Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Everything I Need to Know About the Internet, I Learned at ROFLcon

Attention, class. ROFLschool is in session.
Come on. You're telling me that you wouldn't have felt like you were transported into a scene from Good Will Hunting too? (That's too as in as well, not too as in the sequel like Look Who's Talking Too. And thank goodness for that because you can't mess with a classic.) The conference was held on MIT campus classrooms and lecture halls but instead of Professor Gerald Lambeau lecturing at the front, we were graced by the presence of such "Masters of the Internet" (TM pending) as the guys in this picture below.
That panel about Making Money on the Internet included (from viewer's left to right): Andrew of Rocketboom, Alex of Million Dollar Homepage, Kyle of One Red Paperclip, Ian from Chuck Norris Facts, Andy of JibJab, and Joe Mathelete of Marmaduke Explained. Unlike one of the audience members, I learned their names. I also learned (from Alex of MDH), "If you try enough times to be a fluke, you'll be a fluke eventually"; Andrew of Rocketboom had an ah-ha moment about the democratization of media (like in Wayne's World) and asks himself wwbbllivf (what would boingboing look like in video form?); Kyle of ORPC now helps the Canadian government "think outside the box"; Ian of CNF is being sued by Chuck Norris after revitalizing Chuck's career; and a story's novelty an lead to attention that people are willing to pay money for.

I clocked in about 60 tweets over the course of the 2 days, which I think was both respectful of the speakers and my followers. However, I understand that conference-tweeters can be annoying if you're not there or if you don't care about the subject. So in the future you may want to make use of twittersnooze, which allows you to temporarily block individual twits you're following. (thanks to @chroma for the find)

As I was saying though, I thought it was worth revisiting the >140 characters posts I sent out to the to find the best of the bunch and add a bit of context to a few. (Because if I didn't copy/paste some shit, there's no way this post would have been completed.)

First things first, I got to the conference. Then I found a great seat in between two groups of peeps I didn't know. See:
But instead of sitting there with eyes buried in screen awaiting the first speaker, I sat there with eyes buried in screen to conduct a little experiment...

-@roflcon virtual introduction - two guys sitting next to me in red and black and in front in hat with kindle - whatup!

And as I reported, it "took less than three minutes to make non-virtual intro with dudes next to me after they saw it in tweetscan". Tweetscan and Twemes are both really great tools for connecting with other twittering conference-goers, not just to meet them in-person (though this is something I always find gratifying and took advantage of over lunch to catch up with Katie and Kristen from Wexley and Conner from Fallon for lunch (as reported) - advertising peeps unite!) but to increase your insight intake (let's go planner speak!) in panels you're attending or missing based on your "track" selection.

Yet all this twitter action, blog posting, live commenting, etc. in Wi-Fi enabled conference halls and rooms has a had another—arguably less positive—effect - the lack of visual attention paid to the speakers. Surely, there's no way Prof. Lambeau would stand for it. But for a conference that brought the Internet together, it was kind of a given. Still it led me to consider how I would have handled a job moderating a panel or giving a keynote (a boy can dream)...

-new presentations skills r going to have to b taught to connect w/ a connected (twitter, laptop, etc) audience

I have to point out that I was excited to see Anil Dash based on this and he did not disappoint. He was quite a good moderator on a heavy-weight panel that included from Drew of Fark, Alexis of Reddit, Matt of Metafilter, and DJ Pretzel of OCremix. And we all were quite impressed when the panel finally got rickrolled. Here I learned that Timbaland isn't quite as cool as I thought he was and started to better understand the distinction between aggregators and curators as well as how communities often reflect their creators. For example, Fark sees itself as the chef at a great restaurant - sure he didn't make all the ingredients but he's cooking and serving it up in a unique and compelling way.

A highlight for me was definitely seeing the Brothers Chap, who are behind the infamous (using this term to mean "more than famous" like Steve Martin assumed El Guapo was in Three Amigos) Homestar Runner...and one of my favorite characters of all-time, Strong Bad. These guys have never "sold-out" and never will. I remember checking out their site back in my first agency job, thinking they would be great to create something for Crunch Fitness and seeing an FAQ to advertisers that said something to the effect that they are happy just doing what they are doing. But besides for hating ads, these guys hit another interesting theme of the conference:

Inspiration can come from where you least expect it. So next time you're considering hitting up a museum or movie, consider a "depressing shopping center - an inspiringly depressing one" like where they work. Or consider soaking in your boredom and then creating something to eliminate it (like Chuck Norris Facts, which actually started with Vin Diesel facts on a lonely Friday night for the then high school senior). Making something you find really entertaining or useful was the key for many of these people's success on the Internet. (Million Dollar Homepage, on the other hand, was all about making money from the start!) And once you're inspired to make something, remember that "perfection is the enemy of credibility."

Alice Marwick gave a fantastic talk about celebrity and how Internet celebrities fit into the framework. As David Weinberger said, "We know how fame works in a world of scarcity, but we're still figuring out how it works in a world of abundance." Thankfully I don't have to describe the types of promoters out there, the public image vs. public appearance phenomenon (see Magibon) or pseudo-celebritis because Alice was kind enough to post her notes on her site. Awesome! Definitely worth a look, and back to that presenting to a digitally-inclined audience point, she may find a new career in it. Bonus points for Heidi and Spencer example as well.

I unfortunately missed Christian of Stuff White People Like, but his attribution to fame and fortune (luck) is captured here. Most importantly, you'll learn he is a fan of Back to School, a favorite movie of this blog. I did get to see the LOL peeps in action, who were thanked on behalf of stoners everywhere. Their advice was to find memes with built in audiences and keep in mind that tiny iterations of popular stuff are more likely to be hits than breakthrough new ideas. And though the tail recursion for lolcode went way over my head, I found Adam Lindsay talking about how the passionate (computer science) community completely outpaced him in creating the code.

Marketers, here is your quote from "Cheez" the CEO of I Can Has Cheezburger:

Every second you spend on the haters is a second not spent serving your fans

I caught Justine of iJustine (whose audience is now mostly female believe it or not), Dino of Bert is Evil (who was contacted by the CIA), Ji Lee of The Bubble Project (who is looking for a way to do the bubble project over shitty commercials), Eric of ACLU (who was on fire) and Leslie of Gem Sweater (who sadly, I missed perform on Friday night). I laughed, though not necessarily while rolling on the floor, and I met some really interesting people.

I'll leave you with a quote from ACLU Eric:
Ad people want to order a viral like it's a cheeseburger.

And I'll add "No pun intended." Can't wait for ROFLcon 2009.


gaeyia said...

If I'm not at the next one with you, I am going to be one grumpy girl!

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

damn sorry i had to miss it.
good recap and good live tweets, too.

Justin said...

You hit it right on the head - hard to take part in something so connected through tweets, blogs, flickr, everything was working on so many levels.

But a great experience for certain.

El Gaffney said...

gaeyia - let's keep each other posted when we hear about it.
aki- thanks dude. missed you there.
justin - no doubt. enjoyed reading your articles as well.