When the news broke recently that the silly side of the internet had hijacked the vote to name Britain’s new polar research vessel and that the top suggestion was Boaty McBoatface my first thought was to have a little chuckle at the nativity of whoever thought holding an internet naming competition was a good idea. Did these people not know that news of these things spreads like wildfire on places like reddit and 4chan leading to embarrassing situations like 2012’s Mountain Dew naming fiasco where the brand’s new Apple flavoured beverage was on course to be named “Hitler did nothing wrong” before the company sensibly pulled the plug.
The more I thought about it though, the more I became convinced that someone, somewhere was performing a little internet Judo, using the strength of their opponent against them. Lets look at the facts.
The people who run the site are not the scientists of the Natural Environment Research Council, they will be proper web designers and IT people, possibly even working for a third party. The competition has a hashtag, not something it would need if they were only expecting “marine research fans” to get involved as was claimed by former First Sea Lord, Lord West.
Add to this the fact that it was clearly stated that any name voted on would only be a suggestion and that the NERC gets final say and the whole thing begins to smell as fishy as a former First Sea Lord (probably). After all, how many people had heard of the NERC before this? Anyone? Thought not. And while to most people they are just going to be the people behind Boaty McBoatface for evermore, they have received a level of international publicity that no amount of informative press releases could have got them.
Maybe my years on the internet have just made me cynical and jaded and this really was something they never expected to happen, in which case they’ve just been very lucky to catch the public’s imagination. But if this is a deliberate ploy to exploit the internet’s love of a prank then hats off to them and I hope it doesn’t all fall apart when they consign the net’s chosen name to the bin in favour of something dull and worthy.
Source: BBC News