What's the BFD about DFB?

Digital Force Bag is an app that I’ve been writing about for some time here and in the X-Comm newsletter. It’s a simple concept that allows you to force any item in a list in the Notes app on your phone. It was created by Nick Einhorn and Craig Squires and developed by Marc Kerstein, and it does what it does perfectly.

Perhaps too perfectly, actually. With typical magician’s grace, people are using it to force everything. Even fucking playing cards! As they say, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And I guess to magicians, everything looks like a card trick. But perhaps it’s inevitable that something that works this well will get overused and eventually overexposed. I don’t know.

Just because the app works so well, that doesn’t make it the ideal force for everything. Forcing tools are the most powerful, and the least likely to be questioned, when they’re used in contexts where they would be expected, not arbitrary. What might you have a list of on your phone? Use that with DFB. What might you fill up a pad with? Use that with Svengali pads. What might you have written down on slips and collected? Use that with a clear forcing bag/Amazebox.

Well, I’m not here to lecture you. You do whatever the hell you want. If this app gets F’d out, I’ll adapt.

We used DFB a few times in our focus-group testing back in February. It wasn’t the main thing we were testing, so we only performed it when we had extra time with some people. We didn’t perform it dozens of times, so I can’t say these results are definitive in any way, but they may be interesting to some of you.

We performed a fairly dull and basic DFB effect for 10 people (individually, not as a group).

Group 1 - Five of the people saw this trick: They name a number between 1 and 100. That number is used to identify a celebrity on a list of celebrities. A picture on the table is turned over, and it’s that celebrity.

Group 2 - Five of the people saw this trick: They name a number between 1 and 100. That number is used to identify a celebrity on a list of celebrities. They name another number between 1 and 100. That number is used to identify an item of food from a list of food. A picture on the table is turned over, and it’s that celebrity eating that food.

Which trick was stronger?

From my perspective, Group 2 had a slightly bigger response initially.


When we asked them to suggest their best explanation for the effect, no one in Group 1 questioned the phone or the use of an app or anything like that. But four out of the five in Group 2 did.

Not scientific. Not a big enough sample size. Could just have been a coincidence. I get that.

But I doubt it.

Going back to the 7 part series from the last couple weeks, I think forcing multiple objects gets you a bigger pop of Surprise—Tom Hanks eating a pineapple is inherently more funny/surprising than just Tom Hanks, because it’s more specific—but it also puts more focus on the method, so the long-term, secondary reaction (contrecoup astonishment) is diminished.

This is a trade-off some might be willing to make. For amateurs, the initial response doesn’t carry much weight. You’re more concerned about fooling them long-term. For a professional you may value that initial outward reaction more even if it gives a potential explanation for the trick. Just something to think about.

I have a friend who gets pulled over a lot because he drives like a maniac. He has a “bucket list” on his phone and the force item is “Charm my way out of a speeding ticket.”

He says it works about half the time.

An email from reader, DT:

You could use the list of 100 presentations from Part IV along with the Digital Force Bag app. You could say it was a list of subjects you found interesting and have been looking into and then have them select one at random (wink-wink) and then you could offer to “show them some research” or “give them a demonstration” of their freely (nudge-nudge) chosen subject. —DT

I really like this idea. Not using the DFB app as part of a trick itself, but to add an air of spontaneity to your interaction.

Making things feel more unplanned is almost always a positive thing for the amateur performer. “Oh, you picked ‘Ghosts’… Uhm…Okay, I can show you something. but we’re going to have to take a 15 minute drive. Is that okay?” A mini field-trip is always a good way to get people intrigued, but when it seems unplanned that adds another layer to it.

Spontaneity can also increase the impossibility of what they saw. For example, say you had “elemental manipulation” on the list, and then you do a trick where you change water to ice in your hands or something. The “obvious” answer is that you must have had that ice on you to start with. But if you seemingly didn’t know you were going to be addressing that subject, how could you know to have it on you?

And it’s something you could continue on with the person for as long as you want. Every time you meet up she gets to pick something at random from the list of weird phenomenon you’ve been studying. Just the existence of the list itself is going to be a good talking point and a Hook for future interactions.

I have a new favorite use for DFB that will be in the next issue of X-Communication. It’s so good. In actuality, the trick itself isn’t spectacular. But every detail has been worked out, and done in the context I suggest, it’s truly a thing of beauty. It’s a great “special occasion” trick as you’ll see, and it leaves people with a perfect memento. I have pretty specific rules of what I think is “souvenir worthy” but this one is as good as anything you’ll find in magic. The last time I performed it I was told, “If my house was burning down and I could save three things. This would be one of them.” And she wasn’t kidding.

That’s coming in 10 days or so in the newsletter for supporters.