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Sean Power’s Laptop and the Girl in the Purple Sarong
May 13, 2011 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Sean Power had his laptop stolen five days ago. Last night, while in Canada, preyproject tracking software alerted him to his laptop's location and he put out a call on Twitter for help in getting it back. Twitter user @neilreese and a Girl in a Purple Sarong jumped into action. Here's the chronological summary of Tweets and events, as well as Nick Reese's account of a wild night in which justice was served.
posted by donovan (75 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's like a Steig Larsson novel, The Girl in the Purple Sarong. (Actually, I've never read a Larsson novel.)
posted by perhapses at 9:22 AM on May 13, 2011


In my bag: my birth certificate, short form birth certificate, health card, cell phone, 17" macbook, and $$ :/

Something something Obama/Trump joke.
posted by kmz at 9:26 AM on May 13, 2011


The power of the internets! Or, rather, of information spread widely and good people willing to do a bit of legwork.

Also an advertisement for Prey, but, hey...
posted by Han Tzu at 9:34 AM on May 13, 2011


I found the whole thing kind of annoying and anti-climactic.
First it read like a commercial, with the amount of times he said what software he was using to track the laptop. Then the sort of tweet-whoring for followers "Who wants to hear what happened next?!" And finally the resolution, that he got his laptop back and that's that, the guy gave it back and that's the end. So...did he steal it? How did he get it? He's the owner of the bar? But the bartender left with it? What?
posted by chococat at 9:35 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my bag: Obama's long form birth certificate, 15 pounds of hair gel, and $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ :)

/Trump
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:36 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


The ending of this makes very little sense.
posted by odinsdream at 9:47 AM on May 13, 2011


And what really happened behind the scenes, if there's no "gotcha" video (removed to protect the privacy of our mystery-girl-in-the-purple-sarong) then there's really no story in how it ended up there and how they got it back....?
posted by dabitch at 9:52 AM on May 13, 2011


The removal of the video has rendered this story incomprehensible. Hopefully he will replace it with a text play by play.
posted by Lame_username at 9:54 AM on May 13, 2011


As much as I'm not a fan of the Gawker empire, especially post re-design, this Gizmodo post chronicles the whole dealio succinctly. (And since the video that actually gives the details of the ending has been removed, the rest of the tales are, as odinsdream mentions, making very little sense currently and fairly anti-climatic.

It's like a Steig Larsson novel, The Girl in the Purple Sarong. (Actually, I've never read a Larsson novel.)

But the girl seems to have escaped without getting abused, so nothing like a Larsson novel at all.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:54 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's a weird story. I would have thought it was an advertising skit, but he's mentioning this guy's name(s) and links to pictures of him and so on which would be weird if it was all made up.
posted by bjrn at 9:59 AM on May 13, 2011


I must admit, it worked to get me interested in Prey, though I absolutely do not think it was a deliberate shill. But I'll be getting an iPad soon (yay delivery bonuses) and I sure as hell want something like that on it.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:04 AM on May 13, 2011


ok, so...is this guy arrested or no? i mean, a crime was clearly committed, documented and archived. why isn't there a police report filed now?
posted by spicynuts at 10:05 AM on May 13, 2011


Heh, wonder if you can file a police report at the same time you turn in the identity and evidence of the thief.

Gotta admit that's impressive, going to check Prey out shortly.
posted by de void at 10:07 AM on May 13, 2011


Stolen?

Or did seanpower have one too many shots and leave it behind at the bar?

That would explain the anticlimatic ending.

"Excuse me, but I don't think that's your laptop."

"No. Some Canadian douche left it here."

"I'm his friend and he wants it back."

"Oh? Sure man, whatevs. Stupid thing keeps taking pictures of me, anyway."
posted by notyou at 10:08 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't really get it either: "So .. Paolo freely gave it up. I'm not about to accuse anyone of anything." > This guy stole my laptop: this is his name and this is what he looks like, this is where he works. Also: I'm not going to accuse anyone of anything!

I think there's a fair chance he just left it somewhere and this Paolo guy (stupidly) decided to use it for a while until someone came back to get it.


Is there any other good stolen-laptop-tracking software out there?
posted by bjrn at 10:10 AM on May 13, 2011


Sean Power!
He's the man whose mac you'd love to steal!
But you mustn't STEEEEAAAAALLLL!
His mac looks good on your desk!
But if you steal it, you will regret!
'Cause his mac can be tracked by Prey PROJJJJJEEECT!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:16 AM on May 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


And internet, can we keep crowdsourcing all our law enforcement needs? With local police squads going bankrupt all around the country, I'm all about a bunch of shadowy, hockey-masked randoms popping up to save the day.
I'm sure vigilante justice will have no problems this time around now that it is powered by the internet. I'm sure there will be no cases of mistaken identity leading to beatings or killings of innocent people.

Also: Unfortunately, he wasn't able to file a police report before having to leave NYC for a few days, How long does it take to file a police report in NYC? It'd take less than 10 minutes by phone here.
posted by Mitheral at 10:17 AM on May 13, 2011


One time I left my iPhone in the bathroom at work. Went back and it was missing. All the other guys in the office were like zomg stolen! probably on it's way to mexico by now. So I bought a new phone and had the number switched over. That weekend I got a call from a facilities guy , he found it and totes returned it to me!
posted by Ad hominem at 10:18 AM on May 13, 2011


How long does it take to file a police report in NYC?

Takes so long it might not even be worth the effort. Then you would have to deal with them thinking you still have it and are trying to pull some sort of insurance scam, or didn't even have a laptop at all and were just crazy.

Probably end up under observation at Bellvue trying to report a stolen laptop.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:25 AM on May 13, 2011


How long does it take to file a police report in NYC? It'd take less than 10 minutes by phone here.
I've never had to file one in NYC, but I presume that if it could be done over the phone, he could have done it from Canada. They must require a report filed in person.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:27 AM on May 13, 2011


I think there's a fair chance he just left it somewhere and this Paolo guy (stupidly) decided to use it for a while until someone came back to get it.

He removed the stickers and painted the back of the case. You wouldn't do that if you expected to be giving it back.
posted by Nossidge at 10:49 AM on May 13, 2011


It's like a Steig Larsson novel

Well, except for the violent sexual assaults and cranial gunshot wounds.
posted by dhartung at 11:08 AM on May 13, 2011


That would explain the anticlimatic ending.

If he doesn't like the weather in New York, why'd he go to Canada?
posted by Floydd at 11:19 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


How long does it take to file a police report in NYC?

You don't want to know. I'm pretty sure Dante, Joseph Heller, and George Orwell all wrote about the process.
posted by entropone at 11:21 AM on May 13, 2011


Well, that makes me happy I recently recommended Prey to a buddy of mine for his Linux-running (my influence) netbook.
posted by Samizdata at 11:24 AM on May 13, 2011


Ummmmm, no, I am not associated with the Prey Project.
posted by Samizdata at 11:25 AM on May 13, 2011


It's like a Steig Larsson novel

...

That would explain the anticlimatic ending.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:35 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to say Prey doesn't look interesting but this whole thing has my Shill-dar screaming. Additionally, something about Sean Power says to me that he has hurt more people than he has helped in his life. It's not just that smug, self-satisfied look on his face, on his website, but also this: "He works with executives (mostly CEOs, CTOs and CMOs) and product managers to help them build measurement cultures, strategies and methods to implement them."

Let's face it, Sean Power is scum. He deserved to get his laptop stolen. But at the end of the day, I too would have helped him get it back.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 11:43 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's face it, Sean Power is scum.

Wait, what?
posted by modernnomad at 11:46 AM on May 13, 2011


Let's face it, Sean Power is scum. He deserved to get his laptop stolen. But at the end of the day, I too would have helped him get it back.

Well, I am sure he appreciates the latter sentiment, at least.

Seriously, the hell?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:48 AM on May 13, 2011


How long does it take to file a police report in NYC?

I live in a much smaller American city than NYC and the police don't want to hear about your stupid stolen laptop. At best, they'll take your report, enter it and give you a case number for your insurance company. They generally won't even investigate anything smaller than car theft.
posted by octothorpe at 11:57 AM on May 13, 2011


Why would anyone paint a laptop ?? Why would you not report the theft immediately to the police? Especially if you knew that you had tracking software already installed? Why is the thief only named as an alias.

If you knew some guy had your laptop why would you not out his real name all over the internets - along with his pictures using your stolen laptop - on a special domain that you just purchased called "SoandSoIsAGodDamnedThief.com" instead of protecting his actual name?

Aside from that those questions I found the account fascinating. No idea if it is real or marketed but the more I think about it the more questions come up.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:01 PM on May 13, 2011


octothorpe writes "I live in a much smaller American city than NYC and the police don't want to hear about your stupid stolen laptop. At best, they'll take your report, enter it and give you a case number for your insurance company"

Don't get me wrong the Police are unlikely to actually do much (though I once had a half dozen laptops returned to my department when the police recovered them from a fence (sadly two years after they'd been stolen)) but filing a report only takes a few minutes, especially if you have a record of the serial number.
posted by Mitheral at 12:08 PM on May 13, 2011


if it's marketing, he may just have been self-promotion. Looking at his website he does seem to be one of those guys who is always self-promoting online and spends most of his time talking about how to self promote on the web.
posted by delmoi at 12:08 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah... and why is the "thief's" facebook page , the one mentioned in the tweets, only created 5 months ago and curiously devoid of significant content? Why is the last entry over two months ago even though the first thing the "thief" did with the "stolen" laptop was log onto his facebook page?
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:09 PM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


One last thing:
If you google the phrase : "Sean Power remotely figures out who and where his laptop's thief is " you find that the "story" has been pushed to hundreds of content farms sites all around the world.

I don't think the story went viral. I think it was pushed to appear viral.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:19 PM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sean Power stold my heart. Luckily, my heart is lojacked. First time he goes to use it: BOW! Ha ha! Guess who gets the last laugh, then?! Well, technically, I guess he probably will... But at least I'll get to laugh once more before I shut down completely. Well, twice, maybe, if somebody has paddles around when it happens.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:33 PM on May 13, 2011


Yeah, it's not just sean power how has the whole Interetn/PR type website but also the guy who found the laptop and of course he mentions two of his friends who are also internet marketers/fluff bloggers. I mean look at this paragraph from his writeup:
I went back to my apartment and started checking facebook and twitter.

About 5 minutes later, I get a tweet from Michael Streko, who I was supposed to meet for a SEOmoz event earlier in the night, but bailed to be at Jenny Blake’s event.
Blake is a fluff blogger mentioned earlier, and Michael Streko's twiter profile reads:
Co-Founder KnowEm LLC - Bootstrapped Startup. Self made, not VC Paid. I'm on a different level.
And KnowEm is a tool to help people snap up usernames on popular social media sites.

So basically every character in this story seems to be a SEO spammer.
posted by delmoi at 12:39 PM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's face it, Sean Power is scum. He deserved to get his laptop stolen.
I don't understand this at all.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:40 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


First world problems.
posted by empath at 12:40 PM on May 13, 2011


> paolo - I've repeated this over and over - you did the right thing in giving it back without altercation

> Again, thank you for giving up the laptop without resorting to violence. I appreciate it.

Looks like they forgot to push the whole violence subplot, because it doesn't seem to be a part of the main narrative, and just mentioned in the epilogue. Missed opportunity!
posted by bjrn at 12:43 PM on May 13, 2011


So basically every character in this story seems to be a SEO spammer.

Sean Power apparently may be scum after all.
It would be interesting for someone to question the Prey people about a relationship with him.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:45 PM on May 13, 2011


For about two minutes last night I considered this could be an incredbly intricate and well played viral marketing scheme, but I don't believe it. I choose to believe @seanpower tweets like:

For the record. How cool is this? I have never met or heard of @nickreese in my life. Karma points for this guy? hell yeah.

PS: I have no affiliation with Prey. There are quite a few people that know my word is bond and will speak to that effect on my behalf.


Maybe one reason people are incredulous--and I share a bit of this--is how completely non-vindictive Power seems to be:

So .. Paolo freely gave it up. I'm not about to accuse anyone of anything. I'd rather forget that that place exists and just move on.

I really, really don't want the focus of this to be about the bar. They gave things back, and everyone was safe. That's all that matters.


Me? I would have wanted to get the laptop collected and then use the hammer of justice to pound this guy into the ground. But then again, I'm not Canadian (and you know how nice they are up there).
posted by donovan at 12:58 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Poet_Lariat / cxc=r, what the hell? I have no fondness for SEO people, either, but your cynicism is misplaced. Sean seems like a genuinely nice guy, and the guy (and girl) who helped him seemed like they wanted to do the right thing. And the "content farms" allegation is just dumb. Hundreds (thousands?) of people were following along on Twitter last night.

Calling Sean Power "scum" — with no justification beyond the fact that the guy (that he'd never met) who helped him get his laptop back does SEO stuff — is unwarranted and inappropriate. And weird.
posted by Alt F4 at 1:07 PM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've been involved with police reports in NYC.

The most surreal was the time someone stole an unused credit card from my mother, searched through unopened mail and found the cash advence pin, and withdrew 500$ from the ATM. She called to file a report and they sent two detectives over.

My mother was positive she knew who it was, it was somebody with access to her apartment, but like Sean Power she disn't want to make any accusations. This caused the police to think it was a) a scam she was running on the credit card company or b) My step father or I had stolen the money to buy drugs.

My step father and I answed questions for almost an hour before they, grudgingly, admitted perhaps we hadn't stolen my monther's money to buy crack. They refused to file a report until we got ATM camera footage, which of course we could not get without a police report.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:27 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sean seems like a genuinely nice guy,

Let's add it all up from what we know so far:
1. Powers is an SEO person who has a history of self-promotion (until now not so sucessful)

2. His main accomplice, located 800 km away coincidentally enough turns out to be another SEO person

3. The story plays out more like a TV show then real life. It has girls picking up bartenders, "girls in purple sarongs", "seedy" ethnic locals (that one I really hate) , dishonest business owners and of course the missing item mystery. It couldn't get more cliched if a long haired stoner with a big dog walked into the bar to solve the mystery.

4. Powers removes all real life references to the purple-sarong girl who allegedly was they key to the getting the lap-top back. Powers remains the focus of the story and all references to the actual heroine are removed.

5. Powers urges his many followers to not take action against the "thief". All's well that ends well - wtf ?? !!

6. The exact same identical "story" beginning with the phrase ""Sean Power remotely figures out who and where his laptop's thief is " is pushed to hundreds of websites and content farms around the world in exactly the same manner that any BS SEO "press release" from a third rate company happens.

7. The "thief" has a facebook page that was created several months ago and is rather bland and devoid of content - yet the first thing the thief does with the laptop is log onto that page... and post nothing.

8. Powers is so nice to the "thief" as to blank out the person's bank account numbers from the screen cap when the thief logs on to his Chase account from the stolen laptop. Awww what a nice guy.

9. Powers files no police report for his stolen laptop. No police report that could be considered a crime for a publicity stunt. He files no police report even though his birth certificate was stolen. Identity theft anyone. Police reports help protect you from that sort of thing. Powers seems to be a hip sort of guy - seems he should know that.

And so it goes...
None of it adds up to me. This isn't cynicism. It's common sense.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:35 PM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


This guy paolo has apparently joined Twitter to talk about the incident. It all seems very suspicious to me. I'm betting on viral marketing campaign from preyproject. The narrative is too nice: no police report filed and no harm done because it was all just a misunderstanding, but look how well the tool worked! Riiiiight.
posted by nzero at 1:39 PM on May 13, 2011


Or, what Poet_Lariat said.
posted by nzero at 1:40 PM on May 13, 2011


C'mon mefi sleuths...get this thing crackin'.
posted by nzero at 1:41 PM on May 13, 2011


I'm thinking it could be a viral marketing campaign as well, if only because, after Googling this, I find that Sean Power is repeatedly being referred to as an "analytics ninja."

I cannot imagine using a phrase like that with a straight face.
posted by misha at 1:42 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I downloaded the phone version of Prey as a result of this, uninstalled it about 20 minutes later after fighting a dumb interface and silly restrictions.

Good job, marketing!
posted by odinsdream at 1:49 PM on May 13, 2011


Hi Internet strangers. I too have had a laptop stolen. It's a latest generation MacBook Pro and has a screensize between 12 and 15 inches (I'm not picky). Through some luck and sleuthing, I've traced it to your local college campus. Please let me know when you've recovered it for me, thanks.
posted by ODiV at 1:52 PM on May 13, 2011


something about Sean Power says to me that he has hurt more people than he has helped in his life.

I know Sean personally. I also mentioned this odd aspect to the whole thing on Twitter last night when I heard about it. He told me it's not a viral thing. He's either on the up and up here, or he's really putting his reputation on the line that he's not found out. The thing is, if you're an SEO guy you're not going to stop talking like an SEO guy just because your laptop got stolen, or work the same angles you know how to work in your professional life.
posted by jessamyn at 1:58 PM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Funny how these stolen laptop stories always end in cupcakes, dance routines, and flowers. I think real laptop owner/thief communications would be less civil:

@paolo I got here faster than you, fucking son of a... Saw you coming. You fucking shitheel.
@paolo You make the move. It's your move...
@paolo Don't type it you fuck.
@paolo Are you tweetin' to me? Are you fucking tweeting to me? I don't see anyone else with this username. #gunfire
posted by benzenedream at 2:06 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's like a Steig Larsson novel
Well, except for the violent sexual assaults and cranial gunshot wounds.


Wait, are those only in New York or only in the novels?
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 2:12 PM on May 13, 2011


The novels. And New York.
posted by bjrn at 2:14 PM on May 13, 2011




This guy paolo has apparently joined Twitter to talk about the incident

He joined Twitter 3 hours ago and apparently posts in bad Spanglish. lookingforpaolo paolo @ @seanpower, i just felt bed i painted!..and i wish i had your same systemwhen they steal my computer..and my phone 3 weeks ago.

Of course that's the first thing that any real thief does after stealing someone's property is twitter about it to the entire world. Gotta love those New York thieven types with their engaging the victim in dialog and all. Oh and by the way, paolo must have a much better proofreader for his websites and facebook page , neither of which display this charming local "dialect".

I give this thing points for entertainment value :) and with all respect to jessamyn ,who does some really great work here, I find this harder to believe as it evolves.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:41 PM on May 13, 2011


with all respect to jessamyn ,who does some really great work here, I find this harder to believe as it evolves.

Not a problem, no offense taken. I sent Sean a link to sign up and comment here if he wants to.
posted by jessamyn at 2:45 PM on May 13, 2011


My laptop disappears everytime I stand up.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:48 PM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not a problem, no offense taken. I sent Sean a link to sign up and comment here if he wants to.

Cool :) I'm not just sucking up here - :) Do appreciate the work that all the mods do in keeping this place one of the sanest places I have found on the internets.

Check out one of paolo's tweets:
lookingforpaolo paolo @ @seanpower , nobody knew that in that bag sitting there for about a week there was a lap top and based on what your girlfreind said

If this paolo tweeter is legit (or as legit as anything else about this story - heh) then he claims that a grand was left in the bag along with Power's birth certificate , Canadian health card (kind of like our SSN card here) and the infamous laptop. If true, how can one imagine not contacting the police for all that and a thousand stolen bucks??

Also ... (keeps getting better) isn't stealing anything over a grand a felony? If the paolo tweets are legit (???) then the guy is now admitting to a felony. Doesn't seem very street-wise to me.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:54 PM on May 13, 2011


Arrrgh ... cut and pasted wrong - here's the paolo tweet that should have been above
lookingforpaolo paolo @ @seanpower , nobody knew that in that bag sitting there for about a week there was a lap top and based on what your girlfreind said 1000$
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:56 PM on May 13, 2011


The @paolo guy could be someone trolling them.
posted by delmoi at 3:05 PM on May 13, 2011


Glad I read to the end of the storify story, because the best part is the passive aggressive twitter conversation between this sean powers douche and paolo-if-that-is-his-real-name.

@lookingforpaolo if you really are paolo, then I want to thank you for not elevating this to something bad.

...after I posted a picture of your face, your screen name, and where you work on the internet, calling you a thief and urging random strangers to descend upon you wild-west style.
posted by crackingdes at 3:45 PM on May 13, 2011


Also, the alleged thief finds the laptop and takes time to paint the back... but does not close AIM. Brilliant.
posted by crackingdes at 3:57 PM on May 13, 2011


I have no idea what a short form birth certificate is. I have a birth certificate. It's a laminated card. Why does he have two birth certificates? And why is he carrying both of them?
posted by Hildegarde at 4:13 PM on May 13, 2011


In case Trump pulls him over and asks for them.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:15 PM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you google the phrase : "Sean Power remotely figures out who and where his laptop's thief is " you find that the "story" has been pushed to hundreds of content farms sites all around the world.

And if you Google my bnad, you'll find that the story of our album appears on content farms as well. That's what happens when something gets picked up by some big sites. Every content scraper on earth starts scraping.

You guys wanna play detective on the Internet, go ahead, but try to know what you're talking about before tossing out accusations.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:05 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


yes, my bnad. It's right next to my anad.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:06 PM on May 13, 2011


It's true about scrapers (and freindfeed and the likes of things that push out links everywhere). Anyone else really dissapointed that the meetup to get the laptop wasn't livetweeted with a happy twitpic of Sean hugging his puter? Sean last update just leaves us hanging. We want hugs in the sunset man!
posted by dabitch at 3:46 AM on May 14, 2011


Hey guys! Some of you brought up some great points regarding the story. Figured I'd stop by and actually *post* on mefi, since Jessamyn has been talking to me so much about it. Also, I <3 Jessamyn, and she's awesome, so, I figured I'd take the time to actually post answers to the many questions here. I'm not really going to proofread this, so the answers will likely be raw (and posted as I read the comments from top to bottom). .

I figure the best way to respond is to comments directly. Here goes:

@chococat. OK. You brought up a few things. I'll try and answer them all:

Reads like a commercial: The reason why I brought up Prey so much is because I was being asked by hundreds of people "how did you find the guy??" "what program are you using??". If you search for @seanpower on twitter, you can still see people asking me what software I used as recently as an hour ago. I started answering people until things got out of hand / i was being asked the same thing too much. So, WRT to Prey, I was just responding to what people were asking me.

Tweetwhoring: dude, *tweet-whore*? I guess you haven't seen my "RT This" and "@seanpower" shirt yet have you ;). Admittedly, I got caught up in the moment, but I've never been a fan of having lots of followers (i've said so in many presentations available on slideshare.net/watchingwebsites). The "new" people following me now aren't people likely interested in my big data / analytics tweets which is what I normally talk about, and will inevitably unfollow my twitter account. I'm OK with this. I'd rather have engaged people and a small follower count, then a whole bunch of followers who don't give a crap. Also, remember that this started when I already had 11k followers which I've gained over the last 3+ years. An extra thousand or two isn't in my list of priorities.

The resolution: In the end, sarong and nick took the laptop, and I met them the following day at a bar downtown where we had a drink, talked about the situation and they gave me the bag. This isn't a scripted story - it's real life, and things just sorta happened that way. Though it may be anti-climatic to you, i just wanted everyone to be safe (check) and to get my laptop back if possible (check).

@lame_username as far as I understand it (I wasn't there, but I talked to them in person the following day), the girl talked to a bunch of people at the bar and befriended them. The guy ended up hanging out and making sure that the girl was OK. At some point, after some tense back and forth, the people admitted that they had the laptop. They then asked the girl to "come downstairs" with them to get the laptop. She (foolishly) did. He asked to delete some files on the laptop that he had left behind. He did so. He handed the laptop & bag to the girl. She came back upstairs. They entered a cab and left. The entire situation took about 1h30 but I could be wrong.

@MCMikeNamara in the 'heat of the moment' the girl was amazing, and was the reason why I now have this laptop back. But in the sober light of dawn, she reached out to me and asked me to remove any traces of her. She followed up after seeing many media mentions, to remind me to honor her decision to "not be identified or shown to be involved in any way". She requested the video that she made with nick be taken down. nick can corroborate this. I'm still not quite sure why it's a big deal, but I can clearly see based on my interactions with her that she's fearful of something. It's her wish and I'll honor it accordingly.

@spicynuts I did not file a police report and did not press charges (nor do I currently intend to do so as of today). I have my laptop in hand, and he's had enough weird / bad press as it is. Some folks created facebook pages to boycott his place. The Yelp reviews on his website are destructive, to say the least: http://www.yelp.com/biz/oficina-latina-nyc-new-york. None of these are things that I asked for. In fact, I asked for the opposite - for no retribution and for this to blow over for everyone. Frankly, i feel like some of the reactions have been totally disproportionate and I feel bad about that. I know that in theory, I "shouldn't", but I do.

@notyou I wish that were the case, and had it been, I would have been the first to admit it on my feed. I believe in full transparency in that respect. Unfortunately, all my files were deleted on the drive, and the gallery of stickers that I had on the back of my laptop (old pic here, had a lot more recently), were scraped off, and the entire back side of the laptop was spray painted beige. The laptop was taken at the bar, and the owner denied having the laptop after repeated inquiries both by phone and in person over the course of the 7ish day saga.

@Alvy Ampserand /o/

@Poet_Lariat Actually, i did put his real name and the location of the laptop (which happened to be the bar) on the internet. It was folks off my twitter feed that indicated that the person in question (in the pictures) was actually the owner of the bar. Here's a good balanced overview of the story, and all relevant tweets (when I find out and identify who it is) can be found here.

@Mitheral I didn't have the time to fill one out (i had to leave to Ottawa the next day) and I didn't have conclusive proof at the time of anything happening except that I didn't have my laptop. It just didn't make sense at the time. Probably a bad idea in retrospect, but something like this hasn't really happened to me before.

@delmoi thanks for the sentiment. Appreciate it. Really, I do. Cough. The O'Reilly books that I've written have been about web analytics and big data and the implications it has on the web today. The type of work that I do revolves around helping startups with products (product management, monetization strategies, business models, analytics to understand their business, etc). You can get all the information that you want about me here: www.seanpower.com. I don't consider myself a marketer, nor do I talk about social media promotion or self-promotion (except in terms of quantifying it and integrating it into a larger digital measurement strategy).

@coolxcool=rad It's pretty cool to get called scum for no reason at all by people I don't know! Thanks!

@delmoi re: internet/PR. That's not what I do. Re: the guy who went to get my laptop, he knew this guy called Streko. Streko runs a company called KnowEm which snaps up usernames. I once blogged about Streko's company and it wasn't in all that positive a light. You can read the blog post here: http://www.watchingwebsites.com/archives/registering-your-username-on-many-social-media-sites-pros-and-cons/. The outcome of the blog clearly shows that there are tons of reasons why these kinds of tools (not just his) aren't great. Nevertheless, Streko and I were civil about the outcome and we've been talking on twitter here and there since. Nick (the guy who went to get my laptop) followed @streko. That's where the thread is tied.

@delmoi I do not deal with SEO, SEO analytics or know anything about SEO. When people inquire about SEO like stuff, I always refer them to Hiten Shah (ACS Consulting / CrazyEgg / KISSMetrics) and Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz). I really don't know much about the SEO world (I was asked to review an SEO Analytics book for O'Reilly and was totally ineffective at commenting when the subject didn't deal with the broader world of analytics). You'll find that my pages are probably awful at SEO rankings. To my embarassment, google for "Adipex watching websites". I'm still trying to figure out how to clear the "adipex" shit from search engines since i was last hacked. :(

@bjrn simply put, I was terrified that violence would come out of this instead of a happy ending. It would've been a disaster for everyone involved; the people that went to claim my laptop, the people at the bar, and twitter in general. I was simply expressing my gratitude to the guy (if it was actually him) that it didn't come down to that. I have no way of substantiating that the twitter account "lookingforpaolo" is actually the owner of the bar (but it looked like it).

@Poet_Lariat thanks for believing that I might be scum. Feel free to reach out to the prey folks. From what I understand, they're an open source project. I use their free version. That's the extent of my involvment with them.

@donovan thanks :). by the way (and this might be worthwhile for people who want to know where i'm coming from), I was involved in Akoha (the pay-it-forward game played in real life) while I was writing my first book. At Akoha, I saw how cool a random act of kindness or goodness goes a hell of a long way. Having that drilled into me makes the entire notion of retribution and crap seem like the polar opposite of what I believe in. I lean towards acts of kindness, not towards negative shit happening to people.

@poet_lariat let's address the numbered comments you made.

1) I'm not an SEO guy. It seems like you don't understand what I do. I'm an O'Reilly author in the area of analytics (I co-wrote Complete Web Monitoring & contributed to Web Operations). I consult to internet startups and help them understand how to get funding, how to monetize, how to implement analytics in their companies. I don't do SEO work, nor do I really understand SEO. I have nothing against SEO, i just don't have time for it and don't understand the practices enough.

2) I had no "main" accomplice, and nick - the person you're referring to, was the second person on the scene. I asked him to be there to make sure that the girl who was there would not be hurt.

3) I never referred to "seedy ethnic locals" and take exception to the fact that you're implying something by this. Race was never brought up. Not that it matters, but I believe Paolo and I are from the same (or neighbouring) countries.

4) this was at Sarong's request (multiple ones, in fact) and is also *the right thing to do*. I don't need or want publicity from this. The story itself is an interesting one that raises all sorts of issues around privacy, law, vigilantism and real-time information. You couldn't be more right in your assertion. The event is what mattered, not the people associated with it.

5) What, you'd rather that I tell people to hurt him? To take retribution? To ruin a person's life over a fucking laptop? Come on, dude. What kind of person would I be. How could I sleep at night?

6) this makes no sense. The first people that covered this was the Village Voice (who thought it was a hoax, who then retracted their hoax comment after reading the Washington Post story). These were covered by major news outlets. Content farms routinely pick up news from large outlets. Go to google news and search 'sean power' and see for yourself.

7) i have no idea what you're referring to.

8) see comment #5.

9) i called the birth registrar in canada who told me that i should come in immediately for a change of certificate, but that there was little that they could actually do. One does not "cancel" a birth certificate. I called the passport office and they 'noted' that my birth certificate had been stolen on file.

@nzero yeah, i don't even know if that guy was real. On the subject of prey, how else could I had recovered my laptop :P. It's free. that's all i really cared about. I don't care how it works, don't know who is behind the company, and have never talked to them. I'm just amazed that i got my laptop back. I don't think the interesting part of the story is the software (or me) - i think it's amazing that people were willing to go and get my laptop on my behalf (after the police refused to do so).

@misha I rarely keep a straight face ;).

@benzenedream not my style. See Akoha.com, and the things i learned there (comment above). I don't believe that stuff like that is constructive, nor do I believe that I would have gotten this laptop back with that kind of energy.
posted by seanpower at 11:24 AM on May 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


The resolution: In the end, sarong and nick took the laptop,

Thanks for coming in to post these replies. I think a lot of people got suspicious when the issue was resolved so amicably on both sides. It's very odd that a single person inquiring about a stolen laptop was able to not only get an admission of guilt from the people who took it, but also have them hand it over without fuss.

It just doesn't make a lot of sense, even after reading your reply. I don't doubt your word at all, this is just one of those "wow, weird." things that happens.
posted by odinsdream at 1:30 PM on May 16, 2011


Hey, Sean. Thanks for coming by, and thanks for taking the time to post such a full reply.

I think what for me was the thing that made me think that "yeah this is probably real" is how viciously Paolo & the restaurant are now being attacked online; I find it hard to believe anyone would voluntarily sign up for something like that. Signing up for being a named & shamed criminal would be a really, really dumb move.
posted by bjrn at 3:19 PM on May 16, 2011


Very cool of you to come in and respond, seanpower, you didn't have to do that.
Admittedly, the internet has made me suspicious and cynical and I've grown a bit weary of dramatic web-sleuth stories and their breathless updates. Also, had I known you'd be in this thread, I'd have been significantly less crusty in my first comment; it was my gut-reaction to an internet story, which had left me a bit unsatisfied as a reader, so I'm sorry about that. As mentioned above, I was a bit confused at how easily things seemed to go from THEIF! to "no harm done." But as you say, real life.

Since you're here, could you shed some light on how the laptop got stolen in the first place? This was never addressed this and I think it could help clear things up. If that was actually the real thief tweeting you at the end, he said that your bag with the laptop was left in the bar, and was there for a week. Is that true? "Forgot my laptop at a bar" is a decidedly less sexy story so I find it hard to believe.
Anyhow, thanks for dropping in.
posted by chococat at 3:49 PM on May 16, 2011


seanpower writes "@Mitheral I didn't have the time to fill one out (i had to leave to Ottawa the next day) and I didn't have conclusive proof at the time of anything happening except that I didn't have my laptop. It just didn't make sense at the time."

Thanks seanpower for dropping by and answering our questions. If you end up stopping by in the future be aware we don't do the "@username" thing here; just the username is fine.
posted by Mitheral at 4:12 PM on May 16, 2011


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