Parsons Collab: “Internet Famous” – 3085 – PGTE 5120

Instructors: Jamie Wilkinson, James Powderly, Evan Roth

  • Fall 2008 (Sep. 4, 2007 – Dec 18, 2007) — details subject to change
  • Tuesday evenings, 6:00 pm – 8:40 pm, 2 W. 13th St.

Fame is proof that the people are gullible.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Internet Famous

Just because a lot of people see your stuff doesn’t mean it’s good… but it does mean you’re famous — Internet Famous. This course is dedicated to learning how to spread your work to the widest possible audience online. We study the art and science of getting hits. And in an academic first, students’ grades will be awarded by a piece of software that helps students track their websites & online accounts and monitor their popularity in real-time.

Sites like Digg, del.icio.us, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Technorati, Alexa, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and many more will be mined for data relevant to the amount of attention a student is receiving, such as view counts, friend counts, inbound blog links, the length and intelligence level of comments, and more. This raw data is calculated into a “Famo Index Score” that will be mapped onto the Parsons Graduate Grade Scale Description, and each student given a grade from an A to an F.

Students create their own projects, independently or in small groups, using any media in conjunction with the Internet. This is a no-holds-barred exercise in hit seeking, and experimentation is strongly encouraged.

Through the course of the class we’ll study successful contagious media projects, learn tools for improving and tracking your performance, explore the history of internet memes, infiltrate online social networks, discuss monetization strategies, and experiment with methods of licensing, marketing and distributing work.

We can’t promise that you will attain Internet fame, but we’re almost certain this class will make us famous. Good luck.

Fine Print

Internet Famous meets for one two-hour and forty minute session per week, and at least 10 hours of work per week is expected from each student. As per University policy, 3 absences constitute grounds for failure, but unless they can hack our website, the software will still give you a grade. Two absences will result in an automatic academic warning and a denial of service attack on your server.


Parsons Collaboration Studios are premised on students working together in a creative team. During the course of the semester we will work use, hack, game, ridicule and stress-test the Internet, and track our progress & resuluts using the Famotron. We will also collective build the Internet Famous Hall of Famo, a database of popular people, brands, memes, and more, which can help inform our decision making.

Students will be able to learn from and provide input into the design of the technologies, algorithms, and concepts behind Internet Famous. Enrollment in this class is akin to a research fellowship at the Xerox PARC of the Interwebs, and much of our class time will revolve around discussion and presentation of your own research and experimentation on the web, what we can learn from it, and how we can better measure it.

Each student will be required to lead at least one “Profile in Famo” session as their contribution to the Hall of Famo. These sessions will consist of each student presenting their own biographical research into a specific Internet celebrity, meme, company, band, or other topic by registering a new Famotron profile, finding their web properties & notable citations, and correlating with notable events in the subject’s career. Examples: create a profile for an Internet mega-star like Tim Berners-Lee or Tay Zonday, a comparison of two things on the web, like Cat famo vs. Dog famo, or even a series of famo profiles for the 2008 Presidential candidates.


This class is about spreading your work on the web. Students will be asked to create a number of online accounts on community sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Delicious. Students will also be required to maintain at least one website where they archive the majority of their own projects. A personalized domain name is highly recommended.

The class will include a great deal of discussion on how to make your website easy to find and easy to use, and what tools and techniques to employ to monitor and increase your site’s popularity.

Assessment and Grading

Internet Famous is the first algorithmically graded class in the history of academics1. Evaluations of students work will be done by the FameLab, a web application that quantitatively measures your web popularity. Each student will input their websites, various user accounts, and links to specific press about them and track their fame level throughout the semester.

At the time of writing at least the following sites will be mined for data:

Digg del.icio.us YouTube Flickr Technorati Alexa
Twitter MySpace Facebook Vimeo Tumblr Instructables
Compete Quantcast Reddit Yahoo Google Wikipedia

From these raw inputs the Famotron will calculate an index score that represents each student’s overall Internet fame, or “Famo Score”. Our analytical model accounts the inherent difference in the attention value of various metrics, and a robust weighting system allows the software and the class to adapt to changes in available information, technical or social flaws, and other perturbations of the Internets. The instructors will have the final word on all weighting decisions but students are invited to offer input into the process.

Ultimately a student’s “Famo Score” will be directly mapped onto the Parsons Graduate Grade Scale Description. We will go into great detail describing the algorithm during the first class, and much of the class itself represents an exploration of the derivation of the famo algorithms. Everyone will have a robust understanding of the way this works so that you can best contribute to it, game it, hack it, and otherwise improve and fine-tune it.

You will not be graded on your homework, but only completed assignments will be posted on the internetfamo.us/class blog and the famo bonus points that provides.

In the end, a cold, heartless Turing machine will give you a grade. You – and the rest of the world – will be able to monitor your grade in real-time, with each student represented by a crudely photoshopped bobble head on a bar graph.

You are going to be a big part of a grand experiment, and if you follow our advice, work hard, and stay sharp, you will get a good grade. And — who knows? — you might just become Internet Famous.

Graduate Grade Scale Descriptions


1: a good deal of Googling proves this is totally, 100% true