Women in Online Media: My Letter to Newsweek

The March 21 issue of Newsweek includes an intriguing column by Senior Editor Steven Levy: “Blogging Beyond the Men’s Club – Since anyone can write a weblog, why is the blogosphere dominated by white males?” This has sparked quite a debate online, in weblogs, podcasts, and discussion forums.

I shared my thoughts on this topic in the following letter to Levy…

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AOL Backpedals: So What?

(NOTE: The Mar. 28 update to this article covers how AOL revised the AIM TOS.)

According to this followup article by Ryan Naraine published today in eWeek, AOL has begun backpedaling in earnest regarding its offensive and invasive Instant Messenger (AIM) terms of service. (I covered this yesterday.)

According to eWeek, AOL “plans to make three small but significant modifications to the terms of service for its AIM instant messaging product to head off a firestorm of privacy-related criticisms.”

My opinion? Too late. AOL has already tipped its hand about its unvarnished attitude toward AIM users…

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Why You Should Stop Using AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) RIGHT NOW!

(UPDATES: Don’t miss the Mar. 15 and Mar. 28 updates to this article.)

Here’s yet another installment in the ongoing saga of AOL’s delusions of grandeur. I just posted this to my del.icio.us page of recommended reading, but this one is so ludricrous it warrants a special mention here.

Apparently, at some point AOL quietly unveiled new terms of service for its popular AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) chat service. Basically, AOL is claiming unlimited rights to all content and ideas transmitted via AIM. That’s right – if, say, you use AIM to discuss a new idea for a business, book, deal, etc., AOL is claiming the right to use, publish, or sell your ideas or plans without notifying or compensating you. At least, the way the AIM TOS is currently written leaves the door open for such abuses.

I wish this was a joke. It’s not. Whether or not such unabashed greed and thievery is legally enforceable (and I have serious doubts about that), it’s certainly insulting enough to warrant abandoning AIM immediately and permanently. I don’t use AIM much, but I have just uninstalled AIM from my computer. I recommend that you do so too, and tell all the AIM users you know about this.

No, I don’t think this is an overreaction. Here’s why…

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Burns: Touchy, Touchy! (Online Vermin, Part 7)

(NOTE: This is the final installment in my “Handling Online Vermin� series about addressing people with poor online communication habits. Series intro and index.)

At last we arrive to the end of my seemingly interminable discussion of online vermin:

Burns: These people routinely overreact and take nearly everything personally, in a negative way. They are as socially or emotionally sensitive as burn victims: any contact is risky. Even the slightest touch of communication, the slightest possible hint of an insinuation, can cause them to react with pain: anger, shame, self-doubt, guilt, despair, regret, self-pity, etc. And you’ll hear about it – loudly.

I debated with myself long and hard before deciding to add burns to my vermin menagerie. Since everyone has his or her own unique set of sensitivities, can there truly be such a thing as “oversensitive?”

Well, yes, I think so…

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Leeches: Just Say No (Online Vermin, Part 6)

(NOTE: This is an installment in my “Handling Online Vermin” series about addressing people with poor online communication habits. Series intro and index.)

By nature, I enjoy being helpful. I get jazzed whenever I can share knowledge, skills, or insight, or help someone with a difficult task or decision. I don’t always want to recognize that I am human and have limits of time, energy, and attention. Yet, if I don’t recognize and honor my own limits, I end up getting burned out.

Therefore, out of a sense of sheer self-preservation I’ve learned to recognize online leeches and scrape them off promptly…

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Handling Porcupines, Trolls, and Other Online Vermin (Series Index)

(UPDATE FEB. 10: Read about The purpose of this series. Also, listen to this audio note on vermin and compassion.)

Contrary to popular opinion, the internet is not really about technology. It’s about people, specifically how people communicate.

Despite the best efforts of evolution and civilization, human beings still have a lot of rough edges – individually and collectively. We annoy, denigrate, and dismiss each other all the time. Sometimes this is intentional, often it is not.

The plain text which comprises most online communication makes our rough edges hard to miss. It strips away many of the subtle buffers and safeguards we’ve created to minimize the inherent emotional and psychological risks of communication. Also, online media presents a deeply weird juxtaposition of isolation and connectedness, anonymity and identity, parts and whole. In this baffling environment people can be unbelievably brash and vulnerable at the same time.

In this realm, the vermin of communication thrive. Recognizing them, and choosing to react appropriately, is the key to avoiding their damage…

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