Alright, I'm as sick of these prank articles as you are.
But this has to be said, so hear me out and we'll have done.
Some people were genuinely offended and/or hurt by our actions. To these people I offer my most sincere apology - never was it my intent to laugh at anyone, embarrass anyone or have fun at anyone's expense (except Celestina, but she signed up for it).
If you were sincerely offended by this act, I do apologize. I'm sorry, and I hope that you know me well enough to know that I'd never do anything to intentionally cause harm to you. I'm a shady trickster from time to time but I always try to balance the entertainment with respect and I'm honestly surprised at the outcry here. I guess I've learned a bit about how things work in an online community.
So if I hurt your feelings, I owe you an apology and it's yours.
Secondly: this had some unforeseen consequences for Mike, Calvin and Newsvine's relationship with MSNBC. More on that in a moment, but while I'm apologizing I'd like to extend a sincere apology to the newsvine staff and to the MSNBC editors whose lives were made more complicated by the debacle we caused. I'm sorry.
I've learned a lot here, actually. One of the most interesting lessons, for me, is this: when you draw a line in the sand and put some people on one side and some people on another, suddenly you have a civil war. I can't believe the way good people have been acting on both sides. On the one hand we have a lynch mob calling for the banning and public humiliation of everyone involved. On the other side we've got pranksters and prank supporters thumbing their noses at the very thought that the prank could have upset anyone.
I'm guilty of that as well. I found myself in one group pitted against another group and my thinking and my behavior fell in line. That was actually mildly horrifying, and I've been trying to walk a middle line ever since I realized it. I don't hate anyone, didn't want to hurt anyone and I don't really care to fight over this any longer. That's why it was such a shock to me to find myself in the threads further antagonizing my detractors. I don't want to be that guy.
I think if we are gonna learn anything from any of this we should all take a step back and try to separate our legitimate feelings from the groupthink to which we are all susceptible. Don't roll your eyes or deny it - anyone out there writing articles about how this prank was inappropriate has created far larger waves than we could have hoped to, and they did it with far more malice than we did. So think about that, ok?
The Role of Silliness in Newsvine
A year ago a prank like this would have elicited snickers and a chorus of "Oh those droll housers, at it again." Now that we've been bought by MSNBC, though, everything seems to have a sharper edge to it. The offended parties looking to justify their outrage as they set out on a witchhunt have taken up a chorus instead of "How do you think this makes MSNBC look?!?!?"
(Then they proceeded to write two dozen articles on the subject, most of which made it to MSNBC...kinda like fighting terrorism by bombing villages, but hey, now I'm bordering on the political)
My point is this: when MSNBC bought Newsvine, we were told that the formula wouldn't change and that things would progress more or less as they had. Why would MSNBC want to damage their expensive new product?
Now, though, for the first time, this purchase has become an issue and it has made a very impact on the way we the users are free to use newsvine. Henceforth, we've learned, shit like this don't fly. We've thrown a wrench in the works and Mike and Calvin have both weighed in. That their response was more as disappointed parents than irate cops perhaps says something about the nature of this community, and I can't say I disagree with either of them.
Jim Ray, an MSNBC.com employee who also writes on newsvine, also chimed in and told us that in short our joke was not funny. I'm in a unique position of having to take him seriously and even feel a little bad, which a year ago I wouldn't have done.
The point is that for the first time ever we are in a position where we're being told "Look, this is more or less a professional site and you can't do that anymore," and I think that when all is said and done that's what's going to have the strongest lasting effect.
And maybe that's a good thing? Who's to say? We have all always wanted Newsvine to become more legitimate, to have more exposure, etc. Now that we've got it it turns out that there are some ramifications. No practical jokes where we say stupid shit then laugh about it, for one. That's a trade off and a legitimate one, upon reflection. But whatever else anyone has to say about it, it's a fundamental change in the way newsvine is operating and it's now come to light.
So I guess what my point is is this: if you want to spend hours riling yourself up over the implications of this prank, don't bother - it's spelled out for you. This is the implication - we've learned that we can't do this stuff anymore. Now, take all of that energy and think about the implications of that and I promise you you'll feel a lot more productive a week from now.
So, this is my plea: stop ranting about this joke. It was a joke. If you thought it was funny, thanks, we aim to please. If you were offended, you have our sincerest apologies as we never meant to hurt you. If you feel like you can't trust us anymore because we played a joke, eh, then de-friend us and go about your lives - that's fine.
But if you are seriously interested in the well-being of this community, as so many of you are claiming to be, then start thinking about the way newsvine is changing and start thinking about what you can do to help it grow up gracefully.
There is much to be said on this subject that's productive and insightful, let's see a bit more of that, eh?
Lastly, as a gesture of good will, I'd like to publish the names of the participants as well as a list of who wrote what. I am making a unilateral decision here and the drollhouse folks may get upset with me. That's alright, they'll get over it and I want to show everyone that we're sincere. I don't want any of this fester, I want it all out in the light because while I don't believe the prank itself hurt newsvine I do believe that the back-and-forth during the fallout has. I also believe that if this list comes out now then we can bleach all the rotten spots and everyone can get over it.
The Master List
(real author) --> (person they're impersonating)
Myk --> Cel
Walt --> Robin
Robin --> Walt
Noah --> Myk
Cel --> Winsome
Winsome --> Djehuty
Ansab --> Yuriy
Djehuty --> Noah
Dennis --> Viki
Viki --> Dennis
Yuriy --> Ansab
Brad --> Lauhal
Lauhal --> Brad
Now, can we go back to being friends?