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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Brief Readership Spike

A few weeks ago - March 1, 2010, to be exact - the band OK Go! released the "Rube Goldberg machine" version of the video for their song "This Too Shall Pass." It's a remarkable piece of video, and instantly went viral. Half a dozen of my Facebook friends immediately posted it, one with the comment "WATCHITWATCHITWATCHITWATCHIT". (I have learned to trust her musical tastes, so I did.) Within hours, almost everyone was watching it. Within days, almost everyone had watched it. And within a week, anyone who brought it up was essentially told, "Oh, that's so last week."

The day before yesterday I noticed a spike in the readership of my blog, Another Monkey. I expected this would be another Cathy Baker spike, or another mass outbreak of headless rabbit discoveries, or another group of people desperately seeking the solution to Facebook's js3250.dll bug. But it wasn't any of these things. Instead the entry that was attracting all the attention was this one:

Another Monkey: Harry Potter and the Schizotypal Personality Disorder

I looked it up and anxiously began re-reading it to see what kind of dumbassed comments I had made in that post. And what I found was...pretty good. Well-researched, occasionally even beyond the Wikipedia level. Pretty well written, too. Well, this was during those months when I was laid off; I really didn't have any excuse for not writing, and for not writing well.

But who were these people? My SiteMeter told me that the traffic was coming from Facebook, but that was where the information ended. Was this a Facebook group for Harry Potter fans? A Facebook Schizotypal Personality Disorder support group? A Facebook group for Psychologists? I had no idea. A single anonymous comment didn't help. Looking deeper into SiteMeter showed that someone had originally discovered the post while Googling "harry potter and personality disorders" or something like that - the exact wording is now lost to the aether. Soon there was another search engine hit for a slightly different wording of the same search. And then the flood of Facebook hits started coming.

It has subsided.

Maybe I'll never know who these people were or who directed them to my post. Maybe a few of them liked what they saw and decided to stick around or come back for more. Maybe one of them will read this post and fill me in. I don't know.

I don't know how OK Go! is doing. I had heard a Morning Edition report on them a few weeks before the video came out, about conflicts they had had with their record company (EMI) over allowing fans to embed the video of "Here It Goes Again" - the "treadmills" video that came to be a prime example of the "viral video." Another report released shortly after the "This Too Shall Pass" video hit the Internet indicated that the band had broken with their label and started one of their own - a risky venture in the best of times. I suppose I could glean some information from the band's website.

But going viral isn't what it used to be. What used to happen over the span of weeks or months has now been reduced to days or hours. Any fame is fleeting. Like the song says, "This Too Shall Pass."

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