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Web Monitor

15:41 UK time, Thursday, 21 January 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: hypochondria and celebrities, what the archives tell us about a Haitian hotel and data-mining through the lonely hearts.

Andy WarholBrian Dillon in the Wall Street Journal asks why so many artists - his examples include Howard Hughes, Andy Warhol and Michael Jackson - are so frequently under the weather. He comes up with various theories, from protecting privacy to preserving youth, and looks at the history of hypochondria:

"In the 18th Century, hypochondria became almost fashionable, and was thought to be a symptom of excess luxury and ease. Today we appear to have excelled the hypochondriac cultures of the past by elevating the morbidly self-involved to the level of paragon."

Rosie Wild at the Times' archive blog looks back through the pages to trace the history of Hotel Oloffson in Port au Prince, Haiti. The present-day manager, Richard Morse, is tweeting regular updates; so Wild traces Graham Greene's experiences. Greene used the hotel as his model for his Hotel Trianon in The Comedians, published in 1966, starting a continued attack on President Duvalier:

"Greene did not confine his attacks on Duvalier to fiction. In 1969 he wrote to The Times - Morality of states - criticising the United States for appearing to endorse the tyrant's rule. A year later he wrote again - Haiti massacre - this time accusing the CIA of collusion in a massacre of Cap Haitien slum dwellers by the Tonton Macoute."

• Dating network OK Cupid analyses data on its lonely hearts to come up with surprising results. Previously Web Monitor has mentioned that users of the service shower less often the further north in the US they live. A slightly more obvious piece of data is analysed this time by OK Cupid's Christian Rudder. He looks into the effect of the profile picture on the amount of messages and dates people get. There is one surprise winner in their profile pictures: taking the picture yourself, with your phone or on your webcam. Mr Rudder explains:

"Perhaps what these photos lack in technological quality they make up for in intimacy, and it's undeniable that at their best, self-shot pics can have an approachable, casual vibe that makes you feel already close to the subject.
This finding led us to investigate a controversial women-only subset of the self-shot picture: the universally maligned 'MySpace Shot,' taken by holding your camera above your head and being really darn coy. We were sure that everyone thought these pictures were kinda lame. In fact, producing hard data on just how lame got us all excited. But we were so wrong. In terms of getting new messages, the MySpace Shot is the single most effective photo type for women."

Links in full

Wall Street JournalBrian Dillon | Wall Street Journal | The Pain of Fame
TimesRose Wild | Times Archive blog | Graham Greene, Twitter and the tragedy of Haiti
Ok CupidChristian Rudder | Ok Cupid | The 4 Big Myths of Profile Pictures

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