About Fake Steve

Ahh, Fake Steve is unmasked.

Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 blog has the best wrapup that I’ve seen so far: “Fake Steve proves that big media companies have the talent in house — they just can’t get out of their own way to experiment with disruptive innovations.”

TechMeme has a bunch of reactions.

My own thoughts? Writing on the Internet while not disclosing who you really are is extremely risky behavior. If I found out one of my employees was doing that it’d really piss me off. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, for instance, posted lots of stuff anonymously and I believe he should be fired for doing so.

I will say that the guy who wrote the Fake Steve Jobs’ blog is a brilliant writer. He always made me laugh, even when attacking me personally. I just would never counsel my friends to do such a blog. It’s a very bad idea to do one in an industry that’s getting smaller and smaller every day and that relies on personal relationships so much.

By the way, congrats to the New York Times who wrote well about both of these “fakesters.” It’s real interesting that such stories are broken by journalists, not bloggers. Of course I sorta didn’t want to know who Fake Steve was. Now everytime I deal with someone from Forbes I’m gonna be thinking of Daniel. Sigh.

UPDATE: Rex Hammock reminded me that Daniel Lyons wrote the famous “Attack of the Blogs” article for Forbes.

42 thoughts on “About Fake Steve

  1. Robert, I think I am going to read FSJ just because he is simply hilarious and also that he’s become a habit.

    Yes, I do get bored of it sometimes, but I get bored of you too and other bloggers like Dave Winer – I simply stopped visiting Amit Agarwal’s blog (the guy from Agra, India) because of his cheap, linkbait blogging and discovering I was doing nothing but wasting my time and making money for him by visiting his blog – but eventually find myself coming back to read you raving about Facebook or promoting Cocomment innovatively.

    Yes, with FSJ, there was an intrique factor but seriously I wasn’t waiting for FSJ to be unmasked. He was making me giggle from the gut once in a while. Can you beat his top class labeling like Beastmaster, Squirrel Boy, Freetards etc?

    The fact that he was a “writer” and not a blogger was so apparent from the beginning. Bloggers waste too much time thinking about internet as a world of links and not people, and how to make money from this medium that they largely fail to worry about the most important thing – “blogging is writing (expressing) too” and how well you express determines your readership after a time.

  2. Robert, I think I am going to read FSJ just because he is simply hilarious and also that he’s become a habit.

    Yes, I do get bored of it sometimes, but I get bored of you too and other bloggers like Dave Winer – I simply stopped visiting Amit Agarwal’s blog (the guy from Agra, India) because of his cheap, linkbait blogging and discovering I was doing nothing but wasting my time and making money for him by visiting his blog – but eventually find myself coming back to read you raving about Facebook or promoting Cocomment innovatively.

    Yes, with FSJ, there was an intrique factor but seriously I wasn’t waiting for FSJ to be unmasked. He was making me giggle from the gut once in a while. Can you beat his top class labeling like Beastmaster, Squirrel Boy, Freetards etc?

    The fact that he was a “writer” and not a blogger was so apparent from the beginning. Bloggers waste too much time thinking about internet as a world of links and not people, and how to make money from this medium that they largely fail to worry about the most important thing – “blogging is writing (expressing) too” and how well you express determines your readership after a time.

  3. Do you remember when Da Ali G show first started in early 2003? Some of the guests didn’t know it was fake. They thought he was a real “journalist” from England. It was so funny – I recall sitting in my apartment on 50th between 8th and 9th in NYC, laughing uncontrolably.

    Then – eventually – people caught on. And Ali G was still funny, but not quite as much b/c the guests gamed it.

    Then – Sacha Baron Cohen did the same thing with Borat and real people (vs. celebrities and statesmen/women).

    And it was funny, till people got mad. But.. many still laughed b/c some of it was funny.

    I’m going to keep reading Fake Steve Jobs because the parody is wonderful. And I’m not going to focus much on the person behind it b/c it’s a character, a brand and just entertainment! We’ll see if it gets less funny…now that we all know.. but I hope not.

  4. Do you remember when Da Ali G show first started in early 2003? Some of the guests didn’t know it was fake. They thought he was a real “journalist” from England. It was so funny – I recall sitting in my apartment on 50th between 8th and 9th in NYC, laughing uncontrolably.

    Then – eventually – people caught on. And Ali G was still funny, but not quite as much b/c the guests gamed it.

    Then – Sacha Baron Cohen did the same thing with Borat and real people (vs. celebrities and statesmen/women).

    And it was funny, till people got mad. But.. many still laughed b/c some of it was funny.

    I’m going to keep reading Fake Steve Jobs because the parody is wonderful. And I’m not going to focus much on the person behind it b/c it’s a character, a brand and just entertainment! We’ll see if it gets less funny…now that we all know.. but I hope not.

  5. I don’t find it surprising that bloggers didn’t track down FSJ… they had no incentive to unmask him!

    Only mainstream media really cared who this guy was. I’d bet most bloggers would have preferred that he stayed anonymous.

  6. I don’t find it surprising that bloggers didn’t track down FSJ… they had no incentive to unmask him!

    Only mainstream media really cared who this guy was. I’d bet most bloggers would have preferred that he stayed anonymous.

  7. The only thing I know of pen names being used for is Writing Books. I’ve never heard of a CEO of a company using a Pen Name.

    See http://www.pdnpulse.com/2007/07/who-the-hell-is.html for reference.

    Anyway, I’m just trying to point out an inconsistency here. I enjoy reading Thomas’ or Andrew’s blog and enjoy his pictures even more.

    Just out of curiosity do you call him Thomas or Andrew? If I did meet him today I’m not sure what I’d say.

  8. The only thing I know of pen names being used for is Writing Books. I’ve never heard of a CEO of a company using a Pen Name.

    See http://www.pdnpulse.com/2007/07/who-the-hell-is.html for reference.

    Anyway, I’m just trying to point out an inconsistency here. I enjoy reading Thomas’ or Andrew’s blog and enjoy his pictures even more.

    Just out of curiosity do you call him Thomas or Andrew? If I did meet him today I’m not sure what I’d say.

  9. @12 You’re not sure? God, man! Do you ever read beyond first few sentences of blog posts in your Google Reader? Daniel himself said he told his bosses once Forbes began offering bounties for anyone who discovered the identity. So Forbes knew well before anyone else did. In fact they had planned to move the blog to Forbes.com in Sept. Those plans were being discussed well before this story came out. Jesus, man! Read more than the first sentence of a story!

  10. @12 You’re not sure? God, man! Do you ever read beyond first few sentences of blog posts in your Google Reader? Daniel himself said he told his bosses once Forbes began offering bounties for anyone who discovered the identity. So Forbes knew well before anyone else did. In fact they had planned to move the blog to Forbes.com in Sept. Those plans were being discussed well before this story came out. Jesus, man! Read more than the first sentence of a story!

  11. Omar: I don’t think so. Thomas Hawk is Andrew’s pen name. We all know who he is, where he works, and why he has a pen name. You can call him. Touch him. Watch him. He isn’t anonymous. Not even close.

    Now compare to, say, Mini Microsoft or FSJ before yesterday or to the CEO of Whole Foods. Far different story.

  12. Omar: I don’t think so. Thomas Hawk is Andrew’s pen name. We all know who he is, where he works, and why he has a pen name. You can call him. Touch him. Watch him. He isn’t anonymous. Not even close.

    Now compare to, say, Mini Microsoft or FSJ before yesterday or to the CEO of Whole Foods. Far different story.

  13. Forbes dot com was ready for Fake Steve’s transition to their publication.

    Brad Stone is playing the role of publicist not researcher.

  14. Forbes dot com was ready for Fake Steve’s transition to their publication.

    Brad Stone is playing the role of publicist not researcher.

  15. An article tells that when Forbes actually published their own article asking for tips, etc. on who FSJ was, Lyons felt bad so he immediately confessed to his boss and others. He said they took it well and were cool with it.

  16. An article tells that when Forbes actually published their own article asking for tips, etc. on who FSJ was, Lyons felt bad so he immediately confessed to his boss and others. He said they took it well and were cool with it.

  17. “Thomas Hawk is not anonymous. I know his real name. So does anyone who really wants to know who he is.”

    You are really arguing shades of gray here.

  18. “Thomas Hawk is not anonymous. I know his real name. So does anyone who really wants to know who he is.”

    You are really arguing shades of gray here.

  19. Joe: I’m not sure but the fact that the blog was immediately moved into the Forbes Web site tells me that his bosses didn’t know and once they found out told him “we own that.”

  20. Joe: I’m not sure but the fact that the blog was immediately moved into the Forbes Web site tells me that his bosses didn’t know and once they found out told him “we own that.”

  21. Anonymity cuts both ways. It has been used to hide the sources of disinformation and personal attacks too. In the end, the value of anonymous writing is the value of the writing itself, which is the point that was being made. I don’t see anonymity as a virtue or a vice, just a tool that appears to have been used constructively in this case.

    I haven’t read the article yet, were his bosses unaware of his activity?

  22. Anonymity cuts both ways. It has been used to hide the sources of disinformation and personal attacks too. In the end, the value of anonymous writing is the value of the writing itself, which is the point that was being made. I don’t see anonymity as a virtue or a vice, just a tool that appears to have been used constructively in this case.

    I haven’t read the article yet, were his bosses unaware of his activity?

  23. Thomas Hawk is not anonymous. I know his real name. So does anyone who really wants to know who he is. Just call him up and ask him. He also shows up at many events and is even on my videos. That’s a long way from someone like Mini or FSJ. Well, actually, now that FSJ is out of the closet he’s clean like Thomas is.

  24. Thomas Hawk is not anonymous. I know his real name. So does anyone who really wants to know who he is. Just call him up and ask him. He also shows up at many events and is even on my videos. That’s a long way from someone like Mini or FSJ. Well, actually, now that FSJ is out of the closet he’s clean like Thomas is.

  25. “My own thoughts? Writing on the Internet while not disclosing who you really are is extremely risky behavior.”

    What about your buddy Thomas Hawk? You find the fact that he is an anonymous CEO and Blogger is perfectly fine?

    I think being an Anonymous blogger is probably fine, but being a claimed CEO of a company, anonymously, is pretty shady IMHO…

  26. “My own thoughts? Writing on the Internet while not disclosing who you really are is extremely risky behavior.”

    What about your buddy Thomas Hawk? You find the fact that he is an anonymous CEO and Blogger is perfectly fine?

    I think being an Anonymous blogger is probably fine, but being a claimed CEO of a company, anonymously, is pretty shady IMHO…

  27. Shame to those who whine about anonymous writing. With anonymous writing you just have to stick to the message, and this is good.

    Sorry about my poor english. Tom wrote better what I think about this issue.

  28. Shame to those who whine about anonymous writing. With anonymous writing you just have to stick to the message, and this is good.

    Sorry about my poor english. Tom wrote better what I think about this issue.

  29. Even if it works out in FSJ’s case, it still is extremely risky behavior. Keep in mind what I mean by “risky.” Gambling is “risky.” You might win a ton of money. On the other hand you might lose it all, too.

  30. Even if it works out in FSJ’s case, it still is extremely risky behavior. Keep in mind what I mean by “risky.” Gambling is “risky.” You might win a ton of money. On the other hand you might lose it all, too.

  31. I think if it’s serious posting like the Whole Foods guy, I agree with you. In the case of FSJ, I don’t. But, he did run the risk of being in trouble with his bosses, doesn’t sound like he is though. But, it was brilliant writing and he just got Forbes a bunch of publicity and since they’re going to host it, they’ll get more if he can still pull it off after being outed.

  32. I think if it’s serious posting like the Whole Foods guy, I agree with you. In the case of FSJ, I don’t. But, he did run the risk of being in trouble with his bosses, doesn’t sound like he is though. But, it was brilliant writing and he just got Forbes a bunch of publicity and since they’re going to host it, they’ll get more if he can still pull it off after being outed.

  33. I disagree. Anonymity kept us talking about the writing and avoided the ad hominem attacks so common nowadays, but it provided nothing to the writing itself. That can go on.

    In the blog posts I’ve seen in the few hours since the story broke there’s primarily cynicism. Heck, Groklaw says he’s a Microsoft shill! How sad, and I don’t think it reflects well upon bloggers at all.

    Maybe this cynicism is why it took an “old school” journalist to create something like FSJ in the first place.

    As for looking over your shoulder, there is no indication that Daniel did that. The fact is he didn’t even try hard to keep it a secret. It remained so because few people tried to identify him, and Valleywag is little more than the Keystone Cops. But when an “old school” publication decided to bust the guy, it took about a week.

  34. I disagree. Anonymity kept us talking about the writing and avoided the ad hominem attacks so common nowadays, but it provided nothing to the writing itself. That can go on.

    In the blog posts I’ve seen in the few hours since the story broke there’s primarily cynicism. Heck, Groklaw says he’s a Microsoft shill! How sad, and I don’t think it reflects well upon bloggers at all.

    Maybe this cynicism is why it took an “old school” journalist to create something like FSJ in the first place.

    As for looking over your shoulder, there is no indication that Daniel did that. The fact is he didn’t even try hard to keep it a secret. It remained so because few people tried to identify him, and Valleywag is little more than the Keystone Cops. But when an “old school” publication decided to bust the guy, it took about a week.

  35. Tom: I’ll change it to “is.” I don’t think he’ll be able to continue his blog anymore. Why? It’s not as fun when you know who is blasting people. That was the whole fun behind it.

    Anyway, I don’t think it added all that much value. Now at least with Mini-Microsoft I can see a certain conversation has started up that wouldn’t have started up without being anonymous.

    I just would rather live my life without looking over my shoulder wondering when the mob is going to figure out my real identity.

  36. Tom: I’ll change it to “is.” I don’t think he’ll be able to continue his blog anymore. Why? It’s not as fun when you know who is blasting people. That was the whole fun behind it.

    Anyway, I don’t think it added all that much value. Now at least with Mini-Microsoft I can see a certain conversation has started up that wouldn’t have started up without being anonymous.

    I just would rather live my life without looking over my shoulder wondering when the mob is going to figure out my real identity.

  37. Why do you say “was?” He’s STILL a brilliant writer, and I’ll read FSJ no matter where it’s hosted.

    I’ve already seen a number of posts dissecting Daniel’s writings. He blasted Newsweek but said little about Forbes. Well, Duh! Didn’t everyone know there was a human being behind that writing, and that we’d eventually find out who it is and (surprise!) FSJ would have the same opinions? Daniel didn’t even try hard to hide himself.

    As for publishing anonymously, FSJ could never have happened without it, and that’s proof enough (if any were needed) that it can be a very useful technique. (Hey, it worked for The Federalist Papers.) Forget the anonymity for a moment, FSJ doesn’t take off unless the writing kicks ass. How many people know or care about all the other “fake” sites?

    In this day and age we’re all too quick to kill the messenger and ignore the message. In FSJ’s case it was only the MESSAGE we discussed. That was a very good thing. Now that he’s been unmasked some “messenger killing” has already begun by those with, in my opinion, very small minds. We’ll see a lot more of it in the days to come (there are a lot of small minds out there).

  38. Why do you say “was?” He’s STILL a brilliant writer, and I’ll read FSJ no matter where it’s hosted.

    I’ve already seen a number of posts dissecting Daniel’s writings. He blasted Newsweek but said little about Forbes. Well, Duh! Didn’t everyone know there was a human being behind that writing, and that we’d eventually find out who it is and (surprise!) FSJ would have the same opinions? Daniel didn’t even try hard to hide himself.

    As for publishing anonymously, FSJ could never have happened without it, and that’s proof enough (if any were needed) that it can be a very useful technique. (Hey, it worked for The Federalist Papers.) Forget the anonymity for a moment, FSJ doesn’t take off unless the writing kicks ass. How many people know or care about all the other “fake” sites?

    In this day and age we’re all too quick to kill the messenger and ignore the message. In FSJ’s case it was only the MESSAGE we discussed. That was a very good thing. Now that he’s been unmasked some “messenger killing” has already begun by those with, in my opinion, very small minds. We’ll see a lot more of it in the days to come (there are a lot of small minds out there).

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