Yesterday, the Ottawa Citizen posted a link to a website that featured a scandal-tainted Canadian Senator named Mike Duffy doing a fundraising pitch. Given ongoing accusations that Duffy was misappropriating government funds, it was an interesting piece of web-arcana that the conservative party certainly wouldn't want to draw attention to. But what made it amazing wasn't the pitch.
Duffy had recorded hundreds of lead-ins to the video, each one with a different name, hoping to personalize it for as many people as possible. The Ottawa Citizen invited people to try the link and replace it with their own names, to see if he had one especially for you, Grace. Or you, Lorraine. Or you, Wendell.
On its own, it was a fun distraction - seeing if Duffy had read your name, maybe tweeting it at friends. But a politico (and programmer) named Kevin O'Donnell turned a diversion into a bizarre work of art. He did some sleuthing and found that all the "name" videos were centrally located, and then ran those videos against a list he found online of 3,500 names. Doing this netted him 750 first names videos recorded by Mike Duffy, now divorced entirely from the fundraising pitch that followed.
O'Donnell created a website that serves all the "name" videos, so you can now send it to anyone who appears on the list, or just lose yourself in them as he hypnotically says hello to Floyd, Francine, Francis, Frank, Franklin, and so on.
The internet allows us to create quick-hit, time sensitive content that we can post online in an attempt to reach people quickly. It also allows that content to exist, relatively undisturbed for months or years after its sell-by date. But rediscovering and reusing that content can reveal a world of riches.
This happens all the time with stuff like Keyboard Cat, and the Space Jam website. Little pieces of ephemera that have long since been forgotten/abandoned by their creators, that take on a new life when they capture the internet's attention. But Mike Duffy - man, this one's inspired.
(h/t Steve Portigal)