Daily Archives: September 18, 2011

The Ballad of Greg Laden

So, the other day, I was trying to find some links to podcasts that I’d done to put on my media page, so I did something that I would never otherwise had thought to do; I entered my own name in the search box at Apple’s iTunes store. Everybody has entered their own name in the Google Search box, right? But who thinks of searching for themselves on iTunes unless you are a musician.

Or, looking for your podcasts. Which I found, by the way, so that was good. But there was also a thing called The Ballad of Greg Laden.

So my brain started ticking away and it pretty much figured out that there would be a way to find out if your database is being searched for something, anything, and then convert what is being searched for into a reference pointing to a thing, then return the reference to the thing as though it was there all along so it appears that the search “found” it. Meanwhile, another process runs off and creates the thing real quick and puts it there so if the person doing the search clicks on the pointer to it, it’s there.

And in this case, the thing would be a pre-existing song, simply renamed on the fly.

And just as my brain was in the middle of figuring this out, my finger, acting independently, clicked the ‘buy” button so I got a copy of The Ballad of Greg Laden on my iTunes account.

On testing my hypothesis, though, I had to revise my model. I typed in some other names of people and they did not return the Ballad of Whomever. In the mean time, someone sent me via twitter, a link to an amazon.com page which had the Ballad of Greg Laden on sale:


So, I’m pretty sure this is a very interesting scam, but one that is smart enough that I can appreciate it. However, since I can’t replicate the behavior myself, I’ve come up with a refined hypothesis that i need you to test.

I think the search engine gets the name of the owner of the account or the computer on which it runs somehow and uses that to create the ballad. So, I need you to go to iTunes and search for your own name and see what happens. Report the results below.

If you are dumb enough to purchase the ballad, like I was, we can later compare them and see if they are all the same exact song. I’m betting they are. (There are no words on my version).

(Or is this just some internet meme that everybody knows about but me?)