Will the real fake quote please stand up?

Posted on August 13, 2010


Just to be clear, the Booz & Co. white paper on social apponomics is real. I didn’t make that up. I’d love to link to the official PDF version, but Booz & Co., being incredibly web savvy and all, have screwed it up and half the text doesn’t show. This shouldn’t be held against them, though, since their expertise is in social networks where missing letters are a sign of coolness (f U knO wot I mean). [Edit – they have since changed to a new URL and their article on social apponomics can be found here).

In setting up the poll I indulged in a couple of little experiments. The first was to have the choices appear in a constantly-changing random fashion. This is because most people think that right answers fall in the middle of multiple choice questions. In their article, “Guess Where: The Position of Correct Answers in Multiple-Choice Test Items as a Psychometric Variable,” authors Yigal Attali and Maya Bar-Hillel give a ratio of roughly 3 to 1 for this “middle bias.”

I then set about creating a fake quote that would be as meaningless as possible. I employed the Web 2.0 Bullshit Generator, which, at the click of a button, creates three- or four-word phrases cobbled from common Web 2.0 jargon. From these I took a couple I liked and put them together, making sure that they made no sense whatsoever.

For the real quotes I chose one that came close to being a reasonable and understandable sentence, and another that was utter bafflegab.

So then, how did they do?

Here are the three quotes, along with their results from the votes:

“The main value drivers for e-commerce are shifting from the direct monetisation of online traffic to customer life-cycle management.”

That was the real quote I chose as being almost complete bafflgab. One person thought it was fake.

“Community-based marketing is driven by keen insight, drawn not just from surveys and studies of customers, but from analysis of how they engage with products and services online.”

That was the real quote I chose as coming closest to a meaningful and understandable sentence. Seven people chose this as being the fake.

“Web 2.0 transitioning allows for long-tail ad delivery through undefined tag clouds.”

And that, of course, was the one I made up. Only one person caught on (or guessed correctly).

So out of nine votes (I told you — this is an extremely popular blog), only one picked out the fake quote.

So, to Ziva, who called my fake quote “almost poetic” I say, “Thank you.” I actually worked at it — although not with poetry in mind.

And to MikeWJ, who was convinced nobody in marketing would use the word “keen,” all I can say is that you have an excellent ear for vocabulary, but Web 2.0 marketers don’t. They really, really don’t.

And to Jon in France, who considered “transitioning” to be an illegitimate term, I am in full agreement. Marketers, unfortunately, aren’t.

And Leeuna, tag clouds are very real, and extremely pointless, and if you’re still getting e-mails from social marketers you should take a moment and read a few: they can be funnier than stand-up comics.

Last, but definitely not least, I want to thank The Skeptical Theurgist who dropped me a line to correct me on my mention of “Ivory Merchant,” which should be “Merchant Ivory.” I can’t believe I made that mistake when I had the words right in front of me. But I did.

And to everyone: Thanks for playing.

And here’s Frank William Abagnale Jr. on To Tell the Truth. He’s the professional imposter who inspired the movie Catch Me if You Can, in which he was played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

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