It wasn't by spontaneous generation.

While preparing this column I was surprised to find the article My Crowd by Bill Wasik, published in the March, 2006 issue of Harper's Magazine. In this article Wasik reveals that he was the originator of the flash mob fad. It was only a couple of columns ago that I (again) noted that I prefer these columns to be behind the curve, that they relate to issues that have cooled down a bit. That being the case, could I write about smart crowds when a major article on the subject had just been published?

Reading Wasik's article, I realized that he had waited for the fad of flash mobs to fade before bringing his confession to print:
In fact the flash mob, which dates back only to June 2003, had almost entirely died out by that same winter, despite its having spread during those few months to all the world's continents save Antarctica. Not only was the flash mob a vacuous fad; it was, in its very form (pointless aggregation and then dispersal), intended as a metaphor for the hollow hipster culture that spawned it.

I know this because I happen to have been the flash mob's inventor. My association with the fad has heretofore remained semi-anonymous, on a first-name-only basis to all but friends and acquaintances. For more than two years, I concealed my identity for scientific purposes, but now that my experiment is essentially complete, corporate America having fulfilled (albeit a year later than expected) its final phase, I finally feel compelled to offer a report: on the flash mob, its life and times, and its consummation this summer in the clutches of the Ford Motor Company.
As enjoyable as this article was to read (and it was very enjoyable) it left me scratching my head. Was this guy telling the truth? Was he really the person who started this fad? Numerous Google searches to try and find some cross-referencing that would tell me that Wasik was pulling our collective leg have led me to believe that he's not. It seems that he really invented the flash mob.

Go to: Mobs just want to have fun, or
Go to: Is there a point?, or
Go to: Are crowds really that smart?