email chat with Chris Menning from Know Your Meme

I’m a huge fan of the Rocketboom spin-off series Know Your Meme so I was delighted to be contacted by Chris Menning, one of their ‘internet scientists’ who wanted to know a little about Youtube Poop.

This was back in March, before I had returned to – so I still had a little angst left in my system; so please forgive my coital comments near the end of the interview. It seems nothing came of the ‘interview’ apart perhaps from some useful background info so I thought I’d post the email here.

Chris: We’re researching the subject of Youtube Poop for an upcoming episode of our Know Your Meme video series. Over the past year we’ve been gathering info on a handful of different Youtube Poop fads, and we’re still trying to get a better picture of why different fads form within the Youtube Poop community.

Conrad:As a quick warning, I’ve not had anything to do with the site since about March 2008 – which must be at least thirty years in internet years! However I think I’ve got a good sense of how things worked.

Chris:At one point, featured a curated list of Youtube Poop videos. What motivated you to curate youtube poop in the first place?

Conrad:I discovered Youtube Poop in May 2007. There were about twenty or so people making them, half of this number were school friends, so a lots the behind the scenes dialogue took place over IM or in person. Videos weren’t tagged as poops and they were hard to find unless you knew the account names of the people making them.
I thought they were fascinating and amazing. I was also shocked that no one had bought so I picked that up, installed wordpress on it and used the category structure to show the authors.
In those early days I was very polite and also asked permission to list videos. I set up a forum too and few new names appeared so the directory grew from there.

Chris:Did you find that your selections were more likely to turn into fads than videos that you might have overlooked?

Conrad:Back then I was pretty sharp as to what was coming in; if I missed a video then a member of the forum would often bring stuff to my attention. I remember there was a few people who made really amazing videos that hadn’t heard of either the website or even youtube poop – so I’d write to them and try to get them involved. With websites I find you can’t just put it out there; you have to keep promoting, keep working – I worked for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for about six months on it all – then I had to get a job!
But to answer you question, No. fads were in the main created and used by the attention whores. Fads rarely came in from below the radar – nearly always by the most outspoken forum users.

Chris:When it comes to how likely a video might inspire a fad, how important is the quality of the content or idea in comparison with the number of subscribers that a Pooper has?

Conrad:Hardly at all I’d say. meme-economics are all about the moment. If someone makes a comment then there’d be race to get a video related to that joke online first. And they’d all be terrible! But a couple of days later one of the talented people would come along and do something properly, with a touch of talent and class and it would funny but it would be old already. So perhaps forum post count was more important than youtube subs…I remember too that the forum mods had quite a bit of influence. But they were all extremely talented poop makers so fair enough.

Chris:Are the fads born from people who wield a great amount of influence within the community or have their been some fads that came from virtual nobodies?

Conrad:I’ve known a few that came out of left-field but usually they were forum members. Don’t forget too that titles and tags were extremely divisive. “Family guy clip, lol” in the pets and animal section, when it would just be a screaming mess of video noise and a looped clip of a cow exploding! That kind of thing was bound to solicit a bit of attention no matter who made it!

Chris:What other observations have you made about the dynamics of internet memes in regard to Youtube Poop?

Conrad:I found the less meme orientated the better. Any familiar material in poop is funny once and then just annoying. The really stand out work existed in isolation using just the messed up editing methods but none of the old clips that you see a thousand times. But all that depends on ones opinion of poop – some only see it for it’s content rather than it’s form. Others just see it as cdi cutscene re-edits! It’s pretty open because a lot of people are working on it, like a language it changes.

Chris:What made you decide to close

Conrad:I think I got to about 300 poopers, each producing a new video every few days. If I watched them all I would still be watching them now! As it was I was just copy/pasting youtube urls all day. The directory just couldn’t scale. And the forum had got extremely aggressive and wasn’t about making videos anymore. Someone was using my name to send hate mail, kids were making hate videos about me and a twelve year old was sending me death threats. All a bit 4chan!

Chris:Why did you leave Chewiki? Who is managing the site now?

Conrad:The chewiki was an attempt to make thing a little more word orientated because it had got to a point of people only communicating with macros or images! I got a few scholarly type getting involved with the chewiki but inadvertently created my own monster. A handful of guys – geeks who liked the star wars prequels – set up a rival forum so I took that a cue to step back from it all. They run what’s left of the site(s). I look in on the forum from time to time, but I’ve not joined. I think most of the people i enjoyed talking to have moved on now too. Surely all those who started it all have long gone by now.

Conrad:Youtube poop must be like an old bootlegged VHS now, copied and recopied until it can hardly resemble what it was – probably a good thing!

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