Viral Deleted Company Story Was A Publicity Stunt / Experiment

Look up the name Marco Marsala in Google and you’ll see just how many of the major media channels last week picked up on the story of the apparently hapless web hosting company owner who accidentally managed to delete his own and his customers’ websites by typing the code "rm -rf": into his computer.

It’s only now that we know the whole story was made up by Mr Marsala that it does seem so incredible and unlikely.

From First Reports

Mr Marsala who runs his own start-up company posted the news of what he had supposedly done on the support website called ‘Server Fault’ where he asked the server expert users if there was anything he could do reverse his mistake.

In his original summary of his made up predicament Mr Marsala claimed that he had used Ansible (a free-software platform for configuring and managing computers) to automate some server operations. In the course of doing so he said he had made an error in the writing of a small piece of code - a “Bash script with a rm -rf {foo}/{bar}. He stated that not only had this meant the complete wiping of his computer including his own and his 1535 customers’ websites, but had also resulted in the deleting of the backups so that in essence he had deleted his entire company.

Expert Verdicts?

Even though we now know that the whole thing was a hoax, not only did the many expert contributors to the Server Fault support website seem to believe that what he had achieved was the irreversible deletion of his entire business, but they also reportedly:

  • Failed to notice that the code command Mr Marsala mentioned was harmless and would not be able to achieve the devastating results he described.

  • Failed to notice that the open-source Ansible platform prevents these kinds of catastrophic.

Mr Marsala who is reported to have told the Italian publication ‘Repubblica’ that the story was intended partly as an experiment to test the knowledge of the developers on the support site but was then was left unimpressed by what he saw as inaccuracies in their comments and their failure to spot the flaws in his story.

Guerrilla Marketing Success

Mr Marsala is also reported to have invented the story and to promote it in this way as part of guerrilla marketing tactic to gain publicity, ironically for his outsourced server management start-up business.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This story re-enforces the necessity for your business to not only take great care in the selection and monitoring of your web hosting company, but also make sure that you / your web host has an effective back up system in place for your website and critical data.

It also illustrates the importance of having a disaster recovery plan in place.

This story is also an example of how a cleverly crafted article / press release / post, some sound knowledge of an industry and the media, and some good luck can lead to plenty of very low cost publicity, irrespective of one's personal views of the rationale.