Friday, November 20, 2009

Finding Evan (Caution, Spoiler)

I don't regularly read Wired, but idling through (and not paying for) a paper copy at Barnes & Noble this morning, I ran across the most interesting thing I've read all day: the story about the contest to find Evan Ratliff, the writer who challenged readers to crack his scheme to scrub his identity--including a 60-percent-Ben-Stein double-dare to pay the prize (in part) out of his own money (paper edition on newsstands now; you could even buy it).

The spoiler is that he lost; his cover was blowen by a pizza guy in New Orleans, collaborating with a yelping horde of online searchers. But he gave them a run for his money: even though he and the mag had double-dared and taunted--and even upped the ante for--his searchers, he still made it within sight of the finish line. On the other hand, I suppose you could expect the same sort of full-court press if, say, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed jumped from a moving van on the Jersey Turnpike and vanished into the Pine Barrens.

I suppose the most impressive part to me--but you will say you knew this--is the number of really, really smart people who had the time and the energy to devote to the enterprise. Money must have been a factor but these guys are smart enough to multiply the size of the award by the probability of success, and then offset against the lost earnings from not working at Dairy Queen. Is this a sad testimony to our unemploymPasent rate, or where they all Googlers on their free day?

A minor not-very-technical note: I was intrigued to find how easy it is (or was) to beat the Airport Security prohibition on going to the gate: just buy a refundable ticket. Pass through the gate, do what you will, and return.

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