Be Careful What You Wish For
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