In a straightforward post on the New Yorker’s Elements blog, Susan Orleans broke a bigger Twitter scoop than even the company’s IPO: @Horse_ebooks, long thought to be a piece of spammer-generated found art, is actually “human after all,” the work of Jacob Bakkila and Thomas Bender, current BuzzFeed and former Howcast employees , respectively.
The account, which has 212,439 followers, tweets seemingly random snippets of text interspersed with occasional affiliate ads to products:
Dear Reader, You are reading— Horse ebooks (@Horse_ebooks) February 10, 2012
Avoid situations— Horse ebooks (@Horse_ebooks) July 17, 2013
Is the dance floor calling? No— Horse ebooks (@Horse_ebooks) December 22, 2011
Orleans reports the duo will be presenting this morning the Fitzroy Gallery in New York and kicking off the next iteration of their project, “Bear Stearns Bravo,” at the Fitzroy Gallery, on the Lower East Side.
The duo are also reportedly behind the YouTube account Pronounciation Book, a channel that posted, until very recently, videos pronouncing various words, such as “acacia”. For the past month, the YouTube account has run a pronounciation countdown from 100, leading up to today’s video, “How to Pronounce Horse_ebooks,” which asks the viewer to take on the role of a financial regulator:
That, in turn, leads to the interactive video sequence Bear Stearns Bravo, where viewers are asked to investigate a satirical Bear Stearns and either arrest employees or convince them to testify against the company.
“Bakkila and Bender have been working on the project for almost four years, keeping their identities secret from just about everyone,” Orleans reported.
Gawker’s Adrian Chen had previously reported, in an in-depth profile, that the account was run by a Russian spammer, Alexey Kouznetsov, tied to an affiliate ad network.
Chen appeared as surprised as anyone at the developments:
I was not in on this! From what I understand viral marketing people took over @Horse_ebooks in 2011 from Alexey.— Adrian Chen (@AdrianChen) September 24, 2013
As Joshua Benton of Nieman Lab noted, it was not the first time the connection between @horse_ebooks and Bakkila/Bender had been made: