Pranksters critical of party political

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By  Published  September 15, 2006

When politicians go out of their way to cultivate a cool, cutting edge look, pratfalls invariably follow — especially when it involves IT and hi-tech.

This was admirably demonstrated earlier this month on the wiki created by the UK’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Just hours after posting a draft ‘environment contract’ policy, the wiki, a collaborative website which allows users to change the look of the content, was attacked by pranksters, according to BBC reports.

The heading of the discussion, “Who are the parties to the environmental contract?”, was changed to “Where is the party for the environmental contract? Can I come? Will there be cake? Hooray!”

Similarly, suggestions for tools to “create the right incentive frameworks” included a “big stick” and an “owl magnet.”

David Milliband, the environment secretary who backed the wiki, was unbowed although clearly unamused by the incident. “Strange how some people get their kicks. But the experiment will continue,” he wrote in the departmental blog.

Paris rebellion

Another prankster at work is controversial UK graffiti artist Banksy. He is known for his iconic stencils that crop up from time to time around London —one of which was featured on pop group Blur’s Think Tank CD — and for guerilla art attacks on art galleries in London, New York and Paris.

Now he has tampered with 500 individual copies of ‘Paris’, the debut CD by celebrity airhead Paris Hilton, reports online newswire vnunet.com.

Banksy replaced the cover art with his own artwork and the music with his own remix CD (with a little help from one-half of alternative rap act Gnarls Barkley) that included tracks such as ‘Why am I famous?’ and ‘What am I for?’ He then slipped them into 48 record stores across the UK.

The doctored CDs retained their original barcode so they could be purchased. And these altered CDs immediately crop- ped up on eBay commanding prices of up to US$560 as the news spread.

The auction website pulled one listing because it “contravened eBay regulations.” However, other listings for the CD have subsequently appeared. Ms Hilton probably views this as all good publicity for her fledgling pop ‘career’ — not being the sort to hawk her name in the papers, you understand.

Photo in frame

Someone who does not want the publicity is web designer Ben Clemens. The Yahoo employee had his mobile phone stolen from him on an Amtrak commuter train in California, US, last month.

Then photos taken by the phone began appearing on his photo web site via Flickr.com, accrding to a report in Reuters. The images included photos of the thief’s family and family pet Chihuahua.

Clemens claimed the software installed on the phone could run even with a different user or SIM-card. However, his revelation led to a backlash with many claiming his story wasn’t true and going on to accuse him of being party to a viral marketing campaign on behalf of the software company.

He has disabled the software and now claims he does not want his phone back, but the experience has evidently left a lasting impression on him. Clemens revealed: “I’ve entered a surreal world. I want it to be known that it’s not a hoax. I’m just too ordinary.”

Age old problem

It is strange that in this day and age, and especially since firms are going out of their way to attract older member of the community to the benefits of the internet, that the ‘silver surfer’ brigade has still got its work cut out getting connected in the first place — especially when a company includes age discrimination as part of its ‘discretionary’ policy. But that is exactly what Carphone Warehouse’s UK internet service TalkTalk admitted, according to UK newspaper The Daily Mail.

Shirley Greening-Jackson, 75, was told she could not sign up for a combined internet and phone service because she was over 70 and would have trouble understanding the contract.

However, if she returned with a younger member of her family, who could explain the small print to her, her application would be reconsidered, she was told.

“I was furious. The young man said ‘Sorry you’re over 70. It’s a company policy. We don’t sign up anyone who is over 70,” she told the paper. “It’s pure ageism. Somebody has decided that when you turn 70 you lose a lot of your mind. I find this is ridiculous,” she added.

The firm claimed that the policy was to ‘protect the elderly’. “We ask our agents to use their discretion when dealing with older customers,” a spokeswoman declared.

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