Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Flash Mob Rule

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 6:58 PM

It began, as does so many things of import in the world today, with a comment on a Facebook wall.

With Google in the hunt for a worthy city to be a test site for their information-at-hyperspeed fiber network, the Facebook group "Hey Google, Pick Spokane" rapidly grew to 6,537 fans.

On that fanpage wall, Spokane fan and web developer Mark Simonds suggested that Spokanites band together to form a "flash mob" — a sudden gathering of people for a cause or random act of weirdness -- to show the groundswell of support that Spokanites have toward Google picking their city.---

Funny. Fellow Twitterer Nicole Hensley had had the exact same idea.

Back and forth, in full view of the other 6,000 fans, Simonds and Hensley began scheming for ways to spice up the facts on Spokane's application. "This is the pizzaz, the sparkle on the resume, to brighten the deal," Hensley says.

The clarion call went out to area bloggers, media outlets, and Twitter addicts. Cue a torrent of re-tweets.

"We started calling up the city and businesses," Hensley says.  The city issued a press release. Blogger Mariah McKay of the Spovangelist posted an item on her blog supportive of the effort but skeptical that something planned so fast could become big enough fast enough. 

Less than 48 hours later — perhaps unthinkable before the days of viral Internet — it happened.

At 5:30 pm on Tuesday, in the field near the clock tower, facing the carousel across the water, a diverse throng gathered to make their Google-loving voices heard. They clustered together as cameras clicked and whirred around them.

Mayor Mary Verner was there, as was street musician Rick "Harpman Hatter" Bocook. Richard Terzieff, owner of Recorded Memories, said he closed up his shop to attend the mob. "Anything that gets the community together," Terzieff said. "If you don't get involved in the community you can't complain when stuff doesn't happen."

Four children held up crayon-drawn signs that say "Spokane needs Speed." ("S stands for both Speed and Spokane," the sign helpfully elucidated.) The oldest child, 10-year-old Isabel Brunkan, said she wants faster Internet for faster downloads.

"We were designing on Architect Studio 3D," Brunkan said. "It took a long time loading." 

Eastern Washington University student Christine Price admitted she was there mainly because she spotted the crowd after leaving Caterina Winery, but she supports the intent. "I'm a college student, so faster Internet would be a good thing." 

With the news cameras recording the crowd, Hensley stood atop the KREM 2 news van to lead the crowd through repeated cheers of "Hey Google! Pick Spokane!" You in the back, she asks, can you jump more?

"I love Spokane! I love it!" she yells from atop the van, "I would never go to Seattle!"

At its peak, an Inlander estimate eyeballed the crowd from 75  people, while Hensley estimated 200.

"Great for such a short notice," McKay says.

Some Twitterers, however, were more disappointed with the result. "Flash mob = great idea, too few interesting people to make it happen," Grant Stancliff tweeted. "Thanks for those who showed up."

But not Hensely. She's ecstatic, she said. Back on the Internet, Hensely fired off a thank-you tweet. "I feel so proud to live in Spokane! Thank you everybody for showing your support!" 

What's next? Perhaps, a flash mob picnic, Hensley said.

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...