Please Don’t Bait the Geeks

September 13, 2017

Gizmodo is largely a gadget blog. For the most part, they leave the gossip-based page-view baiting to sister site Gawker. However, this week, Gizmodo published a story that has nothing to do with gadgets and little if anything to do with technology, unless you consider online dating a cutting-edge technology. The story, “My Brief OkCupid Affair With a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player,” has racked up hundreds of thousands of page views and thousands of comments – probably hundreds of links to boot. So: successful linkbait, or craphat journalism? You be the judge!

Here’s the gist of the story, which seems to have been edited by the author since its original posting: Alyssa Bereznak claims to have created an OKCupid profile after coming home drunk one night (because who would ever stoop to such lows while sober?). She is less than wowed by the experience:

Two weeks into my online dating experiment, OKCupid had broken me down. It was like the online equivalent to hanging out alone in a dark, date-rapey bar. Every time I signed on, I was hit by a barrage of creepy messages. "Dem gurl u so foine, iwud lik veru much for me nd u to be marry n procreate." Or "your legs do look strong." So when I saw an IM from a guy named Jon that said, "You should go out with me :)" I was relieved. He seemed normal. I gave him my name. "Google away," I said. Then dinner was ready, and I signed off without remembering to do the same.

She meets this “normal” fellow for a drink, and he “casually mentions” an interest in Magic: The Gathering, then admits that he’s actually the world champion. At first she thinks he’s kidding, natch: “But the earnest look on his face told me he wasn't kidding.” She googles him the next day and sure enough, he’s the world champion, “[a] man who is so widely revered in the game of Magic that he's been immortalized in his own playing card.” In other words, by happenstance she’s gone on a date with a total gaming badass!

Now, does Alyssa start calling her friends to brag? No. Instead, she goes on a second date to confirm that he a) still plays, b) plays frequently, and c) hangs out with other people who play. She then proceeds to say Sayonara and write an article intended to humiliate him, full of choice quotes like “Just like you're obligated to mention you're divorced or have a kid in your online profile, shouldn't someone also be required to disclose any indisputably geeky world championship titles?”

In sum, she ends up looking like a huge asshole (pardon the expression). Awesomely, everyone in the world commented to tell her so. For example:

“Just like you're obligated to mention you're divorced or have a kid in your online profile, shouldn't someone also be required to disclose any indisputably hateful articles that she wrote?” - Scandinavian Flick: 6.5% Legacy Minority

“So I assume you'll be including a link to this post in any online dating profiles that you fill out in a future drunken stupor? You know, so potential matches will be aware of just what a snarky, elitist nitwit you are.” - leetaylor15202

“The beautiful irony here is that the next time someone ‘googles the shit’ out of you, they're going to find out you write articles openly mocking the men you date.” – ky

“Uh, you know you work for Gizmodo, right? Kind of a nerdy site? Working for a nerd site kind of makes you a nerd yourself, so dissing nerds, on your nerd blog, for being nerdy, is probably not a great idea.” - cletar

“According to her twitter, her internship ended last Friday. Since Gawker pays per click, this means she wrote this troll piece in order to get a bigger last paycheck.” – wingbatwu

“I hate this nerdbaiting Gawker shit. Way to pad your hits.” – mattigus

These last two comments speak to the probable motivation behind publishing a piece like this – get the nerds riled up, drive up our numbers! Or, as Forbes’ Paul Tassi (who covers the business of gaming himself) puts it:

I think that Alyssa knew EXACTLY what she was doing when she wrote this post. It’s the tried and true practice of online nerd-baiting in order to get traffic, and this, perhaps more than any other example, shows just how well it works.

People love to hate, and therefore writing a post trashing something people love, or stating an opinion that can so obviously be demolished is clearly bating for traffic. This is a practice I’ve seen across many of the Gawker sites before (Gizmodo being one of them), but this is a whole new level.

Controversy works. All bloggers know that. But some kinds of controversy are more interesting than others. I like a good debate. I like moral ambiguity and stories with two sides. But Alyssa’s story doesn’t really have two sides, at least not in the eyes’ of the Gizmodo audience, so the content can’t be justified on the grounds of rousing debate. It’s just ye olde no-integrity page view journalism rearing its ugly head!

For more fun on the big Gizmodo-OKCupid controversy of ’11, see:

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Happy long weekend, y’all!

"Barbie Geek" image via wee lakeo

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream's Director of Content and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.

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