After nearly three years of helping Youtube users pronounce difficult English words like “meme” and “Ke$ha,” Youtube channel Pronunciation Book started a countdown. In 77 days, something was going to happen. And from that moment, a devoted team of fanatics began working together to figure out what that secret was — and who was behind it.
Well, now the cat is out of the bag: Pronunciation Book was a long-con, setting up a viral marketing campaign along with nothing less than one of the greatest, enigmatic Twitter accounts, @horse_ebooks. The nonsensical spambot, which lifted phrases out of random free ebooks, had subtly turned into a human-run operation — the same humans behind Pronunciation Book. The payoff? A performance piece. A bizarre new website called Bear Stearns Bravo. Now, both Pronunciation book and @horse_ebooks are dead.
It’s a lot of mind-blowing information, and it’s caused many users to rage on Twitter, but I have a feeling there’s a method to the madness, and that Bear Stearns Bravo will be getting a lot more interesting very shortly.
But first, it’s important to look at the deeper information surrounding Pronunciation Book’s grand exit. For the last 77 days, a daily video leaked precious information about the world at hand. Often, the phrases betrayed how long the Pronunciation Book had been building to its exciting climax.
“I’ve been trying to tell you something for 1,183 days,” the 76 days video said.
This information became compiled, first in a massive Google doc, and then on a message board. As the videos continued to play, odd websites began popping up. And a spectrograph of the data encoded within the videos built a shocking, mysterious picture:
While things became deeper on the plot’s end, users within the chat rooms and message boards became more concerned with the names of real people registered to websites. Well before the @horse_ebooks reveal, users had pegged the masterminds behind Pronunciation Book as Synydyne, the makers of 2007 alternate reality game “This is My Milwaulkee.” The game was particularly known for driving users to uncover a book hidden within the New York Public Library — and resulted in a meet-up with one of the game’s characters in real life. The game had a very similar art style to the new website that has been linked to by both Pronunciation Book and @horse_ebooks: Bear Stearns Bravo.
To the casual user, this whole hubbub looks like a huge marketing ploy that will result in the death of one of the biggest Twitter accounts of all time. But I’d like to argue there’s something deeper, beyond the chintzy Youtube videos and ploy for $7 in cash before entering the paywalled portion of Bear Stearns Bravo.
The folks behind it all, Jacob Bakkila and Thomas Bender, have roughly three years of material to pull from — hidden within Pronunciation Book and @horse_ebooks. And, on day zero of Bear Stearns Bravo, there is likely much more information to be revealed. While a cynic would look at this as a stunt, a seasoned alternate reality gamer sees an opportunity. There’s more to be seen here, and maybe even more parts of the internet that have been engineered to this end.
Perhaps some answers will be revealed as Bakkila and Bender post up in New York City’s Fitzroy Gallery today until 9pm. But don’t expect the mystery to be over, just because we now know the players of the game.