Forums / Discussion / Meme Research

25,393 total conversations in 3,479 threads

+ New Thread

What criteria should be considered when submitting a meme entry?

Last posted Oct 29, 2009 at 02:07PM EDT. Added Mar 26, 2009 at 03:25AM EDT
29 posts from 9 users

To better serve the community on this site, we would like to know what criteria should be considered when submitting a Meme Entry to the Meme Database. Because of the existence of Internet Memes that are born or are heavily influenced by mainstream media there is not a clearly defined line in what would be considered appropriate material for this site.
What do you think makes for a quality Internet Meme?
What criteria should be considered?

So far we generally look into the following factors.

Viral Spread: measured through Google Trends results.

Origin: Finding out where the meme first appeared and what sites it spread to, in what order.

Derivatives: Spoofs, mashups, remixes, parodies, re-enactments.

Is there anything else that contributes to whether or not something fits as a meme in your mind?

Also, it helps if the Meme content can be found on sites known for contributing to the spread of internet memes; like Something Awful, 4chan, YTMND, Encyclopedia Dramatca, Macrochan, or Youtube. Here are some performance graphs that can help give you a picture of the sizes of the communities.

seriously, i had an epiphany whilst on the shitter. while squatting and surfing my friend sent me the link

which eventually led me here

now this brought the lulz, it brought it hard. so much so that I literally shit myself, luckily i was on the toilet at the time. I started thinking about why this was so funny and I had the epiphany that meme’s at their core are references to something lame, that in being referenced, bring the lulz to someone’s chagrin. if it doesn’t bring the LULz you must acquit

Chris, awesome guidelines so far. Definitely helps weed out weak stuff.

Still kicking around thoughts re. evaluating mainstream-vs-internets memedom -- is it an origin thing, a “who broke it” thing, a case-by-case judgement call?

but we don’t even have a GI Joe PSA entry!!11 So we can start with what’s most internets and work towards the harder questions I think :)

I think you should take into consideration, before all else: did it /need/ Internet to spread?
Yatta was already popular in Japan, but would be unknown to us without Internet. Same with over 9000 or Mudkipz: started somewhere else, but needed Internet to become the monsters they’ve become. Yo dawg, This is Sparta, Rick rolling, they all needed or at least heavily used the Nets to become popular phenomenons.

That’s what she said and Soviet russia, for exemple, not so much. Internet played a very small role.

Here’s my list for what a meme should have to be included to be really considered a meme:

1: You must hear it outside your group of normal friends.
2: It must have widespread underground popularity, which may include spinoffs of a similar theme (Example: Advice Dog and Courage Wolf)
3: It must be able to spread by itself, not by forcing it on others. A large group of people should have to have heard about and agree that the meme is, indeed, a meme.
4. New versions of the meme should catch people off guard by using either clever wording or situations to make the meme new. Stale memes should not be considered actual “memes” and should either be given a special section called “retired memes” or wholesale removed.

Not saying I want to get rid of greats like Pedobear and Milhouse, as they constantly are given new content. However, stale memes (like over 9000) could probably use either refurbishing or a special place.

memes live and die, this site is about cataloging the existences of them, not about which ones are currently the funniest.

this just in:
I find this site most helpful.

Tucksman, I agree that cases where a meme has been forced (Girugamesh comes to mind) it should mostly be disregarded.
I also agree that some memes get completely played out and should be retired, however that’s up to the discretion of whether or not one chooses to propagate a meme in their own interactions. Like James said, this site is about cataloging the existence of memes. This site doesn’t exist to declare something a meme, or to declare it a dead meme. We’re simply here to document and explain memes.

Ahh, true true.
But… just to get a little off topic… this website is dedicated to people being able to “Lurk moar,” right?
Would the phrase Lurk Moar be a meme, since it is used on several image macros and all of them possess a common theme?

“Lurk Moar” is definitely part of the /b/ lexicon, but since there’s already a Wiki similar to encyclopedia dramatica, it’s more of just an excepted thing. At some point I could see developing a glossary of terms. We’ve talked about trying to start a whole Internet Dictionary that would cover lolspeak, chanspeak, 1337-speak, and more…but I think the size of the project became apparent and we just haven’t brought it up in a while. I don’t know what Jamie might have planned, but I know it’s something he’s been interested in doing.

So to answer that, I don’t think examining “Lurk Moar” as a meme would be as helpful as examining it as a part of speech.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I think I have what would make a good rule to follow when submitting meme entries.

If the meme is just a pop culture reference that has internet-born derivatives, it probably shouldn’t be submitted to the Meme databse.

We approved the meme entry for “That’s what she said” but it was borderline. It wasn’t born on the internet and didn’t need the internet to spread. It has a strong history of use in pop culture prior to the internet. People who don’t have computers will get that joke. It actually has a much stronger history of being an IRL meme than an Internet meme. But because there is a very huge, very widespread usage of this joke by the internet community at large we decided to research it and put it in the database.

But we have a recent request that I’m really leaning toward “no” on.
“You can’t just X into Mordor.”

It’s a quote from The Lord of the Rings and it’s creative in the sense that people substitute their own verbs for X and make funny images for it, but there is no back-story at all.

Laying out the meme entry would consist of the following:
1. Tell which movie of the Trilogy it occurred in, at exactly what hour and minute.
2. Embed a clip of the line.
3. Explain the very simple “substitute the verb in this sentence” formula.
4. Showcase the pictures.

But the reason for the meme’s popularity is blatantly simple. It’s just a reference to a wildly popular film trilogy.

If we were to accept the meme into the database, we would have to flood the database with Star Wars references. Don’t get me wrong, I like me some Star Wars references, but Star Wars is not a meme. Just as Milhouse is not a meme. (However “Milhouse is not a meme” is most definitely a very strong 4Chan meme.)

I agree with an opinion that Sebastian has brought up on occasion. It can come from somewhere other than the internet, but it should NEED the internet to spread. This is why we are still researching “Ran Ran Ruuu.” I would say that it is similar in nature to “Yatta.” Both were mainstream media in Japan, but almost any time something from Japan spreads virally to the US and abroad via the internet and spawns any kind of parody it’s worth researching.

I already know that a lot of users on this forum have expressed similar opinions. But if you disagree with this, or if you have any thoughts to share, let’s here them.

PS: I’m having a lot of fun with these discussions. I don’t think any other forum has had users who put such serious thought into analyzing both the memes, and the criteria under which they are accepted and classified. Beats the old Know Your Meme Wiki by a long shot.

Okay, I hope this helps my case.

The line appears in the first hour tenth minute of Fellowship of the Ring

The line starts at 7:12

The formula seems to be simply: one does not simply VERB into Mordor.

And there are some pictures on the request page.

FWIW, “you’re the man now dog” comes from a mainstream film, but the way it was appropriated and spread definitely makes it 100% internets (and Finding Forester didn’t have pre-existing fanboys like LOTR)

I’d love to include Mordor because I think it’s a hysterical image macro with a good presence and healthy shopping, but it’s definitely a slippery slope…

What about “I drink your milkshake”? Too mainstream?

“The cake is a lie”? Too niche?

What is the date of origin for a meme? When the source (e.g. a film from the 80s) was created or when the first variants (e.g. a remix or parody of a scene or catchphrase in the movie posted somewhere) appeared? I think the latter date is more reasonable. It doesn’t become a meme until it’s copied and mutated.

i’ve found that memes typically:

1. Don’t make sense without explanation or further research.
2. Have the ability to start up conversations and threads just with one post.
3. Are instantly funny. (ex. photoshop king leonidus’ face onto anything, and you’re a comedian.)
4. Are unintentionally made. (seems like poeple dig in a little too deep to make them)
5. Derivatives.

I agree that documenting the date and example that something became a meme (gained viral exposure and mutated) is more important than the origin of the source material, but I’d say documentation of both of those dates is essential in understanding a meme.

Cooper Smith,
I agree that all of your points are what I would ideally like to see in a meme, especially the point about them being unintentionally made. But the only one point that I would say defines a meme is the presence of derivatives.

From chatting with Jamie and Kenyatta, it sounds like we’re going to try to shift the meme database into more of a taxonomy stucture. That is, it will be less of a debate about whether or not something is an Internet meme, and more about identifying and classifying each phenomenon based on it’s outward appearance.

does this mean there will be no deadpool but rather that they’ll get into a fad or miscellaneous category?

Speaking about intentionality, I would say that it doesn’t matter if the creator of the original intended it to be a meme. Unless the creators(s) of the original have resources to make remixes, spoofs, image macros et.c. themselves, the defining factor should be what the original have turned into, and how many people were in the process. The interesting thing is when the original has spread out of control. Remember, most attempts to deliberately create memes probably fail because they have no values shared by the masses. And if the masses embrace it, why should it not count as a meme?

I agree that if a meme takes off even if it’s a forced meme that it should still probably make it into the database as long as it already has caught on “in the wild.”

But there will always be a deadpool. We constantly get people creating meme entries specifically with the intent of using Know Your Meme’s popularity to start their own memes. Simply making things up, putting them in the database, and then saying “I’m starting a meme” is something that we see happen about once or twice a week. We don’t want to invite any more of that. That kind of shameless self-promotional spamming is what the Deadpool is for. Some memes have been deadpooled that at one time we considered “not memes” but I’m usually willing to revisit entries if anyone has legitimate arguments. I think the rest of the admins are pretty flexible as well.

Over 1500 registered users, and somewhere around 10,000-15,000 views per day. I don’t think popularity is even the word I was looking for. It’s more about the fact that KYM is an authority on memes, so some newbs come in thinking that by putting their meme in the database before it has even caught on, that they can say, “well it’s in Know Your Meme’s database so it’s a meme.” It’s not a huge issue, but it happens enough to give us a reason for the deadpool.

Is there a certain threshold for an idea to cross in order for it to be considered a meme, like a finite number of people who have viewed it? Or is there even a way to track how many people have viewed a meme?

It’s not about how many people have seen it, it’s about how many people have made parodies, remixes, mutations and the like.

Is there a finite number for derivatives though?


That’s a question that I have no idea how to answer.

I don’t know that there’s one most important statistic to look at when determining a meme. But there are a number of figures to consider.

Viewcounts are great, but the biggest thing to consider is how searched-for is the meme? Evidence that people are TRYING to find content related to the subject is a good indicator that it might be a meme.

A good place to start is by checking Google Insights.

But this is not always as important from one meme to the next.

The next factor to consider is the number of derivatives. Most really prolific memes have spawned an entire body of derivatives, parodies, remixes, recontextualizations, all produced by people other than whoever produced the original instance of the meme.

When examining how the meme spread, and where each derivative first appeared, it should apper that the idea of the meme is strong enough to drive other people to spread it. It should be legitimately contagious, rather than forced or overly-planned.

Next, you should be able to identify why the meme was able to proliferate. One factor may be exploitability, or ease-of-imitation. Then there are Meme Generators which make replication that much easier, by removing photoshop from the requirements of participation. This doesn’t neccessarily make the content of the meme any better, it doesn’t ensure that people will find the meme any more interesting, but it does make it easy to make lots of different iterations.


This thread is closed to new posts.

Old threads normally auto-close after 30 days of inactivity.

Why don't you start a new thread instead?

Word Up! You must login or signup first!