I want to live on AuntKatie's Internet
Read to the end for a Prince Phillip tweet
Look, I try not to hype stuff up too hard on Garbage Day, but something big is coming for subscribers this month. I’ve been working on a project for a few weeks and I think you’ll all be VERY INTERESTED in it. Hit the sign up button, toss in $5, and be one of the first people to see what’s coming 👀
Who Was Yahoo! Answers?
On 4/20 (nice), Yahoo! Answers will disable users’ ability to ask question. And on 5/4 (Star Wars day), Yahoo! Answers will disable the ability for users to answer them. Users will then have until June 30 to download content from the site. Then, Yahoo! Answers, long-considered to be the demented backbone of the internet, will disappear.
Earlier this week, I got curious about who actually used the site. We’ve all seen endless galleries of the best Yahoo! Answers questions of all time, but I really haven’t thought about who posts them. Earlier this week, when I checked the site’s leaderboard, the top user was someone called AuntKatie.
AuntKatie’s account is private. You can’t see the answers she’s posted or users she follows, but she has answered almost 150,000 questions. From what I can tell, she’s a grandmother who started using the site while her first husband went through a cancer battle. According to a Google search, she’s been on there since at least 2015. Here’s her bio:
A million for someone who watches from the heavens. I'm a grandmother with some spare time. My great Aunt Katie was my hero, a remarkable woman and I modeled my life after hers. She had 10 children and was a gentle peaceful lady. I am amazed when people want to know things about me. I deliberately didn't put a space between the Aunt and Katie - for my own personal reasons. My account is private because I know so many people who had their accounts suspended because of troll attacks. I used to have a lot of spare time while my dying husband slept, but not so much anymore. I have married again and started a new life in retirement. In memory of David, a gentle spirit, and in memory of my father, mother, aunts, uncles, friends, and many others who have lost the cancer battle
She’s well-known around the community. I found numerous questions about her. She answered most of them. “I am a grandmother, retired but still work seasonally in retirement, and am fortunate enough to be able to travel a lot. I spend a little time answering questions here, but not as much as I used to,” she wrote six years ago.
“I travel a lot, spend time with my children and grandchildren when I can - we are a family now spread over three countries that are far apart so we try to all get together for a week at a big cottage or beach house every summer,” she wrote five years ago.
And, four years ago, she wrote, “I am just an ordinary person, who used to answer a lot of questions here. I am not very active here anymore.”
While searching around for AuntKatie’s answers, I found this post. A user wanted advice about how to make her mom be nicer to her. And, of course, AuntKatie answered. “These situations are always much more complicated than a short little paragraph here on Yahoo! Answers, and no one can ever help knowing just one side of the story,” she wrote. “Try to talk to your mom first and tell her how you feel, and if that doesn't work find someone in your life that you can talk to, some trusted adult or other family member.”
There were a shocking amount of people on Twitter who compared this to burning down the Library of Alexandria. I think that’s a little overblown. Its legacy will live on. But, while Yahoo! Answers is probably one of the most-screenshot websites of all time, aside from Twitter, the version of the site that lives on via funny roundups isn’t the whole site.
When Yahoo! Answers goes down this summer, we’ll lose the queiter, more innocent stuff. Social platforms can be filled to brim with widgets and leaderboards and ad tech, but if you boil it all down, it’s just people connecting with each other. And those moments shouldn’t need a valuation to exist. AuntKatie wasn’t some verified Twitter user or Reddit mod or Quora expert, she was just a grandma that liked to pass the time answering questions online. I don’t think it was an accident that she used Yahoo! Answers. It wasn’t a site that had any real social value beyond itself. No one is getting endorsement deals from it. But that begs the question: Should a platform need a value? Do we want to live in a world where all of the ways we socialize online have to make a profit for a massive corporation? And if not, how do we go about building an internet where we have more users like AuntKatie?
Tumblr Remembers Prince Phillip
Now, for a completely jarring tonal shift: Tumblr users are having a massive party celebrating the death of Prince Phillip this morning. This post is the first thing I saw when I woke up and, subsequently, will be forever the thing that told me Prince Phillip had died:
Why are Tumblr users celebrating the death of Prince Phillip? Well, I’d say it’s a mix of reasons. First, there are A LOT of Tumblr users in their late-20s who started using the site during the big One Direction, Doctor Who, BBC Sherlock era 10 years ago. They have probably never really shaken their cringey anglophile phase and now express that shame via shitposting. Second, a huge chunk of the site are now communists, which, you know, lines up pretty well for this. And third, the absolutely shocking photo of a somehow-still-alive Prince Phillip leaving the hospital a few weeks ago really made an impact on the site and has stayed a pretty big meme over there. Which is why everyone’s dashboards are full of posts like this right now.
Artificial Intelligence Tries To Fix The Gamer Moment
I saw this image going around Twitter and I really had a hard time believing it was real. Well, it is! It’s from a video posted by Intel earlier this month. If you can’t tell what’s going, it’s an artificial intelligence that can help people “detect and remove toxic speech from their gaming voice chat.” It’s called “Bleep” and it’s basically a dashboard that allows you to, uh, decide exactly what kind of slurs you want to hear while you’re playing video games? There’s literally a button to turn on or off the “N-word”. It should also be noted that the comments are turned off on the YouTube video explaining how Bleep works lol.
A Real Bad Tab
Yesterday, for this week’s Extra Garbage Day for paying subscribers, I interviewed the author of one of my favorite newsletters, Rusty Foster. He has an Open Thread about the interview happening today if you want to go check it out. In our interview, we talked about the weird period of online media where companies had way too much money and were pumping the internet full of some of the wildest, most unhinged writing you could imagine. The Thought Catalog era, basically. But content these days, at least the stuff coming from actual publications, is actually sort of boring.
“When some truly bonkers tab gets published today I'm always kind of pleased. It's a nostalgic feeling,” Foster told me. “They hardly exist anymore. I'll find one once in a while, but that's mostly not what it's about anymore.”
Well, just in time for our interview, the New York Times has produced a truly bad tab. It’s titled, “My Choice Isn’t Marriage or Loneliness” and, boy, do people have thoughts about it! Here’s a good snapshot of what this piece is about:
And it only gets wilder from there, folks.
An Extremely Good TikTok Account
Houston Vandergriff is a travel photographer with Down syndrome who has almost 10,000 followers on Instagram and his photos were featured at the Disability Mega Conference in 2019. He recently launched a TikTok that is blowing up at the moment. Definitely worth checking out!
Nature Is Healing, The Cybergoths Are Returning To Their Overpasses
Alright, so, when I first saw this video last night, I was actually live on my friend Bijan’s Twitch channel playing Dream Daddy with him and I freaked out. I absolutely believed for one brief glorious moment that the Düsseldorf cybergoths from the original “6. Cybertreffen am 12.3.11” video from 2011 had reunited to make a new video. It turns out, no, that is not what happened. It’s weirder, somehow.
The video was posted by a TikTok account called @bossman_._. I’ve tried to figure out what the account is about, but I’m honestly not really sure what it is. All of the videos feature the same people in like very standard “goth” clothing, doing extremely normie TikTok challenges. Most of the videos claim that they’re all working in the same office together? It’s really confusing. It feels like some kind of viral stunt, but I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what it’s trying to advertise. Also the “office” they’re in seems to just be a trailer somewhere? The whole thing is very strange! If anyone has any ideas about what’s happening here, let me know.
A Very Well-Thought Out Video About State Birds
This was dropped into the Garbage Day Discord by bobbieyaga. It makes some extremely good points about state birds. For instance, why do they all suck? Also, why are Canada’s state birds so good?
Twitter Launches A Milk Tea Alliance Hashtag
Twitter Public Policy @Policy🧵Today we are launching an emoji for the #MilkTeaAlliance, an online solidarity alliance first started in April 2020 as a Twitter meme which has grown into a global pro-democracy movement led by activists and concerned citizens in 🇭🇰🇹🇭🇹🇼🇲🇲 and around the world.
I’ve been watching the Milk Tea Alliance since it emerged last year. It’s a really interesting democracy movement that is building off the internet-native strategies developed by Hong Kong activists and using them to build a united front across all of Asia. So far its most notably materialized on the ground in Thailand, India, and Myanmar. It may seem minor, but now it has its own hashtag, but it means a lot. Really interested to see where this goes next.
A Podcast Plug
Spotify podcast embeds work in Substack now! I might start using the bottom of the Friday issues of Garbage Day to plug the podcast I do with my friend Luke. It’s very Garbage Day-adjacent and it shares a Discord with Garbage Day. This week, we dig further into the death of Yahoo! Answers.
P.S. here’s a Prince Phillip tweet.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***