On duplication, recommendation and Cool Bands Made Uncool

by Josh Kimball

Last week, an amusing, music-related meme popped up on Twitter. The nugget of the idea – “Cool Bands Made Uncool” – was to take a band name and add something to it to give it nerd flair. Fleetwood Mac becomes Fleetwood PC (many times over); Megadeth becomes Megabeth. You get the picture; it’s easy to get – and that’s sort of the point.

Below is a sampling of some of the Cool Bands Made Uncool that appeared on Favrd (plus a couple more):
The Whom
Memetallica
50 Centrum
Hug
Sigur Ray
Steppenwalrus
REO Stationwagon
Nine Inch Toenails
Ham Radiohead
Bacterial Culture Club

Although the meme seemed to have peaked sometime on Tuesday, new ideas continue to roll in. (I, for the record, made one very brief foray into the genre.)

The two things I find interesting about this and other mini-memes centers around the scalability of ideas and the potential to use this platform to figure out what one might want to think about next.

Viral ideas that are Gutenbait – tumblrs that seem almost as if they’re optimized to garner book deals – usually aren’t very deep. They’re easily graspable, one-trick ponies – to wit: This Is Why You’re Fat – that happen to scale well; in this case, in a specific direction beyond tumblr (and toward traditional publishing). Even smaller amusements, like twitter memes, also demonstrate a scalability of concept; one that’s become increasingly easy to watch play out from start to finish, and one that might also hold some significant potential beyond fleeting entertainment.

As one watches Cool Bands Made Uncool spread, it’s immediately apparent that duplication – purposeful and accidental – quickly piles up as the crowdsourcing around this type of little ideas surges. The Dead Kennedys take a thousand different zags off the same zig – The Alive Kennedys, The Remaining Kennedys, The Alive-And-Kicking Kennedys. REO Speedwagon becomes R.E.M. Speedwagon, REO Stationwagon (multiple times). The Who becomes The Whom to one person and then to a dozen more, replicating through creativity or mimickry, whichever.

One can watch the memes morph, as well. Instead of changing band names, smart asses take up different tacks. Cool bands made uncool? Try U2. Or simply “You like them.

Other twitterers stay on track, following the idea to places of delicious absurdity. Kernel Panic at the Disco. A Letter Writing Campaign Against the Machine. And my favorite; quirky, stupid and fantastic: Echo and the Furcon Attendees. From some dude from Portland. Whom I didn’t even follow. And probably won’t ever. And probably will never cross paths with again.

The thing that I’ve found compelling about twitter for the past couple years – the core of this post that I’ve barely even brushed up on (because I can’t yet adequately explain it) – is that the platform feels like the start of a recommendation engine for ideas. One can see it easiest in these little memes – where the action is sped up. Just as Last.fm can monitor one’s musical decisions and recommend “neighbors” whose tastes greatly overlap, twitter – though the tools are still dull at this point – can align users with their own “neighbors,” based purely on ideas.

There’s much more to say about this; so more to come. I guess.

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