rumors there is a serious fandom discussions somewhere…I sure as hell can’t find them. I can’t figure out what secret hashtags I am supposed to be using to find the people who post the serious things. Heck, I can’t even figure out how to tell Tumblr I literally have no idea what show ‘Clexa’ is on so I do not need to see those posts. I can’t even filter out that hashtag, which would seem to be a fundamental feature.

                It’s basically has the basic communication usability of post-it notes stuck to the wall. Maybe today I’ll read the green notes, and hope everyone agrees on what green notes mean! And then tomorrow I can read all the notes all in this area, regardless of color.

                Oh, internet, is there anything you can’t make extremely stupid and unusable?

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                • Tumblr is basically Twitter, but without a character limit. You follow people who interest you. You can make posts. You can “reblog” posts, while adding commentary. You get notifications when others follow or reblog you. You see what your friends reblog, which will sometimes give you new folks to follow.

                  It’s really pretty simple. The quality of the experience comes down to who you follow, which in turn depends on random, organic community formation. For example, there is a pretty thriving “trans women into math” community on Tumblr. I’m friends with most of them on Facebook, but the math posts are on Tumblr.

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                  • Tumblr is basically Twitter, but without a character limit. You follow people who interest you.

                    Which works perfectly find if I wanted to follow my friends or celebrities. That is how I use Twitter.

                    But my friends really aren’t on Tumblr, and the only celeb I follow there is basically Wil Wheaton.

                    It would be as equally difficult to try to find serious discussions of things on Twitter, but luckily those barely exist anyway, so that hardly matter.

                    For example, there is a pretty thriving “trans women into math” community on Tumblr.

                    See, let’s use this as an example of the problem I am having. I wouldn’t fit very well, but if I hypothetically wanted to join (Or at least read and reblog) that community, I have absolutely no idea how I would locate it. None whatsoever.

                    I just tried to search for the tags #trans and #math, but Tumblr decided I was searching for ‘#trans math’ which…huh, I didn’t realize hashtags could have spaces and I don’t see any way to do an ‘and’. I got, weirdly, exactly three posts as a result.

                    You said you were friends with them on Facebook. Did you find them via Facebook, and start following them on Tumblr, or did you somehow locate them on Tumblr? If so, how did you locate them?

                    Because none of the communities I am trying to locate on Tumblr have any sort of relationship to my Facebook friends, so that is not helpful at all.

                    I cannot locate anything on Tumblr. At all. I have managed to mostly accidentally follow some people (By searching for #poi a long time ago) that are vaguely interesting enough for me to scroll through them every once in a while, but that’s it.

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          • My best guess as to why this happened is that as the internet got more popular, the default tools for using it became simpler (and thereby less powerful) to accommodate the reduced interest / capability level of the median internet user.

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    • Reddit is actually really good as long as you carefully pick what you want and avoid the rest. It’s just a lot of good conversations or info on every topic under the sun. It’s just like a good blog.

      I’m pretty sure Xennial’s are the real name of the lizard people or some such evil alien race. If not it should be.

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    • We’re pretty much the same age, I think? And I’m a glaringly typical late-gen-Xer or Xennial or whatever they’re calling it now. I adore podcasts…. although my interest in them over time definitely was subject to slow exponential growth.

      Once I realized I didn’t have to pay that much attention to them, but could treat them like ye beloved CBC radio of my (and quite possibly your!) childhood (which was always on in several of the houses I was likely to be in) – drifting in and out depending on interest, I got hooked. And I eventually found a few that are SO interesting that they take up more than 75 percent of my attention while I’m listening. (I think I also got better at listening to them? Or unrusted my listening skills? Not sure.)

      Part of this is that I listen not for discourse, but for storytelling (which can be conflictual) and conviviality (which can be conflictual too, but only in a fond context – hosts giving each other crap for eg). Even the ones where I actually learn a lot or get book recs that I end up loving reading… I’m not there for the discourse. I’m there for the same reason I would read a novel or watch a tv show – *voice*.

      I’m curious if your hubby seems to listen for the same reasons or if he’s more news-focused? I keep trying to listen to stuff like Pod Save America or David Axelrod or Off-Message (where the voices are strong and interesting but the focus is on the topics, much like a really short book) and I almost always get distracted by things that are more fun.

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      • Yeah I’m 38 now, I think we’re close to the same age as I recall. Oh and we’re both Maritimers *fistbump*… oh ye god(ess?)’s, you might know what I am talking about when I talk about the CBC’s Double Exposure! Wowie zowie that was good stuff!!!

        Shawn likes podcasts on specific subjects: health, meditation, he’s big into the renovating his own psyche business right now. He also loves audio books. I think he likes being talked to.

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        • My current inamorata is NYPL’s The Librarian Is In – which is book recs and interviews and general chatter, way more informal than their (also great) main podcast, with hosts that I am ridiculously over-fond of. This might be of particular interest to you given geographical propinquity (? are you still in the general NY zone? if not you at least have lots of context for that zone) and also one of the hosts has a kid somewhere between toddlerhood and kindergarten (I bingelistened to so many that I’m chronologically confused right now) – which means some pretty great kid’s books get discussed sometimes.

          For a short-short, The Hidden Almanac is cute and goofy and I often only listen with half an ear because the narrator’s voice is soothing … but the episodes that are plot-forwarding are really hooky and the cumulative effect (which requires the not-as-important whimsical episodes) is amazing and better than my favorite audiobooks. And it’s like 5 minutes every 3 days so I don’t end up getting too many in the queue. The most recent episode’s description is “Today we detail some of the defenses at the Thanatopic Embassy, and in the garden, there are fewer squirrels. Be Safe, and Remember: You Are Not Alone.” If this intrigues you, you want it. If it doesn’t, you probably don’t.

          There are at least 30 more, some of which I will describe, or at least list, later when I’m at home (I mostly listen when I’m using my laptop and I hate syncing because I am as weird about technology as I am about most things).

          PS for those of you wondering how I stay caught up, a) I don’t. b) I don’t worry about being caught up too much except for my very most amazing favorites that I wait eagerly for – much like television. A 3 year old podcast is probably just as entertaining as a 2 day old one, and I am almost as anti-recency in world affairs as aaron david is. I actually go archive-diving fairly often, especially if it turns out I’m really drawn to something (still working on the first 2/3rds of 300+ episodes of The Coode St Podcast (https://jonathanstrahan.podbean.com/), for eg).

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          • A great podcast is The Myths and Legends Podcast. The guy tells various myths, legends and fairytale in a modern voice with a bit of commentary and explanation. But the focus is on telling the stories in all their craziness. The guy has a good delivery and as far as i know does a pretty good job with being accurate to the sources. He’s done some of the classics like Beowulf, Greek gods, the Arthurian legands and less known stuff like Japanese or Romanian folklore.

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            • As for what I listen to… lots of sports stuff, some more Xs and Os like the Bill Barnwell show and some a little more well-rounded like Hot Take Down by 538.

              I regularly listen to Stuff You Should Know. For comedy, I’ve gotten very into All Fantasy Everything, though that definitely skews sophomoric dude-bro Millenial humor. Judge John Hodgeman is great if you like John Hodgeman and/or human interaction. Adam from Adam Ruins Everything now has a spin-off podcast from the show where he goes deep with one or two experts on a particular topic… much deeper than the show allows. I think the episode on generational differences is most interesting because he and the interviewee cannot find their way onto the same page but it is a thoroughly engaging, interesting, and respectful discussion (sort of what Tod hoped this guy would offer only not). Other times, he is more aligned with his guests which works, too… just differently.

              I like Intelligence Squared, not so much for the faux debate but just because they tend to have really smart people engaging in really interesting discussions. I don’t care who wins and think the propositions are often loaded in a way… but just hearing competing viewpoints in a way that isn’t all flame throwing is refreshing.

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          • I’m a little too tired and lazy to write blurbs for all of these but if you’re curious about them (or anyone else is) let me know and I shall be happy to expound:

            So I lost all my podcast subscriptions a few months back and I have yet to get ALL of my favorites back because I have a bad memory for such things and I’m distractible. Off the top of my head, I know I need to get Pop Culture Happy Hour, Judge John Hodgman, This American Life, Modern Love, and Rocket Talk back into the rotation but there’s probably at least 6 more that I really like and just keep not re-subscribing to. (I actually got distracted twice while I was typing that sentence.)

            That said, here’s what I am most interested in of late:

            Stuff I Dig So Much I Stay Caught Up on It, in No Particular Order

            Irish and Celtic Music Podcast
            Dear Sugars
            Tiny Sense of Accomplishment (archives)
            Reading the End
            Kind World
            Terrible Thanks for Asking
            World in Time (Lapham’s Quarterly)
            LeVar Burton Reads
            Never Before with Janet Mock
            Nancy
            Invisibilia (for the stories, not the underpinnings)

            Stuff I Am Also Listening to a Lot in the Past Month or So

            The History Chicks (my current main catch-up)
            You Must Remember This
            Fangirl Happy Hour

            Stuff that Is Nifty Which I’ve been Steadily Ingesting for a While

            Code Switch
            Reply All
            Note to Self
            The New York Public Library Podcast (these are long interviews for the most part, with authors of note, but also sometimes performances)
            Radiolab and More Perfect
            The Mash-Up Americans
            99% Invisible
            WTF with Marc Maron

            Stuff I’ve Heard an Episode or Two of, Was Intrigued By, and Will Probably Listen to Lots More

            Hidden Brain
            The Read
            A Piece of Work
            CraftLit
            Surprisingly Awesome
            Literary Disco
            Overdue Another Round
            Longform
            The Allusionist
            Imaginary Worlds
            Still Processing
            Just the Right Book with Roxane Coady
            Call Your Girlfriend
            Racist Sandwich
            SO Many Damn Books

            Stuff that Is Pretty Great That I Find Way More Palatable Than the News But Avoid Anyway for Similar Reasons

            POLIICO’S Off-Message (I dig the old eps of this SOOO much but I don’t know if the new host is any good because avoidy)
            Pod Save America (unapologetic Dem bias but I only listen to it when I want the bubble I don’t usually have and they’re so soothingly SMART – Obama’s speechwriters)
            The Axe Files with David Axelrod (another dyed in the wool Democrat, see previous note, but also he definitely has a great radio voice, which who knew?)

            Stuff I Have a Love/Hate Relationship With

            Millennial (not the podcast’s fault but it is VERY Millennial and thus reminds me of the students I work for which can be good or bad depending on the day)

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    • I am with you on Podcasts (What! Two things in a Week!) Then again, I really don’t want video either, much rather have a transcript, I can cut through the junk a whole lot faster.

      I am a sucker for pix though.

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    • I’m not a huge fan of podcasts, but this is because I use my commute time to plan my writing. Driving is about the only context where I like a podcast or an audiobook. The amount of attention required for most driving and listening to the podcast or audiobook complement each other well. Driving and thinking about how to arrange ideas on the page also work well together, at least for me.

      The problem with most podcasts is that they are done poorly, but that’s just Sturgeon’s Law in action. Do you like British history? Of course you do! Who doesn’t? The British History Podcast is very good. Fair warning: he is on Episode 248 and just got to the death of Alfred the Great. This is one for the long haul.

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    • Podcasts puzzle me. I suspect it’s because of my age, precariously balanced between Gen X and the Millenials*, but having someone blathering in my ear is really annoying. I can either stop everything else I’m doing and pay attention to them or else I can try and focus on what I’m doing in which case I might as well listen to music. I run into the same difficulty with audiobooks.

      This, 100%. I don’t understand when people are listening to podcasts.

      I have, in the past but not currently, listened to long podcasts, but I listened to them basically the same way I watch TV…I stop everything else.

      Currently, I sometimes listen to very short podcasts, things like Grammar Girl and stuff, where it’s basically three paragraphs of information. Again, like a TV show, but a lot less time.

      Other than that, no. If I want something in the background, I’ll throw on TV show, a talk show like Colbert or an old episode of MST3k, something I’m not paying attention to. Or sometimes music.

      And I have listened to exactly one audiobook in my entire life, more as an experiment than as anything else.

      I am, weirdly, also exactly on the line of millennials and Gen X.

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      • can you tell why you feel like you have to pay attention to podcasts but not tv? tv is way harder for me to ignore than podcasts and i’m curious as to what causes the difference.

        (I’m also right on the cusp, as mentioned above.)

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        • I do have to pay attention to TV if it’s something actually important that I want to learn from (Like I do pay attention to John Oliver because he usually has an interesting topic.), or if they have plots I am trying to follow and stuff.

          I don’t particularly care about talk shows or MST3k. If something interesting happens on them that caught my eye, I can always back them up 30 seconds and rewatch it.

          I guess there are probably podcasts I could treat the same way, but I’m not really sure what they are and don’t care enough to try to find them. If I have the ability to have video, I’d rather have that, and if I don’t…I’m probably driving my car and shouldn’t be listening to anything distracting.(1) Or maybe I’m somewhere bored alone, like eating…which probably means I’m reading my ereader, and thus cannot possibly listen to a podcast at the same time.

          1) I sorta think listening to podcasts in cars is dangerous, or at least it would be dangerous if people were really listening to them. It’s basically like being on the phone, requiring your brain to process an entire different thing besides the road. However, I suspect most people listening in the car are not actually listening to them, which is fine. I mean, I don’t see the point of that vs. music, but whatever.

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          • Ah. This aligns with my theory that I find visual and/or audiovisual information way more work than audio-only information, and the average person our age does not.

            (Which might have to do with the paucity of television-availability I grew up with, comparatively speaking? I didn’t really learn to channel flip until I was in my 20s, for example, since all the TVs I ever had any control of before that were a) less than 14″ across, b) having of no more than 2.5-4 channels. I mean, we could click the dial around in circles but it really isn’t the same… )

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              • Heh, that’s actually when we had 2.5. CBC, CTV, and Radio-Canada which counted for half not so much because French (I’m fluent plus hello bleu nuit), but because I could never get it to come in without a super-annoying load of static. 4 was at my poppy’s house, he was on top of a very big hill and had fancy rabbit ears so we could somehow steal cable from the airwaves (not sure AT ALL how that worked but I think we were actually picking up network channels from the Boston States?).

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                  • Using wiki to supplement my fallible memory, in the 80s the Halifax viewing area (which included Bridgewater/Lunenburg, where my grandmother was) had two CBC stations ( one English & one French), ATV (the CTV affiliate), and ITV (sometimes branded Maritime TV or MITV, which is now Global)

                    I remember English CBC always so coming in strong, French CBC sometimes coming in strong and sometimes not, ATV being usually ok, and ITV being usually not. (but I’m not sure of the last one, maybe it was ATV that was wonky)

                    Eta- oh, and everything was in black and white because that’s the only TV my grandma had. And no phone.

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    • I’ve only gotten into podcasts lately, and I think it’s only because there’s a critical mass of them there’s enough that I like. My two main jams are Mike Duncan’s Revolutions & History of Rome podcasts (I’m caught up on the former unless he’s started 1848 already, I’m to the Flavians in the latter) and then the after show discussions of reality and scripted that Rob Cesternino is in charge of.

      I dont really commute anymore but I found them perfect for long duration but relatively quiet home repairs (like mudding a wall to fix the drywall, then painting it. Spreading mulch in the spring, etc. Just not anything that requires power tools or hammering). Also dog walking when we dogsit for family and friends.

      Eta- I was also one of the score and seven people that listened to Dan Scotto’s Lincoln podcast.

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      • I don’t have a good way to download them (I am one of the rare smartphone Luddites and I also don’t have an iPod) but I will say I can see how certain podcasts would be an excellent way to spend the time when running on ground that doesn’t go anywhere or riding a bike that doesn’t go anywhere instead of listening to news radio and getting my blood pressure even higher.

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      • Hmmmm perhaps that’s it. I have a commute of some three minutes and generally don’t have to do much monotonous repair/home work. Maybe I simply don’t have the time/activity slot that’d be conducive to podcast listening.

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    • I love podcasts. In the fitness, nutrition and strength and conditioning worlds, there’s a ton of great info coming out of the evidence-based community in those fields and many of my influences frequently do podcasts. I’ve listened to many during my long walks. Makes the time pass and I get a lot out of them.

      There’s a lot of crap out there I presume but in my area of interest, I’m getting the insights of some of the best out there.

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      • Cool Dave, I didn’t claim that there’s no value to em, just that I have not been able to foster an enjoyment of them. If I’m doing something else then they’re just meaningless yammering in my ears (in which case why not at least have melodic yammering) and if I do naught but listen to them then I’m fidgeting and annoyed that I’m listening to a podcast. Multitasking. Ugh.

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