Did you read The Grand Illusion: The Real Tim Ferriss Speaks? I’m giving it the honor of both the best and worst April Fools’ joke of 2008.
For those of you who might not know of Tim Ferriss, he’s famous for making extreme use of personal outsourcing. In this post, he managed to convince an awful lot of people that he had outsourced all of his blog writing for the last 366 days.
What made it work so well is that he explained in precise detail how he accomplished this feat, using a strategy that was unmistakably his. And that’s also what made it backfire.
While I thought it was very funny, and quite obviously a joke, many people were very upset. Tim Ferriss has offered hope to so many people who dream of ditching the 9-to-5 and joining the new rich, and these people didn’t like hearing that it wasn’t him they were listening to.
Here’s what some of them had to say:
“Well, I for one feel betrayed. The title is ‘The Blog of Tim Ferris’ and that’s what I thought I was getting…But now you tell me I’ve never really read anything by YOU. The whole situation makes me feel like an idiot. This is NOT an example of living by the 4HWW principles. This is an example of fraud.”
“I wish you the best, but I don’t think I’ll be back. It’s just too fundamentally dishonest.”
“I feel that I’ve gotten to know you throughout the past year on this blog. I thought I was getting an insight into your thoughts and life. I’ve invested a considerable amount of time and energy in reading and implementing these ideas. Compare it to two friends spending time together. You’ve built a lot of relationships on this blog. Now that I know they are not your ideas I feel tricked and have no idea who you truly are.”
“We are no longer friends.”
“Wait a minute. Now I’m kind of ticked…At first I thought it was funny, but when I realize that I want YOUR advice, not some random writer’s advice. If I want to know how to taste wine I’ll look it up on a much more qualified site or ask a trusted friend. I was thinking you were a ‘trusted friend’ who had some great insight on tasting wine. Now you aren’t anything more than an everyday magazine editor who assigns work.”
“Interesting marketing strategy. Make fools of your customers (my copy of your book is in my Sony eReader, my wife’s in hardback). In full disclosure, yea, I was fooled. Even blogged about Tim’s creativity and tossed a link this way, so now all my blog readers know what a fool I am too. Luckily I was able to delete within minutes, but that’s too late for the RSS feed. Thanks, Tim. Thanks a million.”
“I found your website about one week ago & subscribed to it via Bloglines. I thought it was a legitimate, honest site about productivity. Now I realize your last article was just a prank & have no reason to believe your previous articles were any different. I won’t be wasting my time reading your posts anymore.”
“Sorry, this wasn’t even funny, unless you count ruining one’s credibility as a joke.”
“I’m really disappointed. After reading the 4HWW nearly a year ago and taking to heart your ideas of joining the NR, I really have looked forward to each blog post from you. I’ll continue trying to come up with muses and test them as I have been been doing, but I’m not too sure about your blog. From a recent business college grad who really looks up to you, this is pretty disheartening. I recall a user comment about a month ago questioning whether or not you outsource your blog, and ‘you’ replied something to the tune of, ‘I guess you just have to trust me.’ Ouch.”
Ouch indeed! But there were also people who commented on how brilliant his outsourcing was:
“Well played, sir…well played. A very nice twist that shows your principles in action. I’m blown away. Kudos to Roger and Van for putting together some fantastic content over the past year.”
“I’m absolutely not upset. In fact, I think this is totally awesome, and simply adds to the Tim Ferriss inspirational picture…You’ve proven IT CAN BE DONE, even when you’re a high-profile rock star. From now on, when folks tell you that “I can’t pull back from my 70 hour work week, ’cause my boss will notice I’m not there.”, you can show them PROOF. You’ve done it…Keep it up sir, you’re still inspiring me on a daily basis.”
“Great way to make a point! It’s really hard for people to think outside the cubicle. Would love to learn more about Web 2.0 and its applications in marketing. Live Young!”
“The ‘feelings, goals, and opinions of Tim Ferriss’ or his passions if you will, are finding ways to create time for yourself while still having the lifestyle you want. Nobody here should be upset by his ‘experiment.’ It was brilliantly played. It is his blog and he can do with it whatever he wants, and I personally can’t wait to see what’s coming next.”
Out of 144 comments (so far), very few people realized it was a joke, even after some people left comments saying so. Tim was going to let it run its course until he saw all the negative reactions. Then he left some comments and wrote a new post to explain everything. I thought it was hilarious, but I would have ended the original post with a note saying it was a joke, since it clearly wasn’t obvious to everyone.
Tim did a wonderful job of fooling people, and for his great success in getting people to both idolize and despise him, I’m calling this both the best and worst April Fools’ joke of 2008.