Okay, so I want to share this with y’all first because I think it’s interesting, and second because I think it’s important.
Not everybody understands how the online publication world works, per se, and the Boing Boing Geek Girl Con piece is a good example of 1) what I do all day and 2) how a piece like this comes together.
So. The Monday before Geek Girl Con, I pitched Boing Boing the idea of doing some kind of piece about the convention. I pitched three different directions the piece could take, and we ended up going with “The Importance of Geek Girl Con in a Post-Gamergate World,” because ha ha ha ha ha ha Gamergate had been quiet for a while and so I thought it was over.
The Friday before Geek Girl Con, Brianna Wu got doxxed. I immediately scratched “post” off of all notes that read “post-Gamergate.” (BTW, I know that the doxx hasn’t been proven to have been made by a Gamergater. Let’s just say that the doxx kicked the conversation about Gamergate back into gear.)
At this point, that Friday, I was running around the internet going “okay, which publications are writing about this, what part of the conversation are they leaving out, what part of the story needs to be told?” I was already pretty determined that I didn’t want to actually make the story about Gamergate. The question of “what is Gamergate? are the Gamergaters right? do we need to talk about separating questions of journalistic ethics from personal attacks?” was already being thoroughly covered at least on the part of the internet that the Boing Boing audience probably reads (it would hit the rest of the internet later, but we’ll get to that), and I didn’t want to rehash a comment section on false flags and the rest of it.
I also read every piece Boing Boing had printed that was remotely related to Gamergate, as well as all the comments. The last thing I wanted to do if I were writing a piece about Geek Girl Con was to invite arguments that would lead to harassment, so I wanted to know what was tripping that particular trigger.
I decided, when I went into Geek Girl Con the next morning, that I would conduct all the interviews around the topic of “how do you create a safe space, what do you do when you experience harassment, and what advice do you have for others?” One of the things that GGC does really well is create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone, and so I was really excited to talk about that.
(Also, note that the “what do you do when you experience harassment” question was directly related to my learning about the Brianna Wu doxx the night before and then spending much of the night thinking about online harassment. It was, in my mind, the most urgent story to tell.)
I did interviews during and after the con on the subject of safe space and harassment. The dual themes of inclusive language and listening to/sharing new voices kept repeating, which is important for how the piece eventually developed.
The Tuesday after GGC, the anonymous person sent the bomb threat to Utah State University. Anita Sarkeesian canceled her appearance when the university could not provide assurance that there would be no concealed weapons at the venue.
That Tuesday night, I went to Puzzled Pint and could not work on the Boing Boing piece. This is also important because by the next morning, the USU bomb threat was national news. This didn’t necessarily mean I had to reference the bomb threat in my Geek Girl Con story, but I knew that if I were writing a story about harassment in the geek community, leaving it out would be a huge omission.
There was also this weird timeline situation in which Geek Girl Con had been bookended by these two highly visible acts of harassment. That felt important, like it was part of the story that had to be told.
On Wednesday night, I cleared my schedule and downed an enormous glass of wine. I walked around my tiny apartment until the key of what I wanted the piece to be about came to me:
Going in to Geek Girl Con, I didn’t feel safe. But once I was there, I did. Why?
For me, finding the “key” is everything. From that point the actual writing came fairly easily.
I discovered, sadly, that most of the interview work I had done wasn’t going to fit in the piece. With the USU bomb threat, we had moved beyond “what should people do if they experience harassment?” and I was now interested in a different question: how do we make a safe space?
Luckily, I already had part of the answer in front of me: inclusive language and providing opportunities for all voices.
I sent out a couple of follow-up questions to fill in gaps, finished the piece, got a few opinions on how I handled the inclusivity and intersectionality pieces (because—also important—no one person knows everything about intersectionality), revised to make my own language more inclusive, and sent it off to Boing Boing.
Then it went through the Boing Boing editing process. A lot of what I originally wrote got cut or tightened or reshaped just slightly. (It’s a great edit.) This is also a really important part of the process that I don’t think everyone completely understands; my name goes on the finished piece, but it’s a collaboration. It’s like the idea of birthing a child and then watching the child grow up. You’re still nominally the parent, but there are a lot of other influences shaping the child.
(I have never had children. This metaphor may be ridiculous, but you get the idea.)
Because you’re trying to get the piece out while the conversation is still happening—in some ways, this piece was almost late to the game—this process happens very quickly. You don’t get to debate your editors over each line. You’ve got to trust them. I requested to undo one edit that accidentally misattributed a quote, and that was it. (This is also my official Ask A Freelancer advice on how to work with editors.)
I’m sharing this with y’all because let’s say you were one of the people I interviewed at GGC, and you were like “we talked for 20 minutes, and only one thing I said made it into the piece!” That’s why. Between the time we talked and the time the piece ran, it changed significantly. It absorbed its environment. It collaborated with others. It grew up.
(Nobody is actually saying this to me, but it’s an important point to make about interviews.)
Anyway, I wanted to share some of “how is babby formed” because I think it’s really important, or at least it’s important to me.
If you have more questions about how features go from pitch to publication, my Ask Box is always open.
The real problem with people fussing over Pluto all the time is it represents the priorities of the public - preserving traditions rather than accepting facts. The pursuit of science is about building a sustainable catalog of truths, and there is no advantage in altering truths to appease nostalgia.
myrinthinks said: Oh Jesus Christ, that poverty post you reblogged does seem to bring all the unpleasant people to the yard (or at least allow them to let out their unpleasant sides). I wonder if these people know what taxes are. Like, they wouldn't even realise if the government decided to use taxes to provide for poor people because there wouldn't be any changes for them because they have to pay taxes either way. Dear lord give me (and other people from poor households) strength.
I think about this a lot, but it just keeps cycling back to:
golly gosh I’m glad I don’t live in the States right now.
Not only do the majority of American poor people not really get how poor they are compared to their global peers (and I’m speaking from experience here) but they believe that they are not poor, and they genuinely believe that Those Poor People are out to get them. So you get these genuinely impoverished people who are seriously going:
- I’m not poor.
- Poor people are lazy and bad, and I’m not lazy or bad!
- Therefore I’m not poor!
- Also, poor people want to steal my hard-earned money.
- Look how hard I had to work for this money! I had to work SO HARD! God, those poor people sure are disgusting and entitled.
- I have to work very hard to earn healthcare and pay my bills. This is because times are hard, but I am very hard-working, and very deserving, and very tough.
- Why would I vote for improved welfare, or healthcare, or benefits? It would only encourage poor people to do even LESS work.
- Why should I work as hard as I’m working just to help poor people be lazy?!
Meanwhile, Europeans are looking at them going
"Oh, you’ve never been on holiday to Europe?"
"You’ve - you’ve never been on HOLIDAY?"
"Your healthcare isn’t FREE?"
"Your boss can just FIRE YOU? For no reason?!"
"You can’t afford to pay your heating bills?"
"You PAY for university education?"
"… You pay HOW MUCH for university education?"
"The police do WHAT to you?"
"You can’t afford to pay for the prescriptions you need to LIVE - oh, hahaha, okay, I get it! You’re joking. This is a hilarious joke that you are playing on this poor European who doesn’t understand-"
”- You’re not joking.”
"HOW IS AMERICA EVEN A COUNTRY? WHY ARE YOU CALLING YOURSELF A FIRST-WORLD COUNTRY. THIS IS A HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. I’M CALLING MY DAD"
The year I taught in India, I got to “explain” this to the other faculty. I was all “no, seriously, I haven’t been on vacation in five years, I don’t go to the doctor when I’m sick, and haven’t visited a dentist since I graduated from college.”
(That’s changed since then—the vacations and doctors stuff—but I know it could always change back.)
Ello violates something I say a lot, which, I alluded to briefly at the end of my last post — if you are building the future your team has to be more diverse than the starship Enterprise was fifty years ago. Bare minimum. This is another social network built by a team of cisgender white dudes. These crowds aren’t homogenous because people are nice. It is because they have, in the subtlest ways, filtered others out.