The latest on-the-stand, on-air absurdity in the increasingly strange Trayvon Martin trial arrived Wednesday morning when a bunch of
digital strangers 4Channers Skype-bombed the testimony of George Zimmerman's college professor. It was weird. It was embarrassing, especially since the cable networks were so busy ignoring the conflict in Egypt. It was also kind of funny. For future reference, we've created a handy guide to making sure you never get an important video-chat interrupted by notification boxes mid-call. Despite the protestations of attorneys and Judge Debra Nelson, what happened to Professor Gordon Scott Pleasants on live TV did not have to happen and hopefully will never happen again. Here's how.
Step 1: Understand How Skype Works
Unlike Facebook, Skype doesn't let you hide from its search function. See how easy it is to find the prosecutor's name, Rich Mantei, in the user database?
You have to request to add someone, but don't have to wait for their approval to make a phone call:
That is, unless you change the privacy preferences to only allow calls from "contacts" rather than anyone:
And voila: That's it.
Step 2: Use a Skype Pseudonym
It's quite easy to find and call a stranger, as we learned above. But it's also incredibly easy to avoid being tracked down — unless the NSA is hunting you — by creating a non-name alias. You, you see, don't have to be you on Skype. Mantei could have created a totally new Skype account for the occasion of being questioned under oath and across the country by using, you know, a screen name. The prosecutor also could have changed his profile details, making it harder for people like, you know, me to find and Skype-bomb him. Under Edit Profile, you can change all sorts of personal details, making it less obvious which Rich Mantei is the Rich Mantei under the microscope. Though, the best option for Mantei, because he has a more unique name, might have just been a random username.
Step 3: Use a Google Hangout or Literally Any Other Video-Chat Service
Other clients make it harder to call strangers and less annoying when people call. (Skype's sounds are some of the most distinctive....) Google Hangouts, for example, wouldn't have presented this problem because you can only hang out with someone who you're connected with via a Google account. So, yeah, it's really that easy, guys. When you're getting more attention than the overthrow of a president, maybe you should talk tech for a few minutes before the show trial begins.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.