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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.

Pointless poll included.
x-posted to da brog.

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 monniker 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".

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.

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A Day in the Life | 19 comments (19 topical, 0 hidden)
It's like an Open Sores Mod Farm by georgeha (4.00 / 4) #1 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 04:18:00 AM EST

Do you have a newsletter by Breaker (4.00 / 5) #2 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 04:18:13 AM EST
I may subscribe to?

Get over it you pathetic whiner! by greyrat (4.00 / 3) #3 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 04:38:48 AM EST
If you wanted all teh d0llarz for that little escapade, you should have started printing coffee mugs FIRST, and done the e-mailing SECOND.

Your root-cause? Laziness.

And have them sue me? by ReallyEvilCanine (4.00 / 2) #5 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 04:43:30 AM EST
You're right, though. I should've seen this possibility and monetised it somehow. But who the fuck could've expected MSP being such a fucking huge hit? What's the last cool thing to come from them? At least PeTA gets models and actresses to strip. GP just hangs commie banners and plays near huge ships in rubber dinghies.

the internet: amplifier of stupidity -- discordia

[ Parent ]
Best REC Diary EVAR! by wiredog (4.00 / 9) #4 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 04:41:36 AM EST
Man starts stupid meme, lives to regret action.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Seconded by anonimouse (3.75 / 4) #6 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 05:10:05 AM EST
..and I want to start a viral campaign to vote this story to the Front Page.

Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
[ Parent ]
I didn't start it. by ReallyEvilCanine (4.00 / 3) #7 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 05:47:03 AM EST
I only, you know, kinda helped it along. Omar and mince started it.

/me waits for the inevitable "If Omar and mince jumped off a troll bridge" follow-up.

the internet: amplifier of stupidity -- discordia

[ Parent ]
If Omar and mince jumped off a troll bridge by wiredog (4.00 / 3) #9 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 06:04:23 AM EST
Would you shoot the troll?

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
I didn't start it. by ReallyEvilCanine (4.00 / 2) #8 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 05:47:03 AM EST
I only, you know, kinda helped it along. Omar and mince started it.

/me waits for the inevitable "If Omar and mince jumped off a troll bridge" follow-up.

the internet: amplifier of stupidity -- discordia

[ Parent ]
If Omar and mince jumped off a troll bridge by wiredog (4.00 / 10) #10 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 06:04:50 AM EST
Would you post a reply to the accidental double post?

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
the internet: amplifier of stupidity by discordia (4.00 / 6) #13 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 08:23:10 AM EST

[ Parent ]
until now ... by BlueOregon (4.00 / 3) #11 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 07:10:28 AM EST

... I'd never heard of "Mr. Splashy Pants." Oh well, I guess I won't get that innocence back.

I loved this comment on the greenpeace site: by discordia (4.00 / 7) #12 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 08:20:02 AM EST
"Is there nothing the internet will not utterly ruin?"

It war yooo!!!!! by marvin (4.00 / 1) #14 Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 08:38:40 AM EST
I voted because of your story on husi. Several times, in fact. I didn't bother scripting it or anything, because I have a life. Sort of.

However, I'd rather use a needle and thread to stitch up a major flesh wound on myself (just like Rambo in First Blood) than donate money to Greenpeace or buy their crappy mug.

No worries, Greenpeace still looks like a bunch of twits to most of the world. Having their entire board of directors and most of their staff perform seppuku would only be a good start on improving their image.

Once again proving by FlightTest (4.00 / 1) #15 Sat Mar 15, 2008 at 06:00:43 PM EST
The Law of Unintended Consequences.

I'm trying to figure out by johnny (4.00 / 2) #16 Sat Mar 15, 2008 at 06:10:39 PM EST
how to use your talents & connections to pimp my books. . . hmmm, let me think. . .I did once meet, on an airplane in the middle of the night, a woman who was on the Greenpeace board of directors. . . there must be a way to make the pieces fit. . .I'm sure of it. . .
Buy my books, dammit!
lol mr splashy pants boxers by fleece (4.00 / 1) #17 Sun Mar 16, 2008 at 08:53:22 PM EST

nice. by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #18 Sun Mar 16, 2008 at 09:28:09 PM EST
you trolled **!

well done, sir.

If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

You have some more work to do by Greener (2.00 / 0) #19 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 08:52:07 PM EST
b3ta links board is already on the case

A Day in the Life | 19 comments (19 topical, 0 hidden)