Realtime Rubbernecking: Would You Watch a Live Streamed Beheading?

Jihadi John would be following a long tradition of public head-lopping. The French guillotined their citizens in public squares until 1939. Saudi Arabia and a few other countries still do it today.

Public beheadings: The French did it until 1939. US-ally Saudi Arabia is doing it to this day.

Imagine gathering online crowds around live moments of scandal and horror. Because that’s what a website publisher could do with a soonfeed widget.

In 1949, 3-year old Kathy Fiscus fell into a well in California. In the 49 hours that followed, 5,000 citizens headed to the well. Not to help, but to watch.

In 1987, baby Jessica McClure fell into a well in Texas. On that occasion, millions of Americans watched the rescue thanks to CNN, the country’s first 24-hour news network.

Today, when someone falls down a well, falls on the red carpet or falls from public grace, the internet brings it to the world. “Rubbernecking” has never been so easy to traffic.

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What if Gavrilo Princip had set off a balloon instead of WWI?

#WW1live @Twitter

#WW1live @Twitter

I was in Sarajevo today to rewrite history with a balloon. I’d dreamt about the happening last week. The dream featured a big red balloon, hovering above the city to the soundtrack of Bijelo Dugme’s Kad bi bio Bijelo Dugme. Go figure.

Today our friends at live tweeted a reenactment of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in Sarajevo, from the perspective of an independent French journalist. The tweets included the hashtag #WW1live, so we embedded the search timeline on this page and hosted a Soonfeed happening online with a series of live Vines.

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The secret behind the most popular and boring live stream in the world

Why would 300 million otherwise reasonable people (this one included) watch a live stream of eagles nesting?

Atop a Cottonwood tree in the town of Decorah, Iowa, a family of bald eagles is nesting. The parents take turns catching prey, feeding their eaglets and keeping them warm. The siblings bond and squabble. It’s a series of daily rituals and occasional dramas typical of families everywhere.

300 million reasons to be a Bald Eagle chick

300 million reasons to be a Bald Eagle chick

Only this is no typical family. The Decorah Eagles “nest cam” is the most watched live stream channel of all time, spawning a sliver under 300 million live views (298,652,320 at time of writing), mainstream media coverage and eagle-watching communities worldwide.

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Soonfeed is dead. Long live Soonfeed!


Oh how I love the smell of statistical probability of failure in the morning.

Dear Soonfeeders,

After two years of development, experimentation and learning, we’ve taken offline. Not because we don’t believe in it anymore, but because we believe in it so much.

So here’s what we’re doing.

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5 ways to inflate your social share numbers. How far would you go?

Those numbers you see next to social share buttons in news articles and blog posts? They’re misleading at best, and grossly inflated at worst. Here’s their dirty little secret.20k counter

When I land on a news article or blog post with social share counters, my first impressions are invariably influenced by the numbers. If the post has been liked, tweeted or shared less than, say, 5 or 10 times, I (like you, probably) am more likely to leave the page sooner.

A page with hundreds or thousands of shares, on the other hand, might hook my attention long enough to digest the gist of the content, at the very least. So those higher share numbers buy more of my time.

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You’re a realtime marketer, didn’t you know?

I got a taste for realtime marketing working in my father’s bakery as a kid. On the days I helped out before school, I’d take a break from baking to shovel some cinnamon into a bucket and fill it with boiling water. I’d whisk in the cinnamon, take the bucket outside and steam by the morning’s foot traffic to pour its contents into the roadside gutter.

I’d count how many people stopped to take a whiff. And how many salivated their way into the bakery to buy something. The conversion rate for stop-and-whiffs to buys was, as I recall, around 10 to 1. The steaming cinnamon in the gutter trick really worked.

Here's me now

“Here’s me now.” That urge to snap’n’share while you’re on holiday is classic realtime branding.

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Welcome, to the Bubble Darts Championship of the World

Please play this this while reading.

The first Bubble Darts Championship of the World has unfolded before the watchful eye of a “Titanic” poster.

The happening was streamed on YouTube/Live via Soonfeed.

Bubble Darts beforetime

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How we brought the No Pants Subway Ride to Brussels

Woman looking disturbed

Woman looking disturbed

It all started six days before the happening, with this email to colleagues at Betacowork.

The first responders were Lucas and Manuel (“me + my hairy ass are in”), while Pascal offered to co-organise the happening onsite.

And thus what began as an idea floated among coworkers evolved into a party of 400+ people, sans pants, wandering the metro lines and streets of Brussels.

That’s me in the black undies. Scroll down for the live Instagrams, which turned out great.

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The 10 Greatest Happenings Online of 2013

What propels a live happening online into greatness? Buzz, impact, legacy?

Yes, if this were a list of the most talked about, viewed or influential happenings on the web this year. But it’s not. Greatness is in the eye of the beholder, so for every one of us, the greatest happenings are those we’re personally glad to have witnessed or pissed to have missed.

As it’s part of my job to know what’s happening online soon, I’ve been more privileged than pissed this year. So here they are, The 10 Greatest Happenings Online of 2013, in no particular order, out of the eye of this beholder.

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How to create happenings on Twitter

I was kindly invited to speak at the Brussels Twitter Festival. Here’s some of what I talked about, and some of what I didn’t.

Twitter HappeningoIf you’re planning to live tweet an event or host a Twitter chat, you’ll find plenty of guidance and success stories at Twitter’s new media blog. But here’s the thing. The blog only mentions high profile stories that have engaged many thousands, sometimes millions, of Twitterers.

When you’re the US president, Pitbull or the Pope, it’s relatively easy to gather an audience around realtime tweets. But for us mere mortals, there’s no such guarantee. Not unless it’s a “happening” an audience wouldn’t want to miss.

So how do you turn your live tweets or live chat into a Twitter happening? Here are three ingredients (almost) all happenings have in common.

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