Category: Stories

The Snowden Pitch and the NSA catalog

nsa catalogue

Last week I spoke at the re:publica in Berlin. My talk was called “Pledge, Turn, Prestige – The Snowden Pitch” and was thirty eight minutes of fiction. The basic idea of the talk is that, back in 2008 the NSA had a business problem and so they approached me and my fictitious advertising agency to sort the problem out.

As far as I know everything I’ve written into the Snowden pitch is fictional, all except for one slide, the slide you can see above. What you can see there are actual NSA product names, for actual NSA products that all have unit prices. A couple of people have asked me how or why I started writing The Snowden Pitch, well now you know. Towards the end of 2013 I spotted this article on Spiegel Online which describes the NSA Catalog. The catalog can also be found on wikipedia so, as you can see, I’ve folded the real product names into the fiction of The Snowden Pitch.

I didn’t make those crazy product names up. The NSA did.

The catalog was the starting point for the talk: for if you have a catalog, with products that have unit prices then surely you’ll have a P&L and you’ll need customers. I thought that that would be an interesting place to start exploring a new way of looking at the whole Snowden story.

Here’s the talk, if you’ve not seen it. The NSA products and catalog come in around 30:00.

The Tiny Web.

Henry Cooke and Teddy Ruxpin 

As you all may know I have been playing around with strange bot things for a while now. You know those weavr things. Well a couple of us having been hanging out in a corner of the Internet that looks remarkably like skype but is in fact a place where we bang around ideas and develop stuff. Most people call these places skype group chats but we call this place The Phactory Bar.

Now, one evening somebody suggested that it would be lovely to have a virtual character in the bar. Then we went to bed. When we woke up Henry Cooke had made one. That’s how The Landlord was born. So now we can order drinks, snacks, music and much much more from this fictional character. Over the course of the last couple of months The Landlord has developed into a multi-channel fictional character that is basically an in joke taken a little too far. At some point someone suggested that it would be lovely to give The Landlord a voice and twenty minutes later Shardcore wired him up some vocal chords. One thing led to another and The Landlord had his own pirate radio station called that plays botstep 24 / 7 (assuming that Shardcore’s cleaning lady doesn’t unplug the power supply). also has traffic reports, horoscopes, adverts and something really odd called algo chat. It’s all automagically generated and it’s mental.

Then someone thought it would be fun to stick the radio station up the bum of a Teddy Ruxpin. Povey bought the teddy, Cooke did something to it and Shardcore made the magic happen. Satan just sits there giggling.



We will all be talking about The Landlord, The Phactory Bar and The Tiny Web at this year’s Campus Party in Berlin so if you’re around pop on by and say hello. Seriously.