Tara Hunt's fun new book, The Whuffie Factor, is gaining a lot of well-deserved online attention. Whuffie is the reputation-based currency introduced by Cory Doctorow in his 2003 science fiction novel, Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom. Hunt's book takes up where the Cluetrain Manifesto left off by citing many examples of ways that companies are using social media as means for engaging customers.
But, none of that matters to many of us who've been ground down by advertising and now recoil reflexively at the notion of being pitched in still another form. We've been having a conversation about these ideas on VloggerHeads, and here's my most recent contribution. If you're interested, my first video on the subject is here. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.
John Maeda is the new president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). RISD is one of the pre-eminent design schools in America and Maeda is...well...a polymath. If you've got 7 or so minutes to spare (!) check out this video.
We all know that we live within what might be called a "continuum of intimacy." Some of our relationships are very intimate in regard to certain areas and less so in regard to others (think about co-workers who know your daily office habits well but have never seen you in your fuzzy slippers.)
On line, we're finding ourselves relating in a similar fashion. I had a couple of experiences yesterday that brought home the different value to be gained from different kinds of online "relationships," and talked about them in this video. I'd be interested in your experiences of these various kinds of relationships.
The rise of Twitter has bloggers doing more than the usual amount of navel gazing.
"Is blogging dead?," many wonder.
The online trend-setting Jason Calacanis probably did as much as anyone to get this ball rolling when he announced his retirement as a blogger back in July. Others, if not exactly calling it quits, have noticed a dip in their blogging productivity.
Regular readers of The TrueTalk Blog will undoubtedly have noticed a (blessedly welcome?) decrease in the frequency and verbosity of my posts. Mostly, that's been due to my intense focus on VloggerHeads over the past five months. But, Twitter has also had an impact.
So, does Twitter threaten blogging? Not in my view.
Every communication tool ever developed has supplemented, not replaced, the ones that existed prior to its appearance. Snail mail? Going strong. Telephones? Still here. Fax machines? Oh yeah. Printed books? Billions sold.
Why? Because each tool is well-suited to do one thing—something—better than any other. And that something can be thought of as that tool's communication niche, or "communiniche."
The novel continues to be the best method for in-depth exploration of the interior lives of characters.
Twitter is a great way to quickly capture a moment. But it sucks at capturing nuance.
Try to imagine trying to write War and Peace in smoke signals.
The key is finding the right tool for the right niche.
Take video. Today, for example, we have 12Seconds, Seesmic, VloggerHeads and YouTube. All four of these services provide an outlet for creating and uploading video material, but each is focused on a very different niche. While 12Seconds and Seesmic are geared toward top-of-the-head webcam uploads, and YouTube toward being the video repository for entertainment, VloggerHeads focuses on enabling engaging interaction around thought-through material.
Each has its place in the increasing niche-focused online world. The key is knowing which communication tool to use for which job.
One of the first things we humans of every stripe learn to do is talk. Right? Sounds come to take on meaning from our earliest moments: "Mama," "Dada," "Where's the remote?"; stuff like that.
Soon thereafter, we learn that all those sounds can be alchemically represented by little squiggles; what the big creatures call the "alphabet." And, after some struggles, we learn how to read, to decode the squiggles and figure out how to get through "The Cat In The Hat," "Old Yeller," and "Anna Karenina."
Then, the sadists who run the education system pull a fast one on us: Not only are we expected to know how to decode those little squiggly suckers, but, quelle surprise!, they now want us to figure out how to shuffle them around to capture our thoughts...in words no less!...all those things they've been teaching us to say!
So, we go from being tonally expressive...using a "medium" that utilizes melody, meter, and timbre in infinite subtle variation....to being symbolically expressive; trying to learn to capture all that richness in 26 (or so) squiggles via a system that only permits them to be arranged in pre-determined patterns under penalty of getting marked with a big red "X"!
To compound unfairness with injustice, as we get older, our educational, social and economic status becomes almost completely dependent upon with our ability to use that one system. No matter how well you speak, no matter how subtly or poetically express your imaginative flights of fancy, if you can't write them down, you're at a huge cultural disadvantage.
Historically, that disadvantage has been largely driven by technology. From our very first crayons and oak tag tablets, almost all of us have had access to the tools that enable us to learn, practice and perfect the manipulation of the 26 squiggles. Alphabetafactories (schools) provide thousands of hours of teacher-enforced, computer-assisted, competitively-graded writing lessons.
Written words, and their Cinderellafied step-brother, numbers, come to rule our universe.
And then we get to college. And, what do the sneaky bastards force us to do?
The force us to take a course called Speech 101.
Speech 101, a combination of words and numbers that turns the blood in our veins icy cold.
Speech 101, a semester-long anxiety pump.
The thought of having to stand there and actually express our thoughts in spoken language in front of other people so terrifies us that we are magically turned into pillars of sweaty stone.
We learn the true meaning of that horrible term: "stage fright."
"Why do I have to do this?," we protest, "I know how to read and write!"
What we forget, however, is that reading and writing are unnatural acts.
We are, after all, animals. Our most natural forms of communication, the ones that we use when stripped of all technology and of all species/age/culture biases, are pre-verbal.
But, those factors are most often not stripped, and in the modern age, written words hold sway. Since Gutenberg, the advantages of written language have grown exponentially.
Welcome to the Reawakening of the Spoken Word.
Ever since radio infiltrated our homes in the 1920s, sound has been making a comeback.
Before then, only the pious, the wealthy, the city dweller, or slaves could occasionally enjoy the sound of spoken or sung language.
Before radio, one needed to sit in a crowded church or auditorium, a town square on the Fourth of July, or be able to afford a player piano to hear anything other than one's mother singing "Nearer My God To Thee," father demolishing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in the shower, or the preacher's fiery rhetoric.
With the advent of radio, technology (that promiscuous whore) abandoned
single-minded fidelity to writing/reading, and took up with sound and
(eventually, gasp!) moving images.
Fast forward: silent films accompanied by live music; Charlie Chaplin; Al Jolson in black face; Olivier's Lear; Harold and Kumar.
Suddenly, the aural (then, visual) history of our species could
be delivered to us at higher and higher levels of verisimilitude for
lower and lower cost.
Yet, as this fellow pointed out, the means of production remained in the hands of the rich.
Now, all that has changed.
Today, we have everything we need to produce our own
audio and video masterpieces.
We have cameras, lenses, microphones, cables, tripods, steadycams, lighting, computers, video chips, video editing software, special effects, music editing programs, media file formats, green screens, compression techniques, chat, streaming, earphones, headphones, HD recorders, HD monitors, external hard drives, QIK, iPods, iPhones, and on and on and on and on.
Only one thing is missing: the knowledge-based confidence to comfortably use all this stuff.
It's like the first day of Speech 101 all over again.
Here we have billions of literate people, people who can use those 26 squiggles to capture and express their thoughts and feelings at will. Millions upon millions of them have the aforelisted technologies to now do the same with spoken words; to use their oldest, and most natural, form of expression.
And most of them are dumbstruck. Why?
Because we didn't teach them how to do so like we taught them how to read and write.
We didn't teach them how to organize their thoughts and express them extemporaneously without fear. We didn't teach them the joys of bringing others into our non-verbal world. We didn't teach them that they owned the spoken word—poetry and prose—as much as they owned the written.
What we did teach them was that the camera was for special people doing special things on special occasions. People who looked special.
But, this won't be the case for long.
Today, we are teaching our children to be comfortable watching themselves on video—"see, there you are!"
And to record themselves.
To record their thoughts
To capture their experiences.
To share their world.
Get ready. Get ready for the millions...billions...of people who are just as comfortable picking up a video camera as they picking up are a pencil.
And, watch what happens when we once again can speak to one another in our mother tongue: facial expressions, pre-verbal gestures and spoken language.
In case you haven't noticed, video has finally come to blogging.
Next week, The TrueTalk Blog will be celebrating its fourth anniversary. We're gonna have a nice party with a bunch of other kids.
In that time, I've created 1,125 posts. And received 1,167 comments.
Now, in the past two years, I've recorded 242 videos on YouTube. Unfortunately, there's no way to know how many comments those videos have received, but, I can assure you, it's a lot more than the 250 or so they'd have received if the ratio was the same as that on this blog. A lot more. Fifty or more comments per video is common; hundreds, occasional.
Well, the question I have to ask myself is, "why"?
I guess one answer is that my written blog posts don't interest readers enough to leave comments. While I do have a few loyal commenters out there (hi, Mike!) others are sporadic.
Another answer might be that I'm a better at expressing ideas using the spoken word than in writing. That's possible, too.
Still another might be that video, itself, is inherently more engaging than writing. I'm certainly not ready to settle for that as the answer, but it does strike me that the emotional connection between two people is immediate and compelling in video. At least that's been my experience.
Regardless, what we now see are blogs are using more and more video material to illustrate points. That video might be created by the blogger her/himself or it may be video produced by someone else on which the blogger wishes to comment.
A couple of recent announcements have made it much easier for bloggers to integrate video into our sites.
First, a couple of weeks ago, our friend Loic Le Meur at still-in-beta Seesmic announced a the release of a Wordpress plug-in that enables blog readers to leave video comments on blogs. Now, Seesmic has turned on the same functionality for blogs using the Disqus comment system. We switched over to Disqus a couple of weeks ago but technical problems have ensued. We hope to be able to get them ironed out and turn on video comments here soon.
Second, today, our friend Steve Rosenbaum at Magnify.net announced several new functional enhancements for blogs. Magnify's new Publisher will make it easy for bloggers to locate and embed videos from YouTube, Google Video, blip.tv and other major video platforms. For now, Publisher works on WordPress and Movable Type blogs, but Steve tells me that other blog platforms (including TypePad) are in the queue.
This is all great news for those of us who see video as a significant enabler of emotionally-engaging interaction between people. Congrats to Loic, Steve and their teams for making it easier for bloggers to connect with their readers and viewers.
And, watch this space for some big announcements about video and community in the coming months. This is a revolution that is just beginning to gather steam.
We all carry around notions of the meaning of "self," many of which are not supported by experience and research. In this video, I explore the notion of "situation" and "context" and their relationship to the design of on-line social sites. I look forward to your thoughts.