Date: Tue, 8 Jul 1997 11:03:28 -0700 (PDT)
From: Tim Rhodes <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Meme transmission
On Tue, 8 Jul 1997, Ken McE wrote:
> I don't know if deliberately creating a competitive meme is as easy as
> your letter suggests. The memes that we are able to notice may seem
> quite small and simple, but they have survived a very rugged real world
> testing process. [clip]
> You might want to consider taking an existing meme and mutating it. It
> is much easier to modify than to create living things. I am curious as
> to how you would track a meme in its travels. Unless it is in print,
> how will you get feedback?
Well, I'm glad you asked. A while back I had an idea for an experiment,
but as a layman I have neither the time or resourses to carry it out. I
offer it to any of you that can use it.
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 1997 10:25:24 -0700 (PDT)
From: Tim Rhodes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The following is an idea I had several months ago for an experiment to
test the rate transmission of a set of memes (chain letters). Since it
has remained just an idea so far, I offer it up to all of you. If anyone
wants to use it, please do.
ORIGIN OF THE IDEA
On February 8th I received the following e-mail, forwarded from a friend:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Here's the deal: Basically for every new person you
>forward this to, the American Cancer Society will donate three cents
>toward cancer research. So, please send this on as am I sure many
>you know (some probably family) have cancer. If not send it on for
>that do. --athena
> When you forward it, please include email@example.com so they know we
>are forwarding it.
> LITTLE JESSICA MYDEK IS SEVEN YEARS OLD AND IS SUFFERING FROM =20
>AN ACUTE AND VERY RARE CASE OF CEREBRAL CARCINOMA. THIS CONDITION
>SEVERE MALIGNANT BRAIN TUMORS AND IS A TERMINAL ILLNESS. THE DOCTORS
>HAVE GIVEN HER SIX MONTHS TO LIVE.
> AS PART OF HER DYING WISH, SHE WANTED TO START A CHAIN LETTER
>TO INFORM PEOPLE OF THIS CONDITION AND TO SEND PEOPLE THE MESSAGE
>TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST AND ENJOY EVERY MOMENT, A CHANCE THAT
>SHE WILL NEVER HAVE.
> FURTHERMORE, THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY AND SEVERAL CORPORATE
>SPONSORS HAVE AGREED TO DONATE THREE CENTS TOWARD CONTINUING CANCER
>RESEARCH FOR EVERY NEW PERSON THAT GETS FORWARDED THIS MESSAGE. PLEASE
>GIVE JESSICA AND ALL CANCER VICTIMS A CHANCE.
> IF THERE ARE ANY QUESTIONS, SEND THEM TO THE AMERICAN CANCER
>SOCIETY AT ACS@AOL.COM
-------------End Forwarded Message----------------
So I thought to myself, =93Self,=94 I thought, =93this is a great opportuni=
to gather data on the spread of memes!=94 So I sent a letter to the
American Cancer Society at <firstname.lastname@example.org> asking if they would be willing
to provide me with the number of =93hits=94 they got from this letter each
day. No names, just daily totals. That way I could see what the curve
for the transmission of this meme(s) looked like and hopefully learn a
little about rates of transmission in the e-mail memesphere.
I also asked, out of curiosity, who the sponsors were and whether this
was a fund raising tool they has employed in the past, and with what
kinds of success.
I sent of the letter and came back the next day to find it had been
returned, undeliverable. There was no <email@example.com>. I went to the
American Cancer Society webpage, found their *real* e-ddress and wrote
them asking if they were aware of this mailing. They responded as
From: American Cancer Society <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Subject: Fraudulent ACS Chain Letter
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 1997 15:30:08 -0500
Thank you for contacting the American Cancer Society about this chain
letter. Apparently it's getting a lot of traffic. However, the ACS has
no way endorsed this letter. All I can think is that it is a joke in
poor taste. I'm sorry that so many people are wasting their time
up on this fraudulent letter but at least it proves that there are many
caring individuals out there.
I've written a response to this chain letter which can be found on the
website at http://www.cancer.org.
American Cancer Society
------------End Forwarded Message----------
=93Damn!=94 I thought and passed the A.C.S. response back to the person(s)
that had sent me the original e-mail with instructions to continue
passing it back up the line. (And with a little jabbing reminder to
=93always check sources=94 since one of the people that sent me this e-mail
is a reporter!)
THE EXPERIMENT PROPER
In the intervening time between when I received the original Jessica
Mydek letter and my discovery of its fraudulent nature I also received
three other copies of the same letter from three different, unrelated
sources. =93What a virulent little virus!=94 I mused. This was just too
simple and beautiful and idea to let go to waste.
I propose creating a similar letter and tracking it=92s movement through
e-mail using =93donation from sponsors=94 hook to insure that we are notifi=
each time the meme is replicated. It seems like a simple experiment that
could yield some very interesting results. There are, however, some
The first, and the only problem truly beyond my ability to overcome, is
the incentive to pass on the letter. Unlike the Jessica Mydek letter, I
would prefer that this virus was less fragile. There will be someone,
such as myself, who investigates the source of the letter. I want them
to find everything in order. I also have no wish to willingly deceive a
large number of people. There must be a legitimate cause and a real
sponsor donating to that cause with each transmission.
Some solutions have been proposed already, by friends (thanks Tony), and I
think this is a problem that can be worked around.=20
My other problem is personal, I just don't have the free time to work on
this at the moment. So I give it to you all. If someone has the time and
inclination to try this, all I ask is that you share your results here.=20
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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