Saturday, April 12, 2008

Riding a (good) viral event

The word "virus" in relation to computers started out as a bad thing. But now, with blogs, to have something you uploaded "go viral" is a huge thrill. I'm getting a small taste of that now, and it gives me insight into the world view of my son and fellow students. On the Sunday before the CBC TV interview which brought Melanie Coles' "Where On Earth Is Waldo" project to the attention of Brazil, and eventually the world, I put together the above video based on a slide show that I made as a an assignment for class. I uploaded it to YouTube when she got on TV the next day. In the one week that it has been up there, as of today 700 people have looked at it. That is a whole movie theatre worth of people. (And if you click on it now, it will be 701!) As a comparison in the year that I have been uploading videos there, I have had just over 800 views of all the other 12 videos.

So now I am right in the middle of being involved in a good story, and, because we live in a time-compressed world, now is the time tell it. Today I'm going into school to use the sound studio to do an interview with Waldo to upload to YouTube as fast as I can - hopefully before Monday (April 14) when Melanie has a national radio interview on "Q". See my postings below on April 10 and April 3 for more details and a link to her site. She has embedded a link to my blog, where, before the word got out, I had posted an article looking at her work in the context of other art. I subscribe to Google Analytics and I have been monitoring the echo effect of people coming over from Melanie's blog to check out mine.

She is using analytics to monitor her site too, and we both noticed that the sudden peaking flattened the prior lines on our graphs. Her blog was getting 1500 hits AN HOUR yesterday, whereas my peak was 90, the day that Brazil found Waldo. But for me it is a thrill. And I am beginning to understand how seductive it is to check how you are doing on the internet. So this has been a good COABC moment of insight.

Another COABC insight is the sense of urgency to put more material up there to meet the demand, out of a sense that we might be hitting Minute 7.5 of our Andy Warhol quota. I have looked around me in the lab during this end of term crunch, and know the solution to time compression is to find shortcuts. Here is where I trip over my ten thumbs, which feel very big right now! I had enough knowledge to be there doing the scanning, but not enough to know that a shortcut I took was going to have exactly the catastrophic effect I keep assuring COABC's is not likely to happen if they just take the risk and thrash around a bit. Long story short, I found myself without access to any of the source files I had so carefully collected during my role as Melanie's video documenter throughout the project. I knew I was vulnerable -- that my external drive was old, and was suddenly being carried around a lot. But I needed to be able to move all those files somewhere else. And the problem with backing up large amounts of data, is that you need a bigger container. I had already bought myself a larger external drive, but to do all the formatting and so on I needed to either take the time to figure it out, or organize myself to ask for help. So it was sitting on my table, stlll in the packaging, when the one it was supposed to replace took a dive. Murphy's law had kicked in, as it tends to do when you are busy and it feels like there is no time.

So that was the bad news. But the good news is that I DID know enough all along to be burning DVD's of the Waldo source files and giving them to Melanie. So I actually had that "backup" that computer repair guys always ironically ask you for. And for bonus points, it was "offsite". Though getting it back involved Melanie hiding the disks that night in a hole in a wall next to her place of work. Unlike Paris Hilton, we both had to interrupt our fame to go in to our part-time jobs. I had a cell phone moment like one sometimes overhears late at night on buses, as Melanie gave me directions to "it" and my side of the conversation must have sounded like a drug deal! Bottom line, today I have the files, tomorrow (please God) I upload a new video to YouTube to catch the wave of CBC listeners on Monday. Wish me luck!


  1. Oh Nancy, this is so funny!
    What will you two be up to next, quite the Adventure with Waldo!

  2. Hi Nancy - I am a Kindergarten teacher who works with Melanie Coles Dad. Everyone at our school has been very excited about her "Where's Waldo" project and we have enjoyed looking at all the links to her site. It was interesting to see your video on the making of "Where's Waldo." Isn't she lucky to have friends who are willing to go out in the middle of the night inorder to collect all manner of materials! I can relate to your fear of loosing material should your computer crash. Each term, fellow staff members carefully backup our report cards,"just in case." Last year, someone "lost" everything when their laptop crashed. They were devasted and it took days to recover the material. I appreciate computers but I don't always trust them! Keep up the great work and enjoy your new found skills!