I'm sure I saw it around here somewhere... January 15, 2014 2:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find a post from wherein someone described a strategy of inserting deliberate and glaring errors into advertising copy (or possibly, web page design) so that the customer would find them, correct them and leave the bulk of the work untouched.

I can't remember if I saw this on the blue or green, and I can't exactly remember when it was posted other than at least 6 months ago. It was definitely a comment rather than part of the original post but the post may have had to with deliberate fictitious entries (mountweazels) in maps and so on to catch plagiarists. Ring any bells for anyone? Searching has drawn a blank and I'm tearing my hair out in frustration.
posted by ninazer0 to MetaFilter-Related at 2:17 AM (17 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 2:21 AM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I worked as a theater tech, there was frequently what was called an "idiot knob," which was unassigned and did nothing, but when the director or producer gave you an incoherent fiddly request, you could turn the knob a little and tell them to go take another look/listen, and they'd almost always decide the problem was solved.
posted by klangklangston at 8:39 AM on January 15, 2014 [48 favorites]

That's gold, klang. Reminds me of this anecdote from the Mixerman Diaries (NSFW language), sort of the BOFH of studio geeks:
[Jeremiah] felt that the snare drum really needed to "soar" more. I ripped a small piece of whiteboard tape that we use for labeling gear, and I wrote on it, "snare," and then I wrote, "soar," on another piece of tape. [...] This sort of fun went on for the better part of an hour. As Jeramiah continued to turn knobs, he was obviously convinced that he was actually making a difference. There was an abundance of handwritten labels scattered over the knobs of unconnected gear. I was running out of knobs as the control room began to look like an elementary classroom with words taped up everywhere. Words such as "sheen," "warmth," "crack," "heat," "brass"-don't ask me, Jeramiah wanted the guitar to sound more "brass." Who am I to disagree?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 8:59 AM on January 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

Ahh mixerman, you lovable asshole.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:14 AM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I asked my husband (UX/IA) and he also said it was called Hairy Arm.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:25 AM on January 15, 2014

Similarly, it's not unheard of to label an unused fader on a mixing console or light board "Aircon" or similar so it can be nudged up or down in response to patron complaints about the temperature in the venue.
posted by zachlipton at 11:18 AM on January 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

It was either the ducks thread or hairy arm - I honestly can't remember which one but they both sound familiar. Thanks guys - this was doing my head in. Also, the "idiot knob" is pure genius.
posted by ninazer0 at 11:39 AM on January 15, 2014

The only trouble I have with the otherwise-lovely story is that there are few things I can imagine that aren't improved by ducks... including discrete mathematics!

(Note: I possess a copy of this book but have not worked through much of it. I can attest, however, that there are friendly ducks in the margins with pencils, and problems about ducks. It is, however, primarily a book about discrete mathematics and only secondarily a book about ducks. Discrete Mathematics With Ducks is itself inspired by Daniel Pinkwater's short children's book Ducks!, which you can hear the author reading in its 6-minute, 58-second entirety on his website.)
posted by beryllium at 11:48 AM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Related to the Hairy Arm is the old school method of dealing with the client insisting you make the logo bigger. This was recounted to me by our agency's president, a veteran of the tail end of the Mad Men era.
1. When we left the meeting, we made sure to take every piece of paper with the design on it.

2. Back at the agency, we made three new variations on the ad. But instead of making the logo bigger, on each variation we'd actually make the logo a bit smaller than the one before.

3. At the next meeting, it was my job to prep the client: ""Okay, we tried making the logo bigger, and we have a few variations for you to look at. Here's the version that we showed you last time..." But in fact, I was presenting them in opposite order, and I was showing them the version with the smallest logo on it!

4. "And here it is a little bigger..." I'd present the next variation, where the logo is a little bigger but still not as big as the original. I'd repeat this until I got to the last one.

5. "And finally, here it is at the biggest size we think we can get away with." I'd show them the original ad, the one I'd presented last time, with a slightly worried look on my face. "Personally, we're not to crazy about this one, the logo looks too big for us, but..."

6. We'd then return to the agency with the client's approval to run the ad with the "biggest" logo.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:10 PM on January 15, 2014 [29 favorites]

What mixerman did not disclose was the "producer knob" that many recording studios purportedly had, akin to klang's "idiot knob." And yes, mostly to appease the idiot producers who wanted it to sound "drier, but warmer," or similar requests.
posted by Lynsey at 2:24 PM on January 15, 2014

Related to the Hairy Arm is the old school method of dealing with the client insisting you make the logo bigger.

Which reminds me of David Ogilvy's doggerel:

When the client moans and sighs
Make his logo twice the size.
If he should still prove refractory,
Show a picture of his factory.
Only in the gravest cases
Should you show the clients’ faces.

posted by Mapes at 3:44 PM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've heard the Idiot Knob also referred to as the "DFA knob". In fact some producers actually have a box labelled DFA, and when the musician is in the studio while they're mixing, turn it up when it needs "that something extra". Add a little DFA, you know?

The acronym being: Does Fuck All.
posted by greenish at 3:48 PM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

An older tech I worked with liked to call it the "impedance calibrator," which sounds technical enough to snow non-tech bosses, but is also dryly accurate in describing the function.
posted by klangklangston at 3:53 PM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have heard the same thing about writing reports for grad school and in the professional world - include a few typos on the first three pages, and you're golden.

And Michelangelo 'fixed' David's nose with stone dust and useless noise (oft-repeated, uncited here).
posted by filthy light thief at 4:00 PM on January 15, 2014

Came in here to find an error in the OP but have ended up frustrated. You're gonna have to re-do the entire post.
posted by mountmccabe at 4:55 PM on January 15, 2014

Back when I worked in web production, we had the "purple shark fin." It came from an anecdote we'd heard about another design company.

They had a client from a diving company who would ask for one stupid change every time the design was close to done, just to feel like they had input. And so, when they had what they felt was the final, completely perfect design, they added a horrible purple shark fin to the header image. And sure enough, at the design review, the client said they "liked it... except the shark fin has to go." Yes sir, no problem sir, right away sir.

We adopted this technique for similar clients, though we always dreaded the day we'd meet the idiot who loved the purple shark fin.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:00 AM on January 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

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