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You can make Paul "Stroot" his stuff at dancingpaul.com (ha ha!)

Despite the "silly" nature of Paul's site he also uses it to showcase some of his more "serious" artwork.

Paul's latest work has British PM Tony Blair feeling the funk.

Paul Stroot - DancingPaul.com
6.6.2001 by JP

Paul Stroot's site, dancingpaul.com, is a simple flash animation featuring Paul "gettin' jiggy" while allowing you to select the tunes, the moves, the backup and or course the scene. Like many sites (other that this one unfortunately) DancingPaul became a huge phenomenon on the net after being linked to by a few choice sites and now enjoys more than 20,000 hits a day. How does something as silly as a dancing geek in a yellow shirt and jeans become so popular? I talked to the geek in question to try and find out.

Tell us a little about DancingPaul.com, how did it get started? How did it get so popular and how popular is it exactly?

DancingPaul was created about a year ago when I worked for a company called techies.com (that will ring a bell if you ever visit fuckedcompany.com) They were laying off their entire design department and they told us a month in advance, so, needless to say, we didn't do a bit of real work for a month. I was just starting to get into Flash animation, I'd worked my way through all of the built in tutorials and wanted to create a little project for myself, so I grabbed a digital camera and had my co-worker Marty snap some photos. A little Photoshop here and actionscripting there (and a couple of margaritas) and DancingPaul was born. I never really intended for the site to make it out on the internet, just our little intranet we had, but I put it up on my free web space and got a great link from amused.com and the hits started rolling in. Since that first submission to amused.com, I haven't really promoted the site once, it's just been traveling around via word of mouth and links and such. I'm really pretty weirded out by the whole thing, I mean, I did a radio interview in Tokyo a few months after I went up, that was weird. In the last year I've expanded on it here and there and it's become what it is today. Traffic flucuates between 10,000 and 20,000 hits a day, and up to 35,000 if I get a really good link (like from slashdot, or a porn site, those are great) The one thing I really want is for some stranger to see me on the street in a strange town and say "Hey, it's dancingPaul!" It hasn't happened yet.

Do you make any money off the site?

I don't make anything from the site at all. I started selling T-shirts a couple months ago to cover the cost of my domain name and hosting, but I got a nice check for that and since then lowered the prices of the shirts so I don't make any money off of them. I kept them up though because there's still some people that want them. regardless of the fact that they're being ripped off.

I'm really trying to stick the the idea that there should be some great, amusing sites out there on the internet that are silly just for the sake of being silly, with no hidden agenda or alterior money-making scheme behind them. I just want people to smile a bit when they see it, and maybe brighten up their day in their otherwise stuffy, flourescent-lit, cramped office cubile they slave away at every day. It's kind of a karma thing I guess, make others happy and it will be returned to you. Besides, the site works best as a personal promotion piece, I've gotten some great job offers from people who have seen the site.

How did you learn to dance so well? You're really good!

My God, you should see me dance in real life, it's not a pretty sight. Thank god for technology that makes thousands of beautiful girls think I'm some sort of dance-crazed rockstar. I'm just some dorky little computer nerd.

I take it dancing isn't your first passion, what is?

Well, there's two things I'm quite passionate about. First of all, I am a creator. Basically, that's my way of saying I'm an artist that likes to make things. I'm a web designer, painter, stained glass artist, brewer, re-upholsterer, cook, furniture-maker, gardener, and anything else that I can make and say "I did that" Cruise through the artwork section of my site and you'll see a few of my things. Second of all, I really love a good, cold, dark beer at a seedy bar with a couple mates. It's just unbeatable.

You spent a couple of years at Brown Institute studying Advertising Design and you've obviously taught yourself a lot about web-design. What's been more useful? The self-taught web-design or your formal training in Advertising?

There is no such thing as more useful. They both got me to where I am today and made me who I am. I couldn't have had one without the other, yet they're quite different. Brown Institure gave me a great foundation of design and layout and knowledge of the software I needed for the work I do. All of the technical stuff and web design I taught myself. The one thing that existed in both of those elements though is that I worked my ass off and was committed to being good at what I do. I'm still working my ass off and I'm nowhere near where I plan to be someday, but I'm well on my way. The great part is that it's not hard work because I love doing it.

You were nominated for a Webby Award in the "Personal" category along with Blogger, douglaspearce.com, {fray} and BOAR.COM. What are your feelings about the nomination? Do you think the Webbys are doing a good job of showcasing the web's best sites?

I think there no way any venue could showcase the "best" websites. I can't even believe that I'm in the same category as Blogger, and boar, we're nothing alike. It's also hard to say exactly what people are voting on here. If it's sheer short-term, mindless amusement, then I have a pretty good chance, but if it's great concepting, technological breakthroughs, hard, well-planned implementation by a professional team, well then I don't stand a chance. I think it'd be pretty cool to win a webby, but I certainly dont think I deserve it any more than anybody else, and I'll be pretty damn happy just making the trip to San Francisco and partying with everybody.

If you win the Webby, what will you do with it? Who will you thank?

I'll probably show my mom, and put it up on a shelf somewhere whre it would inevitably collect dust. I guess I'd have to thank the judge that chose my site because that's really the only person who was in control of the outcome.

Do you have any plans for the future of DancingPaul.com?

not really. I was working on a feature where users could upload their own song and it would be added to the playlist, but right about that time my ISP couldnt' support the traffic, so there was no way they were about to handle and additional onslaught of uploads. I am working on some similar, bigger and better sites though. I just added them today, check out the dancingpaul.com page, there's a couple links at the bottom to my new stuff.

What do you wish the web could do for you?

Make my morning coffee. Cure hangovers. Get me a date. Tell me flattering things even when I look like shit. Make the people in this world realize that tthe only meaning of life is the meaning that we put into it.

What are you wearing right now?

dirty clothes

Glad I asked, what's your take on the Dot-Com/Ad-revenue crash we've just experienced? Is the web in trouble?

Nah, the web will stick around for a while. the only thing in trouble is the people who get all hung up and stressed out about everly little thing that happens. Oh Boo-hoo, my stocks went down. I can't get a client. We're not driving new traffic. I just got laid off. Yes, the market is tough right now, but I'm really sick of hearing people complain about it. So my job might be a great as it was a year ago with my companys money being thrown everywhere for free lunches, beer runs, creative meetings at the bar, expensing toys, etc. but I can live with that. I've gone through two layoffs now and just dodged a couple others. I feel like it's part of the job, like being a construction worker that gets laid off in the winter or a writer between novels.

Anyway, aside from the little layoff soapbox I like to preach on from time to time, the web is greater and more helpful than ever before, it's not the web thats going downhill, it's the businesses that are doing web stuff, and being a designer and knowing absolutely nothing about business and the market, I'm just going to ride this wave and as soon as it comes crashing down just find another.

Sidenote: Yes, I know I said last week that I'd have the Cafepress interview up today but things got complicated by the fact that the Cafepress guy hasn't gotten back to me yet. For this reason I'm not going to be saying who's coming next till I know I've got it in the bag, I don't have one done yet for next week so it'll just have to a surprise.

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