How A Web Nerd Scammed Twitter With An Imaginary Tesla Sedan

On January 1st, Autoblog/Engadget/Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis announced he'd give away one still-imaginary Tesla sedan if his newly-created Twitter account got more followers than Ashton Kutcher. He failed miserably. Also, he probably never planned to give the car away. Update!

Update: Jason's responded! Apparently he hates Ray with a vengeance:

well @raywert writes for jalopsuck which will never be as good as Autoblog.com so he has to hate on me. dbag!

@joelfeder @raywert is being dbag because jalopsuck is 10% of www.autoblog.com which i named/founded (+ got me the $ for the teslas!)

@realmudmonster i think @raywert is a hater and wishes he wrote for www.autoblog.com! :-p

@raywert you are an idiot or a hater... but since you work for @notened that's a given. #donthate

@raywert 1. you are an idiot. 2. you are a hater. Those are no ad hominem, those are accurate.


To recap: Jason Calacanis was the co-founder of Weblogs, Inc, which he sold to AOL during the "blogging boom" of 2005 for $30 million. Now, he's the CEO of Maholo, an irrelevant-the-next-time-Google-changes-its-search-algorithm human-powered search engine. Finding himself with loaded pockets, but still struggling to impress with the size of his Twitter account, Jason decided to challenge Ashton Kutcher to a Twitter duel, with mastery of the micro-blogging service's coveted number one slot as the prize. It's unclear if Ashton was ever aware of the challenge, but Calacanis tried for maximum publicity by offering a Tesla Model S — a not-yet-built electric sedan — as a prize for one lucky follower if he beat Ashton.

A flurry of promotion on some blogs formerly owned by Calacanis rocketed him into 19,582nd place in a matter of days. What'd he do with that extraordinary momentum? He retweeted a couple of people talking about the giveaway then, on January 3rd, changed the offer to $50,000 in cash money (or the imaginary car):

Also, if anyone would rather just get $50,000 instead of the car we will make that option available-subject to researching local laws! :-)

How A Web Nerd Scammed Twitter With An Imaginary Tesla Sedan


By January 4, @Auto had reached a staggering 10,000 followers, prompting an excited announcement and a request for those followers to pressure mainstream media outlets for coverage:

We are at 10k followers & I'm excited! We're going to get this done! Anyone know NYT, WSJ or good press? pitch them #freetesla story!

Kutcher's account, @Aplusk, averages over 3,000 new followers a day.

How A Web Nerd Scammed Twitter With An Imaginary Tesla Sedan


The mainstream media coverage didn't happen, but nevertheless, Jason was so incredibly stoked to have only 4.6 million fewer followers than @Aplusk that he launched an entirely new contest with non-imaginary prizes:

The @auto contest is going so well I've started 2nd contest! tweet: " Follow @jason to win one of ten Nexus One phones today #freenexusone "

That was @auto's last tweet, but it did result in an additional 10,000 followers for Jason's main twitter account, @Jason.

We're assuming Calacanis is smart enough to know he wasn't going to be able to beat Ashton Kutcher's follower count by giving away one electric family sedan that's not yet out of the concept stage. That leads us to believe the whole deal was an underhanded attempt to net himself additional Internet stardom without actually having to give away anything. Thus, a scam.

Calacanis has yet to respond to our tweet asking for more information, but we've now unfollowed him anyway — we have other people we'd rather talk to.

Photo Credit: cfinke / Flickr