Interesting piece on the strange alternate reality of online reputation-management services.
But something was wrong with these sites, which in every case looked flimsy and temporary, especially when you got beyond the first page. Venture Cap Monthly listed a number of prominent writers as authors, including the Financial Times columnist Christopher Caldwell, Fast Company journalist Danielle Sacks, and Slate critic-at-large Stephen Metcalf. Caldwell and Sacks write about business, so I could imaginebarelythat by contributing to an obscure site, they might be slumming for a paycheck. But I couldn’t make any sense of the presence of Metcalf, who had written a scintillating essay about the films of Tom Cruise, I remembered, but nothing that would interest a venture capitalist
We’d compile and send to Bill [O’Reilly] the “Newsfax,” a ten-page document with excerpts from what we thought were the day’s most important stories, op-eds, sound bites, and so on. We called it the Newsfax because it was easier to tell Bill we were faxing it to him than it was to explain that we were remotely printing it to his home printer,
Crazy as these theories are, those propagating them are not — they’re quite normal, in fact. But recent scientific research tells us this much: if you think one of the theories above is plausible, you probably feel the same way about the others, even though they contradict one another. And it’s very likely that this isn’t the only news story that makes you feel as if shadowy forces are behind major world events.
I’m always glad to see a null finding reported, so I liked this paper (PDF) by Robert Fairlie and Jonathan Robinson about what happened when they gave computers to randomly selected California schoolkids whose families had no computer at home. The short answer is nothing.