In 1968, Andy Warhol declared, "In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes." Maybe everyone being famous for 15 minutes is still part of a future we haven't achieved yet, but we're getting closer to something like it thanks largely to the Internet.
In 1968, Andy Warhol declared, "In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes." Maybe everyone being famous for 15 minutes is still part of a future we haven't achieved yet, but we're getting closer to something like it thanks largely to the Internet. We've seen fame coming to a variety of unlikely corners of the net, from a book deal for the guy who writes about stuff white people like to a MySpace celebrity getting her own dating reality show on VH1. But for many of the things that become "Internet famous," the creators behind the phenomenon remain out of the spotlight while their blogs get all the fame. It's not about lack of recognition; it's about a blog or a website becoming viral and achieving a kind of fame that transcends the people who made it.
Last week, in the wake of one of the worst few days for Wall Street ever, a friend Chris made his Facebook status message read something about it being a bad year for Wall Street but a banner year for pictures of sad guys on trading floors. I pinged him and within 15 minutes of my IM he'd set up a blog for us on Tumblr: http://sadguysontradingfloors.tumblr.com. We immediately started to curate and caption photos of traders accompanying stories about the stock market's decline. There were lots of them. The inclusion of a sad-looking trader with an article about the end of the financial world as we know it was an instant Internet meme.
I sent the Sad Guys on Trading Floors link to my IFTF colleague, friend, and blogger extraordinaire David Pescovitz. David posted our blog to his, BoingBoing, which is one of the most widely read blogs on the web. From there, it took off like a highly contagious virus. Some of the blogs mentioned Chris and I by name, but once we started to get into the bigger publications' blogs like New York Times: Economix and Wall Street Journal: The Wallet, the bloggers talked about the site and its content but never about us. But the blog was linked on social sites like MetaFilter (who railed on the lameness of our comments, sorry MeFi!); on magazine blogs like Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish on TheAtlantic.com; Twittered by what seem to be a lot of people (and they're still Twittering us); and mentioned on CNBC.
On the first full day our blog was up on Tumblr, we had 259,390 page views. In Internet numbers, that's huge.
Chris and I were, and quite frankly still are, dumbfounded. All we did was agree on a noticeable phenomenon that we thought was funny (photos of distressed-looking traders accompanying stock market articles), open an account on Tumblr (Chris did that part), scour the web for pictures of sad traders (not hard to find; news site slideshows were a godsend), save the pics to our desktops, upload, write some captions that we at least found mildly amusing, and post. Our friends know we were behind it, but to most people, "we" are just some nameless people behind monitors who compiled a blog of pictures and captions. The blog kind of speaks for itself and became an entity unto itself. A few people took the time to find our email addresses and send us some "fan mail" and people on Tumblr reposted us. Some really good friends actually IMed me the link without knowing that I was a co-blogger until I told them.
On other sites some comments praised us, some made fun of our captions, and some comments pointed out that it was unfair to "blame the traders," since they were only at the behest of the big guys on top of Corruption Mountain. But that's not even what we were doing. We just thought it was funny that every single news article about the stock market was accompanied by a picture of a sad trader making a sad face, whether the expression was one of genuine dismay snapped during a time of actual crisis or had nothing to do with the declining stock market.
So does this count as my 15 minutes of fame? Who knows. A blog a friend and I made on a whim certainly got its 15 minutes of fame, but I'm not sure he and I personally did. But maybe this is what Warhol meant by 15 minutes of fame, that one day ideas and creations would take off—but only the people behind the ideas and their friends really know or care about who's behind the creation or creations. It's as if Warhol forecasted Internet fame before the Internet existed.
Somebody made a mashup with the images!
— Jess Hemerly, October 2008