As midnight rolls around, it's time to fess up. Twitterati.net was, of course, that most evil of things - a product of April Fool's. If you were one of the ones who were sucked in, you have my apologies, and don't worry, you were in good company.
Here's the story behind the story...
I actually registered the domains twitterati.net and twitterati.org a few weeks ago, with the intention of building something very similar to the fantastic site over at Twitterholics that ranks Twitterers by how popular they are. I remembered back to the Contagious Media Festival, and the launch of Blogebrity, and wanted to do something tongue in cheek about Twitter in the same way, but I guess there's no such thing as a crazy idea anymore.
And so the idea of an April Fool's around the commercialization of Twitter came about , sparked by a post by a friend and ex-client of mine, Rachel Clarke. She's shown it to her colleagues at a place where I used to work, and some of them had seen this fantastic new messaging platform as only yet another advertising platform. (Shame on you). And right there, the evil seed was planted.
Despite my MAD photoshop skills, I used the Web 2.0 Logo Generator, purposefully to see if people were paying attention (apparently not). I added a crappy alliterative tagline, and even added a ™ to it in homage to my Second Life persona, Gideon Television, Superstar™. A quick one page website, saying the program was closed, and an automatic email that was sent to anyone who wrote, which read:
Hello from Twitterati!
Thanks for writing to us, and apologies in advance for the automatic reply. Over the last few weeks, response to our launch had been overwhelming, and while we are working with our beta partners to make the Twitterati a success, it's more efficient to give you some information in this email about our program.
Twitterati is a new program that pays active Twitterers to promote books, videos and websites via their Twitter messages. Each day, our Twitterati receive URLs to mention to their friends, along with preformatted TinyURLs for easy twittering. Our robots actively monitor the public timeline of Twitter, and capture all instances where a member twitters one of the chosen URLs. Earnings are based not only on the number of followers you have, but also on how many followers THOSE followers have. Consequently, our highest earning Twitterati have negotiated themselves onto the "friends" list of the most active Twitterers on twitterholic.com.
At this time, out beta program is full, while we continue to seek Fortune 100 companies to Twitter on behalf of, and we are accepting no further members. But from time to time, a spot opens up and at that point, you may be invited to join.
There is no waiting list - rather, you can add yourself to our "potential Twitterati" by using the TinyURL for this site - http://tinyurl.com/36sox7 - within one of your Twitters, using the following phrase.
Wow - now you can get PAID to Twitter - http://tinyurl.com/36sox7
The more influential your twittering, and the more often you twitter this message, the more likely we are to notice it.
Good luck, and happy Twittering
The Twitterati team
And I twittered it, and waited. I didn't expect a mad rush of emails, not in a single day, but obviously within the email, I'd embedded the notion that to be noticed, you had to spread the word. So people did, and by the end of the day, I had close to 100 requests to get into the program, some from pretty well-respected bloggers (apologies to all of you, but SHAME on you for offering to sell out your Twitters so easily :)
Apart from the fun of the hoax, there were a few things I wanted to test. Could an idea start to spread almost exclusively ON Twitter? (Yes). If the Hoax was tempting enough, would people's urge to participate overwhelm their skepticism that it launched on April Fool's Day? (Apparently). Could I even get someone to blog about it? (Oh Rachel, you inspired me and then you fell for it - I definitely owe you a drink or three next time I bump into you.)
Special shout outs to TheDiva, who was in on the joke from the start and played her part perfectly, to Britney Mason for being a great sport and getting into the spirit, and to Eric Rice for suffering the mad Twitter spam I laid on him all day.
Let's all do this again next year, shall we?