Reddit boss says ‘sorry’ for site shutdown

Here is the statement from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian responding to the site shutdown controversy last week. 
“So. Things were… eventful this week. To put it mildly.

“It started on Thursday when we let go one of our employees, Victoria Taylor, who had helped coordinate AMAs for the last couple years.

“I can’t publicly comment on why we made this decision, but I can talk about the way we handled it—we screwed up. Victoria worked extensively with the moderator teams in r/IAMA, r/books, r/science, and more to make sure AMAs went smoothly, and when she left, we didn’t have a great process in place to handle that transition and didn’t communicate it to those mods very well.

“The mods of r/IAMA, concerned about how things would work moving forward, temporarily shut down the subreddit. Many more mods, also upset by our failure to provide proper tools and support, followed suit. As you may have noticed, Reddit looked pretty different from normal for a while.

“There’s a much more in-depth overview of what happened in r/outoftheloop.

“We’ve received the message, we’ve talked with a lot of moderators, and we’re going to get better. We know we’ve done a pretty terrible job at communicating. We know a lot of things on the site don’t work as well as you—and we—would like. We know there are a lot more issues and that the community as a whole is pretty unhappy with us right now.

“I know apologies and promises feel empty right now, but that’s all I can give—with the additional promise that we really do mean it. We’ve recently hired a product manager for the community team who is working on new tools. We’re actively working on brigading. We’re figuring out solutions to improve modmail. But it takes time to make these changes, so they won’t be here tomorrow. But they will be here.

“We’re sorry. And we’re going to do better. In the meantime, there were a lot of other really cool things that happened on Reddit this week, and we’d still like to share them with you below.”

Alexis Ohanian, Co-founder

A new read…

Just purchased a classic that I can’t wait to start. It is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Written in 1931, Huxley imagined a dystopian future that is both frightening and frighteningly real today.

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Incidentally, he taught French to George Orwell at Eton. Perhaps, Orwell took inspiration from his teacher for 1984.

I got a lovely hardback edition from Everyman’s Library. I am already certain that it will be one for the bookcase!

Quiz time!

In my Culture Quiz this week, the theme is B*tches Be Crazy. I’ve detailed some of the most outrageous caricatures of female madness in literature. But can you name the novel..?

Culture-10-702x336…and in the interests of equality, the next quiz will be, Mad Men, where I’ll detail some of the most insane descriptions of insane men in books.

McCann on the IMPAC shortlist

Colum McCann has once again made the shortlist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. He has been nominated for his novel TransAtlantic.

As well as McCann’s novel, there are nine other entrants including novels from Australia, Nigeria, the UK and the USA.

“The titles on this year’s shortlist were nominated by public libraries in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA”, said Dublin Lord Mayor Christy Burke.

“The winner will be chosen from this intriguing international shortlist which includes four women writers. The novels come from Africa, America, Australia, Brazil, France, Ireland and the UK” said Dublin City Librarian Margaret Hayes.

“While many of the stories reflect contemporary themes, they bring us characters facing timeless challenges of love and loss, of innocence and isolation. These engaging stories are set against contrasting landscapes which include Brooklyn, Iceland and Lagos,” added Ms Hayes.

The IMPAC Award, run by the Dublin City Council, is worth €100,000 to the winner.

Here is the shortlist:

  1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. Horses of God by Mahi Binebine
  3. Harvest by Jim Crace
  4. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
  5. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  6. K by Bernardo Kucinski
  7. Brief Loves That Live Forever by Andreï Makine
  8. TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
  9. Someone by Alice McDermott
  10. Sparta by Roxana Robinson

Fish flash fiction

I’ve always been a fan of the Fish writing competitions. They draw fierce competition from around the world. However, this also makes entering one of their prestigious competitions more than a little daunting.

But, I decided to go for it this year and entered the Flash Fiction competition. This genre of writing always appeals to me as it is so short. Flash fiction is like a micro short story. The stories are usually limited to 300 words or to one page.

I entered a short piece called Cancer and I am pleased to say that I made it to the long list. I mean, first place would have been better (!) but to rank at all in a Fish competition is an honour. I made it to quite a long list of 200 writers out of 1,285 entrants. So not too bad at all.

Here is the piece I entered below:


A single sheet of white paper, filled with words, carries a story. In a linear fashion, it starts at the beginning trickling cautiously past milestones like a young stream. The pace picks up. The story rushes along. Adolescence passes in a series of stormy, tempestuous clauses.
Later, there are important pauses – for the important moments. And finally the tale slows down, meandering along with middle age. But one day, for no reason, a drop of black ink falls on the page. It creates a dirty and pernicious blemish.
At first it seems small, manageable even, but steadily the mark spreads across the second paragraph obliterating punctuation, words and entire sentences. The ink holds fast like ivy to brick yet it’s not confined within that middle piece of the page. As a relentless shadow chases the light away, the ink seeps upwards into the feet of the first paragraph. And then it edges downwards to the third paragraph like a low tide lapping quietly and consistently at a message written in the sand.
The ink, insidious and black, can be wiped, mopped, blotted, smudged but it soon becomes apparent that its passage is unstoppable. Soon the page itself becomes heavy with the fecund volume of ink and finally it tears.
What was once someone’s journey in words comes to an abrupt end – mid-sentence, with no conclusion.
The story would have ended, naturally, at the bottom of the page but now it has been cut short. Senselessly, in a most malevolent way, it has been destroyed. And nobody knows why.

Thoughts on Alice Munro

Last week I wrote about reading an Alice Munro novel. The book is called Lives of Girls and Women.


It is a slow, meandering novel but enjoyable. I read a great piece in the chapter called Heirs of the Living Body that I thought I would share.

To put it in context, the narrator Del is a girl of about 10 or 11 years old by my reckoning. She is talking about one of her aunts and the writing demonstrates Munro’s impressive knack for descriptions. The relative in question is Aunt Moira, a large, middle-aged woman with varicose veins…

“…it seemed to me that the gloom spreading out from Aunt Moira had a gynecological odor, like that of the fuzzy, rubberized bandages on her legs. She was a woman I would recognize now as a likely sufferer from varicose veins, hemorrhoids, a dropped womb, cysted ovaries, inflammations, discharges, lumps and stones in various places, one of those heavy, cautiously moving wrecked survivors of the female life, with stories to tell.”

Great writing and it’s good to see a novelist who is not afraid to tackle taboo subjects such as women’s unspoken ailments.

A nod to Seamus Heaney

RTE recently ran a competition called A Poem for Ireland, where the nation were invited to nominate their favourite poems. A shortlist of 10 poems was selected and then opened to voting.

While there were 10 great poems in the shortlist, there was only one winner for me. It was this poem by the great Seamus Heaney. I hadn’t read it before and after I did, I immediately voted for it. Like other Heaney poems, I had a lump in my throat by the closing lines.

Heaney is surely one of the country’s best poets. He had an amazing knack of summing up emotions so poignantly. So here it is below. If you haven’t read Heaney before, then this is a real treat.

And btw, it won the contest. Of course!

When all the others were away at Mass

In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984


When all the others were away at Mass

I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.

They broke the silence, let fall one by one

Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:

Cold comforts set between us, things to share

Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.

And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes

From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside

Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying

And some were responding and some crying

I remembered her head bent towards my head,

Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives –

Never closer the whole rest of our lives.