Flagrant Link Baiting

Okay, so every month or so I do this thing at the office that we call "Fun:Tech."  (Yes, I know it is a stupid name.  I told the staff we'd change it once someone came up with something better.  No one has.)  At Fun:Tech, someone (usually me) does a quick presentation on some aspect of technology, and then we embark on an activity involving that technology.  The idea is that there's no substitute for learning by doing.  If we just relied on PowerPoint presentations to teach us about new things, we'd absorb maybe 20 percent of it, but if we actually participate in the new things, it's likely we'll remember all of it. So I put together something on GPS technology for the first Fun:Tech, and we learned about location-based services and the like, and then we went geocaching in Central Park.  Then we did a Fun:Tech about advertising and marketing in video games, and we played Wii, XBox360 and PS3 in the office for a few hours.

Last Friday, we had Fun:Tech again and I worked up a presentation on Social News.  For about 30 minutes, I presented the nuts and bolts about how sites like Digg, reddit and StumbleUpon worked, how they evolved and how valuable Social News sites are to certain content businesses (like Cracked.com and College Humor, ferinstance).  Here's the activity I structured for the "learn by doing" part...

We divided up into three teams.  Each team got a Flip HD camera.  Starting at 4 PM Friday, they had the opportunity to shoot a YouTube video, edit it and upload it.  Then they could use Social News sites to drive traffic.  At the end of one week, we'd tally up the video views and see which team got the most views, and the winning team gets to keep the Flip cameras.

The contest is going on until 4 PM today.  Here's my team's video if you want to see it.

So last night, I start seeing all the last-minute link baiting as we came into the home stretch.  (Admittedly, I did a bit of it myself, posting the video to my Facebook profile and trying to get something going on Digg...)  I got an e-mail from Porres after hours last night:

subj: devolving into Lord of the Flies here... From: Eric Porres To: Tom Hespos

Re: interns and young folk opening up tabs and tabs of browsers and making silly comments on each other’s FB status to increase rankings!

Heh.  Those cameras sure are motivating people.  Maybe a little bit too much.  This morning, I looked into some of the tactics being employed:

  • A fake "Event" on Facebook designed to get people to show up in the closing hours of the contest in order to view one team's video.
  • Commenting on, and "liking" one another's Facebook statuses and video links to increase the chances it might show up in the main feed.
  • Commenting on another team's Facebook post with a link to their own team's video, in an attempt to keep the first team from snaring incremental traffic.
  • Reaching out to friends for Diggs and upvotes on reddit, etc.

In other words, the whole thing has devolved into a link-baiting contest.  If I were anal retentive, I'd probably get upset about it, since we're supposed to really be learning about Social News.  But I'm not anal, and honestly, I think the whole thing is funny.  I can't wait to see what people are going to be doing at 3 PM...

UPDATE - I just caught Eric and Chris Tuleya (our search director) sitting in the conference room trying to launch some sort of paid campaign on Google.  So we had to set a new ground rule: NO PAID MEDIA.

UPDATE UPDATE - The last-minute link-baiting was just atrocious.  People started reaching out to influencers on the socialnets and asking them to post links.  Somebody made veiled references to a botnet.  The lack of self-respect was appalling.  In the end, though, Team Hespos was victorious with a come-from behind win.

Bar Is Set Up

So we got our office bar yesterday.  Of course, it arrived on a truck and Porres, Donaldson and I had to get our own hand truck and pick it up at the curb.  But it's all set up now, so we can share drinks with clients and friends of the agency all Don Draper style, yo.

What's cool is that it folds up like Optimus Prime when we want it to look like an innocuous piece of furniture.  It's a Transformer.  I'm not kidding.