Seattle, Washington A Definitive Timeline

The thing about having your very own clever little domain name is you actually have to keep the damn thing registered. Mine expired this morning and the whole site went down for about 12 hours.

Whoops!

So I did an interview on a wacky morning radio show in Detroit the other day. We talked for 15 minutes about whether or not I’m gay. They were clinging to the idea that any guy who actually dances for pleasure and shows it to people must be a homosexual. It didn’t seem to matter to them that I dance very badly.

If it’d been the afternoon, I might’ve been awake enough to actually get annoyed. But it was 8:30 in the morning, so I just lay in bed and stared at the ceiling while they talked. When they asked if it bothered me that they were questioning my sexuality, I said, "No. We can talk about my sexuality for as long as you want."

I’m really glad I was half-asleep, as that was probably the best way to handle it.

I’m surprised to find out people still think that kind of thing is funny. I guess it’s about at the "wacky morning DJ" level of funny, which in my opinion isn’t very funny.

Still and all, listening to a couple jackasses interrogate some poor unsuspecting schlub on air is probably more entertaining to listeners than the standard 5 question interview:

"Where’d you get the idea?"

"Where’d you learn to dance?"

"Who was holding the camera?"

"How long have you been doing it?"

"What do you want to do next?"

I’ve been answering that stuff over and over, so I’m trying to come up with better responses. I realize now that there’s a real craft to interviews, and I’m not very good at it. Occasionally I’m asked something like what were people’s responses when I’d break into the dance, and I really don’t have a very interesting answer. I could lie and say I got arrested, but the truth is people just stared. Most folks keep to themselves.

There’s a term for a short video file that spreads rapidly across the internet. It’s called a "viral video." It’s now apparent that the dancing video has become one of those things.

I’ve always wondered how stuff spreads online. By the time a link sputters into my inbox, it’s usually been around the block a few times, so I’m getting a big kick out of watching the process from this vantage point.

I’ve felt compelled over the last couple days to give a full timeline of the video from its inception to its recent explosion. Then I decided that’s far more information than anyone could possibly be interested in. Then I realized that this is a blog, which is defined (by me) as:

"A forum for large volumes of personal information that no one could possibly be interested in."

I apologize if I come off as being completely up myself with any of this. I have been pretty up myself lately, and I’m trying to pull myself out of myself…but let’s not dilly-dally any further:

I left Australia for my trip around the world in March of 2003.

In May, I met up with my friend, Brad, in Vietnam. About 2 minutes after this picture was taken…

Img_1099

…Brad suggested I do my dance and he would record it using the video function on my lovely Canon-digital-camera-which-got-destroyed-in-the-Seychelles-and-I’d-very-much-like-a-new-one-if-anyone-at-Canon-is-listening.

What Brad meant by "my dance" is this thing I do whenever I’m bored or antsy or happy or excited. For Brad, it was the thing I did in front of his desk at work when I was ready to go to lunch.

So we shot a little clip of me dancing in front of a bunch of passing motorbikes in Hanoi, and it was pretty funny. I decided to keep on doing it everywhere I went.

There was no profound intention. I had no comment to make on the universality of dance. I was not trying to promote world peace. I am actually deeply, morally opposed to world peace. All that stuff is implied by the music choice, which came long after the video was shot. To prove my point, try watching the video with the volume down and the Benny Hill theme music playing over it. That was my back-up.

In November of 2003, once I was home and recovered from the trip, I put everything I’d shot together and slapped said music over it. The video compression I used was pretty bad, so it was small and choppy and not very impressive-looking, but I put it up on my site, a bunch of friends and family watched it, and they were pretty amused. Nothing else really happened with it after that.

In August of 2004 I went to Africa and shot a few more clips for the video while I was there. When I got back in October, I put together a new, more polished video with better compression and sharper editing. It was altogether much more presentable.

On November 3rd, election night, I showed it to a small group as a distraction from the harsh reality that we live in a nation slightly more than half full of suckers.

I didn’t put it on my website at that time, because there was still one remaining clip I was hoping to get from a guy who shot it for me as a favor while I was in the Seychelles. Next to Kilimanjaro, it was the hardest of all the clips to acquire and maybe the niftiest visually. The guy still has it and I still email him every day asking for it, but I’ve lost hope that he will ever get around to sending it to me.

On January 7th, my sister called and asked me to put the new dancing video on my site so she could show it to a friend at work. That I did.

On the 12th I sent an email to George, who noticed the domain name in my email address, went to the site, and found the video. A few days later, George moved to Rwanda. To my knowledge, the two events are not linked.

On the 16th it appeared on the blogs of two friends, Mark and Elaine.

On the 17th, George added it to his own blog and a couple other blogs picked it up — in particular one called electrolicious.com, which generated most of the referrals. The video was downloaded about 300 times that day. This was the first big spike in traffic.

Interest died after that initial spike. Each day I had less and less visitors until the video was back down to about 10 downloads a day.

On the 26th, Mark, the first person to blog the link, a man on a mission to get the video seen, posted it on metafilter. Over a thousand people downloaded it that day, and 1500 the next day.

On the 29th I started losing track of it. It got posted on fazed.org as a mirror-type-thing that directed the traffic elsewhere. This made for a faster download, but I have no idea how many people grabbed it from that source.

Since then there have been several more spikes in traffic. Another friend posted it on a site called somethingawful.com, and it’s gotten about 20,000 downloads from there last time I checked.

My site traffic report tells me where people are linking to it from. After the somethingawful post, people started coming primarily from email links, which seems to indicate that the folks who found it on web sites sent the link around to their friends, who in turn did the sam e, and on and on.

So it’s made the big leap from a thing that gets mentioned on sites occasionally to a thing that gets sent around to tens of thousands of email addresses all over the world.

In my last post I showed the surge in site traffic for January:

usage

Here’s a new one that’s scaled down to include the first half of February. The big bars up above turn into little bars below:

Usage2

The next phase, as a marketing-type fella might say, is the saturation point, when everyone who is going to see it has seen it. I figure I’m right on the cusp of that, so I’m enjoying the steady trickle of emails while I’m getting them, and answering every one I can. I’m also entertaining the strange and unexpected opportunities that have been coming my way, and I’m beginning to actively pursue some.

The timing of all this is serendipitous. I have no job with which to fill my days. I’ve got bits and pieces of things, but for the most part I’m clear to milk this for all its worth.

I’d like to find some kind of sponsorship. I’m embarrassed bringing up the idea — it’s not like I’m Lance Armstrong or anything — but I have a pipe dream that some airline, credit card, or travel company might want to help me continue traveling and adding to the video in exchange for the use of it in promotion.

I don’t want to ruin what’s good about the thing. It seems like there’s a purity in there that people respond to. I ain’t gonna put on no stinking T-shirts or nuthin, but maybe folks wouldn’t mind if I dropped a logo in the credits.

I may be way out of my depth here. We’ll see. But it seems like we live in a world that puts an increasingly high value on the ability to draw people’s attention — if even for seconds at a time.

I’ve got a little bit of attention right now — I even accidentally stumbled onto a very simple message — and I’m kind of curious to see if it’s worth anything, cause, um…I need the money.

22 Responses to Seattle, Washington A Definitive Timeline

  1. Laura Brown

    Yes, I live in Detroit and heard your interview that morning… You held up to them pretty well. They can sometimes seem obsessed with a persons sexuality, but they are really harmless. That and they do have a huge listening audience here and I’m sure you have seen a large increase in hits to your sites. That aside, I did find the video amusing and it does inspire a person to travel.. I have never really been anywhere…..and don’t see myself able to travel anytime soon, but I can dream!

  2. Christer Laitala

    Hehe, nice dance matt, keep it going….and great song also….you got the name for the song during your dance? :)
    keep us updated when you need to perform your dance ๐Ÿ˜€

    chill and peace out
    Christer L. (Sweden)

  3. Axel

    Too bad I discovered your blog that late. Of course the video is great, but the rest of your blog is even more entertaining. I hope that the “opportunities” that you currently have will finalize and give you enough to continue your journey around the world.

    Axel (France)

  4. Michele Healy

    Have you seen the documentary “The Journey”? Check it out when you get the chance, I think you would be inspired by it. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  5. why me?

    hay matt, if you ever want to dance in israel or in britain give me a shout and you can have a 2 dancer special!!

  6. Matt

    hey mat i am called mat also…i think its ace that u travel the world its somthing i want to do. i think the song in that video is amazing and would lkke to know what it is called and i have been to bankok also…i didnt like it much the food is rank. anyhoo come and dance in scotland! keep us updated about wree u are in ur travels.

    matt johnson, edinburgh, scotland

  7. rich

    i just watched the video again and it still made me smile. i hope you find a job… better yet, i hope you find a sponsor who will pay for you to travel around the world.

  8. Fred

    I was listening to you on WRIF in Detroit when you did your interview. Those guys are a couple of goofy bastards, but I think that you handled it very well. I listen to that show often and although the kept proding you about if you drove a SAAB or not and if you watched the Superbowl, after the interview they talked about how interesting your site was. And I guess that’s how I wound up here.

    The video is funny. I hope the new year brings more travel for you.

  9. Fritz

    Hi Matt,at first I wanted to say that i love the video of your travel trough the world. It made me happy and sad at the same time, I cant really descripe the feelings of mine when I saw this Video the first time. I wanted to get more Information about the guy Matt, so I tried to find a homepage or mail adress or something like that. (becaue I got the video from any u.s. blog site, I had no information except for your name).

    Finally I found this homepage and started reading your travelexperiences until this moment for more than 2 hours. Now its 2 a.m. and I have to continue tomorrow because I need some sleep this night.

    Im absolutely fascinated of your courage to come to such an huge decision. To make a cut of your actual life, business and friends to see other nations and cultures. Wow this is abolutely amazing. I love each scene and spot of your movie, I will show it all my friends and my family.

    fritz ritter, stuttgart, germany

  10. beth

    Your dancing made me smile in that really pure and 7 year old kind of way. It’s nothing special…this video…but that’s the beauty of it all. Simple, joyful, random and meaningless….sums up man’s existance!

  11. pxi

    obfuscated, hey? (.50 deposit!)

    after reading your blog i can’t decide what’s better: your incisive wit or your brillilantly pure idea/escapade…

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    i sincerely hope this propels you forward and that you enjoy the ride and take it for all it’s worth!

  12. Ariel

    I am proud to have provided your first spike in traffic — although I wish I would have thought to post it on MeFi like Mark did. God bless that Joygantic fellow! And hey: while it may feel cheezy to dream of a sponsorship, I think that’s smart. You gotta visualize what you want before you can manifest it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Axel

    Dear Matt, thank you for offering your dancing video. It made me smile and feel good for the whole day. And it made me thinking about what the hell I am doing day by day working in my company (which I like though) instead of seeing the world. BTW I have been to Seattle twice. Probably you know the Underground tour? Anyway, best wishes from Germany! I hope to see some pictures from a German city in one of your dancing videos in the future. Best wishes! Axel

  14. Patrick

    If anyone deserves a sponsor, that’s Matt. Corporate companies in the travel or sports or internatioonal credit card business or whatever would be nuts to miss the opportunity. I can’t imagine some won’t ring you soon. But be firm. As you already wrote, you don’t want to wear a corporate T shirt while dancing.

  15. Patrick

    “Dancing” is a splendid and moving work of art – in the arts market, they call it a “performance”. No doubt your “Dancing” will eventually find its way to the MoMa and other great Art Museums in the world…

    Patrick, from Brittany, France

  16. nplugd

    Just found out today about your video. I’m definetly posting it on my blog tomorrow, so expect another huge surge in traffic soon, easily 5 to 10 extra hits on your website I’d say. I know, impressive. Anyway, love the idea of the video, and since I’m thinking of leaving for some trip ’round the world in Feb 2006, I think I’m going to read carefully your blog to see how you handled it. Money is definetly an issue, so if you can make a couple of bucks with that video, don’t be ashamed of it. Just my 2c.

  17. Steven

    Somebody, I guess me, has to give you credit. I mean the dancing is really funny stuff but I’ve been to lots of these same spots and you’ve really captured it…The scenes, the backdrops…this is pretty much exactly what it’s like to be in each of these places. The folks posting here who are suddenly inspired to “travel the world” don’t need to do what we did…quit their jobs, blow their savings, eat sketchy food and wear the same underwear four (5?) days in a row…they can just watch your vid. Congrats. (by the way, I sympathize with you…it was tough to get back on my feet after the travel binge, but I finally landed a decent job in LA…besides the finances, not helped by the 3yr gash in my resume/CV, the really tough part was kicking the habit…my best advice, DON’T LOOK AT MAPS OR GLOBES. cheers!)

  18. Alex

    lol man those radio guys were stupid….it was really funny how you didn’t even respond to them and they just went on jabbering…haha. they totally didn’t appreciate how great the video really is, great!

  19. Matt Harding

    Wow, another Matt Harding making it big in this world as a Expert Dancer.
    Soon, perhaps after you get your american Airlines Sponsorship you can make a work out video series.
    all you need is a couple fitness hotties, and a step. you do the dance on and off the step with all sorts of cool backdrops, and you’re rollin’ in it.
    I hope someday one of my videos makes it big, but being I’m a better tobogganer than dancer, I’m destined to be visiting places such as alaska and the swiss alps to get any good footage.
    Props on your sucess. have you thought of a new dance… even MC hammer’s dance sensation was backed by an array of additional dances.
    perhaps even a Duo?

    Peas
    Matt Harding, Calgary Alberta Canada

  20. SAm

    Your video has been on my desktop for a little over four months. It has become part of my routine to watch it before I check mail, do quicken, etc. Thanks dude.

  21. Rachel

    Thank you so much for this. I came across it on a sad day, and found myself pulling right out of it… Way to dance your way into many people’s hearts and be that reminder…. A little humorous intention goes a long way.

    And….

    I know exactly the spot in Pahar Ganj you were standing in…. Hasn’t changed much in the last 15 years!

    Be well…
    Rachel

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