@samplereality and Twitter fiction (?)

A week or so ago I began to follow Mark Sample’s tweets carefully as his tweeted what at first sounded like a nightmare at Dulles when he went to catch a flight. As he tweeted through the days it became more surreal. It seemed he was sequestered and being interrogated. He reported shots and deaths. It was hard to tell what was going on and then it was all over with a link to a YouTube video of him whispering into the phone. Then when you clicked on @samplereality you got “Internal Server Error” and if you tried to find his page you got a “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”

Someone had deleted his account.

Fortunately there was an off-site archive of his tweets that he had backed up here. And, as a useful hint, there was an entry on ProfHacker by Sample on how to Keep Your Official Twitter Archive Fresh which the editors introduced with,

this is a draft that Mark Sample uploaded to Profhacker last week. We have been unable to contact Mark for the final revisions, so we are posting it as-is. Our apologies for any errors.

It seemed more and more likely that the dramatic events in Dulles were a work of net fiction or an alternate reality game, something Mark is interested in and claimed to be working on for 2013 in his blog entry From Fish to Print: My 2012 in Review. I was also suspicious that none of his colleagues at George Mason seemed to be that worked up about his experience. And that’s the fun of this sort of alternate reality fiction. You don’t really know if you’re being taken or not and so you start poking around. Like many I was initially sympathetic (who hasn’t been inconvenienced by delays) and then worried. Eventually I decided the stream of posts were a work of fiction, but of course I’m still not sure. When alternate reality fiction is done well you never know whether This Is Not A Game.

I still don’t, but I’ll risk a guess and congratulate Mark … Bravo! If I’m wrong I apologize.