I had an interesting phone conversation a few weeks ago. I responded to some spam email offering to optimize my web site so that it would rank higher on web site searches. There are legitimate ways to do this and illegitimate ways. A firm seeking business via spam probably favored the illegitimate. I called up and asked for details. The nice saleslady described their techniques--and they sounded pretty shady. She didn't tell me that their techniques were shady and that, if detected, were likely to backfire. I didn't tell her where I work.
This may sound all detective-y and investigative-ish, but at the time, it was just fun and silly. The idea of optimizing my website is pretty absurd. I write puzzle hunt reports, probably just a few people read each of them--and yet I claim that I already reach a major part of that... uhm... demographic. What's the big draw on this site? It's the Japanese ska band reviews, of course. English-language reviews of Japanese ska bands. It's a niche. You wouldn't spend hundreds of dollars to make your site the highest-ranking site for English-language Japanese ska band reviews, because that would mean that you'd get... five more visitors per week. Somehow, this made the conversation funny.
Her: Say for instance--now, assuming, OK, actually, tell me what you do. Let's start there.
Me: Oh, uhm, well, I've got a page, well I've got a few pages uhm about Japanese ska bands
Her: OK. OK, so say one of your major keywords is "Japanese ska bands". When somebody types that in to Yahoo or Google, you would want your hits to be close up there to the top.
Me: right. Right now there's someone from the University of Ohio who's up higher than I am.
Her: Right, so since he's one of your competitors, eventually you'd like to be before him.
It felt like a joke, a hoax--up until the point when I typed up her list of techniques and addresses of satisfied customers and sent it to Google, Yahoo, and MSN Live. It wasn't exactly a prank, but I'm still glad it happened.
Re/Search Pranks 2 isn't all about pranks, but you'll still be glad you read it. If I said flat-out how great the book Re/Search Pranks 2 is, you'd think I was just spouting hyperbole. Instead, I'll just say that if you liked Re/Search Pranks, you'll like Re/Search Pranks 2 as much.
This is another connection of interviews with various underground arts types on the subject of pranks. Some of the interviews fall flat; some are transcendantly wonderful. From the Al Jourgensen (Ministry) interview, I learned of no clever pranks--I only learned that I never, ever want to work with Al Jourgensen, to do business with Al Jourgensen, or to have Al Jourgensen think (rightly or wrongly) that I may have cheated him out of money. It was not interesting to read about him crapping on a desk; the effectiveness thereof as a bargaining technique etc. etc.
Once you get past the first few interviews, things get more interesting.
There's an interview with the Yes Men. There are interviews with members of the Suicide Club, a San Francisco precursor of the Cacophony Society. And there are interviews with the Cacophony Society as well. The Billboard Liberation Front, Ron English, Joey Skaggs...
My favorite interview was with Julia Solis about her activities with Dark Passage. This group mixes together urban exploration, Alternate Reality Gaming, and art. She talks about running a game which ended up with a big party in a chamber hidden under the streets of New York. She talks about stranger things.
Oh and Lydia Lunch and Monte Cazazza... Oh, just go read it already.
Labels: book, brutal truth, entertainment industry