Friday, March 14, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

Confession is supposed to be good for the soul. I hope it helps mine. I feel so dirty, not about what I did but certainly about the results. My actions helped spark new interest in an organisation I wish would go away because their real interest is "brand awareness" rather than their stated and perceived goals. They're so bad that one of their founders left in disgust and started a new group which uses its funds for action rather than more fund-raising and showy but pointless gestures.

The secret's revealed here, Richard. I am responsible for that damned whale being called "Mr. Splashy Pants". I didn't make up the name (that honour goes to Omar Zayed), but I made it popular.

The 26th of November was just another shitty Monday. While waiting for an installation to crash I was perusing b3ta looking for some interesting links since I had no good ideas for the compo (not having seen the Transformers) or the QOTW. That's where I saw mince's link to Greenpeace. Everyone on b3ta thought it was a hoot and was voting for the name. The link first appeared at b3ta at 17:43 UTC. With the b3ta clicks "Mr. Splashy Pants" had gone from 4% to 5% of the vote and held a sad fifth place behind a bunch of crappy newage-sounding names like Talei, Aiko, and Mira.

I saw the link an hour after it had been posted and discovered that multiple votes were counted. Unfortunately I didn't have the time or determination to write a little program to do that for me... but I knew who did and would. I also don't have accounts at a lot of the big sites like MeFi and BoingBoing nor upmodding hordes on reddit and digg... but I know who does.

I had three motives. Firstly, it was funny. The sheer silliness drew me in. Secondly, basing any action or policy on the results of a fucking Web poll is sheer stupidity. They can be easily manipulated by just one determined person. Whether Greenpeace got egg on their collective face as a result of my actions -- be it using a pre-pubescent taunt as the official name of a mascot or publicly pussing out like the Washington National Zoo did when they decided the that "Tai Shan" was a much better moniker than the wildly popular "Butterstick" (they must be kicking themselves now) -- mattered not to me. And thirdly, I wanted to Tom Sawyer someone who doesn't like me.

Two minutes later I'd posted the call to action over at kuro5hin and HuSi as well as in a mail to a group of friends. There's one sad sack at kuro5hin who hates the site with a passion and despises me as well, and yet he can't help himself and continually returns, only to be banned again. Banning him can't stop him reading the site , and he still does regularly.

He's a student in Arizona. He knows how to program. He has a single bloody-mindedness which compels him to shit all over the Web wherever possible. Richard's description of how this person hit the Greenpeace system was exactly in line with how he also hits other sites in his vandalism attempts. When Richard's Greenpeace blog was posted I knew I'd completed objective number 3.

After Greenpeace threw away that brief click-fest our little vandal noticed and most certainly dropped the rate down, spreading the clicks through various proxies. As I expected, those with accounts at the big sites started posting the story as well. It was submitted to digg, reddit, BoingBoing 14 hours later, and MetaFilter another day after that, after which it spread quickly through E-Mail. A few days later I myself received one of those E-Mails which had been forwarded at least five times.

By the time the story appeared on BoingBoing "Mr. Splashy Pants" already had close to 80% of the vote, and there it was going to stay. I'd achieved Objective #2. The world was good. Greenpeace were stuck with using that name or publicly negating the poll which, within a day, was being slammed with legitimate clicks. Except...

Except that this thing was growing legs. People liked the name, and by "people" I mean everyone except for the weenies who submitted the sea-goddess names for the competition, but possibly even one or two of them. Oh, and Greenpeace executives. They weren't happy about it. But someone there finally recognised the value of a viral, grassroots campaign. That Clever Dick also noticed that rather than making them a laughing stock it was generating a lot of interest. They did what anyone would do under the circumstances: they went for the cash. Before the contest was even over they were already selling MSP bumper stickers and T-shirts and raking in the bucks.

I probably wouldn't be so angry if I was getting 10% of all the merch they're able to flog thanks to me. Who the fuck would've shelled out 13 bucks on a "Talei" coffee mug?

Why write about it now, so long after it happened? Because it's torturing me. "Mr. Splashy Pants" is turning up everywhere. What started as an opportunity to make a sort of political statement (Web polls can't be trusted) and laugh instead helped Greenpeace with their image, their popularity and their finances. The final straw was a picture at reddit this morning of a whale-shaped snowfall map with more than 1200 upvotes. No one would've even submitted, let a lone vote up, a picture called "Talei snowfall". But "Mr. Splashy Storm"? TEH FUNNAY INTARWEBS MEME JOAK!!11!eleven

I'm not claiming that had I not done this no one else would have, but I think it's unlikely. The contest had been going on for a while and was, up to that point, only four days away from closing. Greenpeace was going to call some whale "Talei" and the world wouldn't have given two shits. Instead they got user-involvement, held the competition open for another few weeks and let the buzz continue. And it worked.

I was the snowflake which started the avalanche that helped Greenpeace shed a bit of its "humourless hippie" image. Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!

Oh yeah, I'm a fuckwit. Here's hoping someone comes along with server logs or links to prove it wasn't me. Please.

x-posted to HuSi, sans poll

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Anonymous kernelman pulled out a crayon and scribbled:

Life sometimes (or quite often, for some) gives you a little kick in the head. It happens.

Even though you ended up funding a big, black, soulless machine of a corporation, your intentions were good. And that's what counts. After all, without good intentions, no one would be able to get to hell.


14 March, 2008 20:35  
Anonymous Anonymous pulled out a crayon and scribbled:

"a bunch of crappy newage-sounding names like Talei, Aiko, and Mira."

You got that right brother!

BTW, who else here, when they see Greenpeace boats harassing ships and the crews of the ships spraying the boats with water jets, cheers for the crews on the ships? Yeah I know... whaling sucks, but... Greenpeace is just so flippin annoying.

14 March, 2008 21:20  
Anonymous dave pulled out a crayon and scribbled:

So - you found an idea somewhere, decided you liked it, and asked someone else to popularise it. You *assume* that this is the only reason that someone else, unknown to you, decided to tilt the poll.

How, exactly, do you feel that you get to claim any part of teh credit? Your net contribution was virtually nil.

Seriously - do something you can be legitimately proud of. This comes across as very sad and needy.

20 March, 2008 15:10  
Blogger ReallyEvilCanine pulled out a crayon and scribbled:

No, Dave, I know for a fact that those whom I Tom Sawyered did exactly that. I gave credit to the originator of the name as well as to both the site where I found out about the contest and the person who initially posted it. The time stamps on all the servers show where, when and how it took off.

My net contribution was as considerable to the taking off of that name (which was in fifth place when I first took action) as the appearance of this entry in the b3ta newsletter was to this blog's hits. I'm currently receiving as many in 15 minutes as I normally receive in a week.

As for what I can be proud of, I do try occasionally for the compo and I've won QOTW.

20 March, 2008 15:20  
Anonymous Anonymous pulled out a crayon and scribbled:

Personally I was more cheering for the icebergs when I last saw Greenpeace coverage on TV

20 March, 2008 18:25  
Blogger DonaldtheWhale pulled out a crayon and scribbled:

I think you need to check your ego

You osrt of helped in a sort of joke and pissed off Greenpeace are making cash from it - that makes you basically a big whale's cock

I suggest you get a big whale costume and float around the coast of japan, oh don't forget the KY so you can accomadate the harpoon

20 March, 2008 19:23  
Blogger xC0000005 pulled out a crayon and scribbled:

The best laid plans often get completely hosed. Take comfort that the whale ain't named "Starshine" or "OceanDew". I think "Meat" would have been a better choice, myself.

20 March, 2008 21:50  
Anonymous Big Al pulled out a crayon and scribbled:

Does smack a bit of that titty bang bang Frenmch maid saying 'Dohn look at me, ahm shy!

Someone else's idea, someone else's execution.

21 March, 2008 11:57  
Anonymous Anonymous pulled out a crayon and scribbled:

Shut your cunt mouth you self important spastic.

21 March, 2008 16:27  

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