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Tilting at Windmills

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November 8, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

NERDFURY....Via Jim Henley, we learn that superstar chef Anthony Bourdain possesses a clear-headed and subtle grasp of how to bend the internet to your will:

The question at hand was how to find good restaurants, and his answer was to take the city you want to go to and just google up some restaurant names that serve the dish you're after. Then go to chowhound or another foodie site, and rather than asking about restaurants, you put up an enthusiastic post talking about how you just had the best whatever you're looking for at one of these restaurants.

At that point, what drivingblind likes to call the nerdfury will begin. Posters will show up from nowhere to shower you with disdain, tell you how that place used to be good but has now totally sold out and — most important to your quest — will tell you where you would have gone if you were not some sort of mouth breathing water buffalo.

Anybody who doesn't immediately recognize the truth of this is obviously spending too much time in the real world and not enough time online.

Kevin Drum 5:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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Comments

the nerdfury will begin.

Kinda like referring to someone as a fruitcake?

Posted by: thersites on November 8, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you're onto something here. This is an APPLICATION, man.

It's not just for restaurants.

Remember that kid (the NYT Magazine did a piece about him, but I'm too lazy to look it up) who was like 15 when the dot.com boom started? IIRC, his grandfather had left him a few grand when he died. The father was more or less normal, but the kid was a stock nerd, at 15, so he asked his dad to get him an online trading account. The dad signed him up.

And every morning before school for a year, the kid would sign onto his AOL account, and pick some penny stock. He'd buy a few grand worth, then go into the stock chatrooms and say: Hey, I like this stock. Then he'd sign on with his other two screen names, which were like Bob1, Bob2. and Bob3, so over maybe 20 minutes while he was eating his cheerios there would be a scattered series of posts saying that this penny stock had opened at 36 cents a share, and gee, hear it's looking good.

Then he'd go to school.

When he got back at 4:30 or so, he'd sign on, and sell his couple grand worth of stock -- which would often have DOUBLED in 8 hours.

The Times did a story about the kid, because the SEC cracked down on him for making I think it was SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND dollars in a year.

The father, astutely, asked what the fine would be. The SEC said, um, how about $250k?

Restaurant picks, making half a million in your sophomore year of high school: what else?

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 8, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

That would undoubtedly work well, although perhaps qualified by the fact that you are likely to obtain opinions tending towards the more irksome, loud, self-absorbed end of the foodie community.

The word "nerdfury" is nothing short of brilliant. I intend to use it frequently.

Posted by: MLH on November 8, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kev and tA have outed themselves as newbies if they think this dynamic is anything new or remarkable.

Posted by: Disputo on November 8, 2007 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

The nerdfury! Dammit, that's great. And I speak as one who's seen a bunch of these, and even been part of the furious nerdherd on occasion. An absolutely terrific term.

As theAmericanist points out, the applications of deliberately inciting nerdfuries go far beyond finding good restaurants.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on November 8, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

yeah, OK, that's how to stir up a nerdfury (funny AND true) ... but it doesn't really explain how to find a good restaurant.

Posted by: melissa on November 8, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Kev and tA have outed themselves as newbies if they think this dynamic is anything new or remarkable.

Yes, in fact Vannevar Bush anticipated the nerdfury in a 1945 Atlantic Monthly article.

Posted by: me2i81 on November 8, 2007 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist,

Is the sort of thing the boy did really illegal? In a film about the pianist Glenn Gould, there's a funny scene where he does exactly the same thing, by dropping a good word on a stock he wants to unload to a few market players with connections. After the rumour about a good buy runs for a day or so he would sell his stock and make a handsome profit. Since the movie was supposed to have been 'biographical' I assume something like this actually happened.

Posted by: nepeta on November 8, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

A pivot from Anthony Bourdain to Vannevar Bush. And then Glenn Gould. The 'nets is wonderful.

Posted by: ajp on November 8, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

On the darker side of this, it reminds me of the fake callers in the movie "Talk Radio".

On the lighter and fun side of this, it reminds me of the Les Paul guitar thread. But, I bet most of those folks would be offended by "Nerd Fury".

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 8, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Is the sort of thing the boy did really illegal?"

IIRC, that question was sorta the point of the article (I mean, this WAS the New York Times), with lots of gee, don't bigtime media players do this all the time, with commentators on stocks getting stock and then talking up how those stocks were gonna take off, blah blah blah. I think the reporter more or less concluded that the kid (and his father) could've beaten the rap, since the kid made no attempt to conceal that he was posting as himself each time, and after all, HE had bought the stock, so obviously he thought it was a good investment (for the next 8 hours) and what's wrong with promoting your own interests so openly? But evidently if it had become a lawsuit, the dough would have been tied up for awhile.

Personally, I couldn't get past a 15 year old kid making three quarters of a million dollars in twenty minutes twice a day on his computer. (And I sorta admired the Dad who said, lemme get this straight: we give you 250 grand, and we get to keep half a million clear? Where do I sign?)

I have sternly warned my son that if he ever pulls a stunt like this, it will be YEARS before I let him drive the Lexus, I don't care if he did pay for it out of his sock drawer. And I mean it, dammit. A father has to uphold standards.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 8, 2007 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Nerdfury = closely related cousin (or is that distantly related) of Paultardfury.

Posted by: Blue Steel on November 8, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

I saw this in the comments section of an article in the PI about steaks and where the best ones could be had in Seattle. The responses were all over the board with several posters claiming the best they'd ever had were at chain places like Outback and the Keg, and excoriating anyone that paid more than $15.00 for a steak dinner with "all the trimmings."

Posted by: JeffII on November 8, 2007 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

talking up a stock

Isn't this one reason why TV stock pundits now have to disclose whether or not they own a stock they are recommending?

Posted by: emmarose on November 8, 2007 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Ann Althouse says hello.

Posted by: Jimmy on November 8, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

It's also horrid and rude when one could just ask and get the same result without being mean to others.

Posted by: Crissa on November 8, 2007 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

I read that this was a standard trick for getting info on the usenet.

Posted by: matt on November 8, 2007 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the kid didn't tell everybody he was 15 years old ...

but in general, I think it takes more than this to commit stock fraud.

Posted by: David in NY on November 8, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Kevin, you're onto something here. This is an APPLICATION, man."

I had a boss who told me that a stronger instinct than fear or greed is the urge to criticize other people's work.

Posted by: Sock Puppet of the Great Satan on November 8, 2007 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

This is simply trolling adapted for information in addition to entertainment.

Posted by: Boronx on November 8, 2007 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin does this anytime he posts a "Maybe Democrats were right to capitulate" post or "Why would anyone like Ron Paul? He's a nutcase!"

Posted by: Boronx on November 8, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

"I had a boss who told me that a stronger instinct than fear or greed is the urge to criticize other people's work."

It's also something that many people are really good at.

Posted by: Boronx on November 8, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

This is related to something I've long observed. If you want to get an answer to a tricky technical question, often just posting it gets no response. But if you make a statement about what you think the answer to the question is, and state it confidently, those who know will promptly flame you, and in the process they will give you the correct answer to the question. So, if you're willing to look bad you can get the right answer.

I guess "nerdfury" is a good word for this phenomenon.

Posted by: Joe Buck on November 8, 2007 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

but in general, I think it takes more than this to commit stock fraud.

I'm pretty sure that pump-n-dump is indeed illegal.

Sure, there is nothing illegal about telling people how wonderful a stock is and that it will go up, and then selling it when it does go up. BUT, if you go around telling people to buy a stock with the intention of pumping up its price, and then dumping it, you've broken the law.

IIRC, Jerome of MYDD fame got in trouble for precisely this activity.

Posted by: Disputo on November 8, 2007 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

This is related to something I've long observed. If you want to get an answer to a tricky technical question, often just posting it gets no response. But if you make a statement about what you think the answer to the question is, and state it confidently, those who know will promptly flame you, and in the process they will give you the correct answer to the question. So, if you're willing to look bad you can get the right answer.

I guess "nerdfury" is a good word for this phenomenon.
Posted by: Joe Buck on November 8, 2007 at 8:33 PM
--------
Thanks for that tip. I bet this tactic can be successfully applied in person with health-related professionals, plumbers/electricians, and auto mechanics as well. Might save some money this way-get inside info on DIY stuff.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 8, 2007 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 8, 2007 at 5:39 PM

I remember that. Its called Pump n Dump. Fitting, I suppose, for Foodies as well =)

Posted by: Ya Know.... on November 8, 2007 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for that tip. I bet this tactic can be successfully applied in person with health-related professionals, plumbers/electricians, and auto mechanics as well.


I dunno about that, telling your mechanic the engine is shot, and he may agree with that, can be pretty expensive =)

Posted by: Ya Know.... on November 8, 2007 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

You could also a) just ask (nerds love to share their wisdom), or b) do a search on the local chowhound board to see if the subject has come up before (it has, probably within the last few weeks). But that would violate Bourdain's basic philosophy, which is that if you can get the same result either by being an asshole or not being an asshole, you must always choose the former.

Posted by: janet on November 9, 2007 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

". But that would violate Bourdain's basic philosophy..."

Clearly, you don't know Bourdain at ALL.

Posted by: Calton Bolick on November 9, 2007 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

LOL -- Joe Buck figures out the Americanist's method: shhh, don't tell Dice.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 9, 2007 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Cute premise, but while it will stir up the nerds, it won't necessarily get you any more reliable information than torture. The internet, as you must know by now, is populated by people whit time on their hands whose only purpose is to show how smart they are, and the most popular stance is to go against the conventional wisdom, right or wrong.

Your correspondents have no intention of finding you the best meal. They simply want to show off. I've seen this so often in the field I work in, that I no longer trust sources I don't know personally

Posted by: Slideguy on November 9, 2007 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Kinda hard to imagine Gino and his made men being called "nerdfuries" for their pump and dump schemes.

Similar tactic used at smaller horse race tracks years ago - Some wise guy would bet a ton very early on some nag - The lemmings would follow swiftly lowering the odds on that runner and increasing the odds on others - At the last minute, the wise guy would cancel his bet and switch to the one he really liked. This has caused most tracks to require either approval for any cancellation or outright denial to said use.

JeffII - El Gaucho and their cigars, old man.

Posted by: bert on November 9, 2007 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah -- but doesn't that work in your favor if you're pumping and dumping stock? (At least, it CAN, in an, ahem, bull market.)

And however much noise there is, it at least gives you a lot of data when you're trying to find the best steak or crabcake in a city you don't know. Some folks (quite possibly Bourdain) could pick out the meaningful information that the Crisfields on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring is the real deal, don't go to the one by the movie theatre cuz they just rented the name...

Politically, I find it works almost as a kind of focus group in threads that are generally populated by folks who pretty much assume everybody agrees with them: it's less what they argue specifically, as what they assume and what they exclude, viz., "this guy is a concern troll cuz he thinks x, so don't feed the troll."

'Course, besides making money, finding food, and sorting out thinking, for those who remain unblissed, the REAL test would be on a dating site....

(But I don't think you could call that a nerdherd, exactly: nominations?)

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 9, 2007 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

I am a fan of video games and I must say this is all you see on the medium-to-big internet gaming site. Literally the "nerdfury" is all these large edifices are constructed from. Plus, you could set your watch to the inevitable backlash that comes with all games even mildly praised.

It is tremendously exasperating yet I can't help but look away many a time. Hell I've been a major part of nerdfury in lives past. And that is where my tie in to this comes in.

The people who are complaining, who say those big games suck, etc., don't know what they are talking about. They are idiots and if you spend a lot of time on a forum you learn their tastes are not particularly stunning themselves.

So, that is why I wouldn't listen to the recommendations of the nerdfury (brilliant name). These are people who are often some sort of social outcasts, who feel the need to impose their superiority on anonymous people by calling those people tastes' crap. It doesn't mean they are smarter or more knowledgeable, it simply means they are louder and ruder.

Posted by: Joshua on November 9, 2007 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Kev and tA have outed themselves as newbies if they think this dynamic is anything new or remarkable.

Wow, you're my hero.

Posted by: Bingo on November 9, 2007 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

My personal favorite was when I posted, on a much trafficked, with hordes of self congratulatory aggressive members web site, that Toyota's management decision making was hands down superior to America's 'show-me-my-bonus' automobile decision makers'.
"They pay their employees in Yen" (a foreign currency!) was the acrid riposte dashed on the bow of my timorous opinion.

Posted by: cognitorex on November 9, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Kev and tA have outed themselves as newbies if they think this dynamic is anything new or remarkable.

Genius.

Posted by: Borovan on November 9, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Something to note:

Anthony Bourdain is not a superstar chef. He is, in fact, a superstar food writer who was only a mediocre chef. To this point he will readily admit (and has on many occasions). He hasn't run a kitchen for quite some time now.

Posted by: Kate on November 9, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK
Is the sort of thing the boy did really illegal?

It seems to be a classic "pump and dump" scam, a form of securities fraud that has been practiced (and prosecuted) when carried out in a number of different media (mail, telephone, sock-puppet paper publications, etc.) before the internet (and is still carried out outside of the internet as well as through it.)

Posted by: cmdicely on November 9, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Yanno, THIS is why Dice is such a schmuck: "It seems to be a classic "pump and dump" scam..."

Does it NEVER occur to you, Dice, that you might not know WTF you're talking about?


" Jonathan Lebed's Extracurricular Activities

By MICHAEL LEWIS
Published: February 25, 2001

On Sept. 20, 2000, the Securities and Exchange Commission settled its case against a 15-year-old high-school student named Jonathan Lebed. The S.E.C.'s news release explained that Jonathan -- the first minor ever to face proceedings for stock-market fraud -- had used the Internet to promote stocks from his bedroom in the northern New Jersey suburb of Cedar Grove. Armed only with accounts at A.O.L. and E*Trade, the kid had bought stock and then, ''using multiple fictitious names,'' posted hundreds of messages on Yahoo Finance message boards recommending that stock to others. He had done this 11 times between September 1999 and February 2000, the S.E.C. said, each time triggering chaos in the stock market. The average daily trading volume of the small companies he dealt in was about 60,000 shares; on the days he posted his messages, volume soared to more than a million shares. More to the point, he had made money. Between September 1999 and February 2000, his smallest one-day gain was $12,000. His biggest was $74,000. Now the kid had agreed to hand over his illicit gains, plus interest, which came to $285,000. [N.B. As noted above from memory, the kid's father leaped to take the SEC-proposed face-saving settlement, where the kid walked away with half a million.]

"When I first read the newspaper reports last fall, I didn't understand them. It wasn't just that I didn't understand what the kid had done wrong; I didn't understand what he had done. And if the initial articles about Jonathan Lebed raised questions -- what did it mean to use a fictitious name on the Internet, where every name is fictitious, and who were these people who traded stocks naïvely based on what they read on the Internet? -- they were trivial next to the questions raised a few days later when a reporter asked Jonathan Lebed's lawyer if the S.E.C. had taken all of the profits. They hadn't. There had been many more than the 11 trades described in the S.E.C's press release, the lawyer said. The kid's take from six months of trading had been nearly $800,000. Initially the S.E.C. had demanded he give it all up, but then backed off when the kid put up a fight. As a result, Jonathan Lebed was still sitting on half a million dollars.

At length, I phoned the Philadelphia office of the S.E.C., where I reached one of the investigators who had brought Jonathan Lebed to book. I was maybe the 50th journalist he'd spoken with that day, and apparently a lot of the others had had trouble grasping the finer points of securities law. At any rate, by the time I asked him to explain to me what, exactly, was wrong with broadcasting one's private opinion of a stock on the Internet, he was in no mood.

''Tell me about the kid.''

''He's a little jerk.''

''How so?''

''He is exactly what you or I hope our kids never turn out to be.''

''Have you met him?''

''No. I don't need to....."

[Remarkably like Dice... but I interrupt.]

"The S.E.C. seemed to have figured out quickly that they are racing into some strange mental cul-de-sac. They turned their attention to Jonathan or, more specifically, his brokerage statements.

S.E.C.: Where did you learn your technique for day trading?

Jonathan: Just on TV, Internet.

S.E.C.: What TV shows?

Jonathan: CNBC mostly -- basically CNBC is what I watch all the time

S.E.C.: Do you generally make money on your day trading?

Jonathan: I usually don't day trade; I just try to -- since I was home these days and I was very bored, I wanted something to do, so I was just trading constantly. I don't think I was making money. . . .

S.E.C.: Just looking at your April statement, it looks like the majority of your trading is day trading.

Jonathan: I was home a lot that time.

Mrs. Lebed: They were on spring vacation that week..."

[later in the article]

"S.E.C.: On the first page [referring to a hard copy of Jonathan's Web site, Stock-dogs.com] where it says, ''Our 6- to 12-month outlook, $8,'' what does that mean? The stock is selling less than 3 but you think it's going to go to 8.

Jonathan: That's our outlook for the price to go based on their earnings potential and a good value ratio. . . .

S.E.C.: Are you aware that there are laws that regulate company projections?

Jonathan: No..."

[One last quote, to nail down what a fucking idjit Dice is]

"the Bloomberg News Service commissioned a study to explore the phenomenon of what were now being called ''whisper numbers.'' The study showed the whisper numbers, the numbers put out by the amateur Web sites, were mistaken, on average, by 21 percent. The professional Wall Street forecasts were mistaken, on average, by 44 percent. The reason the amateurs now held the balance of power in the market was that they were, on average, more than twice as accurate as the pros -- this in spite of the fact that the entire financial system was rigged in favor of the pros. The big companies spoon-fed their scoops directly to the pros; the amateurs were flying by radar.

Even a 14-year-old boy could see how it all worked, why some guy working for free out of his basement in Jackson, Mo., was more reliable than the most highly paid analyst on Wall Street..."

Oh, what the hell, ONE more: Mike Lewis telling it like it is: "I thought it was -- to put it kindly -- misleading to tell reporters that Jonathan Lebed had used ''20 fictitious names'' when he had used four AOL e-mail addresses and posted exactly the same message under each of them so that no one who read them could possibly mistake him for more than one person. I further thought that without quite realizing what had happened to them, the people at the S.E.C. were now lighting out after the very people -- the average American with a bit of money to play with -- whom they were meant to protect. "

But, hey, Dice thinks this "seems" like a classic.... example, yet again, of this knucklehead talking out his ass.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 9, 2007 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

And an aside to the Sock Puppet of the Great Satan: still think Dice is gonna be a lawyer worth a damn without MAJOR intellectual surgery?

Strikes me as the kinda lawyer who will argue with his client - - and then charge 'em for the time spent making mistakes.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 9, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Let the ephemeral record show that once more, 'twas demonstrated that Dice spoke up without a clue, but oh, so solemnly about "a form of securities fraud" about which he literally knew nothing of either the facts of the case, or of the law, both of which were in evidence in the earliest posts (the half million the kid kept) and when challenged: Dice.faded.away.

As predicted, I expect when he gets his law degree he will spend a few months trying to charge clients for 'insights' like this, until somebody gives him the instruction he's been missing here.

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