At 1:35PM today, my phone rang. This was the third call I received from an unknown number with an 818 area code this morning. I missed the first two because I didn’t feel my phone vibrate. It would have been really convenient if I had some kind of wrist band to notify me when I got a phone call.
I answered it this time and was surprised to be talking to “James”, one of the creators of Vybe. I was startled to be getting a personal phone call while I was at work from someone I had never met and never gave my phone number to, but after talking to James for a little while, I learned a few things.
James’s reason for calling was to politely ask me to remove our article covering Vybe.
I think now is a great time to make it clear that Drop-Kicker has never and will never remove a post. We do however provide ample opportunities for project creators to answer the questions we bring up and clarify some of the misleading or incomplete information on their campaigns. Creator responses are always displayed clearly and unedited and linked to in large red text at the top of the original article. This link is literally the first thing visitors will read on the post and is even visible in the stub presented on the Drop-Kicker homepage. This policy has been taken very well from project creators in the past.
James went on to explain to me a number of things about the Vybe product that were not made clear or explained at all on their campaign page. I then asked him to send me an email that summarizes this information and responds to the concerns brought up in the original article.
In fact, he didn’t want to write me an email or give me any kind of information that I could directly publish. That’s why I received a phone call.
I did learn some other interesting information though.
I originally found this campaign on the “SHUTUPANDTAKEMYMONEY” subreddit. The post was submitted by reddit user NYChipster with the title “The absolute perfect thing if you always keep your phone on vibrate – Vybe: a smart bracelet”
It’s no small fact that there is a lot of money to be made by advertising on reddit. Ads can be purchased and targeted for a fee, but many businesses large and small have instead appealed to reddit’s interests to advertise for free. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger recently offered up a free interview to reddit’s user base as a way to promote his new film “The Last Stand”. The idea is that there’s a certain amount of give and take. Reddit users get some form of entertainment or an “inside scoop”, and the content producers get buzz.
Some companies however take this one step further and actually create fake reddit accounts to promote products as if they are genuine consumers. Reddit’s amazing user base is what makes it such a popular site, so users tend to see these kinds of advertisements as an invasion into their community. It can be incredibly difficult to identify a particular shill without risking starting a witch hunt, but there have been several documented cases of shilling in the past.
So when I saw a post with a title beginning with “The absolute perfect thing”, I got a little skeptical. Especially considering that since the account was created a year ago, NYChipster has done nothing but submit links to Crowdtilt campaigns:
Most of his comments are on his own posts, but a few fell on posts by other users including marek12886 who has also posted nothing but Crowdtilt content:
While on the phone with James, I brought up the NYChipster account (hadn’t discovered marek12886 yet) and asked if he was affiliated with the account in any way. He genuinely didn’t seem to know anything about it, so I asked if he was using a PR firm that might be operating shill accounts. Through some more discussion he confirmed that he was almost certain NYChipster was in some way involved with the PR firm that they were using. He went as far as to say that he found the username ironic since the firm isn’t located in New York, but he wouldn’t tell me which firm he was using.
Though he did offer to divulge this information if I removed our original article.
We will not be removing that article, but we are more than happy to publish an official response from the Vybe team should they choose to send us one. The tips link on the top right forwards to both myself and Occam’s Chainsaw.