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"The whole world turns upside-down in 10 years, but you turn upside-down with it." -- Spider Robinson, 1977.
November 9, 2010 2:02 PM   Subscribe

The Power of the Internet : Flash Mob Gone Wrong... a story about how the cool things we love about the internet, combined, can go horribly, horribly wrong, by Tom Scott. From Ignite. (via (via))

(p.s. spoiler : It's just a parable, using similar events that actually happened, but not all at once.)
posted by crunchland (52 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ha, I didn't read the spoiler, totally got trolled. Fantastic use of motion graphics, video, and audio to tell a story.
posted by zardoz at 2:10 PM on November 9, 2010


That, my friend, was not trolling. That was a simple parable, a fictional story, that could have happened. But yes, it was well put together.
posted by cerulgalactus at 2:15 PM on November 9, 2010


I don't mind watching videos but I do mind "watch this video or listen to this to find out what we're talking about" type of content. You don't know if it's going to be worth your time until your finished watching. Apparently this is some kind of mocumentary, not even about a real event?
posted by delmoi at 2:16 PM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Very cool. What did he use to make that presentation? Was that just flash?
posted by nushustu at 2:17 PM on November 9, 2010


I would have liked to know more about the actual events he was referencing. Otherwise, it was fantastic.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:18 PM on November 9, 2010


for what it's worth, I wouldn't be surprised about the spontaneous STUPID flash mob, but the 23 dead -- that would cause me to pause.
posted by philip-random at 2:19 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is there a transcript? 5:40 is too long to wait to see how things unfold in a video tagged "rickroll", "4chan", and "chatroulette".
posted by vidur at 2:19 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know what would make for an interesting Internet flash mob? Every day you choose a random blog post from a random blog to have a few hundred or more people make insightful commentary on.
posted by ODiV at 2:27 PM on November 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


Awesome Ignite talk. I really loved his motion slides, I've never seen anything like that before.
posted by mathowie at 2:29 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every day you choose a random blog post from a random blog to have a few hundred or more people make insightful commentary on.

Could we at least keep this realistic?
posted by maxwelton at 2:29 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


He really wants to blame something on the internets. But he doesn't seem to be sure what that is.
posted by stonepharisee at 2:36 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, yes. That's the real reason to be fiercely private about who you are on the internet. This may be a parable, but it's completely plausible. Something you do that you don't feel needs to be private - you're not ashamed! - blows up into something so far beyond your control that your life is changed forever. It's harder and harder to keep your real name dissociated from your online name, but that doesn't mean it's not a worthy endeavor.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:37 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


That was fascinating, thanks.

(I love these Ignite presentations, but every time I see "Hacking Chocolate" in the introduction I twitch a little and want to punch something. Is it just me?)
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 2:52 PM on November 9, 2010


That was great, and disturbingly plausible. Thanks.
posted by joedan at 2:54 PM on November 9, 2010


I'm not seeing that as "plausible". Sorry...just doesn't work for me... Science fiction....

Was anyone there wearing a jet pack?
posted by HuronBob at 3:01 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heh. As I was reading this I was thinking, "Odd that I haven't heard about it. But it sounds like a neat idea for a short story. Maybe I'll write one up once I'm done watching this."

OH FICTION
OH VERISIMILITUDE
posted by klangklangston at 3:06 PM on November 9, 2010


"Everything in that story has already happened... not at the same TIME, but everything in that story has already happened."

Let me tell you the story of how I had sex with 5 girls at once while scubadiving on top of the Empire State Building on my 13th birthday. No, I swear, it's true, every single bit. FINE, I PUT A BUNCH OF THINGS TOGETHER THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN AT THE SAME TIME SO WHAT JEEEEEZ
posted by 23skidoo at 3:19 PM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


This irks me, and I'm not sure exactly why. I get the feeling that although his examples of the story all have root in reality, they would never interact together in such a way to create this outcome.
posted by JimmyJames at 3:26 PM on November 9, 2010


Not a bad presentation, but it you gotta go along with a lot of leaps. He puts together this hyper-fast, motion-graphics backed story that brings the (dancing, fanboy) mob to the outside of her flat, but then he skips over what sends them into a fighting frenzy.

Here's what I've learned: flash mobs that start for any or no reason can lead to hysteria, which in turns leads to violence, which then leads to death and gasps from Ignite audiences.

Well, no shit, that certainly can happen — the only part the Internet played in the whole thing is that it got the mob together. I mean people have freaked out, overreacted and killed 23 people since at least the days of Sega CD, right?
posted by defenestration at 3:32 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not a bad presentation, but it you've*...
posted by defenestration at 3:34 PM on November 9, 2010


Maybe the animation didn't work for you, Jimmy.

I swear that bottom bar was like a never-ending fuse burning down for me.
posted by i less than three nsima at 3:35 PM on November 9, 2010


And that, friends, is how you use slides in your presentation.

I enjoyed it, but agree with others that the leap from silly flash mob to dozens dead was a bit striking. Then again, before the big reveal it didn't seem too unbelievable.
posted by Muttoneer at 3:48 PM on November 9, 2010


This is exactly why I don't use my real name on the Internet. What a nightmare.
posted by ChrisHartley at 3:50 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


But that's part of the point—she didn't use her real name on the internet, someone recognized her. I mean, I suppose you can avoid putting your face on the internet, too, but at some point you start missing out on opportunities to connect with people.
posted by !Jim at 3:53 PM on November 9, 2010


I wrote a bit about this in a story a while ago, but in my version the mob was malicious instead of accidental: A journalist who'd done an unflattering piece on trolls had her house broken into by vengeful Internet folk. I've spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about being tracked down by the Internet Hate Machine, just because I know the sort of security through obscurity I have only lasts until somebody decides that they don't like me.

But I keep getting this nagging feeling that the riot isn't really the "new" part of this. "Host a party in one hour flat" is new, but "riot where we don't expect it" has been part of mass culture for at least as long as Altamont, which you could characterize about as well as "giant rock music concert causes massive riot," which of course would have been new back then as well.

There are interesting things to be said about how the Internet is changing things--how it's shrinking the size of the world while lengthening our memory for minutae. But a riot at a mass gathering doesn't nearly follow.
posted by Tubalcain at 3:53 PM on November 9, 2010


I don't get what it was a parable for.
posted by meese at 3:55 PM on November 9, 2010


But that's part of the point—she didn't use her real name on the internet, someone recognized her.

A member of a website I frequent issued a "find out who I am based on my posting history" challenge, and I ended up figuring out who he was by cross referencing pictures other people have posted on the web. Basically, nothing he had posted was on its own PII, but sooner or later someone else in the book club that you openly admit to attending is going to start tagging pictures on Flickr.
posted by niles at 4:04 PM on November 9, 2010


But a riot at a mass gathering doesn't nearly follow.

They don't tend to happen anywhere else...
posted by doublehappy at 4:11 PM on November 9, 2010


Oh, here we go. Philly flashmob turns violent. As a follow-on, here's a grumpy local editorial.

The presenter is great but I'm not sure he has a point other than he created a nice work of fiction from real stories.
posted by chairface at 4:16 PM on November 9, 2010


Very cool. What did he use to make that presentation? Was that just flash?

Naw. He's just a great presenter and that extends to the tools he uses and the people he works with.

Not that I know him at all, but as much is obvious from this film.
posted by eeeeeez at 4:30 PM on November 9, 2010


One of the truly cool things about the last 10-15 years is that the real, actual events of the 'net are mind blowing and all you need to achieve minds being blown is a half-decent presenter laying out the facts of the events as they happened.

This presentation is (I guess) a cautionary tale based on real events, conflated to form a fictional result.

Without having the antidote to this horrible ending to the confluence of unstoppable elements I don't quite get the point - other than it's a pitch for a Hollywood movie.
posted by victors at 4:58 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Plausible. Hm.

He lost me at "nobody knows how the riot started." And then "they broke down her door, for some reason." Yes. Assemble people in a crowd and for some reason they turn murderous. That's why the Hollywood Bowl was closed down. And, of course, we can't have Shakespeare in the Park anymore.

If you're going to invent chaos, give it a mechanism.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:00 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looks like Powerpoint on steroids to me.
posted by Ardiril at 5:05 PM on November 9, 2010


Its a straw man built out of flash and powerpoint.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:09 PM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


may_contain_nuts is not a real twitter account (at this time). I was going to cry foul based on this alone, but since it's not a true story there's little point in picking it apart.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:13 PM on November 9, 2010


I'm not sure he has a point other than he created a nice work of fiction from real stories.

His point was "Every 10 years, the world turns upside down, but you turn along with it." As he said, two years ago, the story would have been implausible, five years ago it would have been impossible.

Even granting that 23 dead from a riot emerging from a flashmob is a weak link in his narrative, none of the other pieces are all that surprising. I didn't know this was fiction until the end, and the one thing that made my spidey-sense tingle was just that he seemingly had access to a lot of raw data, like server logs and cop radio recordings, which seemed unlikely.
posted by adamrice at 5:15 PM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, SONNOVABITCH!

What's this guy's address?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:33 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


His style of presentation is basically "PechaKucha" - a deck of 20 images delivered to auto advance every 20 seconds while the presenter gives a live narration. Presentations usually grouped into 10-15 per night to be delivered in a club atmosphere. Karaoke for Powerpoint basically. Just as interesting as flashmobs really.
posted by rongorongo at 5:36 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I mean people have freaked out, overreacted and killed 23 people since at least the days of Sega CD, right?

WELCO
METOT
HENEX
TLEVEL
posted by coolxcool=rad at 6:00 PM on November 9, 2010


Out of all of it, I found the 'Flash Mob goes Ape' the easiest to swallow. My mind transposed 'we don't know how it started' with 'she refused to sing'.

One situation that sticks with me is when I was at a block party at WSU. When a girl refused to 'Show yer tits!' some dudes started to get pretty violent. When the girls in question started bolting though the crowd, I moved to let them past. When the jackasses showed up I stayed in their way and played dumb, earning a couple of shoulders to my sternum. Both girls bolted into an apartment behind me, hopefully out of sight. At least they where when those guys finally got past me.

All it takes is a couple of dudes to ruin a good time.
posted by The Power Nap at 6:04 PM on November 9, 2010


Thank you, adamrice!

For Pete's sake, folks! He's not trying to create hysteria about the Internet killing us all. His point is just what he said it was. This scenario is entirely plausible (including the flash mob suddenly going off for any of the random reasons he suggests) and it would simply not have been possible as recently as the Clinton administration.

If you really stop to notice, we're living in what we ourselves would have called science fiction not so long ago.
posted by Naberius at 6:23 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


But Spider Robinson already made that point. This guy just prefixed it with power.

It's a cool presentation and all, with a lot of slick wow to enjoy, but there's not much new there there, is there? Maybe that's the point: we are more easily able to connect, via the Internet, with great rapidity and many open tabs, but essentially nothing new is brought to the table... and holy shit that table's leg is all wobbly — FUCK — 23 people died, including the table!
posted by defenestration at 6:49 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been reading Daemon by Daniel Suarez, and not once have I been put off by the fact that it's fictional, and only quasi-plausible. (Great book, by the way. I highly recommend it.)
posted by crunchland at 6:59 PM on November 9, 2010


The posited mob would more likely stay home and flash masturbate.
posted by eegphalanges at 11:45 PM on November 9, 2010


Call me a curmudgeon but does the world need even more shorter, shallower, thought bubbles, ripped from real life and spiced up with fiction to make a somewhat opaque point?

I would prefer an hour long presentation with few or no slides about real facts that actually happened factually, and an interesting discussion about the implications thereof and the history of its development, as opposed to "NEWSFLASH! YOU CAN DO THINGS NOW THAT YOU COULDN'T DO IN THE PAST!!!111!!"

But you know, that would take research, thought, exhaustive preparation and a small audience.
posted by smoke at 1:25 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


soon to be coming to a television police procedural show near you! probably a csi franchise show.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:42 AM on November 10, 2010


It's clearly inspired by the story of the Cat Bin Woman, but with a much more extreme ending.
posted by DanCall at 4:30 AM on November 10, 2010


Except that Cat Bin Lady thing happened in August, and this presentation was made last March.
posted by crunchland at 4:39 AM on November 10, 2010


I was trying to remember why this was already familiar to me. Finally, my decrepit old memory dredged it up: there was a feature in The Guardian back in July. Here's a bit of what I said at the time, which pretty much sums up my reaction:

Oh do calm down. Don't get yourself into such a lather. It's just a story, and like all moderately topical, vaguely dystopic "What if?" stories it assumes the worst and runs with it.

posted by Decani at 4:41 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"His style of presentation is basically "PechaKucha" - a deck of 20 images delivered to auto advance every 20 seconds"- rongorongo

No, not his style, the Ignite style. He was presenting at an Ignite evening, so he had to follow that format. The animation aspect is a very ambitious way of working within the constraint, and it comes off. BTW, for Ignite the slides advance every 15 seconds, not 20 seconds: making a total of five minutes.

People complaining about the narrative are missing the point, IMHO. It's worth watching since it's such an excellent piece of presentation that must have required a huge amount of rehearsal and preparation.
posted by infobomb at 5:32 AM on November 10, 2010


smoke: "Call me a curmudgeon but does the world need even more shorter, shallower, thought bubbles, ripped from real life and spiced up with fiction to make a somewhat opaque point?"

I appreciate the sentiment, but I find that it's quite rare for someone to design a one hour presentation with the same care and information density as Ignite. Instead you get Comic Sans, diagrams that belong in print not on 640x480 projected slides, long winded introductions, and people reading their slides to you.

That research, thought and exhaustive preparation never happens. I still love watching conference presentations, but they're not exactly knowledge distilled. To use a metaphor, are sonnets shallow for not being an epic?
posted by pwnguin at 6:41 AM on November 10, 2010


Comparing that to a sonnet is like comparing a glass of champagne to a glass of methylated spirits in orange juice.

Just because long presentations can also be shit doesn't make this wonderful; brevity is only part of the problem. The piece is shallow, its point is shallow. There's nothing wrong with shallow, but I think there's certainly a surfeit of it.
posted by smoke at 1:50 PM on November 10, 2010


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