The thing about having your very own clever little domain name is you actually have to keep the damn thing registered. Mine expired this morning and the whole site went down for about 12 hours.
So I did an interview on a wacky morning radio show in Detroit the other day. We talked for 15 minutes about whether or not I’m gay. They were clinging to the idea that any guy who actually dances for pleasure and shows it to people must be a homosexual. It didn’t seem to matter to them that I dance very badly.
If it’d been the afternoon, I might’ve been awake enough to actually get annoyed. But it was 8:30 in the morning, so I just lay in bed and stared at the ceiling while they talked. When they asked if it bothered me that they were questioning my sexuality, I said, "No. We can talk about my sexuality for as long as you want."
I’m really glad I was half-asleep, as that was probably the best way to handle it.
I’m surprised to find out people still think that kind of thing is funny. I guess it’s about at the "wacky morning DJ" level of funny, which in my opinion isn’t very funny.
Still and all, listening to a couple jackasses interrogate some poor unsuspecting schlub on air is probably more entertaining to listeners than the standard 5 question interview:
"Where’d you get the idea?"
"Where’d you learn to dance?"
"Who was holding the camera?"
"How long have you been doing it?"
"What do you want to do next?"
I’ve been answering that stuff over and over, so I’m trying to come up with better responses. I realize now that there’s a real craft to interviews, and I’m not very good at it. Occasionally I’m asked something like what were people’s responses when I’d break into the dance, and I really don’t have a very interesting answer. I could lie and say I got arrested, but the truth is people just stared. Most folks keep to themselves.
There’s a term for a short video file that spreads rapidly across the internet. It’s called a "viral video." It’s now apparent that the dancing video has become one of those things.
I’ve always wondered how stuff spreads online. By the time a link sputters into my inbox, it’s usually been around the block a few times, so I’m getting a big kick out of watching the process from this vantage point.
I’ve felt compelled over the last couple days to give a full timeline of the video from its inception to its recent explosion. Then I decided that’s far more information than anyone could possibly be interested in. Then I realized that this is a blog, which is defined (by me) as:
"A forum for large volumes of personal information that no one could possibly be interested in."
I apologize if I come off as being completely up myself with any of this. I have been pretty up myself lately, and I’m trying to pull myself out of myself…but let’s not dilly-dally any further:
I left Australia for my trip around the world in March of 2003.
In May, I met up with my friend, Brad, in Vietnam. About 2 minutes after this picture was taken…
…Brad suggested I do my dance and he would record it using the video function on my lovely Canon-digital-camera-which-got-destroyed-in-the-Seychelles-and-I’d-very-much-like-a-new-one-if-anyone-at-Canon-is-listening.
What Brad meant by "my dance" is this thing I do whenever I’m bored or antsy or happy or excited. For Brad, it was the thing I did in front of his desk at work when I was ready to go to lunch.
So we shot a little clip of me dancing in front of a bunch of passing motorbikes in Hanoi, and it was pretty funny. I decided to keep on doing it everywhere I went.
There was no profound intention. I had no comment to make on the universality of dance. I was not trying to promote world peace. I am actually deeply, morally opposed to world peace. All that stuff is implied by the music choice, which came long after the video was shot. To prove my point, try watching the video with the volume down and the Benny Hill theme music playing over it. That was my back-up.
In November of 2003, once I was home and recovered from the trip, I put everything I’d shot together and slapped said music over it. The video compression I used was pretty bad, so it was small and choppy and not very impressive-looking, but I put it up on my site, a bunch of friends and family watched it, and they were pretty amused. Nothing else really happened with it after that.
In August of 2004 I went to Africa and shot a few more clips for the video while I was there. When I got back in October, I put together a new, more polished video with better compression and sharper editing. It was altogether much more presentable.
On November 3rd, election night, I showed it to a small group as a distraction from the harsh reality that we live in a nation slightly more than half full of suckers.
I didn’t put it on my website at that time, because there was still one remaining clip I was hoping to get from a guy who shot it for me as a favor while I was in the Seychelles. Next to Kilimanjaro, it was the hardest of all the clips to acquire and maybe the niftiest visually. The guy still has it and I still email him every day asking for it, but I’ve lost hope that he will ever get around to sending it to me.
On January 7th, my sister called and asked me to put the new dancing video on my site so she could show it to a friend at work. That I did.
On the 12th I sent an email to George, who noticed the domain name in my email address, went to the site, and found the video. A few days later, George moved to Rwanda. To my knowledge, the two events are not linked.
On the 17th, George added it to his own blog and a couple other blogs picked it up — in particular one called electrolicious.com, which generated most of the referrals. The video was downloaded about 300 times that day. This was the first big spike in traffic.
Interest died after that initial spike. Each day I had less and less visitors until the video was back down to about 10 downloads a day.
On the 26th, Mark, the first person to blog the link, a man on a mission to get the video seen, posted it on metafilter. Over a thousand people downloaded it that day, and 1500 the next day.
On the 29th I started losing track of it. It got posted on fazed.org as a mirror-type-thing that directed the traffic elsewhere. This made for a faster download, but I have no idea how many people grabbed it from that source.
Since then there have been several more spikes in traffic. Another friend posted it on a site called somethingawful.com, and it’s gotten about 20,000 downloads from there last time I checked.
My site traffic report tells me where people are linking to it from. After the somethingawful post, people started coming primarily from email links, which seems to indicate that the folks who found it on web sites sent the link around to their friends, who in turn did the sam
e, and on and on.
So it’s made the big leap from a thing that gets mentioned on sites occasionally to a thing that gets sent around to tens of thousands of email addresses all over the world.
In my last post I showed the surge in site traffic for January:
Here’s a new one that’s scaled down to include the first half of February. The big bars up above turn into little bars below:
The next phase, as a marketing-type fella might say, is the saturation point, when everyone who is going to see it has seen it. I figure I’m right on the cusp of that, so I’m enjoying the steady trickle of emails while I’m getting them, and answering every one I can. I’m also entertaining the strange and unexpected opportunities that have been coming my way, and I’m beginning to actively pursue some.
The timing of all this is serendipitous. I have no job with which to fill my days. I’ve got bits and pieces of things, but for the most part I’m clear to milk this for all its worth.
I’d like to find some kind of sponsorship. I’m embarrassed bringing up the idea — it’s not like I’m Lance Armstrong or anything — but I have a pipe dream that some airline, credit card, or travel company might want to help me continue traveling and adding to the video in exchange for the use of it in promotion.
I don’t want to ruin what’s good about the thing. It seems like there’s a purity in there that people respond to. I ain’t gonna put on no stinking T-shirts or nuthin, but maybe folks wouldn’t mind if I dropped a logo in the credits.
I may be way out of my depth here. We’ll see. But it seems like we live in a world that puts an increasingly high value on the ability to draw people’s attention — if even for seconds at a time.
I’ve got a little bit of attention right now — I even accidentally stumbled onto a very simple message — and I’m kind of curious to see if it’s worth anything, cause, um…I need the money.