After staging the hugely successful ROFLCon in Boston last Spring, Tim Hwang and a gang of fellow Harvard brainiacs have found themselves with a hit meme on their hands: Getting the stars of the Internet in a room together. ROFLCon was a weekend conference dedicated to Net culture. Tron Guy and the "I Can Haz Cheezburger?" web master were there. As were a slew of other Internet rock stars, nearly 800 conference goers, and a giddy press. If you didn’t think ROFLCon was the place to be that weekend, you are using the Internet totally wrong.
The organizers are now staging a series of smaller day-long conferences and parties called ROFLThings. The first ROFLThing was in San Francisco over the summer and there are plans to do one in Toronto in the future. New York’s is coming to town this Saturday with as much buzz as the others. With the emergence of i-culture fests like SXSW Interactive and Internet Week New York as well as celebratory gatherings like The Webbys and YouTube Live, the sudden flourishing of internet celebrity gatherings seems inevitable.
I chatted with Hwang, who’s out of school now. "We decided to keep the ROFLCon name for big events," he says. "The whole thing started as a joke originally, like, ‘I wonder if we could do this conference with an incredibly lame name.’"
Of the special guests in attendance, Max Goldberg, "You’re the Man Now Dog!" founder and heroic Internet person, is scheduled as a "Featured Attendee" at ROFLThing NYC. After all, making a four-star animated gif on YTMND.com ranks up there with memorizing the "Single Ladies" dance or seizing a cocktail bar piano for a rousing rendition of the Growing Pains theme song. It’s probably the coolest, most useless thing anyone can do.
What does it mean exactly to be "featured" though? "I think ‘featured attendee’ is merely a label for a handful of people who have some sliver of Internet notoriety," says Featured Attendee Rex Sorgatz. "As far as I know, we won’t actually be doing anything in particular, except socializing."
According to Hwang, several of the Internet celebrities attending actually have artistic representation. Whether or not you’d consider them famous or "Internet-famous," most everyone on the bill can boast millions of hits or views.
At ROFLThing NYC, some guests get a full hour and a stage to meet their fans. "In a presentation entitled ‘You Suck at You Suck at Photoshop,’ we will be discussing how YSAP has changed the course of web history from a geo-eco-political perspective, with citations and supporting evidence from Howard Zinn, Desmond Morris and Paul Krugman," jokes Troy Hitch of last year’s breakout sensation, You Suck at Photoshop. Creative partner Matt Bledsoe chimes in, "We will also reveal how we got so many people to ‘download’ our sperm."
The man behind Obama Girl, Ben Relles—who prefers not to be called ObamaGirl’s handler—will be there with The Obama Girl, Amber Lee Ettinger. "I think it’s a blast meeting people you’ve only seen previously online. For example, at YouTube Live we met Tay Zonday, LisaNova and several other YouTube personalities that were great to hang out with instead of watch on a two-by-three screen. Some are exactly like their online persona. Some are completely different.
He adds, "Amber and I both recognize that without the Internet, there is no Obama Girl."
OMG, that is so true and unexpectedly deep. For some of us, we live on the Internet. So when we move the Internet offline, it’s sort of like dying and LARPing in Heaven.
Jan. 24, Santos Party House, 96 Lafayette St. (betw. White & Walker Sts.), 212-716-4646; 11 am on, $30-50