Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

PostSecret

VitalsPostSecret

URL: http://www.postsecret.com
Affiliations n/a
Launched: January 2004
Author(s): Various and anonymous, and run by Frank Warren
Google Links: 28,000
Technorati Rating: 1,460 /1362nd most popular blog
Run On: BlogSpot.com

Coolest dreamsWhat started as an art project four years ago, when Frank Warren distributed 3,000 blank postcards in his neighborhood, asking recipients to write their secrets on the back and mail it back to him, has turned into an internet phenomenon, PostSecret. Every week, he gets thousands of postcards, covered in secrets, mailed to him. Every Sunday, he posts ten on the PostSecret blog without editorial comment. This model was successful enough to garner Frank Warren international press coverage and links from other blogs.

Wikipedia, ever current on online phenomena long before they hit mainstream press, offers a timeline for PostSecret’s growth and Franks’s experimentation with the blogging format. In June 2007, he enabled comments, but within two weeks, had disabled the feature. However, what Frank did begin to do was post emailed responses he had gotten to some of the postcards, some expressing support and empathy, and others that were vaguely threatening. One example is an email that was posted, indicating that someone out there knew the sender of a postcard that exposed a years-long affair. The stakes are as high as the submitters choose to make them.

Yellow TapeWhy PostSecret is so popular has much to do with how Frank uses the blog. He distances himself from the content of the postcards, acting as a medium for transmission of secrets than an arbiter of right and wrong. The lack of interactivity between the visitor and the site creates a space for contemplation, making the visitor a viewer and voyeur, to read postcards free from distraction. There are also no archives that one can access, but this hasn’t prevented postcards from disseminating over hundreds of websites and blogs.

Frank’s motives are outlined in a short video clip on his page, but in essence, he does it to offer relief to those who may not be brave enough to confront their own fears. However, these good and noble intentions didn’t prevent PostSecret from being taken offline in September 2007 when BlogSpot mistakenly categorized the blog as a spam blog, or splog. It was quickly reinstated.

In the words of one poignant postcard, “I have no secrets left to write. I’ve read them all here.” PostSecret is wildly popular, spawning several books, because we have the ability to empathize and we treasure the thought that the unadulterated truth can be found in cyberspace.

Advertisements

I Can Has Cheezburger

Vitals

lolcatlogo.pngURL: http://icanhascheezburger.com
Affiliations: n/a
Launched: January 2007
Author(s): Pet Holdings, Inc.
Google Links: 75,000
Technorati Rating: ca. 12,700 / 10th most popular blog
Run On: WordPress.com

Messing with perceptions

The I Can Has Cheezburger blog chronicles the explosive growth of a certain internet image macro, usually depicting a cat (or in some variations, other cute creatures) in a funny situation with chatspeak overlaid onto the image. The roots of the lolcat (or “laugh out loud” cat) macro isn’t traceable to a single author, as it has perpetuated itself over and over again onto hundreds of different websites in the last few years.

 

Dumbledore is gay?This blog’s importance in the context of the larger blogosphere is minimal, but its great popularity suggests it has struck a chord with the internet-surfing public. Its democratic model of allowing anyone to create a lolcat and distribute it to friends, usually without attribution, is attractive to the average web user with access to cuddly creature pictures and wanting to offer their take on a silly situation. Naturally, some lolcats inevitably make pop culture references, anthropomorphicizing the newsworthiness or significance of a cultural item.

Although there are many blogs that post lolcat pictures, I Can Has Cheezburger is the most popular one. Its success lies in the exclusivity of its content, posting only lolcat and related pictures. The website strives to be as user-oriented as possible, soliciting lolcat submissions from visitors and enabling visitors to rate each picture, and bookmark and share the images through social applications such as Digg.

Alien invasionThe editors and authors of the website are not readily identifiable, as the images become the forefront of the discussion and the reason that people visit the blog. Since there are no stakes except whether a lolcat picture is truly funny or not, voted in numbers of cheezburgers by the site’s visitors, there is no need or requirement for the editors, or the creators of the lolcat pictures to have any special expertise. To make the process even more democratic, there is a lolcat image generator anyone can use to create their own piece of viral internet culture.

The near-universal appeal of cats, silly captions, and the chance to induce a chuckle in another web user with a little Photoshop magic explains why I Can Has Cheezburger is so popular. Some people like comis strips, others lolcats.

Flying Spaghetti Monster

Vitals

FSM BigURL: http://www.venganza.org/
Affiliations: n/a
Launched: August 2005
Author(s): Various, run by Bobby Henderson
Google Links: 4,500
Technorati Rating: 1,679 / 996th most popular blog
Run On: WordPress

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is the god in a parody religion created by physics students Bobby Henderson in 2005. Infuriated by the Kansas State Board of Education, which was seriously considering instating the mandatory teaching of “intelligent design” theory in science classrooms, Bobby Henderson sent a letter explaining that if they wanted to have ID taught, they should have Flying Spaghetti Monsterism taught too, as it was just a valid of a theory of how life began. (To learn more about the tenets of FSMism, click here.)

What began as a joke fueled by anger in 2005 snowballed into something bigger online, as more blogs began to link to Verganza.org and pick up the story. Soon, more people began to visit and call themselves Pastafarian. A quick search on Facebook reveals that thousands of people have listed “Pastafarian” as their religious orientation. Today, the FSM blog keeps abreast of the latest science and creationist-related news, written in an irreverent tone. News in the FSM community, particularly the plight of Pastafarians standing up for their religion, is also highlighted.

FSMHowever, there is more than just a blog here. There are discussion forums and live chat, and a range of other pages about the FSM. However, the blog represents the public face of FSM, which has gained a cult-like following among students in particular.

The stakes in this debate between the role of religion in school classrooms in the United States are high to the educators, non-Christians, and others concerned with the erosion of the separation of church and state in the US. Naturally, the creationist/intelligent design groups also feel that their children’s faith is threatened by the lack of consideration of a more fantastical explanation for the beginnings of life. But Verganaza.org tackles this religious versus secular debate in a completely novel manner that manages to appease the science-minded who have a sense of humor and completely knock the traditional creationists off their rockers.

The beauty of this website is how it continually evolved from just a blog to a full-fledged community where the words of others, such as in the hate mail they publish, or the last issue of National Geographic, build a tongue-in-cheek case for worshipping spaghetti.