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How Did Caine’s Arcade Get Famous?

April 18, 2012 Leave a comment

By now, you’ve probably heard of Caine Monroy, a nine year old boy who built a carnival-like arcade out of cardboard boxes in his dad’s auto shop. The short documentary was viewed more than 4.5 million times in just a week, netting him a $152,000 scholarship, a non-profit foundation to help kids reach their dreams, and a real pinball machine for his arcade.

If you’ve seen the 11 minute video, you probably teared up when you saw him surprised by the big crowd at his arcade. It was truly a heartwarming, feel-good story that inspires hope and creativity in all of us.

Caine Monroy and his cardboard arcade

So how did this little guy get so immensely famous?

Because he’s a genius?
There’s no doubt Caine is a special kid who is highly intelligent for his age. Many instances in the film that displayed his intelligence:

  • he built a drop-the-claw game out of a box, hook and string
  • he would hide behind a box and feed tickets through a slot
  • he recycled a toy from a pizza restaurant and turned it into a game

But did he get famous because of his ingenuity? I would argue no. Caine is a smart cookie, but that wasn’t the reason why his story went viral.

Because he’s persistent?
As inviting as a mini basketball hoop taped to a box may sound, Caine didn’t have any customers for a while because his father’s auto shop gets very little foot traffic. His dad actually told him to go play outside, but Caine never gave up. This is definitely admirable, but persistence and determination is also not the reason he became famous.

Because he thinks like an entrepreneur?
Caine could have just invited his friends to play, but he treated his arcade like a business. He charges $1 for 4 tries and $2 for a Fun Pass, which is good for 500 turns. He also made a shirt that says “Staff” on the front and “Caine’s Arcade” on the back. Make no mistake, he took his business very seriously, which is also a rare and admirable trait. But that’s not what made him famous.

Being intelligent, persistant and business-savvy are all key ingredients to achieving some amount of success in life, but to get viral on the internet requires something else. How 5 million people came to know Caine’s Arcade has nothing to do with anything Caine did himself.

The reason why Caine went viral is because his first customer was a filmmaker who understood the power of social media.

The documentary was created by Nirvan Mullick, a filmmaker who needed a car part, wandered into the auto shop, discovered Caine, and decided to make a film. More specifically:

He created an event
Getting people excited about a kid’s cardboard games is one thing. Getting people excited about a kid’s carboard games AND inviting them to a flash mob is completely different. What made you tear up wasn’t Caine’s brilliance, it was the giant crowd of supporters surprising him at the end of the video.

When it comes to mobilizing people, the best way to build a following is to offer a specific action. Don’t just get excited about a proposed city ordinance; join us two hours before the town hall meeting next Thursday and help us make some signs. You have to give people an actionable task if you want tangible results.

He promoted the event for a month
Many times we think of videos going viral as an overnight sensation, setting the internets afire in seconds. That may be the case for some internet memes, but in this case, it was a methodical and calculated effort by Nirvan. He understood the importance of promotion using social media, creating a Facebook Event, a twitter account, a website and posting to Reddit.com, and being very active to promote the event a month before the date.

He managed the logistics
When you invite the internet to a surprise party, you have no idea what will happen. Perhaps nobody cares and nothing happens, or way too many people show up and chaos ensues. There’s no way Caine could have accommodated a large crowd by himself, especially when $2 gets you 500 turns.

Nirvan was very active to set expectations, handle logistics, and answer questions. If his message was “come check out a boy genius’ cardboard arcade, best $2 I ever spent,” there would be people showing up to play, wait in long for hours, lose patience, and leave. No, the message was always “come show your support about an amazing kid and I’m shooting a film about it.”

Also, whenever there was a question or comment, he’d address it right away. He took care of issues such as

  • where to park
  • what to do if you show up early
  • whether or not to contact the media
  • why there won’t be a bouncy castle
  • how to volunteer
  • how to make a donation

He even asked a friend to continue answering questions on the Reddit page because he was going camping for his girlfriend’s birthday and didn’t want to lose momentum planning the flash mob. This was definitely a case of someone who knew where to find people on the internet and how to manage a large event.

Overall, the story of Caine’s Arcade is amazingly brilliant, and will go down as one of the top internet stories of the year. There are many takeaways from the documentary, not just about creativity and persistence, but about the ingredients needed to create a well-organized, public event over the internet. Caine’s flash mob teaches us the importance of planning an event, allowing plenty of time to prepare, and managing the logistics – all using the power of social media.

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Who Else Does SOPA Affect?

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

On January 18, 2012, thousands of websites such as Wikipedia, reddit.com, and WordPress joined a concerted effort to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). These websites were voluntarily blacked out to demonstrate the impact of what these bills could do if passed. The federal government already has the authority to force a website to take down pirated content on its site, but the proposals in SOPA extend their authority to require Internet providers to block access, disabling search engines to link, and preventing investors from funding these sites.

The activities on January 18 turned out to be the largest online protest in history, resulting with the Legislature putting the bill on hold for now. Even President Obama showed his support.

 

Wikipedia blacked out their pages on Jan 18 to protest SOPA

Wikipedia blacked out their pages on Jan 18 to protest SOPA

 

However, it seems like almost all the focus is drawn to one place. FAQs and What-You-Need-To-Know-About-SOPA do a great job of explaining SOPA in plain language, but the focus is just on websites. I wonder if there will be any attention left for the other stakeholders affected by SOPA.

I’m not a lawyer so I’m not going to pretend to understand every word of this bill, but there were two sections that really caught my attention.

1) In Sec 205, it clearly states that the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Commerce shall “ensure that adequate resources are available…to ensure…aggressive support for enforcement action against violators of the intellectual property rights…”

What exactly does “adequate resources” and “aggressively support” mean? In our current economic climate, how do we come up with the funding to aggressively go after copyright offenders all over the world? What if it’s a country that doesn’t care about our copyrights? How does this affect our foreign policies and relationships in the international community? It would take A LOT of money to go after copyright infringers all over the world.

We got a taste of this last week, when the Department of Justice worked with New Zealand police to arrest executives from Megaupload.com. This might be the first domino to fall, but the way it’s written in SOPA is very clear: we’re going to commit to fighting piracy by opening up our pocketbooks.

I hope the next version of SOPA elaborates on this Section to clarify what this means.

 

2) In Sec 202, there is a provision for those that “intentionally traffic in goods or services and knowingly uses a counterfeit mark on or in connection with such goods and services”

To be more specific, “labels, patches, stickers, wrappers, badges, emblems, medallions, charms, boxes, containers, cans, cases, hang tags, documentation, or packaging…the use of which is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, or to deceive…”

Growing up in Southern California, there were plenty of flea markets, swap meets, and street vendors that sold designer brand products at ridiculously low prices. Walk through the city and you’ll see plenty of fake baseball caps and handbags. During the Super Bowl in 2011, federal agents seized $3.56 million worth of fake Super-Bowl related memorabilia.  I’m sure there are existing laws against the trafficking of counterfeit goods, so what is SOPA adding that doesn’t already exist?

I’m not advocating the preservation of cheap, fake goods, but I recognize there are a lot of people who make their living selling these products. I’m just curious to see how the next SOPA affects this community.

 

Overall, all signs point to SOPA to be completely revamped. Based on what we’ve seen so far, the majority of attention, at least from the mainstream media, is paid to large websites with user-generated content. It’ll be vey interesting to see how the international community and the underground economy are affected in the next iteration of the bill.

 

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Why Gov Wants The iPad to Succeed

March 11, 2010 7 comments

I’m defending the iPad. Not because I’m an Apple fanboy. Not because I’m going to buy one. But because I think there’s potential to positively change the personal computing experience in a way that helps government sleep better at night. I’m not talking about the iPad itself, but what the App store can become via the iPad.

Currently, the way most us to connect to the web is through the browser, which was meant to only take you from point A to B. Unfortunately, the world wide web is a dangerous place if you don’t know how to navigate. Every day, innocent consumers fall prey to malicious scams and phishing schemes, and there isn’t much the government can do to protect them.

With the App Store, not only do you access the internet without going through a browser, but the barriers to entry for service providers should theoretically weed out illegitimate third parties. With a structured vetting process (at least security-wise, theoretically) and a crowdsourced reviewing process, there really isn’t an incentive for virtual predators to get on the App store. For the time being, you could be pretty confident that your apps aren’t trying to steal your personal information or plant bugs into your device.

Sure, there are still security vulnerabilities, especially with mobile security being nonexistent, but that’s a different can of worms and viruses.

But there’s nothing new about the App store. It’s been around for years on the iPhone.

Yes, but limitations with the iPhone made it difficult to deliver more dynamic functionalities. With a much larger screen size and upgraded processing power, developers have a lot more freedom to have their apps mirror that of their regular websites. Imagine being able to set your fantasy football rosters as easily as you would through your browser. There will be an app for that. And hopefully, you won’t have to worry about using it. And internet policy makers will take a collective sigh of relief.