One last update to episode 1 of TLDR. We all found out on Monday that Pronunciation Book (along with horse_ebooks) were part of a collaborative stunt between Jacob Bakkila and Thomas Bender to promote their art project Alternate Reality Game, Bear Stearns Bravo. The Daily Dot's Gaby Dunn, who we spoke to for our original story, figured out that Bakkila was the guy behind Pronunciation Book months ago. In order to convince her not to publish her story, Bakkila manipulated Dunn with a very elaborate series of lies. Weirdly, many of the people in her life were in on those lies, in varying capacities. We did a follow-up interview with Gaby about living her own personal version of the Truman Show, and you should listen because it is bonkers.
In the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election, there was a lot of talk about prediction markets -- websites where people can bet online about the outcome of any given event. They're useful because they give outsiders a snapshot of what the crowd thinks is going to happen. They're also, in theory, vulnerable to manipulation. If someone were willing to buy tons of stock in an idea they support, they could make it look like a lot of people believe in it too. But no one would really do that. Because it'd be crazy and expensive. Right? From the Wall Street Journal:
"...A single trader lost between $4 million and $7 million placing a flurry of Intrade bets on Mitt Romney—perhaps to make the Republican nominee’s chance of victory appear brighter.
Two economists who studied the data offer various rationales for the trader’s aggressive wagering on Mr. Romney in the final two weeks of the campaign. The anonymous trader placed 1.2 million pro-Romney contracts, some of which were actually in the form of bets against a Barack Obama victory.
The most plausible reason for the betting, the authors conclude, is that “this trader could have been attempting to manipulate beliefs about the odds of victory in an attempt to boost fundraising, campaign morale, and turnout.”
Oof. I never thought I'd feel so much sympathy for an anonymous tycoon.
It's strange what you can get used to. Since its inception, we've all mostly agreed that it's normal for YouTube's comments section to be a maw of hateful idiocy.
Imagine if, in the 60's, CBS had a comments crawl where racial slurs and non-sequiturs scrolled beneath whatever program you were watching. An alternate reality where, when the Beatles were playing on Ed Sullivan, underneath we got to learn that Eric201 from Cincinnati thinks that they all look like idiots or that World War 2 was an inside job.
Anyway. This week, YouTube announced they'll roll out a system meant to clean up their comments system. Commenters will still have anonymity, but a system of reputation and moderation will be exist to help mute the worst dreck. Assuming it works, or even half-works, we can look forward to a future where we're able to browse the latest Louis CK late night clips without sorting through a ton of hateful garbage on the way.
Meanwhile, over at PopSci, the editors have decided to do away with comments entirely. They're surely not the first publication to do it, but what I found charming was their rationale, which is, of course, firmly grounded in science.
...Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story, recent research suggests. In one study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Dominique Brossard, 1,183 Americans read a fake blog post on nanotechnology and revealed in survey questions how they felt about the subject (are they wary of the benefits or supportive?). Then, through a randomly assigned condition, they read either epithet- and insult-laden comments ("If you don't see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you're an idiot" ) or civil comments. The results, as Brossard and coauthor Dietram A. Scheufele wrote in a New York Times op-ed: "Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself."
This morning, Pronunciation Book, the ominous, apocalyptic count-downing YouTube channel, hit zero.
New York regulators announced today that nineteen companies would be fined $350,000 for paying for fake reviews on sites like Yelp. How'd they catch them? Regulators posed as employees at a struggling Brooklyn yogurt shop, and then called SEO firms to ask them to astroturf on their behalf. But even if every shady operator on the internet is sufficiently frightened by these fines, it's unlikely to stop the tide of fake reviews.
When Apple unveiled its new iPhone two weeks ago, one of the immediate questions concerned the phone's new fingerprint sensor. The sensor's supposed to automate security. Rather than typing in a password every time you unlock your phone, you just press your finger to the phone's home button. It's supposed to create a world wherein stolen iPhones are useless to thieves. But does it actually work?
That most glorious day is once again upon us. Here's some of the cool, interesting, or weird stuff we could not find a home for on the blog this week.
A while back, my colleague Alex Goldman and I got very into watching this one clip, of comedian Chris Thayer interviewing comedian Pete Holmes after they've both eaten habanero peppers. Watching two human beings writhe in pain is much more charming than you'd think. (The language is pretty salty, so if you don't like salty language, skip to videos two and three please.)
So here's two strange stories from opposite sides of the world.
Last week, Upworthy, the website built for viral progressive political content, secured $8 million in funding. I wrote a piece about how annoying I find it. I compared it to San Francisco, which is the deepest epithet in my epithet bullpen.
Yesterday, LinkedIn's general counsel published a letter to the site's users expressing frustration that the company's not allowed to disclose the number of national security-related data requests it receives each year.
Grand Theft Auto Five is out today. It'll most certainly be another huge hit for Rockstar Games. And it's already the highest-rated game ever reviewed on Metacritic. It also, unfortunately, has the crappy gender politics of every blockbuster video game release since the beginning of time.
A YouTube channel dedicated to pronouncing words suddenly starts issuing ominous warnings, and a reporter tries to get to the bottom of it.
Welcome to the inaugural episode of the TLDR podcast! Thanks for listening, and please check out the TLDR blog at tldr.onthemedia.org. In this episode - a YouTube channel dedicated to pronouncing words suddenly starts issuing ominous warnings, and a reporter tries to get to the bottom of it.
We'll update this throughout the afternoon, please add any feeds you're finding useful in the comments.
Upworthy announced they've received 8 million dollars in funding this morning, which means much more Upworthy for the foreseeable future.
The week's over! The radio show'll be up on the site in a couple hours. Here're a bunch of things that I wanted to tell you about this week and didn't have time to:
The BBC is doing a reality show about a trio of American Evangelicals who go to London to perform exorcisms. It seems like it'll be interesting in a "This is what England thinks of the U.S." way.
Yelp's suing a law firm for posting fake reviews. Seems wonk-ish, but it's interesting because it's novel. A couple years ago, it seemed like Yelp was being sued every few months by angry businesses that didn't quite understand the internet. Which makes this kind of a man-bites-dog story, albeit instead of a man biting a dog it's a business that usually gets sued suing someone instead.
If you watch Breaking Bad but aren't listening to the Breaking Bad Insider podcast, you should. It's Kelley Dixon, the show's editor, who is an over-the-top charming gruff genius, and usually Vince Gilligan, breaking down all the little choices that go into the show. It's sort of like the Parks & Rec interview - there's something endlessly satisfying about listening to creative geniuses think out loud.
And lastly, for your weekend, here are two videos of young children wholesomely pursuing fame.
This week we learned that Worst Twerk Fail EVER, the viral clip that had captured the hearts and minds of America was in fact a hoax.
This week, Jimmy Kimmel revealed that he had faked a viral video that has racked up over 12 million views. Producers and hosts of TLDR, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman have been arguing all week about whether this falsehood represents some kind of betrayal of its viewers. So they decided to hash the argument out on the air.
Los Lobos - La Iguana