Sunday, November 21, 2010

Extra, Extra (Read All About It)

I was doing some work the other day and had to go looking through some old files on my computer to find something or other. I didn't find the thing I was looking for but I did find this video...

It was done as a DVD extra for the Googlewhack DVD. A commentary seems to be obligatory as a DVD extra but it didn't make any sense on that show because it's a show where I tell a story so what would the commentary be? "This is the bit where I was at the airport..." "Well yes... that's what you just said in the show."

But I love the band Helen Love and I loved the idea of introducing them to other people. I didn't think they'd do it... but amazingly they did. And I think they did an amazing job. The animation was done by Rob Manuel who people might know from the excellent B3ta.

Anyway... having found it and as I've arrived late to the youtube party, I've put it onlone... so here it is.

By the way... with the new DVD, I have done a commentary. It's a stand-up show after all so there's are times when there's something to say about the material. But I didn't want to do a straightforward commentary where it's just me taking myself a bit too seriously and I didn't want to over-analyse things with a Director's Commentary or whatever... so this is who recorded the commentary with me:

Yep, this DVD has a Mother's Commentary.

Thanks Mum.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


This didn't really need making... the original clip is simply preposterous anyway.

But I've done it now... so here it is. Stuart Baggs being slightly too obsessed with his drive:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beware Of Twitter Scams

I've written before about the use of Twitter for charity purposes and why I think it has to be used really carefully. If people retweet every request they get they become worthless to all involved. They have to be done very selectively to be effective/useful in my opinion.

Yesterday I started to get a lot of requests from people asking me to promote a Twitter account called @FollowersInNeed on the grounds that they were promising to donate 50p per tweet to Children in Need for every follower they could get.

Which sounds like a brilliant thing to retweet doesn't it? Because people don't need to do anything except follow them and money goes to a good cause! In fact, that's so good it's... oh... hang on... that makes no sense.

Who would promise to do that? They'd need to have unlimited funds to make a promise like that. What if they got 2million followers? It could happen if one of the goliath's of twitter got behind them and encouraged their followers to get on board. Have they got a million pounds to donate? If they have, why are they only donating £7,000 for getting 14,000 followers? How does the number of followers they have relate to how much largesse they're prepared to show a particular charity?

It would make a small amount of sense if it was a big company doing it. Companies make large donations to charity because it breeds goodwill for their brand. (And because they're nice) . If they could make a big donation, get all that public goodwill and come out of it with a load of nicely buttered up followers they could send links and stuff to that might be seen as worthwhile.

But even then I don't think they could afford 50p a follower. And it would be easy to verify. They'd have their name and branding on their twitter page. There'd be some legalese around explaining what their limits were so that an unexpectedly large follower count didn't spin them into financial ruin and most obviously of all - there would be links on their own corporate website linking to it. One-way links are always a dead giveaway.

Of course @FollowersInNeed didn't have even the whiff of authenticity about them. Their page looked as though it had been written by children trying to sound like adults. There was no explanation as to who they were and how (or why) they were donating the money. There were vague phrases about how money was being "raised in local villages" and so on but that only added to the confusion. (Aren't all villages local to somewhere?)

I mean, if you're organising fundraising activities in your local village(s) you don't need to then filter the funds through to a charity with some correlation to the number of followers you have on your anonymous twitter account. If you raise £500 you donate £500. If you raise £5000 you donate £5000.

What if you promise to donate 50p per follower and get more followers than you can afford to donate for. What if you get less followers. Is the rest profit? It's obviously nonsensical.

So I used twitter to ask other people if they also thought it looked dodgy. Lots of people did. Some people had already seen it and thought the same. (@ACloakedFigure & @CharonQC, I think, amongst them. Others too)

At the same time I also got a small amount of grief from a few people telling me off for it on the grounds that it-might-be-real and they're-not-asking-for-any-money-so-what-harm-can-it-do? and so on.

And here's the thing: I think it's harmful. I think a fake account like that is doing harm simply by existing and, worse still, has the potential to be used for even more harmful purposes.

Here are a few ways in which it can be harmful.
1: Charity-fatigue is a recognised phenomenon. People become hardened to charity requests the more they feel they're on the end of them. Having some fake charity feeds buzzing around just adds to the morass.

2: People are making choices. As I said before I don't think you can (or should) retweet links to every charitable account going. If someone decides to retweet that one instead of a genuine good cause, the good cause loses out.

3: Say they run the account for a while and get 50,000 followers. Most of those people won't remember that they followed them. It doesn't feel important. So they can then change the account name to something else entirely and start using the account for more obviously unwholesome things. Like spam. Or malware.

More likely - in this instance - was that they were just kids. A few people were telling me it couldn't be a scam because they had nothing to gain. But don't kids knock on doors and then run away? Don't kids get the phone book and make random phone calls. Don't kids just get off on the fact that Amanda Holden from off the telly - OMG! - fell for their trick and retweeted them - them! - to over 200,000 people!

That's still a scam. It's just a vanity scam.

Importantly, I think questioning these sort of things is right whether they turned out to be legit or not. If they are legitimate they should be offering authentication already. If questioning them makes them do so, they'll raise loads more for their charity. And if they're not legit they'll get found out and that's good too. Win/win.

I certainly wasn't the only one questioning them - nor likely the first. And as you might expect with twitter it snowballed a little bit. Because the way they responded only made even more people get suspicious which led to more people questioning them and more people retweeting those questions and so on. The more visible they were the more people were scrutinising them and they didn't really stand up to any scrutiny. There can't have been many people left looking at their childlike, defensive answers who didn't think they were a fake account.

If you had been in any doubt their next move rather sealed it. They posted a message saying they were about to change the account name and use it for something else and asked their followers not to abandon them, "especially Amanda Holden, The Wanted, JLS and saturdays fans!! ..And cheryl fans!" (Yep, pretty sure they were just kids.)

They then changed the name of the account to @LovingTeamHolden (or something like that - they were definitely thrilled to have had her tweet them). But that didn't last because loads of people tracked the name change and continued to ask questions. So they became @closingaccount_ and then finally @LovingTeamSats - a fan account for The Saturdays. As I type the account has been deleted completely.

Luckily they were unable to go back and use the name @FollowersInNeed again because the very smart @JackOfKent who was following the whole fiasco nipped in and registered a new account in that name. So the existing account in the name @FollowersInNeed is benign... it basically exists just to prevent anyone else from using it again. (Oddly that hasn't stopped new people following it).

Today a new account sprang up using the name @FollowInNeed and making the same silly, unverified claims. It might have been the same people or it might have been someone else. Who knows. Either way, they closed the account within 3 minutes of me asking them a question.

There might be others. Some of them might be for real for all I know. But if they don't have a link on their page to some other site that explains where the money is going to come from and how and why it is related to the number of followers they have then I'd suggest the chances are they're not likely to be legit. You certainly shouldn't be too embarrassed to check because you're worried you'll look mean questioning a good cause.

With that said... there is an official Children In Need account: @pudseybear but of course nobody's going to magically donate money to the charity just because you follow them. You can donate yourself, if you feel so inclined, by going to

UPDATE: I'm adding this to the original post. A lot of people are now asking me to verify accounts for them. I really don't want to be a twitter cop. I guess I'm encouraging you to use common sense. That applies whichever side of the fence you're on. If you're setting up a twitter page like this that's genuine - but offers no explanation as to how the number of followers relates to money raised then you can't blame people for being suspicious. If you're being asked to pass something on and can't verify it for yourself then just don't pass it on.

For what it's worth, I believe that @FollowMeRecord is well intentioned but just awfully unthought through. If anything it's probably their naivety that inspired the young scammers. Their newly created blog suggests they have some local businesses offering them some money but up to a limit of £7300. So they need to get 14600 followers. 7 grand is not to be sniffed at, mind. But I'd be very surprised if they really do raise anywhere close to it. My guess - and it is just that - is that they mean well but haven't actually got assurances from any of the businesses. Certainly one of the businesses mentioned on their page is denying ever having heard from them.

But this is just opinion. I have no way of verifying them either way.

UPDATE UPDATE: On the night of Children In Need there was another one of these accounts - their username was the CIN phone number. Again lots of people were retweeting it and they got quite a few followers. Again when people started asking questions and @ACloakedFigure mentioned that, if they were fake it was basically fraud, they panicked and caved in. It turned out to be a young girl. Possibly the same girl who'd run the others. Who knows.

Oh... and while I'm here, there's a story in the Express suggesting that @coastaltrek is also less than real. I've no idea. But as with all these surely the main point should be that people should apply their own judgement. Don't take anything at face value. I don't believe anyone's going to donate to a charity on your behalf simply because you followed them on Twitter. If you can't verify it, just don't pass it on.

December 10: FollowMeRecord have recently changed their name to @TweetRumours. When they were called FollowMeRecord they exchanged private messages with me and one of them - Harry - gave me his mobile phone number. He said something like "if you think we're fraudulent you can publish it if you like" and he said something similar in his blog post here. FollowMeRecord were based in Leeds whereas TweetRumours is claiming to be in Southampton.

I called Harry. I said, "Hello..." and he put the phone down.

It all sort of suggests that they were lying in the first place or that maybe it went a bit pear shaped. But TweetRumours definitely doesn't feel like the work of 3 adults. I don't think I'll publish his number. I might well pass it to the police though.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Maths Routine

I received an e-mail today that said, "I know from your website that you have a new DVD out but I've looked on amazon and it's not there. Can you let me know when it will be in stock?"

Oops. It seems my it's-only-available-through-my-website message isn't getting through. (I shouldn't be surprised. I still get at least one e-mail a week asking me if Are You Dave Gorman? will ever be released and that's been out for years.)

I think people read the words and think I'm probably trying to shill them or something. Maybe they think that buying it through my site would be my preferred method... but it's not that, it really isn't. The DVD won't be in shops. It won't be on amazon either. I was offered a deal by one of the big distributors but I decided to see if this was viable instead. After all, I'm not seeking world domination - I just want the people who want it to be able to find it. So it's distributed by and you can get it on their site - which is exactly the same as getting it from

The thing is... I don't mind e-mails like that. It's easy to reply explaining where it can be got. But it obviously makes me wonder how many other people have made the same search elsewhere and given up without sending an e-mail. Which inevitably leads to a post like this. I reckon if significant numbers of people are only getting half the message it must mean the message isn't clear enough.

But then, to everyone who has already got the message perfectly well, a post like this looks like shouting. No doubt I'll now get e-mails from people saying, "we know... give it a rest." To those people, my apologies.

Am I sounding paranoid yet?

Hey... here's a preview clip. The third and final one, I think. It does have some swearing in it, mind, so careful who you watch it with:

I'm not trying to persuade everyone in the whole world to buy it - I don't want to get Peter Kay's Mum a greenhouse. But it would be nice if enough people bought it to make it viable to do more in the future.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Easing You Into A Pile Up.

I like the "which in some cases come 40 minutes later" bit.

Which is odd. Because you structure a show, then try to craft it so it looks less structured than it is... and then feel flattered when someone notices the structure.

But there you go.

I hope the "only disconcerting thing" isn't too disconcerting for people. I know some people won't know it exists. Not you. You're reading this. You know it exists. But others.

But then, I've no desire for world domination. I'd just like the people who want it to be able to find it. It's here.

(And everything else I've done - that's available - is here.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Commercial Break

I knew the DVD was out... but I didn't know that the production company had put a couple of short preview clips online... so here they are:


I have to mention that the DVD isn't in shops because every day I get at least one e-mail from someone asking why they can't find it. I don't think they believe me when I say that it's exclusively available online... at

A Telescope? And a horse?

I genuinely love The Cube.

But sometimes the games are just a bit too complicated. And the prizes are just a bit weird.

I'm an amateur when it comes to making these things... but I think this works.