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Mysterious Website Actually Social Experiment 349

MaelstromX writes "For six months a website called eon8 (probably down) has carried a countdown to July 1, along with vague and mysterious codes. In addition, strange code-bearing posts associated with the site were made in various webforums, and the site carried a map of the world marked by spots of "deployment". All of this, along with some apparent recorded visits by US military and intelligence computers, led many people to believe this was an imminent terrorist operation or a massive virus to be unleashed on the web-surfing public. Turns out, it was just an experiment by a 23-year-old guy named Chris from Florida who wanted to see how people would react to an absence of information, and he was disappointed that people expected the worst -- even going to so far as to attempt to hack his webserver and make phone calls to anyone with any perceived tangential connection to the site or its host. A mirror of the site in its current state is available with an explanation added by the site owner after the countdown expired."
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Mysterious Website Actually Social Experiment

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  • Just wait (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Clockwork Troll ( 655321 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:50PM (#15642792) Journal
    That's all I can say right now ... just wait.
  • Don't worry! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by intnsred ( 199771 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:51PM (#15642795)
    Don't worry! Chris -- and his family and friends -- are being investigated by homeland security as you read this. :-(
    • Unless he IS Homeland Security.

      knowing how people react to something which could be perceived as a threat is something the government (rightfully) would like to know.

  • by m874t232 ( 973431 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:52PM (#15642797)
    This means that poorly designed web sites with unclear purposes will now be considered a terrorist threat and lead to indefinite detention of the designer(s).

    Well, I guess that's at least one effect of the anti-terrorist hysteria that I could get behind; all other efforts to force better web design have failed after all.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If only poorly written poetry with teenage angst were also considered a threat; then myspace would vanish off the web
    • by identity0 ( 77976 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @01:41PM (#15642922) Journal
      "If you blog with MySpace, you blog with Osama!"

      "This just in, Hamas has threatened to open up a new MartyrSpace website to help lonely terrorists get laid and launch eye-shredding suicide webdesign attacks on Israel. The Israeli Defence Minister is reported as saying, 'The goggles... they do nothing!'"
      • This just in, Hamas has threatened to open up a new MartyrSpace website to help lonely terrorists get laid

        Which might make them reconsider their brilliant master plan of killing themselves to take some innocent bystanders with them.

  • by FhnuZoag ( 875558 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:52PM (#15642798)
    Oh, just an experiment, he says. But how do we know? HOW DO WE KNOW?!?

    Please, arrest him quickly and torture him so that we may learn the true horror of his plot.
  • what the hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El Pollo Loco ( 562236 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:54PM (#15642801)
    The most I can tell you is I am a 23 year old web designer from Florida named Mike.

    Where did the summary get the name Chris from?
  • by October_30th ( 531777 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:56PM (#15642806) Homepage Journal
    who wanted to see how people would react to an absence of information, and he was disappointed that people expected the worst

    I don't see why that should be a surprise or a disappointment. Is he trying to make a case that people should trust people more? Bollocks. In the absence of valid information during a decision making process it would be foolish not to assume the worst.

    • by Samrobb ( 12731 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @01:07PM (#15642837) Homepage Journal

      The problem is, he didn't "see how people would react to an absence of information". He provided some information, and did it in a way that would make most people think immediately of military operations (using obviously encrypted data, terms like "deployment", etc.)

      And he's surprised that people "expected the worst"?

      If he had been serious, he wouldn't have left any (immediately) human readable text on the website. Instead, he prejudiced his own experiement by providing just enough information to prompt certain thoughts. If he had labelled his map "Elvis Sightings" instead of "Deployment Map", he probably would have gotten an entirely different set of reacations.

    • by jgrahn ( 181062 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @01:10PM (#15642844)
      In the absence of valid information during a decision making process it would be foolish not to assume the worst.

      No -- it would be foolish to rule out the worst. Assuming the worst is just paranoid. It's the kind of thinking that would have triggered WWIII if it had dominated.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 01, 2006 @01:58PM (#15642966)
        No -- it would be foolish to rule out the worst. Assuming the worst is just paranoid. It's the kind of thinking that would have triggered WWIII if it had dominated.
        Imagine, if we'd adopted that attitude, a proud country like the US could be running gulags and turning functioning (if repressive) nations into dangerous, extremist enemies.

        Whew! Dodged that bullet!
    • Then you would live life in fear.
    • This is exactly why rumor control is so important. When people only have partial information, such as a list of names and a date, it is natural for them to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
    • In the absence of valid information during a decision making process it would be foolish not to assume the worst.

      So we are going to go about our daily lives and assume just because we don't have enough information about a web site that we are all going to die horrible ebola related deaths while a nuclear fire rains down on us while nano-bots turn us to grey goo?

      Its like not getting a call from your wife/girlfriend when you expected one and then assuming she was kidnapped, raped, murdered and thrown into a d
      • Its like not getting a call from your wife/girlfriend when you expected one and then assuming she was kidnapped, raped, murdered and thrown into a dumpter and you call 911 for help when all along she just left her cell phone at home by mistake.

        Actually its more like your girlfriend calling you, yelling 'Help m-' and then hearing the phone being crushed before the line is cut. Then calling her home phone, her workplace and her friends to learn no one knows where she is or whats shes doing.

        Example: Boy who

        • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @04:09PM (#15643359) Journal
          Actually its more like your girlfriend calling you, yelling 'Help m-' and then hearing the phone being crushed before the line is cut. Then calling her home phone, her workplace and her friends to learn no one knows where she is or whats shes doing.

          Something like that practically happened to me. My girlfriend had been living in Paris for a few weeks and on the day she was leaving Paris for another town, I get this phone call. It wakes me up at 4:00AM. It's international, her cellphone, and all I can hear is what sounds like a lot of scuffling and some muffled cries and then the phone goes dead. This was shortly after that girl got kidnapped and killed while on the phone with her boyfriend.

          I tried calling her back on her phone with no luck. No answer. I tried her old apartment.. disconnected. I kept calling. No luck.

          I started going through ideas in my head - what could I do? Call the Paris Police? And tell them what?

          I kept trying to call her cellphone.

          After about 30 minutes, she answers with a perky, "Hello?"

          Turns out her phone was in her purse and the send button got pushed while she was running for the train and she didn't know about it. The cries were a child in the same cabin she was in. That's the story she told me, anyway.

          But, it's a big feeling of helplessness to think someone you care about is in trouble and there's really nothing you can do.
  • by aymanh ( 892834 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:56PM (#15642809) Journal
    Am I the only one who simply ignored the whole thing? I saw the link posted on many forums and blogs, but it looked like some sort of prank or whatever, only in movies you'd see terrorist organizations publicly providing maps of their targets, or countdown timers...
  • Which were apparently so subtle I hadn't heard about the site until yesterday, when I saw a link to it on YTMND.COM, and I'm online nearly 24/7. Sometimes you can be too subtle.

    This sort of experiment was probably done slightly better by the xbox team with ilovebees.com just prior to the Halo 2 release.
  • Fear (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @01:02PM (#15642829)
    People are simply afraid of what they don't know or don't understand. In the absence of information or explanation, it is often wise to assume the worst - indeed, doing so helped our ancestors survive, which is why such behavior is now instinctive.
    • People are simply afraid of what they don't know or don't understand. In the absence of information or explanation, it is often wise to assume the worst - indeed, doing so helped our ancestors survive, which is why such behavior is now instinctive.

      Actually, one anthropologist pointed out at one time (can't remember the link), people who died in combat during the pre-1700 eras were more likley to have more children than people who were came back from battle. They thought it might be something to the lines th
    • In the absence of information or explanation, it is often wise to assume the worst

      Really? It may be wise to allow for the worst, but assuming it is just paranoid if you have no particular reason to do so.

      As the saying goes, we should not fear what we do not understand, we should fear because we do not understand.

      • Another hilarious sig.

        Imagine the awful power of the suicide knife. Or the suicide rock. Or the suicide stick.

        Terrorism didn't EXIST in a mearningful way until the 20th century, so what's your point?

        -stormin
  • by meanfriend ( 704312 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @01:10PM (#15642845)
    probably for the same reason that they watch Lost. Replace Eon8 with Dharma Initiative, and the similarities are marked.

    It's mysterious, has dead ends and redirections, uses cryptic codenames and strings of alphanumeric characters that hints at something much larger and sinister behind it, complete with a countdown to boot.

    Interesting too, is how people also came up with all sorts of wild theories and found connections that the creators didnt originally intend (like the 8th eon being the end of the world).

    "The purpose of this project was to determine the reactions of the internet public to lack of information."

    Yeah, that seems to describe Lost pretty well too :)

  • No subject (Score:5, Funny)

    by naoursla ( 99850 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @01:12PM (#15642854) Homepage Journal
    This comment is another social experiment to see how people react to a lack of information.
    • Re:No subject (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MrCopilot ( 871878 )
      It led to one more click. Nice Flocks.
    • by jrockway ( 229604 ) *
      Actually, this whole site is a social experiment to see how people react to a lack of information.

      The results? People just make stuff up to fill in the gaps. :)
      • by Ant P. ( 974313 )
        I thought this whole site was a social experiment to see how people react to redundant repetition of information repetitively.
    • Hmm.. I bet the parent is using an encryption to turn Arab terrorist plans into plain English.

      Damn, we need to crack that message before this timer runs out! >>> 5:32 <<<
    • This comment is another social experiment to see how people react to a lack of information.


      Oh, yeah, sure... you're just part of it aren't you?? AREN'T YOU??? Tell us! Tell us what you KNOW!!! Or we'll KILL YOU!!!!

      thistextforthelamenessfilter
  • This was a clumsy experiment at best. He's sad people assumed evil and says all that was on the site was the phrase "we don't want you here".

    That means the only info was negative. This is a commonly studied human phenomen called "framing" (or something similar). If you give a person very limited info, then they will use that tidbit of info will drastically influence their perception of the question at hand. If it has said something less ominous I'm sure it could have had a better reception. As it was, however, if you only give 1 factoid and the factoid is negative, and there's a countdown - how do you expect people to react?

    -stormin
    • I wonder - if it had said "i love pie." and had a countdown timer, would people have had the same reaction? :)
    • WRONG TERM (Score:3, Interesting)

      I reference the wrong term. The right term is "anchoring".

      Anchoring or focalism is a term used in psychology to describe the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or "anchor," on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.

      During normal decision making, individuals anchor, or overly rely, on specific information or a specific value and then adjust to that value to account for other elements of the circumstance. Usually once the anchor is set, there is a bias toward that value.


      This article
  • In my days (well), we didn't announce when the bomb was going to blow. I guess times are different now.
  • in shocking news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thelost ( 808451 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @01:19PM (#15642875) Journal
    people fear what they don't know. Also, what credentials does this guy have beyond being a web designer. i.e., what gives him the guts to carry out an 'experiment' like that and quantitatively derive results from it from an authoritative sociological standpoint? This is practically a myspace joke.
    • Also, what credentials does this guy have beyond being a web designer. i.e., what gives him the guts to carry out an 'experiment' like that and quantitatively derive results from it from an authoritative sociological standpoint?

      Who need credentials? The guy wanted to make a point and it turned out people just overhyped something that could have just been a live action game going on.

      Seriously, he wasn't granted government or college grants to pull this off.

      Heck anyone could have did it. I think he was trying
      • if this was original, exciting and unexpected then it would be interesting. Also, credentials do matter. I'm not going to go to a tramp about my broken leg as readily as I would a doctor at a hospital. There are certain people who are qualified to talk about certain subjects, moreso than others. This doesn't preclude people from talking about a given thing, but I would trust a sociologists take on this more than a web designers.

        If this *sociological* experiment had been carried out by qualified sociologists
  • I was expecting eternal happiness, I want my HTTP requests back :(.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 01, 2006 @01:21PM (#15642880)
    For the past four months I have had to endure constant harassment from state, federal, and international agents of law. There is nothing left of my children except a small bag of bones, and my phone line and Internet connection have been cancelled. I do not have access to my lawyer, and for the past three days I have had to subsist on mustard and graham crackers. I am determined to fight this through, even if I have to do it from a public library. The best advice I can give is, don't give up. Fight for your rights. They can take away your freedom, they can take away your entire life, but they can never take away your will. There is always a way.
  • Assume the worst? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by venicebeach ( 702856 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @01:26PM (#15642894) Homepage Journal
    It doesn't seem fair pin "assuming the worst" on the viewers of this website. It seems to me that the information that was provided was, given the current context, quite suggestive of something negative. "Deployment"? Who uses that word? It is has a largely military connotation. A map with locations targeted? I don't think people assumed the worst as much as his website implied the worst. Yes, none of these things is direcctly indictivie of a negative act, but they are all highly associated with negative acts in the collective consciousness at this point in history. If it were a countdown to a "birth" of something people might have had a different reaction...
    • "Deployment"? Who uses that word?

      Er, all sorts of people. Even web developers [microsoft.com] and software engineers [sun.com].

      It's just a word meaning "put something in place and get it ready".

      I don't think people assumed the worst as much as his website implied the worst.

      Well yes, it might have implied the worst, but people were still pretty damn stupid to believe it's for real. I'm pretty sure the next person to nuke the world isn't going to put a nice Flash countdown up on the web.

      I did find the website hor

      • Re:Assume the worst? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Tablizer ( 95088 )
        I've noticed a lot of milaristic terms in software development:

        * Deployment
        * Launch Date
        * Work the front lines (help-desk)
        * Upper eschelons (the suits)
        * Strategic Planning
        * Go up in smoke
        * Application crash
        * Callatoral damage (software A that affects software B)
        * Debri (garbage collection not working right)
        * Fallout (when bleep happens and the blame game starts)
        * (more to come....)
  • Select everything on the home page and look at the bottom. There's a string of characters, which Slashdot does not allow me to post. Anyone know what this is?

    Also, at the bottom of the page (visible) is this:

    IP: 70.17.160.238 User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.8.0.4) Gecko/20060508 Firefox/1.5.0.4

    That's not my IP number and I'm not using Windows, I'm using a Mac. Got the Firefox part right, though.

    This _IS_ mysterious... excessively so.

    --Richard
    • That's not my IP number and I'm not using Windows, I'm using a Mac.

      Have no fear, thats just the information from whoever cached the site to a mirror. Its not the actual site itself. And I assume that string at the bottom was just part of the "code".
  • Another F*ing Hoax (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @02:09PM (#15643009)
    Just another Internet hoax. Surprised that there are no references to it on Snopes. Don't know about you, but I am sooo tired of attempts to make me part of yet someone else's social experiments. If you want my participation in your project, pay me for it!

    Btw, I could have told you for free that the unknown always leads people to fear the worst. After you grow up a bit more you'll realize that for yourself.

  • Over here in Europe the do this stuff all the time, but on T minus zero they don't launch a terrorist attack, but a product. And the shady people behind it are not Osamas, but marketing.

    Looks like the goverments have finally won in making people believe in all this terrorist hysteria, just to roll out more laws to give the folks in power even more power.

  • by RexRhino ( 769423 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @02:28PM (#15643071)
    Put a countdown on a webpage with half-ass myserious writing with nothing explicitly bad whatsoever, and people are willing to take vigilante action to shut it down?

    Right now it is funny because it was designed in a bad spy movie kind of way. But if you did the same thing, with mysterious Arabic writing and music, a world map with locations, and a countdown, I am certain the results would be as bad (or most likely even worse), and the discussion certainly would not be as light-hearted. It turned out not that bad because it was such an obviously contrived thing that people thought it could be an ad for a movie or video game.

    People, nowadays, have such a paranoid lynch mob mentality, it is getting scary. If it isn't terrorists, it is myspace predators, or crystal meth rampages, or school shooters, or bird flu, or whatever other astronomicly unlikely boogyman. Even people on Slashdot, who love to joke "someone think of the children!!!" are starting to become more and more paranoid within the bounds of their political beliefs (people on the right tend to be paranoid about terrorists and foriegners, where as people on the left tend to be paranoid about sexual preditors and school violence... people tend to discount the other guys paranoid fears, while maintaining that theirs are, of course, rational!).

    Is the government promoting the hysteria in order to gain more power? Or is the government just reacting to the popular hysteria of the people? I don't know, but I wouldn't be suprised if we started hunting witches again (real old-school Communists are just to damn irrelevant for some good ol' fashion Red hunting... but the power of Satan is eternal!). Is there some ergot growing in our wheat supply nowadays that is causing people to lose their minds? Is it all that floride in the water? Cosmic rays? What the hell is going on?
    • Is there some ergot growing in our wheat supply nowadays that is causing people to lose their minds? Is it all that floride in the water? Cosmic rays? What the hell is going on?

      That's a very good question. Just what the hell is going on? Well, I've been thinking about this social symptom of hysteria for quite some time (years actually) and I think I may have an answer

      I would postulate the problem stems from social stress and the breakup of the plutonic family structure. I mean, sure we have a mother and/or
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @02:32PM (#15643082) Journal

    The one that Slashdotters might remember is the Transmeta website.

    The of course there is Ginger, which was the Segway, which is just an expensive scooter.

    When I lived in Charlottesville, VA there was a several month campaign of "the connosiers are coming". When they came, it was a "club" where you paid a flat fee and got discounts at local restaurants.

    The pattern with this kind of thing is that it's always anti-climactic. The same thing goes for song count-downs on the radio. Oh. Stairway to Heaven wins again. Even when that doesn't happen, whatever song does win is always a letdown. I think it's just human nature. It always seemed to me that David Letterman's 3 or 4 was funnier than the number 1 on his top ten. Was that on purpose, or is number 1 always a let down? I guess the way to test that would be to have Letterman tape several versions of his top 10, show them to different audiences and ask them if they thought number 1 really belonged. The problem with that is that "delivery" is an important part of comedy, and I suppose that "deliver" is an important part of other information too. In other words, "metadata" is "data" or as an earlier generation used to say, "the medium is the message". In this case, the guy just transmitted nothing but metadata, and I think the results were not too surprising. In the absence of data, people attach the metadata to the context, in this case, our current climate of paranoia and fear provided the context.

  • I'd like to set up something like that, except on the day of "deployment" have a big header reading, "ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US". Also, the guy says his name is Mike, not Chris.
  • by SonicSpike ( 242293 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @02:53PM (#15643142) Homepage Journal
    Here is a site which tests your subconsciousness with regard to hypnotics!

    http://r33b.net/ [r33b.net]

    All Glory to the Hypnotoad!
  • by Easy2RememberNick ( 179395 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @03:01PM (#15643168)
    All Canadians (minus a few militant Quebecers I suppose) were counting down the days to July 1 anyway since it's our nation's birthday! ...insensitive clods!
  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @05:22PM (#15643568)
    Keep watching this number: 58

    When it reaches 0, you're in for a big surprise. Just keep watching....
  • "All of this, along with some apparent recorded visits by US military and intelligence computers."
    I can't believe how many people took that and ran with it imagining some grand conspiracy that was never there. Eon8 had a live feed of HTTP referers [wikipedia.org], so some one probably thought it'd be a great joke to spoof a visit from the CIA and the Pentagon which isn't hard at all considering there's even Firefox extensions [mozilla.org] that can do it for you.

    And the fun keeps on going now that the Wikipedia article for Eon8 has been nominated TWICE for deletion resulting in much flamage and sock puppetry by the SomethingAwful and YTMND crowd.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_fo r_deletion/Eon8_(2nd_nomination) [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_fo r_deletion/Eon8 [wikipedia.org]

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