Darius Kazemi, Tiny Subversions – Xoxo Festival (2014) Video

Winning the Lottery

Most people are lucky if they finish a couple side projects in a year. Last year, Darius Kazemi released 72, averaging one every five days. His projects fall under what he calls weird internet stuff bots that generate random Amazon purchases, surreal metaphors, rap battle pickup lines, and everything in between.

In “How I Won the Lottery,” Darius explains how he became a successful lottery player, and with hard work and a little luck, how you can too.

Recorded in 2014 at XOXO, an arts and technology festival in Portland, Oregon celebrating independent artists using the Internet to make a living doing what they love. For more, visit thumbnail by Ian Music: Broke for “Only.

please welcome Darius Kazemi hi everybody yeah there we go um it’s an honor to be here today talking to my fellow creators I’m really excited to tell you the story of how I got to where I am today ever since I was a child I wanted to win the lottery I think it started when I would visit my grandmother as a child every night at six o’clock we watched action news on WPVI channel 6 we weren’t really watching for the news at 6:59 the Pennsylvania Lottery daily number was drawn and we’d hold our breath until that first little ping pong ball came out of its pneumatic tube she never won but it gave me hope and it was my strongest memory of the strongest woman I knew needless to say the lottery soon became an all consuming passion in every spare moment I had I doodle numbers in notebooks the margins of pages wherever else I could think this is my life that passion stayed with me through my teen years and into my college days by the time I hit my early 20s I set aside every day to buy a lottery ticket and improve my craft although I didn’t see it as improving my craft really what the lottery had become for me was a way of processing what happened to me everyday when I got into a fender bender I used the numbers from the other guy’s license plate if I met a girl at a bar I’d incorporate her phone number into my work it’s very important to me there was a period of my life where I was going through some awful medical problems and I played the numbers that I found around me every day at the hospital and it took an awful isolating ordeal and provided me a way to share it with my friends and family I didn’t have a lot of success as a lottery player at first but I kept doing it and more importantly I started sharing my experience on the internet with my lottery blog it began as a daily journal of the numbers that I played but it became so much more over time not only a great blog not only did this experiment keep me active as a content creator but it also very slowly built up a wonderful community a community of lottery players I still talk to to this very day the most freeing thing about this blog was the feedback loop between myself and my small group of dedicated fans I start to get feedback from them here’s one one great example I’ll always remember this my mom’s birthday was coming up so I played her birthday you know as you do and one of my fans commented on the post for that day and said hey I know your mom’s birthday is coming up but have you considered mixing it up and trying your dad’s birthday and you know in all my years of playing the lottery I had never not even once considered playing my dad’s birthday on my mom’s birthday and so we ended up with this brilliant community of lateral thinkers supporting ourselves in our lottery endeavors at the type of time none of us had made it big you know we weren’t well known lottery players uh none of us really knew what we were doing but that freed us I was so inspired by this community that I wanted to devote myself to it full time so I gathered up some of my closest friends from that community and I quit my day job as executive vice president of portfolio management services at Lehman Brothers uh and I I used I’ve used some of that nest egg that I had squirreled away uh I bought a little loft on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and and it became known as simply the lottery collective I worked at the lottery collective for a few years it was a one in a million experience I was surrounded by the best and the brightest and all of us were working hard on madhuri permutations studying the techniques of our heroes and trying to live as simply as possible and then i got my big break now i’m sure most of you are familiar with that my win is a story that’s been repeated all over the place and i’m not going to bore you with that today this is a special crowd of fellow creators and i owe you something a little different a lot of people in the creative world don’t like to talk numbers like it’s a dirty secret that we’re not supposed to acknowledge and i totally understand what will people think if you share your numbers what will they do but while i understand this attitude i think it’s wrong i think it’s incumbent upon me as a successful creator to share my numbers because i could not have gotten here without my blog community the lottery collective and the giants of yesteryear on whose shoulders I stand so here we go these are my numbers thank you you’re the first to see them and as you can see there are an awful lot of nines ah and a surprising number of threes now you might not notice it at first but 9 is 3 times 3 now I’m not an economist or a mathematician so take what I’m about to say here with a grain of salt but I think this means that there’s room out there for niche numbers ah I and I just want to be totally clear I’m not saying that you should play a bunch of nines and fries the next time you play the lottery that would be absurd nines and threes worked for me and they worked for me once and they’re probably not going to work for you but what I am saying is get a little wild stretch a little try some eights or a lot of sevens who knows what my lottery ticket shows is that there’s room in this world for all kinds of numbers as long as you build a community around it up for the 5 years that I was full time running my blog and participating in the lottery collective I spent an average of $2 a day on lottery tickets I ended up spending about 3 grand over the course of the experience and as you can see that paid off thank you but what this really shows is the value of community I had I had a small community of about a thousand regular posters and fans on my blog too a big advertising company each one of those people is worth about two cents but if you take the success of this project at a hundred and forty million dollars and divide it by those thousand community members it turns out that H is my fans is worth one hundred and forty thousand dollars this is the value of community so to sum things up I didn’t know what I was doing I didn’t but I kept buying lottery tickets anyway and playing numbers that just appealed to me but in addition to making things that I liked I reached out to fellow lottery number creators and general fans of the lottery and I ended up building a community and so in the end I learned the real formula for success keep buying those lottery tickets keep making those connections and you’ll win the lottery thank you now now okay so that Thanks so that was how I won the lottery or as I like to call it every talk ever given by successful creative person there are a few key things I wanted to draw attention to I was thinking of dropping the mic but then you know that seemed a little I don’t know I was just going to go over this I actually wrote this talk on the flight home from xoxo last year and and I was trying to find a venue as cool as xoxo with like the same demographics and stuff and then Andy was like do you want to speak next year and I was like I already have a talk written um but it came in under so you get this part the first thing I wanna talk about is this lottery metaphor itself I believe that beyond a certain threshold of work that you put into your projects success is entirely out of your hands conceiving of a creative project and building it that’s buying a lottery ticket like that’s the that’s the like hard work and don’t be a jerk like kind of like okay you’ve bought your lottery ticket great I make what I like to call weird internet stuff which I’ve recently come to accept is internet art and I I just want to show you some examples of projects that I made which had good public receptions and projects that I made that basically nobody cared about at all here’s miraculous pics this is if you’re familiar with those those scummy Twitter accounts like that just like get zillions of followers and they post sort of like amazing pics or beautiful pics or whatever and they always get the attributions wrong or they don’t attribute or it’s like this is a picture of Hawaii and it’s like no that’s a picture of Bali or whatever but they get millions of retweets because they’re beautiful pictures and that sort of thing and so and so I was like well I hate these things and so I’m gonna make one that’s just really wrong and so this just this this is a bot that just grabs random captions from those gummy accounts and then does a Google image search and just grab something at random and and puts them on top of each other so we get this is a new level of cuteness or how to kiss a boy or why do girls text new dicks here’s why and this I thought of this project on the way home from work I got home I made it I pushed it online I had dinner um it took like an hour because it was like to API calls to get the data and then a third API call to put it on Twitter it was pretty easy and this and this got actually a fair amount of traction I think like like TLDR wrote an article about this and there were like a figure you know it got some traction sometimes when I talk to people they say Oh miraculous pics is like my favorite Twitter bot and like that’s cool that’s that’s awesome I really like to hear that here’s another one that took about the same amount of work it’s called alt universe prompts get a load of that one and and and what this is is it goes to it helps to create crossover alternate universe scenario fanfiction prompts actually pulled from archive archive of Arlen which was mentioned earlier today and it just grabs two characters and then it goes to Twitter and it finds someone saying something aspirational like I wish I was in bed right now and then and then it just snips that off and then puts it next to two characters and drops a heart on it and and it creates these prompts and so we get stuff like this we get Quinn Perkins and the eleventh Doctor in a basement that’s not going to end well for the doctor and cigarette saloon you know that one that one got some got some faves but but for mostly they’re just a few people who care about this one quite deeply and then but it’s like the same for people who really like it all the time so uh so yeah I like this one as much as I like the last one and in fact I put more work into this but you know I don’t I never know when I when I launched something if it’s going to get picked up and really popular or what here’s another one that that I really like and makes me laugh every time it comes across my Twitter feed this is like that champagne for my real friends real pain for my sham friends this actually uses word Nick so thank you Aaron word Nick gives you by Graham’s so you can give it a word and then it’ll give you another word that’s sort of likely to appear next to it so naked examination for my closer friends closer examination for my naked friends female president for my leftist friends left as president for my female friends and real housewives for my desperate dogs desperate housewives from a real dogs I really like this one and no one cares like no one cares and then I didn’t like my most popular Twitter bot is came from me noticing a really lazy style of joke on Twitter that I saw repeated over and over and over again where we’re like popular big news items would happen and then like people would tell the joke where they mix them up so like oh there’s there’s an Apple Keynote and the next Batman was announced so let’s talk about you know some Batman Apple joke right so I built two headlines which does stuff like this and that’s 13 Kuwaiti aided aid loaded trucks Andrew NASCAR on the this one is particularly clever so you know I picked a good example but all it does is it goes to Google News it picks headlines from two different categories Google News does a little like call out of the main sort of subject of a given headline and I just find the subject in one grab a subject from somewhere else and just swap it in so this one must have swapped like Iraq for NASCAR or something Google to buy Syria in 3.2 billion dollar deal China to remain an American company so and I really like this one just as much as I liked all the other ones and this one did get fairly popular and so you know I just like this it I don’t know what happens to these things after I put them out in the wild I buy a lot of lottery tickets this is a list of every creative project I’ve released since January 2013 representing 21 months of part time noodling around with art and Technology these are creative projects that I put anywhere from 1 to 200 hours of work into and what I’ve learned from doing over 100 projects in the last couple of years is that beyond a certain level of effort there’s basically no correlation between the amount of work you put into something and how successful it is at least for me these are projects that I’ve got significant press recognition for that’s 9 out of 112 projects that actually lines up with with the song add a talk from yesterday pretty nicely and I believe that once you’ve made your thing and bought your lottery ticket everything that comes after that in terms of recognition of what you’ve done whether it’s good reviews or money or success is up to some kind of like combination of luck and and prior privilege in that and you might ask what about marketing what about PR what about knowing your audience what about making your thing better doesn’t that help um to me yes it does and that’s kind of just buying a lottery ticket like that that’s all for me that’s all part of buying a lottery ticket depending on the scope of the project you’re releasing um let’s talk let’s talk about the coolest just forbidden this is the most successful Kickstarter ever 13 million dollars for a cooler with some extra appliances attached to it this is not a high end design product like the pen type a or a fancy watch it didn’t have a slick marketing campaign its aesthetic is cheesy like an infomercial and not in an ironic way so why did it succeed well you might say people clear want a party in a box super cooler it must have been the strength of the idea that carried it through except if you look at the Kickstarter profile of the guy who invented it you’ll find one other project that he tried to launch on Kickstarter that failed and that project was the exact same thing six months earlier same thing that designs a little clunkier but it’s the same idea with complete feature parity plus even more features like a grill for some reason so what changed the inventor claims it’s because people like coolers more in the summer than in the winter ok does that account for 13 million dollars worth of difference in like the value of your idea and all that work you put in he also said this because he had backers who carried over from the last one all 279 of them now now that’s some some community that’s worth something right there and he said the video was better but 13 million dollars better did he pay Martin Scorsese like six million dollars to produce his Kickstarter video I don’t know perhaps an orange trapezoid is 13 million dollars better than a gray rectangle regardless I believe the inventor when he says it could have been a mix of any one of those reasons I also think it could have been due to the single right person maybe a TV producer at NBC seeing a tweet about it because their flight was running late and they glanced at their phone maybe a butterfly flapped its wings in the rainforest maybe it’s because billions of years ago two distant galaxies collided and the resulting conflagration fused particles into never before seen elements that got violently ejected into our part of the universe setting in motion a chain of mysterious and unthinkable cosmic events that eventually resulted in the coolest um this may seem like fatalism in a sense it is there’s not much that you can control about your creative success once you’ve actually made the thing and in a sense there are there are two kinds of creative advice that I think you can get from creative people the first is how to buy more lottery tickets and the second is how to win the lottery and I think the former can be extremely useful and I think the latter is nonsense and that’s all I got thank you. .

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