LOLCODE and ROFLCon Remembrance

ROFLCon is slipping away into old news now, but for all my posts on the topic, I didn’t get to talk much about my own panel (which, incidentally, has just been released on video). So, I shall navel-gaze upon the nature of memehood. My blog, my prerogative.

As I’ve alluded to in my guest post on the Digital Natives blog, the LOLCats panel moved quickly, to great effect. I had imagined a much more chin-stroking, pipe-smoking, deliberate affair, but Alexis Ohanian of the LOLMagnetz and of the big hands knew to keep it moving and light.

However, as a result, there was a bunch of stuff I thought I’d get a chance to talk about, but didn’t get to say while on the panel. As we’re at LOLCODE’s anniversary, I thought I may as well collect those thoughts now.

On the panel and the one preceding it, everyone got to comment on success being a fluke. I expanded upon that, and was quoted quite extensively, that you can’t own the idea. I felt it very acutely because there was an inevitability to LOLCODE. If not me, anyone could have come up with it. If I hadn’t’ve put LOLCODE out into the world, someone else would have within the month. Variations on the theme already existed.

I also have strong feelings on the meme-ownership issue because of the issue of standardization. A computer language doesn’t really prosper when it varies from implementation to implementation. On the other hand, I think the LOLCODE meme would be strangled at its infancy had I taken hard line with the specifications. “Ye canna call native functions tha’ way! We haven’t defined it yet,” would have been foolish. LOLCODE is a much stronger meme than it is a programming language.

And that’s a key change in how I’ve viewed LOLCODE over the past year. I thought it could be a nifty, fun, teaching language, but it hasn’t been that. What it has been is a fantastic, fun “Hello World” for compiler writers. I’m pleased as punch that LOLCODE gets mentioned next to Microsoft’s DLR and Perl’s Parrot virtual machine now. That in itself makes me think that LOLCODE-as-meme will be around for a fairly long time, being so embedded in the computing tools of the future.

During the LOLPanel I also thought there might’ve been an opportunity for more shout-outs. While I thanked most of them personally for the inspiration, I thought it should be done more publically. I did get to thank Stephen Granades personally for his LOLTrek for inspiration. Although I had been seeing cat macros around the place for months, and they amused me, LOLTrek was the first variant on the LOLs that made me think there was really something to LOLCats. I’ve long acknowledged the analytic role Anil Dash‘s and David McRaney‘s articles played, but regretted not approaching Anil in person.

I also wanted to say here, for the record, that the people I really admire in the web and meme sphere are the web-cartoonists. The LOLpanel were recognized for their contributions to humor over the past year or so, but I really think the people who bring teh lulz day after day, week after week, really don’t get the recognition they deserve in that community. (Of course, they probably don’t cry too much about it, having sussed profitability from free content on the web ages ago.)

I will need to discuss traffic more some other time. It’s an incredibly rich topic. I know one of the first overwhelming moments with LOLCODE was “Oh, shit. I had no idea there were so many people on the internet.” It’s pretty overwhelming when thousands of people march through your front door each minute, as happened on the first day of LOLCODE’s launch. Now, a year later, after interacting with people incredibly versed in the internet at ROFLCon, and seeing a steady march of new blog and forum posts introducing new people to the language, my thought was “good lord, so many people haven’t heard of LOLCODE yet.”

That keeps me in my place, but I also see it as an opportunity.