HBR: The Three Scientific (and Quite Surprising) Factors that Make a Message Go Viral

Srini Pillay (Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School, teacher, and author), writes about a study in Harvard Business Review, where an MRI scan is used to test for correlations between neural activity and sharing content.

A recent study demonstrated that we can successfully predict which messages will go viral and which will not. This study showed that the ideas that are destined to spread have a characteristic signature at their origin — that is, quite literally, within the brain of the sender. These messages specifically activate key regions in two circuits in the sender’s brain: the “reward” circuit, which registers the value of the message to the sender, and the “mentalizing” circuit, which activates when we see things from the point of view of the person who receives the message…

…The more you value an idea that you want to spread, the more likely you are to be successful at spreading it.  In addition, the more accurately you can predict how others will feel about the message, the more likely you are to be successful at spreading this idea. These findings are profound because they imply that we can predict which messages will go viral…

…when you also register that your actual value is that you are investing in helping to cure people from their illnesses or shorten their durations of suffering (“y”).  You may not be right all the time, but if this is your genuine reward, your brain’s reward circuit will be activated because this will always be true

How will they feel about the fact that you have a history of success in biotechnology investing? How will they feel about their own investment in the well-being of the world? Do they care about communicating this to their families? Would they be excited about the rapid advancements in this field and seeing the newness of the opportunity? Here again, these different aspects of how your audience thinks will help to accentuate the activation in your mentalizing circuit — where you form a mental picture of the audience’s needs and wants.

it would make a difference if he or she actually wanted to spread the message rather than just passively feeling that the message is valuable. This implies that it matters when you think of how a message can be useful to others rather than simply thinking about yourself.

All three factors (value, mentalizing, and intention to spread) point to the fact that the social currency of a message matters at the very source of the message.

On one hand, my initial reaction is that this is too idealistic.

However, the researcher in me can’t argue with experimental data.  Which is why the article leads me to self-reflect.  Oftentimes, I do blog with the objective of just shouting into the void.  Of curation. Very self-focused objectives.  When, if people (including me) and brands would start growing a sincere interest in being useful…maybe, that is all that really matters.

BuzzFeed’s Olympics Coverage: Sports for the Internet Generation

*Feature image from SB Nation

Only got around to surfing about the Olympics today.

And boy, was I happy to see BuzzFeed.

What do I mean by saying “Sports for the Internet Generation”?

It takes advantage of the main strengths of the web – heavy on visuals (lots of GIFs!!!); always involving storytelling and just — “human”.  They’re always either funny, cheeky, sexy or intriguing.

Deadspin has interesting features, too.  But for some reason, they feel a bit staid.

Some of my favorites from BuzzFeed:

1. Usain Bolt’s Historic, Theatrical 100m Victory In Pictures

by Mark Blinch – Reuters

Compare that to Deadspin’s Usain Bolt Outruns Human Nature.

2.  Gabby Douglas’s All Around Gymnastics Gold in GIFs

3.  Completely Disorienting Synchronized Swimming Photos

4.  Olympic Booty Appreciation

5.  The Complete Guide To Olympic Sneakers

6.  Where Are They Now? The 1996 Olympic Gymnastics Team

7.  32 Super Hot Pictures of the German Men’s Gymnastics Team

by Mike Blake – Reuters

8.  14 Adorkable Photos of the US Olympic Team Dancing

9.  Ryan Lochte’s 18 Fashion Rules

“8. Wear sparkly sneakers.”

by Jeff Haynes, Reuters

10.  And one of my favorite features:

27 Things to Love about Tomaz Gonzalez

Deadspin has its fair share of fun gymnastics articles, too. Like:

Olympic Gymnast Hair, An Appreciation

And the almost seemingly exclusivist, but possibly well-meaning:

Black Gymnasts Who Kicked Ass for Team USA

(I don’t know whether they were thinking that this would honor the gymnasts.  But deliberately mentioning how few and rare they were, almost seemed to emphasize that it was a white-woman dominated sport.

It was like the Serena Williams crip-walking incident.  You see that hurdler dancing before she ran, but it just made her seem like a sex symbol.  Why does Willams’ dance have to be political?  Of course, you don’t see people making articles entitled “Black women who kicked ass in tennis”.  I’m confused.

Maybe they should make a White Men/Women Who Kicked Ass in Basketball for Team USA article.)

If there’s anything that I can clearly see about the change in treatment and response between the 2012 Olympics and prior Games, is the well more light-hearted, multi-dimensional and “sexy-fied” treatment of the athletes.

I’m not complaining; I think it’s cool.  It points to the “celebrit-ization” of sport; of fitness.  And the Internet amplifies that.  In the same way that actors, musicians can now show facets of their lives online, why not athletes.  They’re young, fit – basically, in the prime of their life.  So of course they’ll have a possible market for people who want to look at their bodies, make fun of their weird fashion choices, or just want to admire their technical competence.  Hooray, Olympics+Social Media+Aggregators!

Kitty Pryde: This makes sense.

This is Kitty Pryde.

You are going to want to, at least, know about her.

Why?

Because if you want to intellectualize about the state of music and the “blurring of boundaries”, she is a great example to name-drop.

Kitty Pryde has been talked about on ComplexVulture, Fader, Vice, HypeTrak, Idolator, PopDust and other culture blogs.

Even the New York Times has talked about her.

She is, as Fader describes, “the internet’s preeminent coy white girl rapper”, and her video “Okay Cupid” has been making the rounds.

Now, I’m sure her music will get A LOT of flack.

Because, damn it, when I was watching the first 20 seconds, all I was thinking was “whaaaaaaaaat.”

In fact, I’m impressed that the blogs picked this up pretty quickly.  Her main Okay Cupid youtube video only has 85, 475 views, which kind of suggests this topic is at its infancy.  Of the 1,429 people who actually cared to click a button on what they felt about this, 38% clicked the thumbs-down one.

And, she gets comments like:

“what the fuck is this shit”

“omg please stop singing”

and “She’s 17 writing the lyrics of a fucking 14 year old girl trying too hard.”

and, one of my favorites: “its like rebecca black all over again :/ with more.. words.. ”

along with: “i give up on life”

From HypeTrak, there’s also: “Really Hypetrak? so many trill nigggas doin they thing and this is what you post? smh….RIP HT”

So what’s there to like?

I actually don’t enjoy her Okay Cupid song as much as her Justin Bieber song.  Which is actually a response to his cult of fans and the baby-daddy incident.  Listen to it.

But, as usual, I love her in a “meta” way.

What do I mean?

I mean: I love what she represents.

For one, I love the whole “package”, the whole “non-marketing marketing*” approach.

(*Yes, like “no makeup makeup”).

I love that her EP is entitled “The Lizzie McGuire Experience”.

I love that her Bandcamp page has close-up, self-taken pictures of her face with black mascara trails streaming from her eyelashes and showing off her inner lip tattoo.

She is authentic.

Or, at the very least, feigns authenticity.  The kind of current “real-ness” that proper adults and “good values” see as icky.

But, she does precisely what teenagers on tumblr do.

This is the best example to support how one teenage girl (who I interviewed last year) explained her liking Miley Cyrus, as a personality, over Taylor Swift.

Because, she said, Taylor Swift is “less real”.

Her songs are all about love and liking the boy who doesn’t like you back; she beams heart-shapes into the world, which might be relatable for her 12-year old fangirls.

On the other hand, you have Miley Cyrus, who is out there making mistakes, trashing her own name, trying to break out of the mold her parents brought her up in.

Which sounds much more like a 17-year old.

And, I think authenticity especially matters when making music.

In my opinion, successful music is authentic.

Meaning it represents something true about a culture, an image or an experience.
It’s why, for me, although many great songs have universal appeal, the way they sound and the way they’re made is culturally specific.
We tend to laugh at people who just mimic or copy musical styles. But, as it has often been said, good artists steal and we now have a culture where “everything is a remix“.
What gives away that something is just a copy is when it isn’t owned.  South Korea creates successful pop songs, because they embraced it.  They got Western ingredients and made it their own.  They practiced it from childhood and honed their pop sensibilities.

Try to listen to popular songs about the social condition from the 70’s, and from the present decade.

Popular music about society’s ills in the 60’s or 70’s were either folksy, rock or reggae. Sardonic, weary or lashing out.
Now, you have the addition of hip-hop.  Which, I think, also represents society’s ills, like poverty, and violence.
But it has swagger, a gritty machismo not present in the aggression of the 70’s.  A swagger that developed from the earlier years of blues, which was also a form of dealing with slavery and sorrow.
How does this relate to Kitty Pryde?

Because if Kitty Pryde made music any other way, it wouldn’t have made sense.

She can’t rap like Nicki Minaj because she doesn’t talk like Nicki Minaj or live like Nicki Minaj.
It was a lot more valid for Eminem to rap the way he did because he lived in the same kind of anger and survivalist aggression.
It’s probably like how it’s annoying to hear non-American musicians, who try to sound American when they rap, when you know they didn’t grow up talking that way.
It’s just fake.
Kitty Pryde’s songs are about her crush and social media culture, and she ‘raps’ the way she talks because that’s how it makes sense to express herself.
Not everyone’s a songstress, you know.
There have been weirder things — like Miranda July’s spoken-word songs, yet those are considered art.  More on music appreciation in a future post. (Seriously.  If you think Kitty Pryde was weird, you should listen to these.  I almost find them disturbing.)
[Watch video at your own risk.  I tend to get traumatized.]

I guess I’m just not a “hater” when it comes to people who write their own music. I may not always like the songs, but I respect the difficulty in creating them.

Lastly, I like that they actually can’t pigeonhole her.

I think that if they stopped calling her a rapper there’d be much less negativity surrounding her video.

What this means for culture is that her music can’t really be defined as…anything, which is going to be a good description for the media genres of tomorrow.  Hip-hop and rock have crossed over for a while, and I’m pretty sure I recently read an article on the alternative sound of today’s R&B. Or was it the other way around.

This kid sounds like a teenager talking on the phone crossed with a Garage Band track from someone’s basement crossed with frozen yogurt.

I don’t even know what genre you’re supposed to call that.  And that’s why I think she signifies the start of something interesting.  Because this’ll open up doors for girls who just want to sound like they’re talking on the phone, and want to express themselves, but feel pressured by Taylor Swift and Jessica Sanchez.

Link to her tumblr account: kittydothedishes

Random “Top Links” link from Complex: 15 Sexy GIFs of Celebrities Dancing

Innovative Social Media Apps: Let’s make things simpler, tangible and more relevant, shall we?

Ideating in this day and age calls for a whole other set of creativity.

I want to bookmark some of the most relevant (to me) tweaks and ideas that people thought up to harness the stream of social media…stuff.

Responses to oversharing.  No one can deny that individuals with thriving online lives experience lots of clutter.
Every day, it’s entry after entry, stream upon stream of individuals, groups, organizations sending you virtual updates.

So what can we do about it?

1. To combat the overall bombardment, Flavors.me, featured in Fast Company, collects and streamlines your different social feeds into one “page”.  Fast Company writes that it’s similar to About.me, but I’m just generally happy that there are ideas like these that are trying to corral the onslaught.

2.  But then, we also have Shu.ush, which works only within Twitter, featured on Co. Design.  I love how it literally “tones down” the din from talkative tweeters.  Just really amusing.

We’ve also got innovation ideas that make the digital Instagram stream more tangible.

3.  Printstagram takes your Instagram pictures and turns them into stickers.  via PetaPixel

Similarly, you also have Instaprint by Breakfast NYC, which is an installation or a physical photo booth that prints Instagram photos too.  Featured by Creative Applications.

How about letting someone’s Instagram stream give you travel guidance?  Enter Wander.  Featured on PetaPixel.

I think this surprisingly makes sense, since iPhone or Apple product owners would probably frequent places of interest for global counterparts with similar purchasing power.

Damn, I talk in a really boring way now.  Mental laziness.

4.  Also, to make things easier to grasp for the Pinterest generation, Brazilian agency ionz creates infographics out of users’ personal informaton (likes, dislikes, favorites) to create your “digital persona” desktop wallpaper.  Fun idea. via Creative Applications

And lastly, for people who just want to keep their finds to themselves:

5.  Pinry.  via The Next Web

For the people who really just want to collect stuff, without sharing.

Isn’t that great – they even have apps for selfish, hoarding people! Like me!

Fangirl mode: the barbarian group

I came across the barbarian group through an article one of their co-founders wrote an article on the vulnerability of the social media giants on Beta Beat.

I’ll be watching out for their work.  They seem to be the first massive purely digital agency I’ve seen.  The others usually seem to be under multinational umbrella agencies who started in traditional media.

I also like the navigation set-up of their portfolio – which has a secondary navigation bar showcasing: new projects, case studies, featured projects, greatest hits, lab projects and a client list.

They just made it simple to find things, with clear paths.  Which is just right considering they’re in the business of interaction design.

They have an interesting blog – which both showcases their work, but also reports relevant industry-wide updates.  I found this nice article on managing “content creep” – the social media content strategy of version of feature creep.

Besides that, they have amusing personal (okay, that’s not the right word) projects like Is Pinterest the next ____? , which is their way of poking fun at all the Pinterest hullaballoo.  Although, aside from fun projects like that and a screensaver made of your friends’ Instagram feeds, they have innovation projects like a digital mirror.

5 bits of amazing design: A typography dating game, early Mac icon designs, an iPad visual declutterer, metaphorical digital installation art and Fallingwater

1.  Susan Kare’s Sketchbook

Susan Kare was an artist who was asked to design fonts for Macintosh, back in the day when there were no screen icon design apps.  The featured excerpts of the sketchbook where she drafted initial ideas for user interface icons are just an interesting glimpse into sometimes overlooked bits of web design as we use and look at them day in-day out.

2.  I love how someone thought of creating a “virtual palate cleanser”.

Sam Kronick’s Configuration Space via Creative Applications

3.  James Alliban and Keiichi Matsuda‘s Cell

Featured on Creative Applications, Cell is an interactive installation that, when you walk through it, lets social media tags “stick” to your body – symbolizing the second identities we create through our Internet profiles and activities.

4.  An animated look at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

5. Type Connection, a great bit of interaction design. via IwantTorideMYbicycle, the apricot-juice blog

A “dating game” style activity for type matching.

Really, brilliant. I would like to kowtow to Aura Seltzer  for organizing type-matching wisdom this way.

The copy is clever, the site is clean, and it’s really just educational. Woooow.