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Teen Read Week Idea : Lolcats

Teen Read Week is October 14-20, and this year’s theme is “LOL @ your library.” LOL means Laugh Out Loud, and one way to celebrate is to have your teens make some lolcats.

A lolcat is a photograph of a cat with amusing superimposed text, supposedly spoken by the cat. The text is usually mangled, with the spelling and grammar that one presumes cats, since apparently it’s possible to imagine cats writing in English, but not very well. There’s a definite unofficial style to lolcat images, with the text nearly always being done in a sans serif font, white with a black border.

Lolcats have been around for at least a few years, but have gotten a lot of attention this year. They passed around by e-mail and floating around on the web on various forums, social networks and other sites. I Can Has Cheezburger? is the best known of the Lolcat sites, it’s name being a typical example of lolcat caption.

Teens can easily make their own lolcats. You don’t need to use a graphics program like Photoshop, because there are several different online tools that allow you to select or upload an image, enter the text, and then just click to see the finished product, which can be downloaded and shared. I like the one by Big Huge Labs just because they have so many other cool and useful online tools : Lolcat Generator

Your teens can use their own cat photographs, but if they don’t have their own, you could teach them the useful skill of searching Flickr for available images. Just be sure they understand the rights issues involved, and do a search on the word “cats” using the advanced search options to limit the results to photographs with a Creative Commons license that permits derivative works which is listed on the search screen as “Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon.” It’s good for teenagers to understand how Creative Commons and other licenses work, and understand the idea that you can only use other people’s work if you honor their terms. In this case, the only requirement is that they give credit to the photographer if they post their lolcat anywhere public.

Fortunately, Flickr is so huge that even restricting a search by license, teens will find a lot of photographs available for use. For example, here are over a thousand images that could be good for Teen Read Week Lolcats :
Flickr Search Results : Cats and Books — Limited to Creative Commons license allowing derivative works

More on Lolcats

  • I’M IN UR NEWSPAPER WRITIN MAH COLUM — “Rapidly spreading Web photo-posting phenomenon centers on felines with poor spelling” ; Column by Dwight Silverman, Houston Chronicle, June 6, 2007
  • I Can Has Talking Animals? — Radio producer Robin Amer offers her perspective on the lolcat phenomena after interviewing Marc Shell, who teaches a class at Harvard on talking animals from Poe’s Raven to Pepe Le Peu. “His thesis is that giving animals speech and then making them talk funny is all about distinguishing who is like us and who is not.”; Radio Open Source blog, April 18th, 2007
  • Cats Can Has Grammar — Anil Dash writes about the different lolcat themes

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