What Makes an Idea Viral Part 2

Following up on What Makes an Idea Viral Part 1:

No one “gets” an idea unless:
a. the first impression demands further investigation
b. they already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea

I think these two points are all parts of the ?why does someone send an idea? line of thinking. The target, of course, must ?get? an idea, they must be able to understand it and it has to be ?truthy?, that is the idea must fit into the desired world view of the target. While the meme or creative may change the target?s current perception of the world, it cannot run counter to what the target wants to believe.

c. they trust or respect the sender enough to invest the time
There is a certain amount of self-selection that goes into deciding who a sender will pass a message to that ensures that a high percentage of the receivers will trust and respect the sender. It is also important to remember that, as noted in the last post, the effort required to send or get a message on the internet is extremely low, so there is a much lower threshold online for messenger respect. There is also a certain level of respect that can be waived if the meme has a strong hook and strongly entices the receiver to devote more time to it.

Next, I’ll do some case studies.

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What Makes an Idea Viral Part 1

Let me start the series off with a two part response to Seth Godin, here’s part 1:

No one “sends” an idea unless:

a. they understand it
On the surface this would seem to demand that the idea be simple, shallow, but it only dictates that the initial learning curve is slight. The iPod is dumbed down, it is simple but it is very smart. Everyone gets it, but nobody feels they are a too advanced user to buy one.

b. they want it to spread
I think this point should be rolled into the next one. Nobody does anything unless they want to do it, and so conversely if they want it to spread, it will. This means that the idea must give them benefit in spreading, as in Win Friends and Influence People, you must speak to what the target wants, not what you want.

c. they believe that spreading it will enhance their power (reputation, income, friendships) or their peace of mind
This doesn?t take into account viral creatives like the subservient chicken, where sheer humor was the driver, and I think peace of mind while clearly including things like urban myths, fails to address political messages explicitly enough. I would say that the idea must provide some benefit for the user if she/he passes it. There are too many ways to discreetly identify.

d. the effort necessary to send the idea is less than the benefits
Making a comparison like this seems like apple to oranges, and with the internet, the effort necessary to spread most creatives is extremely low. Most ideas, if they provide any benefit can arguably be said to provide more benefit that effort. I think this is better understood in two parts:
1. The idea must provide more benefit than predefined user-specific threshold. This threshold is roughly comparable to a sort of internet-jadedness quotient.
2. The person must have friends who they deem appropriate to spread the message to. This refers to obvious patterns like the fact that dirty jokes don?t get sent to mom, and general people only spread ideas to people they think will be topically interested in the message. Several factors influence what level of intimacy is required with a potential receiver for a person to send the message, probably the most important being the benefits described in point c. The amount of benefit is inversely proportional to the intimacy in some cases, that is, the more beneficial a message is, the further outside her close circle of friends someone will send an idea.

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AJAX Tail Implementation


I just whipped up a little PHP script that impliments the *nix command tail via AJAX in a browser, using any file available through a URL. This is useful for watching log files, because it will reverse the order of the file, that is, print what is being written to the bottom of the log file to the top of the browser window for easy viewing. The script uses AJAX to push the updates to the file through to the browser every 10 seconds. To use your file, just subsitutute your file ‘s URL for the text.txt URL given into the following URL:
http://www.danzarrella.com/tail.php?file=http://www.danzarrella.com/test.txt

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