Apparently, Phishing Is Not Funny

A fascinating event occurred on Twitter today. In short, someone cracked a joke about a new 3rd-party Twitter application. Someone else took it seriously and blogged about it on ZDNet, creating a wave of misplaced mass hysteria. Brian Ambrozy has the whole story in more detail, but I especially appreciated his Twitter-style summary:

  • Hay guys, Twitterank gives u a twit score. Mine is 110.23! Check it!
  • Looks like @brianoberkirch made a funneh. oops
  • Now Oliver Marks sez @brianoberkirch hacked twitter omgz
  • Everybody skurred nao

This does raise some interesting issues. For example, if you’re generally a highly credible source, as Brian Oberkirch is, do you have a responsibility to be so reliable that you can’t even crack a joke? I experienced this myself last year when an April Fool’s post I made was so believable that it was prompting calls to LinkedIn customer service (even though I said "April Fool’s" at the end of the post). I took a look around the web at some of the other pranksters (Google being one of the biggest), and wrote about it in April 2nd – The Day After. I still don’t know where the line is, but I certainly don’t think Brian crossed it.

The real problem is in the system that allowed a blogger who didn’t do any fact-checking with other sources to jump on the story under the loaned credibility of the ZDNet brand. It was an honest mistake, and well-intentioned, but it was magnified by being published under a trusted brand. As Shannon Whitley wrote:

Bloggers are not journalists in the professional sense of the word.  It’s not only a misconception, but judging by how quickly erroneous information can spread, it’s a very dangerous idea. […] Amateurs can produce high-quality content and, in a particular area of expertise, can provide more depth on a subject.  However, we should never kid ourselves that the amateurs have the same level of experience, nor do they support the same level of standards as the professional.  Read carefully and watch those banners.  You may see a professional logo at the top of the page, but that doesn’t mean the same level of trust can be transferred to the content beneath it.  I think it’s time that organizations like CNN and ZDNet change the layout of their amateur sites.  It’s too easy to mistake the work of an amateur for that of the professional and trusted journalist.

In general, I agree with Shannon. However, I do think he perhaps has some misplaced trust in those "professional" journalists. I have done dozens of interviews with journalists, and while some adhere to very high standards, others are frankly kind of lazy. I’ve been misquoted numerous times in ways that changed the meaning of what I said. I’ve seen stories that drew obviously wrong conclusions from the facts. I’ve seen factual errors in the stories I’ve been quoted in. Many of the journalists are freelance writers with no formal journalistic training. And on non-critical pieces, i.e., anything in any section other than "news", a lot of publications don’t do rigorous fact-checking. If it wouldn’t lead to a potential lawsuit, they don’t bother.

So while you may want to be a little extra-cautious if the author is designated as a "blogger" rather than a staff reporter, you need to take what the reporters say with a grain of salt as well. If you are going to make an important business or life decision based on the information, check your facts with multiple sources.

You Know You are Addicted to Blogging When

The End of Free at LinkedIn? April Fool's!

Unbelievable news out of LinkedIn tonight:

4/2/2008: Yes, this was supposed to be completely unbelievable – it was an April Fool’s joke.

LinkedIn to End Free Service

4/2/2008: No, they’re not really.

I knew this day was coming.

4/2/2008: Every April Fool’s Day has a day after,  when we all clean up the mess we made.

Twitter's Little Secret

From Jim Turner on Twitter:

Is it just my imagination or does Twitter sometimes ‘eat’ your tweets? Must [have] a ‘tweet tooth’ or something.

Social Comics – A Review of Bitstrips (In Pictures)

I have two new social media addictions thanks to SXSW. The first is Twitter (more on that in another post, but in the meantime, you can follow me); the second is Bitstrips.

Simply put, Bitstrips is a Web 2.0 application for creating comic strips. It enables people like me who have no artistic talent, but occasionally observe or think of something funny, to have a nicely-rendered visual expression of it. But what makes it really compelling is the social aspect of it.

For starters, you can create a character to represent yourself:

This is me This is me on Bitstrips
ScottAllen160x210 flatworld

Then you can connect with existing friends and use their characters in your strips. For example, I figured bLaugh creator Chris Pirillo would be interested in this, so I thought I’d drop him a line to tell him about it. Needless to say, he was already there and highly active:


You can also create characters representing your friends and then invite them to join.


Once you’ve done all that you can use your friends’ characters and the characters they’ve created to make strips of funny things that happened in real life. And before anyone gives me grief about this next strip, I’ll say that a) it’s a slight exaggeration, b) I cleared it with the star of it before publishing it (“Oh man, you could’ve made it WAY more unflattering than that. It’s perfect!!!!”), and c) no, the guys in the background aren’t any specific people – y’all go make your own!


You can also make images of celebrities. And you can edit your friends’ strips (well, not actually edit, but create copies of theirs which you can then edit):


Of course, including your friends and family in comic strips may not always go over well:


It’s incredibly fun to create the strips, and incredibly funny to read them. I also love that they build the tutorials in the application itself, for example:


They even use it to communicate company news:


That said, it is a 1.0 product, and it has, shall we say, quite a few shortcomings, such as:

Limited range of expressions…


Shortage of people who are actually funny…


Characters can only be human…


Lacking some seemingly obvious essential props, like musical instruments…


And phones…


Fortunately, they’re working on it…


Of course, some people have come up with some pretty creative solutions in the meantime (in case you’re wondering, that’s a stack of tables in the back)…


Well, that’s my review. Now just to think up an idea for my next strip…


Oh yeah… if you decide to check it out, feel free to add me as a friend.

Who Wants to Be a Radical Billionaire?

I reckon Radical Buy will eventually have to put all the same kind of controls in that eBay has. In the meantime, we get this silliness:


And hey… if you can help him sell it, you’ll make a $100 million commission!

How to Use Web 2.0 in the Enterprise

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 License.

For more great cartoons about Web 2.0, check out Geek and Poke. Here are a few of my favorites:

The CEO's New Social Network Strategy – A Cautionary Tale

One of my associates in Link To Your World, Carter Smith, did a great post today on The CEO’s New Social Network Strategy. Carter very effectively skewers both the distorted perspective many corporate leaders have about social networking and even moreover, the people with absolutely no field real field experience who then try to consult with them about it.


The Times They Are A-Changing


Cartoon by Peter Steiner in the July 5, 1993 issue of The New Yorker, (Vol.69 (LXIX) no. 20, p. 61).
Photo by CogDogBlog via flickr with lolcats text by Scott Allen.

Anti-Social Media

It’s amazing just how anti-social some people can be in social networking sites. I suppose it comes with the territory when you have a site with millions of visitors. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, and it is why, generally, I spend more time in the business-oriented sites than the huge public behemoths like YouTube and MySpace. What really baffles me, though, are the two recent reports I’ve heard of people getting “F-U” responses from people on LinkedIn.

OK, that’s not funny. But this cartoon is:

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