David Mikkelson on Creating Urban Legends Website Snopes.com


Very happy to have a David Mickelson if you don't recognize that name you will likely recognize the site that he created and runs it's called slopes slopes dot com and I think we all Oh David a great debt of gratitude thank you thank you for being here you're welcome thanks for having me for being on owner Rossen Kerry today's just Ross ended and our friend Spencer and Charles were here at Sei con twenty nine thousand nine you've been to either this conference before similar ones way back when the amazing meeting being used to go to I probably passed in the hallways and they had no idea that you were the one solving all of my online battles actually I used to go with a friend of mine who lived here in Vegas and we thought US kind of Bari Pie be more interesting to go to the other side and go to the UFO convention and the vicar convention what the true believer Oh you're talking my language well that's what I do with the other skeptical crowd rather than the Arthur's or what have you so maybe WanNa join us on a future investigation or something let's tell our audience a bit about slopes in case for some reason they don't know I don't know what working to hide under for the past twenty five years or how to have not heard of snow but you started in the year of the lion king that's how I see nineteen ninety-four IC- yet what got snow going what started this I wish I could claim I had the foresight twenty five years ago to recognize you know the Internet thing fake news going to be a big problem come the twenty first century so I'm going to get a head start on it but no Not really that visionary it was just kind of a hobby that got out of control I worked for a very large computer company so you're kind of hooked in the Internet before most people had heard of the Internet back in the old ninety ninety four that's the very early days people are on netscape navigator for in back in the the usenet newsgroup days and there were no blogs even at that point no search engines no youtube yeah yeah alter Vista Dog pile of the company that made Alta this over really is okay I'm letting people go back K. situate themselves were in nineteen ninety four the Big Bang theory episode whether the doing favorite nonexistent search engine if I'd been involved in newsgroups about urban legends Disney and when the first graphical browser came out from Wola SORTA started writing up little Disney related urban legends okay this is kind of fun because carry my co host her other podcasts is called hit Mickey's and she talks about the deep seedy underbelly of Disney and did very investigation of the rumors around Waltz head it turns out he actually was interested in cryogenics but he didn't have his head frozen or any part of him actually that was one of the first investigations we realtors going out to force lawn and actually photographing the burial site or at least the martyr they are for anyone who wasn't able to access the -Fornia or Glendale at least give them a vision of of his grave and kiddingly trying to round up people on the Internet Tawhid in Forest Lawn overnight off the spot exactly what was this is the deep kind of investigative digging that's nope isn't even before it snaps and so I talked about with you before you know it kind of like figuring out a way to get into club thirty three the big mystery because it wasn't only Internet I just sort of you know the the basketball court in the matter homer and all those sorts I have been in there all the the hidden supposedly hidden risque stuff in Disney movies that's really where snow started a house and then when I ran through all the Disney legends I could think of branched out into different categories and then my wife the time started chipping in intending it to be kind of like a Wikipedia for Urban Legend Yeah not with the wikki part of everyone editing of it just sort of this authoritative Encyclopedia Urban Legends that's why it was originally called the wheel the urban legends reference phages and urban reference or legend Urban Legends Reverend pages right earlier yeah that doesn't roll off the time that does not I'm going to work so hard not to go down the rabbit hole of wanting to talk about Disney civic stopped I worked for Disney to mention working for big companies and love that kind of history so we'll talk about it some other time other podcasts so quickly took a left turn because as we were just discussing this was way back before search engines even yacht who was hand compiled yet just in index directories of websites did you get on that index but notes all word of mouth really kind of quickly became this place where everybody emailed anything questionable they came across on the internet or even in the real world and so it was all dying children trying to collect the the largest number of business cards birthday cards at Christmas cards and lots of computer virus warnings many which were hoaxes and missing dialed appeals many of which were hoax is you know before they were kind of clearing houses for all that stuff right now that was and there was no wikipedia the time so so which came first kind of the website format or the name snow pts well I started using the name snowpacks way back in the pre webbed as okay or yeah once the origin of this term slopes is the name of a family of characters that appear throughout the works of William Faulkner I'll and that has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than just way back when I was familiar with falters work so I doc named my cats nope site had personalized plate that said snowpacks and so my college roommate's called me that and when I started posting on the old newsgroups on the Internet the Stott there's you know whatever twenty million David's out there who's going to remember David I need like uh-huh Dinette so using snow pts and it really just were doubt fortuitously now it's become a verb yeah it's kind of like is Amazon Gogol it's short it's catchy distinguishes us from competitors 'cause everybody else in our spaces fact something or something check or something and we're the ones who are not yet we did a similar thing at least with our podcast is called owner Rawson Kerry because there's no indication from the name itself what the podcast about so slopes itself at least has just become a household name so okay so it wasn't anything to do with snoops the character from the rescuers which is what what my crazy conspiracy believing cousin Catherine calls it she snoops we actually did once getting Anki irate email from someone who threatened to report us to the Faulkner Foundation or so really not realizing that there are a number of people the world who actually have the surname snow he invented it's not like we called ourselves Sherlock Holmes or something as soon as you settle with me those families then you can come after me that's funny it reminds me of I think goes Murray Gelman who named the quirk after a James Joyce Reference yeah three quirks for muster mark so he made that his new particle name anyway will you know what to step back even a little bit farther again let's say somebody at this point is still not familiar with slopes haven't been there what's the basic format so you come to snaps if you've heard an urban legend or someone shares a claim that could be true or false yes and they get to see synopsis telling them either it's true it's false it's mostly falls somewhere in between and then an explanation right yes about we're doing these days unfortunately as political that's what's consuming everyone in the era of fake news and Yeah and Post Truth and all of that as lawyer work is cut out for him yeah so you you know someone's forty you this screed about some company is funding you know genocide eight of gay people in some African country or just something that sounds really horrible are hard to believe or you know Nancy Pelosi is going to become vice president trump resigns or some vaccine question right and so then somebody just has to add on their online debate forum while the to do is go to another tab and just type in snoops and then that key phrase that company and they get a handy article they read it very quickly and then instead of them having to do a ton of re research and share it with their crazy cousin they just copy the link and say please go read this note article so early on how many of the articles were you writing was it all you are did you have writers from the beginning at the very beginning when it started it was just me road all the Disney stuff the first few categories as I said than my wife at the time Barbara started chipping in in writing but said we started this back in nineteen ninety four it wasn't until twenty years later Haute very recently relatively recently back to doing it on my own and one of hired a couple of contract writers and then as the twenty sixteen election proved to be the most contentious in US history roundup with more more writers or editors so maybe you can help me out is it true that the pope endorsed Donald Trump for president. it's not true yes not wanna Vatican City as yeah how how do you differentiate all of this language around fake news versus is hoax or parodies how do you kind of internally classify all these things well one is we we avoid the USA fake news really now just because it's been completely co opted practically meaningless us like urban legend used to be just a a synonym for false or anything that you neal's they don't lie leave just call it fake news and also news doesn't have to be fake to be Eh misleading like you can create a one hundred percent accurate article only tells one side of a story you know it's like imagine a criminal trial where the prosecution put on a case of just stop there and it went to the jury the lies by omission yeah it'd be highly misleading so fake doesn't cover it all so we're still kind of calling it junk news item apparently our president has moved onto corrupt news media yes we're not quite calling it that yet tell me a bit about your process first of all how does an idea become eligible force a bunch of people submitting forms online saying please is a settle this for me or is it something you take interest in now our topic selection methodology is we tackle whatever the most people are asking about her questioning at a given time we do that through a variety of metrics what people are emailing us what the searching for on our site what's trending on Google what people are posting on our facebook pages what's what's on the front page of read it kind of there's a whole lot of inputs that gets synthesized and we don't make any judgments about the stuff is too silly or CBS or unimportant rust cover you let the interest level Kinda dictate house exactly sometimes it's kind of distressing but people are interested in to the exclusion of things are actually more substantial or important subjects to a lot of criticism where people complain you were debunking obvious satire must be there's nothing obvious out there and if we're if we're writing about it it's a whole lot of people had ask about it because they didn't get it will

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