The key to viral success: Lose your expensive electronics

how to lose $2400 in 24 seconds from Kurtis Hough on Vimeo.

The spread and adoption of online social networks over the past few years have been accompanied by a rise of instances of vigilant members of those communities virally coming together to help one of their own, in this case recovering stolen goods (typically some form of personal consumer electronics that originates from Cupertino). Earlier this year Josh Kaufman’s Apple MacBook stolen from his Oakland apartment. With the help of a laptop tracking software that he had installed, Josh was able to remotely access his stolen computer and its built-in camera to snap photos of the thief himself. With this information in hand, he opened a Tumblr called This Guy Has My MacBook where he chronicled his attempts to recover his laptop. It received minimal attention until Josh tweeted it at which point it organically blew up where the story and his Tumblr virally spread like wildfire. The ensuing press eventually forced the city police into action and Josh was able to reunite with his MacBook.

Similarly, Massachusetts college student Mark Bao used another tracking app on his stolen MacBook Air which he used to grab and tweet this video of the thief recording himself pop and lock dancing (LOL!). This too went viral across Twitter, Vimeo, Facebook, and blogs and helped Mark reunite with his laptop. If only Twitter existed when my laptop was stolen from my apartment back in college in 2002 (Yes kids, I’m old).

It’s not just news of stolen computers that spreads virally online; a story this summer about a certain stolen camera also became an online hit. A mischievous thieving monkey in Indonesia stole photographer David Slater’s camera and snapped self portraits of himself which became a HUGE online success. While Josh, Mark, and Dave (sounds like names belonging to members of a 3-person boy band) and their stolen expensive tech items became case studies for social media “experts” on the “altruist interconnectivity of online social communities and networks,” Kurtis Hough willingly and intentionally sacrificed his $2400 video camera just so he could bring us the above 24 second video. Looks like it was worth it because it received over 1.5 million views. The takeaway of this trend: If you’re trying to create content that will virally spread online, then make sure it involves losing something expensive quickly or something made by Apple.