Flash Mobs and The New York Times

August 4th, 2003

The first flash mobs took place nearly two months ago in New York — yet the first New York Times flash mob coverage appeared today, in the “Berlin Journal” portion of the International section. What were they thinking?

Anyway, the piece contains one of my favorite flash mob quotes:

Tobias von Sch–nebeck, a tour guide, shook his head when he heard about how the phenomenon was traced back to Macy’s. “This is just the sort of thing that happens when you forbid New York to smoke.”

Press Mobs and Cop Mobs

July 31st, 2003

Florian Greb reports that yesterday, during Germany’s first flash mob in Berlin, “About 75 mobbers did some spontaneous gymnastics like jumping and appauding, turning around several times with arms spread. This was organized by a man with a rainbow-colored umbrella and watched by two to three dozen press people.” (Thanks to Florian for the photo; more “photos der flashmob-aktion” at

Photo courtesy of Florian Greb

Are we approaching a moment in time when sending out a last-minute flash mob announcement will trigger a mob consisting of more cameras and reporters than anything else? If so, that could be a lot of fun in itself. Take advantage of this, people; it won’t last.

Now the word “flash mob” seems to summon legions of police as well; check out Brad Searle’s cornucopia of cop photos from tonight’s Boston flash mob.

The Germans seem particularly taken by this whole thing. Judging from the list of groups rounded up at, there are already flash mob groups online for 21 different cities in Germany.

Today Swiss flash mobbers converged on the the main Zurich train station and, judging from the photos, they formed a large single-file line of people with hands linked, dividing the station.

Dubliners and Parisians are planning their own flash mobs. Londoners are still talking it over, but in London that’s been going on for weeks. Rome’s second flash mob is scheduled for tonight.

I haven’t detected any flash mob interest in Latin America or in Africa, and aside from Japan I haven’t heard much from Asia. A Shanghai newspaper reporter e-mailed me and said that interest in flash mobs is growing there. But the Chinese government must approve any large gatherings in advance; so much for that idea. It’s hard to imagine a flash mob bound in red tape.

I can no longer keep up with all the local flash mob groups in the U.S. They’re popping up everywhere. The next flash mob here in San Francisco is scheduled to take place Saturday August 9. As for the rest of the country, and mob(b)log seem to be tracking the groups pretty well. Howard Rheingold and company continue to provide decent roundups at

I’m working and moving to a new apartment this week, so I won’t even try to keep up with all of it. But I’ve yet to see a truly new flash mob idea, something that takes this to the next level. The world is hungry for photos and coverage of any compellingly original new flash mobs; please send them to sean[at], or post links below in the comments.


Vienna Flash Mob

July 26th, 2003

A small Austrian flash mob took place yesterday. Here are links to coverage in the original German and in babelfish-translated English.

UPDATE: Here’s an English description of the event, from Boingboing.

UPDATE: “Matix” posted a video of the event .

Flash Mobs Swamp Cheesebikini

July 25th, 2003

Last night cheesebikini was Slashdotted, and combined with all the other flash mob traffic this brought the server to its knees. (Sorry Dav!)

For the moment cheesebikini must be replaced with this placeholder.
Many goodies don’t work, including comments, the alert list, etc. The only two pages available are this page and the list of free San Francisco wi-fi cafes. Links to outside sites still work.

UPDATE, 7/26/03: We’re up and running on a new server, and with an upgraded moveabletype backbone to boot. On Friday alone, more than 9,300 visitors came to that placeholder page that I put up in place of cheesebikini. The server just couldn’t handle it, but the new servers can support a lot more traffic. Thanks for your patience.

Flash Mob in Central Park

July 24th, 2003

Photo courtesy of Visit that site for a larger version and for more photos.Fred Hoysted was first to chime in with a report and a photo from the Fifth New York Flash Mob. was quick on Fred’s heels with a report and a nice group of photos, including a larger version of the cropped shot to the right.

They seem to have carried out a fantastic, bizarre idea: make a bunch of increasingly surreal “nature sounds” in Central Park.

UPDATE: Our Chief Manhattan Correspondent David Danzig posted an audio recording of the event (MP3 format, 750K, 3 minutes long).


Europe’s First Flash Mob

July 24th, 2003

www.repubblica.itA flash mob went down today in Rome, as an estimated 100 to 300 people flooded a books and music megastore. They asked employees for nonexistent books. They broke into a round of spontaneous applause. Then they dispersed.

Here’s coverage in Italian from the newspaper la Repubblica, and here’s a clumsy English translation. The photo, courtesy of la Repubblica, shows mobbers evacuating the megastore.

In the comments attached to this posting, you’ll find a report from our Senior Rome Correspondent “JJFlash.”

If you have more photos, please send them (or links to them) to photos[at] More to come.

Flash Mob News from Minnesota, Texas, Austria

July 23rd, 2003

Minneapolis organizers put together an event (or rather, a series of events staged in different locations) at a huge shopping mall. Participant turnout was estimated at 50, but perhaps reduced secrecy about the next Minneapolis event will spur a larger crowd?

New flash mobs are brewing in Vienna, Austria and in Dallas. (Here’s an English version of the Austrian flash mob page, as automatically translated by

Flash mobs are a widespread phenomenon now with lots of people around the world taking part, so from now on when I mention flash mobs I’m going to focus on the most compelling flash mob coverage and opinion. For more exhaustive listings of the numerous local flash mob announcements, groups, sites and press coverage, check out, where anyone can sign up for an account and submit mob news or a link to a new mob group, or mob(b)log, whose creator “Alex” is doing a good job of listing media coverage but strangely fails to provide any way to reach him or to comment on his postings. In the meantime, Rob Zazueta is designing a site to make it easier for people to organize what he calls “flocks;” it’s not done yet but you can keep track of it at Thanks for the resources, people!

(By the way; have you seen The Word Spy’s entry for the term “flash mob?”)

The First Italian Flash Mob

July 19th, 2003

Londoners have been talking about organizing a flash mob for weeks and weeks. Now, with minimal talk, it seems the Romans will beat the Brits to the punch and create Europe’s first flash mob.

Our Senior Rome Correspondent “J. Jack Flash” reports that a flash mob has been planned in Rome next Thursday, July 24. Here’s the invitation: in Italian and in English.

In other news: Flash mobs are arising in Boston and in Phoenix, Arizona.

Invitation: Manhattan Flash Mob #5

July 18th, 2003

Below is the invitation to the fifth New York flash mob as it was e-mailed to me. It’s scheduled to take place next Thursday evening, July 24th.

(If you’re wondering what a flash mob is, see this entry for an explanation.)
Read the rest of this entry »

Ma che diavolo Ë un Flashmob?

July 18th, 2003

“J. Jack Flash” in Rome, Italy republished most of cheesebikini’s flash mob coverage, after translating it into Italian. (For real fun see the translation back into English, courtesy of the automatic translation service at

How strange and wonderful. Thanks to Dave Danzig for tipping me off to this.

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