âHeat is a major factor and you should avoid situations that expose your testicles to unnecessary heat. Just before Christmas I had a couple who were looking to do IVF and there was hardly any movement in the manâs sperm. As I was taking the coupleâs history, I found out that every evening he was coming home from work and jumping straight into the Jacuzzi, staying there for up to two hours. I told him to stop doing that and take cold showers instead â in January she was pregnant, without the need for IVF.
âThe same thing can happen with laptops. Itâs incredible how much heat comes off them. If youâre just resting them on your lap for a couple of hours a week it wonât make any difference, but if youâre doing it every day it will.
âSkinny jeans might be fashionable but theyâre not conducive to fertility. If the testicles are squashed, this will generate friction which will in turn generate heat.
âI also see a lot of men who have an obsession with biking, they do 30-40 miles a week. Again, a little is fine but you shouldnât cycle every day as it also generates friction. But with all this advice, you only need to think about this when youâre trying to conceive. Thereâs no permanent damage if youâve been using a laptop or cycling a lot before.â
In early January 2012, I noticed that another Jon Ronson had started posting on Twitter. His photograph was a photograph of my face. His Twitter name was @jon_ronson. His most recent tweet read: âGoing home. Gotta get the recipe for a huge plate of guarana and mussel in a bap with mayonnaise #yummy.â
âWho are you?â I tweeted him.
âWatching #Seinfeld. I would love a big plate of celeriac, grouper and sour cream kebab with lemongrass #foodie,â he tweeted. I didnât know what to do.
The next morning, I checked @jon_ronsonâs timeline before I checked my own. In the night he had tweeted, âIâm dreaming something about #time and #cock.â He had 20 followers.
I did some digging. A young academic from Warwick University called Luke Robert Mason had a few weeks earlier posted a comment on the Guardian site. It was in response to a short video I had made about spambots. âWeâve built Jon his very own infomorph,â he wrote. âYou can follow him on Twitter here: @jon_ronson.â
I tweeted him: âHi!! Will you take down your spambot please?â
Ten minutes passed. Then he replied, âWe prefer the term infomorph.â
âBut itâs taken my identity,â I wrote.
âThe infomorph isnât taking your identity,â he wrote back. âIt is repurposing social media data into an infomorphic aesthetic.â
I felt a tightness in my chest.
â#woohoo damn, Iâm in the mood for a tidy plate of onion grill with crusty bread. #foodie,â @jon_ronson tweeted.
I rented a room in central London. He arrived with two other men â the team behind the spambot. All three were academics. Luke was the youngest, handsome, in his 20s, a âresearcher in technology and cyberculture and director of the Virtual Futures conferenceâ. David Bausola was a âcreative technologistâ and the CEO of the digital agency Philter Phactory. Dan OâHara had a shaved head and a clenched jaw. He was in his late 30s, a lecturer in English and American literature at the University of Cologne.
I spelled out my grievances. âAcademics,â I began, âdonât swoop into a personâs life uninvited and use him for some kind of academic exercise, and when I ask you to take it down youâre, âOh, itâs not a spambot, itâs an infomorph.ââ
Dan nodded. He leaned forward. âThere must be lots of Jon Ronsons out there?â he began. âPeople with your name? Yes?â
I looked suspiciously at him. âIâm sure there are people with my name,â I replied, carefully.
âIâve got the same problem,â Dan said with a smile. âThereâs another academic out there with my name.â
âYou donât have exactly the same problem as me,â I said, âbecause my exact problem is that three strangers have stolen my identity and have created a robot version of me and are refusing to take it down.â
Dan let out a long-suffering sigh. âYouâre saying, âThere is only one Jon Ronsonâ,â he said. âYouâre proposing yourself as the real McCoy, as it were, and you want to maintain that integrity and authenticity. Yes?â
I stared at him.
âWeâre not quite persuaded by that,â he continued. âWe think thereâs already a layer of artifice and itâs your online personality â the brand Jon Ronson â youâre trying to protect. Yeah?â
âNo, itâs just me tweeting,â I yelled.
âThe internet is not the real world,â said Dan.
âI write my tweets,â I replied. âAnd I press send. So itâs me on Twitter.â We glared at each other. âThatâs not academic,â I said. âThatâs not postmodern. Thatâs the fact of it. Itâs a misrepresentation of me.â
âYouâd like it to be more like you?â Dan said.
âIâd like it to not exist,â I said.
âI find that quite aggressive,â he said. âYouâd like to kill these algorithms? You must feel threatened in some way.â He gave me a concerned look. âWe donât go around generally trying to kill things we find annoying.â
âYouâre a troll!â I yelled.
I dreaded uploading the footage to YouTube, because Iâd been so screechy. I steeled myself for mocking comments and posted it. I left it 10 minutes. Then, with apprehension, I had a look.
âThis is identity theft,â read the first comment I saw. âThey should respect Jonâs personal liberty.â
âWow,â I thought, cautiously.
âSomebody should make alternate Twitter accounts of all of those ass clowns and constantly post about their strong desire for child porn,â read the next comment. I grinned. âUtter hateful arseholes,â read the next comment. âThese fucked-up academics deserve to die painfully. The cunt in the middle is a fucking psychopath.â
I frowned slightly. âI hope nobodyâs going to actually hurt them,â I thought.
Within days, the academics took down @jon_ronson. They had been shamed into acquiescence. Their public shaming had been like the button that restores factory settings. It felt wonderful. The wonderful feeling overwhelmed me like a sedative. Strangers all over the world had united to tell me I was right. It was the perfect ending.
In October 2012 a group of adults with learning difficulties took an organised trip to Washington DC. They visited the National Mall, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Smithsonian, Arlington National Cemetery, the US Mint. At night they sang karaoke in the hotel bar. Their caregivers, Lindsey Stone and her friend Jamie, did a duet of Total Eclipse Of The Heart. âThey had the greatest time on that trip,â Lindsey told me. âThey thought we were fun and cool.â
Lindsey was telling me the story 18 months later. We were sitting at her kitchen table, in a seaside town on the US east coast. âI like to dance and I like to do karaoke,â Lindsey said, âbut for a long time after that trip, I didnât leave the house. During the day Iâd just sit here. I didnât want to be seen by anybody.â
âHow long did that last?â I asked.
âAlmost a year.â
Lindsey and Jamie had been with Life (Living Independently Forever) for a year and a half before that trip. Life was a residence for âpretty high-functioning people with learning difficultiesâ, Lindsey said. âJamie had started a jewellery club, which was a hit with the girls. Weâd take them to the movies. Weâd take them bowling. We heard a lot from parents that we were the best thing that ever happened to that campus.â
Off-duty, she and Jamie had a running joke: taking stupid photographs, âsmoking in front of a no-smoking sign or posing in front of statues, mimicking the pose. We took dumb pictures all the time. And so at Arlington [the national cemetery] we saw the Silence And Respect signâŚ and inspiration struck.â
Lindsey posed in front of it, pretending she was shouting and swearing â flipping the bird, and with her hand to her open mouth. âSo,â Lindsey said, âthinking we were funny, Jamie posted it on Facebook and tagged me on it with my consent, because I thought it was hilarious.â
Nothing much happened after that. A few Facebook friends posted unenthusiastic comments. âOne had served in the military and he wrote a message saying, âThis is kind of offensive. I know you girls, but itâs tasteless.â Another said, âI agreeâ, and another said, âI agreeâ. Then I said, âWhoa! Itâs just us being douchebags! Forget about it!ââ
After that, Jamie said to Lindsey, âDo you think we should take it down?â
âNo!â Lindsey replied, âWhatâs the big deal? No oneâs ever going to think of it again.â
Their Facebook settings were a mystery to them. Most of the privacy boxes were ticked. Some werenât. Sometimes theyâd half-notice that boxes theyâd thought theyâd ticked werenât ticked.
Lindsey has been thinking about that âa lotâ these past 18 months. âFacebook works best when everyone is sharing and liking. It brings their ad revenues up.â
Was there some Facebook shenanigan where things just âhappenâ to untick themselves? Some loophole? âI donât want to sound like a conspiracy theorist. I donât know if Jamieâs mobile uploads had ever been private.â
Whatever: Jamieâs mobile uploads werenât private. And four weeks after returning from Washington DC, they were in a restaurant, celebrating their birthdays â âWeâre a week apartâ â when they became aware that their phones were vibrating repeatedly. So they went online.
âLindsey Stone hates the military and hates soldiers who have died in foreign warsâ, âYou should rot in hellâ, âJust pure Evilâ, âSpoke with an employee from Life who has told me there are veterans on the board and that she will be fired. Awaiting info on her accompliceâ, âAfter they fire her, maybe she needs to sign up as a client. Woman needs helpâ, âSend the dumb feminist to prisonâ. There were death and rape threats.
âI wanted to scream: âIt was just about a sign,ââ Lindsey said.
By the time she went to bed that night, at 4am, a Fire Lindsey Stone Facebook page had been created. It attracted 12,000 likes. Lindsey read every comment. âI really became obsessed with reading everything about myself.â
The next day, camera crews had gathered outside her front door. Her father tried talking to them. He had a cigarette in his hand. The family dog had followed him out. As he tried to explain that Lindsey wasnât a terrible person, he noticed the cameras move from his face down to the cigarette and the dog, as if they were a family of hillbillies.
Life was inundated with emails demanding their jobs, so Lindsey was called into work. But she wasnât allowed inside the building. Her boss met her in the car park and told her to hand over her keys. âLiterally overnight, everything I knew and loved was gone,â Lindsey said. And thatâs when she fell into a depression, became an insomniac, and barely left home for a year.
That year, Lindsey scanned Craigslist for carer work, but nobody replied to her applications. She was eventually offered a job caring for children with autism. âBut Iâm terrified,â she said.
âThat your bosses will find out?â
This was a likely scenario. The photograph was everywhere. It had become so iconic among swaths of rightwingers that one man had even turned it into patriotic wallpaper, superimposing on to the wall behind Lindseyâs shrieking face and upturned finger a picture of a military funeral, complete with a coffin draped in the American flag. Lindsey had wanted the job so much sheâd been ânervous about even applying. I was conflicted on whether to say to them, âJust so you know, I am this Lindsey Stone.â Because I knew it was just a mouse click away.â She left it until the moment of the interview. And then the interview was over and she found that she hadnât mentioned it.
Now sheâd been in the job four months, and she still hadnât told them. âAnd obviously, you canât ask them, âHave you noticed it and decided itâs not a problem?ââ I said.
âRight,â Lindsey said.
âSo you feel trapped in a paranoid silence?â I said.
âI love this job so much,â Lindsey said. âI love these kids. One of the parents paid me a really high compliment the other day. Iâve only been working with her son for a month and she was like, âThe moment I met you, seeing the way you are with my son, and the way you treat people, you were meant to work in this field.â But what if she found out? Would she feel the same way?â
Lindsey could never just be happy and relaxed. The terror was always there. âIt really impacts the way you view the world. Since it happened, I havenât tried to date anybody. How much do you let a new person into your life? Do they already know?â
The Village Pub in Woodside, near Menlo Park, Silicon Valley, looks like no big deal from the outside, but when you get inside, you realise itâs filled with tech billionaires. I had recently discovered the world of digital reputation management â companies that âgameâ Google to hide negative stories stored online. One of these companies is reputation.com, launched by my dining companion, Michael Fertik. I told Michael that he was the only person from that world who had returned my email.
âThatâs because this is a really easy sector in which to be an unappealing, scurrilous operation,â he said.
âScurrilous in what way?â
âThereâs a guy who has some traction in our space, who runs a company â heâs a convicted rapist,â Michael said. âHe started a company to basically obscure that fact about himself, I think.â
Michaelâs competitors were disreputable, he said, and he needed to be vigilant with potential clients. âVery early on, within two weeks of launching our website in 2006, I remember being by myself and getting a couple of sign-ups from guys. So I Googled them. They were paedophiles.â
âDo you remember their names?â I asked.
âOf course not,â Michael said. âWhy do you ask that shit?â
âI donât know,â I said. âCuriosity.â
Michael looked different from our fellow diners. I didnât recognise any of them, but everyone seemed insanely rich: preppy, with faces like luxury yachts, like Marthaâs Vineyard in the summer, Waspy and at peace with the world, practically floating through the restaurant, whereas Michael was a big, angry, coiled-spring Jewish bear of a man. He was born in New York, attained a degree from Harvard Law School, and invented the concept of online reputation management while working as a clerk for the US Court of Appeals in Louisville, Kentucky. This was the mid-2000s. Stories about cyberbullying and revenge porn were just starting to filter though, and thatâs how Michael got the idea.
After he turned down the paedophiles, Michael told me, he noticed he was getting sign-ups from neo-Nazis, albeit repentant former ones. One said: âWhen I was 17, I was a Nazi. I was an asshole kid. Now Iâm in my 40s, Iâm trying to move on, but the internet still thinks I am a Nazi.â
They were more sympathetic than the paedophiles, but Michael still didnât want them as clients. So he drew up a code of conduct: he wouldnât accept anyone who was under investigation or had been convicted of a felony violent crime, or a felony fraud crime, or any sexually violent crime, or anyone accused â even informally â of a sexual crime against children. And, he said, there was another moral difference between him and his competitors: he wouldnât invent fake accolades; heâd only put the truth up there. Although, âI donât think itâs incumbent on anyone to do massive fact-checking.â
âI have no idea what you actually do,â I had told Michael on the telephone before we met. âMaybe I could follow someone though the process?â
And so we planned it out. Weâd just need to find a willing client.
âAre there any hobbies youâre particularly passionate about right now? Marathons? Photography?â
Farukh Rashid was in San Francisco, talking down a conference line to Lindsey Stone. I was listening in from my sofa in New York. Iâd met Farukh a few months earlier, when Michaelâs publicist, Leslie, gave me a tour of the reputation.com offices: two open-plan floors with soundproofed booths for the sensitive calls to celebrity clients. She introduced me to Farukh and explained that he usually works on Michaelâs VIP customers â the CEOs and celebrities.
âItâs nice that youâre giving Lindsey the bespoke service,â I said.
âShe needs it,â Leslie replied.
She really did. Michaelâs strategists had been researching Lindseyâs online life and had discovered nothing about her besides that Silence And Respect incident.
âThat five seconds of her life is her entire internet presence?â I said.
Farukh nodded. âAnd itâs not just this Lindsey Stone. Anyone who has that name has the same problem. There are 60 Lindsey Stones in the US and theyâre all being defined by that one photograph.â
âIâm sorry to have given you such a tricky one,â I said, feeling a little proud of myself.
âOh, no, weâre excited,â Farukh replied. âWeâre going to introduce the internet to the real Lindsey Stone.â
âAre cats important to you?â Farukh asked Lindsey, now down the conference line.
âAbsolutely,â said Lindsey.
I heard Farukh type. He was young and energetic, and just as upbeat and buoyant and lacking in cynicism and malevolent irony as he was hoping to make Lindsey seem. His Twitter profile says he enjoys âbiking, hiking and family timeâ. His plan was to create Lindsey Stone Tumblrs and LinkedIn pages and WordPress blogs and Instagram accounts and YouTube accounts to overwhelm that terrible photograph, wash it away in a tidal wave of positivity, away to a place on Google where normal people donât look â a place like page two of the search results. According to Googleâs own research, 53% of us donât go beyond the first two search results, and 89% of us donât look past the first page.
âIâm passionate about music,â Lindsey told Farukh.
âThatâs really good,â Farukh said. âLetâs work with that. Do you play an instrument?â
âI used to,â Lindsey said. âI was kind of self-taught. Itâs just something I mess around with. Itâs not anything IâŚâ Suddenly, she trailed off. she seemed self-conscious, as if the endeavour was giving her troubling existential thoughts: questions such as âWho am I?â and âWhat are we doing?â
âIâm having a hard time with this,â she said. âAs a normal person I donât really know how to brand myself online.â
âPiano? Guitar? Drums?â said Farukh. âOr travel? Where do you go?â
âI donât know,â Lindsey said. âI go to the beach. I get ice-cream.â
At Farukhâs request, Lindsey had been emailing him photographs that didnât involve her flipping off at military cemeteries. Sheâd been providing biographical details, too. Her favourite TV show was Parks And Recreation. Her employment history included five years at Walmart, âwhich was kind of soul-suckingly awfulâ.
âAre you sure you want to say that Walmart was soul-sucking?â Farukh said.
âOhâŚ What? Really?â Lindsey laughed, as if to say, âCome on! Everyone knows that about Walmart!â But then she hesitated. The conference call was proving an unexpectedly melancholic experience. It was nothing to do with Farukh. He really felt for Lindsey and wanted to do a good job for her. The sad thing was that Lindsey had incurred the internetâs wrath because she was impudent and playful and foolhardy and outspoken. And now here she was, working with Farukh to reduce herself to safe banalities â to cats and ice-cream and top 40 chart music. We were creating a world where the smartest way to survive is to be bland.
There was a time when Michael Fertik wouldnât have needed to be so calculating. Back in the mid-90s, search engines were interested only in how many times a particular keyword appeared within a page. To be the number-one Jon Ronson search term on AltaVista or HotBot, you just had to write Jon Ronson over and over again. Which, for me, would be the most fantastic website to chance upon, but for everyone else, less so.
But then two students at Stanford, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, had an idea: why not build a search engine that ranked websites by popularity instead? If someone is linking to your page, thatâs one vote. If the page linking to your page has a lot of links into it, then that page counts for more votes. And that was it. They called their invention PageRank, after Larry Page.
This was why Farukh needed to create LinkedIn and Tumblr and Twitter pages for Lindsey. They come with a built-in high PageRank. The Google algorithm prejudges them as well-liked. But, for Michael, the problem with Google is that it is forever adjusting its algorithm in ways it keeps secret. âGoogle is a tricky beast and a moving target,â he told me, âso we try to decipher it, to reverse-engineer it.â
Knowing what he did about PageRankâs algorithm, Michael predicted that Lindseyâs love of cats (or whatever) would achieve âinitial strong impactâ, followed by âfluctuationâ, and, after fluctuation, âreversionâ.
Michaelâs clients dread reversion. Thereâs nothing more dispiriting than seeing the nice new judgments disappear and the horrific old judgments bubble back up. But reversion is actually their friend, as Michaelâs strategist, Jered Higgins, told me. âReversion shows that the algorithm is uncertain,â he said. And during this uncertainty, Jered said, âWe go in and blast it.â
The blasting â the bombardment of the algorithm with Tumblr pages about Lindseyâs trips to the beach, the shock and awe of these pleasant banalities â has to be choreographed just right. Google knows if itâs being manipulated (alarm bells go off) âso we have a strategic schedule for content creation and publication,â Jered said. âWe create a natural-looking activity online. Thatâs a lot of accumulated intelligence.â
âI am a nobody,â Hank said. âJust a guy with a family and a job â a middle-America-type guy.â
Hank wasnât his real name. Heâd managed to keep that aspect of himself a secret. He was talking to me via a Google Hangout from his kitchen in a suburban house in an American town. He looked frail, fidgety.
On 17 March 2013, Hank was in the audience at a conference for tech developers in Santa Clara, California, when a stupid joke popped into his head, which he murmured to his friend, Alex.
âWhat was the joke?â I asked.
âIt was so bad I donât remember the exact words,â he said. âIt was about a fictitious piece of hardware that has a really big dongle â a ridiculous dongle. We were giggling about that. It wasnât even conversation-level volume.â
A few moments earlier, Hank and Alex had been giggling over some other tech in-joke about âforking someoneâs repoâ. âWeâd decided it was a new form of flattery,â Hank explained. âA guy had been on stage presenting his new project, and Alex said, âI would fork that guyâs repo.ââ (In tech jargon, to âforkâ means to take a copy of another personâs software so you can work on it independently. Another word for software is ârepositoryâ. Just in case you wanted to know.)
Moments after making the dongle joke, Hank half-noticed the woman sitting in front of them stand up, turn around and take a photograph. Ten minutes later, a conference organiser came down the aisle and said to Hank and Alex, âCan you come with me?â They were taken into an office and told thereâd been a complaint about sexual comments.
âI immediately apologised,â Hank said. âI knew exactly what they were talking about. I told them what weâd said, and that we didnât mean for it to come across as a sexual comment, and that we were sorry if someone overheard and was offended. They were like, âOK. I see what happened.ââ
And that was that. The incident passed. Hank and Alex were shaken up â âWeâre nerdy guys, and confrontation isnât something we handle wellâ â so they decided to leave the conference early. They were on their way to the airport when they started to wonder exactly how someone had conveyed the complaint to the conference organisers. The nightmarish possibility was that it had been communicated in the form of a public tweet. And so, with apprehension, they had a look.
They found a tweet from a woman, called Adria Richards, with a photo of them: âNot cool. Jokes about forking repoâs in a sexual way and âbigâ dongles. Right behind me #pyconâ.
Anxious, Hank quickly scanned her replies, but there was nothing much â just the odd congratulation from a few of her 9,209 followers for the way sheâd âeducatedâ the men behind her. He noticed ruefully that a few days earlier Adria Richards had herself tweeted a stupid penis joke. Sheâd suggested to a friend that he should put socks down his pants to bewilder security agents at the airport. Hank relaxed a little.
A day later, Hank was called into his bossâs office and fired.
âI packed up all my stuff in a box,â Hank said, âthen I went outside to call my wife. Iâm not one to shed tears butâŚâ Hank paused. âWhen I got in the car with my wife, I justâŚ Iâve got three kids. Getting fired was terrifying.â
That night, Hank made his only public statement. He posted a short message on the discussion board Hacker News: âHi, Iâm the guy who made a comment about big dongles. First of all Iâd like to say Iâm sorry. I really did not mean to offend anyone and I really do regret the comment and how it made Adria feel. She had every right to report me to staff, and I defend her position. [But] as a result of the picture she took I was let go from my job today. Which sucks because I have three kids and I really liked that job. She gave me no warning, she smiled while she snapped the pic and sealed my fate.â
Ten months later, I was sitting opposite Adria Richards in a cafe at San Francisco airport. She seemed introverted and delicate, just the way Hank had come across over Google Hangout. She told me about the moment she overheard the comment about the big dongle. âHave you ever had an altercation at school and you could feel the hairs rise up on your back?â she asked me.
âYou felt fear?â I asked.
âDanger,â she said. âClearly my body was telling me, âYou are unsafe.ââ
Which was why, she said, even though sheâd never before complained about sexual harassment, she âslowly stood up, rotated from my hips, and took three photosâ. She tweeted one, âwith a very brief summary of what they said. Then I sent another tweet describing my location. Right? And then the third tweet was the [conferenceâs] code of conduct.â
âYou talked about danger,â I said. âWhat were you imagining mightâŚ?â
âHave you ever heard that thing, men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them?â she replied. âSo. Yeah.â
I told Adria that people might consider that an overblown thing to say. She had, after all, been at a tech conference with 2,000 bystanders.
âSure,â she replied. âAnd those people would probably be white and they would probably be male.â
âSomebody getting fired is pretty bad,â I said. âI know you didnât call for him to be fired, but you must have felt pretty bad.â
âNot too bad,â she said. She thought more and shook her head decisively. âHeâs a white male. Iâm a black Jewish female. He was saying things that could be inferred as offensive to me, sitting in front of him. I do have empathy for him, but it only goes so far. If he had Downâs syndrome and he accidently pushed someone off a subway, that would be differentâŚ Iâve seen things where people are like, âAdria didnât know what she was doing by tweeting it.â Yes, I did.â
On the evening Hank posted his statement on Hacker News, outsiders began to involve themselves in his and Adriaâs story. Hank started to receive messages of support, and then insults, from menâs rights bloggers. He didnât respond to any of them. At the same time, Adria discovered she was getting discussed on a famous meeting place for trolls: 4chan/b/. âA father of three is out of a job because a silly joke he was telling a friend was overheard by someone with more power than sense. Letâs crucify this cunt.â âKill her.â âCut out her uterus with an xacto knife.â
Someone sent Adria a photograph of a beheaded woman with tape over her mouth. Adriaâs face was superimposed on to the bodies of porn actors. Next, her employerâs website went down. Someone launched a DDoS attack, which overwhelms a siteâs servers with repeated requests. SendGrid, her employer, was told the attacks would stop if she was fired. Within hours, she was fired.
ââSendGrid threw me under the bus,â she later emailed me. âI felt betrayed. I felt abandoned. I felt ashamed. I felt rejected. I felt alone.ââ
The death threats and rape threats and racist insults continued even after she was fired.
âThings got very bad for her,â Hank told me. âShe had to disappear for six months. Her entire life was being evaluated by the internet. It was not a good situation for her at all.â
âHave you met her since?â I asked him.
âNo,â he replied.
Ten months had passed since the day Adria took that photograph, so I asked what he thought of her now. âI think that nobody deserves what she went through,â he replied.
âMaybe it was [Hank] who started all of this,â Adria told me in the cafe at San Francisco airport. âNo one would have known he got fired until he complained… Maybe heâs to blame for complaining that he got fired. Maybe he secretly seeded the hate groups. Right?â
I was so taken aback by this suggestion that at the time I didnât say anything in defence of Hank. But later I felt bad that I hadnât stuck up for him. So I emailed Adria. I told her what he had told me â how heâd refused to engage with any of the bloggers or trolls who sent him messages of support. I added that I felt Hank was within his rights to post the message on Hacker News, revealing heâd been fired.
Adria replied that she was happy to hear that Hank âwasnât active in driving their interests to mount the raid attackâ, but that she held him responsible for it anyway. It was âhis own actions that resulted in his own firing, yet he framed it in a way to blame meâŚ If I had a spouse and two kids to support, I certainly would not be telling âjokesâ like he was doing at a conference. Oh, but wait, I have compassion, empathy, morals and ethics to guide my daily life choices. I often wonder how people like Hank make it through life seemingly unaware of how âthe otherâ lives in the same world he does, but with countless fewer opportunities.â
I asked Hank if he found himself behaving differently since the incident. Had it altered how he lived his life? âI distance myself from female developers a little bit now,â he replied. âIâm not as friendly. Thereâs humour, but itâs very mundane. You just donât know. I canât afford another Donglegate.â
âGive me an example,â I said. âSo youâre in your new workplace [Hank was offered another job right away] and youâre talking to a female developer. In what way do you act differently towards her?â
âWell,â Hank said, âwe donât have any female developers at the place Iâm working at now. So.â
âYouâve got a new job now, right?â I said to Adria.
âNo,â she said.
Later, I saw another photograph Adria happened to take that day at the conference. It was an audience shot. A sea of men â practically only men â stretching to the horizon.
In October 2014, I took a final drive to visit Lindsey Stone. Four months had passed since Iâd last spoken to her or Farukh â and given that theyâd only taken her on for my benefit, Iâd half-wondered if maybe it had all been quietly wound down in my absence.
âOh God, no,â said Lindsey. We sat at her kitchen table. âThey call me every week, week after week.â She took out her phone and scrolled through her innumerable emails from Farukh. She read out loud some blogs his team had written in her voice, about how itâs important when travelling to use the hotel safe â âStay alert, travellers!â â and how, if youâre in Spain, you should try the tapas.
Lindsey got to pre-approve everything, and sheâd only told them no twice, she said â to a blog about how much sheâs looking forward to Lady Gagaâs upcoming jazz album (âI like Lady Gaga, but Iâm not really excited about her jazz albumâ) and to her tribute to Disneyland on the occasion of its 50th birthday: âHappy Birthday Disneyland! The Happiest Place on Earth!â âHappy Birthday Disneyland!â Lindsey blushed. âI would neverâŚ I mean, I had a great time at Disneyland. But stillâŚâ She trailed off. âOne of my friends from high school said, âI hope itâs still you. I want people to know how funny you are.â But itâs scary. After all thatâs happened, whatâs funny to meâŚ I donât want to go anywhere near the line, let alone cross it. So Iâm constantly saying, âI donât know, Farukh, what do you think?ââ
âThis journey started with my identity being hijacked by a spambot,â I said. âYour personality has been taken by strangers twice now. But at least this second time around itâs nice.â
Lindsey hadnât typed her name into Google for 11 months. The last time had been a shock: it was Veteransâ Day, and she found some ex-army people âwondering where I was, and not in a good wayâ.
âThey were thinking about tracking you down so they could re-destroy you?â I asked.
âYeah,â she said. She hadnât looked since. And now she swallowed and began to type: LâŚ IâŚ NâŚ
Lindsey shook her head, stunned. âThis is monumental,â she said.
Two years ago, the photograph stretched to Google Images horizon â uninterrupted, mass-production shaming, âpages and pages and pagesâ, Lindsey said, ârepeating endlessly. It felt so huge. So oppressive.â And now: nearly gone. There was still a scattering, and there would inevitably be some reversion, but for now there were lots of photographs of Lindsey doing nothing bad. Just smiling.
Even better, there were lots of photographs of other Lindsey Stones â people who werenât her at all. There was a Lindsey Stone volleyball player, a Lindsay Stone competitive swimmer. The swimmer had been captured mid-stroke, moments from winning the New York State 500-yard freestyle championship. It was captioned, âLindsay Stone had the right plan in place and everything was going exactly to plan.â
Here was a whole other person, doing something everyone could agree was lovely and commendable. There was no better result than that.
This is an edited extract from So Youâve Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson, published next month by Picador at ÂŁ16.99. To order a copy for ÂŁ13.59, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846.
â˘ This article was amended on Saturday 21 February 2015 as the original picture layout was inconsistent with Guardian editorial guidelines.
â˘ This article was further amended on Sunday 22 February 2015 to remove a sentence that suggested Hank was fired after Adria Richards wrote a blogpost. This was incorrect; a production error meant the sentence was not removed earlier in the editing process.
CONISTON Water was pretty wild when we visited, with waves crashing like a storm-lashed sea.
The rain was hammering down, in that way only Cumbrian rain can, so we sought refuge in the waterside Bluebird Cafe, where photographs on the walls reveal the fateful events of January 4, 1967.
That morning the water was calm and quiet â perfect for Donald Campbellâs attempt to break the world speed record in his Bluebird 7. Heâd previously broken the record at Coniston in 1955, and returned to Cumbriaâs third largest lake to regain it for an eighth time. He was killed reaching around 300 mph, and the chilling footage can be seen at Conistonâs Ruskin Museum, where part of the Bluebird, salvaged when the jet boat was finally raised from the water in 2001, is on display.
A memorial to Campbell stands in the village, although when we asked a shop assistant where it was she looked blank and consulted a colleague, who wasnât much wiser.
There is something special about this southern corner of the Lake District. Driving around Lake Windermere, then dropping into Grizedale Forest approaching Coniston from the top, you canât help but lose your heart to the spectacular landscape and vistas.
We stayed at Crag Cottage, one of the Coppermines properties in the area. Since re-building an old sawmill in the Coppermines Valley in 1989, the company has developed more than 70 cottages, many of them dog-friendly. With log fires, gorgeous views, walks straight from the door and, for added luxury, hot tubs and private lakeside jetties, thereâs something for any break, from a romantic retreat to a family adventure.
Nestled in a row of 18th-century quarryman cottages, Crag Cottage stands beneath Yewdale Crag. With an open fire and thick Lakeland stone walls, it was delightfully cosy for our winter break. Perched on the fells, itâs a five-minute walk from the village, but waking up to a splendid view of the Coniston valley, it felt like we were in a hideaway high in the mountains.
Initially serving copper and slate mines, Coniston became popular with tourists in the mid-19th century, thanks to the Furness Railway. With holiday cottages, hotels and two youth hostels, it remains a tourist magnet, particularly popular with hill-walkers and rock climbers, but is refreshingly unspoilt. Although itâs busier in spring and summer, we found it quite low key â thereâs not even a cash machine in the village â with a quirky âtake us or leave usâ charm. Surrounded by beautiful fells and lakes, there are countless walks in and around Coniston, not least Tarn Hows, Furness Fells, Grizedale Forest and the mighty Coniston Old Man, standing over the village like a protective grandfather. For families, the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway â one of the oldest and longest narrow gauge railways in England â offers a fun excursion, along with a rebuilt Victorian steam yacht gondola. And for thrill-seekers, there are off-road adventures behind the wheel of an ex-Army LandRover, as well as gorge scrambling and mountain biking.
Thereâs a rich cultural heritage too. The adventures in Arthur Ransomeâs Swallows and Amazons unfolded around Coniston Water, and the Monk Coniston estate was owned by Beatrix Potter, whose home, Hill Top, is in nearby Sawrey. Bought in 1905 with proceeds from her first book, the Tale of Peter Rabbit, the cottage and surroundings inspired her tales, and visitors can step into the property pretty much as Beatrix left it. Dove Cottage, home to William Wordsworth.
Heading into the village, we visited the Ruskin Museum, telling the story of Coniston from Stone Age fell-walkers to the speed jet era. Artefacts range from 500-million-year-old rocks to Mavis, the sailing dinghy that inspired the Amazon boat in Swallows and Amazons. The Ruskin Gallery holds an array of photographs, paintings, letters and personal items of Victorian artist and critic John Ruskin, who lived in the area for 30 years and is buried in Coniston churchyard.
Grey clouds circled the skies as we walked to Coniston Water and the heavens opened, as youâd expect in this part of the world. Drying out over coffee in the Bluebird Cafe, we decided it wasnât the best day to attempt the Coniston Old Man so we retreated to the cottage and its crackling fire.
Behind the cottage is a footpath to Tom Gill, leading to Tarn Hows, a renowned Lakes beauty spot, and we vowed to do some walking on a return visit. But with the rain beating at the window, we made the most of Crag Cottage and its cosy sitting-room, well-stocked with books and DVDs. Another nice touch was the collection of Beatrix Potter books in one of the two bedrooms.
Later, we enjoyed a meal and a pint of Bluebird Bitter at the Black Bull, a 400-year-old coaching inn and home to the Coniston Brewing Company. Standing beside the lively village beck, in the shadow of the âOld Manâ, it has a large piece of stone known as the Big Toe of the Old Man set in the wall of the lounge. The pub appeared in the film Across the Lake, staring Anthony Hopkins as Donald Campbell. It was a wrench to leave Crag Cottage, but on the way back we stopped at Windermere for lunch at the Lamplighter Dining Rooms, an elegant family-run restaurant and hotel. We chatted over a drink with friendly front-of-house manager James Tasker â whose parents founded the restaurant â who returned to the Lakes after working in London at The Savoy, The Dorchester and Claridgeâs.
I started with a bowl of marinated olives followed by sea bass and delicious Cartmel sticky toffee pudding. My partner enjoyed ham hock, chicken, bacon and wild mushroom pie, from the Lamplighter Pie selection, and Eton mess.
Other choices included Lancashire beef suet pudding and drunken bullock pie, black pudding bon-bons and rustic bread with Hawkshead piccalilli, and âEnglish Lakesâ ice-cream.
Particularly popular are the Lamplighterâs Sunday lunches, with quality cuts of local meat served whole to the table, allowing diners to carve and serve themselves. Not far from the Lamplighter is Orrest Head, Wainwrightâs first ascent which gave him a lifelong love of the fells.
And this is the perfect way to walk off that sticky toffee pudding.
âWho wants to stay in their comfort zone?â I asked myself as I abseiled down waterfalls, jumped from cliff peaks and snorkelled beside dolphins.
It was that same thought that persuaded me to board a plane and spend seven adrenaline-fuelled days in the Azores, one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal composed of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Having left behind a gloomy day in London, less than four hours later I touched down in Ponta Delgada â the administrative capital of the Azores located on SĂŁo Miguel Island.
SĂŁo Miguel, known as âThe Green Islandâ, is the largest and most populated island of the Azores.
Even better, less than 3km from Ponta Delgada Airport was my new home for the week â Hotel Marina AtlĂ˘ntico.
A hotel with charm, an indoor swimming pool, perfect central location and a balcony with spectacular sea and harbour views; I couldnât have asked for much more.
And just in case I needed any more excitement, the base of adventure tour company Picos De Aventura was just a few minutesâ walk from the hotel â and I had a lot to look forward to.
Planned activities for the week included a whale and dolphin watching trip, rock climbing, mountain biking, canoeing, swimming with dolphins and canyoning.
But my visit to The Azores was caught up in the path of Hurricane Gonzales, meaning half of the activities had to be cancelled due to safety reasons.
Even that couldnât put me off though, and I used the spare time to explore the highlights of the island which included hot springs, the volcanic crater of Furnas, the Jardim AntĂłnio Borges pineapple plantation, Goreanna tea plantation and more.
On a trip to The Azores, visiting Sete Cidades is a must; the extinct crater is an enchanting natural wonder boasting two lakes â one blue and one green.
And hereâs a tip; the best place to enjoy the lakes is from the view point âVista do Reiâ, which offers sweeping panoramic views.
The first activity of the week was a three-hour whale and dolphin watching trip across the Azorean waters, which I was told attract an impressive number of cetacean activity.
A total of 26 of the worldâs 80 species have been sighted off the islandsâ coast including pods of sperm, pilot, backed, fin, sei, humpback and blue whales.
The best time for these trips is the spring and summer months, but even in September I managed to see both bottlenose and common dolphins.
And the emphasis of these trips is not only to see the mammals in their natural habitat, but also on teaching and conservation.
During the trip, a marine biologist introduced the dolphin species and discussed their habitat, communication and behavioural patterns.
But if you think a dolphin and whale watching trip sounds exciting, the real treat was swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat.
I leapt at the chance offered by Picos De Aventura and took the plunge, swimming alongside common and bottlenose dolphins in the blue Atlantic waters ten miles off the shore.
Seeing dolphins swim underwater just metres away is an experience not to be sniffed at â and one that wonât be forgotten in a hurry.
My favourite activity of the week overall has to be canyoning, an adventure sport steadily becoming more popular on the island.
SĂŁo Miguel offers some of the best canyoning opportunities, with new and diverse routes being discovered all the time.
There really is no better place to take part in this exhilarating sport, which sees adrenaline junkies like me jumping, climbing, scrambling and swimming through canyons.
The opportunity to try exhilarating experiences like these first hand, the exciting atmosphere of the Azores and the memories I gained from the trip means I wouldnât hesitate in returning one day.
For those who fancy something different and a holiday filled with excitement and adrenaline, the Azores is a must.
Leading operator to the Azores, Sunvil Discovery, offers a seven-night active holiday on Sao Miguel from ÂŁ1,067 pp (two sharing).
The price includes return flights from London Gatwick, seven nightsâ BB at the Marina Atlantico in Ponta Delgada, car hire and four activities (whale-watching, rock climbing, canoeing, and mountain biking with free entry to the thermal pools at SPA Ferraria). Optional swimming with dolphins is an additional ÂŁ65pp.
For more information contact Sunvil Discovery by calling 020 8758 4722 or visiting sunvil.co.uk
Thanks to a new fitness regime cerebral palsy sufferer Lawrence Nicholas is dreaming of becoming a Paralympian. Lee Sobot reports.
Upon having his first session with Leeds fitness trainer Martin Shaw, Garforth cerebral palsy sufferer Lawrence Nicholas couldnât stand up properly or walk.
A year and a half later the teenager has literally found his feet in life and is cycling down Swillington canal.
The road ahead remains a tricky one, but the youngsterâs seemingly unlikely ambition of becoming a Paralympian is perhaps not so fanciful after all.
Nicholas, 18, was born with cerebral palsy and has had to battle with a weakness down the right hand side of his body that was getting worse over time.
An operation in June 2012 was successful in straightening his crooked right leg out, but at a cost of a badly stretched nerve as a side effect.
Unable to stand or walk after the operation and confined to a wheelchair, the Brigshaw High School pupil and formerly keen swimmer and cyclist was back to square one. But a second nerve graft operation in 2013 heralded a recovery that has been staggeringly taken to new levels by Leeds fitness coach and personal trainer Shaw at Thorpe Park Hotel.
Shaw, 36, took his fitness instructor operation to the Colton hotel at the beginning of 2012 and has dealt with countless clients of all abilities, shapes and sizes since.
But his first conversation with a then wheelchair-bound 16-year-old Nicholas stands out by some margin.
âWhen he came to me I said âwhatâs your aims thenâ and I told him to think big,â revealed Shaw.
âHe said âI want to be a captain of a Parlaympic swimming teamâ but he canât go in the water at the moment because his foot is so sensitive.â
Yet after the teenagerâs last 18 monthsâ progress with Shaw, nothing should surprise.
The former East Garforth Primary school pupil is going from strength to strength and his Commonwealth dreams could be back on track.
âI love sport and Iâd love to do something like the Commonwealth Games,â Nicholas told the YEP.
âBefore the operation I would have either said swimming or in the Paralympics they actually also have tricycle racing.
âAnd I do actually have a tricycle so I would say either swimming or biking.
âSwimming is my first sporting love but I have issues getting in the water with my foot being so sensitive though itâs better than it was and I think it will continue to improve.
âA bit like the walking, itâs a case of the more I do it the easier itâs got. Itâs a similar process.â
It begs the question as to just what tricks Shaw had up his sleeve in order to take a teenager who could not stand up, to daring to dream of the Paralympic Games 18 months later.
But Garforth-born Nicholas says simplicity â and confidence â has been key.
âItâs been a few different things really,â Nicholas revealed.
âOne of the main things is that it has made me stronger in working on apparatus in the gym but I guess the other really important thing is that at first Martin was helping me to get on and off equipment and he had to support me and work out how to get things to work.
âBut now I am becoming more independent.
âMartin is supporting me to get onto machines myself and get me thinking âhow am I going to get on that?â
âEven the little things like if I am going on a weight machine, itâs âwhere am I going to put my feetâ and âwhere do I need to position myself? â that kind of thought process of things I need to do.
âEven in the future â I donât know exactly where Iâm going to end up with the condition and if there are still things I am going to struggle with I need to be thinking, âhow am I going to be able to get this out of the cupboardâ or âhow am I going to get to things?â
âAnd as well as the strength and independence side of it, thereâs also been my self esteem and the trusting element.
âItâs making me feel more like my old self again.
âAlthough itâs obvious that I am not the same person I was before in terms of the things I could do physically, I am still doing more active things and more normal things. I am not feeling as restricted by it now.â
The restrictions that Nicholas was experiencing in light of his first operation are summed up the fact that his two-year AS and A-level course had to be extended to a third year considering the difficulties he had getting in and out of school.
Mum Linda is married to the teenagerâs former licensing manager dad Julian and had to quit her job as a high level teaching assistant in order to look after her son but the teenager is now back fulfilling his studies, hoping to leave Brigshaw with three A-levels. The youngster certainly gets an A-star for ambition and whoâs to say that Nicholas cannot be Garforthâs answer to Leedsâ triple Paralympic cyclist gold medallist David Stone.
âI would love to do something like that,â said Nicholas, who has a older 25-year-old brother, Gregory, and 28-year-old sister, Elizabeth, who live in London and Congleton respectively. Like their younger brother, both are musical with Nicholas also a keen singer and wannabe writer though his first love is clear.
The Paralympics hopeful admitted: âIâve always loved sport and I do actually quite like the whole thing with training and getting stronger.
âI like trying to improve and getting better as well as just enjoying it so Iâd love to do something like that.
âI know in terms of cycling at the Paralympics they have either hand bikes or the trikes which I have seen as I remember seeing it all at the London Olympics â at Brands Hatch I think it was.â
For now, Nicholas is instead making do with Swillington Canal, but something has been holding him back over the last few months and itâs not his disability.
Instead, a delay to progress on the Paralympics trail has been seasonal.
Nicholas revealed: âI have actually been out on my tricycle and the last time must have been before all the cold weather I think.
âThereâs the canal in Swillington and we have actually been up and down the canal.
âIt was quite a short ride but we got to the point where we were aiming to go further. I donât know exactly how far but I was going further before all the cold weather came in! But Iâll take that â if it means the weather is holding me back more than anything else!â
Name: Matt Barbet
Occupation: Television presenter and journalist
Bikes: Independent Fabrication, Condor and Parlee
Ride to live
âI always cycled as a kid. I grew up in North Wales in a hilly, mountainous area called Cilcain.
âThe very first bike I got was when I was about five. It was Christmas Day; there it was, a shiny bike, and the first thing I said was, âMummy, does Father Christmas know this is someone elseâs bike?â My dad had bought it second-hand and done it up, and I realised it wasnât a brand new bike! They still tease me about it now.
âI had a pink and green Peugeot after that. My dad said I would grow into it.Â I never did; it was massive! I was always out on my bike through my teens and into BMX and mountain biking.
âI came to road cycling quite late. My 20s were lost to university, working hard and partying hard, girlfriends and the rest of it. I hit my 30s and decided to take my health a bit more seriously, and also became a dad. I was in New York for work and I hired a single-speed. That was it. I thought, âWhy havenât I had a bike in London for all this time?â
âI loved just pootling around Manhattan, and inadvertently Iâd actually managed to join a mass participation event. They all had numbers on their backs; I didnât. I resolved, as soon as I got back to London, to get a bike.
âI went to Condor, bought an aluminium single-speed and rode it everywhere. Then I got another road bike, and another road bike. So Iâve got three bikes now. Iâve got a stainless steel Independent Fabrication, and my pride and joy is a Parlee Z5 SLi which Iâve just bought some Lightweight wheels for. Itâs got all the bells and whistles â I have to sneak them into the house and hide them under the bed until Iâm ready to unveil them, when my wife says, âWhatâs that?â and I say, âWhat, this old thing?â
âWhat I really want is a Cipollini in black and gold. Thatâs what Iâve gotÂ my eye on.â
The April edition of Cycling Active is on sale on Wednesday February 25
Promoting biking culture in India since its debut in 2012, the India Bike Week (IBW) is back with its third edition that promises to be a lot more than just an automobile event.
Over 10,000 bikers and adrenaline junkies are expected to congregate in Goa to celebrate the spirit and lifestyle of the Indian biking community.
“From having just one premium bike manufacturer as partners in our first edition, we now have multiple companies that are supporting the event,” says Thanush Joseph, director of marketing, 70 EMG, the organisers of the event.
With a series of workshops, talks with biking legends, stunt championships and gigs by both Indian as well as international artistes, the event has something in store for everyone.
“While it is a biking event, we don’t want it to be only for people who have something to do with bikes. We are promoting it as a fun place for festival-goers as well,” explains Joseph.
Here’s what you shouldn’t miss: * Hear the stories of over 15 legendary Indian and international motorcycle travellers, including Rashmi Thambe (editor, Global Women Who Ride), Hubert Kriegel (who extensively used a sidecar bike, a one-wheeled device attached to the side of a motorcycle), Sheonagh Ravensdale And Pat Thomson (Women’s International Motorcycle Association) and Sushant Shetty (London to India solo on a Hayabusa), among others.
* The Women’s Travelers Meet will be jointly conducted by established ladies biker groups, including Bikernis (India’s largest women bikers’ club).Â
* In the only competition of its kind in India, professional custom bike builders can create a customised mean machine from scratch.
UK-based band, Babyhead will perform at the event
* Mark Wilsmore from Ace Cafe London (a notable venue in motorcycle culture which originally operated from 1938 until 1969, and has now been redeveloped into an entertainment venue) will be in Goa, where he will be reminiscing about his experiences during his rocker days, judging competitions and interacting with his fans.
* Along with the headlining act by UK-based rockers BabyHead, the performance segment will includes the likes of DJ Akhtar, Nucleya, Ash Roy, Frame/Frame, OX7GEN, Blackstratblues and Whirling Kalapas, among others.
* Also head to The Howling Dog Drag strip, which will have a drag race for both cars and bikes.
* Ride For Charity will see celebrity riders and bike enthusiasts such as Gaurav Gill (rally champion), Yuvraj Singh (Indian cricketer), MDs of bike manufacturing companies and more ride together to a secret destination in Goa. Each rider will contribute Rs 20,000 towards the cause of providing equal opportunities for underprivileged kids.
Fly with SATA International to the Azores for a green getaway
Category: Agency Association
Created on Thursday, 19 February 2015 11:50
With SATA International resuming direct flights from London Gatwick to Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel on the 4th April 2015, there is an abundance of adventures just a short four hour flight away. Whether youâre travelling light or packing for a jam-packed trip, SATA International offers a complimentary 8kg hand luggage and 20kg checked baggage allowance service, as well as free baggage allowance for golf and diving equipment up to 15kg. During the flight, passengers will also enjoy a complimentary selection of delicious meals and refreshments.
The Azores, Europeâs most westerly islands, is internationally recognised for its commitment to sustainable development and eco-friendly tourism policies. Famed for its diverse wildlife and lush unspoilt landscape, the stunning archipelago is the perfect destination for the ultimate green getaway.
For eco-travellers seeking a memorable adventure this spring, SATA International has teamed up with Archipelago Choice to offer an all-encompassing green adventure for visitors wanting to discover the mesmerising wildlife both offshore and onshore. Spend seven nights at the exclusive boutique hotel, Hotel do Colegio, located in the historic centre of Ponta Delgada, just a short stroll from the picturesque port of Portas do Mar, from ÂŁ798 per person on a BB basis. Price includes a full day birdwatching tour including lunch, two half day whale watching trips, pre-departure information booklet, airport transfers and direct return flights from London Gatwick with SATA International, including airport taxes.Â Â
Characterised by volcanic landscape, green valleys and black sand beaches, the Azorean islands lend themselves to a vast array of outdoor activities. Eco-adventurers can take on the terrain of the Azores with mountain biking. Take off-roading to the extreme and tackle the readily available steep inclines with breath-taking panoramic views over the islands. For those looking for a gentler journey, opt for a walking tour through the valleys and explore the crater lakes of Sete Cidades and Vila Franca do Campo Islet. Or for an entirely liberating experience, ride horseback along the scenic coastal trails of Sao Miguel.Â
A haven for nature lovers, the Azores plays host to some of Europeâs most spectacular wildlife. Each year, the archipelago draws bird-watchers who hope to catch site of endemic species and rare seabirds. For those in search of a more dramatic encounter with nature, whale watching is the perfect option. Visitors can jet out into the Atlantic Ocean by boat and marvel at the worldâs most fascinating creatures. Sperm whales, bottlenose dolphins and the largest of them all, the blue whale, can all be spotted during this magical experience.
Visitors to the Azores have long been seduced by the islandâs old world charm and traditional cuisine. Renowned for using locally sourced produce and fresh organic ingredients, the islandsâ charming eateries offer a myriad of choice for eco-conscious foodies. For a truly authentic dining experience, visitors can sample Cozido; a smoking hotâ dish that is slow-cooked in the ground near the famous caldeiras of Furnas. Using the heat produced from the volcanic activity below, this age old tradition is unique to Sao Miguel and a cookery show not to be missed.