We love the internet
We love the internet is a collection of QR codes — codes scannable by smart phones with a free barcode reader app installed.
We carefully curated evidence of how awesome the internet is. We collected everything from old-school 90s memes to keyboard cat to funny chat logs to incredible things we can learn about online and evidence of change in the real world that happened by direct result of the internet’s existence.
We also interspersed fake links to paywall pages Scott created.
The goal of the piece was that people would scan a code, get a “hit” — a positive feeling that triggers the want for another hit — and keep scanning. They’d share with their friends. And they’d run into these paywall pages owned by a fake company and feel sadness.
We wanted people to feel a very real disappointment when their hunt ended. We wanted them to read the text and think,
"I recognize this isn’t real but wow it would suck if I couldn’t get all the Internet I wanted. If I had to pay for access to higher-bandwidth sites, would I want to buy a plan that includes Netflix or YouTube or maybe even Facebook or Flickr?"
Or, you know. Some shade of that.
We wanted to create a way to reach a few people — who maybe hadn’t thought about Net Neutrality before — to spend even 60 seconds understanding how destroying it would affect them. To remember how amazing this thing we’ve made in the internet is, and how useful, and how important. How the internet is the most incredible Thing that we, humanity, has ever built. And how allowing companies to place tolls on different sites will result in a probably-negative change in peoples’ personal interactions with it.
I’m proud of the concept. Scott and I are both excited about the idea and the message. And we learned a lot about how to improve this piece.
The atmosphere of the room was too active for this piece. We expected there to be the usual group of sort-of-bored onlookers that usually exist in big networky groups. Nope. The whole room was buzzing during most of the breaks — and definitely in the morning breakfast.
Scott and I are old school webjunkies. Scott got online shortly before I did, but we both started using the internet by 1994 — when we were both 10 — and when we both became the most techno-proficient people in our families. We’ve run blogs since high school in the late nineties and communicated primarily via email, instant message, and text ever since. This is all to say, I think we included too many “good old fashioned internet” links, uninteresting to the less-nerdy people majority of the audience, who started really exploring the internet later.
People crave familiarity. I know, everyone says it, but I understand it gutterally now. Viewers would scan a code, wait for it to load, and if they didn’t recognize it as familiar they’d tend to continue on. It was easier for them to read something they already know about — blue whales or double rainbow guy — than it was to get them to read something new. This was important for the fake paywall pages — many people who loaded them didn’t read them (I was watching). Dan Shipton actually asked me what it was instead of reading it. Good to know!
The piece overall may have been more successful had I not overlooked one thing: wainscoting. I did not plan for the fact that our piece — 8 feet high — would have to be shifted two feet higher to dodge the lump of the wainscoting on the lower part of the wall. This meant that the piece became 10 feet tall, required a stepping stool, and that upper-level squares were still hard to scan for short people (i.e. me).
This sucks more because I’d planned a sweet spot in the mostly-random arrangement of QR codes, something that might draw people in. It was an area populated with more “hits” — lighter, funner links which required less thought. I’d figured people would start toward the upper right-center right of the piece. Which was now three feet above even Danny’s head. OH GOOD.
This was all really good stuff to learn — and mainly it all taught us the same lesson: this is a great idea, but we overlooked some important details.