Saturday 12 February 2011

The curious tale of the mysterious triangle

The web amplifies. And here's a good example of how the silliest little thing can go viral. Of how unintentional geekness thrown together in 10 minutes can suddenly end up with people from Cologne to California commenting on that geekness and people saying thank you in quite sweet and lovely ways.

On January 12th this year I created this:
You'll need to click to be able to read it
I studied Human Resources among other things, and in that module we studied something called Maslows Hierarchy of Needs - which looks pretty similar to the above. Which is not accidental - I copied the idea and I copied the headings. I just made up the sub contents. It didn't take long to put together - look closely and you'll see some of the graphical hideousness - but it wasn't supposed to be serious, it was supposed to be a celebration but also a mockery of geek culture, because, well, if we don't laugh at ourselves...

So I threw it up on Flickr where my account is under the name whitelighted and I tweeted it and a couple hundred people viewed it and that was that.

That should have been that, really. And you know, in any other world but the one we live in right now, it would have been that.

Except something a bit odd happened. For 3 weeks after, every now and again an email from Flickr would pop into my Inbox. Very unusual. And it would tell me someone had favourited my 'photo'. No one left a comment but the views went from hundreds to thousands. About 2 weeks ago it settled at around 5000 and I thought 'well that's not a bad first attempt at an infographic', tweeted something similar and left it at that.

Then I went to the SFX Weekender, a geek camp run by a sci-fi magazine called SFX in the UK. And I tweeted the pic last Sunday night onto the hashtag #sfxweekender. And it all got a little bit silly. Because my inbox  kicked off again and so did the views. Out of curiosity I googled 'geek hierarchy of needs' and found it had been posted on Facebook in someones public stream and on a few geek sites in the States. On Wednesday I figured changing my display name on Flickr to @loulouk might be an idea so people could come find me if they wanted to. People left comments. O'Reilly Media left a comment.


You see on the top level of my pyramid are four things: speaking at TED, writing for O'Reilly, working in California and changing the world. 

TED is, and will continue hopefully to be, the best source of free inspiration and hope on the web. One day, in some dreamland that doesn't exist, I'd like to stand on stage and tell people what digital has done for me, what it has allowed me to become, how it has utterly viscerally and completely changed my life, my world, my outlook and my future. I want to tell people anything is possible and I want to tell them how important it is that they tell everyone they meet who doesn't think anything is possible that it damn well is and mean it and that they've got proof it damn well is cos they saw a girl from the bottom stand on stage and speak from the top.

O'Reilly have been on my radar since university days - mid 90's. The Llama book is my personal nemesis, the first one I owned. It's so called, because yes, you guessed it, it's got a llama on the front. In those days, as far as I am aware, every single O'Reilly book had an animal on it and thus was referred to, not by its title, but by the animal on the front of it. It was an in joke, a little, but also, geeks love visuals (it's the theme of this entire post after all) and it just worked. Every single respectable, intelligent, high achieving geek I know has owned or borrowed one of those books. Every. Single. One. As a publishing house, among geeks, they have achieved a status only rivalled by, well, TED actually. You know when you pick up an O'Reilly book, you're getting well researched, well written text which will do exactly what it says on the tin. No messing about. No authors pretending to be experts and filling the book with drivel and posturing. No. There is a reason the Computing section in Foyles has a dedicated O'Reilly shelf, okay? Trust me on this if you've never heard of them - they are epic.

So someone from O'Reilly Media commented on my pyramid. And I nearly fell off my chair on Friday when I read it. Add this pic to our group pool and our Facebook page they said. So I did. I then received a tweet from someone at O'Reilly asking me to DM them my email as they'd like to say thanks. I'm still not entirely sure what for. They also pointed out that the pyramid had been posted on O'Reilly Facebook pages in Cologne and California. That they'd posted it on their own Posterous and it had been reblogged 500 times.

So, the 11500 views and counting on that picture on Flickr perhaps only tell a part of the story. But it is a quite insane story and it doesn't end there, either. But that bit is for later when it actually happens as I think I will have to pinch myself a number of times to actually believe it even might, never mind that it will. In the meantime, thanks to a very very generous multinational corporation with more grace than I ever expected, I'm off to download some free books they gave me to say thank you.

10 minutes. 11,500 views. One slightly befuddled geek.


  1. Ha ha, good stuff. Always nice when this happens. I remember when I had a blog post linked to by Robert Scoble back in 2005 and my readership when up from 0 to a few as a result. I was walking on air for a while.

  2. cream rises to the surface hun.
    keep the faith.
    chris x