Cafe Witness

Saturday, June 30, 2007

En Route to Israel

Saturday afternoon, drinking a Sam Adams beside my gate, awaiting my connecting flight from Pittsburgh to New York. After that? On to Israel...

... for about 30 hours.

But hey, at least I'll get to speak at the Blogference. And I'll get to see some of Tel Aviv. Better than doing it all via Blog TV...

Meanwhile, I'm missing an open house at Creative Treehouse tonight. In Pittsburgh and wondering what the buzz on Creative Treehouse is all about? Drop down and check it out.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Delta Blues

Update: 6:00 PM: The folks at IDC came through and worked out a new arrangement to get me to Israel on Sunday evening. Two days late, but better than nothing at all. And, taking the place of Delta in this equation? JetBlue. Why do they consistently save the day (when they're not idling on a tarmac)?

Update: 4:00 PM: El Al airlines called. They have a Saturday night flight I can take from JFK, which will get me to Israel about 24 hours before my presentation. So far, so good. All I need now is to work something out with Delta to get me to NYC tomorrow...

... except I didn't book the Delta flight, so I can't make any negotations. That's up the the folks at IDC who've programmed the Blogference. And, on top of it, my phone just died. Craziness...

Update: 10:30 AM: The folks running Blogference from Israel are in touch with their people in NYC to see what can be done. They've been working on it since at least 7 AM. No word yet.

Originally posted at 1 AM Friday, June 29:

I'm supposed to be boarding a flight from NYC to Israel right now. Instead, I'm blogging from my apartment in Pittsburgh. All because of Delta's response to some rain in New York.

I'm scheduled to speak at the Blogference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. The folks running the conference arranged for me to fly out of Pittsburgh at 6:20 Thursday evening and connect with an El Al flight at 1 AM Friday (aka right now).

When I arrive at the Pittsburgh International Airport -- after a 2 hour bus ride, due to rain + construction-induced traffic snarls -- I'm told my flight has been cancelled.

The Delta attendant puts me on the "next available flight" -- which is Friday morning at 7 AM.

I explain that I need to be in New York before 1 AM Friday, not at 7 AM. She says there's nothing they can do. I walk away from the counter and starts considering my options.

Then I notice the new boarding pass she's given me is actually for SATURDAY at 7 AM, not Friday.

I return to the counter and point out the issue. The clerk heads to the back office, confers with an unseen supervisor, and returns with a new "next available flight" for me -- Friday at 1:30 PM, with a stopover in Atlanta. All told, I'll now reach New York at 8 PM Friday -- a full 19 hours after my connecting flight departs.

Meanwhile, it's 1 AM in Israel, so everyone who could work on the issue is asleep.

I find the number for the travel agency that booked the Delta flight. (They're in New York.) The agent tells me Delta's not the only carrier canceling flights because of the storm -- Continental and others are, too. The earliest she can get me to NYC on any flight is 8 PM Friday.

I try calling Kfir Pravda, one of the event's promoters in Israel, only to find out my Verizon plan doesn't include international calls.

I try connecting to the internet, but the Pittsburgh airport's free wireless is highly unreliable and achingly slow. No dice.

I call Erik Schark (aka Rich on Something to Be Desired) and ask him to find the phone number for El Al Airlines. He does.

I obtain an international calling card number from my dad (suddenly feeling like I'm 16 again) and call El Al. Their service center is closed (predictably), but they have a 24-hour emergency service line. I'm transferred there.

I tell the operator I need to know if there's a flight leaving for Israel after 8 PM on Friday. She explains to me that El Al doesn't fly at all on Saturdays (it's the sabbath), and since 8 PM Friday in NYC is actually Saturday in Tel Aviv time, there's no connecting flight available. The earliest available flight leaves NYC on Sunday at 8 PM.

Given the 10 hour flight, plus the 7 hour time difference, that means I'd be landing in Israel at approximately 11 AM Monday (Tel Aviv time) -- which is funny, because I'm scheduled to give the first of two talks at noon. That means I have exactly 1 hour to get from the airport to the conference.

Suddenly, the 7-day Blogference I'm supposed to be involved in, which I've already had to scale back due to pre-arranged obligations in America, would be boiled down to a 22-hour period. And I'd be traveling over 24 hours, total, to be there -- longer than I'd actually be in Israel.

Kfir has now awoken in Israel and is working on the problem. We shall see what magic the Blogference planners have up their sleeves....

To be continued...

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Being Indie Is Hard Work

The Tazza D'Oro cafe is closed for renovations this week, and will reopen tomorrow.

Overheard, from a guy who drove up and learned that lesson the hard way, then turned to his business associate:

Is there a Starbucks near [their destination]?

Notice he didn't say, "Is there another independently owned, green-minded, fair trade-driven coffee shop" nearby?

Apparently, the desire to support independent businesses only works when it's convenient.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Constructive Criticism?

My mom is writing a book. It might be a novel, or a novella, or a short story -- she's not sure. Neither am I. But she's done with the first draft, and she gave it to me to read -- with one request: be honest.

So I read it. Or, to be more precise, I read the first 43 pages. And then I stopped.

I called her and I gave her the news I'm sure she didn't want to hear: I think she needs a rewrite.

I think the characters are more "types" than individuals. I think the plot feels contrived, rather than organic. I think the way the narrator imparts information on the audience is confusing -- sometimes too much, sometimes too little, and sometimes completely unnecessary, given the thrust of the plot.

In summary, I think she has a bunch of raw elements that COULD become a compelling story, but they haven't coalesced yet. I think she's a few rewrites away.

In reviewing her, I started reviewing my own work, especially on Something to Be Desired. Ironically, we're in the story development stage for Season Five, which is the perfect time to apply this same level of scrutiny to my own work.

So what have I realized?

I've realized I have dozens of questions that I, as the writer and creator, can't answer. I also see structure and character holes that are screaming for attention. And there's a debilitating lack of plot that can only be due to my own lack of understanding of the characters (and their goals).

It's disheartening, in some ways, to realize I'm so far from where I'd like to be in the creation of the story. On the other hand, it's gratifying to know that I'm identifying the problem areas and taking positive steps to improve them, getting ever-closer to where I want to be. It helps me realize that a few minor setbacks aren't the end of the world -- they're actually a sign that I'm on the right track toward something I can really be proud of.

I hope my mom realizes that.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

America: 84% Hate

I received an interesting email today from Joe Solmonese. He's a citizen who's spearheading the effort to reclassify crimes based upon the victims' sexual orientation as hate crimes.

However, according to the US Senate, the general public is against the idea of labeling these types of crimes as "hate crimes." In fact, as quoted in the email:
“I received nearly five times as many calls, emails and letters from opponents of [the hate crimes bill] as I did from its supporters."

- Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), after voting against the bill.

Personally, I believe ALL violent crime stems from hate, but now we're trafficking in semantics. More to the point: what logical opposition is there to affording additional protection to people suffering outright violent discrimination?

Are we really supposed to believe that 84% of Americans -- or, at least, 84% of Hoosiers (5 out of every 6 who called Joe Donnelly) -- think torturing or killing someone because of their sexual orientation is somehow LESS offensive than committing the same act because of someone's race or gender?

Solmonese and his organization have a video as a call to action on their site. They'd like you to watch it and, if you believe in its message, spread the word to at least 5 people YOU know.

Perhaps we can turn the tide against that 84% who think some crimes are more okay than others.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Weekends Off the Grid

Since we wrapped the fourth season of Something to Be Desired a few weeks ago, I haven't had to spend my weekends in front of the computer, editing.

So I haven't been spending them in front of the computer, PERIOD.

Instead, I'm reading books or magazines... or hanging out with friends and family... or going out for Sunday morning pancakes at Affogato.

Last weekend, Ann and I visited Philadelphia for a Voxtrot show at Transit. We took our time getting there, so by the time we arrived in the historic district, everything interesting was shut down. Still, we had a great time, relaxing over dinner and then dancing well into the morning.

<-- Ann, disappointed that the Liberty Bell was locked for the night, and contemplating a way to outwit the security guard.

Afterwards, we spent Sunday at the King of Prussia Mall.

Window shopping gave way to some galvanizing observations about marketing, branding and the power of community -- unlikely realizations, considering I was expecting to spend a few hours people-watching and comic book reading instead. Had I not taken to the time to unplug and LOOK at the world around me, I doubt I would have started this thought train.

Kelly Andresen, Rachel Arnold, Josh Sager and Marc Granberg, wedding style.

This past weekend, we attended the wedding of our good friends Josh Sager and Rachel Arnold. I've known them since we attended The Art Institute of Pittsburgh together 10 years ago, and seeing them take their next steps together was fantastic. They decided to celebrate in an unusual fashion -- an unconventional, informal ceremony at the North Park Lodge, part of which they'd converted into a gallery for their own original artwork. (And any wedding that includes a volleyball net AND a cookie table is a success in my book...)

There will be hiccups in my Luddite weekend ways -- for example, I'm traveling to Israel this weekend to speak at the Blogference there -- but I expect those hiccups to be the exceptions, not the rule. If I don't retrain myself to see weekends as MY time, apart from the duties of the web, I'll be back to the same old grind of Sunday night all-nighters when STBD returns for Season Five in September -- and that just won't do.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

When Referral Engines Stop Caring

The IMDb has, to my knowledge, one of the longest-running examples of the "if you like THAT, then you might like THIS" referral algorithms currently online.

It's also laughably bad.

I just logged in to rate a film I'd seen yesterday: Born Into Brothels, a 2004 documentary about children growing up in the Red Light District of Calcutta. (Great film, btw.)

Afterwards, I scrolled to the bottom of the page to see the reviews. Below them are the Recommendations.

Mine included Pitch Black.

How does being interested in a documentary about the children of Indian sex workers in any way imply that I would be interested in a CGI-filled science fiction romp starring Vin Diesel as a blind serial killer in space?

IMDb: Your recommendation system has been online for almost ten years. It should work by now.

(Ironically, I did enjoy Pitch Black when I saw it in theaters, but that's beside the point... isn't it?)

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Someone's in the Money

Fresh off the Yahoo! Videobloggers message board, here's a list of the AFTRA rates for film and television performers.

Notice that these are their rates for "interactive media." Which means an AFTRA actor who makes a web video is technically due several hundred dollars per day, at the very least. (NOTE: I've yet to see evidence that this pay structure is currently being adhered to, or that anyone in "interactive media" is earning these rates. But, for the sake of argument, there it is.)

Pretty cool, huh?

Not necessarily.

If / when AFTRA (and other unions) are granted jurisdiction over the internet, it could become a lot harder to launch something as simple as a videoblog. Granted, as long as none of your actors are AFTRA members, you don't have anything to worry about -- yet. But, as one member of the message board commented:

I am of the opinion that every time a videoblogger charges less than the rate card, they screw things up for people in AFTRA.

Thus, it's likely that, in the very near future, ALL videoblogs may qualify as AFTRA productions if they operate under a certain budget, accrue a certain amount of revenue, etc. (Unions tend to not appreciate non-unionized workers, even if it is just a kid from Ohio making movies with his webcam.)

And, for productions whose members are in AFTRA -- say, the cast of The Burg -- they'd presumably have to find funding to pay each actor their day rate. If it takes 3 days to shoot a 10 minute episode, that's over $10,000, just to cover the primary cast in one week's episode of The Burg. (This doesn't even cover extras, minor actors, and all other job functions -- director, producer, writer -- all of which, it follows, would need to earn their union's standard rates as well.)

So, forget about "monetizing your vlog." T-shirt sales and Revver clicks aren't going to cover AFTRA fees. The bigger question is: who's going to fund the future of web video?

(Enter: The studios ===> Hello, old media cycle, all over again...)


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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fragmented Conversations

When someone blogs about someone ELSE'S blog post, where should YOU leave a comment?

For example, yesterday I blogged about Lan Bui's troubles with Podtech. As a result, some folks left comments on my blog, which I dig... but unless Lan himself stopped by, he'd never have seen them.

Conversely, had everyone only commented on his post, I'd have been under the impression that my two cents hadn't furthered the conversation.

Proposed Solution

What the blog world needs is a conversation tracker.

This way, after Lan made his initial blog post (for example), anyone else who'd blogged about the issue would have their post automatically included in that conversation stream. Then Lan (or whomever originates a blog post) would be able to see all other posts made regarding the original post / topic.

Plus, everyone else further down the conversation chain could see up and down the trail in both directions, AS WELL AS seeing any nodes that grow off their OWN posts about the subject.

In addition, any comments made on subsequent branches of the topic could also be cross-posted back to the preceding blog posts -- for example, Roxanne's comment on my post could also be CC'ed back to Lan's post, if so desired.

So, in the end, the structure looks more like a tree than a river.

Programmers of the world, you have been prompted.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Lan Bui vs. The Public Mindset

As you may have heard, West Coast podcaster Lan Bui had some concerns about Podtech using one of his photos on a commercial advertisement for the Vloggies without proper accreditation OR compensation.

He tried to settle the issue through the proper channels, including invoicing Podtech for the usage of his photo. Three months later, he's still awaiting closure on the matter.

Having now blogged about the issue, he's brought the subject to the public. The comments on his blog typify the real problem that he -- and the rest of us -- face in trying to obtain respect for our work.

The podcasters who stopped by were all supportive. Then came the (as always, anonymous) trolls, whose statements include:

you are being a cry baby. get over it the net is about free content


from a paparazzi perspective, yeah... that's your picture of casey mckinnon and you perhaps deserve some kind of compensation, I guess. but I wouldn't make a big negative stink about it. this company that has money clearly likes your work and by acknowledging their oversight you could probably leverage doing some work for them... why be a cranky self-righteous photographer.

This is exactly why podcasters aren't making money: no one outside the fishbowl respects web content (yet). They don't respect the time, effort and talent it takes to produce quality content, and they don't believe that investment is worth the creator being paid -- at the very least, not by them, the audience.

It's telling that the second commenter suggests that Lan shouldn't be upset because a company "that has money clearly likes your work," and he should be thrilled at maybe approaching them for some legit freelance. After all, they did "steal" his work, so that's a validation worth enjoying, right?

Since when did being ripped off by a corporation become a cause for celebration?

Sorry, anonymous trolls, but someone pays you for what you do, and someone should pay the best of us for what we do as well. It's capitalism. Surely you understand that, right?

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Five Faces of Twitter

Having used Twitter for several months now, it's become part of my daily routine, riding shotgun in my sidebar (I use Tweetbar almost exclusively -- no SMS for me) and accompanying me throughout my web-connected day.

Unfortunately, not everyone on my Twitter list is following me. That's okay; I'm not following all of my followers either. We're all entitled to be selective to whom we offer up our precious eyeballs, and sometimes a person we don't know very well isn't worth adding to our stream.

What follows is a crib sheet of ways YOU can use Twitter (for good or evil).

Twitter as Confessional

Some people believe everyone in their lives is interested in every remote detail about them -- where they're going, where they've been, what they just ate... or will be eating... or wanted to eat but didn't...

For them, Twitter is like an ever-morphing diary, in which they can publish every syllable of their internal monologue for all to see. Fascinating as this may be to the confessor, it's seldom ever as interesting to the confessor's followers, who frequently feel compelled to Leave that person's Twitter stream.

And yet... this is the kind of person who's the hardest to delete from your stream. Because you feel like you're actually deleting the person, rather than their endless trickle of self-rationalization.

Then again, perhaps the two are inseparable...

Twitter as Open Mic Night

Is everything in your day a potential punchline? Twitter lets you hone your stand-up comedy skills into top form.

Thanks to their 140 character limit, you're forced to keep it short, sweet and punchy. The altruists in this category simply seek to beam some cynical sunshine into the lives of their fellow Twitterers throughout the day. The cynics use it to erode attention spans ever further, strengthening the snack-based culture and prepping their bits for Thursday nights at the Comedy Shack.

Twitter as Megaphone

Some folks have over 1,000 followers on Twitter... while only receiving messages from a few hundred people that they actually know. This "megaphone" approach insinuates that a person is believed (by the masses) to be someone worth listening to. This person, in turn, has little interest in listening to the masses.

This creates the awkward effect of that person's followers responding to his / her Twitters without realizing their voices aren't being heard. That's fine; it's everyone's prerogative to control their information influx. Who would want 2000 responses to "Anyone know any good WordPress plugins?"

But once you discover YOU'RE not being heard, there's that inevitable moment of technological embarrassment that follows -- a phenomenon singular to Twitter, or possibly chatrooms in general -- in which YOU feel like a dweeb for trying to have a conversation with someone who doesn't consider you to be worth listening to.

(Ironically, NO ONE ELSE knows you're not being heard. Everyone else in your Twitter stream naturally presumes you're having a two-way conversation -- after all, why would you voluntarily talk at someone? But YOU'VE realized you're not, and now you feel that sting of social snubbery that can only occur in enclosed text boxes.)

So what do you do? Delete that person from your list and save yourself from being talked at monodirectionally all day? Or come to terms with your place in this person's life and continue to receive their stream because it's just THAT INTERESTING / FUNNY?

(Note: If you're me, you almost always delete them. I don't have time to be talked at.)

Twitter as Bulletin Board

Perhaps you don't care about conversations. Perhaps you just want to announce what's going on in your world to an army of faceless consumers / fans / political pawns. In that case, use Twitter as a catch-all for promoting every blog post, video or magazine article that features you in any way.

(This approach is essentially the "professional" version of the megaphone model, in which you're not interested in being personal in the slightest. In fact, you're probably not even a person. You're probably just an RSS feed, and you'll never read this anyway.)

Twitter as a Replacement for Leaving the House

With your friends 140 keystrokes away at all times, who needs to actually BE THERE?

Couldn't make it to SXSW? You could have been -- by following their Twitter (when it was being updated).

Don't feel like driving across town? Watch a movie and Twitter your thoughts about it instead! Soon, others will chime in, furthering the conversation. Fire up a cup of coffee and convince yourself this is much like hanging out at someone's house with other flesh and blood creatures.

Just make sure they're all following you, too, or else you might end up having that conversation with yourself.

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5 Ways to Positively Disconnect

I'm overwhelmed with media buzz 24 hours a day. I wake up to email and go to sleep with video games. Very little in my day is spent outside the thrall of media consumption.

When I need to clear my head and re-attune myself to what REALLY needs to be done -- or, just as important, what my subconscious tells me I want / ought to be doing -- I need to unplug; sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a couple days. If you have trouble doing the same, here are five tips to help you disconnect:

1. Commute in Silence

The drive / ride to work may be a great to time listen to podcasts or the radio, or catch up on phone calls / email. It's also a good chance to disconnect your mind (for a regulated period of time) and let it wander.

Observe your surroundings. People-watch. Listen to the sounds of your car. Maybe you'll notice something you overlooked before, or stumble upon a new idea.

2. Eat Alone

For all the business wisdom associated with NOT eating alone, sometimes a quick lunch or lengthy dinner on your own terms is enough to reset the vibe. Find a window seat. Eat at your own pace. Have dessert. Then return to the issue at hand.

3. Leave the Cell Phone at Home

Blasphemy? Hardly. When I volunteer at the Animal Rescue League in the evenings, I rarely take my cell phone with me. The hour or two that I spend walking dogs is made even more pleasant knowing I won't be interrupted by telemarketers or arbitrary texts.

4. Meditate

Reserve a small portion of your day -- in the morning, after lunch, in the evening -- for voluntary solitary confinement. Find a quiet place where you won't be interrupted. Turn off distractions -- except an alarm clock, if you tend to fall asleep in such circumstances.

Allow your mind to wander freely. Focus on the positives, both real and desired, in your life. Then return to your daily routine with renewed clarity and vigor -- and, perhaps, a few new ideas.

5. Take a Tech-Free Vacation

Unless you're on a business trip, the best thing that can happen to you is to be booked into a hotel with no internet connection. The harder you have to work to stay connected -- where is the nearest internet cafe? -- the easier it is to allow yourself to become disconnected.

When I went to Paris last April, I had no working cell phone and no laptop. We relied on maps, a guidebook and a basic understanding of the French language to get around. And the fact that I couldn't check my mail for three days made me forget why I ever wanted to check it in the first place.

Getting Past the Fear of Seclusion

Society has trained us to believe that we're only experiencing life if we're connected. That's entirely dependent on what your "life" consists of. For most of us, it could (and should) involve a lot more activities without keypads and screens.

Don't think of disconnecting as a negative. Think of it as a way of getting back to that larger life we keep forgetting we're part of.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Lifehack Overlap

Here's a great way to "make time" when it seems like you have too much to do at once: overlap.

Since most of us tend to be involved in 20 different projects at once, it stands to reason that there's a good amount of overlap among these projects -- same people, same topics, same resources.

Is there a way you can combine seemingly disparate tasks to accomplish multiple goals at once?

For example: while answering an email just now, I realized I was imparting the same information I'll cover during a presentation I'm giving later this summer. So I copy-and-pasted that email into a new document before sending. Now the emailer has the answers he needs, and I have the outline and talking points for a 40 minute presentation -- AND a blog post! Check, check and check!

The answer isn't always improving the ORDER of how we work -- it's improving the FLOW. And flow almost always means overlap.

How can YOU combine tasks in a new way today?

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Grow Up. This Means You.

Is it just me, or do you instantly lose respect for someone the moment you hear them complain -- in a book, in a conversation, in a blog, on Twitter, wherever?

I'm not saying "don't identify problems." I'm saying "be proactive about it." I have better things to do than to hear a grown man bitch at his wife in public or read about someone feeling "wronged" by someone else... just as examples.

Whatever happened to proactive personal responsibility?

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The Trouble with "Free"

People can only expect "free" content for so long before nobody wishes to create anything due to lack of incentive.

"Jason," Gosford, Australia -- commenter on an Andrew Keen article

How many blogs do you read? How many podcasts do you listen to / watch?

Would you consume the same amount of web content if it WASN'T free?

Most of the web world is betting "no," which is why so much remains free. But for the people who ARE producing work that, under traditional circumstances (and in traditional media) WOULD be considered "market-worthy," the question remains: how do we monetize?

We created the internet under the guise that all content should be free. Then we bemoan the fact that, since we CAN create market-worthy work there, we SHOULD be paid for it.

But how?

People expect ads on TV and radio because they were ALWAYS there, to ensure the media was delivered for free. Conversely, they expect NO ADS in films because they already paid at the door. (So, when theaters started showing ads, audiences were right to complain.)

People expect everything on the internet to be free, OR TO BE A GATEWAY to something ELSE that costs money.

So how do we, who are creating free content (blogs, audio, video, animation, photos, communities, ideas, experiences) get PAID for what we're doing?

The John C Havens / Eric Rice Method: "Charge SOMETHING"

On a recent interview with's John C Havens, he and I debated the merits of EVERYONE charging SOMETHING, so the world would come to understand that the internet was a viable delivery mechanism.

Meanwhile, Eric Rice also recently blogged about the potential for iTunes to at least enable podcasters who use the service to charge SOMETHING for their work, to retrain the audience into not expecting everything for free.

John and Eric are proponents of the concept; I'm more skeptical (for the reasons listed above), though I do see the need to move away from the "all-you-can-eat-for-free" buffet -- for exactly the reason quoted atop this post.

The Andrew Baron / Chris Brogan / Vergel Evans Method: "Charge for SOMETHING ELSE"

Andrew, Chris and Vergel have recently expressed variations on the same theme: "Give away the content as a gateway to SOMETHING ELSE you monetize." Vergel's podcast is all about electronic music creation -- and then he sells mp3s of his songs.

Chris and Andrew champion the concept of giving away videos for free to get people to buy the DVDs, or subscribe to a site to see extra features / content that's unavailable to the (free) masses.

While I CAN agree with this model, it's flawed in one central way: why would I expend dozens of hours and x amount of $ to create something I'm already passionate about, JUST TO HAVE TO CREATE SOMETHING ELSE I CAN CHARGE FOR?

What IS the Internet?

I think what it all comes down to is: how do WE (the creators) SEE new media?

And, how do WE (the consumers) INTERPRET new media?

And, most importantly: How does EVERYONE SEE the internet?

Is it a delivery mechanism unto itself? A marketing and advertising gateway to someplace else? Or a bastion of all things that shall forever remain free?

(And where does what YOU'RE contributing fall along those lines?)

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Crosspost: Length Matters 2

Over at the STBD blog, we're trying to decide if our episodes -- which our fans actually wish were LONGER -- should really be SHORTER to attract a wider, time-starved audience.

Help us make a decision!

Everyone's a Small Business

One of the sexy, mindblowing things about social media is that everyone's a channel. What you say / do / make / like can now be piped into the heads of millions in a real-time basis. Every human being on the planet is a few keystrokes away from becoming the next superstar.

Or so it seems.

What we forget is that, for every accidental "overnight success," there are 99 people who work their tails off for a piece of the pie. And THAT kind of success doesn't happen overnight, or by accident -- it happens because of old-fashioned values:

- Dedication
- Quality
- Communication
- Value
- Community

What it means is that, if you drop one video in the YouTube stream and it DOESN'T happen to get swept up in the tide and turn you into a household name overnight, you'll find yourself in the exact same boat as everyone else in the world who's trying to be heard / seen / loved.

And what separates them from you?

- Dedication
- Quality
- Communication
- Value
- Community

We might all be channels, but no one interacts with those channels if they don't know they exist. And even successful channels can still fall silent if they're not carefully managed.

- Time management
- Resource management
- Workflow
- Personnel
- Cash flow

Welcome to social media, where everyone's a channel AND a small business -- and you'd better be at least competent at each or else you'll never be heard.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mirror Thinking

Esalen's Law: You will always teach others what you most need to learn yourself.

The Corollary: You are your own worst student.

So many of us in the social media sphere seem very passionate about "empowering the community," "continuing the conversation," and generally improving the way we interpret and utilize our lives.

But what are we teaching ourselves in all this?

What is the crux of what you create? What do you blog about most? What are you most passionate about?

Are you good at it?

Could you be better?

How many of your lessons, imparted upon the masses, could be put to even better use if you adopted them yourself?

Nothing specifically prompted this line of thinking from me. (Actually, I found the above quote in a book yesterday, but it wasn't spurred by anyone in particular, so fear not.) But it did resonate within.

Are we all kidding ourselves into believing we're making a difference by nudging each other along while we neglect what it is we, ourselves, truly want?

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Monday, June 04, 2007

How Much Is Your Reputation Worth?

Until last week, Billy Donovan was the head coach of the University of Florida men's basketball team. He'd just coached the team to two consecutive NCAA Championships, something that hadn't been done in 16 years. He was on top of the world.

He signed a huge contract extension with Florida. He was set for life.

Then, last week, he changed his mind and accepted the head coaching job with the NBA's Orlando Magic. Sources claimed he'd always been interested in making the jump from college to the pros, and that this represented the best opportunity -- a 2-time champion, at his peak, leaving to coach a team located near his family? What better situation could he ask for?

Staying put, apparently, because it's being reported today that Donovan has changed his mind again and will remain at the University of Florida after all.

In addition to the financial repercussions of such "decision-making" -- some sources are claiming Donovan had already signed his contract with the Magic, which means this about-face will likely cost him millions of dollars in breach-of-contract payouts -- the past week has also turned Donovan into possibly the least trustworthy coach in sports.

How does someone manage to go from the absolute top of his profession to a punchline in only 7 days? Simple: He didn't think about his reputation.

If you thought war hero John Kerry was a flip-flopper, how do you explain the prerogative of a man who signs (or doesn't sign, depending on the source) various contracts, only to leapfrog from one to the other when the situation becomes too complicated?

How do you expect the athletes he's hired to coach -- at any level -- to take a word he says seriously? Or his employers, who must now perpetually believe Donovan is one bad weekend away from quitting on a contract?

I'm sure we're not hearing the whole story -- we never do, in these cases -- but the circumstantial evidence has mounted to make EVERYONE in this situation look, to one degree or another, like a fool. And none moreso than Donovan, whose sterling reputation is now permanently warped.

How Does This Apply to You?

Whether you're a freelancer, a social media creator, a boss or an employee, you operate under agreements and deadlines. You have clients and audiences that expect you to deliver on those promises.

Even if you've never signed a contract or issued a mandate, the people you work with / for still have developed a perception of who you are based upon your past behavior.


(It also impacts how you see yourself too.)

If you say your next podcast will be up on Monday and it isn't, you can't complain that your audience didn't come back a day later to see if you'd caught up.

If you tell a client the project will be ready for review by Wednesday and it isn't, you can't blame them for not wanting to work with you again.

People in every walk of life complain that they work themselves to the bone every day for no reward, while others are able to skate by on reputation alone. This is partially true. But the bigger picture is that the people "skating by" are actually doing just as much work, if not more: not only did they have to work themselves to the bone to reach the level of success they've attained, but now they have to maintain their reputations.

Next time Billy Donovan signs a contract, the other party will know the piece of paper is worthless.

Next time you tell someone you'll "have it done by Friday," will they believe you?

Should they?

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Friday, June 01, 2007

The Value of Doing Nothing

We wrapped up our fourth season of Something to Be Desired this week, and suddenly, I'm faced with the situation I've dreamed of for weeks:

I have nothing to do.

And it's simultaneously rapturous and alarming.

Semantics, Baby

Of course, I don't have nothing to do. I've been juggling several freelance projects, with a few more on tap. I have an upcoming PodCamp Pittsburgh 2 to plan for. I have numerous financial situations to improve, rectify and otherwise attend to.

But, for all intents and purposes, the primary focus of my life for the past year is over -- temporarily, at least.

Now I have the complete freedom to organize my days any way I see fit. I can compartmentalize my workflow differently. I can go out in the evening, spend time with family and friends, and remind myself I have a girlfriend again.

I can read.

The Downside to Freedom

Like most people, I tend to get a lot of great ideas at precisely the wrong time to work on them.

I'll be staring down a hard deadline for one project and suddenly see the answer to a problem in another project that I'd completely forgotten about -- but I don't have time to implement it.

I'll be Googling for information about one project and invariably find something I know I can use in another capacity -- but I don't have time to explore it.

Now all I have is time.

Of course, the cynics among you have seen this point coming: with no excuses, I now suddenly have no recourse but to follow through on all these other grand ideas.

Will my subconscious mind, which tends to generate far more material than I ever seem to be able to act upon, be as fertile when I now actually HAVE the capacity to take action? Or will I suffer from psychosomatic stage fright? Time will tell. And time is something I have plenty of...

What about you? Do you find a wealth of free time to be a blessing or a curse? How do you maximize your freedom?

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