Anatomy of a Joke Gone Wrong

Chuck Olsen dissects the timeline of him making a joke that was then taken seriously by people (including me.) I saw Andrew Baron’s original post, and made a post that basically said “WTF?” About an hour later I reread Drew’s post and noticed that it originated from a Twitter, at which point I posted an update that said “Uh Oh.” An hour or two after that, Scoble left me a comment saying it was bogus at which I posted an update that said “Oh Shit.” I apologized to Robert for my part in the whole thing, both on the original post and via email. The low point of the whole deal is two part: I had my name mentioned in Valleywag and I was tricked into opening Valleywag in my web browser. Now I can no longer stick with my claim that I’ve never once looked at it. Like Olsen says, if it were not for Valleywag, the whole thing would have been up and over in a few hours but now it got fanned into something more. Boy, I’ll be glad when my Technorati vanity search stops turning up the quote “Andrew Baron and Dave Slusher are full of shit…”

As I read Chuck’s explanatory post, his basic point is “People should have known from the context it was a joke.” I’m not a Twitter user, and in fact that message from Chuck is the very first Twitter I’ve ever looked at. As a novice to the whole thing, it was news to me that Twitters even have a context. I sort of thought the whole point was the opposite.

Chuck also runs through the reasons why people should have known it was absurd that John Furrier would tell him such information. I know John well enough to say hi and shake his hand whenever I see him, and I know Chuck from his work but not personally. That he was the person who had the info first seemed odd to me, but not impossible. How do I know that Chuck isn’t John’s best friend from college or something? If your joke in an ephemeral medium requires lots of context and personal knowledge to even understand that it is a joke, you might be in trouble. I do like Eric Rice’s comment (the first one on that post) that this whole kerfuffle is a dry run for someone who really does have malicious intent injecting some crap into the blogsphere via Twitter. Time to think this through while the stakes are pretty low.

As an aside, having now finally loaded the Twitter website and gotten a glimpse of what it’s all about, I am even more perplexed that people care so much about it. Personally, there is no one on this planet that I’m that interested about the minutiae of their moment to moment life that is not already in my house. All I could think about as I was looking at the Twitters or Tweets or whatever they are was this thought: “They abandoned Odeo because of this piece of dreck? Holy christ, that is one sad statement.” The probability that I’d sign up and use it has dropped from low to zero.

7 Replies to “Anatomy of a Joke Gone Wrong”

  1. Yes! Thank you. I knew it. If you want a Pownce invite, I can send you one, but it’s about the same, man. IM beats this stuff out in usefulness and well yeah. I don’t want to know about who “farted” or who “ate a roast beef sandwich”. Seriously. WTH.

  2. Maybe it’s because I’m not a tech blogger or even a regular blogger and don’t know who most of the players are in this little grand guignol, but I don’t get it.

    Someone with a bit of credibility posts something that someone else with a bit of credibility comments on and other people with credibility comment on the comments, but it was all some sort of joke. On who? The commenters, the subject of the original comment or everyone who has been following this?

    It just seems to me that the originating first domino has pretty much ensured that I’ll never believe anything he says. Wait a minute, is that the punchline?

  3. Ben, Thanks for the offer but I really could not care less. It’s not that I think Twitter is a good idea without a good execution, it’s that I think the entire paradigm is useless and stupid. I’m not interested in anything that is going to add more noise to my signal. Twitter has added a bunch of noise to my life without me ever using it!

    Derek, Chuck was just screwing around and is a big joker sort. He was banking on everyone taking that into account when he made that post. I personally don’t follow him to the point where I had all that background he assumes readers would, and I even know a little about him. I think he overestimated the reach of the message and that it would go outside his little circle of people that know all about him. It’s all public stuff though so you can’t control the boundaries of it. We have heard for 15 years how hard it is to control the intent and nuance of what you send in email. Now, boil that same problem down to 100 characters and give it a permalink and let it rip. Seems like a recipe for disaster to me.

    However, not believing uncorroborated information that comes from Chuck might be a good default stance from now on.

  4. Twitter – it’s not for everybody. I prefer it to IM because IM demands your attention for one-on-one conversations; all kinds of people want to chat when I get on IM and I often don’t have time. Twitter is like a low-level group IM with friends and contacts. In some ways it (along with Flickr) has become my personal blog. But there’s always the option to direct message someone, essentially IM with email notification.

    So, yes, there is context. I said in my post I wouldn’t expect most people to pay attention to nuances of my Twitter context – but the context is there. This whole saga has an element of “I was walking by and heard some guy say something about Scoble!” without knowing what I might’ve been saying a moment before, or maybe even who I am or why you should/shouldn’t believe me.

    For that reason, I don’t feel completely at fault for other people repeating and amplifying this late-night Twitter joke without checking the source.

  5. agree w/ chuck’s first paragraph, thats a good overview of the value i get out of twitter – group im w/out the dedication to an existing thread overhead…

    as for context in twitter, don’t buy that – unless its in 140 characters or your eric rice who has a shotgun approach to tweets 😉

    i spoke to andrew about this today dave, i think you guys gotta write it off as a lesson learned and move on – robert’s a grownup he’ll do the same…

  6. Mike, it’s all over as far as I’m concerned. I gave Robert a call today and apologized directly and did what I could to make it right. When I saw his post about taking a break from all the recent bullshit, I told him that I wish I hadn’t added to that. I feel good about things now and am indeed moving on.

  7. lol. “noise to my signal”…. so true. That’s what I wrote about Pownce in a review. And Twitter too when I looked at it way back. For the most part, it’s like the bimbo cousin of blogging. You really don’t want to hear what the person is saying, and if you do, it’s usually bogus junk that you didn’t want to hear anyways.

    For IM, people know to ping me with a message and I’ll get back to them. That’s why mine goes to mobile. Twitter is like useless random text messaging. I suppose someone could IM me useless junk too, but that’ll get them a nice ban just as fast.

    To each their own I suppose, since many could say the same about blogging. But I gain way more from this medium than I have so far from reading people on Twitter/Pownce. Makes you wanna barf. :p

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