Hacking a More Tasteful John McCain

About 20 minutes ago, I singlehandedly changed John McCain’s opinion on gay marriage… at least as far as his MySpace page goes. Full details over at Newsvine. It’s also the top story on TechCrunch right now.

69 comments on “Hacking a More Tasteful John McCain”. Leave your own?
  1. That. is. Awesome.

    You are my hero.

  2. Dan A says:

    Very nicely done, and tasteful as well. I wonder if this is going to get national mention? I fully expect to see this on television news shortly.

  3. PB says:

    We welcome our new Internet overlords.

  4. Kevin Hall says:

    That is hilarious, I’ve already emailed my family and friends and everyone has been laughing their arses off. It is indeed tasteful rather than mean spirited and we can always hope he’ll just decide to keep his new opinion on the matter. After all, changing your mind once is fine, but changing it back is just flip flopping on the tough issues.

  5. Phil Wilks says:

    Brilliant! I notice that they’ve changed it so that the image doesn’t appear anymore.

  6. Man that takes some balls. Best hotlink prank I’ve ever seen.

  7. Rob says:

    Very professional Mike.

    what are you, 5? grow up.

    (Editor’s Note: 32, actually. And growing up more every year! Thanks!)

  8. Mike, AWESOME WORK!!! You are the man — you’ve got a big set on you, I’ll give you that!

  9. Emily says:

    I think that my favorite part was that if McCain’s people had not acted so unprofessionally, this wouldn’t have even been POSSIBLE.

    Well done. I hope your lawyers are, um, all a-ready.

  10. Tigerblade says:

    I don’t think Mike needs to worry about lawyers at all… there’s nothing McCain can do. His page wasn’t really *defaced* and it’s their own fault anyway. Whoever set up the profile knew what they were doing, and chose to ignore the simple rules set out by Mike.

    What could they possibly come after him with? Defamation? Not likely. It’s their own fault that this was made possible.

  11. chris s. says:

    Mike, I normally agree with you and the prank is not without a particular sort of ingenuity, but it is malicious to try to harm someone because somebody who works for them is incompetent. Your desire for attention and laughs has exceeded the bounds of taste. Even if you do not respect McCain’s views, as a public figure the proper course would have been to notify his campaign before trying to knowingly and publicly embarrass him for something out of his assumed control, like hotlinking your images.

  12. Mike D. says:

    chris s: The intent here is not to hurt John McCain and I guarantee that with 20 months to go before the election, he won’t have lost a single vote on account of this. Public figures need to be responsible for the online communities they choose to “participate” in. Know the rules, or risk unintended things happening. Believe me, if I wanted to cause harm, there’s a little thing called Goatse that could have come in very handy. :)

  13. Sameer Vasta says:

    You never cease to amaze me Mike. Hopefully this will discourage other lazy web admins for politicians to steal and rip off other people on the web.

  14. Beerzie says:

    Chris, I’m sure Mr. McCain, as any good ex-soldier and leader would, will take full responsibility for the behavior of his campaign staff.

    Well done, Mike.

  15. Naomi Davidson says:

    Very very clever. And not in poor taste at all.

  16. chris s. says:

    Mike, you seem apolitical and I appreciate that. Being a partisan can blind one to reality in all its grayness.

    My question is would you have done the same thing to the MySpace page of a candidate you supported? I would be curious to know how you would have approached the same problem had it been Obama, Clinton, Giuliani, Romney, etc.

  17. Mike D. says:

    chris s: That’s a fair question. I would try to make the prank fit the candidate as well as I could. For example, with Obama it probably would have been related to cigarette smoking, with Hilary it might have been Bill related, and with Guiliani probably marriage related. Romney I know nothing about. With Bush, I probably would have been too scared to do anything. :)

  18. Emily says:

    @ Tigerblade:

    I don’t think Mike needs to worry about lawyers at all… there’s nothing McCain can do.

    Just because WE know that doesn’t mean MCCAIN knows that (or whatever staff member screwed this up and would like to cover his or her own ass).

  19. Emma says:

    Mike, I’m a big fan of Newsvine but all you did here was, probably, get a volunteer intern into trouble and now Gruber and his posse are all over it.

    it’s a bit of a low blow. Believe or not 99% of the folks out there in web land don’t have a clue about bandwidth, hotlinking or anything else to do with the web. I’d expect something a little bit more sophisticated and classy from you, like an email, to correct the situation.

    If you want to work in the news business then work in the news business and take that responsibility a little more seriously.


  20. Kyle says:

    Awesome, and to think…whoever set up his myspace is probably going to get fired, that makes it double awesome.

  21. Emma says:

    yes Kyle, thank you for making my point for me!!

  22. Anthony says:

    99% of the folks out there in web land don’t have a clue about bandwidth, hotlinking or anything else to do with the web

    But the people who stole the the template did, or else they would not have been able to figure out how to do this.

    Total support, Mike. Not because it’s a great prank, but because they should not be able to solicit the good will of the community without respecting the etiquette of the community.

  23. Josh Byers says:

    Thanks for giving my day another laugh…that rocks.

  24. Hilarious. While it probably wasn’t intentional, people sometimes need to learn this lesson in more of an alarming manner.

    And you’re right – he most likely won’t lose a single vote over this. No real harm done.

  25. Chad Edge says:

    I wonder if any of the respondents here are from the McCain staff, or were hired to produce the marketing ‘participation’ sites.

  26. Mark Wyner says:

    Way to go, man! I’ve done this twice, but neither occasion was as oportunistic as this. Wow, you really lucked out with this one. And you rose to the occasion.

    Nice work, sir.

  27. pacificdave says:

    Being apolitical… that was effin’ hilarious. Thanks for the laugh.

  28. Collin Yeadon says:

    Very nice.. Hate to have a laugh at Mccains expense but I just couldn’t help it this time. If you’re dumb enough to link to stylesheets or images on someone elses server then it’s your fault for what comes next.

    Very funny stuff.. PR is certainly a good motivator to get the “apolitical” into the game.. That kind of access could have been used for much worse though, so I guess they can be lucky it’s only good ‘ol Mike this time. :-)

  29. Kyle Warner says:

    Very well done! How hard would it have been for them to leave the link in there that says you built the myspace profile that they are using?

    Also, not that it’s any of my damn business, but has anyone from the campaign staff tried to contact you? Be interesting to see what their reaction was.

  30. faciamus says:

    That’s awesome! How can I get a copy of the myspace template you created?

  31. Mike D. says:

    Emma: Working in the news business means dealing with a lot of uptight subjects like politics, politicians, and elections. If I can do my part to inject some humor into those subjects, I’m happy to do it. This wasn’t just a victimless crime… it was a victimless non-crime. Better to get the McCain camp on their cybertoes 20 months before the election than after it’s too late.

    Kyle: Nope. No one from the McCain camp has contacted me. I’m happy to talk to them if they’d like though. I’ll even appear on a talk show with John and talk about gay marriage if he wants (even though I know next to nothing about it)!

    faciamus: There’s a link to the zip file on the tutorial page.

  32. Matt Johnson says:

    anyone that thinks this is tasteless or non-classy has no sense of humor to speak of. Oh well, a good laugh. Nice one Mike!

  33. Dave Metcalf says:

    Every web team for every candidate for every level of office all skipped their lunch breaks today.

    But in one fell swoop, Mike, you taught an entire segment of the population an important lesson about netiquette. And considering some of these people have a direct effect on how the web is “governed” (tubes? TUBES?!?), that’s an important lesson.

    Have you considered what could happen if he becomes the next president, though? Kudos on making a bold move. I’ll miss you.

  34. john says:

    Mike, you are a fucking man among men! Sometimes you get that perfect hand in poker and play it just right. Congrats on the total ownage!

  35. Tienes huevos muy grandes. Bien hecho, commish!

  36. Mattias says:

    Nice prank! :9

  37. Gerry Quach says:

    Emma: people who make websites for political candidates ought to know what they’re doing. People who hotlink other people’s images deserve everything that comes their way. There’s absolutely no excuse for such shoddy work.

    Some “web design guy” may or may not get fired, but either way he would’ve suffered the consequences of his unprofessionalism and incompetence sooner or later.

    Mike not only exercised great restraint, but did so in a mature and classy way. Good on you Mike!

  38. Emma says:

    First up, it’s not a website it’s a MySpace page and the news business is about finding facts before you publish. Mike’s right when he says ‘victimless no-crime’.

    We’ve had folks stealing GB’s of bandwidth on videos but it was an honest mistake, an email put a stop to it, no need for abject humiliation.

    It’s hard to imagine the New York Times pulling a stunt like this. Like I say, play to a higher standard not a lower one.

  39. Like I say, play to a higher standard not a lower one.

    To play off your words a bit, this type of thing can happen because there are no standards when it comes to designers/developers, given the low entry level to the web (<p>Hello world!</p>) and the oftentimes low level view of what is needed to get on the web (i.e. my nephew can do it).

    This could have been handled at a “low standard” (hello goatse), yet instead it was thought out, and an important point made and perhaps (hopefully) many lessons learned.

  40. Brian Ford says:

    I can’t help but notice that Newsvine is crawling today — influx of traffic?

    (Or, is Newsvine being targeted by the FBI?)


  41. Douglas Coronel says:

    A person who hotlinks a picture clearly: 1. Knows what they’re doing, and 2). Deserves what’s coming their way.

    Sure, Mike could have written a letter to the Mccain people, but then again, what would be the fun of that?

    A true classic.

  42. Coby says:

    Nice one Mike! Please give us a rundown on your Newsvine stats when you can. It would be interesting to know if you received any special visitors.

  43. Gary Ross says:

    Perhaps when you are spending millions of dollars on a campaign it helps to get professionals working for you who are specialized in their field of expertise. I don’t suppose campaigns have their cousin’s dog designing ads for the New York Times. Why should it be any different for the web?

  44. Don says:

    If I were the competition I’d buy the sponsored ad links on his myspace page. I see they now credit you, but don’t mention anything about the little issue you discuss in this article. You probably did him a huge favor as his linkage undoubtedly jumped out of the stratosphere. If he win’s it could be your fault.

    Also I think this points out the necessity of any significant campaign to get good web people on board. I know that the past of the web people for Robert’s campaign has been the subject of some discussion. So you need “clean” and “savvy” people on board.

  45. PanMan says:

    Newsvine is extremely (non-loading) slow. Is this a bad coincidence, a result of the massive traffic, or the FBI trying to DDos you? Great prank, btw!

  46. PanMan says:

    Ah, I found out newsvine is linked from /.
    That’ll explain the non-loading pages. Good luck with your burning servers… :)

  47. Jeff says:

    Excellent! How long did it take for them to discover and fix it?

  48. Martin says:

    I’m still getting over the idea that a presidential candidate has a f***ing myspace page as a campaign tool!

    Your way of dealing with uncredited hotlinking, which is essentially theft, was both appropriate and funny! Well done!

  49. Emily says:

    Calling hotlinking theft is, I think, entirely accurate.

    Emma: That kid who made the page may have accidentally stolen, but he stole nonetheless. In a very literal way; Mike paid for every single page load.

  50. Emma says:

    oh for crying out loud!!!

    paid what, about $0.45, get some perspective for the love of……..

    enough already I’m done with this crap!

  51. Mike D. says:

    Emma: We’ll never out-NewYorkTimes the New York Times. We would never even try to.

    Brian and PanMan: Yeah, crazy stuff going on right now with the Newsvine load balancer. We’re not sure if it’s a DDOS attack or just a legitimate tsunami of traffic. Working on the situation right now. It’s crippling.

    Don: Cool! You’re right. The McCain crew has now done the right thing and added credit to Mike Industries on their page. Good on them!

    Jeff: The image was up for about 50 minutes… starting at 9am yesterday.

  52. Hey Mike,
    I don’t know if you remember me – you had sushi with some of my co-workers and I from SEOmoz.org at a restaurant near wallingford about a year ago.

    I just wanted to say I think what you did was ridiculously awesome.

  53. Greg P says:

    Just read about you on MSNBC. That was CLASSIC!

    I’m still laughing :)


  54. Jeff Scott says:

    Writing about sex is paying off. There is 132+ posts on TechCrunch right now on this and I’m 58. Mike keep giving us what we want.

  55. Jason says:

    It’s great to see someone in a position to do that, to not only be clever enough to seize the opportunity – but to have the guts to. Nice job!! :)

  56. Kym says:

    I must admit…. I think you are brilliant and did what any honest person would do. They tried to make a fool of you so… what goes around comes around. Nice work.

  57. Not only did you quickly resolve the hotlinking issue, it seems the McCain page on MySpace now credits you with the layout – http://www.myspace.com/johnmccain

  58. Jenny Griffee says:

    A friend of mine e-mailed me a story about this today. I got a great laugh out of it, then kept reading, noticed your name and slowly went, “Uh — wait — isn’t that… hey!” ;)

    Nicely played, nicely played.

  59. Bayou says:

    I saw the headline yesterday but didn’t get a chance to read it until today and I had a similar experience to Jenny Griffee. “CEO of Newsvine… wait, sn’t that…”

    As a passionate female, I must say- very well done, Mike!

  60. Alan says:

    It seems a bit hysterical to think that someone trying to run for office to run the country allows some inept individual to manage his myspace site.

    I am sure that this will give all the candidates second thoughts about web portals that are as controversial as myspace is.

    Hey John, how about just stick to your site and of course hire someone that is an expert in website design and security.

    This changes everything from this point forward.

    The template that broke the camels back.

  61. Justin Shumaker says:

    You done made the Daily Show!

  62. Fredo says:

    I caught wind of this just before I left Boston after An Event Apart the other day. That prank was just way too awesome for words! Kudos, dude! :D

  63. Alan H. says:

    I’m “hosting” an iTunes chicklet on a past employer’s site. After about 30-seconds, it becomes a HOOTERS chicklet. The cleanest thing I could do, really.

    I was miffed that the size was hard-coded. Ah well.

    As seen at the top of great big pod cast dot com: http://www.bionicgenius.com/wp-content/chick_itunes.gif

  64. Steve says:

    I want to address very narrowly the idea of referring to hotlinking as “theft” as Emily does.

    First, let me agree that hotlinking without permission is bad manners, people shouldn’t do it, and it places a burden on the “hosting” site which may be anywhere from trivial to substantial. And, though I didn’t see Mike’s innovative response, I think it was probably well within the parameters of an appropriate response to the situation.

    That being said, people who call it “theft” are just wrong. The philosophy of hypertext, from it’s earliest usable implimentation, has been one of free linkability. (Tes it’s true that hypertext conceptual pioneer Ted Nelson projected that all or most linked content would be transparently charged for. However that model did not prevail.) My belief is that when you put content on a publically accessible web server there is implicit permission to link freely. There are probably some lawyers who could generate counter-arguements, but “that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it”. People whose images are hotlinked have a variety of recourses, from requests to threats of retaliation, to removing the image, to clever sabotage a la Mike). What they do not have the right to do is complain that their content was “stolen” (And, no Mike, I don’t mean you. But that attitude is out there and it is one of my pet peeves.)

    Now the one counterargument that might hold weight would be to try to class hotlinking under the laws relating to DOS attacks. But for that, I think you would have to show both actual DOS-level damage and intent.

    Basically hotlinking is bad manners, maybe a little like spitting on somebody’s car in the parking lot. But it’s not theft.


  65. […] I want to be this cool. (backstory on said coolness over here) Filed under: Found Links, News — 7:45 […]

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