I’m working on a project that I hope you will find interesting and maybe even help out with: is (will be) a site for investing in and shorting viral phrases, or memes. Like a stock market for memes. A game. But maybe with real money. Like: “I’m shorting ‘In da club’ and putting money on ‘Starfish'”, and so on. It’d be so awesome.

Like the now-deceased Popdex (“WTF happened to Popdex?“), which allowed you to build a portfolio of celebrities and earn as those celebrities became more celebrated, lose as they lost relevance. But for words and phrases. Memetrade uses tools like Google Trends,, and others to track the rise and fall of expressions. Expressions like “It’s complicated”, which as everyone knows became a coy, self-regarding way for Facebookers to list their relationship status and then, inevitably, the name of a rom-com movie that probably didn’t do well because it was conceived as a vehicle for the cool meme. I’m picturing the focus groups and executive pitches here. Don’t launch movies because everybody is saying this thing around the office or the school yard, like “It’s complicated”. It’s not enough.


But what happened to “It’s complicated” in the early twentieth century just before 1920 in the chart above? What was “it”? Freud’s psychoanalytic method? Andre Gide’s fiction?

“Hella” is also a meme that inspired this. It won’t go away and it was one of those that I would have shorted immediately and lost my shirt on.

So I haven’t built that much—just got a Django server running, got the domain, been poking around for tracking sources and good APIs. Want to do some building? would be a great mix of linguistics, pop culture, collaboration, building things on the web generally.

Open Government book from O’Reilly

This book Open Government, which publisher O’Reilly released to memorialize hacker Aaron Swartz, is just a fantastic smorgasbord of writing about government and participation and technology, some of it dated or auxiliary but all top notch and thought-provoking. Particularly, so far, Beth Noveck’s chapter on deliberative versus collaborative government. Hope to write more reading notes as I go.

But right off the bat I was struck by what a great bibliography the book assembles, and so I wrote a little script (xml.etree.ElementTree) to scrape all the web references out of the ebook for looking into later. Those references are published below in quickie fashion, were extracted from the EPUB version I’m in the middle of now.
Continue reading