Brow Beat

Follow Friday: The Most Annoying Man on the Internet

The Twitter avatar for @ProfJeffJarvis

As long as there’s been an Internet, there have been people who understand the Internet better than you. They write books about how we’re all Googled. They trek to the Personal Democracy Forum and brainstorm for their TED Talks. They’re incredibly annoying.

@ProfJeffJarvis tries to be even more annoying. Appropriating the name of BuzzMachine’s media/tech guru (who really doesn’t deserve this), wearing an avatar of a grumpy man wearing a beer-funnel hat, @ProfJeffJarvis makes pronouncements on the media that have nothing to do with reality. When he’s on, he comes up with jargon—herdsourcing, nextification, thinkfluencer—you can imagine rolling across a SXSW Powerpoint.

He solves the problems of modern journalism.

He explains how social media is toppling governments.

He makes wry, slightly mean commentary about media organizations that are doing it all wrong.

The real fake Jeff Jarvis is Rurik Bradbury, who’s a tech guy himself—he co-founded @unison—and just finds jargon funny.

“I chose Jarvis because he epitomizes a certain type of ‘thinkfluencer,’ ” Bradbury told me, “someone with an online influence massively greater than the thoughtfulness of his positions. It’s all style and rhetorical flourishes which don’t stand up to scrutiny—but do grab attention.” But it’s not personal. “It’s more of a general parody: a composite of Jarvis, Seth Godin, the media ‘freetards’ who insist paywalls, etc., are bad by definition.”

Bradbury credits his obsession with media jargon to his undergraduate studies of critical theory and psychoanalysis. “That feeds nicely into the intellectual pretensions of Jarvis and the word torture of a thinkfluencer,” he says.

The whole experiment reminds me of what Jeremy Stribling, a student at MIT, did to the old World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics, and Informatics. Nobody in the industry, he thought, took the conference seriously. To prove it, he submitted a paper written by a computer program, loaded up with meaningless words. @ProfJeffJarvis is funny now, but what I really can’t wait for is the moment an investor with more pretense than brains reads one of his Chauncey Gardner pronouncements and takes it seriously.

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