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RCA, that's the company that used to make phonographs... uh, yeah, sure
March 17, 2011 7:34 PM   Subscribe

RetCon Artists: Improving the Future by Improving the Past... A few days ago, MeFi's Own waxpancake hosted a special session at SXSWInteractive where he invited web-savvy people to make pitches for The Worst Website Ever II (it was done once before), with concepts that are bad, worse than bad, so bad they're good, evil, just plain wrong or not even wrong. One of the presenters (some guy from a website) came up with "RetCon Artists: Improving the Future by Improving the Past" (video) (PDF), providing a Social Solution to a Seinfeldian (or actually Costanzan) Problem. He went on to build a website that expanded the concept into useful services "whether you're polishing your personal brand or managing a multinational corporate image". Since this is the only one of the ideas that has ended up on the Web since the competition, it is obviously the one that won. Congratulations, Josh. [via mefi projects]
posted by oneswellfoop (20 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does it make me a bad person that I am going to steal the "Turn your oh crap into an oh snap"?
posted by msali at 7:40 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


msali, just tell the world you came up with it first. You know who to contact to help you with that.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:54 PM on March 17, 2011


So we're posting the worst of the web now? Literally?
posted by desjardins at 8:03 PM on March 17, 2011


Desjardins, apparently you don't realize that bad in teen talk means good.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:08 PM on March 17, 2011


Well, the literal worst is not a waste. Quite green really.
posted by clavdivs at 8:12 PM on March 17, 2011


that pyramid though, yes.
posted by clavdivs at 8:14 PM on March 17, 2011


I prefer to think of it as a sausage: The Wurst of the Web.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:14 PM on March 17, 2011


Several ker-chortles sprang from my mouth while reading that. cortex, you are one funny and clever motherfucker.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:46 PM on March 17, 2011


This is really great. Are there videos or details of the other ideas presented?
posted by shelleycat at 9:03 PM on March 17, 2011


I miss the old World's Worst World Wide Web Site, which seems to have disappeared without a trace but had a leopard-print backdrop, a picture of Spider Man and lots of blinking things and animated GIFs.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:21 PM on March 17, 2011


er, i don't get the joke. surely there is a market for a service that retroactively fucks with your Internet and personal history?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:24 PM on March 17, 2011


Bonus points to this website for reminding me about Happy Fun Ball.
posted by rodmandirect at 3:50 AM on March 18, 2011


Embarrassing exposé? We say: no way, expjosé.
posted by straight at 6:52 AM on March 18, 2011


er, i don't get the joke.

Maybe click the link to waxpancake's site? Because it's hilarious?
posted by straight at 6:54 AM on March 18, 2011


That is a pretty big pile of sustained genius writing. Well done.
posted by rusty at 7:05 AM on March 18, 2011


foop's intentionally circuitous framing makes it a little confusing, but it's my site, not waxy's; waxy was super generous to invite me to be on the SXSW panel with a bunch of really clever people all of whom were probably order-of-magnitude more reliable crowd draws than me. The site's what I wrote up to complement my pitch (which is what's at the "view our presentation" links up at the top of the site) and to make a home for a bunch of jokes I didn't have time for in the actual presentation or that wouldn't work as well live.

er, i don't get the joke. surely there is a market for a service that retroactively fucks with your Internet and personal history?

The joke's in the attitude, the absurd framing, not in the idea. Because yes, of course there's a market for revisionism; if you fucked up somehow it's a super handy thing, if you don't mind the ethical implications. And so of course there's been actual market attempts at this in one sense or another, along with your more well-established legalistic approaches (i.e. "take this down or I will sue your face off").

We had a post here several years ago about Reputation Defender, an apparently actual service of some sort that was as much as anything the specific inspiration for RetCon Artists. Kind of spooky looking at that post for the first time in four years and finding that I managed to regurge one or two bits of phrasing from my comment in there verbatim writing this thing up last month.

So, RetCon Artists was basically an attempt to play the joke like so:

1. Think of a service that would leave people conflicted over usefulness vs. ethical bankruptcy.
2. Think about the best way to present it in a way that would soothe their ethical worries.
3. Do the exact opposite, to the hilt.

Everything about the pitch is intended to sound good for the five seconds it takes you to blink and realize how utterly awful the whole thing is. Unfortunately it's not a totally original idea because "be an awful person, pay others to help you be awful" is not a new move for the human race. So the original part of this is mostly in sending the wrong signals—instead of trying to comfort the client into thinking, "hey, that is an okay thing to want, it is ethically justifiable", the whole thing is intended to feel enthusiastically sleazy and repellent.

But I made sure the email address actually works, for that 1 in 1000 who is so clueless and morally bankrupt that they're like "omg you don't discuss rates what are your rates". Who knows.

This is really great. Are there videos or details of the other ideas presented?

Man, I hope more stuff shows up. The presentations were all great. Jeffrey Bennett took hand-held video ("just the kind of blurry, shaky, poorly lit evidence we needed...") so I know there's at least that much of a recording of each of the talks and he'll probably have that posted at some point. I don't know if anybody has posted or is going to post their slide decks but I hope they do since there was a lot of really great visual humor, some dry, most of it not so dry. Mike Lacher swooped into a win like some sort of ninja eagle motherfucker with a balls-out presentation of his Brother 2800 Fax Machine App Store that was just note perfect and funny for five solid minutes.

The Ogilvy people did a sketch after all (none of the panelists actually saw this happening, they must have been outside the room or something?) which they posted here, detail view here.

Whole thing was a great deal of fun, though I spent most of the period before the presentation being terrified.
posted by cortex at 7:41 AM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I caught the repeat of this session at SXSW (the first run was completely packed out) and all the speakers were fantastic. The whole thing was basically geek stand-up comedy, which I can only imagine was totally terrifying for anyone who doesn't do it professionally.

Mad props to cortex for representin' the Filter there - it was suitably techy and didn't rely quite as much on the whole fapping jokes shtick as the other (admittedly very funny) pitches.
posted by adrianhon at 8:37 AM on March 18, 2011


At RetCon Artists, we say: the medium is massaged.

Actually, McCluhan said that too (sort of).
posted by Sparx at 2:34 PM on March 18, 2011


YOU KNOW NOTHING OF HIS WORK
posted by cortex at 2:47 PM on March 18, 2011


(...or the spelling of his name, for that matter)
posted by Sparx at 2:56 PM on March 18, 2011


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