Sat February 18, 2012
Through RecordSetter, Everyone Can Be World Champ
What's the record for squeezing open the most ketchup packets in 30 seconds? Seven. The record for the most people simultaneously flossing with the same piece of dental floss? 428.
These records are nowhere to be found in the Guinness World Records book, but rather on the website RecordSetter, where everyone can be a world champion.
Dan Rollman, co-founder and president of RecordSetter, tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Mary Louise Kelly that as long as an action is "quantifiable and breakable" and there is media evidence of it, the website will welcome and recognize the feat as a world record. The website and its book, The RecordSetter Book of World Records, showcase thousands of just such triumphs.
The site launched in late 2008 with the help of co-founder Corey Henderson and receives more than 1,000 world record submissions each month.
At the Burning Man festival in 2004, Rollman and his friends created a "world record camp" where people could climb onto a stage and invent their own world records.
One man came to their camp with an accordion and set the world record for the fastest accordion rendition of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." A woman, whom Rollman says had an "extraordinary deep belly button," set the record for the most blueberries in a belly button.
Both records still stand, Rollman says.
"We started to see a lot of competition in categories, and then it just felt like people were having so much fun with the creative side of thinking what they could be a world champion at," he says. "I thought there was an opportunity to take this thing onto the Internet and invite the whole world to play along."
Rollman says his interest in record-setting began when he received his first Guinness World Records book at the age of 10.
"I think looking at us as kind of the Wikipedia to Guinness' Encyclopedia Britannica is a good analogy," he says. "It's just a much more open and democratic platform for world records."
When he was in college, Rollman looked into setting a Guinness World Record for speed-eating ravioli but found the paperwork to be difficult.
"I was also trying to impress a girl," he says. "Some guys woo women with roses and chocolate, and I said come on over and watch me speed-eat ravioli."
Rollman says nothing is too weird for him, but the site does have principles. "The primary one [is] don't hurt yourself, don't hurt others, don't hurt the planet," he says.
His most recent world record was building the world's tallest tower of clementine pieces (8), which he's challenged the world to beat.
"I welcome anyone out there to have a go at taking me down," he says.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Here we go. Three, two, one, go.
(SOUNDBITE OF XYLOPHONE)
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
That's the sound of a world record being set, specifically, most chromatic scales played in harmony on a xylophone and the base in one minute 66 times. Now, this record is nowhere to be found in the Guinness Book but rather on the website RecordSetter. The site accepts feats in almost any category you can think of, such as most ketchup packets squeezed in 30 seconds, or most people simultaneously flossing on one length of dental floss. Yuck. Well, Dan Rollman is co-founder and president of recordsetter.com, and I asked him where he was when he got the idea.
I always say RecordSetter began when I was a 10-year-old boy and got my first Guinness Book of World Records and just fell in love with world records. And in 2004, I was at the Burning Man festival in Nevada, which is built around a culture of creativity and participation. So my friends and I went out and decided to set up a world record camp where people could come up and climb onto a stage and invent their own world records. So, you know, a guy came up with an accordion and set the world record for the fastest accordion rendition of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." And a woman came up and she had a whole bunch of blueberries and an extraordinarily deep belly button and set the record for the most blueberries inside a belly button.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
KELLY: I don't even know if I want to see the photographic evidence of that.
DAN ROLLMAN: You can find it on our site.
KELLY: So the record still stands.
ROLLMAN: Both of those records still stand. But then we started to see a lot of competition in categories, and then it just felt like people were having so much fun with the creative side of thinking what they could be a world champion at. I thought there was an opportunity to take the thing onto the Internet and invite the whole world to play along.
KELLY: Well, you mentioned the Guinness Book of World Records, which is kind of the gorilla in the room here. Why did you feel like there needed to be something else in addition to that?
ROLLMAN: I think looking at us as kind of the Wikipedia to Guinness' Encyclopedia Britannica is a good analogy. I looked into setting a Guinness world record when I was college. I really wanted to get into the book and be recognized. And I just found that the level of difficulty with the paperwork and so forth that was necessary and...
KELLY: I can't let you go any further without asking what was the record that you were trying to set.
ROLLMAN: I looked into ravioli eating for a little while. I thought I could make a run at being a competitive ravioli eater. I was also trying to impress a girl. And so...
KELLY: And did it work?
ROLLMAN: It didn't work on either level.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
KELLY: What was wrong with her? I can't imagine that (unintelligible)...
ROLLMAN: Yeah, you know, some guys woo women with roses and chocolate, and I said, come on over and watch me speed eat ravioli.
KELLY: Is there anything, any record that somebody's proposed that's just too weird?
ROLLMAN: The short answer is no. We have principles. You know, we're trying to raise the bar of human achievement through world record, so we have principles, the primary one being don't hurt yourself, don't hurt others, don't hurt the planet. But in terms of being too weird, we love that stuff.
KELLY: Are you setting one right now, even as we speak, Dan Rollman?
ROLLMAN: I am not in the midst of setting a world record, but I recently set the record for the tallest tower of clementine pieces, which stands at six or seven. If anyone out there wants to have a go at that, they can find the video on RecordSetter, and I welcome anyone out there to have a go at taking me down.
KELLY: A challenge for the weekend. Thanks so much, Dan Rollman.
ROLLMAN: Thanks for having me.
KELLY: That's Dan Rollman. He is co-founder and president of recordsetter.com. And if you want to check out that picture and video, you can head to our website, npr.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
KELLY: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.