I must have turned over a dozen concepts ranging from parody news articles to the blog of a fabricated person, but eventually I settled on an idea that I thought might have some positive impact on people, a parody trivia site. Since September 20, 2004, I've been making daily updates with the help of my brother (Andrew) my cousin-in-law, (Aaron) and a spattering of other friends (Nathan, Zack, Estaban, as well as a few one-time writers). During the month of September our traffic was meager to say the least. Our first month of publication saw a total of 35 unique visitors, all of whom were friends of mine who weren't immediately scared off by the name.
Being familiar with the workings of the Web, yourself, I'm sure you understand how these things can grow in scope almost overnight. Well, not exactly overnight. October brought 90 unique visitors, November, 427. December was when we saw some of the first big name sites linking in, bringing around 16,000 unique visitors, from about 350 different sites. Since then, it's only been snowballing. 22,500 unique visitors in January, visiting the site a total of 44,000 times, viewing 81,000 pages, and linking from 1,600 different sites.
But I suppose none of this gets to the real question everyone has, which is, of course, why do you spend time doing this? Well, first and foremost, it is obviously not my profession, nor do I make anything practically anything off of it, beyond the cost of bandwidth and server space. The answer is not money. Honestly, it's the motivation to keep it updated is fourfold: entertainment, social change, creative expression, and social experimentation.
As I mentioned earlier, I get tons of email every day offering me corrections to my facts. A lot of the time, people are very intense in correcting me. It's kind of strange to read mail from people who can be so motivated by bits of trivia. But for all the letters we receive from people who don't get it right off the bat, we get around the same amount from people who know that it's all satire, and enjoy it just the same. We've got around 1,600 people on our daily mailing list, where I'll often put random musings, and choice gems from the Gullible.info mailbag. Most of the people on the mailing list understand the nature of the site.
But the entertainment value isn't the only thing motivating the other writers and me. There's also an aspect of trying to change the way in which our society processes information. Rather than hoarding bits of knowledge, like magpies greedily making off with silver dollars, we hope we can get people to start to evaluate sources critically when they are presented with new information. In our case, it is interesting because our "facts" only sound true when they don't sound true, making the evaluative process a little more difficult. However, to remedy that, we put the word "Gullible" at the top of the page in big, bold letters. People need to realize that they can't trust every website with a slick design and an RSS feed. And maybe in the moment of realization, when people click into what Gullible.info is all about, they'll be able to think of other times when they blindly accepted information, without first considering the source.
The third reason is that it forces me to do something creative every day. I tell you what! It was easy to sit down the first day and rattle off a dozen of these. Six months later, I've got to keep a notepad with me, and look for ideas in the my day-to-day life. I have to work to try and move my brain in directions it hasn't been before. It's hard, but it's also fun.
And finally, we make updates to Gullible.info because it is a fascinating social experiment. How many people willingly just accept information presented to them? How many people question that information? How do people explain away the name? (My favorite two explanations - paraphrased - "Domain names are hard to come by, maybe that's the only one they could get" and "I think it's called that because you're gullible if you don't believe it because it's called gullible.") Maybe it's just me, but when I'm watching these discussions take place, it feels like I'm getting an insight into how people's minds work (for better or worse), and that's fascinating.
People talking about the site: Gullible.info has been showing up in a few places, here are a few.
The New York friggin' Times (requires registration)
Gideon Coe show on BBC 6 Music (3.6 MB mp3)
Letters to Gullible.info: We receive a handful of letters every day. Some offering praise for the site, but most people send us corrections for "mistakes" we've made. Far and above, we've gotten the most comments about a post from November 3rd, made up of pure party line spin.
• George W. Bush is a great president.Okay. I'll admit that it was kind of childish of me, but the backlash as been more than worth it. For example, Gretchen wrote in to tell me:
• The economy is on its way back up.
• Environmental laws hurt the economy.
• The Iraq war made America safer.
• Osma bin Laden wanted Kerry to win.
I was genuinely enjoying this informative site until I read the section on George Bush. I don't care about ones political stance but your site does say it strives to always give factual information and you're just spouting out opinions. Now, I have no idea what information is true or biased. I'm really disappointed I was having fun reading.And if that wasn't enough of a shock, Nathan spit some Democratic flack right back at me:
George W. Bush has a lower I.Q. than some monkeys, and also prononces 4 out of 10 words that have more than 5 letters incorrectly. He is not a good president.Was that it? Of course not. Jesse takes my diminutive stature into consideration, but forgets the location of the shift key, but finds caps lock just fine:
george w. bush is not a great president and the iraq war DID NOT make America safer. you are a sad deluded little man.But wait, there's more. This one's from Greg:
This is the kind of thing that sickens me. You have no proof whatsoever of this. Yes, I may be dwelling on the past, but must you put such biased and unresearched information on a website such as this?Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot that I was supposed to throughly research all information that was showing up on this site. My oops! Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, Adam told me that now he wasn't going to believe anything he read on a website called GULLIBLE.INFO:
Until the following post i though this page would only state facts and not be a page where you posted your personal opinions and views on politics.That's all well and good, but one email exchange in particular took the cake, the kit and caboodle, as well as four score and seven other cliches. In a dizzied rage, a reader named Meg sent us this compact ball of anger:
I'm very disappointed and will henceforth take every post with a palm of salt, if I'll continue checking this page.
Pity on such an otherwise good page.
ok, i don't know if u really believe what u said on november 3rd, nor do i care, but u shouldn't be saying its fact. its opinion, and it takes away credibility from the website.Well, I couldn't stand for that, so I promptly wrote her back:
Dear Meg,That was that, I thought. I had permanently blocked her IP address from accessing Gullible.info, and I set a cookie on her computer just in case her IP address changed. Shouldn't that be the end? I mean, common, I said we pride ourselves on being naked. No one could ever take that seriously...right? Nope.
Thank you for taking the time to submit your comments to Gullible.info. Here at Gullible.info, we pride ourselves on being:
1. A highly credible clearance house of information
2. An organization so dedicated to quality, that our quality is only exceeded by our dedication to that quality
3. History and trivia buffs
4. Naked at the moment
As you can see, with four things like that in which we find pride, it should come as no shock to you that we were shocked when we read your comments! Shocked. I assure you, that all information appearing on the Gullible.info family of websites is thoroughly researched and believed to be 100 percent factual. In instances where evidence has been brought to light, that calls the authenticity of our tidbits into question, we launch a full-scale, full-scope investigation into the accuracy of that particular statement.
For example, last week, we released a correction of a piece of information incorrectly presented on December 4, 2004. But it has been brought to my attention, you have already read that correction.
However, you are not the first person to question the nature of these facts, and I doubt you will be the last, as long as there is a left wing activist media shoving their claptrap agenda down our throats. Unfortunately, what all you brainwashed liberal agenda pushers who hate our AMERICAN president don't seem to understand, is that we researched those facts quite thoroughly, as we do with every FACT appearing on GULLIBLE.INFO.
When you have stopped hating freedom, feel free to visit Gullible.info again. Let me know when that time comes, because until then, your IP address has been blocked from accessing Gullible.info.
Again, thank you for your comments,
-The hardworking team at Gullible.info
P.S., God bless America.
i never said i hated our president. andÃ‚Â i'm not saying whether or notÃ‚Â i agree with your statements, i was just stating that when some people read comments like that, they may question the website. i am a believer that people have a right to think and believe what they want, and i think that its very low of you to take away my right to read your website because i pointed out that it is not fact, but opinion; an opinion that is correct with many ppl but also incorrect with many others.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â u have the right toÃ‚Â think and sayÃ‚Â it's what u think is true, but not a fact,Ã‚Â you have noÃ‚Â right toÃ‚Â make others believe it.I was enthralled. I wanted more. How much could I get? How far could I push the envelope?
i would be able toÃ‚Â show the difference bewteen fact and opinion with that days entries, but since i'm blocked, i can not. i do remember 2 however: ur comment on bush beingÃ‚Â a great president, and something about Ã‚Â enviromental laws being bad for theÃ‚Â economy.Ã‚Â there is no definition of aÃ‚Â great president out there, it's different for everyone, so the reality of the answer is different for every person as well. you did say something about enviromental laws being bad for the economy, andÃ‚Â i can accept that as aÃ‚Â fact (even if it's a fact some ppl may not like). i don't remember the others, so i cannot comment on them.
p.s. i find it funny that u blocked myÃ‚Â IP address when i have several computers at my house and i live at numerous houses. but if thats howÃ‚Â u want to make it work, fine by me. and oh yeah, how would hating our president be hating freedom? he isn't the one who got us freedom, and the people who are truely fighting for freedom are our soldiers. again, this does not mean i am or that i am not for bush. he's done his share of good things, and his share of bad things, just like every president we've ever had.
Dear Meg,But did she write back? No. Unfortunately not. There you have it. Maybe some day I'll toss some more up here. Until then, check out the archives of Gullible.info for 100 percent super-mega-hyper-true facts.
I think an apology is in order. And while I am waiting for it from you, I think you should learn a few things about Gullible.info. It's a lot harder than it looks than it looks to make a website with 5 100 percent true facts every day. I'd like to see you try. You know the adage, "beggars mustn't be choosers." You expect to visit my site and read it for free, then you expect me to be your PUNCHING BAG, whenever you go off on some anti-Bush rant, well I'm sorry, that not how things work in the REAL WORLD. Better get used to it, kid.
Meg, I'm going to level with you. I am Kyle. The updates you read were mine. I wouldn't normally tell people this, but I think I should tell you. Meg, I'm going through some tough times. My wife left me yesterday for a boat salesman named Walter. He's 10 years younger than I am, and he's got much better hair. Things have been so frustrating lately.
Let me start at the beginning, Meg. You see, we were married eight years ago. We met in college, but were just friends until three years after we graduated. Then things got serious. We bought a dog together, and a house to boot! We settled down and lived the idyllic life, collecting seashells to sell to tourists on the beaches of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Do you speak Portuguese? I do. Maybe you do speak Portuguese, but I'm sure that you don't know what it's like to have 50 Policias break down your door in the middle of the night and steal your wife for criminal tax evasion. That's a pain no man should ever have to endure.
But last September, I thought that I had gotten my life back on track. With the help of $20,000 I was able to bribe my wife's freedom, and we went back to my hometown of Wiltford, Kansas. She started working as a piano teacher, selling homemade jams on the side. I started working on a little website called Gullible.info. We were the perfect couple. Until that cheating floozy started teaching lessons to that suave Puerto Rican named Walter. With slicked back hair and expensive clothing, he wooed her off her feet with expensive wine and romantic talk in foreign languages. (She may not have understood what he was saying, but I sure did.)
And now I'm left with this: nothing, but a website. And to add to that, I find out that a good portion of one of my updates is filled with "opinions." SHAMEFUL "OPINIONS"!!! Gosh darn it Meg, this has been the worst week ever. So I'm begging you! Please don't tell anyone that the things I said in that update weren't pure fact, I would absolutely hate it if anything damaged the credibility we've worked so hard to establish here at Gullible.info. And you know what Meg, I happen to know for a fact that George W. Bush is the greatest thing that has happened to this country. Ever. Period. Hands down. No questions asked. I'm sorry that you are so brainwashed and manipulated that something like that could possibly sound like an opinion, but any real American knows that it is 100 percent true. It's unfortunate that some people can be so gullible as to believe everything they hear in the liberal media.
Besides, I've got enough on my plate, having to hunt down and kill Walter. I'm sure you understand.
Kyle (A.K.A., The hardworking team at Gullible.info)
Some of you may find this interesting, and or amusing.