EDIT: 13 AUG 2012: Social media analytics site StatusPeople.com has found that as of 13 Aug 2012 77% of “Bob’s” 180,000 followers are fake, fraudulent, spam or purchased followers. Here. We’ve known for some time that in addition to running a fraud based wagering tout service that Bob purchases large chunks of followers, we just had no idea it was so many.
For those of you living under a rock during the post-lockout deluge of free agent signings, Twitter user @incarceratedbob is a self proclaimed “insider” who spends his days tweeting supposedly “breaking news” on a variety of New York and national sports topics. Bob claims he’s faster than the national media, and that he’s “first” to break nearly every story that comes across the wire.
I was first introduced to “Bob” with his infamous
“**BREAKING NFL NEWS**Source: NY JETS have come to an agreement in “principle” with Nnamdi Asomugha (He left big money on the table) “
Tweet. I was admittedly skeptical, but willing to at least do due diligence, and fact check this report before re-tweeting it (and possibly adding Bob to my list of “must follows”). The problem was, that as soon as I did any fact checking, his “story” broke down.
Calls to both Ben Dogra (Nnamdi’s agent), and the Jets’ front office both confirmed that no deal had been agreed to, “in principal” or otherwise. Immediately I tweeted that the report was false, and that it had been confirmed false by both parties in the negotiations. “Bob” however insisted otherwise, and that the story would play itself out (which of course it did, Asomugha ending up with the Eagles, and not as Bob claimed, the Jets).
I spent the rest of that day attempting to become more acquainted with Bob’s “work.” Over the course of the past year he has released a myriad of “breaking news” stories through Twitter that have been outright untrue regarding LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo Anthony, Cliff Lee, Darrell Revis, Braylon Edwards, and Wade Phillips just to name a few.
I pointed out to Bob, over Twitter, that his report was not only wrong, it was complete fiction, only to have myself blocked by him over Twitter immediately (which seems to be his favorite tactic in dealing with any and all criticism), and his followers immediately started tweeting me words of support for Bob, mostly to the extent that “Bob is better than ESPN” etc, along with other juvenile nonsense about my being a supposed “hater.”
So, I figured, why not take emotion out of the equation. Why not look at Bob objectively, and analyze his “reports” for accuracy, and come to a fair and unbiased conclusion. No “hate” just statistics.
So I went over Bob’s 16,000+ tweets, looking for predictions, reports and the like. What I found was that a large portion of his Tweets are simply chest thumping self promotion and rallying speeches for his followers, urging them to retweet to the world how “good” he is (over 40% of his total tweets). I didn’t want to grade Bob unfairly, so I threw those out, along with any “breaking news” tweets that could possibly be misconstrued for an opinion, instead of an actual report–after all, I don’t want artificially lower Bob’s grade, just because he “thought someone might go somewhere.”
What I found was alarming.
On actual “breaking reports” tweets, with specific information, Bob “broke” (or Tweeted before anyone else) the story little better than 2% of the time. A quick search of Twitter timelines shows that Bob simply copied the Tweets of some of his followers, nearly word for word, from a few minutes earlier. Some of those followers had knowingly sent Bob the information, some appeared to be blatantly plagiarized. Either way, Bob’s claim that he’s first is at best dubious as there is ample evidence to support he isn’t, and at worst outright fabrication (like many other things about him, as we shall see).
On accuracy of “reporting,” Bob fared much better. He scored a 29% accuracy rating with how often his “reports” turned out ultimately to be correct. I don’t know what kind of education most of you have, but the schools I went to taught me that 29% accuracy, was a miserable failure. An “F” as my first grade teacher Ms. Johnston called it. I’m not sure your political bent, dear reader, but if it were provable that either FOX or MSNBC reported the news with 29% accuracy, both would be out of business, and the punchline of many a joke.
What @incarceratedbob is, is a master self promoter. He elicits a strong reaction in people, and uses that to pit the unsuspecting people who follow him, against those who know that he has no actual “sources” on anything. He tries to help himself establish credibility, by getting known reporters(like Adam Schefter) to re-tweet him as a tacit endorsement, and using fake Twitter accounts to offer himself jobs. On the day I was briefly a follower of Bob, two fake Twitter accounts (one has been taken down, the other @SiriusVP was confirmed fake by the very real @SiriusXMSports ) purported to offer him jobs. He also allows others to do softball positive write ups on him, that contain nothing but fluff and prop up his claims of accuracy, with no actual data behind them.
Bob has created a cult of personality around himself and his followers, who, as human beings, are predisposed to being trusting and do little research beyond the man’s claims that he is more accurate, and faster than the national media. As humans we are also predisposed to not believing we’re wrong, and thus, once Bob has them invested in him it is hard to shake their faith.
What Bob does with most of his “reports” are what is commonly referred to as weasel wording. Bob simply makes up a report, based on possible logical destinations of a player, parses his words so that he can go back later and claim that he wasn’t wrong.
For instance, this Tweet, from Oct 11 of last year:
in which Bob suggests that he has some actual news, when in fact all he is saying is that he’s either psychic (there’s no such thing), or that he’s just floating an idea. Later Bob backpedaled on this tweet, which was a shame…if he’d ridden it out he may have been eligible for a cool million dollar prize.
Another common tactic is “shotgun suggesting.” For instance, today (I set up an alternate Twitter account to comb through Bob’s tweets, as he has blocked my actual account for daring to criticize him) Bob tweeted:
As you can see, Bob has increased his odds, simply by pointing out multiple teams. Later he will go back and claim this as a hit, should any one of them actually turn out to be true. It’s a tactic Bob uses often.
Now, I’m not as well connected within the community as I’d like to be, but I can and do speak to a number of NFL teams, agents, and beat reporters and I couldn’t find a single one who’d ever spoken to Bob. Over the past couple of days I polled a large section of my contacts, and couldn’t find anyone who could, on or off the record, recall a single conversation with him. I did however, get several off the record comments calling him a complete fraud.
One Rangers beat reporter relayed a story about talking to the Rangers front office, when Bob’s errant Cliff Lee story “broke” and quoted a senior Rangers official as saying that “know nothing jackasses should be banned from blogging” in reference to Bob and his made up report.
In all my research on Bob, all I could come up with was a handful of good guesses, drowned out by a lot of fiction sprung from the mind of a shameless self promoter. His accuracy, despite the numbers he reports, is actually dismal. He is hardly the first one to tweet the things he does, as anyone who bothers to check the Twitter timeline can easily verify, and I can’t find anyone, outside of the anonymous confines of the internet, with anything positive to say about him.
Obviously as I am blocked, I couldn’t reach @incarceratedbob for a comment on this piece, but if anyone else can reach him, he can message me on Twitter, and I’ll include his thoughts here as well.
Phenomenon or fraud? The conclusion seems simple enough to me.
EDIT: Since Zeusofsport.com objected to my claim that their writer, @Wills_Klein was a buddy of Bob’s, doing a puff piece, I’ve decided to include the recent tweets from @Wills_Klein’s timeline below, so that readers can decide for themselves.