Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Internet Protects What it Finds Interesting

On the Internet it helps to be good at what you do but that isn't enough. Many people are funny or have an interesting outlook on life and still manage to disappear in the vast sea of people online. If you also happen to catch people's attention, well, then you're set.

One young man certainly has caught people's attention. Oprah Winfrey is holding a competition called "Your Own Show". It's a talent and popularity search for the "the next TV star". Zach Anner from Austin Texas submitted an audition tape to try and become that next TV star. Go watch it. It's a site to behold. What happened next is a classic example of the Internet's new attention economy.

Zach's audition was picked up by various sites that started to put in place vote getting campaigns. Some are simple "tell everyone you know to vote for Zach" affairs. Others simply said "go look and do what you know you must" and people did. I don't know if any sites tried to automate the voting to put Zach ahead. I don't think anyone needed to automate the process. How could you not vote for Zach after watching his video? Plus you'd hope by now online polls and votes are relatively immune to that sort of mass auto-voting. It shouldn't be possible to fix the vote from afar.

Zach's audition started getting mentioned in all sorts of places you wouldn't expect. The musician John Mayer did a "go watch this" blog post. All the attention from all those various corners of the Internet paid off and Zach stormed to the top of the voting. Even he didn't expect it. Here's how he reacted when he found out just how well he was doing. He even thanked John Mayer. Which lead to John offering musical support. If Zach wins hewon't have to worry about his show having a theme song.

But in the last day or so something happened to the voting. The second place contestant made a completely improbable run ahead. Something wasn't right. It seemed fishy. So the Internet that loves Zach for his outlook and humour decided to investigate and make sure everything was still on the up and up.

Never underestimate the collective investigative power of the Internet.

The investigation already has details of the source code on the voting page, graphs with the rates of changes of votes, and all sorts of technical details. People are going to get to the bottom of this. People want Zach to win. They had voted him into first place. They didn't want some chicanery to remove him from top stop. Especially if the chicanery seems to be going on in the site running the voting. The Internet protects what it finds interesting or finds out what's going on. In excruciating detail. Read the investigation if you don't believe me.

Whether Zach wins or not, whether he gets a show via Oprah or not, Zach is too much of a character and too much of a personality to just disappear. Zach will get a place to shine and many people, myself included, will tune in to watch. He'd do a great travel show. Remember, no Atlantis is too underwater or fictional.

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