Yahoo, Seriously? With Farhad Manjoo

Mar 13, 2014
Originally published on October 16, 2014 8:38 am

Who's a "dead guy with crazy hair because he invented physics"? In this game, The New York Times' tech columnist Farhad Manjoo and his opponent try to identify historic figures from dubious Yahoo! Answers descriptions.

When asked for his tech predictions for the near future, Manjoo says that wearable technology is going to be all the rage. "Every part of the internet is going to integrated into your body." Whoa. Speaking of integrating yourself into the web... Manjoo's worthy opponent, Auros Harman, is a self-appointed fact-checker of Slate, Manjoo's former employer, who gleefully admits he's submitted an "incalculable" number of corrections to the magazine. Including this one.

Heard in Episode 311: Puzzlin' On The Dock of the Bay

This segment originally ran on March 13, 2014.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

From NPR and WNYC live from the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, this is Ask Me Another. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, your host for this next hour of puzzles, word games and trivia.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: We're here at the San Francisco Comedy Festival SF Sketchfest, and we have a great show for you. Some very special guests "MythBusters" Adam Savage and from NBC's "Community" Danny Pudi.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Now please welcome a man who is half hipster, half hippie, 100% organic free range and biodegradable, our farm to stage one-man house band, Mr. Jonathan Coulton.

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Hello.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Our first guest has his Fitbit on the Pulse of the Silicon Valley. I'm talking about tech-columnist for the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Welcome to Ask Me Another.

FARHAD MANJOO: Hi. Good to be here.

EISENBERG: As someone who's writing tech stuff, I'm sure you're getting a lot of the new gadgets or finding about new great tech trends. Is there anything that is on the horizon that would like blow our minds?

MANJOO: No, blow your minds but like annoy you. I think that's.

EISENBERG: Oh, good. Perfect.

(LAUGHTER)

MANJOO: You know like - like Google Glass for example.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

MANJOO: Like everyone's going to get annoyed by it, but I think we're going to be using things like that.

EISENBERG: Wearable technology. We're just going to completely absorb it into our lifestyle.

MANJOO: Yeah, we're just going - every part of the is going to be integrated into your body.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Now, by absolute coincidence, we found a very worthy opponent for you. He considers himself the self-appointed, fact checker for your former employer, Slate.com and claims to have read almost everything Slate has published since the year 2000. Please welcome Robert Auros Harman.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Have you guys met before?

MANJOO: Oh, we have. Yes. (Laughter)

EISENBERG: You have a long history?

MANJOO: No, we've met, and he has submitted several corrections of my articles.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Now, you go by Auros, which is a nickname?

ROBERT AUROS HARMAN: Yes.

EISENBERG: Is that a nickname that you have given yourself?

HARMAN: I - I always say it chose me. So really, I was just going by my first initial r and then I re-jiggered my Mac OS computer to say welcome to r OS. So the computer's name was Auros. And when I moved to the West Coast, people already knew me from online - from logging into like our IRC channels login Auros.resident, and - and, you know, it's a lot less common than Michael.

MANJOO: (Laughter) I was not expecting that story.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yeah, it was...

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: This game is kind of made for the two of you in the sense that you will love it, and it will probably drive you a little nuts 'cause it's called Yahoo Seriously.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: 'Cause once upon a time if you didn't know anything, you had to go to a library and find a book and read it. And that would be your definitive answer. But now of course, all you have to do is turn to the internet, and the problem with the internet is that it's full of self-appointed experts. We're going to ask you to identify famous historical figures. But the catch is we're only going to give you information we sourced from Yahoo answers...

MANJOO: Oh, awesome.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: ...That we like to call the internet's most semi-helpful information resource. So for an example, let's welcome our puzzle guru Art Chung.

ART CHUNG, BYLINE: Hey, Ophira.

EISENBERG: Hey, Art.

(APPLAUSE)

CHUNG: So on Yahoo answers, a contributor described one famous figure as the, quote, "dead guy with crazy hair because he invented physics."

(LAUGHTER)

CHUNG: Of course, he was referring to Albert Einstein.

EISENBERG: So we have edited down the comments and corrected some but not all of the grammar. But these are actual posts by actual people to actual questions on Yahoo answers. So ring in when you know who we're talking about, and the winner will move on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show.

HARMAN: OK.

EISENBERG: Here's your first question. His nonviolence was a powerful tool. He captured the hearts and imagination of a nation. He once stopped a national riot just by refusing to eat. Wish we could all do that and have it work.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Farhad.

MANJOO: Gandhi.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: She was a real person.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: She died a while ago. She was a cook and mostly known for massaging chickens. She was very funny.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Auros.

HARMAN: Julia Child.

EISENBERG: Exactly.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: I think, he was a rabble-rouser in Cuba and helped the Communist Revolution there. But he got killed by the CIA, I think - I mean, I'm pretty sure but I might be wrong.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Auros.

HARMAN: I'm going to go with Che Guevara.

EISENBERG: You're going to go with correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: It's a band but also a person. The Archduke of Austria-Hungary who was assassinated causing World War I.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Auros.

HARMAN: France Ferdinand.

EISENBERG: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Also JFK was a film and perhaps a president.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: She was a scientist who helped discover X-ray - sorry, I can't say more. I wish I could. I think she won the Nobel Peace Prize.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Auros.

HARMAN: Marie Curie.

EISENBERG: Yes.

MANJOO: You really only had to hear, she was a scientist on that one.

EISENBERG: Well, that's you. That's only what you need to hear.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I don't understand, too. It's like sorry, I can't say more but like is there a gun to your head...

COULTON: I know, she's -

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: ...While you're typing your Yahoo answer.

COULTON: She's just typing in an answer for free. You don't even know what you're talking about.

EISENBERG: I know.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Don't apologize.

EISENBERG: And then if you don't know, just type it in something else. (Laughter) You've got the whole internet to figure it out. This is your last question. He sounds like a guy who invented the vanilla, strawberry, chocolate ice cream in the same container combo.

(LAUGHTER)

MANJOO: Shall we guess?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

MANJOO: I mean, it has something to do with Neapolitan.

EISENBERG: Yeah. See, you're too smart. You're being a little too smart right now.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Sound it out. Sound it out.

MANJOO: Napoleon.

EISENBERG: Farhad, you got it.

(APPLAUSE)

MANJOO: Very good.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: A small, but powerful container. Alright Art, how did our contestants do?

CHUNG: It looked like all that fact checking panned out 'cause Auros is our winner.

EISENBERG: Congratulations, Auros.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: You'll be moving on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show. Thank you so much, Farhad. You were an amazing contest for us.

MANJOO: Oh, thanks.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.