Behind the Video: Star Wars MacBook

I made a video for a dozen friends to laugh at my geekiness, and so far it's gotten as high as #3 most popular video and over 100,000 views on YouTube. I thought I'd recap some details and things I've learned from the process.

- I first saw MacSaber on Sunday morning, on MetaFilter. It was the only place I saw it at first, and I immediately thought of all the cool things you could do with the motion sensor, the most obvious being using a light saber simulator to do a parody of the star wars kid.

- On most blogs, even with a somewhat technically minded and art-appreciating audience, the first reaction for most people was about dropped laptops and hard drives destroyed by motion sensor toy apps like MacSaber. Some people can't see innovation when it's right in front of their faces. The SmackBook is the first in a long list of innovative uses of the SMS.

- I placed an order for a MacBook the day it came out, so it could replace my three year old 12" powerbook, and it shipped early, arriving Monday afternoon of this week. I unpacked it around 3pm, got it up and running and at 4pm loaded up MacSaber and did a few attempts at the joke.

- I filmed it with the iSight in my G5 iMac, using iMovie '06. It was super easy to do a take, review it, and do another one.

- It took about ten tries before I got enough movement and a funny moment worth keeping (a slight slip, and the stare at the end).

- After I uploaded it to YouTube, it took about 45 minutes to get approved. In the past it's taken 5 minutes so they're either swamped and doing it by hand still, or maybe having "star wars" in the title is a red flag that requires review just in case I uploaded a copy of the movie or something.

- I sent the URL to about a dozen friends (mostly bloggers) on IM. One of them was Andy Baio. Kottke and Cory Doctorow both read my feed, and linked it. Hitting the trifecta of,, and pretty much puts you on the internet meme fast track.

- YouTube comments are virtually useless. After the first ten or so from people that read my blog and got the joke of it all, the rest that followed were all variations on "this sucks" "what the hell?" and "I hope he drops it HAHAHA lolz"

- If I had a dollar for every "lol" in a comment on YouTube, I could retire.

- After I hit the popular page (about 12 hours later), 90% of the new comments were links to another video. It was basically comment spam, where users hit every popular video and say "hey! come look at my movie here!" I deleted about 40 of them so far. I just got an actual comment spam to a cafepress store, so I'm now turning them off.

- Some strange offshore video production company asked for redistribution rights. I wouldn't be surprised if YouTube is in talks with a TV Network. It'd be pretty easy to make America's Funniest Home Videos every week by just broadcasting the most popular page.

- It probably helps that the movie was only 12 seconds long -- it was very little "work" to watch it so I think it spread thanks to that.

- Since I don't have ads showing on comment pages here, I made no revenue off this. I suspect it could have been worth a couple hundred bucks considering the entry with the video got tens of thousands of views.

- YouTube is a little bit of a walled garden -- it could do a better job of promoting users and their own websites, or letting you write HTML descriptions like on Flickr. I noticed lots of videos embed a URL in order to get people to read more about something. I didn't really get traffic from YouTube to this server, other blogs did a better job.

- I wonder if Apple sold any MacBooks from people watching it and wanting to try it at home.

- The Weblogs Inc. folks linked to it on Engadget and TUAW. One entry called me "youtube user mathowie" and Engadget didn't even mention me by name (and they used to link to PVRblog all the time). Bonus boo-hoo points to Engadget for suggesting Apple copied the Nintendo Wii controller (even though Apple released laptops with motion sensors in them last year). Do some research people, you're pro bloggers, yo!