May 2, 2008
Posted in: Life & Culture
(Apologies for not posting lately, life has been spitting in my face.)
I’m mildly obsessed with the internet. Actually, mildly is putting it mildly. I’m overwhelmingly obsessed with the internet. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that for almost my entire life I’ve had to deal with dial-up internet. That’s the issue with living in the country, slow internet. Things changed when I got to MIT. Instead of being plugged into the wall in order to get slow internet, all I have to do is turn on my computer in order to get blazing fast internet. As such I was very rapidly acquainted with such gems as Homestar Runner, XKCD, Leeroy Jenkins, and Fark. The Internet became my playground, providing me with an endless array of useless time wasting goodies.
On February 28th I got an e-mail inviting me to something called ROFLCON. ROFLCON? What's a ROFLCON? I read on:
A conference/convention about internet culture. Come celebrate and mingle with your favorite internet memes and engage in academic discussion about the past and future of internet culture. We'll have academic panels, artist workshops, unmoderated talks, a Concert of the Internet (ft. Group X, Lemon Demon, Trocadero, OCRemix, and Leslie and the LY's), and a huge party with all your favorite internet celebs rocking out.
*The Brothers Chaps, creators of Homestar Runner
*Randall Munroe, creator of XKCD
*Ryan North, creator of Dinosaur Comics
(a lot of other comic artists. A LOT.)
*Drew Curtis, founder of Fark.com
*moot from 4chan
*I Can Has Cheezburger
*Rooster Teeth, the creators of Red vs. Blue
Oh. My. God. The internet is coming! To Boston! Like, like 10 minutes from where I live! Let's just say that I was officially registered within 3 minutes of reading that e-mail. Who was obnoxious for the next month waiting for ROFLCON? I was!
"Hey guys, did you hear, the guy who invented the lolcat is coming!"
"Yes, we heard Snively"
"Did you hear that Leeroy Jenkins is going to be there!?"
"Yes, Snively, we know"
"But, but so are the Brothers Chaps!"
My month of waiting finally ended last Friday. I woke up for physics and then after emerging from an hour's worth of pure science mind-bogglingness in some random MIT basement I headed to the Student Center for what was going to be the beginning to the two best days of my life.
Even registration at something like ROFLCON is amazing. I walked up to the registration desk, edging past dozens of people who could be internet celebrities, the beauty of it all being that even if they were famous on the internet, I wouldn't recognize them at all in person. I grabbed my badge, bought a t-shirt and lunch box (that's right, we got thermos brand lunch boxes, what now!?) and started grabbing free goodies. This is when I saw my first internet celebrity. I would have felt bad if I hadn't seen him, he was kind of hard to miss.
Working his way through the crowd was Tron Guy in full costume. He stopped nearby me and started chatting with a bunch of us. We asked the typical questions that he probably answers all the times, but the one thing we made sure to ask was why he wasn't lit up? I mean, half the reason his costume is so cool is because it lights up. This is when he started revealing hidden battery backs and switches all over the costume, lighting up the entire thing (including the Frisbee on his back). We were then faced with a full-blown Tron Guy. Photo Opp!
Unfortunately after registration I had to go take a math test. I should take this opportunity to say that my entire goal during ROFLCON was to find Leeroy Jenkins and meet him. The issue with doing that is Leeroy Jenkins is only a voice, I had no idea what he looked like. Well, during my math test they had the opening ceremonies and who was the MC? Leeroy Jenkins. Of course, why wouldn't they make me miss it? Now everybody had seen him and heard him do the yell, everybody but me. *shakes the hand of cruel irony*
After my math test and during lunch I glanced out the window and saw G4 interviewing some random guy.
Curious as to why this random guy was so special and deserved an interview I went outside to get a better view and perhaps overhear a part of the interview. All of a sudden this guy started dancing wildly, the reporter too! What's going on!?
I didn't figure it out by the time the interview was over and both had left so I just chalked it up to some weird random event and went on my way. After a presentation in another class I hustled to my first event of ROFLCON: "Before the LOL" with Jason Scott (creator of TextFiles)
I won't bore you with everything he said because most of it probably comes off much better in person than in type, but I will show you some pictures of slides.
I apologize to those who find this offensive, but seriously, funny
The emoticons that were around back in 1989
The guy who invented the smiley emoticon
My computer, watching the live stream and the real thing at the same time
Jason Scott finished his presentation and it was time for the next one: "Surviving Internet Fame with Tron Guy and Matt Harding"
Seated at the table were two guys, both of whom I recognized:
Hey! It's that weird dancing guy!
After realizing that this strange dancing character was somebody of note, I dug around on the internet and found this video:
Ah! So he wasn't just doing a weird dance, he was doing the "I go to a bunch of countries just to do this dance" dance.
Both the Tron Guy and Matt had a great panel, discussing just what it was like to all of a sudden show up on thousands of websites and be thrust into the limelight. At the end of it Tron Guy dazzled us with a light show.
The next day I woke up bright and early for the first panel of the day, featuring some of the coolest internet people ever! Who was on the panel?
Rooster Teeth (Red vs. Blue), Brad Neely (Superdeluxe.com), The Brothers Chaps (Homestar Runner), Rob, Kris, Matt, Dave (Cyanide and Happiness)
From right: Brad Neely, Rooster Teeth, Rob, Kris, Matt, Brothers Chaps
SO MUCH INTERNET AT ONE TABLE! Their discussion was great, lots of talk about how they run their websites, how they got started, what the future holds, but through the whole thing I couldn't help myself from thinking "I need to get ALL of their signatures!" When the panel ended I ran up with my red lunch box and started collecting signatures. This is when I got my favorite picture of the entire weekend.
One of the Brothers Chaps, creators of Homestar Runner, signing my lunchbox with his Homestar Runner puppet talking into the microphone
The day continued with free pizza for lunch and a session that involved watching nothing but undiscovered YouTube videos (the list can be found here. That was AWESOME! The guys from JibJab were sitting right in front of me throughout, laughing just as hard as anybody else. They even premiered some brand new videos they made, not yet on the internet (so you don't get to see them yet, neener neener). I snagged more signatures for my lunch box before I headed out to the next panel which was being hosted by Anonymous.
Anonymous are the people in V masks that protest the Church of Scientology. I'm against the Church of Scientology as well, but Anonymous is a terrible organization that should just go away. Just trust me, don't think they're cool, they showed their true colors at ROFLCON and they aren't good people.
Moving on, the last big panel of the conference was one that featured moot (4chan), Randall Monroe (XKCD), and Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics). Since the anticipated audience was bigger than the lecture hall could hold, security made everybody come outside and then counted people as they filed single file into the lecture hall. Ben Peters and I, being the MIT students we are, realized there was a better solution than this: The secret ninja entrance. We escaped the crowd and went into the tunnels, winding around a maze of twisty little passages, all alike, before arriving at a door. This door just so happened to be the stage entrance to the lecture hall we needed into. We just walked through the door and sat down in the front row while throngs of people fought tooth and nail in line, probably willing to trample as many people as necessary to get the seats that Ben and I had just taken. MIT students FTW! What was our view of the panel like?
Front row center, w00t!
This panel was insane! Several things of note happened:
1) I saw Kyle MacDonald sitting in the audience.
2) The entire audience hissed at moot for starting 4chan (we then proceeded to be completely fascinated, completely forget our prior misgivings, and ask him all sorts of questions). Among them were "Do you take responsibility for the RickRoll?
"Do you take responsibility for lolCats?"
"Do you take responsibility for anything that comes from your website!?"
3) The jerks at Anonymous decided to storm the stage with a stereo and interrupt the panel. They were met with booing and yelling. They refused to get off the stage, even when ROFLCON security tried to get them off.
Nobody likes you, go away!
Randall and moot eventually decided to express their opinion on the matter.
Note the XKCD stick figure with mask and moot writing "That sucked" in the speech bubble.
4) Randall looks over at moot and says "This may be completely out of line, but will you do a barrel roll?"
Don't get it? Here's the wikipedia excerpt:
[Do a Barrel Roll] often cited on websites such as 4chan, GameFAQs and YTMND. The meme generally involves offering the advice, "Do a barrel roll!" to anyone asking for any sort of advice. The term was commonly used by callers to Tom Green's online show to heckle him prior to the implementation of a call screener.
moot: "Sure!" *stands up, does a barrel roll, audience cheers wildly*
5) An audience member says to Randall Monroe "Randall, it's probably safe to say that this audience is obsessed with you so much so as to be willing to do anything for you. Is there anything you want us to do?"
Randall got this wonderful look of "That is so SAD!" on his face, but then realized he actually had to answer the question. He thought for a little bit, and then remarked "Well, I already used my barrel roll request, but I guess I could use it again. Do a Barrel Roll!"
The entire audience proceeded to set down their laptops, stand up, and do a barrel roll.
Look at how AWESOME we are!
Sadly, it all had to come to an end and we were soon made to leave. We all headed over to the Media Lab for a reception with free pizza. The issue? There was no pizza. Instead there was just a bag.
with stuff in it
Ben and I went to Dominoes instead, cashing in on the 5-5-5 deal. While there we went over all of the autographs on our lunch boxes. Here's my lunch box:
Can you find all of the following signatures?
Jib Jab guys
The Brothers Chaps
Dinosaur Comics guy
Cyanide and Happiness writers
Red vs. Blue Creator
Guy who made the Chuck Norris joke famous
Randall Monroe (XKCD author)
After Dominoes we decided we were done. ROFLCON was over and we had seen everybody we wanted. Well, almost. I never saw Leeroy Jenkins and Ben really wanted to meet Randall Monroe. We agreed that we'd walk back by the lecture hall where the last panel had taken place to see if either were around. We walked up and who did we see? LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRROOOOOYYYYYYYYYY JENKINS! YES! Finally, it took two days but we got Leeroy alone. Photo Opp!
That guy in the middle? That's Leeroy Jenkins!
I got his signature on my lunch box (which you may have already seen because due to timeline and organizational issues I kind of had to blog it before I blogged the actual encounter) and then Ben and I went our separate ways.
Unfortunately we didn't see Randall Monroe there but on my way back to my dorm, walking down the Infinite, I saw Randall chatting with the Cyanide and Happiness guys, which is when I snagged my final signature of the conference. My lunch box was full, I was happy, and ROFLCON was over. Saturday? It was a good day.
(For more info on ROFLCON check out http://www.roflcon.org. They're thinking of making it annual!)