2013. I predict this is going to be one lucky year. One free of economic cliffs, gun violence and war in the Middle East. We need to think positive because the only thing that stops positive thinking is negative thinking or something like that. But here are a few of my predictions:
For 2013, my new project focuses on classified ads and the usual items that people post. Inspired by various sources I will choose a category and create a vidoodle based on one of the ads. I will also be posting my own classifieds online, all over North America, so if you happen to be hunting for a bargain you just might stumble upon one of my ads. For this project we’re launching a new mobile site, www.vidoodles.com that is designed for watching videos on your mobile device, the ideal viewing situation.
When I think of free, I automatically think of freedom.
The inspiration for this year’s Vidoodle project came from online classified ads. As an avid eBayer, I like to cruise through the sale items looking for long lost toys from my youth, interesting cameras and image-capturing tools. Free (Ad ID 415282960) took its’ inspiration from an ad for a free bottle of bath oil. As a response to the online “classified” world, I decided to publicize each month’s Vidoodle through an ad of my own. These ads were posted on seven well-known websites from across Canada and the US such as Craigslist, Ebay, Kijiji, etc. Each month 56 postings of the same ad were placed twice a month under the category of the inspirational classified. For the month of January, under the category of FREE, an ad was placed that consisted of a still frame of the video, URL and where possible a QR code to the mobile vidoodle site. For the FREE video, there were 109 page views with 34 returning visitors. Although the majority of visitors were from North America, there were two unique visits from Brazil and Trinidad. 11 people used the QR code to access the vidoodles site. On the Vidoodles site, there was no explanation of the project and no direct relationship to me as the artist.
Meanwhile, the debate rages on.
“Monkey See Monkey Do” was inspired by a strange phenomenon I discovered while browsing through eBay. I noticed there was a large number of individual photographs for sale featuring children, usually young boys, pointing toy guns at the camera. These photographs ranged from Albumen prints to 1970s snapshots. Around this time, Wayne Lapierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association conducted a press conference expressing the NRA’s position on gun control after the Newtown Massacre. For this month, I posted the video under the category of Toys & Games featuring an image from an actual ad for a toy gun collection. Where possible a QR code was also posted and the URL to the Vidoodles site. The video received 101 page views with 26 returning visitors. 8 people used the QR code to access the Vidoodles site. So far, this is the only ad that has provoked an active response. I received an email that said in an angry tone, “WHAT IS THIS????
Could this be you?
“You Were Drunk” was inspired by an ad placed under the Missed Connections section of the classifieds. The ad was posted by a young man who received a silver chain from an intoxicated woman at the Wrong Bar during a Joy Orbison show. His desire is only to return the jewelry and not engage in any social hookup. This month’s video was posted under the category of Missed Connections featuring an image from an actual ad for the chain. Where possible a QR code was also posted and the URL to the Vidoodles site. The video received 199 page views with 25 returning visitors. 166 people used the QR code to access the Vidoodles site.
you may not think you need one, but…
I was inspired to make “Spiritual Alignment Coach” after I came across a classified ad in the Creative Services section. This poorly written ad offered “spiritual alignment” services to people who found themselves in astral states of confusion and had prophetic dreams. Personally I have never found myself in need of “spiritual alignment” but I always like to keep my options open. This video was posted in the Creative Services section of the classifieds. This month I decided to forego the inclusion of the video still and only listed the QR code and URL to the Vidoodles site. The video received 56 page views with 14 returning visitors. 6 people used the QR code to access the Vidoodles site. The most popular device used to view the video was the Apple iPhone.
Some people’s gains are other people’s losses.
I am now almost half way through “The Classifieds” project. On one level, I see this project as a reflection of the anonymity of online social media interaction and an experiment in what draws people to follow a digital trail of breadcrumbs. In some ways this project has very little to do with the final videos produced for this series. Instead it is about discovering what people want reveal in a public forum or what they want to communicate to strangers. For instance, “lost & found”, produced for May, was inspired by a classified ad about a lost gold ring. The catch however, was that the ring was lost over 10 years ago. I imagine a story behind the ad: a portrait of an older man, remembering the moment of his loss; the haunting emotional tug of a personal memento; the tiny hopefulness of his posting.
Naturally this month’s video was posted under the Lost & Found section of the classifieds with no more of an explanation other than “lost and found”. For the first posting of the month, the ad contained a video still. The second round of posting eliminated the photograph and only included a QR code linking the ad to the vidoodles mobile website and the brief description: “some people’s gains are other people’s losses.” For some reason this particular ad was removed and blocked on numerous occasions so we only received 33 page views with 2 unique visits from Washington and Colorado, and 1 visitor from Copenhagen, Denmark.
Mener la belle vie
Continuing my exploratory research from last month, I decided to try another social media experiment. Usually on the first of every month I tweet and Facebook the new video posting. However on June 1, I was too preoccupied with the events in my immediate vicinity to virtually reach out to anyone. The ad was simply listed as “item for sale” under the “For Sale” section in the classifieds. Once again there was no photograph, only the QR code and URL link. During the second round of the classified posting on June 21, I tweeted and mentioned the link on Facebook. Perhaps because I’ve been using the same password and email address my ad has been more frequently removed or rejected by different classifieds sites. Only 28 site visits to vidoodles.com. Next month, I’ll begin again with a new password and email address.
Sometimes closure is the most important thing.
Armed with a new email address, the month of July saw an increase of traffic to the mobile website. There were 40 visitors in total with approximately 60% new visits. The classified ad was posted on 19 new online classified sites internationally under the Announcements or the Events section. This month I contacted the person who originally posted the “Letting Go” ad. I’m not sure if this person replied but I received 3 email messages: “Totally agree. But, to do that, you need acceptance and that can be a very tough place to get to”, “Hi, I have been getting the message of letting go, but of what?” and “How are you? Do you have time to discuss this further?” Judging from the average visit duration, most if not all visitors watched the entire video.
Emoticons: Do people really know what they mean?
This month’s video saw a total of 75 visitors to the mobile website, Vidoodles.com. Similar to last month, there were 40 new visitors and a returning 35. The video ad was placed in the “announcements” or “items to trade” section of 55 different online classified sites. As we do every month, two cycles of postings were uploaded to these sites under multiple North American and International cities. I thought the subject of Justin Bieber would have generated more views, perhaps my decision to reference emoticons in the title was too obscure. That’s the interesting thing about this project, other than statistics supplied by Google Analytics and the occasional email, there is no way to really gauge the viewing rate or discover what people think when they see the video. This month, the QR code was modified to incorporate the Vidoodles logo and code/link to the website. I was curious to see if more people would be attracted to use the QR code based on the new design. We implemented the change during the second round of classified postings but so far the number of people did not change based on the QR code design.
Every house has its’ ghosts.
Generally classifieds are straightforward: something for sale, looking for a specific item, job postings, etc. Then there are classifieds that are anonymous sounding boards, a place to air one’s opinions. Since beginning this project I have established some guidelines for my selection process. I would not pick ads that I felt were too personal, I would not mislead people who were looking for work, and I would try and find a diverse selection of ads from various categories. The “right” ad would need to be unique and perhaps a bit thought provoking. As the months progressed I have found that finding the “right” ad has become more challenging.
The text for “Home Sweet Home” was based on a classified found in the Community Listings section. I was startled by the tone of the post and could sense the desperation of the woman who had written the message. There was no request for help but as a reader my first instinct was to reach out to this person. Although there was an email link, I wondered about her email access. If I emailed her would she alone read the message? Was her account shared or monitored by her cheating husband? Was this a physically abusive relationship and would my message put her in jeopardy? In the end, I decided not to contact her but to use the text, keeping it in its’ original form. The ad for the video was placed in the Real Estate section of the classifieds. We received 88 views with 54.5% returning and 45.5% new visitors. The average viewing time lasted the entire length of the video. The most viewers came from Toronto and Austin, Texas.
Since gay marriage is not yet legal in Thailand, this is for straight men only.
The month of October had higher traffic than most months with a total of 116 visitors to the site. Of this total, there were 101 unique visits and 16 return visits. Perhaps the promise of escape is particularly alluring to those who peruse the classifieds, or perhaps the travel section is more heavily trafficked generally. The reported visit duration was 19 seconds, which indicates that this month’s classified might have provoked more disappointment than thought with no secrets revealed.
Lady Macbeth had this problem as well. “Out, damned spot! out, I say!” – Macbeth Act 5, Scene 1
Under a microscope, one can imagine, even the vomit, feces and urine from a pet has the potential to create a kaleidoscopic, psychedelic universe. These micro cosmos ignited by the enzymatic reactions of pet stain remover inspire dramatic scenarios of Shakesperean proportions but with less tragic endings. If only there were a conscience stain remover, sorry Lady Macbeth.
This month’s vidoodle had a largely North American audience with most visitors coming from Toronto. In total, 69 people saw the video and of those 66 were first time visitors.
Have you ever noticed that men only refer to their partners as “the wife”? I’ve never met a woman who says “the husband”.
December marks the end of my Classifieds project. It has been an insightful year of online ad discoveries. Although I never actually ended up purchasing anything, I was inspired by the varied announcements, ramblings and anonymous notes posted for public consumption. For the last video in this series, I was moved by an ad selling a plethora of collectables. Surprisingly, after a year of creating and advertising, “my junk” was the only video that received a direct request inquiring about the alleged items for sale: “Hi, Am Alvin by name … do you still have you posting for sale? and How much is the bottom price? Kindly get back to me asap as i want to purchase asap..”
The mobile Vidoodles site received 27 page views for the month of December. I should also note that on Vidoodles.com I received one comment, posted sometime in September, it read: “Loving these… brings about thoughts of how objects, collectibles, lost treasures examine the human need to connect with some(things) we can call our own in this world. And in ways these works represent an anti-thesis to the vacant consumerism that is indulged in by so many people.” The next time you have the urge to post an ad or answer one, be warned it could be an art project in disguise. Thanks for watching!