May 31, 2008
World Without Oil trailer from 2007 — only a year after the ARG launched, some of its peak-oil predictions already seem understated
The Sound of Young America interviews comedy legend Jack Handey — dinosaurs, monsters, and cowboys
Trailer for The Onion Movie, now on DVD — starring Steven Seagal as “The Cockpuncher”
Dean Kamen's mind-controlled prosthetic arm — Dr. Octopus!
Danah Boyd's "My Long Lost Handwriting" illustrated — the artist takes blog entries and turns them into great little comics (via)
Back in March, I posted the first episode of a BBC Two series called The Net from 1994. It’s a great time capsule of how the media portrayed cyberculture in the early 1990s, very much like a TV version of early Wired Magazine.
Thanks again to Martin Brewer, who also contributed the Horizon show, here are two more episodes from the first season of The Net from 1994.
Trulia Snapshot — more lovely visualization work from Stamen Design
QR-Code Bots, an army of little men convert your URL into QR — background; can you tell I’ve been surfing Japanese blogs today?
Stitch 2, generate a pixel-art knit cap for purchase — from Factio, creators of a similar t-shirt widget creator (via)
Roz Savage's blogging her world record solo trip across the Pacific Ocean — a compelling read, she’ll be the first woman to row the 7,000 miles from the US to Australia
Multiplayer Pong on the iPod touch — cute hack built in about an hour
Hello Windows Hello World, Japanese fan song made from Windows system sounds — also, a good example of what Nico Nico Douga comments look like
Wired's self-retrospective on its 15th anniversary — don’t miss the video promos further down the page and photo gallery
Trailer for Guitar Hero: World Tour on the Nintendo DS — a terrible use of the license, Activision should be embarrassed
Add Art, Firefox plugin replaces ads with contemporary art — built on AdblockPlus, the images rotate every two weeks (via)
Paper Console, Pong as a choose your own adventure book — from the creator of Pac-Txt, a Python script that generates an 184-page book (via)
The eleven-minute Automatic Mario masterpiece — Super Mario World used as an instrument to accompany anime songs
Interview with the director of Weezer's "Pork and Beans" — interviews from the video shoot will be coming soon on their YouTube channel
Grabb.it TV, the top 20 music videos for every week from MTV to Napster — brilliant mashup wiring up YouTube and Wikipedia with the Whitburn chart data
Complete footage of Jason Scott's "Before the LOL" talk at ROFLCon — whirlwind tour of the evolution of memes from the telegraph and Xeroxlore to modern day (via)
"Biggest drawing in the world" art project not real — as suspected, the artist now says it’s a work of fiction at the bottom of his site
The Homebrew Channel, elegant homebrew launcher for the Wii — new from the creators of the Twilight Hack; don’t miss the video (via)
Google offers permanent hosting for major Ajax libraries — cached, minified, gzipped and up-to-date versions of jQuery, Prototype, Scriptaculous, and more
Team Genius' Illegal Donkey Kong Remix — tribute to Donkey Kong Country 2
"We Are The World" performed by Japanese celebrity impersonators — the Cyndi Lauper was pretty impressive
Philipp Lenssen on historical concepts of collective intelligence — from the noosphere to smart mobs
Microsoft considering removing unpopular games from Xbox Live Arcade — don’t sever the tail
Techdirt on Craigslist's ongoing battle with spammers — what a mess; that blackhat SEO forum is depressing me
Weezer's Pork and Beans video is Internet meme madness — riffs on nearly every major web meme; they even hired Afro-Ninja!
National poll estimates 18 million Americans have been Rickrolled — probably higher, since the sample didn’t include anyone under 18
Guitar Hero hacker plays Smells Like Teen Spirit without game console — I’ve seen several mods turning the guitar into an instrument, but never seen a guitar solo on one (via)
Philipp Lenssen on using hoax news to boost search rankings — recent story about a teen paying for prostitutes with dad’s credit cards was a hoax to boost a finance site’s pagerank
This Friday, I’ll be speaking at the Webvisions conference in Portland about Internet memes, how they spread, and how their distribution’s changed over time.
As part of that research, I’ve been digging into my original server logs from the Star Wars Kid debacle, five years after I played a major role in what some say is the biggest viral video of all-time.
Be warned, this is more detail than you’ll ever want about the origins of the Star Wars Kid meme and how it spread. You don’t care about this level of detail, but I’m writing this all down so that I never have to think about it again.
In addition, I’ve decided to release the first six months of server logs from the meme’s spread into the public domain — with dates, times, IP addresses, user agents, and referer information. (Download it below.)
Like I mentioned in my original entry, the video was first released by Ghyslain’s schoolmates to Kazaa on April 19, 2003 with the original filename “ghyslain_razaa.wmv.” Within three days, it was being passed around in the offices of Raven Software in Madison, Wisconsin, where a game developer named Bryan Dube posted it on his personal website on April 22. Two days later, he created the first Star Wars Kid remix, adding lightsabers and sound effects in a new video titled “TheLastHope.avi.”
On April 27, a mostly-NSFW online community called Sensible Erection linked to the video on Bryan’s website. Later that evening, an SE user cross-posted it to a private file-sharing community I belong to with the new filename “star_wars_guy.wmv.” It quickly became the most popular file on the site, which is where I found it the following day, April 28 at 7:52pm.
On April 29, I renamed it Star_Wars_Kid.wmv and posted it to my site at 4:49pm — inadvertently giving the meme its permanent name. (Yes, I coined the term “Star Wars Kid.” It’s strange to think it would’ve been “Star Wars Guy” if I was any lazier.) An hour later, Scott Gowell becomes the first person to link to the video.
From there, for the first week, it spread quickly through news site, blogs and message boards, mostly oriented around technology, gaming, and movies. Throughout the life of the meme, most of the referers are blank, suggesting people were primarily sending the links by email or instant message.
The chart below shows the distinct top-level domains that appeared in the referral logs grouped by day.
It’s worth noting that the majority of sites sent less than 10 referers in that first month, and 21% of domains referred only one user. (Note: The chart below is on a logarithmic scale for both axes.)
Mainstream News Coverage
Here’s some of the highlights from the mainstream media coverage. The New York Times was the first major paper to report on it, almost a week after I tracked Ghyslain down, Jish and I interviewed him for the first time, and we started the fundraiser.
May 19, New York Times
May 19, Wired News
May 20, Public Radio International’s “The World” (radio program)
May 20, Globe and Mail
May 20, National Post
May 23, The Mirror UK
Jun 6, LA Times
Jul 4, The Independent UK
Jul 12, The Age
Jul 23, Wired News
Jul 25, BBC News
Jul 31, NPR w/Tavis Smiley (radio interview)
Aug 21, USA Today, syndicated Associated Press article
Aug 25, NBC’s Today Show (TV program)
Aug 26, MSNBC’s Countdown (TV program)
Aug 28, USA Today
Aug 30, Seattle P-I
Sep 8, SF Chronicle
Sep 15, Variety
Sep 16, Globe and Mail
Nov 18, CBS Evening News
Here’s what the Star Wars Kid meme did to my overall traffic. At its peak, I received almost a million pageviews in a single day.
That includes all pageviews on my weblog entries. Isolating only the video downloads from my site, or later redirected to one of the mirrors, gives the following chart.
Download the Data
This file is a subset of the Apache server logs from April 10 to November 26, 2003. It contains every request for my homepage, the original video, the remix video, the mirror redirector script, the donations spreadsheet, and the seven blog entries I made related to Star Wars Kid. I included a couple weeks of activity before I posted the videos so you can determine the baseline traffic I normally received to my homepage.
The file is 158 megabytes — 1.6GB uncompressed — so I’m distributing it with BitTorrent. The data is public domain. If you use it for anything, please drop me a note!
The New York Times' TimesMachine — back after an aborted launch that I missed out on, this is great archival work