Here’s the format: a man’s face, speaking quickly, fills a small screen on the Web page. Fast cuts jam his witticisms together. He’s talking about his brother, Hank, and something about “nerdfighters” and charities. You can’t grasp the whole of what he says. Something about punishments and Fraggle Rock, the 80’s animated children’s television series.
The man is John Green. He’s reading a viewer comment: “If a nerdfighter falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear her fall, is she still made of awesome?”
His reply: “That’s an excellent question and very plausible because everyone knows that, one, nerdfighters are clumsy and, two, we do spend a lot of time alone. The answer is that nerdfighters are made out of even more awesome when they act nerdfighterly when no one is watching.”
This is Brotherhood 2.0, a year-long video blog project of brothers and self-proclaimed geeks, Hank and John Green. Hank lives in Missoula and runs the environmental Web site Eco Geek. John is an author of young adult fiction who recently moved to Indianapolis
The brothers’ enthusiasm and humor has been infectious. Their viewership quickly grew to include more than 10,000 regulars. A few timely or particularly funny shows pulled in phenomenal numbers, like the one featuring a song by Hank called “Accio Deathly Hallows.” That one was viewed nearly 900,000 times. Some of those viewers stuck around. Lately, the daily video blog audience has swelled to more than 40,000 viewers, many of who identify themselves as “nerdfighters” with an endearing earnestness.
Who are these people? What is a nerdfighter? Why do Hank and John use “awesome” as a noun and not an adjective? Are they being serious or sarcastic when thanking nerdfighters for whatever they’re thanking them for?
These subjects and more are explored on Brotherhood 2.0. And the answer to the last question is “serious.”
The brothers are funny, true, but, while John sometimes has an ironical glint in his eye, their sincerity is what sets them apart.
At his apartment, Hank, who tucks his feet beneath himself on the couch, told me the other day that he and his brother had been text messaging each other a lot in recent years, which was lame, because it was always done while they were doing other things, so they never really connected, Hank said.
Also, Hank is something of a student of the Internet. He had studied the popularity of lonelygirl15, who turned out to be a choreographed fiction, and zefrank, who didn’t. More importantly, zefrank, Hank says, figured out how to make video blogs that didn’t bore viewers and could attract a faithful following.
By posting their video communications on YouTube, John and Hank allowed any viewer into their brotherhood.
It was weird at first, Hank said, because people on the Internet want to feel something, and often the easiest thing to feel is anger, so people in the comment section generally fling hate on everyone available.
But some viewers like to feel connected and good, too. They responded to the humor and sincerity of Hank and John and have become involved in charities, for instance, and otherwise have made a difference in the world, or, in the language of Brotherhood 2.0, have decreased “world suck.”
Right. These guys do take themselves pretty seriously. But in a good way. I guess that’s why they’re nerdfighters. (The term came from a video game, which, because of a bad font, “appears to be called nerdfighters,” John had said to Hank.)
Another cool thing about this long-term experiment? It didn’t cost a lot of money. The domain cost less than $10. The monthly hosting cost was about the same. The digital cameras were gifts – and setback to the giver about $300. The only thing the brothers bought were tripods, which cost only about $30. Not a lot of overhead for a way to reach Web surfers around the world.
As for the top secret project, you’re going to have to watch the final video blogs for that one.