On the Internet, it's said, no one knows you're a dog. But this ability to adopt an alternate identity can lead to a firestorm of speculation followed by backlash when popular personalities turn out to be carefully constructed characters, as happened with the lonelygirl15 hoax on YouTube.
Closer to home, we in the Macintosh world have long been amused by a clever writer making no bones about the fictional nature of his work, a blog titled "The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs" but more commonly known by its domain: "Fake Steve Jobs," sometimes shortened to FSJ. The hunt for the real person behind the fake Steve Jobs has been on for some time, with numerous Macintosh personalities being proposed for the position, including our ever-hilarious friend Andy Ihnatko, Wired's Leander Kahney, Take Control author Scott Knaster, and even yours truly. I was flattered, but my only fictional alter ego is the hard-boiled detective Ace MacKenzie.
At long last, Fake Steve has been revealed. Brad Stone of the New York Times followed the crumbs and stumbled on Daniel Lyons, a senior editor at Forbes, who admitted to his alter ego without any hesitation, according to Stone. He wondered only why no one had ferreted him out earlier.
Lyons managed to maintain his secret for over a year, and his blog has become extremely popular among Apple watchers during that time, thanks to a combination of snarky commentary and that omnipresent question of just who the writer really was. While few people know how Steve Jobs talks in private, Lyons's ability to uncork Jobs's id into a stream of consciousness that seemed vaguely credible made it a must-read.
Fake Steve's popularity has even risen to the point where Da Capo Press will in October publish a satirical novel by Lyons entitled "Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs, a Parody." When alerted to the identity of his evil twin via instant message, the real Steve Jobs told the New York Times that he had no interest in reading the book, although both he and Bill Gates have acknowledged reading the blog.