Stephen Colbert Admits He Has 'Twatted'

Owen Thomas · 03/19/09 12:22PM

Twitter is "the latest computer craze," according to easily startled Today hostess Meredith Vieira, who didn't get the answer she expected from wacky Stephen Colbert when she asked if he used the microblogging service. Watch!

The Sick Internet Joke About 9/11: ✈ ▌▌

Owen Thomas · 01/06/09 02:30PM

An airplane flies into two vertical objects: For many ordinary New Yorkers, it's a horrible, still-living memory. For Internet commenters, it's absolutely hilarious.

Suicide by webcam

Owen Thomas · 11/21/08 02:40AM

Lifecasting, a kind of do-it-yourself reality TV broadcast on the Internet, has thousands of practitioners. Until last night, one of them was Abraham Biggs, a 19-year-old Florida resident, who used a webcam to broadcast his death, too.Wednesday night, after he posted a suicide note on the Web, he overdosed on pills on camera as users of, a lifecasting site, watched. Some posted comments egging Biggs on. When he took the pills and stopped moving, they laughed, expecting his corpse to revive and announce it was all a joke. No one called the police until hours had passed. They kept watching as officers came to the scene and verified his death. Even then, commenters wrote "OMFG" and "LOL." NewTeeVee, an online-video industry publication, called the incident a "a striking display of the power of live video." The power, but definitely not the glory: It shows how the viewers of lifecasting devalue life. Users of sites like have grown accustomed to watching people mug for the camera. All the world's a stage, and all the men and women on webcams are merely players. But what happens when we're not playing around? CEO Michael Seibel, in a statement, didn't comment on the video, merely noting the site's policy for removing content flagged as "objectionable." The digital record of Biggs's death is just bits on a server. What about the users who cheered Biggs on as he performed a snuff film? Can we flag them, too? There will always be teenagers who try to kill themselves in awful ways. But one would hope the audience would not applaud.

GM's scare tactics fail to win over YouTube users

Owen Thomas · 11/17/08 04:40PM

General Motors has posted its call for an auto-industry bailout directly to the Net, with predictably disastrous results. GM marketers have clearly fallen for the myth of Internet PR — that taking a company's message directly to the people through social media will give it a much friendlier reception than if it is filtered through the mainstream media. The reality?Slapping an infomercial on YouTube will generate far worse publicity than talking to friendly Detroit-based hacks on the automotive beat, who are every bit as dependent on the U.S. car industry for their paycheck as assembly-line workers are. The 81,724 YouTube viewers who have watched the clip are as vicious as ever, rating it two stars out of five (a mercy rating, surely), calling for GM's collapse, and decrying the notion of a government bailout. The only upside for Detroit's messagemakers: The instant YouTube reaction allows them to take their PR campaign back to the shop all the sooner.

CNET founder now just another angry Internet commenter

Owen Thomas · 11/06/08 03:40PM

Is Halsey Minor the "bad boy of Silicon Valley," as Portfolio recently dubbed him? The moniker may not be geographically precise — the founder of CNET turned venture capitalist has a house in San Francisco, not Woodside or Atherton. But what the magazine really should have called him was the bad boy of the blogosphere. Minor obsessively comments on stories about him, with detailed but completely off-topic critiques of the writer's prose. Take, for example, his reaction to the post Thomson Reuters reporter Connie Loizos wrote about Minor's failed attempts to buy a racetrack in Florida:

Be careful what you write about Glam

Owen Thomas · 10/21/08 01:40PM

It's a predictable routine: Write about Glam Media, Samir Arora's dangerously bubbly online-advertising startup, and get bombarded by comments from website operators for whom Glam sells ads. The latest victim: Saul Hansell of the New York Times, who dared to point out that most of Glam's traffic comes not from the kind of high-quality, editorially driven websites his salespeople promise to advertisers, but from horoscopes, social networks, and gaming sites. Two Glam publishers promptly weighed in. It almost makes one wonder if, like a political campaign, Arora gins up faux grassroots complaints. (Valleywag has attracted its own reliable Glam commenter, AretinaAegeus.) Like a well-done Astroturfing, as the process is known in politics, the comments seem genuine enough — original wording, no cutting-and-pasting of talking points. But the process may backfire on Arora. Goaded by the commenters, Hansell updated his piece with a more concise — and damning — explanation of why Glam may be scamming its advertisers:

Internet user wants automatic updates on Andrew Baron's dying dad

Owen Thomas · 10/15/08 07:00AM

Andrew Baron, the founder of videoblog Rocketboom, has reported that his dad, prominent trial lawyer Fred Baron, is dying of cancer. His one chance, an experimental lifesaving drug, was denied by its manufacturer, Biogen Idec. We won't mention how Fred paid to relocate Rielle Hunter, the mistress of former presidential candidate John Edwards, out of hte spotlight. Or how Baron père and fils fought over the funding of Rocketboom, which Fred supplied. No, we'll just point you to this grotesque demand from a commenter on FriendFeed, Peter Huesken:

Timesman David Pogue is a fragile flower

Jackson West · 09/26/08 05:00PM

All those years in the theater on Broadway among catty drama types didn't thicken the skin of New York Times technology writer David Pogue much. Geek Out New York blogger John Teti wrote a clearly satirical piece wondering just how technology-savvy Pogue. His latest column described how you can use Google to search individual websites. Teti didn't even point out the misspelling of Facebook as "Facebok!" (Which I hear is the leading social networking site among South African antelopes.) The pile-on-Pogue post was clearly facetious, but that didn't stop Pogue from emailing Teti to complain. And then emailing again. And again. Pogue's initial, angry missive in full after the jump.

Sergey Brin hates commenters even more than we do

Paul Boutin · 09/22/08 12:20PM

Don't believe the hype that Google founder Sergey Brin is seeking to "open source" research on Parkinson's. Should you try to contribute, the very first thing you'll find is that Brin has disabled comments on his blog. "While I would like to receive and post many insightful comments," he writes in a disclaimer above the comment box, "realistically I am unlikely to be able to read through all of them and may accept very few or none at all." So far he's accepted none at all. Look, Sergey, if you're serious about curing Parkinson's, talk to the Accelerated Cure Project for multiple sclerosis. It's the same idea: Supersmart engineer/entrepreneur is diagnosed with disease, decides to put his skills to work rather than wait around for a miracle. Everyone else, feel free to post your comments here.

Yelp protection racket alleged by anonymous cowards

Paul Boutin · 08/14/08 04:20PM

A report from The Register claims that five business owners have complained to them that Yelp salespeople offered to "push bad reviews to the bottom" in exchange for an ad buy on the site. The story, based partly on several unnamed sources, leaves me skeptical. None of the sources claimed Yelp actually did move negative reviews out of sight after they'd bought a sponsored link. That backs CEO Jeremy Stoppelman's claim that they were probably duped by a "rogue salesman." But the article makes it easy to understand why people would pay up: The business owners who talked to The Reg in exchange for anonymity come across as more afraid of retaliation from Yelp commenters than from Yelp lawyers.

Robert Scoble's cell phone number is totally 425 205 1921, people

Owen Thomas · 01/09/08 02:02PM

Valleywag, this time, has gone too far. Or so some people believe. Yesterday, we posted Robert Scoble's cell phone number, which is 425 205 1921, in a picture. One reader was so outraged that he woke one of my reporters from a sound sleep to express his ire. This top-secret information has been been posted on every page of Scoble's own blog for three years — not to mention his Facebook profile. If you wish to think ill of Valleywag for posting the number, our only request: That you direct the same vitriol to Scoble himself. He awaits your calls. At 425 205 1921.

Fake Steve Jobs fakes out iPod lovers

Owen Thomas · 10/26/07 04:19PM

After Dan Lyons, the Forbes editor who blogs as Fake Steve Jobs, visited Microsoft's main Redmond campus to talk about his new book, Options, he sat down for an interview with Microsoft's Channel 10. The best part? Fast forward 8:30 to the point where Lyons says, "I'm very excited about the Zune 80," Microsoft's latest music player. He then pretends to realize his gaffe: "People who read my blog are going to be very upset." Of course, any close readers of Fake Steve Jobs will know Lyons, in a classic move, dropped that bit in intentionally to drive the iPod-fanboy commentards on his blog batshit crazy. Dan Lyons invented this kind of thing on The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. Have you heard of it?