Rickrolling along

2014 rickroll essay

I couldn't understand why the UK's The Independent would publish Christopher Hooten's rickroll story - about the student whose quantum physics essay included the lyrics to Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up' as the first word of every line. This must be old news; I blogged about this the first time it hit social media, back in October 2010. Gizmodo reported it then.


But I went back and checked, and it turns out - as you'll see below - to be an entirely different paper. Apart from the first word of every line.

So, as long as there are nerds who can string sentences together and remember the lyrics to an overplayed '80s track, there'll be teachers rickrolled. And online 'news' sources reporting it.

See you here again in another three and a half years.



On a rroll: Zach Rattner's Automatic Mobile Rick Rolling Device



The rroll, invented by Zach Rattner


At some stage the geek activity of duckrolling - where you claim to link to something impressive, like this photo Chris Hook took from the awesome opening to the 2013 Sydney Festival, for example, but instead link to just some image of a duck - gave way to rickrolling, where the link led to Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up'.

Computer science student and all-round geek Mayniac182 raised the bar somewhat a little while ago, when he submitted an assignment that  was essentially a giant rickrolling acrostic.

Now software engineer Zach Rattner has proven the modern social importance of inventors by creating the rroll: a physical rickroll device.

It's a battery powered doohickey that uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect whenever someone approaches within six feet - at which point, it starts playing  Rick Astley's peerless contribution to contemporary art and culture. Or, in Zach's terms, "unleashes cheesy music on unsuspecting passers-by".

But what makes it so good is that when you walk away from it, the music pauses… resuming from where it left off the minute you - or anyone else - approaches once again.

What it's like is one of those seemingly cool joke devices you used to find advertised on the back of comic books. Nowadays, it's the sort of thing someone would mass produce and sell on the modern-day equivalent of back-of-comic-books, one of those daily deal coupon company sites (of which, I know a thing or two…).

Although, if you're a crafty clever-clogs, you can build your own, since it's an open source project, and Zach lists all the elements required on his site.

Watch it in action:


Somehow, I can't help thinking that a device whose sole purpose is to play Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up' is precisely the thing you will give up and desert.

But imagine its application in every-day life!

It could work as a car alarm. Hold music. Or popular radio. Had they not already been invented to unleash cheesy music on unsuspecting passers-by.

I'm going to put a couple dozen in the mango tree outside, to discourage fruitbats, possums, and especially unsuspecting passers-by, from stealing the fruit!

Rick ’n’ Roll Highschool?

Once upon a time there was a geek prank frequently perpetrated in chatrooms and messageboards known as 'duckrolling'. It involved offering a link to something really cool, that when followed, proved to be nothing more than an image of a toy duck on wheels. For example, check out this awesome image of a vintage Cherry SG Les Paul with blah blah blah, or this intense photograph of an anaconda trying to swallow a cow.

This practice evolved into 'rickrolling', where you’d link to promised footage of something rather cool but ended up merely being a clip of Rick Astley performing his breakthrough single ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. Like the footage of the pelican trying to swallow a pigeon. (Okay, if I was a proper geek, I'd have uploaded the Rick Astley clip with a different title so that you wouldn’t realise until it was far too late.)

Now, Gizmodo reports, computer science student Mayniac182 has raised the bar, turning an assignment entitled The Disadvantages and Advantages of Networks into a giant acrostic featuring the lyrics to ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’.

Impressive. It took eight hours to format, apparently. And it had to be that song for it to be a proper, glorified rickroll. It had to be a rickroll for it to be recognised by fellow geeks, like the one marking it (if indeed the marker managed to spot it).

But I think it would have been more impressive to include the lyrics to something a bit more challenging. Bob Dylan's ‘Jokerman’, for example, for a bit of Christianrockrolling:

Standing on the water casting your bread
While the eyes of the idol with the iron head
Are glowing.
Distant ships sail into the mist.
You were born with a snake in both of your fists
While a hurricane was blowing.

Or Frank Zappa’s ‘Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch’:

There's a ship arriving too late
To save a drowning witch
She was swimmin' along
Tryin’ to keep a date
With a Merchant Marine
Who told her he was really rich
But it doesn't matter no more . . .
She's on the ocean floor
'N the water's all green down there
'N it's not very clean down there
'N water snakes
'N rusty wrecks
Is all that she can see
As the light goes dim
And she's tryin’ to swim
Will she make it?
(Boy, we sure hope so…)

I look forward to that paradigm shift. Or one better: where the geek’s gotta cheerleader there, gonna help with the paper, let her do all the work and maybe later you’ll get this reference if you’re a Zappa fan.

Meanwhile, here’s the paper (click to enlarge so you can actually read it!):


 FYI: The actual clip of a pelican trying to swallow a pigeon: