How I Became a Meme (and Why Memes Need Blockchain)

Kevin Cook
Jun 4, 2018 · 4 min read

Five days ago I shared a photo of myself on my social media. Within 24 hours, that image had become a viral meme throughout China.

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As a foreigner living in China, I thought it’d be a funny to print a custom t-shirt that preemptively answers the five most common questions Chinese people ask foreigners:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. How old are you?
  3. What do you do here?
  4. How long have you lived here?
  5. Do you have a girlfriend?

My friend snapped a photo of me wearing the shirt and I shared it to Facebook, Instagram and WeChat (a popular platform in China).

I woke up the next day to dozens of messages from my Chinese and foreign friends. They sent me screenshots of the photo and its caption, saying “You’re a meme!

For the next two days, I was engulfed in a whirlwind of unexpected attention. Strangers even recognized me at parties.

I had no idea exactly how far this photo had made its rounds, and who all had seen it. Tens of thousands of people? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

My own creation was changing hands before my eyes, and I was helpless to control — or even monitor — its trajectory.

While I was elated that netizens apparently shared the same sentiment as me regarding a funny Chinese idiosyncrasy, I had to ask myself:

Did I miss out on an opportunity?

After a piece of content goes viral, it’s hardly traceable back to the source. Even with a proper tag, contents can still be cropped, edited and re-uploaded. Worse, an unaffiliated publication can even slap its own logo onto a creator’s original work before redistributing it.

Many of those who shared my photo expressed a desire to buy their own version of the shirt. Some even said they’d need seven — one for each day of the week!

Various large-scale foreign and domestic publications shared the image, but no one seemed to know from where it came.

As a blogger, I rely on publications that share my work to provide attribution in the form of a backlink or at least tags to my social media. But with this image, there was none. The fire was already ablaze without any stamp of my ownership.

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Yours truly giving a presentation in Beijing about how rampant content theft is on the Internet. As an example, I share two images on the powerpoint: the left image is my own video with 130K views on YouTube; the right image is a copy of my video re-uploaded by a stranger onto a Chinese platform with more than 230K views.

In the past I’ve been vocal about how blockchain can fix one of the biggest problems plaguing content creators (38:19). Namely, that it’s difficult to ensure proper ownership rights once contents are shared.

Of course creators wants their contents to be shared by as many people as possible. But without a foundation on the blockchain, any piece of content is like a roaming dog without a name tag.

Uploading my content onto a blockchain platform like AllSpark would give it an irrevocable stamp of ownership, which would not only give my ‘dog’ a name tag but would also give me control of the proverbial leash.

But here’s the real advantage of AllSpark compared to other blockchain-based content sharing platforms: where most content-sharing blockchains today, like Steem, have adopted an endogenous economic system, AllSpark expands the economic closed loop to the real economy.

This way, my content is protected by the blockchain, and at the same time, its compatibility with vertical content-trading applications like Facebook, Twitter, WeChat and Weibo ensures that it reaches the widest possible audience.

What’s more, AllSpark seeks to build both an endogenous and exogenous economic system by integrating content with advertisers. As a result, the content-based AllSpark platform greatly enlarges the application possibilities for content in the blockchain.

According to AllSpark’s whitepaper, I could partner directly with a t-shirt printing company at no upfront cost and sell this shirt design to anyone who wants it. If an agreed-upon number of orders were placed, the smart contract would automatically be executed and myself and the printing company would receive equal dividends for our work.

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A diagram illustrating one of many collaboration and income distribution possibilities for creators on the AllSpark blockchain.

Another cool feature of AllSpark’s smart contracts is that they allow average users to benefit for their role as ‘advertisers.’ Those who share the shirt design on social media can receive a portion of the generated revenue if their friends decide to pick up the shirt!

AllSpark’s public chain is being developed under the watchful eye of Wanchain as the first project in its WANLab ICO incubator. Public sale for AllSpark tokens (ASK) will take place July 23rd until August 15th.

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A public chain linking advertisers, content creators and…

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