As you may remember, I’ve spent the last few months working on Skittish, a playful space for virtual events and gatherings of all kinds — requiring only a browser and microphone, using spatial 3D audio to talk to others around you. Skittish was built in a 3D engine with a powerful but simple editor, making it easy to customize the world.
It took some time, but I’m happy to say Skittish is now open to everyone, along with a new homepage and public demo showing how it works. Anyone and everyone can now create their own world, start editing, and invite others to join you. Go try it out!
Huge thanks to all the beta testers, event organizers, and creators who used Skittish over the last few months, but special thanks to the XOXO community for their continued support and enthusiasm.
And extra extra special thanks to Simon Hales, lead engineer for the project, for everything he’s done to make using Skittish (and working on it) so joyful.
Pardon the extremely-specific post, but I’ve found myself at the center of a bizarre case of mistaken identity and writing publicly about it seemed like the best option to stop it.
Someone with the email address ‘[email protected]’ is emailing small independent online product manufacturers with an identical scam: they’re a huge fan of their products, but cut themselves on the packaging while opening it, and want a refund and damages. Screenshots of two examples are below, minus the photo of a gross bloody finger.
These companies are then contacting me via Twitter, Instagram, and email because they think that I’m the one that sent it. What gave them that impression? Well, take a look for yourself at the Google results when searching for that email address.
Despite the keyword “virodome17” not appearing anywhere on those pages, Google not only returns my 2016 tweets about Gmail’s “mic drop” April Fool’s joke, but also my LinkedIn page.
Combine this with the fact that the scammer signs his name “Andy,” and you can see where anyone would get the wrong idea that I was the sender. Is the scammer even impersonating me? It’s hard to say — “Andy” is a common name, and they’re not using my last name or any other aspect of my identity. They also don’t have control over what pages the Google algorithm returns, so it’s plausible this is just a bizarre coincidence.
Regardless, Google is ultimately responsible in two ways:
The Google algorithm is irrelevantly returning my personal information for a completely unrelated search, leading to this identity mixup.
Despite multiple reports to Gmail of fraudulent activity over the last year, the [email protected] is still actively attempting to defraud others with a Gmail account. I received two separate companies contacting me about this issue in the last 24 hours alone.
My hope is that Google indexes this blog post and it starts showing prominently for anyone searching for the scammer’s “[email protected]” address. But if you work on Gmail or Google Search, it’d be amazing if you could do something about it.
If you’re a company that received this scam and found this page, please post a comment about your experience. I’d love to see more screenshots, and I’ll post an update here if anything changes.
As a fun linguistics side note, I was curious about how both emails end with “do the needful,” a turn-of-phrase I’ve never heard before. Digging into it, this expression is apparently popular in India but rarely used outside of it, meaning “do the right thing.” The Guardian calls it “the granddaddy of all Indianisms,” so I think I have a pretty good hunch where this scammer’s from.
Update: Another company reached out to me on Twitter with the same experience, and I’ve confirmed privately they were using the same template scam. Multiple Google employees also contacted me privately to say they’ve escalated this search ranking issue, so I hope this will be resolved soon.
In the comments, yet another company the scammer contacted noted that the Gmail account is now bouncing, indicating Google’s taken action against it.
And, as predicted, the #1 Google result for [email protected] searches is now this post.
I doubt this will put an end to the scam, but it’ll hopefully end my role in it.
Last month, we reached a big milestone for Skittish, the playful virtual space for online events I’ve been working on over the last few months: we hosted our first big public events, including the delightful !!Con, New Relic’s FutureStack conference, the Flatpack Festival, and Future of the Browser, among others.
This was a bit of a marathon, allowing us to see how Skittish worked in the real world in a variety of different events, from film screenings and unconferences to livestreamed talks and dance parties. Throughout it all, we continually tweaked and tuned it every day, making changes and fixing issues as they came up.
This is likely the last big update before we start sending out invites to the announcement list and opening the doors to the public. If you’re interested, you can sign up at Skittish.com, subscribe to the news blog, or follow @SkittishHQ on Twitter and Instagram to follow along.
This week, I saw a meme pop up on TikTok where literally tens of thousands of people re-enacted the Colin’s Bear Animation dance — but with no reference to the original and entirely different audio.
Instead of Mother 3’s “Funky Monkey Dance,” the soundtrack is a deep-fried muddy version of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” which seems like it was first uploaded to TikTok by @zunknownhamster, kicking off the meme with this video viewed 1.5 million times.
Stripped of its original “college animation class” context, the new meme format cracks a joke about the name of some movie, show, game, or other media property, followed by “idk i never watched it” or some variation.
stranger things fans when things get stranger death note fans when the death is noted jojos bizarre adventure fans when jojos adventure is bizarre when you stay at your friend Freddys house for about a week when people build forts in the night skyblock players when there’s a block in the sky
You get the idea.
But how did it end up on TikTok? I messaged @zunknownhamster to see where they first found it, but it’s clearly sourced from Kemdizzzle’s Garfield Dancing to Happy, uploaded to YouTube in June 2019.
That video replaced the audio from this February 2017 episode of Fatal Farm’s Lasagna Cat, a surreal webseries that ran from 2008 to 2017, and featured this pitch-perfect tribute to Colin’s Bear Animation.
Arriving 13 years after the original meme, it wouldn’t surprise me if most of the people doing the Colin’s Bear Animation dance on TikTok had never seen it before. Around 25% of TikTok’s user base wasn’t active online, or even alive, in 2008.
By definition, memes mutate and find new life and meaning over time. I’m just happy to see it keep evolving.