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Just a Joke ... Or Is It?

by Bruno Van de Casteele

September 14, 2014

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Donate YouTube kindly sends me an email each week with videos I might be interested in. The following is one that they recently featured; it promises to "triple your internet speed for free." I was a bit skeptical, but hey, who doesn't want that?

The good news is, it's really entirely free. No products are sold (although viewers are given a shopping list for this purported "trick"), and you don't have to pay to receive the "tricks" by ThioJoe. But that's about it... Check for yourself.

So the guy, in a nice tie in what seems a techy office, promises that you can increase your Internet speed just by taping batteries to the ends of your UTP-cable ("rechargeable batteries work better"). Really, I don't know how the guy keeps a straight face, especially after explaining the "optional" taping of a SATA and IDE cable. Maybe that explains why the shots are so short: they had to edit out all the laughing.

I don't think I have to debunk it, but just for the record: taping a low-voltage battery to a UTP cable will not decrease the resistance of your cable. And if you think electrical tape conducts electricity, I would warn you not to touch any electrical appliances in your home.

But what is the purpose of this video? The guy is (probably) not trying to defraud—he's not asking for any money. He also doesn't seem to believe what he's claiming; he is making a "joke." But he runs the risk of duping gullible people to "send this video to your tech-savvy friends." He's not really hiding that he's joking, it is even clearly stated on his profile description: "EVERYTHING ON THIS CHANNEL IS FOR COMEDY/ENTERTAINMENT ONLY. YES, ALL THE TUTORIALS ARE JOKES. EVERY ONE." Now he has another channel (ThioJoeTech) where he puts real tips and tricks, but which looks conspicuously like his parody channel. And YouTube mixes them up when proposing next videos to watch, so it gets confusing really quickly.

I was ready to file it away as a bad joke, but then Noah (editor here at Skeptoid Blog) pointed me to Poe's Law. The law is described as the proposition that "Without a blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing."

And that clears it up a lot. It isn't extremism (far from it), but because it looks real and looks almost exactly like his real tutorials, it will be mistaken by some people for the real thing. That in itself is wrong. Now that brings up another point: some would call those people "stupid" for believing this. I would call them "duped," by people like ThioJoe. There is no indication that he's making a joke, unless you click through to his profile (and really, who does that?). So some people will send this out to their "tech-savvy friends," and will be laughed at. Call me conservative, but I don't think that is a nice thing to do.

by Bruno Van de Casteele

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