Joho the Blog » roflcon

May 4, 2012

[roflcon] Microfame

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Matt Oswald drew Me Gusta. He’s now an illustrator because of the drawing that made him famous.

Nate Stern is Huh Guy. He was in an AT&T commercial in which he said “Huh.” He submitted it to Reddit. The line in the script was “Say what now?” but they asked him to improvise. Nate says that he went up to Jonathan Zittrain who had put up a picture of the Huh guy during his excellent keynote, and said, “You’re much better looking than the Huh Guy.” JZ said thank you. “And that’s how micro famous I am. I wasn’t recognized by a guy who referenced me in his talk.”

Chris Torres is the Nyan Cat guy.

Paul Vasquez made the Double Rainbow video. “It was a spiritual experience. I need to bring spirituality to humanity.” He wants to “bring people together under the colors of the rainbow.”

Nate says that now you’re famous on the Internet for 1.5 seconds. Chris says that he is never recognized. No one ever knows the people behind the drawings. “Is that frustrating?” asks our host, Mike Rugnetta. “I love it,” Chris replies. He loves seeing the drawing reproduced. “It’s an amazing thing knowing that people love your work.”

Paul says that when Jimmy Kimmel played his video, it exploded. Microsoft wanted to do a video with him. “I’d been a hermit for a long time, and all of a sudden humanity was paying attention to me because I saw this rainbow. You’re not seeing me in it. You see it through my third eye, which is also my camera.” He says the camera didn’t capture the fact that the rainbow was a complete disk, a giant eye. What could have an eye that big? “God could.” A high school flew him out there, performed a play while he sat on a throne. They took him to a lake and he was wondering if he’s supposed to go swimming with high schoolers…and there was the rainbow again. “That’s why I video everything. Otherwise no one would believe it.”

Mike asks about the intersection of Net memes and mainstream media. Paul points to how much mainstream media coverage he’s gotten. “They’ve been kind to me, probably because I’m not in it.”

Chris says that Conan did a parody of it. Time featured it. “It’s mind blowing that mainstream media cover it.” He thinks the mainstrea generally does “get” it, although they’re wrong about other Net phenomena, such as Anonymous.

Nate says that people were suspicious that AT&T was orchestrating the meme. The Reddit upvotes barely beat out the downvotes. But he says that AT&T thinks that it’s popular because people like the commercial.

Matt: “My experience with Me Gusta and the media is zero.” It started on 4chan and became more popular on Reddit. He says he thinks of it as the Internet’s property now.

Nate: We try to figure out why some memes go viral, but there are always another 100 things that had the same factor. It’s more that the Net chooses what to get behind.

Matt says that we should feel a duty to link to stuff that’s cool and that may have taken a lot of work.

Chris: Keep doing what you love.

Paul: That’s why I make videos.

Mike: Is this leading to fewer big projects being created?

Paul: It’s up to us now to produce our art.

Paul: YouTube is people’s memory and Facebook is their consciousness.

Now questions from the audience.

Q: Chris, was there a Pop Tarts lawsuite?
A: No. I’d love to work with them. Nyan flavored Pop Tarts with rainbow-colored filling.

Q: [Scumbag Steve!] Could you spare $20?

Q: What was it like to negotiate with Microsoft, Double RainbowGuy?
A: I never put ads on the Rainbow video. YouTube asked me to, and I said no, it’s a sacred video. I got an agent who negotiated the contract. The offer came from an intern. It was not big money like you think. I could have bought a used car.

Q: Is there something else you’ve created that you think is more worthy than what went viral?
A: Paul: I made a rainbow video — Giant Intense Video — a year earlier and thought it’d go viral. On that one, I am high. I wasn’t on double Rainbow.
Matt: I was working on a comic. I worked really hard on it. It had a narrative. And then a 12-min drawing goes viral.

[ I'm leaving 5 mins early. Posting without re-reading.]

3 Comments »

[roflcon] Syrian memes

I’ve come in late to Ethan Zuckerman’s panel on worldwide memes. I heard the fabulous Brazilian discussion from my spot in the back of the room. Now I have seat and anasqtiesh, a Syrian blogger, is talking about the importance o memes in Syria’s repressive environment.

For example, as soon as Assad used germs as a metaphor for rebels, graphics were posted using germs to make political points. When a government minister said that Europe doesn’t matter, people posted maps without Europe. Likewise with a statement that enabled a duck pun. Assad became “The Duckfather,” etc. Lots of graphics portraying Assad et al. as Chinese to draw the connection about repressive regimes. The debate among Secularists and Islamists is also reflected in memes (including rage face).

Ethan ends it by calling for a Scumbag Assad meme.

Be the first to comment »

July 15, 2010

RadioBerkman interviews Tim Hwang

I am a Tim Hwang fanboy. Tim is one of the founders of ROFLcon and The Awesome Foundation. So, I was very happy to get to interview him for Radio Berkman. We talk about classifying Internet enthusiasts, and about whether there are schools of thought emerging among people who think about and research the Net.

Tim’s pretty damn insightful and delightful. In fact, Tim Hwang is awesome.

3 Comments »

June 15, 2010

[berkman] Lisa Nakamura: Don’t hate the player

[NOTE: This post uses some awful words because they are important to what Lisa is researching. The spottiness of my liveblogging may be especially misleading in this post.] Lisa Nakamura is giving a Berkman talk called “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: Internet Games, Social Inequality, and Racist Talk as Griefing.” She’s going to talk about ROFLcon and Twitter. She begins by showing some tweets from ROFLcon that simply repeat the word “nigger.” She says that as a researcher, she’s not trying to place blame. She wants to know what these racist tweets are trying to accomplish. What are the ties between racism and social production in griefing?

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.


ROFLcon is a conference celebrating Internet “memes.” Christina Xu from ROFLcon says that she thought that these tweets were coming from people who were not at ROFLcon. “It was straightup griefing,” says Lisa. And it didn’t happen during the race panel (which Lisa moderated). It happened during the keynote when Moot (Chris Poole, founder of 4chan) was speaking. Two years ago, there was boombox disruption of his talk.


The Net is an attention economy, says Lisa, and the use of words such as “nigger” enables you to “jump the line.” But, she says, there are lots of bad consequences. Chris Lander pointed out in a tweet that different platforms have different forms of hate: Racism is for the Internet, and homophobia is for Xbox (where players use”fag” as a generic insult). “Racism is a meme,” Lisa says; it works just like a meme. The word “nigger” has become completely toxic, which is why it’s used frequently by griefers [i.e., those out to disrupt an online activity]. “Griefing is about mocking those who take the Internet too seriously.” We are currently in a moment of what Lisa calls “enlightened racism,” in homage to Douglas’s “enlightened sexism“: You take the social gains and use it for permission to reintroduce retrograde images. E.g., “The Man Show” knew that it was ridiculously sexist to have women in bikinis bouncing on a trampoline. It’s all about the humor, the currency of Net memes. TV’s “post racial humor,” says Douglas, allows a nostalgia for sexism and racism, e.g., Mad Men. But, says Lisa, post-racial humor is a confusing mode for young people. The extremism of The Man Show’s sexism says (or so we would like to think) that there is no sexism, although of course there is. The N word is so extreme that to use it is to implicitly state that one is not racist and racism is no longer an issue (or so the users think), but it is.


She shows a video of 4chan’s “Patriotic Nigras” ruining a SecondLife social meeting (online, of course) just to “make people angry.” “Patriotic Nigras” are not primarily African-American. If you call out their racism, then say you’re a racist because it’s all about lols. (Or so they think.)


Leeroy Jenkins is quite famous for outrageousness at World of Warcraft, but people don’t talk about his adopting of minstrel-speak, Lisa says. You’re not supposed to talk about that, though, because it’s just about the lulz. It’s hard to call this out because you’ll be told you don’t get Net culture. To protest it is to declare oneself unqualified to comment on it. But, Lisa says, we need to teach children that racism is not acceptable. If sexting is bad, a child saying the N word over and over is also bad for that child. Youth are going online to interact. This is where they learn to be civil. We need to be able teach them. If the words are banned, they’ll count it as nothing more than “ass-hattery” to be routed around.


Lisa concludes by showing us a vid of some Chinese goldfarmers. “One’s person’s lulz is another’s non-lulz.”


To what extent does this racist humor occur in non-English cultures?
A [audience]: Donnie Dong said that on Chinese boards there are ethnic insults.
A: [lisa] Griefing is transnational.
A: [audience] Korean youths will sometimes play on American servers and announce that they’re young Koreans in order to annoy the older players.


A: How about YouTube comments that have racist comments? That doesn’t seem to be enlightened racism. Does enlightened racism provide an ethical framing for Youtube’s racist comments?
A: People do that on YouTube in part because there are so few other places where Americans can talk about race.


Q: Is racism or enlightened racism better?
A: I don’t think either is good. Enlightened racism is a symptom of a society that thinks that racism isn’t a problem any more.


Q: Will this change when the constituency of the people who determines the lulz changes?
A: Could you start a meme of blond frat boys invading a space and griefing?


Q: If you watch Arizona politics, the idea is that men are the underdogs now.


Q: Will enlightened racism eat itself? Maybe someone from the inside can critique it? Griefing the griefers? Is that happening?
A: [audience] At SomethingAwful, there’s a lot of calling people out.
Q: Maybe the enlightened racism meme will be tired?
A: I’d trace it to Dave Chappelle. He was unhappy that he had licensed people to say things they shouldn’t. He was mocking them, but it gave them license.


Q: Once there are more people online who are not white males…
A: People socialized into this culture may have a hard time of it transnationally, or in the workplace, or wherever this is not the idiom.


Q: This type of humor is balkanizing and isolating. Griefing is about shutting down conversation spaces….


Q: How do we know that it’s white males, since these are often anonymous posts? Might these be a deconstruction of racism? [E.g., gays taking back the word "queer."]
A: I wish, but I don’t think so.


Q: How does enlightened racism affect structural racism?
A: Irony has become a mode that people retreat into when they don’t want accountability. Enlightened racism is still racism.


Q: Is it possible you’re conflating different forms of discourse? Maybe this is just a particularly disruptive form of static…
Q: Maybe it’s a form of play. It’s like playing violent video games: expressing something that you’re unable to express. It’s playing taboo, which is fun. Maybe it’s like a form of play in which the players know the rules. It may be a procedural rhetoric…
A: Yes. But who gets to decide? The people who are gay should be the ones who get to decide if “fag” is an insulting term, etc.

TAGS: -berkman

3 Comments »

May 1, 2010

A tale of two conferences: FOO and ROFLcon

I spent the day and much of yesterday at two incredible conferences. Very alike but also world’s apart. What they have in common is that the attendees at both love the Internet.

FOO is the Friends of O’Reilly unconference. This was FOO East, which is smaller than the original shindig. The original is held in the O’Reilly campus’ backyard north of San Francisco. Geeks in tents with wifi (as Joshua Schachter put it to me tonight). FOO East is held indoors, in the beautiful Microsoft New England Research and Development Center (NERD Center), a fantastic space. (Thank you Microsoft. And, thank you, O’Reilly.) At FOO, anyone can schedule herself in one of the dozen of meeting spaces. Lots of hallway time, food, drink, talk…

ROFLcon is held on the MIT campus, a ten minute walk from FOO. It celebrates Internet culture … lolcats, the Winnebago Man, Autotune the News… (Sorry, but I’m too tired to do the links. Maybe later, in which case I’ll remove this remark.) (I got to moderate panels with Autotune and the FakeAPStyleBook, and another with the director of a movie called Winnebago Man, and Aleksey Vayner.)

FOO skews 20-30 years older than ROFL. FOO-ers think of the Net as a tool for improving existing human systems. They want to build stuff, preferably this weekend. ROFL-ers think of the Net as a creative medium for expression. They want to create stuff, preferably this weekend.

I’m generalizing horribly, of course — not to mention that there were more than a few people who were going back and forth between the conferences. But the differences are real and unsubtle. It seems that there are many ways to love the Net.

9 Comments »

June 7, 2008

DRM Zuneral: The video

Alex Leavitt recorded the DRM zuneral on May 25, at which our old friend, Digital R. Management, the progeny of CD Keys and Read Only Floppies, was given a burial at sea.

[Tags: ]

Be the first to comment »

June 1, 2008

New issue of JOHO … Now with added Ethanz!

I’ve just sent out a new issue of my newsletter, JOHO. (You can sign up to receive it via email, for free of course, here.)

How much do we have to care about? Even if the mainstream media’s coverage of most of the world didn’t suck, would we care? Are we capable of caring sufficiently? (Annotated by Ethan Zuckerman!)

The population of Nigeria roughly equals the population of Japan. Yet, the amount of space given to Nigeria by the US news media makes it about the size of Britney Spears’ left pinky toe. Why?

Serious researchers have been considering this question for generations. Do American newspaper editors skimp on Nigeria because they’re racists? Nah, at least not in the straightforward way. Is it because the readers don’t care about Nigeria? Somewhat. But how will we ever care if we never read anything about it? We seem to be stuck in vicious circle, or what’s worse,  a circle of not-caring…

Vint Cerf’s curiosity: If we are indeed getting more of a stomach for the complex, what role has our technology played?

Esquire magazine recently ran an interview with him that they busted up into a series of unrelated quotations. I was particularly struck by one little insight:

  “The closer you look at something, the more complex it seems to be.”

Because of Esquire’s disaggregation of the interview, we have to guess at Cerf’s tone of voice. My guess is that he said this with a sense of wonder and delight, not out of frustration. Of course, I may be reading Cerf’s mind inaccurately. But the plausibility of that reading is itself significant…

History’s wavefrontWhen we can record just about everything, history loses its past. And, no, I don’t know what I mean by that.

The Strand Bookstore in NYC has eighteen miles of books, which works out to about 2.5 million volumes. My excellent local library has 409,000. The Strand’s shelves press the shoppers together, giving a sense that the place is alive with the love of books. The library is quieter because emptier. Even so, the library has something the Strand does not: history.

We’ve assumed that knowledge was always there, just waiting to be known…

ROFLcon and Woodstock: Am I so enthusiastic about the ROFLcon conference because it was important or just because I’m out of touch?

I was at Woodstock. For two hours. I was supposed to meet a girl there. Hahaha. Instead, I wandered around, hoping someone would offer me something to smoke to get me through the Melanie performance. So, let me recap: I was at Woodstock, didn’t meetup with the girl I was infatuated with, didn’t get stoned, and heard Melanie. Also, it was raining. Still, I was at Woodstock, which used to give me street cred, but now just makes me obsolete.

But forget my experience and take Woodstock as a watershed event at which the young realized they were more a potential movement and not just a demographic slice. ROFLcon felt something like that…

Is the Web different? The definitive and final answer.

I taught a course this past semester for the first time in 22 years.  The course was called “The Web Difference,” which was apt since it was about whether the Web is actually much different from what came before it, with an emphasis on what that might mean for law and policy. 

During the final class session, I took a survey…

The Turing Tests: Throwback humor, in both senses.

The fool. I won’t spend the money yet, but it’s only a matter of time before Van Klammer will lose our bet. I don’t care about winning the $100, of course. I’ll use it to buy something I’ll use frequently, to remind me of my moral and intellectual victory. Perhaps a set of mugs inscribed with “Courtesy of Dr. Van Klammer…Loser!”…

Bogus Contest: Surely anagrams can’t be random!

[Tags: ]

2 Comments »

May 27, 2008

ROFLcon post-post-mortem

Christina Xu, one of the founders of ROFLcon, has posted her post-mortem of the event. In fact, she posted this to a mailing list we’re on. Here’s what I posted to that list in reply:

I was there. I thought it was, well, epic.

From the very first sentence of the conference — a call and response
from Leeroy — it was clear that the audience members knew the same
jokes and held the same values, and thus was something more than a
mere audience. The enthusiasm of the attendees was instant,
unbridled and sustained. Given that this was a celebration of a
culture constructed by its own audience, this was appropriate. It felt
more like a movement than a conference.

But, since I am just about three times older than the average
attendee, my reaction is tainted. Oh, sure, I enjoy a funny LOLcats
now and then, but Time magazine covered that meme a year ago. I had to
have a young friend explain the complex history of Anonymous, and the importance of
Leslie Hall only slowly sank in. As for Leeroy, well, I had to look
him up in Wikipedia to get the entire backstory. (This was far more a
WoW than Wikipedia crowd.) It was a revelation to me how far outside
the Net mainstream I’ve become.

So, it’s hard for me to judge how important ROFLcon was. It might have
been a watershed event in which the culture assembled itself into one
physical place long enough to sense its own heft. Woodstock, anyone?
Or it might have been
“merely” a place in which bonds formed and themes coalesced that will
affect the future. I do suspect that it was, in any event, more than
just a good time.

(I might add that, Christina’s modesty aside, the degree of looseness
the event achieved came as a result of especially meticulous,
transparent, organizing by Christina, Tim, and a large, loose cadre). [Tags: ]

6 Comments »

May 20, 2008

CBC documentary on ROFLcon

FYI, a CBC documentary on ROFLcon will air tomorrow at 11:30am as part of the Spark program, and again on Saturday. Eventually it will be available on the Spark site.

[Tags: ]

52 Comments »