Sunday, May 3, 2009

mercky waters

Publishing companies are struggling these days so it's no surprise to see the once super thick line between content and marketing getting a whole lot thinner. We've seen this phenomenon happening for some time in the mainstream press and the trades, but now it's hit the academic journals. And academics are pissed.

Merck cooked up a phony, but very real looking, peer reviewed journal with lots of glowing reviews and favorable data about Merck products. It's called the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine and it's published by Elsevier, whom Merck paid to print its dandelion tome.

Advertorials aren't new to us, but there are a few problems when it reaches the academic and scientific world.

For one, advertorials are totally unfamiliar game in the academic world. But, because the journal contained "excerpts from peer-reviewed papers" it wasn't touted as a purely marketing journal, which makes it even worse.

The average researcher or primary care physician wouldn't know that the journal is just one big dandelion. Why? Because the journal has a fake "honorary advisory board" with real (sketchy) people.

And lastly, being published by Elsevier makes the journal totally credible. Which of course is why Elsevier sold their soul. They could care less about integrity and were obviously in it just for the money. I'm sure selling your soul commands a hefty fee.

There will probably be a lot of jobs on the chopping block for this dandelion, and there very well should be. That's the price that Merck and Elsevier pay for treading in mercky waters.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

panic and the flu

I know this is no laughing matter, but finding humor during times of overblown fear and panic - i.e. swine flu pandemic - can be just what the doctor ordered.

Feeling some aches and pains and perhaps a bit feverish? Think it could be swine flu? Well, the only way to find out is gather all the facts and assess those symptoms for yourself. Check out the site for a funny little swine flu dandelion.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

the world's most influential person

It's official. The World's Most Influential Person is...

No, it's none of the above. It's moot, founder of 4chan.

A few days ago, followers of 4chan hacked into the TIME 100 poll and catapulted their 21 year old founder (a.k.a. Christopher Poole) to the top of the list through millions of dandelion votes. The poll closed today with moot way ahead of the pack with an average rating of 90 (out of a possible 100, I guess) and nearly 17 million votes. managing editor Josh Tyrangiel says, despite hacking the vote, moot is no less deserving than previous title holders, noting, "I would remind anyone who doubts the results that this is an Internet poll," he says. "Doubting the results is kind of the point."

Indeed. Especially when the result is one gigantic dandelion.

Friday, April 24, 2009

virgle - the open source planet

Have you noticed all the talk about space on the web lately? First there was the story of NASA's space station treadmill named after Stephen Colbert, then news that Milky Way could taste of raspberries, and then Wired's showcase of these stunning space photos taken from the Hubble in early celebration of the telescope's 20th anniversary.

Now that I'm a blogger contributing to the space chatter is part of protocol. So, I decided to deep search the internet and see whether I could find any fun sci-fi dandelions hiding away in the black holes of cyberspace.

And I finally found one. It's called Virgle.

A year ago, Google announced a joint venture between the Virgin Group and Google called "Virgle." The goal: to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars.

Starting 2014, Project Virgle will send spaceships carrying supplies and hundreds of Mars colonists, or Virgle pioneers, to the planet over the next 100 years. Project Virgle's ambitious plan also includes becoming the first open-source planet, relying on the diffused network of Virgle pioneers to create a civilization "whose development is driven by the unbound human imagination." If you are extremely gung-ho, you can apply to be a Virgle pioneer. I applied, but got shot down because I was "distressingly normal."


Thursday, April 23, 2009

moot is time inc's top dandelion

Seems like the infamous 4chan gang is at it again.

Time Inc. just caught a fun little dandelion called "moot" brought to them courtesy of 4chan. The uber-passionate followers of hacker's holyland have just hijacked Time's annual online poll of the top 100 most influential people in government, science, technology and the arts and flooded it with fake votes for "moot" (real name Christopher Poole), the 21 year old founder of 4chan.

According to FOLIO, hackers used “autovoters” to place more than 16 million votes for "moot" (that's seven times more than the next guy). They've also rearranged the top 21 names so that the first letter of their names—looking down the list—spelled out the phrase “Marblecake Also the Game.”

So, in keeping with Time's tradition, will "moot" be included in the magazine’s official list, which is schedule to publish on May 1? Voting closes on April 28 and considering moot's gigantic lead, he's bound to stay on top. Ooh, I can't wait to find out.

Monday, April 20, 2009

sound of silence

This past weekend, my whole family was closely watching a blog because of a scandalous post involving someone we know really well. Some of us barely slept, staring at our RSS feed to read the latest comment - usually nasty and admittedly, pretty darn juicy. Truth is, the blog post itself wasn't so horrible - it didn't reveal any names or facts, just an alleged scandal and a couple of initials. Nothing very risky. But people's comments? Well, they were something wicked.

It was like "Mean Girls" on steroids. Anonymous comments uncovered the real names behind initials (including a mother's maiden name), nasty rumors (sex, money, infamy), and other really dreadful dandelions I'd rather not say. As a voyeur I started to feel really guilty - perhaps I wasn't any better than the people posting comments. After all, the more they posted, the more I read.

But by Sunday the blog post was silent. The post and all comments had been taken down entirely. My guess is the blogger was threatened with a lawsuit. Which got me thinking...

What is the extent of our responsibility for dandelions that we post or get posted on our blogs? Bloggers might be ethically obliged to remove libelous comments, especially when anonymous, but I wonder whether leaving them would be considered illegal. I also wonder about all the dandelions that bloggers post unknowingly - at what point are those considered crimes?

Well, apparently when they're written with the intent to harm others. At least in South Korea.

Yesterday, a famous South Korean blogger Park Dae-Sung, better known as Minerva, was acquitted on charges that he posted false information about the South Korean economy which inadvertently sunk the foreign currency market costing the government billions of dollars. Minerva was acquitted because the judge found that he posted his statement unknowingly and therefore did not intend to harm the public. This, of course, after spending 100 days in jail.

So what of the anonymous mean commenters? In that case, perhaps the blogger is responsible because he's hosting the forum that allows the harm to take place. But rather than leave it to the law (and who knows what rights they'll take away), it should be our responsibility as readers to weed out the dandelions from the daisies. That to me sounds better than the sound of silence.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

madonna's fantasy paparazzi

I don't normally read celebrity news, unless it's about Madonna. I can't help it because she's just fabulous. So, of course I was totally disturbed to hear that she fell off a horse this morning while riding in Southampton because of some nasty paparazzi. According to Madonna, the paparazzi jumped out of the bushes and totally freaked the horse out resulting in Madonna falling and suffering some minor scrapes and burns.

But, apparently this is just a dandelion. An update to the story in the NY Times this evening notes that the fall is real, but according to a photographer/ paparazzi who was at the scene before and after the fall, Madonna was on her own. The only photographer who happened to be there was her host, fashion photographer Steven Klein. So, no paparazzi in sight?

I can't actually fault Madonna for blaming the paparazzi. She might as well have someone to blame and they're the perfect target. But, Madonna creating dandelions? I thought she was a lot more fabulous than that.