“Open Source” Prank?

The New York Times is reporting an elaborate spoof that has all the elements of the open source development model. With the headline “Liberal Pranksters Hand Out Times Spoof,” the times reported that millions of copies of a spoof edition of the Times at subway stations in New York City, Los Angeles, and other cities. The spoof is dated July 4, 2009 and portrays a liberal utopia, with the end of the Iraq war, a national health system, a recovered and green economy, and apologies and war crimes indictments for members of the Bush administration. The hoax includes a web site that almost perfectly mimics the look of the real Time’s site.

What’s interesting about this prank, is the way it was pulled off.

The Associated Press reported that copies of the spoof paper were also handed out in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, and that the pranksters — who included a film promoter, three unnamed Times employees and Steven Lambert, an art professor — financed the paper with small online contributions and created the paper to urge President-elect Barack Obama to keep his campaign promises.

Software and Internet support was provided by Yes Men who issued a statement about the prank:

In an elaborate operation six months in the planning, 1.2 million papers were printed at six different presses and driven to prearranged pickup locations, where thousands of volunteers stood ready to pass them out on the street.

The prank is being greeted with praise. Alex S. Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, said “I consider this to be a gigantic compliment to The Times.” He urged those lucky enough to get a copy to hold onto as a collector’s item.

Jones also complimented the spoof’s organizers for spoofing the print version. “A Web spoof would have been infinitely easier. But creating a print newspaper and handing it out at subway stations? That takes a lot of effort.”

So, thousands of volunteers working together with great effort to create something of public value that’s given away for free?  Isn’t that the FOSS model? :)

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