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Video of Glitter Bomb for Package Thieves Exposed as Partial Fake (gizmodo.com)
265 points by mbrubeck on Dec 21, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 148 comments

Rober's full statement is here:


Note about 2 missing the reactions in the video- I was presented with information that caused me to doubt the veracity of 2 of the 5 reactions in the video. These were reactions that were captured during a two week period while the device was at house 2 hours away from where I live. I put a feeler out for people willing to put a package on their porch and this person (who is a friend of a friend) volunteered to help.

To compensate them for their time and willingness to risk putting a package on their porch I offered financial compensation for any successful recoveries of the package. It appears (and I've since confirmed) in these two cases, the “thieves" were actually acquaintances of the person helping me. From the footage I received from the phones which intentionally only record at specific times, this wasn’t clear to me. I have since removed those reactions from the original video (originally 6:26-7:59).

I’m really sorry about this. Ultimately, I am responsible for the content that goes on my channel and I should have done more here. I can vouch for that the reactions were genuine when the package was taken from my house. Having said that, I know my credibly is sort of shot but I encourage you to look at the types of videos I’ve been making for the past 7 years. This is my first ever video with some kind of “prank" and like I mentioned in the video it’s pretty removed from my comfort zone and I should have done more.

I’m especially gutted because so much thought, time, money and effort went into building the device and I hope this doesn’t just taint the entire effort as “fake". It genuinely works (like all the other things I’ve built on my channel) and we’ve made all the code and build info public. Again, I’m sorry for putting something up on my channel that was misleading. That is totally on me and I will take all necessary steps to make sure it won’t happen again.



(I added the paragraph breaks for better readability; click on "See More" of the description for the original)

He should probably continue to post the video of the

"people helping him put packages on their porches"

as well as their friends who pretended to "steal" the package.

Because the original goal was to uncover dishonest people, and so now you've actually found even more dishonest people, who were taped on video

The original goal wasnt "dishonest people" but thieves. It is a slight but important difference. We all confront dishonest people daily without issue. Rarely do we confront thieves, criminals. By using actors this video could encourage people do do something dangerous on a false belief as to how the thieves would react. So i am glad he removed the clips.

I remain worried that such games may one day get someone hurt. Not every thief will laugh it off. And they know where you live. Leave sting operations to the professionals. Dont make things personal. Dont escalate petty theft into a potentially violent confrontation by continuing things beyond your property.

"I remain worried that such games may one day get someone hurt. Not every thief will laugh it off."

I thought about that given all the violent crime in and around Memphis TN. The thugs out here are very unforgiving about stuff like this. Anyone trying to pull shit on them or any other area at that level should expect revenge that's worse than what they did in the first place. I strongly advise against doing this in any area that's high in violent crime, esp gangs or police forces with gang members.

That said, the evidence I've seen shows most violent crime happens in and around specific areas. Outside them, an action might not net a major, negative reaction. So, if productizing this, a modification that might help is making sure the thing doesn't fully go off if in a high crime or nearby area based on whatever data is available. It just records data for the police in those areas. In other cases, let it do its thing. Then, you have to worry about booby trap laws and damage to innocent folks (esp kids or anyone allergic to material). Assess the local, law scene to determine if it's still a go before doing that. I'm sure many jurisdictions would get a kick out of this entertaining themselves and the courtroom. Just gotta be careful about being in the right one.

Memphis was the murder capital of the United States for a few years, but it was almost entirely gang-on-gang killings. That said, the Mall of Memphis (Mall of Murder) had to shut down because they found too many bodies in the grass between the building and the 'creek' that runs by it.

There's a joke people from Memphis understand. If you go to St. Louis, you might get shot by a gang member for your shoes. If you go to Memphis, you might get shot by the cops for your shoes.

"Memphis was the murder capital of the United States for a few years, but it was almost entirely gang-on-gang killings. "

It goes up and down. The majority are gang-on-gang. We've also seen lots of muggings, rape, and murder of non-gang members. Sometimes part of initiations, but mostly for fun. They've expanded into the areas once thought safe. 10-20 on one attacks or entire lots/streets of cars robbed/vandalized happen periodically. At one point, some thugs were shooting people at red lights before robbing their cars. This week, some were trying to open doors in my neighboorhood at night with the families in them. Can't imagine they had something nice like a quick robbery in mind. No surprise police kicked out The First 48, too, to protect tourism revenue. ;)

"That said, the Mall of Memphis (Mall of Murder) had to shut down"

Mall of Murder! Been a few months since someone mentioned that. You had to have lived in Memphis or talked to some Memphians. Well, I don't know how far media spreads about such things.

Anyway, my family mostly avoided it. I did go there as part of a school's "field trip" for their kids. Just getting them out of school a while to have some supervised fun. Toward the end, they decided to skip the food court since a different gang was on every side of it. You could barely see the food places. Woman at exit dressed like a dominatrix out of Sin City or something with a whip on her side. Sexy, but dangerous. I briefly admired the whip being an Indiana Jones fan. Got a smile slash watch-your-ass look out of her on way out. Only positive thing I remember in the Mall of Murder.

"If you go to Memphis, you might get shot by the cops for your shoes. "

Specially if they're the wrong color. Or shirt, jacket, pants, or bandana. ;) I don't know if you heard but they're waiving felonies for people willing to join the Memphis police. All those BLM protestors and such griping about how they act are too scurred to put on a uniform even with large salary policing those same neighborhoods. So hard to recruit cops that they're bringing in felons. I think they said "non-violent" but so many are gang members. Maybe the next, non-violent felony will be forging data on the felony part of police applications.

All that said, most folks there are OK. Same with cops. Our thugs are just more aggressive, willing to drive further from home, and so on. That combines with a media that only covers the negative stuff. We have parties, tons of businesses, church outreach/activities, artists, engineers, you name it. Barely covered on the news between the arsons and murders. I hate the media...

Another interesting part is that the history, esp racism around neighborhood lines, means you can go from the hood to middle-class just crossing a single street. It's so weird. I've had a hard time finding examples of that to show outsiders. I'll probably have to make one some time. I did find a video of someone driving around North Memphis below for anyone wondering what it looks like. Plus another showing all our hoods.



Two things to notice. First, many folks complain people don't pay attention to just stare at their phones. In first vid, notice everyone pays attention even some staring down people that come in. That's biggest indicator you need to watch your ass. The second illustrates how different they look with some having nice properties. Nicer than most I lived in! It's the thug culture and mental attitudes that drive it, though. Hence, always the same shit regardless of how much better the area is, who's the majority, and so on.

"All those BLM protestors and such griping about how they act are too scurred to put on a uniform even with large salary policing those same neighborhoods. So hard to recruit cops that they're bringing in felons."

Isn't the message of BLM that the cops in many cases are basically another criminal gang? So the messenger is to blame when that becomes literally true?

They're a small portion of the cops mostly focused on their competition and other criminals. They'll attack the competition, seize peoples' drugs, and charge to look the other way. Most cops just give us tickets and such. Additionally, the people they arrest at 201 Poplar were (last I heard!) getting an evidence kit to see what prosecutors would bring up at trial during plea bargain. The article, "Why Innocent People Confess," ssys 90+% of cases never see trial partly since defendents dont usually have that. They also usually get out on bail to with some knowing bail bondsmen really well. The cops want our money.

Now, enter BLM. Those stories hit Facebok and Twitter. The black folks from Memphis to North Mississippi reading that stuff say a cop killing them is their biggest worry. That they're getting killed disproportionally everywhere with every stop maybe they're last. Some laid siege to I-40 and the airport to protest police killing black people. Police and protestors got through that without incident despite protestors aggressively marching at police to incite them.

Now for reality: almost all murders here are black civilians kiling other people, mostly black. We have latino gangs and cartels here, too. Mostly, but not entirely, gang members doing murders. Mostly in same hood neighborhoods. The police usually try to arrest, not shoot, them (see First 48 Memphis episodes). BLM might have prevented murders by blocking off those areas instead of the police and public (major Interstate on busy day) who were not killing innocent black people.

Although some cities need a protest, BLM and its supporters in Mid-South were totally full of crap scapegoating cops as main threat to black people when it's actually black and latino thugs. And cops stay trying to catch them, either for justice (good cops) or to eliminate competitors (bad cops). It's telling that the black guy talking about it most on local media always brings up number of black victims, but omits perps. They'll get further addressing real racism and police issues if they stop repeating lies in their media. Makes audience assume they crying wolf again.

"BLM and its supporters in Mid-South were totally full of crap scapegoating cops as main threat to black people when it's actually black and latino thugs"

I don't claim any particular knowledge of what's wrong with the police anywhere, but when cops or people who identify with them say reflexively "well, we'll just stop defending you from the thugs if you don't like us" my gut tells me that it means they already were deliberately enabling "thugs"; the declamation sounds like something that people have repeated to themselves for years, bottled up the justification for corruption and the protests just give permission to let it out.

You missed what I said about them to focus on a hypothetical. I told you that the people sharing and discussing BLM stuff from their media said they believed police were killing black people all over the place with the posters or people talking to me constantly at risk in our areas. Yet, the data of those areas consistently over time was that police were mostly going after the people who were killing black folks. Who were almost all black civilians with mix of gang members and individual thugs. So, if by data, they should be afraid of and decrying actions of violent, black criminals who are biggest threat to black lives in that area. If anything, they should grudgingly thank the cops for getting people off the streets who were killing black people while calling them out for whatever bad things they're actually doing. Instead, they're telling the police black lives matter as if they aren't protecting them, dodging the rebukes pointing out whose killing black people, and so on. They're full of shit. The result was their movement was rightly ignored by its target audience out here.

This isn't a black problem so much as an asset turned liability in human nature. Bruce Schneier wrote about it before where people are more likely to believe anecdotes, especially scary ones (eg worst-case scenarios), from their peers than objective data collected from either peers or other side. The hypothesis at the time was that its a trait that helped early humans survive against threats that killed them (esp ate them). The people that listened to a story about what came before a death (eg animal attack) might survive more often than those who dispassionately collected and analyzed data before committing to something. Over time, the ones that were left were more likely to believe what the group was telling them focused on the same risks, esp extreme ones that rarely happen but result in death.

So, that's what the BLM folks were doing. The people they identify with were making these claims. They supported them using far-away examples like Ferguson and Baltimore. They believed them going with the flow. It's the same effect behind the many Trump voters out here worried everyone that's Middle Eastern might be a terrorist that might take lives. Although, they do hardly anything like better diets or extra vigilance behind the wheel to avoid the leading causes of death of Americans. They're also not looking at every right-wing, patriotic person despite such people committing acts of terrorism in the past or collecting lots of guns planning for... something. Jump on and defend anything from in-group while excluding, perverting, or reflexively dismissing out-group.

Human nature I'm afraid. Everyone doing this needs to learn to knock it off since it just makes us fight for nothing. More important, we miss opportunities to discuss what's really going on to improve our circumstances. The BLM people's BS is easily called out with the middle and right-leaning folks reacting as "You can't trust any of this stuff. People just bullshiting for attention to their causes." We can't stop racism creating reactions like that. Sadly and unfairly, we have to be better than most people in accuracy making sure we consistently build our interpretations on solid data with no misdirections or lies. Especially selective stuff. Consistently good use of data, civil interpretations, and pre-packaged solutions are the right combo to get more people onboard fixing things. Fortunately, there's quite a few of us down here trying to do that with many more just trying to get along despite our differences. The peaceful results of the I-40 protest in a often-racist, often-murderous area confirm how well we do this I think. We were all so worried shit would happen but it didn't. (slow, long sigh of relief)

Which is why you should contain things to your own property. Set off an alarm as soon as the package moves. Sending a secret device/camera out to, potentially, the crooks home invites danger.

At a very base legal level, such actions may require a PI license.

That defeats the point of OP. Anyone just protecting the package should make sure it gets sent somewhere other than the porch. Setting off an alarm means they either run unidentified, grab it anyway tearing it open on way out, or get you back for what you did. All depends on what kind of people were picking it up. The guys in my neighborhood I mentioned here...


...were doing what they did in the light walking slowly and calmly between houses even though they knew they were being watched. Your logic assumes the attackers will be afraid of you, the police, or jail. Many down here aren't. They're also vindictive. They're also random where you don't know if you're getting the cowards or hardcore people before the stuff goes down.

So, you have to do strong prevention followed up by being an armed, watchful person with good lighting. And leave nothing of value in your car. They even sometimes steal the alarms. That's because some of our thugs are highly-educated folks that like to show off their brains to their homies during their activities as "self-employed entrepreneurs" as they described it to me. ;)

Because once you start sending secret cameras and gps trackers across jurisdictions for the purpose of catching criminals you really do need a pi license. If your homespun amature detective agency makes a mistake, or gets someone hurt, you better be ready for a multi-year legal headache. Maybe you win out in the end, but it wont be a fun ride.

Every department store security guard knows to never continue the operation beyond the store. Their insurance companies know the potential troubles and wont cover such things.

Good points. It's true there's risk there. I'd have to look up the requirements out here to see what risk. We have less strict rules in the Mid-South on recordings and use of force than in a lot of paces. Might be permissible, might not.

> Because the original goal was to uncover dishonest people, and so now you've actually found even more dishonest people, who were taped on video

There are a lot of people who don't understand the harm in a little white lie; or who just misunderstand what truth means. Just think of any misleading ad or marketing material that you've seen.

To be quite frank, when I watched the video, I never understood why one guy had a crucifix hanging from his rearview mirror, and why the faces were obscured.

> There are a lot of people who don't understand the harm in a little white lie

Except the harm here is quite obvious - he offered money for the recovery, so they staged recoveries. If they did it because they thought it would help him they should have refused reimbursement. Instead, not only did they damage his reputation, they defrauded him out of money in doing so.

> To be quite frank, when I watched the video, I never understood why one guy had a crucifix hanging from his rearview mirror,

I'm not sure what this means. Are you implying that you think someone with a crucifix hanging from their mirror wouldn't commit this crime?

> and why the faces were obscured.

Because you're better safe than sorry. For example, if the friends of the acquaintance weren't told what was really going on, it could have been devastating to their reputation if their face was released nationally and linked to a crime. That can spur lawsuits. Meritorious or not, they cost to defend against.

I don't assume they wouldn't commit a crime. I just assume they're going to hell. ;)

Wait, why would the crucifix throw you? Lots of people who do immoral things are religious.

Probably a larger group that do immoral things, such as pretending to be religious.

No true Scotsman?

no that doesn't make any sense here.

> why the faces were obscured

So the people aren’t doxxed and witch-hunted?

> I have since removed those reactions from the original video (originally 6:26-7:59).

Does YouTube allow video edits now?

From the article: Rober deleted about a minute and a half from his original YouTube video yesterday, and reuploaded it—something YouTube allows you to do without sacrificing the number of hits a user has accumulated.

Yes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzuRN1F39IY

You can at least trim content out of an existing video.

only for videos with less than 100k views. his video had millions of views.

Certain tiers of creator accounts are exempt from that limit.

He said on Twitter he used youtubes video editor.

No. Perhaps it's a reupload.

I call BS.

The device had GPS tracker and it was used just few times, so chances of him NOT reviewing theif's route after each incident are zero. So he surely knew that the thief lived across the street.

and? Neighbors can legit steal too.

According to the imgur album, one time the package was opened by his next door neighbor. A different time it was opened in his own house.

Indeed. My co-worker had a package thief that was his next door neighbor's son.

so: he can't also act surprised and say he didn't know.

My hut feeling is that he’s trying to craft a narrative where he is not exposed as deliberately faking this, in order to save himself. From his silenence towards those trying to figure our what happened, it feels like he might have intended the fakes but not thought he would be caught. This also nicely explains the many original questions of why he would not preocecute the thieves. It was because he knew they where not actual thieves.

They were acquaintances, not neighbors.

No they were neighbors. They lived 2 doors apart on the same street.

Neighbors know when you're home or not better than anyone.

Wow, not gonna lie, pretty impressed by the internet sleuths who tracked things down in the video: https://m.imgur.com/a/oxjd8lU .

Also pretty impressed people have that much time on their hands (as I say posting some random comment into the ether).

My manager pointed out this to me shortly after the video blew up. As soon as he saw the video he suspected something was up but it took him less than half an hour after work that day to track down a shocking amount of information about the people involved and conclude it was a fake. He's absolutely sure it was fake top to bottom because Mark Rober would have to have seen and edit out evidence of fakery in the original video.

Mark is the kind of person who pays others to do parts of his projects that are dull or not good use of his time.

He might well contract someone to edit together his videos.

I am so glad people spend time looking at this stuff, I had no idea any part of it was fake.

Impressive amounts of skill and creativity that went into something 100% trivial.

Impressive amounts of desire to do something meaningful, anything, no matter what, as long as it feels meaningful, that drives people to even begin digging into stuff like this.

I guess that means the leisure society is a lot closer than I thought?

Impressed is the nice way to put it.

Literally doxxing people is very scary.

They redacted the PII, and I wouldn't call this doxxing to begin with.

Doxxing the guilty is still doxxing. Doxxing, then taking the information down is still doxxing. Until there is a trial, people still have their civil rights. Private individuals and the legislative and executive parts of our government have no business taking away people's civil rights. That's what the Civil Rights movement was about in the first place!

Taking away someone's civil rights through a trial by social media is even worse than any legacy "trial by media."

There are civil rights being taken away here?

Obviously it's not pleasant to have your public information shared like this, and I'm not saying that it should have happened, I just don't understand what you're trying to say.

except no doxxing occurred...

By those standards, the people were doxed by the original Mark Rober video. The street number of the woman's house was visible on the trashcan, that with the name of the trash vendor (also visible on the trashcan) were enough to find the address.

That imgur album was shared by a reporter, Matt Novak from Gizmodo. It is private and was not widely shared until he decided to post it in his reporting.

If you want to be mad at anyone for doxing, look to Mark Rober for being sloppy in his editing and Matt Novak for posting a link to that private gallery.

I assumed he built the device but it turns out this guy actually engineered the device for Mark:


Yeah, pretty shitty how the implication in the video is that Mark Rober designed the device (although he does briefly name-check the real creator), but no link in the description to the guy's channel.

Rober is going to have to do three times as much to recovery any credibility.

Holy crap that fan at https://youtu.be/IpMxOmUcfOI?t=175

Btw absolutely amazing project. Thanks for posting the link

Does anyone know anything about what sort of fan that is? Seems like it could be pretty interesting to play around with.

Looks like a standard brushless case fan – most of the PC/ATX ones are 12v and prioritise low noise over power, but I have a few I pulled out of laser printers that are 24v, about palm-sized, and put out silly volumes of air.

standard server chassis fan, they are loud AF and push serious CFM. I have a spare box of Nidec 450s capable of 200CFM, you can hardly hold one in your hand while going full speed.

Sean’s a cool guy, lots of cool projects on his channel worth a watch.

Well if you believe his explanation then they were still thieves, technically.

He offered to pay people who kept the package on their porch if the package was taken. They then asked their friends to take it so they would get paid.

He also lied about his friend wanting to use it, when he offered her money.

I want to believe, buuut...It would make more sense to financially incentivize people to set off a glitter/stink bomb in their house or car.

And then there's the other thing about him blurring out the 'thieves' faces, a lot of folks wondered why he would take extra time to do that? Package thieves deserve to be arrested, but the police won't do anything, so instead I'll annoy them with glitter and safeguard their anonymity? Fishy. Not fishy when its people that haven't done anything wrong that are helping you make a video and you don't want them being doxxed/witchhunted.

> It would make more sense to financially incentivize people to set off a glitter/stink bomb in their house or car.

No, it wouldn't make sense for at least two reasons: After engineering something for 6 months you really really really want to see if it works in the wild. Rober doesn't have much to gain from youtube stardom compared to other things he could possibly do.

Edit: Also, a very careful engineer, as most are, would engineer a careful hoax. Also, involving money and human interest without considering the possibilities is sometimes a stereotypical engineering mistake.

Except that he didn't engineer it. Someone else did.

After engineering something for 6 months you really really [don't want to lose that thing you spent 6 months on because there are still many factors beyond your control]. Rober doesn't have much to gain from youtube stardom [except of course--money, and notoriety]

So I didn't convince you?

That sounds like some incredible hair splitting and semantic juggling.

Same guy made video "FLYING PHONE SCAM EXPOSED (so I built a REAL one)"[1], where he cried that someone made fake video and made money from amazon referrals.

At the same time, this fake glitter dude makes a lot of money from his fake video. Nice.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEZCxxKp0hM

This video was the first time I heard of Mark Rober, and it was a pretty mean hatchet job towards that Indian kid who was obviously just joking around. Dr. Disillusion had a much more respectfully takedown of the same video where he gave props to the kid and encouraged him to keep at it.

Rober takes the "I'm an engineer, so I know what I'm talking about" shtick too far; there's probably 10,000 more-talented engineers in Boeing's SPEEA local alone.

Surely you mean Captain Disillusion.


Comparing a doctored video with blatantly false engineered hardware (and affiliated links for a DIY) to a video with dishonest reactions is not a fair comparison.

Funny. In the original thread there were quite a few people thoroughly convinced that there was no way this could possibly be staged because come on, why would he do that? After all, he is a famous dude and he worked for NASA! He would never stage a reaction video for views, how would that look?


That logic still holds if you believe his explanation. He didn't know the thieves were fake either. He didn't actually deceive anyone because he was as in the dark as we were.

I think he's lying and making up excuses because he got caught. He also misrepresented his role in the creation of the device (i.e. he didn't create it, someone else did, you can view their youtube channel here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpMxOmUcfOI). IMO there is no reason to trust anything that guy says.

I think the entertainment value of this video for me doesn’t rely on it being genuine. It’s creative, well engineered, and hilariously executed even if the responses are staged. I’m surprised, but it doesn’t ruin it for me.

Kind of like Top Gear or WWE. It's full of fake but we kind of implicitly get that. I think a bit of the issue here is that a lot of people (myself included) assumed there was no staging.

Kinda makes you wonder about other extraordinary claims.. I mean, what did he really do to prove that it wasn't staged? Other than saying he works for NASA...

I watched the video and I was quite shocked at how many of the 'thieves' spoke to themselves when seemingly alone. I was wondering if people are that stupid in this 'thieving' class of suburban America.

We all speak to ourselves from time to time, it is as if we have a clutch going on between our brain and our mouths, in childhood we learn to use this clutch to think before we speak. But there will be occasions when we let this go, I could have an accident, e.g. stubbing my toe, in which case I might speak to myself with expletives without an audience for my words needing to be present.

If I had been tricked by this glitter package I might not disengage the 'clutch' due to being surprised and shocked. But I don't think I would have spoke to myself as the people in the video did.

So I was wondering if people were that stupid, but now I am thinking the entire video was fake.

The other aspect that concerned me in the video was the manner that he went off chasing the parcel in his car to the car park and what not. I would be quite apprehensive of confronting people regarding theft and yet I have had plenty of opportunities from working in retail to be able to do that. NASA engineer types generally don't have that street skill and I expected him to show the fear that is natural when confronting people for theft.

I don't think that we have heard the end of how well this video was stage managed and faked, I do not believe a single thief was legit. Why fake some of it and not all of it? Although YouTube this had a sponsor and was a full on TV production, and, in TV you don't have a soap opera where 'some of it is real', everything is scripted and staged or else it isn't. There was no evidence of multiple packages being made, so to create the monetizing ten minutes why risk it going wrong after one genuine thief takes the device and destroys it?

The get a friend of a friend to do it approach means the friends of friends know they have been pranked and aren't going to have law enforcement coming down on them. In America a real thief could pull a gun on our NASA engineer chap out of a fear of being sent back to jail for some parole violation. The reaction and blase way our NASA engineer chap went down hunting the perps didn't fit with how it all works.

I now wonder how he must feel about future Amazon orders, if I was him I would wonder how many of those will get routinely stolen from now on due to the unscientific rules of 'karma'.

> was the manner that he went off chasing the parcel in his car to the car park and what not.

I mean, he had a 180-360 degree view of the package not being near a car; and the ability to drive past it first in an area where it would be perfectly inconspicuous to drive past to see if it were abandoned.

At no point does he show a feed. He seems to play down the whole server side aspect.

Imho its all fake, and it does kinda matter.

i like youtube because its real. Peoples info isnt perfect and the quality could be better but it is real! Cody really refines things, applied science really built an elecron microscope.

Traditional media has much set up and fakery, people dont really know whats real and their expectations are waaaay out of whack. We see these bull shit stories -whether about real people or not- that are not true, one person didnt do that, it wasnt that successful, it didnt happen overnight, the world is not that black and white etc.

Youtube etc. Are refreshing as the dramatisations are missing or done at the hamfisted skill level of your friend after a drink.. they are easy to spot and taken for what they are intended to be - lubrication/snacks for your attention and patience. But also these filler peices etc. Will struggle to outshine the actual content - you are here to see what they managed in their eveneing etc. Or whatever, did it work, was it fun.. not how well they can use aftereffects.

As production budgets and stakes increase we see a shift to the polish, drama and entertainment quality aspects. Much of this is appreciated, its great when a youtuber figures out microphones, or close shots, and all their videos are better for it. But all our built in defaults for filler and how to ham it up are based lying and not respecting your audience due to the history of media and who created it.

These "dramatisations" are a natural part of personal communications but are inappropriate for mass media. They are at the core of celebrity culture, fake news, sound bite reporting politics.

But it takes a moral stand against succumbing to base urges and distractions to rise above it and give the clarity to call it out when it happens. And its definately not short term financial rewarding (tho may add stability)

I dont have the answers but to me the rise of people like this and cody etc. Is great, but its a learning experince, we dont know where its going. But i understand a strong desire to have less mark rober polished showoffery and more grab these thing do this stuff and get these results.

Rober is not the worst tho.. life hacks ffs.

I am in agreement with the reality aspect of YouTube, I have a guilty pleasure for watching a YouTuber who does stupid things for likes, I won't give him the oxygen of publicity here though.

However, in this desperation for likes everything is totally real, it is almost as if the guy would not be able to imagine faking it and would not be able to conceive of it. There may be click bait titles, the begging for likes and the desire for fame and fortune but it is entirely real, nothing staged. You mention doing things in post production, the idea of faking it in post is also an unimaginable idea to the YouTubers we get strangely fascinated by.

At the same time though, Instagram is fake, every face on it is fake, every scene is a setup, the people on it project a lifestyle they don't live up to. Clearly people wear make-up on YouTube too, but there is something real about that.

We laugh at millennials tuning out the TV in the corner to be obsessed with 'social media' but old media is no longer getting the attention that it once had. It survives on the momentum built up over decades with an audience that is getting older.

There was a time when I would eagerly watch soap operas, as written by vast teams of skilled writers and featuring a cast of very well paid actors. But nowadays I am not watching any of that stuff, the lone guy talking about what he is tinkering with in the garage demands my attention instead. Often this lone guy really is doing it all, the camera work, the editing, the whole shebang, to create compelling content that would have required a huge team in previous times. At other times there is a small group of friends with one of them able to do super slick editing and create content that is definitely 'broadcast quality'.

The ability to like, comment, share and subscribe is also part of it. Why watch something with 'comments disabled'? With regular TV you can shout at the TV but it won't hear you. With Youtube you might get one of those heart things and a comment back from the YouTuber/presenter which is sweet. With broadcast media there is none of this interaction.

I don't see any YouTubers wanting to get a 'proper TV series', it is always the other way, with TV types wanting to do their next project on YouTube and turning their back on the legacy media.

Some things are lost though, not having that vast team with experience is not a bad thing though as long as that reality aspect is there. It is the honesty the viewer likes.

I also don't think this really ruins his credibility as a YouTuber (or an engineer) at all. It's quite normal to act out and stage events for videos, especially in this case where the success of the video depended on recovering the device (for recording multiple takes, and because it just cost a lot of effort) and staying safe (since retaliation is a serious risk for people who fool porch pirates).

I'm not sure if he intended this to be the case, but I'll still be a subscriber.

I think people are a little confused about how much media out there is totally faked. Almost all of the "reality" programming is scripted, staged, and fake. A great deal of viral videos are staged or completely faked as well.

I couldn't care any less whether its genuine or not. I've always been baffled at the internet's obsession with outing "fake" content. It's like people think attention is sacrosanct and must ensure that any attention someone gets is "just" according to their personal criteria. It points to our pathological obsession with fame and status.

I guess some people really don't mind being lied too. Others take a stand against it. I am happy for those latter people.

Why is debunking people faking stuff indicative of a pathological obsession with fame and status? Seems more like the fakers in the first place would be guilty of obsessing over fame and status.

The effort to debunk rates poorly on effort vs reward, outside of an unhealthy value placed on attention/status. But making fake content for attention can have a reasonable expected payoff.

Not everyone measures the value of their time spent by expected dollar returns.

It's okay to value your time by expected returns, as long as you consider any additional harm you cause to others. If you make $100 and others you interact with also make $5 from your efforts, that's okay. If you make $100 and others you interact with lose $200, then that's probably bad.

Who said anything about dollar returns? Effor vs reward is just a general way to describe an action with some cost and with some benefit.

People want to think their attention is worth something. Maybe they should be more careful where they spend it.

Yes, plenty of people don't mind being lied too.

I recall several posts on this forum by users explicitly denying the possibility of it being fake, when the video was first posted.

I hope some of our fellow HN users who were so adamant will reflect on their comments, and it would be nice if they would comment on how they were thinking and feeling now.

Memorable quotes:

'I doubt Mark would be staging things. He works for Nasa and worked on some big projects there and is a pretty smart guy. I can't see him being the kind of person looking to just make some viral fake video. But up to you to make that call if you want to think that. This is one case where I doubt it's staged.'

'Given who made the video, I'd give it about a 0% probably of being staged. That's not Mark's gig.'

'Well one, he's not a prank channel. He's a serious professional that even showed video of people stealing his package that started the whole idea. He then went as far as to machine parts, have a custom pcb manufactured etc. Then he contaminated cars and residences with glitter, yeah good luck talking random friends to let you bomb their cars and houses with glitter.

I mean, the dude worked for JPL for almost a decade and has his work on Mars, he already gets tons of views and has a history of deep-diving projects. He's also a tv host. He's also a former TED speaker.

Guy has better things to do than stage videos for YouTube.'

If I'm not mistaken, this would be a good example of the halo effect.

From what I understand, he still maintains that he hasn't staged anything and was duped by his friends. If that is true the text you quoted still stands.

Regarding the NASA affiliation, he doesn't work for NASA anymore. I'm shocked his current employer permits this activity.

The racial aspect of paying your black friends to pretend to be thieves is really troubling here.

The whole thing stinks.

I think this is the worst part. If you read through the YouTube comments, there is a tangible sense of rage toward "porch pirates", and you know people watching these videos will integrate the footage of the "thieves" into their own personal stereotype of who these thieves tend to be.

What race should the sort-of-fake-thieves have been? What is the "right race" to artificially associate with theft? :)

Once you acknowledge they were actors, you have to ask: Why was this person chosen to play that role?

Why have your next door neighbor do it? You know the guy is tracking the GPS. Was it because your neighbor was black and you thought it would be more convincing than your white friend across town?

Good relationship with said neighbor? Trying to tie race baiting into this is an extremely bad look (and not to mention a really disgusting accusation) without further concrete evidence.

Ok, I look forward to when his friends come forward and say they selected the actors at random from their Christmas Card list.

Someone paid them ?!

Yes, he paid his friends.

It's not clear if his friends paid the actors, but presumably they did (or else, they just enjoy spraying glitter all over their car/bed for fun).

At the end of the day, the result was that he paid money in exchange for videos of black people pretending to be thieves.

That wasn't the way I read it. He said the "thieves" were acquaintances of the friends he paid. He likely doesn't even know the acquaintances.

Some of the questions are overt: Did the friends chose the actors who looked and sounded more like a "thief" (aka minority stereotype)?

Some are less overt: Was he fooled by the actors because of his own preconceptions about what a thief looks and sounds like? He had the full GPS tracking and footage, after all. Did he ignore evidence that might have clued him in that it wasn't real, because of those biases?

By setting it up so they get paid if an only if it gets stolen, did he unintentionally incentivise his friends to fake the footage that matched his own preconceptions of what a real thief looks like?

After all, we know he was stolen from multiple times. We know he has footage, and knows what they look like. Was he convinced because of his preconceptions?

That's what we are talking about here. Once it's revealed it's fake, we suddenly are approached by a whole tangle of messy racial bias in how this made it from conception to production to consumption.

That's how I read it as well. Not cool spreading such rumors..

It's the first thing I thought: dude isn't going to wait for thieves and chance recovery for $1800 of phones, instead he's going to fake it like a reality show with friends / hired actors. He should've disclosed the fact because that would show integrity. He comes off like a smarmy guy that you can't trust, so it's not a huge suprise either.

The "I worked for NASA" shpeil is so sweaty when you find out that he didn't even build the device. (Someone in this thread posted the channel of the contracted builder.)

when i watched it i said "no thief in the whole world is going to be disappointed and throw away 4 iphones just because of some glitter"

fake af, also racist for getting black people to be the thief.

So what ? This does not make the work any less impressive. There is zero doubt in my mind that this was a genuine effort. Mark, if you're reading this: Awesome hack, keep them coming!

Ok, how about the fact that someone else made the device for him? So what did he do, have an idea, and leave it on his porch.

The idea and the execution of it are why people enjoyed the video. He linked to a video by the guy that helped him build it that goes through some of the engineering of the device for those that are interested. He never took credit for doing the entire thing by himself.

I believe this is OK. He mentions the co-creator in the video and posts a link to their video at the description.

I'm still very surprised that any of this is true. This definitely seems like a booby-trap device situation to me, and I wouldn't risk leaving it out in front of my house.

Hopefully covered by the same laws that protect banks that use dye packs. Porch bandits are entering private property that is not theirs and not by invitation, then stealing private property.

Instead of pot smoking convictions, I'd rather see more prison time for porch bandits caught by dye pack-like bait packages.

I'm not shedding tears for people who break their legs trying to jump a fence into someone's backyard so they can steal their TV, but the laws are what they are.

I can't exactly put down Home Alone style traps in my house; I'm not sure why this is any different.

I think the difference is degree of injury. Having glitter in your car is a lot different than having a bullet through your face, which is where the booby trap case law comes from.

Yes, but... What if the passenger opened the package while the car was being driven, and the commotion with the glitter and fart bomb (and perhaps a exaggerated response by the passenger) might contribute to an accident.

Maybe the smell and the shame might make the thief stressed and make bad decisions in traffic.

Both scenarios might seem silly, but I think they are in quite a different legal light when there is intent to disrupt.

They don't seem silly, they are silly.

Many accidents are.

It's about the degree of harm. Spreading glitter and fart spray in somebody's car doesn't really hurt anybody, and it's very unlikely anyone would prosecute over it, no matter what the circumstances were. Breaking someone's legs is very different in the eyes of the law.

Booby traps are generally illegal because they are indiscriminate. It may be justified self-defense to hurt somebody, even to a crippling or lethal level, if you knew it was necessary to save your life or prevent some other serious violent felony. Booby traps could harm anyone, regardless of their intent. If you were to set up a shotgun trap to fire on anybody who opens your door wrong, for example, it might kill a burglar or rapist. Or it might kill a fireman, cop, paramedic, pushy salesman, handyman, etc. Even if you don't want some of the previous in your home, you can't shoot them to keep them out, at least not without requesting them to leave and going through a chain of escalation first. Even booby traps that aren't that harmful could cause a lot more damage than expected if somebody very old, very young, disabled, or otherwise more physically vulnerable happens into them.

So you can (at least in the US) defend your home yourself with an appropriate amount of force, including lethal force if the situation calls for it. But only because it's you making a reasonable judgement about the appropriateness of the force involved. You can't set a booby trap to harm anyone who goes to the wrong place, regardless of who they are or what their intent is.

There are obvious design decisions that make it safer than it could be; if the glitter were powered by an explosive device or had glue in it, it would obviously be more effective though less reusable.

I'm not. I would. It's pretty harmless. The chance of serious injury seems lower than that of crossing a busy street.

Glitter in the eye is not harmeless, I know someone blind in one eye as a result. There is genuine liability here, even if not super obvious.

Crossing a busy road is not harmless. I know of someone that literally died attempting to do it.

I didn’t watch the video, but with a title like that, I thought it was fake. Not in a “haha I’m so smart, I knew it was fake!” way, but an “If this were real, he’d probably be using the video in court rather than on YouTube, besides everyone expects YouTube content to be staged” way.

Guess I was wrong...?

One of the problems he originally called out were the local police being useless at dealing with property crimes. I believe this to be absolutely true. Based on experience.

I was more concerned that someone who stole this package from his doorstep would be injured or harmed and sue/threaten the property owner.

Can you sue someone if you steal something from them and it hurts you?

Can you sue? Sure. Can you win? Maybe. It might depend on how bad the damage is.

What I'd like to know is what kind of person would volunteer to have their car or home covered in fine glitter that's impossible to remove. No idea how disgusting the fart gas is.

So even if Rober was paying people for recovery, I'd expect he'd have to pay them quite a bit more to voluntarily undergo the treatment of his boobytrap.

Seems weird that you expect him to pay more when you Donny know how much he payed in the first place...

You don't think having to clean up fine glitter everywhere would increase the effort and therefore the cost of participating in this?

I commend him for doing this. People are up in arms about everything: this story plus numerous stories how glitter is bad for the environment. But he created a genuine video, complicated device, put time, effort, and best intentions without a hint of impropriety. People need to relax and stop looking for things to criticize in this case.

We have an ongoing biggest European journalism scandal in decades at Der Spiegel, and you barely hear about this in the media. Where are our priorities?




Yes I assumed some or all of it was fake, its really no big deal, who cares? He is on youtube trying to monetize his video, he probably wouldn't want to leave it to chance. I am just surprised he found people willing to glitter bomb their own cars! It's no different than most "reality" tv shows.

Yes I assumed some or all of it was fake, its really no big deal, who cares?

This is the level of cynicism our society has sunk to? I grew up in a time and place where everybody tried their hardest to tell the truth, always. Years later, I mentioned this idea to my girlfriend at the time's mom, and she laughed out loud. She grew up in a community where everyone lied all the time.

This is the difference between a society that works, and a society that's pathological.

I'm more shocked by such cynical reactions than by the circumstance reported.

I like how your parent comment has positive karma for saying that "it's fake; who cares," but I'm downvoted into negative for saying "it's fake; I care" : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18735972

You were downvoted for saying it was an obvious fake while giving no justification for your conclusion.

The Der Spiegel story was on the Philip Defranco show.

>Rober deleted about a minute and a half from his original YouTube video yesterday, and reuploaded it—something YouTube allows you to do without sacrificing the number of hits a user has accumulated

wait, what? you can edit YT videos without changing video ID? When did that happen?

If a package was opened inside his friend/neighbors own house, how did he not recognize that?

Not as fabulous as we were first led to believe?

Who cares if it was fake, it was awesome and it was better entertainment than 99.99% of the crap on the internet.

Make more stuff NASA dude!!

You mean TacoCopter isn't real, either? ;(


They really have to get in a dig at the president in every article don't they? Even completely unrelated ones about glitter bomb traps.

So? Does the glitter not go everywhere?

> It’s still an impressive invention, and if you believe Rober, most of the video is still legit. But Rober understands why people may not trust him anymore.

He understands incorrectly then. The point of the video was engineering, and not social science.

Well, he didn’t even do the engineering so... it’s just entertainment.

This was pretty obvious imo, based on a cursory viewing of the original video when it came out. I immediately blocked the dude's Twitter account as I only use it for following fintwits. People wanted to believe it was true for whatever reason; just take a step back, and you'll see how obviously staged the whole thing was. Don't feed the troll.

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