2004 Christmas Lights Webcam Hoax - Media Commentary

Media coverage has been interesting to observe - some stories have emerged where they hammered me a bit - maybe some bruised ego's in the media? The two main inaccuracies (that generated most of the 5-10% nasty-gram Emails) are strongly debunked below. BTW, I was kinda annoyed the first week or so about some of the swipes the media took at me ... but I'm a little more "OK" with it now. The so-called Fourth Estate takes themselves soooo seriousely, so perhaps their attacking response to my fun little hoax is to be expected. I did wonder a bit about one reporter's response when I suggested she read my complete and detailed writeup on the Christmas hoax for more info on the story - she replied "I don't have time to read all that!"

Many initial reports said that the Wall Street Journal "uncovered my ruse" - not true. I approached them to break the story (as reported by both me and WSJ - where does the press get this stuff?!?) since the myth of my christmas lights webcam had gotten outa control and I wanted to end it. And Paul Mclellan corrected the evening AP story the very next morning with his own press release that said "my words were misconstrued to mean something entirely different" when the AP quoted him saying Alek was "unethical" and Paul continues on to say "I sincerely appreciate his intent of spreading Christmas cheer!" So I'd encourage you to read my side of the story and then form your own opinion.

This page was being updated periodically, and as noted in several places below, did seem to influence some of the reporting. I got a number of Emails from people (even those who initially wrote to express their displeasure) who read this media update page and said they were now upset with the press for poor (and biased) reporting. I also had several folks ask me what the media "tornado" was like before the hoax was revealed, so click here to read all about that. And while some folks have postulated that I'm surfing every web site on the Internet to see what they are saying about me, all I did was look at my web server logs, which indicate which sites were sending traffic here.

2004_12_27_noonish: After several days of discussions (and fact-checking) Charles Forelle informs me that the WSJ article will probably run in the online edition in a few hours. He says he'll be contacting some of the media folks who originally ran the story for comment. I explain that I will also inform media contacts that I have dealt with that "something" is coming and to check my web site for details, I don't have a pre-made list, so I start working through 'em ... I also update the web page to say "major announcement coming soon"

2004_12_27_1419: The Denver Channel ABC-7 posts a story with a major factual error (see 2004_12_27_1600 update below). Note that the creation time is 1402, but I start seeing inbound traffic at 1419, so that's must have been when it was posted. Unfortunately, this is the story picked up by many media outlets since it is the first to go out on the AP Wire. I had provided them with an early copy of my hoax statement per their request - read about that exchange and Wayne Harrison's role. In hindsight, this was a mistake (regardless of their subsequent coverage) because I should have waited for the WSJ story to go live ... which was my response to the rest of the media. I'm a geek, not a PR guy, so my boo-boo ... I'll know better if there is a next time! BTW, I never kept a copy of the original 1402 article, so while they updated it several times subsequently, I wonder what additional mistakes were in this version compared to the 1552 update that I talk about below. I've heard people say that one motto of the press is "don't worry about being right, just be first with the story" - ABC-7 never did get it right IMHO even though they were reading this page.

2004_12_27_1423: The Wall Street Journal reports High-Tech Holiday Light Display Draws Everyone But the Skeptics. I had no idea how Charles would write it and being a nit-picker, I look it over closely ... it's bulletproof - nice job! BTW, note the "Nancy D. Holt contributed to this article" at the end - took me about a week to figure out what her contribution was (Charles would not say), but Email me if you think you know! ;-)

2004_12_27_1430: Alek posts his public statement on the hoax and adds the word HOAX to the various christmas web pages to clearly identify that is what it is.

2004_12_27_1600: The Denver Channel ABC-7 has a story that is getting distributed nationally. Since they took me up in their helicopter, they are understandably upset about this turn of events, but I would encourage you to read my words and form your own opinion about the situation. They also have a major factual inaccuracy in their 1552 updated version: the Wall Street Journal did NOT "uncover the ruse" (ABC-7's words) nor did "Lafeyette Man's Ruse Unravels After Reporter Visit" (ABC-7's sub-headline) - I approached Charles Forelle at the WSJ with the REAL story ... I wonder if they read Charles' story (paints a much more accurate picture IMHO) or even my hoax announcement which I Emailed to them at 12:53 and BTW, it's Alek, not Alex! I'm real curious to see what the Boulder Daily Camera (who wrote the original article that was picked up) writes about me as I just concluded that interview with the same reporter - I guess we'll see tomorrow!

2004_12_27_1600: ABC-7 is running an online "vote" where they ask "Are you mad to find out the Christmas lights were faked" - current numbers are 412/81% "No, because it's funny" and 98/19% "Yes, becuse he duped me" ... I'd encourage you to read the what is talked about above, form your own opinion, and cast your vote!

2004_12_27_1618: Slashdot story goes live - they link to the ABC-7 story (which paints me in bit of a negative light and has a major factual error) and while there are a lotta "atta-boy" comments, definitely some negative ones - I wonder if the fact that the article link is to the ABC-7 story has some bearing on what people thought about it - power of the press to influence!

2004_12_27_1815: This is funny! ABC-7 issues an on-air correction on the 6:00 News ... and says "and when we asked why, the owner, Alek(!) Komarnitsky, did not respond" ... well gosh guys, have you read this page? And don't forget those Emails we had over 5 hours ago. I appreciated that your anchor emphasized the "K" in Alek on the air - glad you got my correction above ... you might update the online story currently time-stamped at 3:52! ;-) Finally, why didn't you mention your own online poll numbers, which currently say 1,121/83% thought I was Funny.

2004_12_27_1822: The Fark guys jump in with some hilarious commentary - these guys link to my statement (which includes a reference to the excellent WSJ article) so they are looking at what is the most factual reporting on the story.

2004_12_27_2000: Boy, all sorts of media attention as can be expected ... and BTW, I called back every media inquiry - wish I had some PR Flaks to screen the tough ones. It will be VERY interesting to see how the various stories come out ... but I'm glad to see that according the Channel-7 poll (keep this one going guys!), over 80% of people still think I'm funny ... and if there is any doubt, check out what the guys over at FARK have to say who think I'm 110% funny. And just for grins, the christmas lights webcam HOAX is now active - take it for a spin! ;-)

2004_12_27_2230: The AP correction has gone out (Seattle PI version - hi Mom and Dad!) and here's the CNN version. The AP was not too happy with me when we talked - livid would probably describe it ;-). Colleen Slevin has one major gaff as she quotes Paul McLellan from Service Lighting as saying I'm "unethical" - by the next morning, Paul has issued his own press release where he says "my words were misconstrued." She are also states I got "'pennies'" for each hit on the ads" ... while technically true, it gives the impression that I got pennies for each of those bazillions of hits on the web site - not true - the 'pennies' (and that is really what it is) is only if people clicked on the ads, which is (of course) completely optional. And a slight addition (but not correction - it was accurate) is that yes, one of my responses to my "Email Santa" page said "ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH" ... but be sure to read the full context of what was said. We talked about all this on the phone, so while I guess Colleen Slevin did tell the truth in her story, it gave misleading insinuations in my opinion - oh well, she was upset, so perhaps not surprising she wrote it that way.

2004_12_27_2230: 9News made some slight alterations to the AP Story (I talked to them also and they weren't too happy with me either!) and provided a pretty decent on-the-air correction also - nice job guys! Unfortunately, they aren't running a "Was Alek naughty or nice poll?", but my "funny rating" continues to climb over at Channel-7 to 84% - BTW, I haven't voted in case you are wondering! Among the 100+ media outlets all linking so far (mostly AP story, but a handful of original writing/edits), I happened to see this one from KTRE Channel 9 in Texas which indicates that the media is watching my updates to this site - thanx guys for getting the name right.

2004_12_28_0213: Angela Gunn from USA Today writes a lengthy article - pretty accurate and adds some good details and commentary ... not only are these guys up late, but they provide a sense of humor! ;-)

2004_12_28_0700: I picked up this morning's Boulder Daily Camera - recall they originally wrote the story that was picked up nationally, so they could have an axe to grind here. Story is well done (*^%$! registration required) but they also quote Paul McLellan saying I was "unethical" ... which Paul's press release a few hours later says "my words were misconstrued" - my guess is the BDC just picked up the AP "fact" (plus the pennies per hit insinuation) ... yet another example of how incorrect stuff can spread. I love this quote "People may say, 'This guy is the biggest turd around ... But I was just extending the hoax for the sake of Christmas cheer'" ... which is EXACTLY what I said to the reporter - nice job! Got an Email that some sort of segment about my hoax was just shown on Good Morning America and later heard it was on the Today show. NPR Morning Edition (originally mistakenly listed by Alek as All Things Considered - see 2004_12_29_0846 update below) did a short 30 second blurb on it Finally, I have turned on the webcam on so people can play with the lights ... and even though the sun is coming up, it looks pretty dark at my house! ;-)

2004_12_28_0802: Channel-7 updates their online story and it just gets funnier! Looks like the only change is to spell my name correctly, but they continue to report a major factual error that I was uncovered by the Wall Street Journal, not that I approached them ... even though pretty much all other media releases have this part right ... and ironically, they report that fact correctly on their on-the-air correction two hours earlier on the morning news. I DO appreciate the fact that they are still running their online poll which shows that 84% (2,910 votes) of people think I'm funny!

2004_12_28_0816: CNN.Com is running the AP Correction and is using the geek picture shot by Richard M. Hackett/Longmont Daily Times-Call.

2004_12_28_0911: Front page of MSNBC.Com Also hearing that Fox News is running some sort of segment on National TV. Their web site story says "Turns out he was nice --- and naughty" - good humor! ;-)

2004_12_28_0925: The Denver Channel 7 updates their story again - man these guys just can't get it right! They did remove the "after reporter visit" from the sub headline so that it now only reads "Lafayette Man's Ruse unravels" ... can I suggest "Lafayette Man exposes hoax to the WSJ." They also changed the wording from "He continued with his story until a Wall Street Journal reporter visited his home and uncovered the ruse" to "He continued with his story until a Wall Street Journal reporter began investigating and confirmed the ruse." Hey guys, I KNOW you are reading this page ... so repeat after me, I CONTACTED THE WSJ - your first story has already been repeated everywhere - do the "right" thing and send out another correction ... and maybe I'll watch your 6:00 News tonight to see if you have anything more to say on this story. Heck, if I were you, I'd yuk it up a bit and say "we will NEVER take Alek Komarnitsky up in our helicopter again!" ;-) And I noticed you removed the link from your article to my web site ... wouldn't want anyone to wander over here to hear the other side of the story? But I really do appreciate you keeping the "what do you think of Alek?" poll and I'm up to 3,188 votes with 84% of people who think I'm funny!

2004_12_28_0935: Paul McLellan is mentioned in several articles - he writes to me: "I was interviewed yesterday to give my opinion on your website, due to one of our ads being displayed on your site. Although I mentioned that it was not something I would have done myself, I have absolutely no hard feelings at all against Alek. I can appreciate his intent of spreading Christmas cheer! -Paul McLellan (General Manager) ServiceLighting.com" And if you think I'm making this up, go look at his own web page that corrects the media story. Yep - I made a few $$$ from the Google Ads on the site, but did nothing wrong ... and I'll again invite the media to contact them for the exact numbers (I can not release) and you'll see that I would have been a LOT better off taking that $10,000 offer from the local radio station. BTW, I'm considering donating my entire monthly Adsense earning to Celiac Research (my kids have this) but am concerned that if I do this, people will say I have something to hide which I do not. Heck, I've been running Google Adsense on most of the pages on my web site since 2003 - read my two cents here - never thought it was really such a big deal.

2004_12_28_1059: Google DID look into the matter (I Emailed 'em last night - Press continues to be welcome to contact 'em) and they respond (case #18704719) to me with this Email: "Hello Alek, Thank you for your email. We appreciate your concern to remain compliant with our program policies. I have reviewed the page in question and I can confirm that inclusion of the paragraph about Google AdSense is not in violation of our program guidelines and Terms and Conditions. We very much appreciate your continued compliance with our policies. Please feel free to reply to this email if you have additional questions or concerns. Sincerely, Mike The Google AdSense Team" - thanx "Big G" - and I also asked 'em for a statement from Sergey! ;-)

2004_12_28_1130: Fox News now has the story on their main page. Charles checks in to see how I'm doing and mentions that this is currently the third most clicked on story at The Wall Street Journal Web Site

2004_12_28_1200: WSJ.com online stats show this is currently the most popular story!

2004_12_28_1230: CNN.Com online stats show this story is currently the second most popular story and fith most popular story on FoxNews.Com.

2004_12_28_1250: Now on front page of CBSNews.Com - someone tell Dave Letterman that I have a MajorGeeks.Com T-shirt just for him! ;-)

2004_12_28_1330: I forgot to look, but the Longmont Daily Times_Call has a great article by Melanie Sidwell. This very nice lady did an excellent job both in terms of accuracy and completeness - some information here not in other press stories including interviews with other people. BTW, it's their photographer, Richard Hackett, who shot the geek picture that goes around the world - nice job!

2004_12_28_1420: Well dang, those ABC Channel-7 guys are at it again - just updated their story. Lets see what they changed this time. First, they changed the sub-headline from "Lafayette Man's Ruse unravels" to "Lafayette Man Admits He Lied About Internet Control" ... OK, that's pretty harsh guys, but at least you are no longer inaccurately reporting that it unraveled on me. But wait a minute, in the text, you still say "He continued with his story until a Wall Street Journal reporter began investigating and confirmed the ruse" ... and while I guess it is factually true that the WSJ investigated, it was AFTER I called him and said it is a hoax. And I like this addition in paragragh 4 "and that he had lied about the Internet hookup" - heck, lets pile it on guys! And here is a TOPPER - they have added at the end of the story "On Tuesday, Komarnitsky was busy keeping track of all the Web sites that covered the story of his hoax" so I'm glad to see that you have been reading all my updates here; you are welcome to link to this page for those viewers who want to read those 'em. I actually have gotten quite the chuckle following your continual updates - and am surprised you guys keep changing your story so the big bad ABC TV station can beat up on the little guy. I'm looking forward to your next update! ;-)

2004_12_28_1930: Noticed that Paul McLellan at ServiceLighting.com has updated his Press Release page with a more complete rebuttal which includes "It seems as though my words were misconstrued to mean something entirely different than what I was actually saying. I have absolutely no hard feelings at all against Alek. I sincerely appreciate his intent of spreading Christmas cheer! I have since been in discussion with Alek and we have mutually come to the conclusion that this whole thing has been blown out of proportion."

2004_12_28_2000: Web traffic is starting to decay as my story moves off the main pages of wsj.com, cnn.com, msnbc.com, foxnews.com, etc. ... so (thankfully) my 15 minutes of fame is starting to fade. Among various interviews, I had a good time doing a live show with the folks at 6PR in Perth, Australia - I actually talked to them last week (and another station down there; small world, eh?!?) and they thought the hoax was quite funny - they said they are past of ABC ... but were quick to point out that it was Australian Broadcasting Corporation, but affiliated with ABC Channel-7. The international press has actually been slower to pick up the story (compared to two weeks ago) but I'm starting to see some of this - first significant site is the The Sun from the UK - they wrote their own story and got the facts right (although I'm puzzled by the "still photos taken from three different angles" comment - they we were all shot from the same spot) plus tossed in a few choice word like "joker" and "cheeky" - good for them!

2004_12_28_2100: MuseumOfHoaxes.Com has a nice writeup about the whole thing - ironically, they wonder if the "revelation of the hoax is itself a hoax" - as I noted in the Epilogue of my writeup, Charles Forelle from the Wall Street Journal wondered too - good job both of you!

2004_12_29_0336: Wil Harris from the UK Inquirer wrote a decent summary of the hoax; he had previousely written about the halloween and christmas webcams. Wil even comments about this media page - "in some kind of perverse trophy cabinet, he has been rating reports based on their accuracy" - so I will (of course!) comment on Wil's story First, I don't consider it a "trophy cabinet" but simply a means for me to comment on the media - something that I bet the media is not used to. The only inaccuracy I see in Wil's story is that since the webcam has been "operational" since 2002, this would be the third year rather than the reported "two years" (EDIT: but argueabley this is just terminology, since the duration is two years) and I appreciate the "technology is ... pretty cool ... damn impressive coding." Wil's last paragraph talks about "INQ's policy of honest reporting" and asks the question if doing a hoax like this was appropriate - good commentary that I'd recommend you check out. BTW, I have Emailed Wil with an invite to comment on my comments here (I will post unchanged) ... and I also hope there is no hard feelings as I've enjoyed his funny writing style in the past.

2004_12_29_0700: Google News shows 352 results for Komarnitsky so it's gotten around, but most of these are re-prints of the AP article. I'm seeing some original writing, especially overnight from the overseas crowd. No idea what this Japanse site is saying ... but they reference the WSJ article. UK News Telegraph has nice little blurb with great headline "Christmas webcam hoaxer sees the light" - nice job Catherine Elsworth. Heise from Germany weighs in (Google translation) and while I'm not sure I have the translation correct (recall that I had a pop-up in German that ended up "Alek welcomes Christmas Lights Ventilators" - I meant to say Fans!) it looks like they are first publication to mention the existance of other online hoaxes - two classic examples - they are still operational - are the Subservient Chicken from Burger King and Beer.Com's Virtual Bartender both of which allow you to tell a chicken and a "chick" (try naked on the last one - hilarious!) to "do" things ... but (and keep this a secret), they are hoaxes too! ;-)

2004_12_29_0846: Just got an Email from RussellO who writes "Since it seems that you are into getting all of your facts straight, I just wanted to let you know that the NPR blurb (12/28) was from the 'Morning Edition' program. 'All Things Considered' is their evening program. Just a comment from a radio geek who doesn't own a TV Keep up the media commentary-- IMHO, TV news is just crap that people watch like zombies, and the local schlocks are the worst. Personally, I think that a story about your lights has way more value for the dollar spent (helicopter time is admittedly expensive) than chasing some ass down the freeway for 3 hours!" ... and you better believe I appreciate the correction which I have noted above in the 2004_12_28_0700 entry - thanx Russell!

2004_12_29_1300: Just noticed this story from the Poynter Institute. Pretty complete writeup that provides some helpful links - says I might be a last minute contender for the top 10 Net Hoaxes/Urban Legends of 2004 - ummmmm ... seems odd one could publish such a list before the end of the year, but hey, that would be cool. The guys over at Acurazine have probably the shortest story about it, but also pretty funny for geeks like it - simply reads: this guys owns * Yet another Japanese site - anyone have an online language translator? And after 2 days, it looks like the probably close to final numbers on the ABC-7 online poll which asked "Are you mad to find out the Christmas lights were faked?" is 3,519 (84%) of people said "No, because it's funny" and 665 (16%) said "Yes, because he duped me"

2004_12_29_1700: I finally got a chance to look at the web server logs and have updated my Slashdot Effect Analysis page. Fark was king of the hill this time, but Slashdot didn't have a link directly to my site, so it's not a fair comparison. I also talk about how it turns out that if you want to know if a story is coming your way from sites such as Slashdot, Fark, or even the Wall Street Journal & New York Times, it's possible to do so without much effort.

2004_12_30_1000: After waking up before dawn, I went back to my bed, and then spent some time with my 6-year old son ... was absolutely great just hanging out with him. We had talked about the christmas lights hoax a few days ago, but I asked him again how he felt about people thinking they were changing the lights, but not really - he said "but they had fun on the In-ter-net" ... and then I said a few people were angry about it and he replied "but it wasn't mean" ... and I asked him if he was angry with daddy for what he did ... and he said "No, I love you daddy" I'm not an emotional guy, but this just brought tears to my eyes and is doing so again as I write this. So while 5-10% of incoming Emails have been nasty-grams about the hoax that "sting" a bit, Dirk says I'm OK and that means so much more to me.

2004_12_30_1100: Fortunately Dirk "recharged" me, because I just read David Pogue's New York Times article titled "A Sneaky Gimmick" where he takes me to task for the Christmas Lights Hoax and closes with "I'm really peeved. I consider Komarnitsky a glorified liar, a shameless media hound who tried to make a buck (via Web site ads) from people's trusting nature" - OUCH! First, I think David is right when he writes that a lot of the media is "so embarrassed to have fallen for the hoax" ... but it was it good clean fun, with only a few bruised ego's. I'm assuming the "buck" comment probably stems from the Dec 27th evening AP story that quoted Paul McLellan as saying I was "unethical" ... only problem is, the very next morning, Paul issued a press release saying he was "misconstrued" and that basically I'm not such a bad guy after all. Google responded later that same morning saying I was on the up-and-up ... and I've written freely and openly about the Google Ads (I did nothing wrong) ... and have stated that the total income is quite a bit less than the $10,000 that Alice 105.9 offered me on the air a while back - so do you really think I did it for the money? But this is all old news from 2 days ago, so I'm surprised David didn't discover this when he was researching his article. By the way, those Alice 105.9 guys contacted me today writing "You GOT US!!! Saw that your Christmas Lights thing was all a big silly joke. We're SUCKERS!! And, we even offered you big money!!" and they want me on their show next week - they have a sense of humor! ;-) David should know that I can't disclose the exact Google revenue due to their terms and conditions, but hey David, you are a reporter for the big bad NY Times, so call up Google, point 'em to this page, and I'll again state that they have my permission to release the numbers to the media! Interesting that David complains about my ads - lets take a look at the NYT site ... whereas I had a single ad block across the top, I count no less than 3 ad blocks on David's NYT blog page. And oh yeah, want to look at David's previous NYT article about me - go ahead, click on that link, OOOPS ... registration required ... and does the NY Times REALLY need to know my household income?!? Please note no registration required at komar.org and (ADDED) nor do I set cookies on your browser ... unlike David's NYT blog which sets no less than 7 cookies on your browser - the RMID one doesn't expire for a year - wonder what they are tracking? I have Emailed David with an invite to comment on my comments here (I will post unchanged) ... and if Google will provide him (or ANY media person) the dollar numbers I've made with Adsense this month, I will post it here for all to see. And tell 'ya what David, if you CAN get the Google numbers, then if the Alice 105.9 guys again offer me $$$ on the air on Monday, I'll have it donated to your favorite charity.

2004_12_30_1430: I mentioned two days ago the really good story from Melanie Sidwell of the Longmont Daily Times-Call, which I think is second to the WSJ in terms of accuracy and completeness. Their web site doesn't keep archival online copies, but I got permission to place it here. BTW, this story went EVERYWHERE - among various place I heard it made it was the Queen Mary2 in the middle of the Caribbean (thanx StephanieW) and GeorgeB wrote how he heard about it on a 200 foot ship in Galapagos Islands, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador and one of the more remote spots on the globe.

2004_12_30_1630: I thought my 15 minutes of fame were over (believe me, I can't wait), and lo' and behold, two interviews go live withen 10 minutes of each other. First one is Chris Bromley over at UGoto and he asked a lot of good tough questions, but I try to power through all of 'em as best as possible. You can comment on the article, so toss your two cents in - good or bad. And for some comedy, the local Boulder Weekly interviewed THE HULK - the Big Green Guy has incredibly strong answers! ;-) I believe the Hulk was only in the Boulder Weekly once (not "many a time") and they were little rough on ABC-7 ... and if Air Tracker 7 shows up over the house, I'll keep the HULK inside because the pilot was actually a darn nice guy.

2004_12_31_2000: JeffC wrote after reading the New York Times report to say "I don't see it that way at all. Alek did offer an amazing light display for internet veiwers to appreciate. 17,000 lights and the power to light them doesn't come cheap.(Alek: my power bill which came two weeks later was an all-time record.) ... Along with the labor to string them. (Alek: myself and my family strung 'em and we work for free! ;-) People enjoyed them; and I appreciate the technical skills and comedy involved. Movies use animation to show things that aren't so. And consider my revision of the NY Times quote above: 'I.m really peeved. I consider corporations glorified liars, shamelessly endeavoring to make a buck from people's pursuit of the Santa Claus myth.' What Alek did was harmless. And quite funny. My 2 Cents" Thanx for all the Emails and in between taking my 17,000 lights down tomorrow (those are real), I hope to get some time to respond to folks who have written me and update the publically seeable messages. I have had several requests to leave the webcam operational on the web site (DanM says Jan 6/7 is Orthodox Christmas), so sure, I can do that. Happy New Year to all!

2005_01_02_2100: KSDK from St. Louis writes a short piece that compares my christmas lights to an April Fool's Day prank. I sent their news room a short note this morning mentioning that they have my name spelled "Komarnitzky" and that "Finally, the Wall Street Journal busted the clever prank" isn't quite how it happened - don't know if they update online stories; but I'll check again tomorrow to see if fixed - it wasn't. There are others like this - and they have created/update time/date stamps, so I assume they are updateable, and I saw ABC-7 go through several iterations as noted above. Yea, print stuff is hard to correct, but you'd think online would be easy if the media cared (?) BTW, for those people who still think the 17,000 christmas lights themselves were fake - maybe they were ... since I took 'em all down on the 1st. With help from the rest of the family, we got it done in about 6 hours; although they basement is pretty messy. And today, I made my annual trip to various stores buying lights at 75% off - I picked up a bunch, so I'll be ready for 2005! Finally, I'm up to January 1st in responding to people who have written me ... thanx for all the nice notes.

2005_01_03_0930: Talked to the Alice 105.9 guys again - recall this radio station offered me $10,000 back in mid-December to put an ad up for them on my website/house. I turned them down (and would have even if it had not been a hoax) since it didn't seem right to me to do. They yucked it up a bit on the air today (good humor), although it seemed like one of 'em was disappointed that I did a hoax on the day of the Lord's birthday - I said I steer clear of the religious aspects. I asked them if the earlier $10,000 offer was real (i.e. it wasn't a hoax!), and they said yes, so I ended up suggesting they donate that $10,000 to their Tsunami Relief Fund in my name ... but one DJ said no way in my name ... so since one of the DJ's had earlier mentioned his teen-age kid, I said donate it in his name. A co-worker of mine confirmed they air'ed the entire exchange. I just replied back to "Tracy the Producer" that I've added this note, so I hope she'll respond with what they will do - they seemed like good guys, so maybe they'll ante up to benefit people affected by the terrible tragedy on the other side of the world. Update: They never responded - should I be surprised?!? ;-)

2005_01_03_2130: I publically show a sampling of Emails that I have received about the hoax. This page also includes a link to a forum discussion where the general sentiment was hilarious and another one where people didn't think it was so funny. I'm a geek, not a PR Hack, but figured it was appropriate to show both viewpoints. I see that the ABC7 guys have now added that second link to their poll results page - thanx for reading my stuff guys ... and nice work going to the effort to get a TinyURL for it. I'm glad to see that despite that, their numbers show that 84% (3,662 votes) of people still thought it was funny despite the poll being in the middle of their negative story. I wonder if they ever considered linking to that Email page where there's a lot more for their viewers to read both sides of the story?

2005_01_05_1500: I wandered back over to David Pogue's New York Times blog and noticed his January 4th, 2005 post about how he is was excited to get the latest quarterly issue of Cinefex, which is dedicated to movie special-effect technology and he says "To see how it's harnessed to create the magic in movies is, to me, irresistible" ... and I agree ... even thought we both know that they aren't real. And while the "special effects" on my christmas lights webcam certainly aren't Hollywood material, he did say in his earlier post that it brought some enjoyment to his family. While David and I may not see eye-to-eye on that, I actually think we would probably like each other otherwise. His blog is darn good (I've added it to my bookmarks) and he is much more hands-on that most - heck, he put togather "a DVD of our year's home movies" (with music and credit - see his Jan 5th post) - that's a lotta work. He's also the primary author of the "Missing Manual" books (good stuff!) and among other things, is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. So I'm sure he's done quite a few tricks/hoaxes in his lifetime and is great fun at a party. Regardless of any hard feelings, if he's ever out here in Colorado, he (and his family) are invited over for beers & burgers on my "monster" BBQ Grill ... ;-)

2005_01_05_2100: Time Magazine voted President George Bush their 2004 "Man of the Year" ... but I understand that "Bloggers" were a close runner-up. While this blog won't win any literary awards, the January 10th, 2005 issue of Time Magazine includes a quote from me on the same page as George (scanned in image) that says "I figured I could provide some holiday cheer to folks" which sums it up well ... and they even correctly provide the www.komar.org attribution right after AP, NYT, CNN, and Reuters - how cool is that! ;-)

2005_01_05_2200: My 15 minutes of fame is just about over. It's been an interesting rocket-ride and if nothing else, I succeeded in providing some christmas cheer and then subsequently a good chuckle to a lot of folks. My life is returning to normal (recall Wednesday is trash day and it's my job to take out the garbage) and I've neglected my family quite a bit during this whole affair, so I look forward to going back to being a husband, father ... and a geek! ;-)

2005_01_23_2100: I was playing poker with the neighborhood guys Friday night and Don (husband/father of Traci/Jordan who were quoted in the original December 14th, 2004 article that went (inter)national) and lives across the street) gave me permission to post his off-the-cuff comment which was: "Alek has more Christmas Spirit in his little finger than most people have. He spends tons of time every year putting up lights for people and I think it is great!"

2005_01_26_0900: Sherrie Gossett from Accuracy in Media writes a good piece titled The Great Media Fact-checking Hoax. Her main point is summarized at the end: "Perhaps the greatest hoax is that the media are engaged in meticulous fact-checking of all their reporting" and she uses this page (i.e. the reporting of the hoax itself) as an example. She talks about the ABC-7 guys and here's the full story on what they knew when. In my case, it was all good clean fun, and the media tornado just picked up and ran with the story. But there are folks with neferious intent that the media fails to do journalism 101 (or worse) - the most spectacular recent example being RatherGate - more info via Google. Even worse in that case was that it was fairly obvious within a day or so that the letter was typed up by Burkett using default settings in Microsoft Word - i.e. it was a really crappy forgery (heck, I spent a LOT more time on the technical details of my hoax!) - and yet, CBS took it hook, line, and sinker ... and then CBS/Rather stonewalled for over a week before admitting they goofed. You be the judge if this was just poor fact checking or something worse.

2005_04_01: I have gotten tons of Emails the first 3 months of 2005 saying I should do it for REAL (i.e. really let people on the Internet turn my christmas lights on & off) so as of April 1st, I've updated my christmas 2005 page with info on that!