Tim Walker: How to take the fun out of a web craze

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Independent Voices

When, on Wednesday, a Twitter user called @wiggsd remarked that a White House press briefing was a bit tedious, he unexpectedly received a reply from @whitehouse: "Fiscal policy is important, but can be dry sometimes," the President's official feed agreed. "Here's something more fun..." There followed a link to the video for Rick Astley's 1987 hit, "Never Gonna Give You Up".

Poor, unsuspecting @wiggsd had been "Rickrolled". To explain, a Rickroll is a web link purporting to contain something juicy: a Megan Fox sex scene, for instance, or a moronic comment from Sarah Palin. Instead, that mouse click takes you to the Astley video. It's a rebellious little joke that spread across the web like spilled coffee in 2007-8. When the powerful lay claim to such a meme, however, its subversive strength is instantly neutralised.

Flash mobs stopped being fun when mobile phone providers confected them for their ad campaigns. The demise of planking, a recent web craze, can be traced to the moment Gordon Ramsay tried it on a yacht. Given that Obama's administration is the most web-savvy to date, whoever is responsible for its Twitter feed is remarkably behind the curve. Then again, show me the President planking on the desk in the Oval Office, and I might be impressed.