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DCUM Weblog

Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 15, 2023 11:04 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included Emory University's Early Decision results, conspiracy theories in which posters believe, beauty secrets, and how to anonymously tell a friend important information.

In the blog post that I wrote yesterday, I mentioned that it had been a big day for threads that I had already discussed. Yesterday was just as big. Like yesterday, the thread about the Wizards and Capitals moving to Virginia was the most active, followed by the Gaza war thread. The Maury Elementary thread that was third yesterday finally dropped off the most active list, though I would not be surprised to see it return. The threads about suing Callie Oettinger and raising kids in competitive communities were the other already-covered topics at the top of the most active list. Therefore, like yesterday, the first thread that I will discuss was actually the fifth most active of the day. That thread was titled, "Emory ED is out!" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. For the benefit of those not fluent in college application terms, "ED" refers to "Early Decision" which is a type of college application that is submitted prior to normal applications and requires the applicant to commit to attending the college if accepted. Students are only allowed to make one such application and, as such, it should only be used for the student's top choice. We are currently at the time of the year when ED results are announced and this thread was created to discuss ED decisions by Emory University. The responses include those from excited and happy posters whose children were accepted and some from disappointed posters whose children must deal with rejection. In both cases, posters tended to provide the grade point average, test scores, and other relevant data along with the decision. This led to quite a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking as others tried to draw conclusions from the information. Traditionally on DCUM, one of the first questions asked of those who are accepted is whether or not the student is an underrepresented minority or URM. The more polite might simply inquire about any "hooks". Such questions are often viewed as a way to explain an acceptance which posters might otherwise find surprising. When one of those responding in this thread proactively mentioned that her child was a URM, that caused a number of posters to attack her as a troll. So, I guess, this is another situation in which posters can't win. Before too long, discussion diverged to posts about other universities and how they compared with Emory. In addition, any thread about schools in conservative states tends to attract a poster who makes a fuss about abortion. I am not sure why this poster thinks that those who obsessively research every last detail about universities the way the posters in this thread do would have overlooked a state's abortion policies. But, even if they had, this poster has reminded them several times already. The topic doesn't really need to be discussed in this thread.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 14, 2023 10:38 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included raising kids in competitive communities, irrational pet peeves, a mother-in-law's dishonesty about a nap, and Oprah Winfrey's weight loss.

Yesterday was a big day for threads that I've already discussed. The leading thread was, not surprisingly, the one about Ted Leonsis moving his teams to Virginia. Next was the Maury Elementary School thread that seems immortal and third was the Gaza war thread. Even yesterday's fourth most active thread, the one about suing Callie Oettinger, is one I covered yesterday. As a result, today I am starting with what was actually yesterday's fifth most active thread. That was titled, "Raising kids in a competitive UMC community? Would you do it all over again?" and posted in the "General Parenting Discussion" forum. The original poster says that she lives in an upper middle class community that has some racial diversity, but almost no socioeconomic diversity. The high school ranks in the top 1% in the nation and houses start at $1.5 million or more. Kids are very involved in extracurricular activities. This experience is much different than what the orignial poster experienced growing up. She was raised in a small middle class town where life was much more leisurely and she didn't experience people with real wealth until she went to college. Her social circle has included people from all economic statuses and a lot of diversity and she feels that she benefited from this. She is considering moving to a second home that her family owns in a rural community and raising her kids in a much simpler lifestyle and wants to hear from others about their experiences. There are several long, detailed, and substantive replies in which posters describe their experiences moving to less competitive areas. Generally, the posters were happy they moved. There are also posts from those who chose not to make such a move due to downsides that they described. As you might expect — and even hope for — on a forum that has its roots in urban Washington, DC, several posters pitch neighborhoods in the District in which less competitive lifestyles can be found. A few posters who describe themselves as being affluent argue that wealth doesn't automatically translate into competitiveness and that less competitive lifestyles can be found among those with money. Another handful of posters actually embraces competitiveness, were glad to have that for themselves, and hope to have it for their children. While a few posters got a little bent out of shape when criticism of communities was a little too close to home for them, this is mostly a polite and substantive thread. Many of the responses are very lengthly and those writing them put in considerable effort. As the result, the thread is pretty useful, but not a quick read.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 13, 2023 10:59 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included suing Callie Oettinger, Caps and Wizards moving to Alexandria, college professors failing to provide time accommodations, and a white elephant gift that wasn't so funny.

The most notable aspect of yesterday's most active threads is that the Gaza war thread fell all the way to 9th, the lowest it has been since October 7. So, interest in that topic may finally be waning. The most active thread was titled, "Can I sue Callie Oettinger?" and posted in the "Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS)" forum. In early November, one of the threads I covered in this blog was about a breach of Fairfax County Public Schools data security. This was not a hack. Rather, Callie Oettinger, a FCPS parent, had gone to her children's school to examine their records. She was inadvertently provided with a thumb drive that had confidential records of over 170,000 students and employees. Oettinger's reaction was to publish this data which contained private details related to special education services that have been provided to children in partially redacted form. Her redactions were apparently not sufficient as the original poster of this thread is asking whether she can sue Oettinger for wrongfully publishing her child's personal health information. As in the original thread about this topic, most of the discussion focused on the ethics of Oettinger's publishing the data. While posters recognize that the original mistake lies with FCPS, and several hope that there will be accountability for that error, most of those responding are more angry with Oettinger. In their view, an FCPS employee made an error, but Oettinger's decision to publish the data was clearly intentional. Moreover, they are concerned about what else Oettinger may have done with the data and with whom she may have shared it. The overwhelming opinion is that once Oettinger realized that she had been wrongly provided sensitive data, she should have returned it to the school and deleted all copies in her possession. A number of posters express interest in joining legal action against Oettinger. The thread appears to have been started coincidental with letters being sent to the parents of children whose data was wrongly provided to Oettinger. Many of the posts, therefore, are from parents just learning about the disclosure and using the thread as an opportunity to absolutely fume at Oettinger. There are also a number of posts, especially later in the thread, that advocate that instead of directing their anger at Oettinger, those parents focus on ensuring that FCPS implements more effective data and privacy controls. Several posters want to do both. Despite the eagerness among many posters to initiate legal action against Oettinger, a number of posters contend that she has not violated any laws and that there are no valid grounds for a lawsuit.

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Monday's Most Active Posts

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 12, 2023 10:36 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included the pettiness of the British Royal Family, practical gifts, flirting husbands, and William and Kate's Christmas card.

Yesterday's most active thread was the Gaza war thread which I discussed yesterday. So, I'll skip that one today. I am sorry to say that the next most active thread was about the British Royal Family. Worse even, a second BRF thread is also on the list today. The first of the two was titled, "Petty royal family" and posted in the "Entertainment and Pop Culture" forum. The original poster says that she was reading an article about a lawsuit that Prince Harry is pursuing and was bothered that the government of the United Kingdom had refused to provide security for Harry. In light of the threats Harry faces, the original poster finds this decision to be petty. One issue with this post is that the original poster did not provide any sort of link to help clarify precisely what she is discussing. Moreover, despite the obsession with the Royals that characterizes many participants of these threads, few seem to know much about Harry's security dispute. Even the original poster misstates the facts. The basis of the dispute is the security arrangement established for Harry during his UK visits. Rather than around-the-clock full security such as that provided for full-time working royals, he is provided with security that is tailored to his specific needs and his perceived risk. Harry is appealing that decision in a quest to receive full security protection. In addition, he recently lost a bid to pay for police protection himself. Most of those replying seem to know few of these details. Several posters argue that Harry or King Charles should pay for Harry's security and consider Harry's security to be an unnecessary public expense, especially at a time that the UK is suffering with economic difficulties. A number of posters want government-provided security removed for all royals, forcing family members to pay for security themselves. Those familiar with the details of Harry's security concerns point out the shortcomings of private security such as not being able to carry guns and not having access to police intelligence about threats against him. Other posters point out that under the current arrangment Harry will receive police protection with all that entails when the circumstances require it. Much of this thread is devoted to comparing the type of protection provided to Harry with that provided to other celebrities or politicians. In particular, posters describe the type of security provided to the children of US presidents. All in all, this was not the worst BRF-related thread that I've had to read, but that's probably the best that can be said about it.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 11, 2023 04:21 PM

The topics with the most engagement over the weekend included the Gaza war, other's identity quirks that are annoying, the resignation of the president of the University of Pennsylvania, and a Texas woman's ordeal regarding abortion.

The most active thread over the weekend was the thread that I have already discussed about Maury Elementary School. Following that was a thread titled, "Gaza War, Part 3" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. When the first Gaza war thread reached 1,000 pages, I locked it and started a second thread. Over the weekend, that one reached 1,000 pages so I locked it and started this thread. While this thread was the second most active over the weekend, the topic is not producing near the same number of posts that it did in the past. Ironically, despite the fact that the topic of the Gaza war has been the most active or nearly most active topic for over 2 months now, this thread started out with a discussion about whether people have stopped paying attention to the situation. It is always strange to me when posters not only read a thread, but post in it, only to declare that they don't really care about the topic. But, that's exactly what happened in this thread. Posters who claim that they don't care and don't have an opinion, cared enough to read and post an opinion. The other thing about which a number of posters were proud of not caring was the massive death toll from which Palestinians are suffering. The first refuge of those defending Israel has been to claim that the numbers of deaths being reported by Gaza's Ministry of Health are not to be trusted due to Hamas' influence on the Ministry. But, that claim is not holding water the way that it used to. So, posters have turned to claiming the deaths are "collateral damage" and while they are sad about innocent civilians being killed, it is a normal function of war. Therefore, it is simply not fair to single out the civilian deaths caused by Israel and may actually be antisemitic. Moreover, these posters claim that Hamas should be held responsible for the deaths of Palestinians rather than Israel. Much of this thread, if not most of it, is devoted to placing blame. The big divide is between those who believe that the atrocities of October 7 justify Israel's actions and those who don't. The first group argues that Israel has the right defend itself and to retaliate against those who attacked it. They claim that the Israeli military is showing concern for civilian safety and not intentionally targeting non-combatants. Any and all blame for Palestinian suffering lies with Hamas. The second group argues that Israel's actions have gone far beyond what could be justified by the October 7 attack. Israel is accused of intentionally trying to ethnically cleanse Gaza and commitiing genocide. Moreover, these posters point to the large number of journalists, academics, and cultural figures who have been killed by Israeli bombs — frequently along with their entire families — and argue that these cannot all be accidental. Rather, they contend, this suggests intentional targeting by Israel.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 16, 2023 03:21 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included Ivy League University Presidents and antisemitism, a second thread about antisemitism and elite universities, the best known songs of our generation, and what major to choose if planing to go to medical school.

Once again the Gaza war thread led as most active yesterday. That was followed by two threads that are directly related to the war. The first was titled, "Stefanik Ivy Presidentd" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. The title, which suffered from both a typo and a lack of clarity, referred to a Congressional hearing during which Republican Representative Elise Stefanik asked a panel of university presidents whether calls for genocide were prohibited on their campuses. To be clear, Stefanik was referring to calls for the genocide of Jews which is a somewhat ironic concern given that something very close to, if not actual, genocide is currently being perpetrated by Israel against the residents of Gaza. Moreover, unpacking what Stefanik means by "calls for genocide" is itself a challenge. The Congresswoman explicitly referred to calls for "intifada" which in Arabic means "to shake off" but generally refers to Palestinian uprisings in the West Bank during which Palestinian teenagers used stones to fight the Israeli military. In no way does "intifada" mean "genocide". Similarly, many in the pro-Israel crowd claim the slogan, "Free Palestine from the River to the Sea" as being a call for genocide. While I have criticized that slogan, it does not refer to genocide. The college presidents, knowing that Stefanik clearly considers calls for genocide to include expressions that are not normally thought to be calls for genocide, were put in a bit of a conundrum and, unfortunately, fumbled their responses. Had they been asked whether a call to "kill all the Jews" violated their speech codes, certainly they all would have answered in the affirmative. But, instead, they were asked whether Stefanik's unorthodox and inaccurate definition of calls for genocide is allowed. That is a more difficult question. Unfortunately, in today's politicalized world, few are interested in doing the intellectual work to understand why what sounded like a simple question was actually much more complex. As a result, the presidents have come under considerable pressure and targeted with severe criticism. At the basis of this controversy is an effort among many in the pro-Israel camp to not only control speech, but to control the very definition of words. They have understandably and commendably made antisemitism unacceptable. But, now there are efforts to go further. Being opposed to Israel is considered antisemitism. Opposing Zionism is defined as antisemitism. Supporting Palestinians is considered anti-Israel and, hence, antisemitic. Slogans such as calling for an "intifada" or "Free Palestine From the River to the Sea" are allowed to be defined, not by those who use them, but by those who oppose their use and labeled as antisemitic. In this manner, pressure is applied to prohibit anything that is against the interests of Israel from being said. It is an effort to suppress pro-Palestinian speech entirely and has little to do with actual antisemitism.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 07, 2023 04:06 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included losing a friend because of the Gaza war, short women, Yale and A grades, and anger with a mother-in-law due to holiday arrangements.

The Gaza war thread was back as the most active thread yesterday and the next most active thread was directly related to the war. Titled, "Lost a dear friend over the war", the thread was originally posted in the "Religion" forum. But, after reading it, I moved it to the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum because it really didn't have anything to do with religion. Some posters suggested that the thread was most appropriate for the "Political Discussion" forum, which ultimately was probably correct. The original poster says that three couples went to dinner, including one of her oldest and best friends. Two of the couples expressed solidarity with Palestinian civilians who are under Israeli attack in Gaza. The original poster's friend, who is strongly pro-Israel, went on a tirade against the others, jumped up and left the table, and took a ride share car home, even abandoning her husband. Her husband apologized and said that her extreme views have been causing marital problems and problems at their kids' school. The next day, the original poster called her friend and her friend told her never to speak to her again. The original poster asks if others have lost friends over this sort of discourse. When I moved this thread, it had less than a page of posts. But in less than five hours the thread grew to 18 pages. That's more than 250 posts, or more 50 posts an hour. Before the first page was complete, a poster had made a totally-political post that had nothing to do with the estranged relationship. Not only was that post off-topic to the discussion, it didn't even reflect the positions held by either the original poster or her friend, In short, the statement suggested that the poster had not bothered to read the original post. But, that was enough to provoke additional political posts. To be clear, the first three political posts were all from pro-Israel posters criticizing Hamas, a group that the original poster had explicitly rejected. Like the original poster's friend, these posters seem incapable of having a simple, reasonable discussion. While a few posters did address the relationship aspects of the thread, often saying that they too had lost friendships over political issues, the bulk of the discussion consisted of debate over the war. Many posts in this thread reflect why disagreements such as the original poster described can so easily lead to lost friendships. A good number of individuals have adopted the position that any sympathy for Palestinians is support for Hamas and any criticism of Israel is antisemitism. To be sure, many — maybe even most — Jews don't hold such positions and many non-Jewish supporters of Israel also reject those views. But, for those who do have such beliefs, almost any kind of discussion other than fully agreeing with Israel's actions is impossible. As was pointed out in the thread, when encountering such individuals, your choices are to keep silent and preserve relationships or speak up and likely see the relationship ended.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 06, 2023 10:39 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included a house explosion in Arlington, a bumper sticker, "average" and "above average" value women, and divorcing when children are in college.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "House Explosion in North Arlington" and posted in the "Off-Topic" forum. This is a tragic story that began in the late afternoon on Monday. Arlington police responded to reports of shots being fired within a house in North Arlington. Police determined that an occupant of a duplex had fired between 30 and 40 flares from a flare gun. After being unable to make contact with the individual inside the home, police obtained a search warrant and attempted to force entry. At that time, they heard what they believed to be gunshots from within the house followed by a devastating explosion. As video that was widely circulated on social media showed, the entire duplex was destroyed. Much of the early part of the thread was devoted to obtaining facts about what exactly happened and speculating about the cause of the explosion. Suggestions ran from a meth lab exploding to a gas leak. The owner of the duplex unit in question was soon identified and linked to a number of social media postings advocating various conspiracy theories, including accusing his neighbors of being spys who were out to get him. In real time developing stories of this nature, I have a difficult time trying to draw lines between what should and should not be allowed to be posted. Inevitably, whatever I decide will be imperfect. In this case, my primary concern was preventing misinformation, particularly when it came to identifying individuals. Therefore, I removed any mention of the duplex's owner's name. But, I allowed discussion of his social media postings. My thinking was that the individual might turn out to be innocent, as unlikely as that might be, but his social media postings exist regardless of his involvement in the explosion. As of this morning, Arlington Police have said that they believe that remains recovered from the home belong to the property owner, but positive identification is outstanding. A number of posts dealt with possible motivations for the individual's behavior. This included suggestions that he was a right-wing gun enthusiast or a left-wing radical. But, due to the social media postings, most attention focused on mental health. Many posters proposed various actions that could be taken with regard to those suffering from mental health problems and others discussed the difficulty of getting assistance for adults who have mental health challenges. In addition, considerable attention was focused on the family who lived in the adjoining duplex unit. That family, apparently evacuated prior to the explosion, has lost their home and all belongings. Many posters were eager to know how they might help them.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 05, 2023 11:26 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included Millennials feeling abandoned, a deadbeat dad and graduation, feeling uncomfortable because of a lack of commitment, and marrying for lifestyle instead of love.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Millennials feel 'abandoned' by parents not available to help raise grandkids: 'Too busy'" and posted in the "General Parenting Discussion" forum. Let me be clear and say that I find everything about this thread to be disappointing. As longtime readers of this blog will know, I hate generational labels. So, of course I am going to dislike a thread that is premised almost entirely on two such labels (Millennials and Boomers). But, beyond that, this is a fake controversy entirely generated as clickbait. Frankly, I don't feel like reading this thread so I am not going to bother. What I will do is discuss the background of this thread and what led to random clickbait ending up as the most active thread on our website. The original poster wrote that "Boomers are too busy and galavanting around on vacations to help their kids and grand kids" and that this is "[a]nother example of boomer selfishness". To support this contention, the original poster provided a link to a Fox News article that basically made the same argument. However, Fox's article was not based on research or surveys or any sort of data that would support this claim. Rather, Fox based its article on an article published by Business Insider. Business Insider, in turn, offers no real data to support this contention, simply writing this "appears to be typical". Everything in the Business Insider article is based on a couple of anecdotes. A Boomer father who retired to Mexico is presented as a common example of Boomer parents. Moreover, that father actually complained that his children have programmed his grandchildren's lifes to such an extent that they have no time for him anyway. With minimal editing, this article could have been written with the entirely opposite premise, saying that children of Millennials are too busy and have no time for their Boomer grandparents. That would not have made this a better article, but it wouldn't have made it worse. It is simply not a very good article. The "trend" that it describes is entirely limited to a small subset of a small subset of a generation of grandparents. That's not a trend, it's an anomaly.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 04, 2023 10:16 AM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included dealing with excessive crying by a two-year-old, a troll thread about a sister-in-law asking for jewelry, a troll thread about a child joining the military, and another thread about MCPS Principal Joe Beidleman.

As I predicted in my last blog post, the Gaza war thread is back as the most active thread over the weekend after having dropped from that spot for a day. The second most active is another one that I've already covered, the thread about "The Golden Bachelor". That means that the first thread that I will discuss today was titled, "Discipline for excessive crying" and posted in the "Infants, Toddlers, & Preschoolers" forum. The original poster has a two-year-old daughter who is constantly crying. Almost anything that the original poster does can cause the girl to cry for long periods of time. Moreover, the girl is only like this around the original poster and not her husband or nanny. The original poster knows that experts advise not punishing a child for crying, but she is at the end of her patience and desparate to find a solution. She wonders what others who have had a child like this have done. In response, the original poster gets a range of advice. Nobody is in favor of literal punishment, but some counsel ignoring the child. That advice is generally accompanied by other strategies aimed at encouraging an end to the crying. For instance, telling the girl that her mother can't help her while she is crying, teaching breathing or counting exercises to help her calm down, or creating a "time out" room to where she can be sent to cry alone and calm down. One poster recounts using "kiddie yoga" videos to help her child learn emotional regulation skills. Posters also suggest that the the child may be feeling the stress the original poster experiences from the crying and that actually causes her to cry more. To reduce this vicious circle, posters suggest that the original poster address her own emotional state. Another angle that many posters took was to propose that the original poster contact a developmental pediatrician and have her daughter evaluated for potential special needs. About halfway through the thread, the original poster responded to thank everyone for the helpful responses. But, she pointed out that the wide variety of responses shows why this is a difficult situation for her to know how to address. She still isn't sure what to do because there are so many contradictory schools of thought. Shortly after that response, the original poster responded again to say that she was planning to contact her local pediatric developmental behavioral center today. Previously, she was unaware that diagnoses or evaluations could be done at such a young age. She seemed to have dropped out of the thread at that point, but it continued for another 7 pages without her. Many of those posts simply repeated or reinforced advice that was previously offered.

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