Humorous Public Information Channels

September 12, 2013 at 9:07 pm (computers, internet) (, , , , , , , , , )

More and more companies, services and people are using social media as part of their information channels to others.  You can get traffic information via twitter, local police information via Facebook, companies with blogs, pinterest, tumblrs and so on.

Most are run of the mill, ‘this happened’, ‘this will be happening’, ‘pay for this’, ‘safe money on this’ or just maybe ‘watch out for this’ type messages, but every now and again I come across someone who uses these new methods for communications in quite an inspired way.

The most recent example was the link up between Nestle kitkat and Google Android.  Google has a tradition of naming the latest version of their mobile operating system after confectionary, which is why you might hear the more geeky inclined talking about Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice cream sandwiches, Jellybeans … see the pattern?  Yes, the next release hotly anticipated in the geekery was to be K… what?  Kitkat ended up being the answer.

And wow, did Nestle run with it. was just inspired.  They presented the whole website in terms of technical specs, user experiences, versions … in short the presentation of a new piece of technology, but all talking about the humble kitkat.  “Eye candy that really does taste as good as it looks.”  If you read to the bottom, my favourite part by far was the small print:

“Wow this really is small print isn’t it? Look how tiny it is. How are you even reading this? Come to think of it, why are you even reading this?? This is no way to spend your break! You’ve just read all of that stuff about how awesome the KITKAT 4.4 is and you still haven’t run out and got one? Wow, tough crowd.”

Very inspired and really ceasing the moment.

Another interesting example of following the Internet flow (although not a social media example) was spam.  The makers of that small blue and yellow tin had an interesting choice on their hands when email became ubiquitous, as it wasn’t long before the word “spam” started to mean something else. came along in the 1990s and started the slow process of reclaiming the word, riding on the new use of the term and people searching for information about it on the Internet,

I think they just had to accept that no matter what anyone said, no-one would ever call spam email UCE (unsolicited commercial email).  So, grin, bear it and embrace it.  Including the reasoning for why unwanted email was called spam in the first place – forever tying tinned meat to Monty Python to computer networks.

“Use of the term “spam” was adopted as a result of the Monty Python skit in which our SPAM meat product was featured. In this skit, a group of Vikings sang a chorus of “spam, spam, spam . . . ” in an increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation. Hence, the analogy applied because UCE was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet.

We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE, although we do object to the use of the word “spam” as a trademark and to the use of our product image in association with that term. Also, if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with all uppercase letters.”

There are times when a humourous account comes along that it just way more entertaining than an official communications channel.  My current favourite skit channel is the TLF Travel Alerts twitter.  It parodies Transport for London, who do actually have their own twitter feeds, but it is far, far more entertaining.  Here are some recent good tweets:

(I counted the cameras in Euston once … lost count after 150 or so)

You get the idea. So much more preferable, and often quite profound, compared to the normality of TFL (sorry).

But by far my favourite is the genius behind the Twitter account of Waterstones bookstore in Oxford Street.  I would love to know if this is an official account – it looks like it.  There is such a humble honesty in the humour in these tweets – my only personal gripe is that the tweeter is just a little too prolific for my own feed, so I don’t follow, just dip in and out.  But there are some real gems, and I often see them retweeted anyway.

Some examples:

Which reminds me of the fun they had when author Robert Galbraith was revealed as being none other than J.K. herself. Too much to quote here, but have a browse over this – lets just say they had a ball with this one. Oh go on then, just one.

Commercial use of social media at its best.


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How blatant can you get in a scam?

April 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm (computers, internet, security) (, )

Just received one of the most blatent and in-your-face banking scam, spam emails I think I’ve ever seen.

The only thing missing is the checkbox at the bottom that states “Yes, I agree to you emptying my account and transferring all my money somewhere else” …


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Want more friends? Just ask!

February 11, 2010 at 8:17 pm (computers, internet, security) (, , , , , )

I had my first ‘spam friend request’ today on Facebook.  Isidra – it was a name I didn’t recognise (obviously) so I had a look at her profile.  Fascinated, I clicked ‘show similar stories’ and ‘older posts’ on her wall … 5 pages of ‘Isidra and X are now friends’ messages!  5 pages!  Oh, and 6 status updates, 3 of which point to a profile on an adult site … and the others along the lines of ‘off to bed’ or ‘having a bath’.  That was it.  No ‘Isidra commented on …’ or ‘Isidra is using (some currently trendy app like FarmVille)’ or ‘Isidra was tagged in a phot’ or anything.

The profile was created on the 3rd of Feb and she now has 120 ‘friends’.  Danah Boyd had a very interesting set of posts on what constitutes a friend on a social network like Facebook (I like the reason that paraphrases as ‘to keep my parents out’!).  But it doesn’t really account for the ‘I have no reason, I just blindly accept friend requests from anyone who asks’ reason.  I mean, just looking at the profile you can see there is something more than a little odd!

I’ve read about clever ruses based around social engineering, where a spammer might examine someone’s list of friends on two social networks and fine a contact who is on one and not the other, and then create a fake profile for them on the other one.  The ‘target’ will accept a friend request on the other social network thinking it is from the friend they already know, but in fact its from the spammer.

In face of the 120 friend requests in 1 week that Isidra managed, I have to wonder why anyone would bother with anything more sophisticated than just asking every profile they come across! I wonder what her hit rate is … how many friend requests she sent out to get those 120.

I haven’t worked out where ‘she’ got my profile from yet, maybe that’s something for another day.  Well good luck to Isidra, and I hope her 120 ‘friends’ don’t suddenly find themselves have to patch up a compromised Facebook profile or clean up a virus infected PC … oh, and I would be slightly wary of that link to that profile on the adult site …


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They caught me out! Grrr.

August 11, 2008 at 8:06 pm (internet, moan) (, , , )

I do pride myself on, generally, knowing what is sensible and what isn’t on the Internet. However, every so often something just catches you out no matter how careful you are.

Well, when I was about to login to write my post just now, I missed on the password and so got the usual ‘try again’ screen, but on that screen was an advert. And it was design exactly like a pop-up window. It asked me to fill in a survey. I didn’t want to (I don’t like surveys), so I clicked the ‘x’ in the top right corner (I never click buttons on these things, they could be programmed to do anything). Except this was a picture, with a link. I ended up at a dating site. So they caught me, because my attention was wandering and now I’m irritated.

This is why we have so many problems with spam, malware and so on still. The weakest link is always the bit between the chair and the keyboard, i.e. us. And people will exploit that endlessly, and always do. The main reason people keep sending out spam is because someone, somewhere, is clicking on the links and showing that a small number of people are still believing spam. It only has to be a very small fraction of a percent, but if sending a million emails is ‘free’ to you, 0.01% is still 100 people.

Making ads look like dialogues and pop ups is an oldee, but it obviously still works, even though its deception. Grrr.


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