This past weekend I took Frank to a dog park that’s by my apartment so he could go hang with some of his peeps. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, the sun was out and the air was nice and cool. This is normal for San Francisco but it’s still a treat in August for someone like me who grew up in the ridiculous Summer heat and humidity of the Midwest.
After being there for about a half-hour Frank was already tired and hanging out in the shade so I directed my short attention span elsewhere. The first thing that caught my eye was a woman playing fetch with her Labrador Retriever.
The dog seemed very floppy and was bouncing all around the ball after she threw it. It didn’t go right after the ball like most dogs, it would wait for just the right time to strike. Once it grabbed the ball it would bring it back to the woman, drop it by her feet and then jump out about ten to fifteen feet and wait for her to throw it again.
After watching for a few more minutes something clicked and I had to ask.
“Is your dog blind?” I asked hoping that her dog wasn’t just acting really weird.
“Yeah, she is.” she said back quickly while still throwing the ball for another fetch.
“That’s amazing how she fetches.” I said. “She loves it!” I then watched her go clumsily grab another ball in her mouth after sniffing around on the ground for a few seconds.
“Her name’s Sara and she lost her eyesight after being hit by a car. The person who hit her took her to the SPCA and no one wanted to adopt her because she was blind. They were going to put her to sleep and when we saw her we knew she was the one. We love her so much.”
I then watched Sara play fetch for about the next twenty minutes. What an awesome dog and a great story. Check out Sara playing fetch below or over on YouTube.
When I was in the thick of the Mo-sanity several people reached out to me and wanted to get involved. Some wanted to donate, some wanted to be part of the Catch-22 Crew Project and some wanted to offer their creative skills however they could help.
One of the creative people who got in touch is Mark Johnston who reached out to me via Mo’s YouTube account. He told me that he has an interest in shooting some video of the homeless in San Francisco and how he had already put together a short test video a year ago. I reached back out to him and we ended up connecting so he could meet Mo.
After all three of us met up one day in the city and got to know each other (and after one failed, windy shoot) Mark and Mo met up on another day without me to shoot another interview. Here’s the video that Mark ended up putting together, I think it gives a good sense of who Mo is and how he views the world.
Mark has an interesting way of telling stories and he does a great job putting together short, concise videos from literally hours of footage (which isn’t easy). I hope he continues to shoot video of Mo as a way to show more of what it’s like being homeless in San Francisco — I’m really happy with this first one.
Like the video? Don’t like the video? Give me your thoughts in the comments.
I finally have some time to sit down at my laptop and make some sense of all of the stuff that has happened with Mo over the past few weeks and it feels good. All of the things that happened with Mo and the fact that his story went viral all over the world is incredible, but it’s also tiring and slightly addictive. When the real time web decides that it’s chosen you to be the flavor of the day you better hold on because it’s one heck of a ride.
When Mo’s first video was rising up the ranks over on Reddit I was doing my best to keep up with the comments and to make sure that the story was being told the way it should be. There were lots of early critics with what I was doing with Mo but thanks to some of the past posts that I had on my blog (like this one and this one) and some of the earlier videos we had together (like when he got his new shoes) when the Internet trolls went digging into my story there was plenty there to back it up. All of this attention has helped Mo raise over $2,000 which means he’ll be off the streets and eating everyday for the next couple of months and it’s also created a new awareness around homelessness that’s affected thousands of people. There’s still a long way to go, but this was a great way to start.
Before too much time passed by I wanted to make sure to post up a good overview of how Mo’s story spread so I gave this story the respect it deserves. I’m going to do my best to recreate a step-by-step recap of Mo’s rise to international Internet fame through all of the experiences that have happened since I first posted Mo’s video on Reddit. Here goes nothing and let me know if there’s anything I forgot.
Mo Gets Some Video With A Flipcam
A few weeks back I gave Mo my flipcam so I could see what his day was like and find out what other homeless people’s stories were. After a few tries he ended up getting some really good interviews that chopped up and started posting online.
I posted the video around 3am and before I went to bed it already had several comments and upvotes, which means that people were really liking it. The more upvotes and comments you get the more visibility your post gets and when I woke up the video was already near the top of the video section. It eventually went to the top of the video section and even made it to the very front page of Reddit, which meant thousands of people were watching it.
Mo’s video was at or near the top of the r/Videos section on Reddit for over 24 hours.
When something like this happens you start to feel really funny. It’s exciting and you want it to keep on going higher and higher so you can get more and more attention. My video was at the top of the video section for over 24 hours and ended up making it’s way up to the very front page for a couple of hours. That means serious traffic and Mo’s video was well on it’s way to being viewed over 100k times.
At the height of the video getting viewed on Reddit Mo’s YouTube account was literally getting 1-2 subscribers every minute. Here’s what my email inbox looked like. It was nuts.
Mo’s YouTube channel was getting 1-2 subscribers per minute for most of the day.
I was also getting a lot of new Likes on Mo’s Facebook page. Every time I would log in to his account this is what the notifications would look like.
Mo’s Facebook page was getting lots of likes.
Mo Gets Covered In Business Insider
Soon after the Mo and Andrew’s interview became the most popular video on YouTube the press came calling (emailing to be exact). They sent me messages through Reddit, Facebook, Mo’s gmail account and YouTube. It was a crazy keeping up with it, but I was all about getting Mo’s story out there and they were excited to get more details.
The first site to cover Mo’s story was Business Insider.
The first real coverage we got was this post on Business Insider and it was posted even before they interviewed me. Once again, it was valuable that I had already blogged about Mo several times before his video went viral because it enabled anyone who wanted to write about Mo’s story could to go to my blog, grab some photos and quotes and not even have to talk to me before they posted something. That’s exactly what happened with this first post, the photo they used was taken from my blog and so was this quote:
“For some reason out of all the homeless people I’ve talked to, he’s stuck around long enough for us to become friends,” Hupfer wrote on the blog he’s using to chronicle his visits with Mo. A non-smoker, he convinced Mo to settle for a meal at Subway instead. They’ve been pals ever since.
Mandi Woodruff, the writer who posted this first story, interviewed me later on that day to get more of the story and then posted something else about Mo on the following Monday. In this second post Mandi went into deeper detail about me and Mo and was able to get more of the story from me since we talked on the phone. There are some good quotes in there and she linked to my blog, Mo’s donation page and other relevant content that I had out on the web. The media loves having all of that stuff to link off to and it’s great for letting the reader fill themselves in on the details that can’t be squeezed into the post.
Mo’s story was feature on Business Insider a second time a few days later.
Mo Gets Interviewed By Local TV in San Francisco
Friday quickly turned into a really crazy day and the interest just kept pouring in. Towards the end of the day I got a call from Chris Surdi who works at WePay, a local startup here in the Bay Area and the platform I was using for Mo’s donation page. They saw some of the buzz that Mo’s story was generating and wanted to see if they could help get it out into the media even more. Stories like this are PR gold for companies like WePay so it was really smart of them to help out. I didn’t even think about using them as a potential resource before they called but they pulled some strings and lined up some local media in SF to cover our story later that night.
Thanks to WePay we started getting some local media interest in SF.
After leaving work on that Friday I actually had plans for the weekend and was in a car on my way to Russian River with some friends when I got this email from Dave Russo, who works for ABC7 here in San Francisco. They wanted to interview me and Mo which meant I either skipped the interview for the weekend or stayed and tried to find Mo before that night so we could share his story on TV. I decided to stay so we turned around, dropped me off and I’m not sure how, but I found Mo not long after. A couple of hours after that we were interviewed down by the Caltrain station where we met and the segment about Mo was aired on the Friday night news and all weekend long.
That interview was a lot of fun and Mo really got a kick out of being in front of the camera. They only used 1% of what we shot, but that’s how local news goes. The camera guy was really cool and loved hearing about our story. He even posed for this great photo with Mo. I love this shot.
Mo cheesin’ it up and Andrew the camera guy. Mo was a natural in front of the camera.
Mo Goes From Local To National
After the crazy end of that week being topped off with our interview, the rest of the weekend was actually pretty quiet. I wasn’t sure if all of the news about Mo had died off and people had lost interest but I quickly found out that they hadn’t. The first thing that happened on Monday was the national ABC station asked me if they could post Mo’s video on their video player and interview me for a longer online story. Of course I said sure, an awesome reporter named Alexis Shaw did the interview and before you know it the madness was starting up all over again.
After playing all weekend in SF, Mo’s story quickly went from local to national.
Me and Mo looking good on the national ABC News website.
Mo on Huff Po.
Mo Gets Featured In An Awesome Video
Right around this same time a news group I had never heard called Right This Minute posted the best coverage of Mo’s story that I had seen up to that point. They’re a group of reporters who find interesting videos from YouTube and sit around and discuss them together in their newsroom. I didn’t know that they were going to create a video about Mo’s story but when I first saw it I was totally blown away. It was like I was watching a mini documentary on our relationship together and to be honest I found myself almost tearing up while watching it.
The way they brought it all together made the story even more powerful and whoever did the editing on it did an amazing job. Once again this video shows the value of having lots of other content for someone to dig into and use because they created the entire video without ever talking to me about it. That’s pretty awesome.
Me and Mo on Right This Minute — they did an amazing job telling our story.
Mo Gets Featured In Mashable
The next big thing to happen after this was when Matt Petronzio from Mashable emailed me and wanted to cover the story. Mashable is a huge source of tech and social media related news on the web and since Mo’s story included a lot of that he wanted to tell the story.
I was really happy when I saw this email come through from Mashable.
Instead of getting on the phone Matt sent me a handful of questions that I answered over email. Some writers like to do it that way because it takes up less time, they can quote me easier and they don’t have to record or take notes while chatting over the phone. Here are the questions he asked me and I answered them with everything I could and even ended up getting Mo on the phone so he could answer his questions himself. I sent over a lot of information but it’s always better to give writers a lot of information than not enough.
Matt sent me some questions over email, which can be easier for writers to deal with.
It took me a while to knock out all the answers the way I wanted but it was totally worth it. Getting Mo’s story on Mashable was huge and it was the coverage that people who already knew me noticed the most of because a lot of them check out Mashable on a daily basis or see the posts from there getting passed around on Twitter/Facebook.
When Mo’s story was on Mashable the madness started up all over again.
Mo Goes International
The Mashable post got Mo’s story in front of another huge audience and once it was live there were a lot of other posts that followed, including our first international coverage in France. I have no idea why his story spread over there, but it was really funny.
After being on Mashable Mo’s story somehow made it’s way over to France.
This particular story from France was really interesting because it’s the hometown newspaper of Dominique Lafaysse, a friend I work with who’s French. He was so surprised when I sent him a link to Mo’s story — it was really funny and what a small world. This was the only international coverage we had at that point, but there was more to come.
CNN Headline News Comes Knocking
Just when I thought that everything was done and no one else wanted to know about Mo I was emailed by a woman from Turner Broadcasting who told me that CNN Headline News (the HLN Network) was interested in covering Mo’s story. They needed permission from me to use our videos and images in the segment that they wanted to air the following day. I was really excited to hear from such a larger media source and quickly told her that they could use whatever they needed.
This was the first email that CNN sent me. They’re awful needy, huh?
The next day came and there was no segment about Mo. I emailed them to see what the dealio was and they said there was too much current news going on that day to fit in Mo’s segment but they said it would air the following day, which was Thursday. I flipped it on the next day and again there was no Mo segment to be found. I emailed them again and they told me the same thing. There was too much current news and that meant Mo’s segment was pushed out again, which they assured me wouldn’t happen again the next day, on Friday. They said they’d be in touch with more details soon and they weren’t kidding. I got this email the following morning.
Well, it looks like they’re really going to talk about Mo *and* have a live interview with me!
So, not only were they going to air the segment on Mo’s story but they also wanted to do a live interview with me. Of course I agreed and was once again excited to tell our story in front of an even bigger (and much more live) audience.
Friday quickly came and around 2pm I left the isocket office and headed up for the interview which was going to be done remotely from San Francisco. My buddy Henry Sun who is an amazing photographer met me there and he snapped some great pics of the action. I was interviewed via satellite which meant I was sitting in a room all by myself staring at a red light while answering live questions from an earpiece. To make it even better I was doing all of that in front of a super cheesy San Francisco skyline backdrop. You gotta love TV.
There’s nothing more fun (and weird) than doing a live interview via satellite.
Mo Gets More International Coverage
The interview went great and you can check out the video of it over here on the HLN website. Once that interview was over it was what I thought would be the end of the the week and half press blitz, but we I was wrong once again. For some reason the following week ended up being filled with all kinds of international (mainly French-speaking) media outlets covering Mo’s story. There was a a lot of interest in what Mo and I were doing and to this day I’m still not sure why. Large newspapers and TV stations covered it in France and I even did an interview with a reporter from Switzerland who wanted to know more (see a photo of the hard copy of the story below).
A media request from Switzerland. She called me at 4am for the interview.
Oh, no big deal. Just me and Mo in a Swiss newspaper.
I found most of the links to these stories through all of the new French speaking people who were starting to like Mo’s Facebook page. There was a flood of people who came in from France and it was actually kinda cool. They were very supportive and many of them donated to Mo’s cause. There were so many French speaking people who were now fans of Mo I even had Dom translate a status update for me so I could post it on his page for them.
Mo speaks French to his new Facebook fans.
Mo Gets Featured In Over 40 International Media Outlets
You can take a look at some of the international sites that Mo’s story was featured on below. Be sure to watch the video, it’s a really popular Frech TV show that covered Mo’s story (or at least that’s what Dom told me). I can’t understand what they’re saying, but I can tell they did a really good job sharing Mo’s story with the French.
The End Of The Buzz And Beginning Of The Catch-22 Crew
After a few days the international love affair (and the rest of the news interest) with Mo finally ended but there wasn’t any time to sit around. The very next day on Saturday Mo, me and some other friends put together the very first Catch-22 Crew which you can read more about over here (and I’ll tell you more about it later).
I think this is probably enough for one post and if you made it down this far, thanks for reading. This has been an amazing experience and I think there’s lots more to come when it comes to Mo’s story so stay tuned. Oh, and one more thing. Mo wanted to say thanks for everything you’ve done for him.
If you landed on this blog after watching the video, welcome. If you’d like to find out more about Mo you can check out his donation page over here or give directly below. Thanks for stopping by and leave a comment if you want me to tell Mo anything for you — I’ll be sure to pass along the message.
When Mo got his new shoes I wanted to be there so I could show Greg Oppman and the rest of the awesome people over at The Runner’s Forum how much he appreciated them hooking him up. I knew that he would be excited to get some new kicks, but I didn’t have any idea that he was going to react like this. I think Mo might have an acting career in his future.
I posted this video on Reddit and within a day it had over 15k views, which was pretty cool. There were some really interesting comments made about Mo on both YouTube and Reddit. Most were positive, which was good but of course there’s always other people who don’t say such nice things about Mo, the fact that I’m giving things and the fact that I got all of it on video in the first place.
The one thing that just blew me away with that video is how much he loved putting on the new socks and shoes for the first time. I know he was playing around a little bit, but you can tell by how he was acting that he was really excited to get some new kicks.
I know this sounds a little weird, but bear with me. Today I was in a new part of SF and decided to stop by Taco Bell to grab myself come tasty fresco style chicken soft tacos and a dewski. I was also hoping that I would be able to use their bathroom while I was there, too . Kill two birds with one stone, you know?
It was a small dining area and I didn’t see any bathroom inside so I asked the nice woman taking my order where the closest one was. She told me that they have one but it’s outside and she’ll buzz me into it once I’m out there. Interesting, I thought but I rolled with it and went outside and waited by the gate. She buzzed me in a few seconds later and what I saw next was so mind blowing I had to go back for a second time and shoot some video of it.
I’ll warn you, there’s a quick shot of the toilet that’s nearly overflowing, but what got me was the sheer amount of graffiti that was on every wall, including the ceiling. When I went in again to shoot this video there was a guy walking out with his younger son and in broken English he said, “Not good bathroom. Really not good for kids.” as he shook his head and walked out of the gate.
I’ve seen a lot of bad bathrooms in my day but for some reason this one stuck with me, almost to the point to where I had to appreciate it like a work of art. It takes a lot of time and effort to make a bathroom look that bad and for some weird reason I felt like sharing it. Also, the fact that it’s part of a Taco Bell/KFC restaurant and not just some abandoned, run down public bathroom at a park, beach or truck stop that has tons of foot traffic takes this gated bathroom to a whole new level.
I guess you never know what you’re going to get from me in this blog. One day I’m helping the homeless and the next I’m showing you videos of disgusting bathrooms. Welcome to a small snapshot of my brain.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]I’m going back to Congo in March and need your help! Check out more about what I’ll be doing and donate some of your cash over here. Thanks for being awesome![/box]When I went to Congo last year to teach a computer course at one of their local universities I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve trained hundreds of people how to use software over the years, but I’ve never officially taught students in a classroom setting.
The outside of the university
I’m using the term “university” loosely, as it’s not what most of us Americans would think of when hearing the word university or college. The university that I taught at consisted of three cinderblock rooms with no electricity, bathrooms or anything else that we’re all used to having inside of our schools.
Even though they had a few computers on hand (that our church donated five years before) none of of them worked, so before I could teach them anything on the computers I needed to fix them. I hadn’t fixed a computer in probably ten years, but it all came back to be and before you know it we had fifteen of them up and running.
Somehow this generator powered my entire classroom
Of course I also needed electricity in my classroom so we used an old worn-out generator that pumped in the juice I needed to power my projector, computers and the mobile phones that all of my students kept trying to plug in whenever they had the opportunity.
Even though most of the students had a mobile phone, getting a good charge is still a luxury in Congo. I even used it as motivation to answer questions during my class. Want to get a charge? Answer a question correctly and you’ll get yourself a couple hours of talk time.
The students never missed a chance to charge up their phones during class
Before going to Congo I had never spoken Lingala (a Congolese trade language) or French (the Congo’s educated language), so I used a translator who had trouble speaking English, but could translate everything I said into French. His name was Remy and he wore a suit every, single day. Up until then I had never used a translator and Remy was more than awesome. I have to admit, it was hard to begin with but we figured it out together and got into a groove in no time.
My translator Remy and I were a good team
Remy always looked good — check out that suit!
Mix all of this with the fact that the students didn’t even know what a mouse was, how a keyboard worked or how a computer even turned on and you have a situation that could go from bad to worse to horrible in no time. But, God helped me pull it off, the classes went better than expected and I ended up bonding with the students in a way that I could have never imagined.
The students couldn’t get enough of the computers
This is one of my best students, Karl — he would help me teach the class, too
I even taught them how to high-five, which they loved. So much, in fact that we all did a high-five fest at the graduation ceremony once our classes were finished.
When I received my certificate for the class I taught I surprised my students with a little bit of Lingala I learned and screamed out “Nalingi Bino Mingi”, which means “I love all of you very much!”. The students went crazy and the only reaction I felt was appropriate was to high-five as many of them as I could as they screamed in excitement.
Just about 3 weeks ago I attempted to play Happy Birthday on my guitar for Frank on his birthday and it wasn’t pretty. As you can see in the video below even Frank falls asleep out of boredom. I had just learned how to play the song about an hour or so before recording, so I guess it wasn’t that bad. [view on YouTube]
Well, I wanted to record another video of me playing the same song so that I can get a sense of how much I’ve improved (or not improved) since I first learned how to play Happy Birthday. Since that first video I’ve practiced playing my guitar at least a little bit every other day and I’m feeling pretty good about where I’m at.
My fingers are finally calloused (which means they don’t hurt anymore when I play) and I know all of the basic chords by heart, although I’m still not great at moving between each one while I’m playing (which you’ll see in the video). Up until this point I’ve really enjoyed learning how to play guitar and I’m going to stick with it for a while. I think the next logical step would be to get some real lessons from someone who actually knows how to play. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.
Anyways here’s the second video of me playing Happy Birthday and I’ll be sure to throw up another video once I actually learn another song. [view on YouTube]
Yesterday was Frank’s third birthday and to celebrate I wanted to not only sing him happy birthday, but I wanted to play it on the guitar as well. I’ve had a guitar for about 10 years now and despite a few attempts to learn how to play I’ve never had the discipline to pick it up.
Over Christmas break I got a lesson from one of my buddies and I’ve been practicing every day since (as long as my fingers weren’t hurting too much), so I thought that I would give playing happy birthday to Frank a shot. As you can see below or over here on YouTube I still have a long way to go, but if you listen close enough you can almost make out that it’s the happy birthday song.
Oh, and sorry about the singing, too. I might need to look for a lead singer when putting together my band.
Happy birthday, Frank — it’s hard to imagine a time when Stephanie and I didn’t have you in our lives. You’re an awesomely weird dog and we love you like our own child. Weird, but true.
While I was home for Christmas we had yet another Hupfer Dance-Off, which was awesome as usual. Instead of doing the normal dance-off which usually includes all of the Hupfer’s involved simply one-upping each other with ridiculous dance moves until a winner is declared, it was decided that we would all learn the LMFAO Party Rock Shuffle dance and see who can pull it off the best. I posted a video of when I first learned the Party Rock Shuffle over here in a post before I headed back to Indiana for vacation and I was looking pretty good.
When the time for the dance-off finally came I wasn’t really sure how I would end up doing, but after my sister (who was my only real competition) forgot some of the steps halfway through I was officially declared the winner. The dance-off was a lot of fun and even though most of my family didn’t know the entire dance that didn’t stop them from getting out on the dance floor and doing their thing (more video of that coming soon).
Here’s a side-by-side video of my entry into the Hupfer Party Rock Shuffle Dance-Off and the actual LMFAO video where they bust it out for real. Not too bad for a tall white guy, huh?
Can’t see the video? You can check it out over here on YouTube.