Do you know Dagny Taggart? She's a character in Atlas Shrugged. She's also a best selling author of language learning ebooks on Amazon. According to her bio, she speaks 15 languages, which she picked up in her life of traveling the world. There's just one problem: the author Dagny Taggart doesn't exist. She is the pen name for a group of anonymous authors who were hired by an Argentine "Amazon entrepreneur" and a follower of k(indle) money get rich schemes. [more inside]
"One of my friends suggested we should do karaoke night so we found Freakin' Awesome Karaoke Express and decided to give them a go... We had a blast, their service was amazing and they had unbelievably great selection of songs... I never would have thought of seeking a mobile karaoke service, but they were fantastic... My friend had been to a block party where they were hired..." Only problem: Freakin' Awesome Karaoke Express does not exist. Fake reviews are endemic to online businesses, they are rated as trustworthy, and they are amazingly cheap to buy. [more inside]
When lobbyist Richard Berman gave a speech to the Western Energy Alliance, he was seeking to raise millions from energy companies for his Big Green Radicals campaign attacking groups like the Sierra Club and NRDC. What he didn't know was that one of the executives in the room would be so offended that he would secretly record the talk and hand it to the New York Times. The transcript (pdf) reveals Berman's strategies for creating non-profit groups to influence public debate and policy. [more inside]
"Advertising is not well. Though companies supported by advertising still dominate the landscape and capture the popular imagination, cracks are beginning to show in the very financial foundations of the web. Despite the best efforts of an industry, advertising is becoming less and less effective online. The once reliable fuel that powered a generation of innovations on the web is slowly, but perceptibly beginning to falter. Consider the long-term trend: when the first banner advertisement emerged online in 1994, it reported a (now) staggering clickthrough rate of 78%. By 2011, the average Facebook advertisement clickthrough rate sat dramatically lower at 0.05%. Even if only a rough proxy, something underlies such a dramatic change in the ability for an advertisement to pique the interest of users online. What underlies this decline, and what does it mean for the Internet at large? This short [PDF] paper puts forth the argument for peak advertising—the argument that an overall slowing in online advertising will eventually force a significant (and potentially painful) shift in the structure of business online. Like the theory of Peak Oil that it references, the goal is not to look to the immediate upcoming quarter, but to think on the decade-long scale about the business models that sustain the Internet." [more inside]
When Rex Conte's letter to the editor -- "Why I am Voting for Mitt Romney" -- was featured in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and then reached top-tier status on Google News, several commenters pointed out that Rex had a similar letter published in the Chicago Sun-Times. Nothing too abnormal there, but in the Post-Dispatch letter he claimed his residence was "Chesterfield," outside of St. Louis, and in the Sun-Times letter, he claimed that his residence was "Oak Hills," outside of Chicago. So, "where does Rex live?" curious readers wanted to find out. An editor from the Post-Dispatch called Rex to find out and followed up with a note at the bottom of the letter: "Mr. Conte wrote a similar letter to the Chicago Sun-Times that said he lived in Oak Park, Ill. Comments and emails questioned how he could live in two places and whether he was a real person. I talked on the phone with Mr. Conte, who says he used to live in Chesterfield but not any more. So we've changed his hometown in this letter." So, we now know he doesn't live in Chesterfield any more but the editor doesn't go into whether he still lives in Oak Park now or if he just "used to live there." The Sun-Times hasn't added any notes to Conte's letter in their publication but critics on the web are claiming that the GOP is "planting fake Letters to Editors." [more inside]
Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign is floundering despite his brag that "I have six times as many Twitter followers as all the other candidates combined." Maybe because 80% of them are fake. Or maybe they're not. [more inside]
A Daily Kos diarist dredging through leaked HB Gary emails has found concerning evidence that the company has been selling advanced "persona management" software to manage large numbers of fake online identities. Meet one of the buyers: the US military [more inside]
Of course our new football field is cranberry red. What do you think we are – savages? Watch
paint dry Eastern Washington University install its forearm-staining turf on its TurfCam. Hey, for a million bucks what do you expect – something that looks like grass? (Via)
AT&T's recent complaints about its mobile phone customers using too much of its underpowered data service have now expanded this week to open opposition to net neutrality legislation. In response, the satirical blog The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs jokingly "reported" on a fake Apple memo calling for "Operation Chokehold", where customers agree to get together on Friday to overwhelm the company's networks. The joke has gained traction with disgruntled users, enough so that AT&T, in turn, chided the blog for "an irresponsible and pointless scheme", creating a Facebook page to promote "Operation Cuckoo".
"Not associated with Blackwater USA." "Blackwater USA is not responsible for this site." "This is an independent site and is not affiliated with Blackwater USA." There's a new trend in the blogosphere, of anonymous people putting significant effort into creating blogs defending military contractor Blackwater USA. Just another bunch of passionate amateur fans showing Old Media how to report a story, or a calculated Astroturf campaign by a well-heeled PR firm? Maybe these guys know.
Dr Pepper astroturf blog shows that the marketers are coming to blogland. What to do? AnilDash suggest that we create a new format.. TNL follows with a first pass at a fulll disclosure that still leaves too much open. What should we do to fight the marketers when they invade our turf?