As noted in last week's cover story the blogosphere is a mess, chock full of factually questionable information. Many erstwhile bloggers are making it their duty to clean up this mess, using their own sites to point out fictitious information they find on their colleagues' blogs. But a tough question remains: When one blogger accuses another of deceit, is there any way to verify who's right and who's wrong, especially before all the reputation-demolishing flack and counter-flack is spread to millions and millions of people all over the Internet?
Case in point: The local saga of the Tetris vandalism.
This story starts off with much feel-good potential. Jessyel Ty Gonzalez, a CU film student, first picked up a digital camera in early 2004 and decided to post one photo a day online to force him to learn how to use it. The resulting photoblog, www.dailysnap.com, soon progressed past amateurish shot to Gonzalez's cinematic images of ocean-like Colorado plains and nightmarish Denver back alleys. His site became one of the most visited photoblogs in the world. National media celebrated his story. Photo editors offered him jobs, and he was able to make enough money selling photo prints to pay for his college education.
A typically quirky DailySnapphoto
appeared on July 31. According to its caption, the photograph was of an abandoned Denver building that's windows were broken out in a pattern that looked just like Tetriminoes, the geometric blocks that fall into place in the video gameTetris
The image was uncanny, and soon it spread across the Internet. That's how it ended up this weekend on the radar screen of Brian Crecente, video game writer for the Rocky Mountain News. Intrigued, Crecented contacted Gonzalez to find out the building's address. Gonzalez told him where to find the windows—on the northwest wall of the Motor Hotel Garage at 14th and Stout streets -- but noted cryptically that he thought some of the broken panes had since been replaced.
Crecente stopped by the building on Monday and was surprised by what he saw. There was a Tetriminoe or two in the broken windows, but not as many as in Gonzalez's photo. To him, it looked like Gonzalez had manipulated his image, digitally removing panes to make it look more, well, Tetris-y. Crecente called the company planning to demolish the building, where a worker agreed that it didn't make sense that someone would have replaced a handful of panes in an empty building, and only the ones that looked like Tetris blocks. "Looking at all the facts, I think it's unlikely that it's real," says Crecente.
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On Tuesday, Crecente posted his Tetris photo on his video game blog, Kotaku. That image looks very similar to those posted on December 3 by DenverInfill as part of a story about a new Embassy Suites tower going up on the property.
This led to yesterday being the "day of hell," says Gonzalez. About two dozen pending prints of his Tetris vandalism photo were cancelled. A photo editor called to warn him about manipulating photos. He received numerous angry e-mails and calls from strangers -- and a couple of death threats. Through it all, he maintains his innocence. "I didn't mess with the window panes. It does look funky, but I took the shot seven months ago. A lot changes in seven months," he says, adding he has the negatives to prove it. "The logic is, why if it's fake, would I have given him the address? And I wish he had contacted me before he put up the post."
Both Gonzalez and Crecente are amazed at the online clamor generated by their blogs . "Who cares in the end?" asks Gonzalez. "It's just getting somewhat ridiculous."
Crecente agrees. "I don't like being in position of debunking a picture. The weird thing is, who cares if he did fake it? I still think it's a neat image." — Joel Warner