AUSTIN, Texas--Did you hear that Conan O'Brien, fresh off his ugly divorce with NBC, is joining Internet TV network Revision3, home to the mega-hit Diggnation?
That was the hot word blasting across Twitter Saturday night, with 426 tweets posted with the hashtag #omgconan in just four hours. The first tweet with the news, from @jimraymonds, hit just after 8 p.m. local time: "Holy [cow] Conan is on Revision3."
And the flood picked up from there: "Wow, Conan is actually joining Revision3!" wrote @tuckerman just seconds later. And then, quickly, "Conan O'brien just walked onstage & confirmed that he's joining Revision3!" from @retfirdkeeg.
Big news indeed, especially here in the Texas capital where Diggnation, the show hosted by Digg founder Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht, had its second annual live appearance at Digg's jam-packedparty.
And where best to make as big an announcement as O'Brien's jumping from the old-media world of network TV to the new world of the Internet than SXSW? And that's why, clearly, the tweets flowed like wine among attendees of the festival and, more specifically, the Digg party. And then, naturally, the news was quickly picked up by followers of those tweeting about it and broadly retweeted.
The only hitch? The news was actually the cooperative work of the Digg party crowd, eager to snicker along with the hosts of the Internet-based NSFW Show who, as an opening act to Saturday night's live Diggnation, had exhorted the audience to join them in an attempt at setting the world record for the largest-ever Twitter hoax.
The instructions: tweet some form of the news that Conan O'Brien was joining Revision3 and make sure, in order for the NSFW Show hosts to be able to track the progress of the joke, to use the hashtag, #omgconan.
If only one or two people had tweeted the hoax, no one would have believed it. These days, most people's nonsense detectors ring out when things that seem a little too good to be true make their way across the Internet, especially on sites like Twitter where anyone can say anything. Indeed, that fact gives some people pause about treating Twitter as a legitimate source of information during breaking news events like earthquakes, fires, social unrest, and the like.
But when dozens, or even hundreds of people, all tweet the same basic news at the same time, that would seem to lend the concept legitimacy; after all, hundreds of people wouldn't all send out the same false information. Right?
Having personally tweeted "We just found out at #digg party that conan o'brien is joining Revision3" within a minute of being exhorted to do so by the hosts on stage, I am in no position to get on any kind of high horse about this. To be fair, I think jokes like this are funny, particularly because no Twitter readers were hurt in the making of the hoax and because, hey, sometimes participating in something big and silly is good for us.
It didn't take long, of course, for a few incredulous folks to call the hoax a hoax. Again, just a few minutes later, @madcapstudios tweeted, " Real-time hoax! Enjoy! :)" To which I felt honor-bound to respond, "Boooo! Spoil-sport :-)"
But some people seemed not to enjoy the joke. It didn't take long before @CarolFil posted, "The whole @conanobrien joining Rev3 is a hoax. Not funny," and later, @Jersey_Girl87 tweeted, "ugh #omgconan is the #worsthoaxever. completely ruined my night now."
To which I say, assuming @CarolFil and @Jersey_Girl87 were seriously unhappy about the joke, come on folks. Laugh with us. What's the harm? Didn't you hear that Jeff Goldblum had died?
I'm pretty sure @saxifridge heard about the Goldblum died hoax. And laughed. About an hour after the #omgconan joke began, he posted what I think was the best encapsulation of the whole event, "HOLY CRAP! CONAN IS ACTUALLY AN ALIEN WHO CAN CRAP SKITTLES AND YODDLE IN JAPANESE!"
But then again, maybe it was this gem, from @NHackett2: "I heard Conan just bought revision3! I can't confirm that at all though...I heard it through the internet."