Nine Inch Nails Tell a Transmedia Story

Monsters and Critics has what seems to be a nice write up about Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails’ “Internet scavenger hunt,” or what folks like Christie Dena would call transmedia storytelling (she writes about the NIN thing here), in the promotion of their forthcoming record:

‘Year Zero’ came to life in early February when Web-savvy fans discovered that highlighted letters inside words on a NIN tour T-shirt spelled out “I am trying to believe.” Savvy fans added a “.com” to the five words and, voila, located a thought-provoking, eerie Web site. Other associated sites created by 42 Entertainment were soon discovered, including, and, where a dark future reigns supreme.

And if dayglo tshirts tied to mysterious (and well-done) websites weren’t enough, there were even drives planted in bathrooms:

According to one post, a male fan, allegedly by happenstance, found a USB drive in a bathroom stall during a NIN concert at the Coliseum in Lisbon, Portugal. This flash drive (yes, Reznor`s idea) contained an MP3 of album track “My Violent Heart.” Additional USB drives were purportedly found in Barcelona and Manchester, England; they included MP3s of album tracks “Me, I`m Not” and “In This Twilight,” respectively.

And the real beauty of this story is that the RIAA promptly demonstrated just how massively clueless they really are:

Excited fans then began swapping and sharing these music files online. Another Web posting alleged that all this activity resulted in entertainment blog Idolator and other sites receiving e-mail from the RIAA, demanding that they remove the MP3s from their sites.

An RIAA representative confirms this, a move that boggles the minds of many. “These . . . idiots are going after a campaign that the label signed off on,” the source says.

The article claims that only songs meant to be leaked through the campaign have actually leaked. There is more and more of this going on (Boston LiteBrites anyone) in television promotion, but I think this is the first time it’s been done to this extent in music. Please right me if I’m wrong on that.

Rolling Stone piece about this, with loads of thoughtful comments, is here.

Update: Billboard‘s original story about this (from which Monsters & Critics seems to have taken the quotes) is here.

NIN fans, if you’re paying attention, comments about this are welcome!

5 secrets to success

I guess you’re finally IN the blogosphere when you get tagged with a meme, and far be it from me to turn down my first. So Joe Taylor has tagged me on the “5 things you do everyday that make you successful” meme, which is rather flattering since it presumes that I’m successful and that I have secrets to that which I could share… wherein lie the difficulties!

I’ve been reading what some others say in response to this meme and it reaffirms my sense that I am so Not Highly Effective! I thought about presenting the idealized version (“I schedule my time to ensure that I get the tasks done on time”) but the truth is that one of the top things I do to be successful is:

1. I rag on myself for not getting more done, not being more organized, not being more efficient, procrastinating, etc: Guilt is not going to be the subject of self-help books (Making Your Guilt Work For You!), but if I’m going to be honest, the sense that time is running out, that I haven’t done anywhere near enough, that others are doing more, that people to whom I’ve committed are going to be annoyed and disappointed by me, and that piles are piling ever higher is often my most powerful daily motivator.

And then there are, it’s true, some healthier strategies as well.

2. I sleep a lot: I’ve seen curves of the average amount of sleep that people need, and I am at the outer edge of ‘need lots of it.’ I don’t push myself to keep going when I’m tired. When my eyes droop, I’m off to bed, and it’s guaranteed that after a good night’s sleep I can do in 10 minutes what would have taken me an hour when tired. I also firmly believe that during sleep the mind is working hard on all the things I’m thinking about and making more progress than my conscious mind might.

3. I follow my creative impulse whenever I can: I always have a to-do list with many tasks of different sizes and shapes. Everything from ‘schedule a meeting’ to ‘review a journal submission’ to ‘write that book I just signed a contract for.’ I have never been able to slot out times for different tasks, though I bet it works great and I wish I could. I sit down and work on the thing that catches my interest that minute unless I absolutely HAVE to get something done before a SERIOUSLY IMPERMEABLE deadline (like the students are going to riot if I don’t get the grading done). My philosophy is that work goes quickly and well when you’re ready, and slowly and inadequately when you’re not, and eventually it all gets done, so I try to work on the pieces that appeal to me that minute as much as I can, even if they don’t necessarily belong at the top of the to-do list. I guess I have a very intuitive approach to work in this regard, I don’t plan it all out ahead, I let it bubble up out of me and try to balance what’s bubbling with what Has To Be Done in ways that don’t kill the bubbling too much. So (almost) every day I spend time on work that I feel like doing, not just the work breathing down my neck. This keeps me in touch with my creative spirit, keeps the good ideas flowing, and keeps work fun.

4. I keep up as best I can — and this is a challenge. I spend a lot of time every day with email keeping in touch with and building professional networks, I skim my feeds several times a day. The longer I’m around, the more I realize that those things they say about ‘it’s who you know’ are true. I try to know good people and to keep up with them when they make their way into my path.

5. I step away from the machine. I don’t work out every day like many who’ve answered this, though I bet I’d be happier and healthier if I did. But I do make an effort to remind myself to stand up, walk around, go outside, put on some tunes and dance in the kitchen while cooking dinner, and, most of all, spend some time hanging out having fun with my super-cool kids and husband.

6. Since everyone’s doing more than 5, I’ll posit my last thing, which is one I’ve been using as a Daily Rule of Thumb since at least 7th grade: I try to be nice to everyone I encounter. I don’t always succeed, but I have certainly found that treating people kindly comes back in spades over time.

So now I’m mulling which bloggers might have secrets to success I might want in on, so I’m going to tag: Henry Jenkins (I totally want a piece of his kind of proclivity for brilliant productivity!), danah boyd (ditto, though I bet she’s too busy being successful to do memes!) Sam Ford, David Silver, and Intellagirl, who seems to be on quite a roll these days.

A Whole New Way for Fans to See

I spent the last several days at a Cornell/Microsoft Research Symposium about online community. Many of the people who presented are doing fascinating research on *massive* scales (scales like: ALL the metadata from YahooGroups, or Usenet, or Everquest…). and finding all kinds of patterns that characterize and predict behavior in online groups. There were several talks about network patterns in wikipedia.

I enjoyed and learned a lot from all the presentations, but the one that really caught my fancy was Fernanda Viégas’s presentation of the site Many Eyes. Fernanda is part of a visualization design research team at IBM. This site allows anyone to input their own data in a simple columns and rows spreadsheet format (they suggest some data sources if you want to play with data but don’t have your own), and then generate all kinds of amazingly rich interactive (java-based) visualizations from it at the press of the button. You can also upload free text and get an instant tag cloud. Other people can then see, comment on, and blog about the visualization.

One of her key points is that visual representations can give us an immediate understanding (picture’s worth 1000 words and all that — and this site shows us that a multi-layered interactive picture is worth 1,000,000). Not surprisingly, among the first fans who seem to be appropriating it are sports stats people. For instance, “sportsbetting” has recently uploaded a data base from of basketball player’s points–per-game for the 2006-2007 NBA Season. It’s a bar chart and as you scroll over each line it shows you who that line represents and his individual ppg.

Harry Potter also showed up early, when the Top Fifty Most Popular Books on LibraryThing data clearly showed Harry’s popularity with great big circles:

most read books

The coolest part, from my perspective and apparently Fernanda’s as well, was that people immediately jumped on it and personalized it by interacting with the chart to highlight the books they had read, taking a screen shot, and then posting it in the comments:

personal visualizations

My thoughts went immediately to thinking how cool it would be to have band’s career concert chronologies up there so fans could do the same with the shows they’d been to. Suppose for example that one could see a tag cloud of all the songs Bob Dylan performed live (see here for previous blog on this), sized by how often the song was played. Suppose you could browse R.E.M. tours by town. Suppose you could do line graphs of the rise and fall of individual songs across Madrugada’s performing history.

I can’t think of a fandom that wouldn’t be able to find some really interesting and fun applications of this technology. For some (sports fans) it’ll be easier than others since so much of that information is already in statistical form. But if there’s one thing that’s true of fandom, it’s that there’s usually someone up to most tasks, so here’s a call to all the people maintaining, contributing to, and using those fan archives — think about how you could get your info uploaded here!

If you’re so bored that you think looking at conference pictures might be fun, you can find Marc “co-sponsor” Smith’s photostream on Flickr.

More interesting might be the tag chart of the symposium abstracts that Fernanda did (within about 5 minutes of my saying “wouldn’t it be cool to…”).