Re: "Guinness"-mail

Wed, 23 Feb 1994 20:35:07 -0500

>+ I am asking you to send a business card to Craig Sherwood, a 7 year old
>+ boy who is suffering from a brain tumor and has very little time to
>+ live. Craig contacted the Children's Make-A-Wish Foundation, which
>+ attempts to grant wishes of terminally ill children. He is eager to
>+ get in the Guiness Book of World Records a the inficudual who collected
>+ the largest number of business cards.
>+ Please take a few minutes to forward your business card (and any you
>+ can get from your fellow colleagues). Then send this letter to
>+ 10 more people.
>Despite the good intentions of such postings, I have to remind you
>of the official 'Guinness'-declaration. Craig Sherwood is cured, at
>least he will not die due to the tumor. It was never his wish, nor
>that of his family, to come into the Guinness Book of World Records.
>He himself, as well as his family, urgently declared to stop
>sending the cards. Guinness will not accept this record anyway.
>This is what 'Guinness' has wrote to me some months ago.

This is one of the older bits of, well, folklore floating around the Internet
and connected networks. It has to be going on six or seven years at least,
and at that time I think that it had already been closed. The kid's name
was Craig Shergold, by the way, not Sherwood, so I guess we have an
electronic version of the "telephone game" going on here.

The postal system actually couldn't handle the mail volume this produced,
which is why it's one of the "unbreakable" records -- along with the dangerous
stuff, like eating a bicycle (yeah, that's in there, too).

While I'm sure the individual who originally posted it was well-meaning,
I'm not so certain that whoever started it around again was. It goes long
enough between incidents to make me wonder if every once in a while, someone
digs up the message and starts posting it again, just as a lark.

A less cynical reason might be that there seems to be a curious "flattening"
of time in computer-mediated communication. Someone will read a newsgroup,
or mailing list for the first time, or just discover BBSes, and they read
the available messages. Sometimes those are months old, but they don't notice
the date stamp on the message and reply anyway. Everyone else wonders why
someone started up a conversation that had ended quite a while earlier, etc.
Perhaps the apparant immediacy of electronic communication lends itself to
the idea that anything one sees must be current -- "I just read it, therefore
it is happening now."