Posts tagged “meme”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Photo Clichés (You're Not As Original As You Think) – Pictures of people being uniquely hilarious, just like all the other people who took the same photo – (via kottke) At first I thought yeah, people are really lame, acting all goofy and clever but being just like everyone else, but then I realized that this is all about culture, and design. Cultural stories – memes – travel fast, far, and wide, and so imitating a famous pose become a rapid shorthand for belongingness. And designed objects and environments have affordances, built-in invitations to be used a certain way, to be grabbed, held aloft, or whatever. Everyone puts their head in the shark's mouth because it's designed to invite you to do so. When people use a product over and over the way it was intended, we may consider that a design success. So while these are funny pictures to look at it the aggregate, it doesn't mean that we (or the people in the pictures) are all that lame. We're collecting and transmitting culture and we're responding to artifacts that are designed to be used any number of ways.

Trend Ecosystem

It’s fascinating how most successful products lead to an ecosystem of supporting products. The Crocs fad has provided the fan-base to support charms, little decorations that attach to the holes on the shoe’s surface and let the wearer further establish their individual identity within the trend of people who have established a unique identity by wearing Crocs in the first place.

Acknowledging that following a trend has a very different meaning in Japan, we bring you the Crocs family, who we saw on a bus in Kyoto, each with their own charms.





In addition to aftermarket personalization, many trends also generate a safety backlash meme (iPod muggings, anyone?). In Taipei, it’s dangerous to wear Crocs on escalators.

Manufacturers like Apple are very savvy about creating/controlling their aftermarket, but I wonder about the backlashes. Are PR people planting those stories or doing damage control or not realizing their significance?

Update: Karl Long on the Crocs backlash (safety and others) here

Neologism du jour: Google pr0nrank

I may not be the first to air this idea, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. Google pr0nrank refers to the number of Google Image Search pages it takes to reach a NSFW/dirty/titillating image for a given search term.

winston churchill is 48; an image of a bodily organ near a face appears on the 48th page of results.

aficionado is 1. The first row of results contain suggestive bikini ladies.

In neither case, of course, was I expecting to find such images.

Forbidden words, 2008

It’s only March but I’m already sick of it and that means it’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

The phrase (something) fatigue

As in Bono fatigue
Social networking fatigue
In an online discussion group yesterday I saw a reference to profile fatigue (similar to social networking fatigue above)
Scandal fatigue
Clinton fatigue (1999!)
Katrina fatigue

I think that (something) fatigue is the new (something) rage.

On the subject of me: Five Things

Troy Worman pings me for this new-ritual blogger effort (it’s called a meme, but is a chain letter a meme? The propagation is built-in, rather than being a side-effect of the compellingness of the content….) where you post “five things” about yourself. And then tag a bunch of other bloggers to do the same thing.

There’s no threat of deadly peril as in old-school chain letters, so that’s nice. But I’ve found it a bit exclusive. The “cool” folks got pinged months ago with this thing. In the interest of inclusiveness, I’m going to throw this open to anyone who wants to contribute their own five things. If you’ve got your own blog and want to participate, consider this your opportunity. Email me, or trackback, or comment, and I’ll add you to the body of this post. If you don’t have a blog (and let’s face it, most don’t) then leave your five things in the comments. If you want them anonymized more than the blog will let you, email me, and I’ll post it for you.

Five things about Steve

  1. In my public school (called elementary school in the US) the default assumption was that boys took shop and girls took home economics. I was the first boy to take home-ec. I simply asked. They weren’t trying to stop me, but they were very worried when they called my mother to verify this was acceptable. If it had been 10 years later, they would have drafted a release from liability, just in case. The next year, of course, all students took both. I was no Rosa Parks, but I did create a small change that was past due.
  2. Our dog Brody (Golden Retriever, 5 1/2, rescued) is my first pet (I’m not counting several goldfish named George).
  3. Back in the 90s, Tom Williams and I tapped into the latent storytelling need that would re-emerge as blogging when we created Turn Signals. A fax (originally) newsletter that took stories from the press and rewrote them in a dryly bemused tone. Indeed, we were always passing photocopied articles to each other in the office and so it was suggested that we productize it. You can see a few issues here (PDF).
  4. I really like cereal. I have my preferred cereal system, where boxes are stored in a cabinet from oldest to newest, so nothing goes stale. I like to have two boxes open at one time; where one is sweeter and the other is healthier (although they are all pretty damn sweet these days).
  5. In 1992 I started the first online community for Rolling Stones fans. It’s still going to this day.

Bank of America “One” gets covered

Comedian David Cross blows my mind with post-modernity when he covers (with Johnny Marr on guitar) the widely-seen Bank of America corporate meeting new-lyrics-cover of U2’s One.

To recap, in 1991, U2 release song “One” on Achtung Baby. And very very recently, some goofy corporate dudes earnestly adapt the lyrics to motivate the Bank of America troops. And within 2 weeks David Cross covers that version (also at a comedy festival).

Meanwhile, Universal Music is sending Cease-and-Desist notices out to stop sites from hosting a song (One) to which they own the rights.

We truly live in wonderful times.

We’ve gotta get these MF butts in the MF seats.

We saw Little Miss Sunshine on Saturday (highly recommended) in our first visit to a theater in months and months. The guy in front of us (English likely being a second language) asked for tickets to Snacks On A Plane (good luck, buddy, snack boxes are $5 now).

Anyway, at the risk of adding to a heavily crowded blog-topic, “Snakes on a Plane,” the wildly hyped high-concept movie, turned out to be a Web-only phenomenon this weekend, as that horror-comedy starring Samuel L. Jackson took in just $15.2 million at the box office in its opening days. The article runs through the history of the film and the hype and the marketing and the buzz pretty nicely, but did any of us expect it to do well? It seems like there’s some confusion between irony, post-irony, and post-post-irony…okay, that’s a lot of bullshit, but my way of saying that it can be fun to be involved with something that you know is crap, but that’s a very different sort of loyalty than, say, Harley-Davidson owners with company-logo tattoos and wardrobes that consist entirely of HOG-branded t-shirts.
Update: shortly after posting this I see on BoingBoing that a guy did indeed get a SoaP tattoo – I don’t think this changes my thesis, but it is ironic.

Studio sez: Hey, here’s a bad movie.
We say: Hey, that is a really bad movie. Ha-ha! We can’t believe how bad it is! You should, oh, I dunno, add some more cursing into it, heh heh, it’s soooo bad. It’s bad. A bad movie. Heh.
Studio sez: Yeah! It’s a BAAAAD bad movie. Here’s some more cursing. And more over-the-top bad stuff. We know you know it’s bad.
We say: Hey, they put more cursing into it! It’s pretty silly and funny and bad. It’s a bad movie.
Studio sez: You know that we know that you know it’s bad.
We say: Yeah, it’s a bad movie. Snakes on a plane, yo. Heh.
Your mom sez: Are you fellas going to see this snake movie?
We say: Hey! Bad movie! Snakes on a plane!
Studio sez: Here it is! The movie you have been talking about.

[crickets chirping]

Come on! How much appeal is there for crap, compared to the appeal of making fun of crap? Just because the studio got in on the fun, doesn’t mean anyone was really persuaded or had much intention. I guess a Rocky Horror cult particpation thing could have emerged (and still could; it’s early days, some of these films take on second and third and beyond lives), but it didn’t seem likely.

And as I posted before, the meme definitely jumped the shark. I don’t know if they talked about the movie on The View, but I wouldn’t be surprised. If being ironic is supposed to be cool, I don’t want Barbara Walters or Parade Magazine in on the joke with me.

Internet prank opportunity (for the truly motivated)

Famed blogger/writer/Internet-activist Cory Doctorow will custom-inscribe his books for you

If you’re interested in a signed, inscribed copy of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Eastern Standard Tribe, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town or my collection A Place So Foreign and Eight More, you can call, fax, or email your order to the store, and they’ll get me to sign copies with your inscription.

So if you pay your money, Cory “has to” write whatever you tell him? Oh, hilarity could ensue! Someone needs to coordinate many purchases (yeah, this prank isn’t free. You have to buy the book) and similar requests for inscriptions.

Perhaps, recycle some existing Cory-friendly memes:

  • The Internets are tubes
  • All Your Base Are Belong To Us
  • Snacks On A Plane
  • Y’arr I’m a pirate

or, make up your own future meme and hope that Cory blogs about it when he gets millions of inscription requests

  • Donuts are for rolling, not strolling
  • Deely boppers, my ass
  • I ate my own tickle

or, make fun of the author or the book

  • This book sucks
  • I didn’t write this book
  • I hope you hate this book

or, take on some of Cory’s information/free/privacy causes

  • I hereby certify that I did not write this book
  • This book is hereby released under a Creative Commons license
  • I do not need to see your privacy policy
  • Steal this identity

I’m sure someone can do better than I can. Any ideas?

Meme Diffusion

I’m amazed (constantly) at how fast this blogosphere stuff is. BoingBoing posts a story about a stupid move by a corporation or politician, and within 24 hours there are t-shirts, slogans, dance videos on YouTube, mashups with new lyrics; all based on some simple and outrageous idea.

I was actually refreshed (instead of my usual infuriated) when a story about running into (a lookalike for) Samuel Jackson at the airport did not turn into a Snakes On Plane (or SoaP as it’s now known) story. Further, one of the people in the group hadn’t heard of the movie (et. al).

And no, I’m not going to explain any of that, or even provide links. That’s sort of my point – that a seemingly tight network establish common language and points of reference proceeds to further riff as any group does) in extremely inventive and entertaining ways. But it’s very disposable. You don’t need to know why my Rolling Stones group makes jokes about cheese, and you don’t need to know why Samuel Jackson wants to get the motherfucking snakes off the motherfucking plane. If you do want to know, there’s always Google.

But my impetus for this post (finally!) was this (via Chroma with absolutely no context provided): an instantly famous sports moment (a head-butt in a World Cup match) is now rendered as an 8-bit Nintendo game, complete with animation and sound effects and music.

Sure, it was the World Cup, and it was one of the more dramatic moments (I guess; I didn’t see moment one of the whole affair), but isn’t interesting how some people – many people – don’t know of the original moment, but others are doing their own versions of it? Indeed, maybe someone reading this will learn about the head-butt (and I’m not going to bother looking up the story, who it was, that’s my point, the partial knowledge or even lack of knowledge, in the face of all this other energy – maybe Ronaldo or Ronaldino or Rodolfo – either you know how wrong I am, or you have no idea what I’m talking about) as a second-order effect.

The classic example of this is kids using Mad Magazine as a source for plot lines and famous moments of classic films. I read many issues of Mad, long before I saw a James Bond film or Chinatown, yet I was conversant with their iconic aspects through exposure to the parody.

Update: moments after posting this I see (via Experience Curve, also without explanation) another funny site on the same incident – here – and learned that the player’s name is (presumably) Zidane. No Ronaldino, guess I was wrong. And I noticed that both these paraodies came from the same domain. Whoah! It’s called YTMND – You’re The Man Now Dog, and they’ve got a great story.

YTMND is a site created for the purpose of furthering the creativity of its users. It stems from an idea that, using sound, and image, and some text, the users can convey a point, funny, political, or otherwise, to the general media.

I know someone is reading this and thinking “Dude, you don’t know about YTMND?!”

Grasping the Slender Thread of Emergence

I’ve noticed recently that many of my peers speak casually of emergence, or describe something as being emergent. I can usually process their comments by context, even if I can’t use the word myself. At one point, I explored the word, but it didn’t stick more than loosely (supporting that context I’d been skating by with), so I decided today after the Nth encounter to seek some clarity. It’s not an easy term to sort out; even Wikipedia was not a lot of help (at one point the entry acknowledges the difficult in providing a definition).

But let me try and offer some sort of definition myself. This will help me “own” the word and may be of use to the three other people out there that don’t have emergence in their vocab!

Something is emergent when it is the seemingly unexpected and unpredictable outcome of a large number of smaller and simpler things (actions, items). If you put one brick on top of another, those small steps lead eventually to a tower. This is not emergence, because those small actions (one brick atop another) are intended to and obviously linked to the final result. But if everyone who is reading this right now takes their arms and goes like this (imagine a gesture) and a humming sound fills the earth, that is emergence.

The result of all that gesturing is unexpected. The collective gestures are a complex system with unintended consequences and side-effects (that’s the jargon money shot).

Animal behaviors are oft-cited examples. Each bird in a flock isn’t creating a flock, they are just doing their individual activity and it leads, somehow, to a flock. The Internet is another example where we can see weird things happen from a million small behaviors (putting up a site, establishing a node on a network).

Hey, if you’ve got more or can correct any of this, please go for it. That’s just my take on it!

Don’t Abandon Expertise For The Fleeting Pleasures Of Collaboration

In a thoughtful piece that carefully debunks some of the co-creation hype, my friend and colleague Denise Lee Yohn writes about Viewer Created Adverising Messages at brandchannel

Much more important, however, is the fact that these ads likely miss the opportunity to demonstrate brand leadership; that is, to express the unique and compelling brand point of view that transcends the product or service being sold. The ads everyone points to as having been the most disruptive, and therefore the most successful, are ones that represent the thought leadership of the brand. Think Apple’s 1984 commercial and Nike’s original Just Do It campaign. No consumer, no matter how talented or cool or brand fanatical, would have ever come up with those ads.This is because consumers know what they know at the moment-they know why they like a product-but they don’t know the vision of the brand. They don’t know the company’s dreams and aspirations for the brand, and so they lack the insight and foresight to realize an ad’s full potential. Their ads may be cute or clever, but they won’t further brand leadership. Just as product development should be consumer-informed, so should creative development. But innovative, game-changing companies don’t ask consumers to actually develop new products for them; they shouldn’t ask consumers to develop ads for them either.

Now, I’m not questioning the effectiveness of some brands’ consumer-created ads. Converse and MasterCard stand out as companies that have not sacrificed brand consistency, thought leadership, or alignment in their efforts to engage their consumer base in fresh, interactive ways. And before you accuse me of being some old ad agency type pining away for the good ol’ times, let me tell you, I’m not. I’ll be the first to assert that the old advertising model is broken and creative teams need a big wake up call. But that wake up call needs to come from the clients, not consumers, and therein lies the fundamental reason why V-CAMs [Viewer Created Advertising Messages] are a mistake.

Brands are the responsibilities of the companies that produce them. Companies are ultimately responsible for the perceptions of and relationships with consumers that brands develop. Although the consumer now has more information than ever on which to base her brand perceptions, and she is in more control of the brand relationships, it remains the marketer’s role to shape and nurture brand image and equity.

In the blogosphere, consumer-generated content thrives. So even if companies don’t solicit V-CAMs, they’ll still be created. And that’s okay. But actively pursuing consumer-generated advertising as a marketing strategy is a lazy and irresponsible approach to branding. Furthermore, it’s doomed.


During last week’s seminar, I had that awkward moment between presenters, where the laptops are being swapped out and the lav mic belt packs are being detached and re-attached, and so I decided to fill. I told the attendees that I was happy to be speaking to them, and especially glad to be back in Toronto, because that’s where I grew up. I offered them some advice for fitting in (especially since they would be doing an observational research exercise later) by not calling the city TOE-RON-TOE as many Americans do. Instead, I told them, we call it Trawna, and I even spelled it out – T-R-A-W-N-A. This is an old semi-truthful joke about the name of the city.

Turned out this was the meme-of-the-day. People came up to me at the break and asked again how they should spell it. Every time someone else said Toronto they stopped and said Trawna. It was just a funny thing that spread more than I had expected.

The next morning we had a followup session to the observational research people had done (briefly – walking through some different neighborhoods in Toronto with some different lenses through which to observe. As people settled in, they were asked to share a key story with a partner. One woman at one table announced to those within earshot that she does not write stories; she hasn’t done it since high school and she doesn’t do it now. O-kay. The rest of the group went about their business and were actively talking. This same woman summons me:

“Excuse me?! Excuse me!”

I look at her.

“Where is this Trawna thing coming from? Because…uh, we’re FROM HERE and we don’t say that.”

I replied that I was from here as well, and sure we do. This didn’t satisfy her and she seemed very annoyed. I thought it was strange that she had never heard of this phenomenon. It’s widespread. is a website about Toronto. It’s everywhere. My friends told the joke three days later over brunch. And not only doesn’t she know it, but she’s pretty damn angry with me for starting everyone else saying it. I guess it’s a version of the native effect where we reject observations about our own culture, because we don’t see it that way. Meanwhile, the rest of the morning must have been torture because we got into a lot of detail about what people learned and synthesized about the city from their observations, and I’m sure some of it would have bugged the hell out of her, accurate or not.

In another example of that (without the venom, mind) I was looking at Nicolas Nova’s photos from his trip to California, and being intrigued by the things he noticed that I take for granted. They reminded me of my pictures from when I travel – stuff you see on the street and so on, but it was things that I don’t think to photograph because I see them all the time. The familiar through someone else’s eyes.

When Good Memes Go Bad – Very Bad

From Psych Central “one of the top 10 mental health and psychology
websites, providing reliable and professionally-reviewed resources since 1995” comes a strange piece that claims to be about Web 2.0. In fact, it’s sort of a poorly designed and executed usability/findability test of (or whatever) and flickr. But Web 2.0 is clearly the hook/lede/headline to get the Psych-oriented reader to dive in.

He starts with Web 2.0, which then means tagging, which then means flickr and, which then means findability.

But this is Pysch Central. Not web/design/interation Central. Clearly. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go look at AskMetafilter for some help with my personal life.

Two Point Oh Meme

Everything is 2.0 nowadays. There’s endless bandwagoneering (and of course punditry and debate) over the leading member of the 2.0 game – at least on the web – Web 2.0. We could talk about it what means, but that’s not the point.

Core77 is running a series of presentations called Design 2.0. Today there’s some references to Advertising 2.0. Indeed, it was a year ago or more than someone referred to Portigal 2.0 when I outlined my early plans for evolving my consulting business. I have to say I was charmed by the term, but, well, yeah. I guess it’s better than ePortigal or iPortigal.

Update: Library 2.0?


About Steve