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Clinical Reader Train Wreck Just Keeps Going

Some day I’ll get bored of watching this train wreck in progress. But not yet. If you are, you can skip right over this post and rest in the knowledge that you’re more mature than I am.

Remember last week when Clinical Reader had only threatened a blogger, been exposed as having made up endorsements, started making up bogus Retweets, deleted incriminating tweets from their account, fired the pesky Canadians, and generally convinced thousands of people that they weren’t trustworthy? Since then, thing haven’t improved. Since then:

  • Whoever is trying to sanitize Clinical Reader’s online reputation (I assume it’s co-founder Allan Marks, but who knows) has been switching the original twitter account’s name at the speed of light. This breaks links that people had used in blog posts, but it unfortunately doesn’t erase the history from the deep dark recesses of the Internet, or delete people’s screenshots from their hard drives. Most of the good stuff is still live on the links in my previous post, and even more lives in this post on the Disruptive Library Technology Jester. (Moral of the story: Don’t be stupid online because the stupid never dies.) As of this writing the account has moved from @clinicalreader to @clinical_tweets to @amarks7 to @amarks14 to @amarks_ to @a_marks1 to @allan_marks (See below for explanation of the change in the first two names. And don’t expect @allan_marks to be valid for more than, say, an hour. As of 7pm, the name has changed 4 times since 9am today.)

  • Somebody took over the name @clinicalreader and posted a brief history of the debacle there.

  • Somebody else took over @clinical_tweets (they claim to be the fired Canadians) and started cockily claiming that they’d done the job they were hired to do because just look at how many people now know about Clinical Reader. Their claim in a nutshell: “You’ve All Been Used. Bwahahahah.” They’ve now killed the account.

  • A new twitter account went live: @clinical_reader. This had all sorts of tweets about how the real Clinical Reader wasn’t yet “officially” on Twitter but will let us all know when they are (this screencast from the Google Cache shows that if you hovered over an older version of the Clinical Reader site, it clearly linked to the original @clinicalreader twitter account). Then tweeted several rather official looking tweets about what a great service they are. Then denounced the other now-bogus accounts. And all of this while not officially tweeting! This morning, all their tweets had disappeared except for the ones saying that the tweets from @cliniclareader are not coming from the Clinical Reader service (which even whoever-it-is at @clinicalreader says, quite plainly).

  • Another new twitter account went live: @clinical_tweet. This seems to be the new, new, new official twitter account. Or something. We’ll see how long it lasts.

  • And now, the sockpuppetry really gets started. “Sally Jones” started a twitter account as @kensingtonlib in order to alternately level accusations at @lukelibrarian and laud Clinical Reader. I wonder who could possibly be using the name Sally Jones??

This is just too much fun. I’ll update this post if necessary (and add screenshots that I have on a different computer, later).

[Edit: 7pm on July 20th. I think I’m done now. If you haven’t had enough, search FriendFeed for “Clinical Reader” and see if more drama has surfaced. I’ll just add that I’ve been almost equally fascinated by the complexity of piecing together a coherent story when that story is playing out in so many social networks, by the flailing about of Clinical Reader, by the lessons this teaches about marketing online, and by the implications of this story in my own teaching. I think I’ll have to work some discussion of this parable into sessions I teach about evaluating web content.]

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  1. Iris Iris

    Just collecting the FriendFeed comments on this post, since all of this is hilariously hard to follow if you're not on multiple social networks. Scratch that, it's hilariously hard to follow even if you *are* on all these social networks, which is a large part of the fascination for me.

  2. Iris Iris

    Undoubtedly, Eva.

    Some people watch TV shows where contestants get voted off of islands; I watch drama unfold on the social web.

    Then I go swing dancing with friends. :-)

    But yes, I never claimed that this current bought of entertainment was a mark of maturity. Quite the opposite. I'll get back to blogging about libraries soon, I promise. But for now, I'm like the 6-year-old who'd really like to stay up just ten more minutes. PLEASE!!

  3. Iris Iris

    Wow. Jumping to conclusions all over the place, I see, and dissing a perfectly normal form of social dance into the bargain (maybe Swing Dancing is something else in England than it is here in the U.S., but I don't think so). Ah well. Have fun on Twitter.

  4. lushr lushr

    people feeding on their own melodrama instead of getting on with their lives, thinking that hacking a twitter account makes them cool or powerful just smacks of 19 year olds suffering an ego bashing or very inexperienced net users who haven't learnt to 'play nice' yet. If you were looking for entertainment you could say… read a book.

  5. Iris Iris

    That's very true, lushr, and I think if this hadn't started with a web service that's exactly the sort of thing Medical Librarians are trained to evaluate for their clinicians, and with that web service bullying said Medical Librarians, and with that web service then proving time and again that they're untrustworthy (and thereby casting more doubt on their actual service) the whole thing would have fizzled before now.

    The juvenile behavior that's sprung up with people taking over Twitter accounts and so on isn't important at all (just amusing, at least to me), but the actions of Clinical Reader itself have more import than twitter hacking.

    But as I said in my last edit, I'm done now. Not because the core issues aren't still important, but because there's now an established pattern with very little variation, and there's more and more of the juvenile behavior fraying the edges. And maybe because I have a short attention span.

    Now, where did I put that book I was reading before your comment showed up… Ah, there it is.

    Happy trails.

  6. Iris Iris

    It's also interesting to me that the discussion on FriendFeed went very differently from the discussion here. Perhaps people on these other social networks find these kinds of shenanigans more fundamentally offensive than other people because they see the offenders as using their space to cause trouble rather than carry on constructive conversations?

  7. laura laura

    It's funny that Iris just wrote that comment, because it just occured to me to come see what the comments on the actual blog post were like, as I'd only seen the ones of FriendFeed.

    Clinical Reader started off by making two fairly major mistakes — claiming a rating from an agency that does not give ratings and using copyrighted images without permission. The following antics on Twitter could, I suppose, be seen as simply shenanigans, but I tend to think that a) threatening legal action, b) impersonating other people, and c) refusing to reveal who you are are pretty serious problems. Sure, it's funny to watch it play out as a social software soap opera, but the issues are important, and these kinds of things will, I suspect, become only more important as more and more of our communication and our interaction with the world moves online.

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