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Vanish-related media sightings

In advance of my upcoming piece in Wired recapping my effort to Vanish, I can be found hawking it in multiple mediums this week. First, tonight, live on CNN’s Campbell Brown Show at 8:30 pm. [UPDATE: It’s not terribly easy to find, but the video from this is available at the site. (You’ll have to click the “On TV” button and then go to the Campbell Brown show.)]

Then, this Saturday, on Weekend All Things Considered, in a piece by reporter Alex Cohen. [UPDATE: Here’s the link to the piece.]

I’ll post clips if and when I get my hands on them. In the meantime, here’s a recap of some of the other stories about the whole thing, from during and after:

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Found

Twenty-five days. That’s how long I lasted on the lam. Most people arriving at this site will already know the basics: Last month, after writing a story for Wired about people who faked their own deaths, disappearing from their lives to start again, I set out to do something similar myself. I would drop out of my own life for a month, and act like I was starting a new one. Wired, meanwhile, would offer a $5000 bounty for anyone who tracked me down. We set a few basic parameters and then, journalistically speaking, we turned out all the lights and plunged headlong into the darkness. You can read a summary of what happened here.

I’ll be describing those 25 days in great detail in the December issue. There were almost daily surprises, both in what I found myself doing, and what I saw (and, of course, failed to see) the “hunters” doing to find me.

But for now I wanted to offer an extended thanks. First, to my friends and family, some of whom were made unwitting participants in this privacy-obliterating endeavor, and all of whom—especially my wonderful girlfriend (whose name the dedicated hunters know already)—were incredibly understanding and played along. Also to Nick Thompson, who sacrificed an insane amount of hours from other work and from promoting his own book (“The Hawk and The Dove,” which is getting a fantastic response, and which everyone should check out), to serve as the lead investigator. Without Nick, the whole thing would have failed in a multitude of ways. As well everyone at Wired and Lone Shark Games (particularly Teeuwyn Woodruff and Mike Selinker), both for enabling it and putting in many of their own hours. And finally to all the folks who hunted me—and aided me—for contributing their obsession and ingenuity, and especially for (with a few pretty harmless exceptions) honoring the rules about harassing my family. Many have emailed—and I want to hear from anyone who followed it: eratliff@atavist.net—to let me know they were glad I was caught. I don’t blame them. And although I was disappointed, I’m pretty pleased that at least it was by a clever bunch like Jeff Reifman and the guys at Naked Pizza.

I’d also like to offer an apology, to people I encountered along the way and deceived about my identity. It was one of the worst parts of the whole experience. I’ve been contacting them individually to explain whenever possible (a strange journalistic endeavor, that), and they’ve so far been gracious and forgiving, taking the whole thing in the spirit of fun it was intended. But many I won’t be able to find, and to them I am sorry. I won’t write about anyone by name who hasn’t given me explicit approval to do so.

To critics who griped that it wasn’t “real” enough; that it was either too easy to find me or (as people argued right up until I was caught) too difficult; that a “true” man-on-the-run would or wouldn’t have done this or that; I can only say: You nailed it! I wasn’t, in fact, a “real” fugitive. Very well observed, and I fully support your conviction that you would have done it better. But in our case, we were trying to remain, as much as possible, both authentic and engaging, two goals that were often in conflict. In compressing my time on the lam into 30 days, with the general public as the investigators, we didn’t exactly have a model to follow. You may also find that many of the things people found most “unreal,” like me using my ATM and credit cards at times, were not at all what they seemed.

Finally, to accusations of carrying out a “stunt,” I plead guilty to all but the pejorative assumption—given that category would include the journalistic “stunts” behind “Hell’s Angels,” “The Paper Lion” (and other Plimpton adventures), “Into Thin Air,” and “Nickled and Dimed,” among other pieces of narrative nonfiction that I greatly admire. We attempted what we thought was a unique, albeit self-indulgent and inevitably flawed, reporting venture. We’re hoping readers will find the results as fascinating as we did. But you can check out the December article and decide for yourselves.


@Potus: a wired presidency?

white-house-blue-print-1024.jpgMy story in this month’s Wired, on how technologically savvy Obama’s presidency can be, headed to the printer just before Christmas and came out online today. There were several developments on the Obama Web/technology front in the interim (although, for better or worse, not as many as I’d expected). The most significant was probably a non-happening: Obama has yet to name someone to his promised “federal chief technology officer” position. Steve Hamm at Business Week had the scoop last week that the choices have narrowed to Padmasree Warrior, CTO at Cisco, and Vivek Kundra, CTO of the District of Columbia. Outside of hearing good things about Kundra while reporting around DC last fall, I don’t have a take on the choice. The more salient point to me is that the decision to not name someone before taking office reveals something (not unexpected) about the relative priority of “rebooting the government” on Obama’s priority list.

Over at Change.gov, the transition team went through another round with the “Open for Questions” feature, with responses from press secretary Robert Gibbs. Participation was high: “103,512 people submitted 76,031 questions and cast 4,713,083 votes,” according to the Obama folks. But after moderating out the Blagojevich questions in the first round, the transition team chose this time to simply ignore the most popular question (about naming an independent investigator to look into possible Bush administration crimes), as noted by The Nation’s Ari Melber.

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