Two years ago, Kathryn DiMaria asked her Father if she could build a Pontiac Fiero. She was twelve at the time. Now she’s fourteen, and doing just that.
After spending $450 for an ’86, she and her Father started the long, laborious process of restoring it. But she’s not by herself in her Dad’s garage in Dearborn, Michigan because they are chronicling all of it on fiero.com, a site ‘for the Fiero community, by the Fiero community.’
Over the past two years, this community has all but adopted Kathryn. They follow her posts, sending along advice, suggestions, even auto parts. The sheer volume of content and responses fills twenty-three pages. An undeniable tone of paternal pride runs through the entries (along with a somewhat dispiriting display of atrocious spelling)–encouraging, teaching and fiercely partisan. It is the web at its best–selfless, generous and yes, loving. These followers are people united only by shared interests and values. And they rally around this determined young woman.
Yes, there’s the other, limb-mangling underbelly of the web, where trolls spout venom from their dark caves of anonymity, preying upon insecurities and belittling girls. But witnessing the human penchant for mutual support demonstrated in such a straightforward manner restores one’s faith in humanity. CNN recently published a nice write up of the project and the response has been universally positive, even wistful.
After all, who among us doesn’t want their daughters to grow up capable, independent and strong? Who doesn’t want them to be cherished and protected, cheered and uplifted? Nurtured, honored and valued.
Every now and then, we get it so right. Every once in a while, we get to see that it truly can take a village. And we are all better for it. You go Kathryn. And Happy Friday.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson
No one really expects to be wowed by balloon sculpture, that hackneyed, low-brow artform of a thousand lousy birthday parties. After you pass the age of six, there’s not a lot of fascination left from watching some clown pull skinny latex tubes from his fanny pack and whip it into a poodle/silly hat/mom-safe pirate sword. It’s a tired genre.
And then you see something like this…
This is “Spinosaurus” by Larry Moss and as you can see, it is awesome.
Apparently, Larry never got the message that balloon sculpture was tired and silly. No, to Larry, an ex-New York street artist, colored latex balloons are a medium to push to new and amazing places. To Larry, folding air is an artform he calls “Airigami” and as he explains in this charming TED video, a way to bring together communities.
To the rest of us, Larry Moss and his pursuits are a reminder that everyday, every mundanity is another opportunity to create surprise and delight.
God love Larry Moss. May his life be long and free of destructive pricks.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson
Sixteen years ago, academic and data geek Robert Putnam hit a national nerve with his essay “Bowling Alone” about our collective loss of ‘social capital.’ By 2000, he published a book expanding on his premise that Americans were growing disconnected from their families, communities and nation due to culture trends like two-career families and television, which reduce our participation in groups.
An article posted to Ad Age yesterday might gladden Robert’s heart…somewhat. Despite DVR’s, the declines in live TV viewership over the past few years are reversing. Appointment TV has made a resurgence as Facebook, Twitter and cell phone based social media outlets now drive live tune-ins.
Apparently, we still like to watch alone, but we link up as part of a larger social group through talking, texting, posting and commenting. As we watch, e like to gripe about the White Sox bullpen, seek explanations for the Bull’s careless ball handling and whine about the Blackhawks disappearing offense. Okay, maybe that’s just me but the point is we form very active, regularly scheduled communities around live television viewing.
Robin Sloan, who works with Twitter’s media-partnership groups says “If you look at the tweets about a TV show, a huge proportion come from when the show is airing live, not an hour later.” Tweets and status updates have a shelf life shorter than shredded cheese in a warm refrigerator; it’s all about commenting in the now.
We may be alone physically, but not socially. A whopping 86% of mobile net users watch TV with their mobile devices. Further, the communities that form range from the very broad, like for the Super Bowl, to the very, very engaged, like the people who tweet and text about “Glee.” “Glee” earned the Number 2 spot on Trendrr.TV which measures TV chatter across various social media, which sounds awesome for ratings. Unfortunately, the show itself ranked 77th on Nielsen’s prime-time list.
So a cheesy show about awkward high school types inspires awkward types to tweet cheesily just like high school… Hmm, that figures.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson
I’ve talked about the “Downfall” based viral meme in the past, where people alter the meaning of a screaming Hitler tirade by changing the supers. For a short time back in April, these were pulled from YouTube over some misguided intellectual property rights fussiness. I found that particularly ironic given that these memes helped me discover and purchase this remarkable movie, largely based on Bruno Ganz’s remarkable performance. They are back now, covering everything from Brett Favre’s waffling to the waning popularity of the gag itself.
Those topics are critical to the success of this kind of meme, which goes far beyond parodying the Third Reich. By commenting on issues, these types of viral memes help people identify like-minded audiences. Lately, xtranormal, with its ability to generate customized animated clips, has become the meme-generator of choice for this kind of viral. A few weeks back, I received the same clip regarding the University of Michigan’s ham handed handling of football coach Rich Rodriguez’ firing.
Topicality fuels viral memes like these. But more than that, it’s topicality that’s relevant to a specific communities. Upset about Lovie Smith’s playcalling? There’s a meme for that. Think Obama is awesome or awful? There’s a meme for both. And if you’re feeling particularly creative, you can generate your own clip which, if it’s entertaining enough and pertinent to a group of your friends, will be quickly passed along.
Identifying the group you hope to reach can really drive viral success. Sure, it’s awesome to have tens of millions of hits, but if you craft the right message and get it to a few thought leaders in your targeted group, they will self select the qualified leads who would be most interested in viewing it. The common denominator in any popular viral meme is a well-defined community. That may not help sell aspirin given the large, wide range of that consumer market, but it can be invaluable for anything with a narrower, more defined target, and thus a better defined community.
When you deliver a great creative idea to influential people in your target community, your video focuses in from a broad dim streetlight that falls over everything to a powerful spotlight shining on your exact issue for your exact audience. And that’s compelling branding.
Having a community share in the task of finding your brand’s ideal audience and capturing their digital information is the real promise of video broadcasting on social networks.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
The people over at Tribune Media just debuted chicagonow.com: a new blog network launched two weeks ago after three months in beta as chicagosbestblogs.com. Aggregating seventy+ blogs that loosely share a Chicago-centric theme, this site aims to attract young, digitally-savvy readers uninterested in their daily paper and fill the widening hole in the Tribune’s demographic mix.
I wish them well, though I’m clearly not in their demographic. I subscribe to the Trib and until someone comes up with an elegantly-interactive digital crossword, I’ll stay analog. Moreover, I like the illusion that my news at least postures as objective; the injection of obvious left or right bias in every item both exhausts and depresses me.
ChicagoNow appeals to its nascent audience with a pretty wide variety of News and Opinion, Life and Style, Arts and Entertainment, and Sports blogs–category headings seemingly taken right off their print mastheads. A quick skim of their content reveals a largely newspaper-like tone, albeit with the amped up personality and opinions of the individual bloggers. For me, the reading experience was not unlike an evening of Chicago Improv: a few remarkable moments separated by a lot of meandering development. Then again, the analog version contains a lot of material I skim or ignore as well.
The word ‘community’ appears repeatedly throughout the site’s background pages; something that will prove simultaneously crucial as they pitch potential advertisers and challenging as their biggest potential stumbling block. The best online communities build organically (for perspective, check out this month’s Wired magazine’s article on Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist). As Clay Shirky writes, Web 2.0 means we no longer need organizations to organize. Moreover, the user experience needs to come first and foremost and on that count, ChicagoNow seems to be doing it right. You don’t need to register to access the content, but it does unlock other features like comments. The ill-fated, arrived too early, saddled-by-regulatory redtape Bud.tv ultimately collapsed due to those onerous restraints as the hassles to the user outweighed the benefits of the content.
Will ChicagoNow take off and ultimately fill the expanding gap in the Tribune’s audience with new, revenue-generating readers? It’s too early to say, but as a fan of newspapers, I hope it does. And if nothing else, good on them for trying.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
From the dawn of time, people have organized in groups: for survival, for security, for strength. We are, at our primal roots, a fundamentally gregarious species.
And so for untold years, mankind sought out others and formed groups, small and large. That’s remained the basic pattern until last century when we hit an anomalous behavioral bump. During the roughly quarter-century stretch between the late 70’s and the turn of the Millennium, our group tendencies abruptly waned with the advent of the Me generation. Suddenly greed was good, everyone was looking out for number one and Faith Popcorn grew famous on her notion of cocooning. It was all about the Me; what’s in it for me? What do you got for me? We were a nation bowling alone. And it was good…kinda.
Ultimately, the Me generation was not sustainable, given human nature’s predisposition for congregation and cooperation. And that truth fueled the remarkable and remarkably rapid ascent of social media; a revolutionary phenomenon that quickly and completely changed America’s behavior. And not just the behavior of younger “digital natives”- – the 35-54 year old demographic adopted and occasionally dominates Facebook, Twitter and of course LinkedIn. Technology has proven a boon for helping us re-connect with friends, acquaintances and co-workers on our own very specific, very personal terms. We don’t have time for a phone call discussion, so we text. We didn’t get to the drugstore so we send an e-card to the birthday boy. We learn about vacations, births and job changes via status updates. And through it all we connect, even if it’s no deeper than a headline. We maintain a sense of community on our schedule.
Call this the We/Me Generation; Social Engagement on our terms.