First, I tweeted this to Cards Against Humanity co-creator Max Temkin.
@maxtemkin Still waiting for a Dance project I care about. Someone needs to do an interpretive dance based on Spelunky or something.— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) May 1, 2013
Not long afterwards, this appeared.
$1 goal with a 24 hour limit, and a single $1 reward limited to one backer: me. So great. I can't wait to see the finished dance.
It even got the attention of Spelunky creator Derek Yu:
With absolutely no prompting, and with no real incentive to back the project, it's up to 71 backers and $132. (Like me, it looks like more than a few people are using this project as an opportunity to fill their Kickstarter pie... The Dance category is almost always the last slice filled.)
Beyond our circle of friends, the reaction from the Internet to Max's project was ridiculous. One indie comics artist called it "Kickstarter Abuse," and people on /r/games said the project was "mocking current industry trends" and "a waste of time, and a shallow effort to hold a mirror up to society."
The early days of Kickstarter were filled with crazy, tiny experimental projects like these. After all, Kickstarter CEO Perry Chen's only successful project was six backers giving him $19 to videochat with him on a flight and buy drinks for random passengers. These are the roots of Kickstarter's international success.
Playful experimentation is never abuse. It's the best thing for a healthy, creative community.
May 6: The performance was released exclusively to me last night, and I was deep in the middle of plans to sell DVDs, when some jerks named tUNNELcREW leaked it online. First, as a camcorder leak and then the screener copy.
Since I clearly won't be making a dime off this project, I decided to release the high-quality performance on YouTube. Enjoy.
This morning, I woke to the news that Archive Team is working to save Upcoming. This is the Internet equivalent of hearing that Marsellus Wallace is sending The Wolf.
For those unfamiliar, Archive Team is a band of rogue archivists and programmers working to rescue dead and dying websites from destruction. To put it mildly, they are very good at what they do.
Led by computer historian/documentary filmmaker Jason Scott, they've saved massive sites like GeoCities, Friendster, MobileMe, Fortune City and many others from deletion, and collaborate with the Internet Archive to inject their backups into the Wayback Machine for permanent preservation.
The importance of their work can't be overstated. While companies like Yahoo work to destroy as much Internet history as possible, Archive Team is the only group actively trying to save it.
To assist their efforts, they've developed ArchiveTeam Warrior, a virtual appliance that makes it easy for anyone to help archive dying websites and upload the backups to their server.
Want to help? Install Warrior right now.
It's dead simple to get up and running, and works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. And because it all runs in a virtual machine, it can't possibly hurt your system. It will only use your bandwidth and disk space.
After it's installed, you can choose the "Upcoming" project to start backing up Upcoming.org specifically, or pick "ArchiveTeam's Choice" to let the team decide. Posterous and Formspring are also dying soon, and that will allow the team to prioritize your work.
I made a little video showing how easy it is to start saving Internet history.
You can track the status of the Upcoming archiving effort in real-time, currently at around 6% of the complete site.
And again, thanks to all the dedicated volunteers of Archive Team for their effort.
Update (April 23): Three days later, the Upcoming archive is complete. Every event, venue, group, and user page is currently being compressed and uploaded in batches to the Internet Archive. Truly amazing.
My next step: to parse the HTML and extract structured data, distributed that database, and build something off it to make the community-contributed material accessible after Yahoo shuts it down.
So, Yahoo's finally decided to close Upcoming.org, the events community I started nearly ten years ago. And, in Yahoo's typical fuck-off-and-die style, they're doing it with 11 days notice, no on-site announcement, and no way to back up past events.
I knew its closure was inevitable after the infamous sunset slide, but never knew when it would happen. Like a newspaper prepping for a sick celebrity, this obituary's been sitting in my drafts folder for months, waiting for its sad publication day.
The last five years were hard on Upcoming. After Gordon Luk, Leonard Lin, and I left at the end of 2007, the site quickly started to fall apart. The social features that made Upcoming unique were minimized, or removed entirely, by a series of redesigns. Spam, like creeping kudzu, was left unchecked and spread across the site. Fortunately, the final catastrophic redesign never made its way out of beta.
By 2009, the only people using Upcoming were event promoters and spammers. (Especially depressing considering self-promotion was banned entirely for its first two years.)
Frustratingly, nothing's come to take its place. Potential competitors like Plancast and Going closed their doors, while others never grew an organic community. Some sites carved off a piece of Upcoming: Facebook's private events, Songkick's concerts, and Lanyrd's fantastic conference coverage.
But, for me, finding events I care about feels like 2002 again. I'm missing geeky events I'd love, and when I travel to a new city, I'm back to digging through the calendar listings of my local weekly newspapers. It blows my mind that the problem Upcoming solved — surfacing interesting events in a city, driven by public social activity — is an unsolved problem again.
And now, Yahoo will quietly take Upcoming off life support, an opportunity squandered.
It's hard to believe now, but there was a time when Yahoo was actually pretty cool, in its own dorky Silicon Valley way.
By 2005, when we started talking to Yahoo, they'd made a series of thoughtful hires, including PHP creator Rasmus Lerdorf, Jeremy Zawodny, Tom Coates, Simon Willison, and future Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson. Cameron Marlow, Jeffery Bennett, and Mor Namaan were doing pioneering work at Yahoo Research. They acquired Flickr, bringing some of the most talented and creative people in technology to help change the company from the inside, including Cal Henderson, Heather Champ, and founders Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield. A month after we came in, they acquired Del.icio.us.
Clueful people were making their way up to the executive level, too. Future Bandcamp founder Ethan Diamond led the redesign of Yahoo Mail, future Topspin CEO Ian Rogers was managing Yahoo Music, and and Bradley Horowitz, now VP of Product at Google, was taking over big pieces of the company. Yahoo was an exciting place to be.
Upcoming was a side project, created during my day job at a financial company. After my son was born, I had no time to work on Upcoming at all, even as the community grew. Spammers started to discover the site, as bug reports and support requests piled up unanswered. The opportunity to work on my own project full-time was a dream come true.
And Yahoo seemed like a perfect home for Upcoming — they'd promised resources to grow the community, we'd get to work at a promising tech giant with some of our favorite people, and the acquisition price was small but seemed fair. Coming into Yahoo, we were hopeful.
It wasn't clear how dysfunctional the rest of Yahoo was until we'd settled in, and there was no indication how horrible they'd soon become in the years to follow. This was long before they gave up dissidents to the Chinese government, closed Geocities, weaponized their patents, "sunsetted" Delicious, and a number of other awful decisions.
In hindsight, selling Upcoming to Yahoo was a horrible mistake. Selling your company always means sacrificing control and risking its fate, and as we now know, online communities almost always fail after acquisition. (YouTube is the rare exception, albeit one with billion-dollar momentum.) But Yahoo was a particularly horrible steward for the community.
I built Upcoming because it scratched a personal itch, and I was delighted when so many others found it useful. For the small group of old-schoolers that remember it in its prime, Upcoming made their lives better. I've heard stories of people finding friends and spouses through Upcoming, people lonely in a new city tapping into new communities, impromptu parties gaining momentum.
I'm going to miss it.
Upcoming stopped being relevant long ago, and part of me is happy that Yahoo's putting this bastardized version of the site out of its misery. (In case your memory's foggy, compare how it looked when we left to its current state.)
What really upsets me is that the archived events will soon be taken offline, and with no way to back it up. Ten years of history will be gone in 11 days. Good URLs never die, and I'm frustrated that every link to Upcoming will soon 404.
I've reached out to Yahoo multiple times over the last few months about re-acquiring the Upcoming.org domain and event database, but they were less than receptive.
I would love to create a permanent archive of Upcoming, with a clean responsive layout and some month-by-month analysis and visualization of the site's history, but getting the metadata's proving much more difficult than I thought.
All of Upcoming's events and venues use autoincremented ids, making it dead simple to generate a list of URLs to scrape. But Yahoo's security makes scraping a challenge. Every time I've tried to back up pages, I can only grab a few files with curl or httrack before Yahoo starts serving blank responses.
If you have any idea how to scrape Upcoming's events, or can get me a dump in any form, please get in touch ASAP. Anonymity guaranteed.
Update: Archive Team is working to save Upcoming, and they need your help in the rescue efforts.
Last month, I spoke at Creative Mornings/Portland about copyright, fair use, and remix culture. It started as a riff on my No Copyright Intended post, and ended up something much bigger. I really like how it came out, I hope you do too.
Watch it full-screen HD on Vimeo.
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The line to try Mailbox, the new iPhone app for managing your inbox, is long. Really, really long.
I signed up the day it went live in the App Store, on February 7, and finally made it to the front of the line this morning after two weeks of patient line-waiting.
While I was waiting, I'd occasionally open the app to see my place in the queue, and think — what if the line was real?
Imagine an ever-growing line of weary people fiddling with their phones, sprawling off into the distance. How long would the line be?
If you signed up right now, you'd find yourself at the end of a line with 807,896 people ahead of you.
They're letting people in at a near-constant rate of 800 per hour, or just over 13 people per minute.
Let's assume that people standing in line take up an average of two feet of space, from back to back with room for personal space.
The line stretches over 300 miles into the distance. To put it in perspective, that's further than London to the outskirts of Paris. It's 30 miles longer than Hollywood to Las Vegas. It spans from the Bronx to Portland, Maine.
But it's moving! Slowly. At about 0.3 miles per hour. You're shuffling along at just over five inches per second.
At the current rate, you'll make it to the front of the line in about 42 days.
I hope you brought a charger.
After four weeks topping the Billboard Hot 100, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Thrift Shop" was replaced this week by Baauer's "Harlem Shake," the song that inspired the Internet meme.
As I wrote last month, Macklemore is only the second unsigned artist in Billboard history to reach the #1 slot, the first in two decades.
And now, with a new #1, another record's broken: Baauer's "Harlem Shake" is the first song from a largely unknown artist to debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Since 1958, only 21 songs have ever debuted at #1. Of those 21 songs, only four were from artists appearing on the Hot 100 for the first time, all from artists with extensive mainstream media exposure — three American Idol contestants (Clay Aiken, Fantasia and Carrie Underwood) and a popular artist going solo (Lauryn Hill). Source: Billboard.
I'd wager this is another first: "Harlem Shake" is the only song to ever debut at #1 on the Hot 100 without significant radio or TV airplay. This is solely an Internet phenomenon, gone deeply mainstream.
This is in no small part because of major changes incorporating YouTube views into the Billboard Hot 100 formula, introduced this week in response to the viral success of "Gangnam Style."
This week, a report surfaced that Nielsen will start tracking YouTube and other digital plays too.
Billboard and Nielsen are just acknowledging a long-overdue reality. Radio and cable aren't the future, and if you're focused on tracking them, you're looking at an ever-shrinking window of behavior.
But seriously, who cares what Billboard and Nielsen think anyway? Aren't the charts irrelevant? For most purposes, probably.
But like winning an award, chart success is a symbol of reputation. Recognition from a reputable source tracking sales or viewership opens doors for artists, especially important if you're independent.
It's one thing for Amanda Palmer to raise a million dollars from Kickstarter, but having her album debut in the Billboard top ten shows that there's demand beyond her most hardcore early supporters. This gives her team the power to negotiate everything from distributors to concert venue contracts.
And when other artists see that indie artists can find legitimate mainstream success on their own, others will follow. This is already happening on a small scale, but it's only going to get accelerate.
A couple weeks ago, I went to see Ben Folds Five's reunion tour here in Portland:
Just saw an unsigned indie trio from North Carolina that crowdfunded their new album. These boys are going places! twitter.com/waxpancake/sta...— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) February 6, 2013
I joked about it on Twitter, but I'm not sure many knew I was serious. The reformed Ben Folds Five is unsigned.
After releasing their first three albums on Sony, Ben Folds Five decided to fund their album on Pledge Music and release it independently.
They easily could've released it through a label — Ben Folds is still signed to Sony/Epic for his solo work and Darren Jesse through Bar/None. Why do it all on their own?
But I was starting to feel guilty about ignoring it, so I added some new tools for exploring the archive of 650+ games, sketches, and silly experiments.
This surfaced a whole bunch of interesting games I hadn't seen, so I freshened up the featured section with some new picks.
Playfic was always intended to be an experiment, yet another tool of creative expression and a quick way for people to experiment with Inform 7. I really wasn't expecting much out of it, but I've been happy to see people slowly discover the community and find new uses for it.
Update: Releasing any platform for creative expression often comes with unintended consequences. For Playfic, one of the biggest surprises was seeing it used by educators, something I never intended.
Most recently, I just discovered this high school teacher using Playfic to teach interactive fiction in the classroom. I was a little stunned to see a room full of high school students playing interactive fiction for the first time on iPads, starting with Cooper's first game:
Games being created by high-school students and played by high-school students. How awesome is that?
The undiscovered young talent gets their big break and a record deal, and soon realizes they were swindled by corrupt management and a major label.
It's an old story, and a common theme that pops up in rock songs, often from well-established bands. (Though it seems especially common the '70s.)
After writing about Macklemore's "Jimmy Iovine" for my Indiepocalypse post yesterday, I stumbled on several more great angry songs about record labels. They didn't fit into the post, but I still wanted to share them.
Graham Parker and the Rumour - Mercury Poisoning (1979)
I got a dinosaur for a representative,
It's got a small brain and refuses to learn
Their promotion's so lame,
They could never ever take me to the real ball game
Listen, I ain't a pet, I ain't a token hipster in your Monopoly set.
I've got Mercury poisoning.
It's fatal and it don't get better!
The Clash - Complete Control (1977)
They said we'd be artistically free when we signed that bit of paper
They meant let's make a lotsa money and worry about it later
I'll never understand
Complete control, lemme see your other hand
I don't trust you, so why should you trust me?
Nick Lowe - I Love My Label (1977)
Deeply sarcastic, Lowe tossed off this track to get out of his major label deal with United Artists.
Oh I'm so proud of them up here, we're one big happy family
I guess you could say I'm the poor relation of the parent company
They always ask for lots of songs,
but no more than 2:50 long so I write 'em some
They never talk behind my back,
and they're always playing my new tracks when I come along
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Workin' For MCA (1974)
MCA signed the young band for a seven year deal for $9,000.
Oh, nine thousand dollars just to sow to the wind.
Come to smile at the yankee slicker with a big old southern grin.
They're gonna take me out to California, gonna make me a superstar.
Just pay me all my money, maybe you won't get a scar.
Want you to sign the contract,
want you to sign the date.
Gonna give you lots of money
Workin' for MCA.
Sex Pistols - E.M.I. (1977)
In October 1978, EMI signed the Sex Pistols to a two-year contract, but dropped them only three months later. They were quickly picked up by A&M;, and dropped less than a week later. Virgin finally released their debut in May 1977, their third label in six months.
Don't judge a book just by the cover
Unless you cover just another
And blind acceptance is a sign
Of stupid fools who stand in line
The Smiths - Paint A Vulgar Picture (1987)
World tour, media whore,
please the press in Belgium.
This was your life.
And when it fails to recoup?
Well, maybe you just haven't earned it yet, baby.
In one sense, this is the ultimate first-world problem — successful musicians complaining about bad business deals. Then again, for decades, signing with a major label was the only game in town if you wanted to find success in the music industry, and the labels exploited that monopoly.
But overall, I tend to agree with Trent Reznor, who said, "I don't set out to write songs about record labels. Nothing could be more boring—with the possible exception of writing about tour buses."
For the first time in two decades, an indie artist is topping the Billboard charts. For the last three weeks, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Thrift Shop" has remained at the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100, beating the likes of Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars.
The only other unsigned artist to ever hit #1 was Lisa Loeb's "Stay (I Missed You)" in 1994, when her friend Ethan Hawke gave the track to Ben Stiller to include on the Reality Bites soundtrack. She quickly signed to a major label, releasing her debut album the following year with Geffen Records.
Lisa Loeb switched to a label as soon as she could because, in 1994, it was the only way to finance a full album, nationwide tour, market an album, get radio/TV airplay, and get distribution to record stores.
That prized record deal didn't work out the way she'd hoped. Four years before Lisa Loeb joined Geffen, the label was acquired by MCA, later renamed to Universal Music Group. She ended up on Interscope/A&M;, one of Universal's many subsidiaries, where she received less-than-stellar treatment.
"They became a really big label and I felt they weren't focusing a lot on music," Loeb said in 2003. "They had executives telling you one thing one day and then telling you something different the next. They couldn't deliver on their promises." A planned music video was rejected by the label because they disagreed with the concept.
In the end, she had to negotiate to buy the rights to her own master recordings from Interscope.
Lisa Loeb wanted her work to be heard and she wanted to make a living doing what she loved, so she sacrificed her creative and financial control to get there.
For hundreds of years, publishers across every industry — book publishers, record labels, film studios, videogame publishers — solved problems for artists in four major ways:
- Funding. The cost of creating a new work, paying the artist's expenses during the creation process, often with an advance.
- Production. Design, manufacturing, and printing of the finished product.
- Marketing. Going on tour, making a video, promotion in various media outlets.
- Distribution. Getting the product into people's hands.
And how does this play out now?
Digital distribution subverted the monopolies held by physical distribution, bypassing distribution deals with record stores entirely, allowing artists to sell directly to fans. Social media and online music services changed the way people discover music, making the payola systems of MTV and radio airplay feel quaint. Production costs dropped dramatically as computers became more powerful and audio editing software got dirt cheap, along with new services for printing on demand. And, finally, Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms offset the financial risk to artists.
Most importantly, each new platform let artists find, communicate, and sell directly to their fans.
Music is hardly alone here. Videogames, film, comics, books, product design, hardware, software, board games, whatever. Hackers and makers across every form of art are finding their fan bases, interacting with them, and selling to them.
We're at the beginning of an indiepocalypse — a global shift in how culture is made, from a traditional publisher model to independently produced and distributed works.
Artists that were royally screwed over in the past now have an alternative.
As high-profile artists keep popping up across every industry, other artists will inevitably follow. For every Louis CK or Amanda Palmer, there are 10,000 other artists ready to wake up and try something new. It will be the default state for new artists, and a rising trend among artists with existing fanbases.
Publishers will have to evolve just to stay alive. Labels, studios, and other publishers can provide huge value — they can take care of the bullshit that artists don't want to do. And they can apply knowledge and existing relationships to help artists, rather than asking artists to learn everything from scratch.
Artists of all kinds want to focus on making art, but not if it means giving up a large financial stake in their work, exclusive rights to their work, or a loss of creative control.
It would take much more work, but Macklemore and Ryan Lewis could do it all themselves. Why sign with a label, if it meant giving up so much?
If you have any doubt over whether Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will sign to a major label any time soon, check out the lyrics to "Jimmy Iovine," a track off their debut album, named after the head of Interscope, Lisa Loeb's former label. In the song, he sneaks into Jimmy Iovine's office to try to get a record deal.
Finally see an office with a mounted sign, heaven sent
Big block silver letters, read it out loud: President (nice!)
This was my chance to grab that contract and turn and jet
Right then felt a cold hand grab on the back of my neck
He said, "We've been watching you, so glad you could make it
Your music gets so impressive in this whole brand you created
You're one hell of a band, we here think you're destined for greatness
And with that right song we all know that you're next to be famous
Now I'm sorry, I've had a long day remind me, now what your name is?
That's right, Macklemore, of course, today has been crazy
Anyway, you ready? We'll give you a hundred thousand dollars
After your album comes out we'll need back that money that you borrowed."
"So it's really like a loan?"
"A loan? Come on, no, we're a team, 360 degrees, we will reach your goals!
We'll get a third of the merch that you sell out on the road
Along with a third of the money you make when you're out doing your shows
Manager gets 20%, booking agent gets 10%
So shit, after taxes you and Ryan have 7% to split
That's not bad, I've seen a lot worse, No one will give you a better offer than us."
I replied, "I appreciate the offer, thought that this is what I wanted
Rather be a starving artist than succeed at getting fucked."
It took two decades for a second unsigned artist to top the Billboard charts. I'm guessing it won't be long before we see another.
Last Thursday, on my last night after working a few days in NYC, I pulled together a little meetup of a few friends at Spitzer's, a great little restaurant in the Lower East Side. On a frigid Manhattan night, we all cozied up against the bar in the warm, crowded backroom for conversation and rounds of Spaceteam over craft beer.
Fred noticed him first, sitting in the middle of a long table nearby, five people deep on either side. The place was packed and it was hard to reach him, but I waved from across the room, trying to catch his eye. No luck. He was deep in conversation, smiling and chatting. I thought he looked happy. I was wrong.
It was the first time I'd seen him in years, but I decided not to bug him, figuring I could catch up with him some other time. I made a mental note to drop him a line next time I was in NYC.
The next day, he was gone.
Watching him grow up online, he felt like the Internet's little brother. His young age betrayed a deep drive and talent, leading him to accomplish so much in so little time. It was intimidating to people twice his age.
By the time I met him at Foo Camp in 2005, I knew way too much about him. I knew about his work with RSS and Creative Commons, I'd followed his crushes and frustrations on his personal blog through his awkward college years, and I was an avid reader of his Google blog.
He was one of the first people to sign up for Upcoming.org, on the second day it was live, and occasionally sent me valuable feedback. After Upcoming was acquired, he was the first person to visit us, on our second day in the office, on November 2, 2005. The photos he took of us and the gaudy Yahoo campus were the first he ever posted to Flickr.
We sat down for dinner at the end of a long day in URL's, the Yahoo cafeteria, and talked about supertasters and the web. He struck me as someone who was curious, brave, idealistic, and occasionally immature — the kind of person who gets shit done.
We'd talked online occasionally, but it'd been years since I'd seen him last as he went on to change the world — merging Infogami with Reddit, liberating the PACER and Library of Congress datasets, starting Open Library and Demand Progress, and helping to crush SOPA. And, yes, busting into an MIT closet to download millions of academic papers.
Yep, he got shit done.
I never got a chance to say goodbye, but my last glimpse is how I'll remember him. The center of a modern-day Last Supper, holding court over grilled cheese sandwiches in a Lower East Side bar, surrounded by people who loved him.
Today, a video's making the rounds of a Southern California car chase that jumped from the TV to real life, giving one young man a front-row seat to the action.
I was curious to see if the video was matched up to the local TV news broadcast, so I synchronized the two videos side-by-side to see. The results are below (view full screen):
There are two versions in the video. First, synchronized to the TV broadcast on screen, and second, to real-life events.
Note that the TV broadcast is exactly ten seconds behind real-life, with the news station operating on a ten-second delay. Live news commonly uses a five- to ten-second delays for unpredictable live coverage, like the recent car chase that ended in suicide accidentally broadcast by FOX News.
As much as I was hoping to debunk this, it appears to be real (or a particularly convincing fake).
Nearly a year ago, my nephew Cooper and I launched Playfic, a community for writing and sharing interactive fiction games from your browser.
I haven't talked about the site much, and have barely touched it since we launched, but I've been delighted to see people slowly discover it and use it in interesting ways. Unfortunately, I'm the only one privy to these delights, since I never got around to building a good way to browse or search them.
So far, there have been over 600 games created on Playfic. While many of them have been simple sketches or tests, over 20% have more than 1,000 words in the source code. What kind of things have people made on Playfic? Some of my favorites so far:
- An absurd dream world full of Jungian symbolism
- A jetpack simulator.
- Doctor Who fanfic and The TARDIS.
- A port of Homestar Runner's Thy Dungeonman
- Sherlock fanfic
- A geography game winding through the continental U.S. states
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic meets dark, existential dread
But two of my favorite examples happened in the last two weeks.
It's very alpha, only covering the Alakol region, and doesn't have any interactive elements beyond simple exploration yet, but for fans of Glitch, it's a trip.
I was a big admirer of Glitch, and very sad when it closed its doors last month. I love the idea of preserving its collective memory in a text world you can explore.
This is exactly the kind of surprising thing I was hoping to see on Playfic. Give people a new outlet for creative expression, and they'll find it and use it. Simply by making it easier for anyone to screw around with Inform 7 and share interactive fiction from their browser, crazy awesome things emerge. I hope to do some work on it this weekend to help shine a light on some more of the wonderful things the community's created.
Nearly three months have passed since XOXO, and I'm still digesting what happened in Portland on those warm September days.
In case you couldn't make it, we released the videos for every talk last week, over seven hours of video from 24 amazing speakers. There are too many great talks to mention, but personal highlights include Dan Harmon, Chris Poole, R. Stevens, Julia Nunes, and Adam Savage.
Here's my opening talk from the conference portion of the festival, a quick ten minutes talking about what XOXO means and how it happened:
Last month, I was the opening talk at Farmhouse Conf in Los Angeles, attended Andy McMillan's Build in Belfast, participated in the Open Internet Preservation Society at Mozilla Festival in London, and gave the closing talk at Beyond Tellerand in Düsseldorf.
At each event, I've started looking at them from a new perspective, hoping to learn what works and what to avoid, if we ever do XOXO again. A big event, like any startup, is a series of small decisions that roll up into a joyful or miserable user experience.
I've talked a bit about the philosophy behind XOXO and what we were hoping to accomplish — celebrating independent artists and hackers using tech to make a living doing what they love. But I haven't talked at all about the logistics of running the festival, and all the decisions we made that made it unique.
After organizing Build for three years, XOXO was Andy McMillan's fourth major event, but my first time organizing anything bigger than 50 people. From Build, Andy came equipped with concrete ideas about what makes a great conference. I didn't have any experience running an event, but I've been to enough conferences to know what I like. Fortunately, we have very, very similar tastes.
Put simply, I designed the festival that I wanted to see in the world, with the hope that enough attendees shared my interests — if you care about the things I do, you probably had a great time at XOXO.
Speaking only for myself, here's why I think XOXO worked and what we were trying to do.
XOXO was a snark-free zone, a reaction to the cynicism and knee-jerk contrarianism that's so prevalent online. Playful, sincere, supportive, and meaningful. I wanted them to feel comfortable enough to approach strangers and make new friends. I never wanted them to feel like they were being marketed to. I wanted people to experience everything I love about Portland, have great food and drink, and never feel bored or confused. More than anything, we tried to optimize XOXO for fun.
During our opening comments, I took a moment to encourage everyone to approach people standing alone, or join groups of people they don't know, knowing that everyone was supportive and nobody would be turned away. At the closing party, I heard self-described introverts tell me this guidance fundamentally changed their experience of a conference. They weren't stumbling around alone anymore.
Curation is the most important factor of a great event. A clear editorial voice, a coherent theme, and who you invite to participate changes everything that comes after it — good curation brings great attendees, generates word-of-mouth, great press, and opens all kinds of doors.
Curation isn't limited to just picking the speakers. In our case, it included the videogames and their designers in XOXO Arcade, the films and their directors at XOXO Film, the musicians in XOXO Music, every project featured in the Market and Hack Cafe, and all the local food carts on the street.
To get great speakers, you have to actively recruit them. For several speakers, XOXO was their first talk. Fortunately, designing the XOXO lineup got easier with each successive speaker, opening the doors to higher and higher profile people. By the time I approached Adam Savage, the lineup was already impressive. After we got Adam, signing on Dan Harmon was that much easier. But it was always a hustle, crafting and customizing the pitch for every single speaker — convincing them it was worth their time and effort for a first-time festival.
The city, the venue, the neighborhood's walkability, and the proximity to great restaurants and bars make the difference between an amazing event and a total slog. In many ways, the event is the location. Good events can succeed despite a bad location, but an amazing location can salvage even the most poorly-run event, giving attendees a memorable experience from the surrounding area alone.
It's amazing to me how many conferences get this wrong, usually for convenience, cost, and capacity. Most commercial event spaces have no character at all, and are in less than ideal areas. Convention centers and hotel ballrooms are well-equipped for large events, but are universally awful places for a creative event.
We held XOXO in a historic two-story brick building in southeast Portland, formerly an industrial laundry converted into an arts space. It didn't have a stage, lighting, sound, wifi, or bathrooms. But it had character, and it was in a perfect part of the city, with two great breweries within a half block and an awesome nightclub across the street, ideal for our opening party and music event.
So we built out all that infrastructure because it was worth it. And on top of that, we customized the venue for our needs, cracking open a long-defunct loading dock as our main entrance, constructing new stairs out to the street, and building a huge wooden deck for outdoor café seating in the parking lot.
It would've been way easier to just give up and use the Oregon Convention Center, with all of its creature comforts, but it has no soul. And every out-of-town attendee would leave thinking that Portland was like the area around the convention center.
We spent tons of money on all that stuff, but there's no question it made a huge difference.
Panels are the best way to make four interesting people boring. They're hard to prepare for, too much pressure to be interesting on the spot, and usually end up a meandering and unfocused conversation touching on a handful of topics. I hate them. Even with a strong moderator, I'd universally rather hear four short solo talks from each person than a four-person conversation. Why? Because preparing a solo talk forces the speaker to think carefully about what they want to say, conveying their message and meaning in a concise way.
As a result, the conference portion of XOXO was entirely solo talks, save for two interviews. I don't love the interview format either, but logistical issues made an interview the best option for both. We made the best of it by getting amazing interviewers, each one an expert and accomplished speaker in their own right.
Another thing missing from XOXO: audience Q&A; after talks. Opening up for audience questions is always a huge gamble, giving the captive attention of the entire room to a single audience member. That kind of free attention always seems to inspire the one douchebag in the audience to promote their website or try to impress the crowd with their rambling commentary on the subject. "This is more of an observation than a question..." Sit down, jackass.
One benefit of avoiding professional speakers is that they're much more likely to actually attend the festival, instead of parachuting in and out for just another paying gig. All but one of XOXO's speakers stayed for the entire festival. So, instead of Q&A;, we encouraged attendees to go talk to speakers at the evening events and buy them beers. This worked really well. (Maybe too well, in the case of one speaker who showed up before his talk with an epic hangover.)
Multiple tracks allow for more talks, more attendees, and more money. The drawback is that you're dividing the attention of attendees and forcing speakers to compete against their peers.
By its nature, multiple-track conferences are forced to pit the most popular sessions at the same time as one another, so that attendees split fairly evenly and don't flood any single room. The result is that attendees are forced to choose between multiple things they want to see, and you end up missing half of what you were hoping to see.
It also changes the shared experience, exposing attendees to ideas and people they may have not sought out on their own. At XOXO, every attendee heard the same speakers and could reflect on them together. I think this is a much better experience for everyone.
Conferences make money in two ways: ticket sales and sponsorship. Unlike journalism, many event organizers don't have any qualms with mixing editorial and advertising.
It's not uncommon for conferences to sell keynote talks, on-stage mentions, video interviews, blog posts, tweets, email blasts, and brochures distributed to every attendee. This is in addition to all the standard on-stage advertising, swag bag inserts, outdoor tents, vendor booths, and branded conference merchandise. Everything at a conference is for sale, including you.
XOXO took a different approach. Instead of sponsors, we had patrons that contributed to the event. What's the difference? Our three patrons weren't bidding for your attention — they wanted to make the event better, and they wanted to participate in it. We gave them passes to the event for their team, mentions in the guide and homepage, and that's it. Wieden+Kennedy invited attendees to a party on their roof. Mailchimp quietly picked up the bar tab at XOXO Music, without any prompting.
As a side effect, this self-selected for interesting, creative companies. The kind of company that's excited to buy a keynote slot and shove their brand down everybody's throats with email blasts isn't the kind of company that's open to this kind of low-visibility patronage.
The result was better for everyone: attendees never suffered a deluge of unwanted advertising and sponsored keynotes, and these three companies helped make something great, while meeting some of the most interesting people in art and tech. From a cost-benefit basis, I'd argue that each patron walked away with something more important than other sponsorship — meaningful connections and a whole lot of goodwill. I'd love to find more creative ways to incorporate patronage in future events.
Big conferences can keep their payola. I'm happy to leave that dirty money on the table.
All the decisions that you make shape the attendees that decide to show up, and ultimately, the attendees decide the fate of a conference. Our attendee list was a ridiculously great roster of creative people.
The biggest challenge for XOXO, if we decide to do it again, will be the attendees. XOXO is a festival for artists and makers, not for people focused on business, PR, and marketing. If enough of those people leak into your event, it shifts the focus and creates a downward spiral that's hard to recover from. The trick is that the biz/marketing/PR crowd often has more resources, and it may take some creative measures to keep them out.
There's also a larger tension between inclusiveness and intimacy. Attendees want an intimate event where they can talk to every person in the room over the course of three days. But, at the same time, I don't want to run an event for the same 400 people every year. I want more diversity and more new voices, with a better balance between artists and technologists, and a better age, gender, and racial breakdown. And, if I'm devoting a chunk of my life to this, I want something with a larger cultural footprint that can make a difference in more lives.
But to do that without excluding the core group of XOXO that made it great, we'd need to grow the attendance, at the potential cost of intimacy. My hunch: an event double or triple XOXO's size with the most creative people in art and tech will still be amazing. Big conferences don't suffer because of their size, they suffer because of a bad crowd.
XOXO was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. There's something so magical about connecting interesting people together, and you never know where it will lead — new projects, startups, friendships, marriages... it's hard to imagine never doing that again.
I know it's a cliché, but it's true — you had to be there. Words only go so far, so we made a little montage that tried to convey the feeling of XOXO a little better. I hope you like it.
(All photos from our CC-licensed photo set on Flickr.)
My eight-year-old son and I are completely obsessed with Spelunky, the brilliant 2D platformer-meets-Roguelike game that launched last week on XBLA.
How obsessed? Yesterday, at brunch at Slappy Cakes, he asked me to make this:
Spelunky borrows two elements I hated back in the 8-bit era — randomized levels and no way to save progress — and makes them eminently enjoyable. Like NetHack meets La-Mulana, Spelunky is brutally hard. Like other Roguelikes, when you die in Spelunky, you're dead. There's no way to continue.
In an interview with Anthony Carboni, Derek Yu said, "When you die and have to start from the beginning, it makes death meaningful, just like in real life." I'd recommend watching the interview, and Derek trying to play his own game, on New Challenger.
Unlike other hard games, Spelunky feels fair to me. Every time I die, I know that it was my fault. I never felt cheated because of awkward controls or unpredictable behavior, because the processes running the environment are so consistent and learnable. You can palpably feel yourself mastering the game, learning the mechanics and traps and creature movement and every other detail, until the next time you stupidly fumble.
To feel what it's like to play Spelunky, and how deep it goes, I'd recommend reading Tom Francis' quest to find the lost city of gold.
P.S. Eliot just came downstairs to tell me he finished the Worm level, grabbed the Crysknife, and unlocked the Super Meat Boy character. If you've played the game, you know how hard that is. My boy!
Every year, Apple's keynotes hype the latest and greatest iOS software, receive unprecedented media coverage, and tout hundreds of new features on the Apple homepage. But then, like an evil Santa Claus, Apple asks their most passionate fans to wait months to play with the new toys. This year, like the year before, they didn't announce a release date, promising only sometime "this fall."
If you're a diehard Apple fan that desperately wants to run a buggy beta version of iOS 6 right now, your only legal option is to shell out the $99 to join the iOS Developer Program. Affordable for a developer, the barrier to entry is high enough to keep out casual fans from accidentally bricking their phones and cluttering up the Genius Bar.
But over the last couple years, a cottage industry's popped up around illicit UDID activations — startups exploiting Apple's Developer Program to sell access to prerelease iOS software, usually for less than $10 per device. The craziest thing? Apple doesn't seem to care.
Do a search for "UDID Activation" and you'll find a dozen web sites, including some advertising on Google, with SEO-friendly names like ActivateMyiOS, Activate My UDID, UDID Registration, and Instant UDID Activation. Unlike casual registration trading of the past, these new startups offer secure payment options, solid customer support, Twitter and live chat, and quick turnarounds. One service even offers an AppleCare-like guarantee called "SafetyNet" that protects you if you lose your device or buy a new one.
Behind the scenes, each service uses the same simple backdoor: Registered iOS developers can activate up to 100 unique device IDs (or UDIDs) for their account, an essential tool for testing apps on multiple devices. Once registered with Apple, the activated device is also able to run prerelease versions of iOS, though developers are forbidden from sharing prerelease software outside their own team.
Ignoring these warnings, activation services charge a small fee to add a customer's device to their developer accounts. When they hit the 100-device limit, they just register a new account with Apple.
I spoke to the founder of UDID Activation, an activation service based in Galesburg, Illinois, who asked not to be named. "I set up a new Apple developer account every time I need another list," he said. "I have 30 developer accounts, all with the same name and address, and Apple's never said anything."
There have been isolated reports of Apple disabling developer accounts, but some of these services have been running uninterrupted for years without any apparent consequences.
"It's obvious it's there, and there are tons of people doing it," said UDID Activation's founder. "If they wanted to look into it, it wouldn't be very hard for them to find out what was going on. I've been doing this for about three years and I've never been contacted by Apple, and they've never shut down my accounts or anything. It really does seem like they don't care that much."
I chatted over instant message with a support representative from a competing service that claimed to have ten iOS developer accounts and a bot to reactivate expired UDIDs. I asked how often Apple kills their accounts. "Never in five years," he said.
Apple clearly states in its Developer Program License Agreement, and on its Developer Portal, that membership can be terminated if a developer provides pre-release Apple Software to anyone other than registered employees, contractors, or others with a demonstrable need to know or use the software to build and test applications. Apple adds that unauthorized distribution is prohibited, and may be subject to both civil and criminal liability.
Despite Apple's threat of "civil and criminal liability," the service operators I spoke to didn't seem concerned. "In the developer section, there's a notification that says selling spots to your developer account can get it shut down," said UDID Activation's founder. "But I've never heard of anyone getting their account shut down for selling spots."
It might not be that simple. Detecting fraudulent activity isn't as straightforward as it seems, unless Apple actually purchased activations from each service to identity the account holder. Purchased accounts don't look any different than normal beta testers, though the rate of registrations could be an indication of service violations.
For a small developer, unauthorized activations are a lucrative business that's likely worth the risks. UDID Activation publishes their order queue on their official site, which shows over 2,300 devices activated in the last week alone. At $8.99 for each activation, that's over $20,600 in revenue, with $2,277 paid to Apple for the 23 developer accounts. Their homepage claims that over 19,000 devices were activated so far, and that's only one of several services.
Outside of commercial services, some fans are forgoing commercial services and self-organizing, using discussion forums to crowdfund shared developer accounts, as these Reddit members did last year. On Twitter, authorized developers trade UDID activations for followers and retweets, or just offer them for fun.
Apple may not like it, but all of these back-alley transactions are clearly meeting a market demand. The software may be buggy, incomplete, and not ready for mainstream consumption, but a sizable class of power users doesn't care and is willing to pay to use it.
For these cheap and impatient users, activation services offer an easy, affordable, and low-risk way to experiment with the cutting edge before the rest of the world. And until Apple starts cracking down, there's little reason not to use them.
There's a ridiculous amount of misinformation spreading online about the new maps in iOS 6, compounded by incorrect press reports, vague statements by Apple, and the developer NDAs. I'm even guilty of spreading it myself, based on reports I'd seen on the blogs.
Using information provided to me by an anonymous Apple developer, I've pieced together the facts. Keep in mind that iOS 6 is still prerelease beta, and Apple may change anything at any point. Everything below is based entirely on the existing beta software and documentation that Apple's provided to developers.
Were walking directions removed in iOS 6? Some press reports have stated that walking directions are removed from iOS 6. This is completely false, and walking directions are still in iOS 6. Here's a screenshot of walking directions in iOS 6, courtesy of Philip Bump.
Were biking directions removed? Bike directions have never been available on the iPhone, and still won't be in iOS 6.
Were public transit directions removed? As of this beta, inline public transit directions are gone from the Maps application in iOS 6. Clicking the public transit button will display a list of third-party apps that support routing in the defined map area, and will launch the app when clicked. Here's the current screen in the beta, with no apps registered.
By release, this blank screen will be populated with a default list of appropriate apps from the App Store. The documentation states, "If the user's device does not currently contain any routing apps, Maps refers the user to apps on the App Store that do."
What about the new Transit APIs? The new Transit APIs, referred to by Scott Forstall at 108:58 in Monday's keynote, allow developers to register their app as a directions provider for routing directions for a particular set of coordinates. It will then be displayed in the list of available third-party apps for transit. Clicking a transit app launches that app, passing the start and end values to the app. Contrary to other analysis, transit routes can't be displayed inline from the Maps app.
How do the Transit APIs work? Apps can enable directions support by setting the type of directions they support, a geoJSON file specifying the map regions they support, and uploading it to iTunes Connect. Developers can specify a category (Car, Bus, Train, Subway, Streetcar, Plane, Bike, Ferry, Taxi, Pedestrian, Other).
Directions requests from Maps are handled by a special URL. From the documentation: "When the user asks the Maps app for directions and chooses your app, Maps creates a URL with the start and end points and asks your app to open it." From there, the app can "compute and display the route using your custom routing technology."
Of course, any of this may change before release. But, for the moment, the APIs simply don't support inline transit routes from within the Maps app.
Are Street View photos removed? Yes, these were also provided by Google.
Why is Apple doing this? Do they hate public transit?! Of course not. Transit directions aren't in iOS 6 because Apple replaced Google's maps with their own solution, which didn't include access to transit data. Maintaining transit feeds and keeping it up-to-date for hundreds of cities was presumably too difficult to attempt for this first release, so they decided to outsource it to third-party apps.
Is Google going to release a Maps app for iOS? We don't know. Google hasn't announced any plans for a native Google Maps for iPhone. And there's a big unknown: if they developed it, would Apple approve it?
Hope that helps. Hit me up with any more questions, or if you have internal information, I'll happily honor your anonymity.
Wired posted my new column yesterday, an attempt to coalesce some thoughts around a trend in fan funding that isn't really happening yet, but really should be — fans hiring artists directly to make the art they want to experience and own. I've been thinking about this since 2008, and surprised it hasn't emerged yet in a big way. I'm really just hoping that someone sees this and gives it a try.
Amanda Palmer blows up the music business.
Two weeks after Kickstarter launched in April 2009, I was fishing around for an idea to test the platform and launched a project for Kind of Bloop, an 8-bit tribute to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Like many to follow, my Kickstarter project hit the initial goal in the first few hours and eventually quadrupled it, with $8,600 raised from over 400 backers. Modest by today's multimillion dollar blockbusters, it's still considered one of the site's early successes. The album was released shortly after, adored by the only 400 people in the world who find the idea of "chiptune jazz" thrilling.
But unlike nearly every other album project on Kickstarter, I'm not a musician. I've never written a song, with or without vintage videogame consoles, and wouldn't know where to start.
Instead, I hired musicians I love to make the music. My job was organizing the project — giving the musicians feedback, setting the budget and timeline, and handling all the mundane chores of licensing, production, promotion and fulfillment.
Without intending to, I'd added a new title to my résumé: I was a record producer!
As Kickstarter's exploded in popularity, I've started to see signs that there are others like me -- a movement of fans as producers, commissioning work from their favorite artists instead of waiting for the artists to come to them.
To me, it feels like the next logical step in the evolution of fan funding. Already, fans are expecting to witness the creative process with behind-the-scenes progress updates and feedback forums. Now, they may actually help decide what gets made. If I'm right, the implications for working artists is potentially huge, providing an unexpected source of revenue, as well as potential creative headaches.
Here are some potential applications, and some who are leading the way.
The New Event Organizers
The idea for Kickstarter began seven years before its launch with a concert in New Orleans that never happened. Perry Chen, founder and CEO, wanted to organize a late night event during the 2002 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival that would cost $20,000, but didn't want to deal with the upfront risk. His thought: pre-sell the tickets to the nonexistent event on a conditional basis. If there wasn't enough interest, he wouldn't lose his shirt.
He gave up the project, but not the underlying idea. Ever since it launched, I've thought events were the most underrated use for the platform. The very first project to crash the Kickstarter servers, in fact, was the flood of people trying to buy a ticket to see Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum at a benefit concert in NYC.
Last week, I launched a Kickstarter project to fund XOXO, a new conference and festival in Portland, Oregon. I worked with Andy McMillan, the creator of The Manual and Build, to budget the costs, invite speakers, book venues, and effectively design an event without spending a dime. Within 50 hours, the event was completely sold out with over $160,000 raised, making it the largest event ever funded on Kickstarter.
We'd designed an event we would want to attend, and tested the waters to see if anyone else agreed. If they hadn't, the only loss would have been our time.
Again, like Kind of Bloop, I found myself in the position of a producer; this time for a festival organizer instead of an album. I'm getting more and more comfortable in these shifting roles.
From the beginning, musicians have experimented with Kickstarter for funding their tours, from Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman's five-city tour to Kim Boekbinder's Impossible Tour, a set of ten separate projects testing local audiences.
As far as I can tell, nobody's flipped it around and tried to commission a musician to play for fans. Most bands already play corporate events and private parties. If fans collectively raise the same amount of money, why not play a house show for them instead? For fans, it'd be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see an artist they love in an intimate setting. For musicians, it'd pay well without the malaise that comes from playing the Intel holiday party.
Though there's no reason commissioned works need to be limited to music.
Commissioned works are perfect for collaborations. Why not team up your favorite indie comic book artist with your favorite videogame creator, like Pixeljam and James Kochalka? Or musicians with authors, like Ben Folds' collaboration with Nick Hornby? Or hire an illustrator you love to make art based on that cult indie film you and your friends keep watching? Sure, go ask Olly Moss to make prints based on Ghosts With Shit Jobs.
Projects like these have three big requirements.
- Strong, achievable concept. Commissioned works should be scoped down to something realistic, because you're paying for their time, but high-concept enough to capture the excitement of other fans.
- Organizer. The funding may come from the crowd, but there needs to be a single person managing the project and handling all the logistics and small details.
- Due diligence. The organizer will need a firm agreement from the artist, committing to a timeline, payment, and any other demands. Also, if the project results in a tangible work, determine who owns the rights to it before you start raising money.
Fans Liberating Art
The rights issue is an interesting one. With Kind of Bloop, it was effectively work-for-hire. I paid the artists the complete proceeds of the Kickstarter fundraiser and I owned the finished album, with the ability to sell it in the future without hassle.
But a new class of commissioned projects are taking the rights issue a step further, liberating works into the public domain. This week, two classical music projects that funded on Kickstarter released their work into the world, free of all copyright limitations.
Of course, symphonies from the Baroque period are already in the public domain, but the modern recordings of those compositions are almost all copyrighted.
The Musopen project, funded in September 2010, raised over $68,000 to hire the Czech Filmharmonic to perform original recordings of classical symphonies from Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and others. The result was announced last week: 27 symphonies, uploaded to Archive.org in raw ProTools format with individual recordings for each instrument.
A second German project, funded in June 2011, sought to create a new score and recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations. The Open Goldberg Variations completed recording in January and released the new score and recording into the public domain last week. A free iPad app followed, released only yesterday.
Both projects were organized and funded by fans of classical music. Fans did the research, raised the money, and paid musicians to do what they do best. Together, everyone worked together to enrich our shared culture, to the chagrin of classical record labels.
Every day, it seems like Kickstarter is evolving into a kind of dream factory — manifesting the dreams and wishes of an individual that shares a vision with their community.
If this is the future of fan funding, I'm in.
I've written a couple times about YouTube's Content ID in the past, the powerful and oft-abused technology used to automatically detect potential copyright infringement and allow the purported copyright holders to block or monetize videos.
You probably saw Isaac's adorable lip-dub proposal, choregraphed by a bunch of drama geeks in Portland.
In the Vimeo description, they also posted the video to YouTube, which is now "blocked on copyright grounds." There's only one possible infringement claim, and that's the soundtrack, which used Bruno Mars' "Marry You."
Despite the fact that Bruno Mars himself loved the song:
Congrats to Isaac Lamb and the future Mrs..I don't think I could've made a better music video for this song. Thank you vimeo.com/42828824— Bruno Mars (@BrunoMars) May 26, 2012
Before blocking copies of the YouTube video, Warner Music Group filed a DMCA notice with Google to remove 27 links to the song from their search results.
There's a strong argument that their non-commercial use of the song should be fair use, and that hyperlinks from Google should never be censored, but let's just grant WMG the benefit of the doubt. It's their song, and they're clearly the copyright holder.
Instead, I want to draw attention to the other claimants for the YouTube copyright takedown — Keshet, La Red, and Scripps Local News.
I wasn't able to find any information about Keshet and La Red, but why would Scripps be listed in the copyright claim?
A number of Scripps-owned local ABC TV affiliates aired the story, like this report from ABC 2 Baltimore. Content ID is smart enough to detect partial use of a video, and now even detects the melodies in cover songs. But it's not smart enough to figure out that the original video predated the newer upload, as in this recent example with a comedian's video broadcast on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
So the Scripps TV broadcasts are indexed by YouTube, and the Content ID robots do the rest. And because Content ID disputes are judged by the copyright holder, complaints are routinely ignored or denied.
As a final stupid footnote, there are still multiple copies of Isaac's proposal on YouTube. The most popular? This one — uploaded by a TV news network.