A Quick Final Reflection on the Mscret Spreadable Media Project

Over the last few months, I have been doing a project for my Masters Degree Module Research in Emerging Technologies: Social Technologies. In order to study how Media Objects spread across online social platforms, I created two media objects, specifically a recording of a instrumental pop cover which I uploaded to Soundcloud, a video based on that same recording which I uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo, and a blog based around photos of my rather ridiculous – looking Lionhead rabbit, under the name My Hipster Bunny.

This project is going to be submitted in less than two hours, but I realised that the project has continued to provide data even up to this point, which I need to mention.

The Soundcloud recording, despite earlier success in gaining views, has dropped to almost nothing, which is what happens to most media objects on the internet. Writers such as Stephen Downes have noted that in order for an object to gain importance or popularity, whether online or offline, ‘Mere transference is not sufficient.’* The idea has to stay with people.

The views on the video have dropped since I stopped promoting it on Reddit, but I continue to gain 2-3 views a day, mostly through the YouTube suggested videos and search functions, which is great as it implies that the video had gained some momentum without my needing to promote it.

Viewing statistics for ‘Wherever You Will Go’ on YouTube


This graph shows the views by day.

This graph shows where the traffic is coming from – Much of it from within YouTube. The majority of external website views were from Reddit, although some were from a small forum where I had showed the video to some friends.

Another great feature in YouTube analytics is audience retention. YouTube counts every click on a video as a view, regardless of whether the clicker stays to watch the video. Since this video was linked to the original song’s music video, it is possible that people are clicking on my video, then realising that it isn’t interesting.

This graph shows that while many people are clicking away after a few seconds, there is a decent amount of audience retention. The average retention level increased substantially on the same day that the views spiked (my ‘reddit day’) and have since dropped to stay around the 30 second mark.)

One thing that was hard to discover on Soundcloud and YouTube was anything more than general information on the people who were looking at my work, which would make it easier to discover what they liked about it. This was where sharing photos through Tumblr was great. Although I feel that it would be unethical to link any of the blogs that reblogged my photos, liked them or followed My Hipster Bunny, I discovered that they were popular among teenaged girls.

*Downes, S. “The Essence of the Meme” in First Monday (Vol. 4, No. 10, October 1999) (Accessed 15th January 2013)

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The oddities of Tumblr: Compared to Every Other Social Media Site I’ve used

Over the this Social Technologies course, I’ve used a whole bunch of different Social Media sites, and I’ve blogged about most of them. In particular, I’ve written about how each of them serve a particular purpose in networking, communicating and maintaining my Digital Identity. Some are obvious, LinkedIn is for networking, YouTube is for hosting and discussing videos. Some have a wider purpose – I’ve recently started to become a little less formal and subject focused in my twitter account now that I have a decent number of followers and I’m less scared that I’ll lose all of them as soon as I post something they aren’t interested in. However, one recent addition to my collection of social media site accounts has proven a little harder to pin down when it comes to the point of it all, and how to work with it. And that site is Tumblr.

At first glance, Tumblr seems like a blog site just like this one, if a little less word orientated. But why would I need two blogs? (Actually that would be three blogs, though I haven’t ever done much with Liketheatre.wordpress.com. One day though!) But after a discussion with my lecturer about how cute animals pictures frequently do well on the internet, I decided to create a tumblr account for my pet, or more specifically my rabbit. I also created a cat video, because, to according to this Tech Hive article and this one from Mashable, the internet loves cat, and no-one knows why. Sadly Smokey never made it very big online, but he is now a part of that culture. I did get to use the video again on the tumblr blog thougj=h.

Animals might seem a shallow thing to blog about, but it did make it easy to start with Tumblr, and figure out how it works as a social media platform.


MyHipsterBunny
is in some ways quite similar to this blog, although it’s for pet pictures and humour, it has a narrow, focussed field of subjects. It’s only pictures of my pets, and any text posts have a similar feel, since they are written as if from Jazz’s perspective. I expected to find that other tumblr blogs are the same, and some of the ones that I have looked at are. However, the pictures I posted have been reblogged by other users, and many of the blogs I found them on were very different. They were a mash up of short images, comments and other media, much of it reblogged rather than original content. These tumblr accounts are more like public scrapbooks, to showing what the blogger is doing/enjoying at the time, or perhaps an attempt to create a deliberate online persona (something I’ve talked about in the past.)

This was when I realised that my most successful posts, the ones that were getting reblogged, were photo-only. People were taking my pictures and using to them reflect someone of themselves back onto the internet. Also, these were short posts. My friend Rob Kelly has written about how shorter is sometimes better, because people don’t always have a long attention span for your work. Photos are micro-artifacts of Spreadable Media, they don’t take up anyone’s time, so people so more likely to look once and pass them on.

Jazz the Hipster Bunny strikes an accidental pose for Tumblr

The Retechsocial Diigo Group: An interactive link library

Earlier this year, I decided to make a group on the site Diigo for our whole Social Technologies class, to collect together all the useful links, articles and pieces of research in one place where everyone could easily access them. Diigo is a bookmarking website, designed so that you can find your bookmarked websites on whatever computer you are logged into (Diigo also has a nice iPhone/iPad app which I started using, though sadly it’s a stripped down version and you can’t use it to look at groups, hopefully that will get implemented soon) but the groups function does much more than that. It works a lot like a blog in that it has a tag cloud, and ways to search for tags.

tagcloud

But the best part is that you can comment on other people’s links and start discussions about it. You can also use the group like a forum, to post a comment or topic thread.

However, since we were a small class, and the Diigo group has not been up for very long, there isn’t a huge amount of this going on. Nonetheless, I believe that we have created a useful library for Social Media and Online Culture Research here.

Quick Audio-related Post – Surround Recording from December

As part of an Audio Production Project, I and one of my coursemates made a series of live music recordings, most of them at a local church. The idea was to capture the ambiance of the building as much as the musicians themselves, as the recordings were specifically made to be mixed into 5.1.

I’ll be making another post tomorrow explaining the microphone set-up, but I thought I would create a quick post for this track. We were recording an instrumental trio in the church (clarinet, acoustic guitar and violin) but the church (St. Joseph’s,Stockport) has a lovely church organ to go with it’s lovely acoustics. Of course, I am biased towards the organ since it’s the one I learned to play on. We decided to quickly reposition the mics so I could go and perform a few pieces as a bonus bit of recording, and here is part of the result (which has been mixed down to stereo, obviously, though the number of microphones needed to create the surround mean all of the wonderful building tone got captured.)

The recording is slightly muddy due to the nature of the church, it has rather old, noisy central heating, and clearly Manchester Airport was busy that day as there seemed to be planes going over constantly as well as various other outside noises. Still, you can really hear how the organ reverberates – and I wasn’t even using half of it’s volume – but then you shouldn’t for this piece. I love playing Gabriel’s Oboe on the organ, it really works well, and it’s reflective and slow enough to use as incidental music on the odd times I’m asked to fill in for church services. Better than the semi-improvised version of Bach’s Toccata in D Minor which we also recorded, but that isn’t going up here! (Unless you like really, really discordant stuff.)

Media Tags and Trends

In my last spreadable media post, I realised that I discussed the specific peaks in popularity of this video, and what was causing them, but I did not talk about the spread of views in between. Many of these came from the YouTube search page. I had made sure to try and tag my video appropriately. My friend and coursemate Nabeel Malik posted a video for his project which is in some ways similar to mine… well, it’s musical anyway, and he discussed in this post how proper tagging makes it easier for your video to spread, and be found by people who really want to watch it. On YouTube, post tags are private since people began abusing them by copying the tags of popular videos, but they still play a big part in gaining views even on videos such as mine, which aren’t hugely popular.

Note the low view spikes between the large spikes where the video was posted to other sites.

The sudden peak at the end is due to reposting the video on Reddit two days ago. It remains to be seen how soon that will drop off. It almost certainly won’t continue to rise, based on previous trends from both this video and the audio-only version on Soundcloud, which currently racks up one or two hits every few days currently, mostly from the UK, and mostly, I suspect, from my parents, though it did receive a few extra plays and some kind comments after being posted in a request thread on 4Chan. In addition, another Social Tech student, Greg Jackson has had a similar experience posting his music to various sites.

On YouTube, the Analytics page can give you a ridiculous amount of detail about specific demographics, views and trends, but one of the more interesting searches is popularity by country. Since the song is used for the basis of this video is by an American band who were very popular in the UK some years ago, so unsurprisingly they are the countries providing the most views. However the next most popular country listed is Brazil.

I decided to compare the analytics of the video to those on Google Trends, which looks at how search terms are trending worldwide. Unsurprisingly, ‘Wherever You Will Go The Calling’ as a search term is trending very highly in Brazil at present. I decided to do some more research regarding the band’s current activities if any, and it appears that the lead singer of The Calling has done a lot of work in Brazil.

From Google Trends – Highest trending countries for the search term in the past 12 months (the short time scale which the site could provide. Note the UK, Brazil and the US are quite high, which matches the YouTube statistics.

Nabeel mentioned, and I agree, that often it’s unclear what makes a video, meme or internet trend popular, but many people have tried to define what it is that would help a video spread. In a post on the Council of Public Relations Firm website, writer Matt Smith suggests that a ‘clear sense of audience is needed.’* If I had researched the music and band prior to making the video, perhaps I would have expected the views from Brazil, of even been able to tailor the video to the trend in some way… perhaps by tags? Then again, I think that would also count as tag abuse to many people…

* Smith, M. “Going Viral—How to (Tastefully) Get Them to Spread Your Message” on Council of Public Relation Firms Website (Accessed 1st January 2013)