Jun 2

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Anil Dash, Goatse, and Social Hacking

The NYT photo today showing Anil Dash wearing a Goatse t-shirt was the talk of the blogosphere. (Feedster shows 414 links already.) I heard about it from Chris Anderson over dinner. He made an insightful observation: Anil "hacked" the NYT, figuring that no one there would recognize the cult reference, but that it would be a media event to those in certain net subcultures. Anil placed an "easter egg" squarely in the middle of a news story. It struck me that Anil was onto something: the power of a shared secret to make news in the blogosphere. The hack is particularly clever, since the NYT story was about the persistence of old images in google searches. That makes Anil's easter egg a subtle one indeed.

Anil said: "Of course, the hook for the story is that the writer didn't like the picture of herself that came up if you searched for her name. Fortunately for me, the picture of me that accompanies the story will offer plenty of amusement for anybody who's familiar with Internet culture. (All those links are work-safe, but the things linked on those pages most definitely are not.)"

Correction: While Feedster now shows 800+ links on the front page, clicking through to the second shows only fifteen. While my point about this being a clever social hack stands, it appears to have had less of a blog buzz than I thought. Not sure I understand the Feedster bug.

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Comments: 8

  Goatse [06.03.05 07:38 AM]

Try clicking to the second page of the Feedster results...there's only 15 mentions of this, not 414. Not quite that popular.

  Tim O'Reilly [06.03.05 09:29 AM]

By gum, you're right. Hey Feedster, why so big a difference between what's reported on page 1 (now up to somewhere over 800) and page 2 (still 15.) So this was a far less effective easter egg than I thought. Still, a social hack of considerable subtlety.

  Michael [06.03.05 01:47 PM]

I think it's a big in Feedster - when I click to get to the next page I get nothing. I think the number on the first page is likely accurate.

  Darryl [06.03.05 02:26 PM]

A search for "anil dash goatse" on technorati weighs in at about 17 links. The feedster number is probably borked.

  Jeremy Zawodny [06.03.05 03:43 PM]

Leave it to Anil to think of such a clever hack. Now I need to buy a shirt like that. :-)

  Christian [06.04.05 02:19 PM]

Quite funny, but isn't it also a bit disturbing? Don't you think it's episodes like these that enhance the general publics' view on the blogosphere: that it's a closed circuit, a cult, a boy's club or whatever, where secret signs and messages, show who belongs in there and who doesn't?

Maybe I'm exaggerating and don't take me wrong - I absolutely love easter eggs like these, but I still think it's worth a thought...

  Tim O'Reilly [06.04.05 06:45 PM]

Christian --

Yes and no. Part of the nature of the joke is that most people will never recognize it. But I hear you that it could make the blog/hacker subculture look pretty bad to outsiders.

  Camey [06.09.05 04:43 PM]

Christian --

Just realize that some members of the "boys club" who appreciate jokes like that are women. Anil's hack rocks. Not that I'm going to go looking at the picture that spawned that meme for old times sake... once was enough.

and then there's 'tub girl' -- that one's even worse.

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