When I was at Disney in the ’80s, VR was trying hard to break into mainstream media. I was totally in, and went along with Captain EO as a reasonable 3D substitute for what I knew was going to be great. Not many others thought so. BTW, there’s a bootleg, below. If you’ve never seen it you should. Michael Jackson, “goin’ in”. Awesome.
In the 90’s I was into it with Virtual Boy and movies like Lawnmower Man. Nobody else was that into it.
In the 2000’s I was waiting, but got really deeply involved in 3D animation. But I never really forgot VR.
Virtual Reality is Here
It’s been a long time coming, but it seems Virtual Reality is finally here to stay. The gear is still pricey, and the content isn’t there yet, but if audiences at Sundance and SXSW are to be believed, this is going to be very, very exciting.
I’ve pulled together a group of visionaries to form a VR Animation Studio ardeeXYZ, and we’re recording a weekly podcast to discuss what’s new and up and coming in VR animated films. We’re also talking about more traditional media like theatre and film and how it may be changed by VR.
It’s going to be great. If you’re into VR or think you might be, be sure to follow us on Twitter. And let me know what you think of this new storytelling technique.
Anyone who knows me, knows I’m crazy about well-written software and, in particular, software that helps me work smarter, not harder. And when it comes to project management software, it’s the suite of products from Teamwork.com that I turn to all day long.
Teamwork Projects is what I’ve been using for years, from the moment I outgrew Basecamp. I use Teamwork Projects with dozens of clients across the globe to get my teams communicating and delivering. Its strength is its simplicity and power. I assign and track tasks, keep a sharp eye on deliverables, and stay on top of every step in the process of pushing out product.
Fairly new to the suite is Teamwork Desk, a ticket system. Though not wholly unlike other ticket systems I’ve worked with, what sets it far above the competition is its tight integration with the Task system implemented in Teamwork Projects. This serves two purposes:
It creates a closed loop of information from the client to the developers, and back again. All the while, Teamwork Desk uses its unique privacy settings, so conversations that happen with the client are sheltered from the developers. Meanwhile, developers or in my case, video editors, can have conversations with each other or others on the development team, without involving the client.
It’s all managed by the Project Manager, who keeps clients constantly engaged with a real-time ticket thread system, allowing the production team to remain focused on the jobs at-hand.
BlushDrop: DIY Wedding Videos
So, when it came for me to launch my own startup web app, I decided to be my own best client and try to use the Teamwork.com suite in an unusual way: by providing real customers not involved with tech with an interface to communicate with remotely located video editors through a moderated system.
I’ve owned a wedding videography company for many years. I hire several shooters and editors to create some of the best wedding films in the business. But there’s been a problem that’s become an epidemic of late, there are dozens of people shooting video with smartphones and tablets, and though the quality will be excellent based on what I’ve seen from the latest iPhones and Galaxy’s, there has been no way to capture this footage.
Until now! We spent a summer building our first web app, BlushDrop. Using a private anonymous file transfer gateway, we’re able to provide wedding couples and their families and friends one unique URL. They can upload as much video footage as they want. If there’s fewer than 10 minutes of video, they don’t pay any more than their base account. If they’re over their allotted time, they just pay a few dollars per minute. Once they’re happy with the raw video, they use a system to alert us that the videos are ready to be edited.
We needed a system to track all of this video arriving from a huge number of sources and be able to assign projects to editors while not losing track of who said what and what was assigned to whom. It was imperative to create the impression that the customer was dealing with just one point of contact. They don’t need to think about how we’re processing multiple BlushDrops at various stages of completion at the same time.
Using Teamwork Desk features such as Triggers and automated replies, we streamline customer support and appear far more professional and organized than we would if we were just using web-based contact forms, Excel, and Gmail. In fact, I don’t know how we would have done this any other way.
When a customer creates an order and processes their payment, an email is sent to our orders@ email. Using the related Help Doc provided by Teamwork.com, we set up email forwarding from that address straight to our Teamwork Desk Inbox. Managing orders just became the easiest part of our jobs.
We created a Trigger in Teamwork Desk to send an email to the assigned agent responsible for triaging the tickets. It is that agent’s responsibility to make sure the names and emails are correct, initiate the BlushDrop account, and initialize the conversation thread in Teamwork Desk. We then send off a few canned yet personalized responses. The responses basically take the customer through the process of accepting our terms of service, while also providing them with their custom BlushDrop link.
What’s amazing is that all of this conversation happens through the Teamwork Desk interface. Using this streamlined interface, we’re able to contain any special requests or deal with any questions the client may have. No emails get lost. Ever. Everything is in one place and accessible by the agents and support team.
Engaging the Editors (pardon the pun)
This is especially important when a couple decides they’ve done enough pre-editing and want BlushDropto finish the job. When we get the go ahead through Teamwork Desk, the supervisor creates a Task from within Teamwork Desk which feeds into Teamwork Projects. The job is assigned to an editor, and any relevant notes from the conversation thread are copied into the Task as a comment within Teamwork Projects. By enabling “email notification”, the editor now knows everything they need to cut the wedding montage. The music, any comments, and all of the video are either in Desk or linked from Desk, while the Task is a super-condensed, need-to-know document designed for speed.
The editors are all working remotely, so it’s important to have one central place to discuss one video – and Teamwork Projects provides that focused, sheltered conversation thread, even if the system may be processing hundreds of BlushDrops at the same time.
An incredible bonus with Teamwork Desk is the ability to log, track, and record frequently asked questions. Teamwork Desk provides a Help Docs Knowledge Base that seamlessly integrates into the BlushDrop website. We can add a logo, a link back to the main site, topics arranged in whatever order you like, and finally the ability to submit a unique customer request. The best part of the question submission process? It becomes a new Ticket in Desk, ready to be assigned to a subject matter expert, answered, and maybe immortalized on the FAQ page itself.
Finishing the Job
When the video is complete, the editor leaves a comment for his or her supervisor, who sends along a watermarked video to the client via the Teamwork Desk interface. Using simple @ notifications, I’m looped in on each and every video without having to deal with email or attachments, or knowing which editor did which video. This is very nice to have this luxury of knowing which of my video editors is associated with an edit. By the way, this is exactly the method of Quality Assurance (QA) I use as Project Manager for my software development teams.
If the client has any feedback, they reply via Teamwork Desk as a regular reply to the email they received. No login or passwords required. As the owner, I can see everything going on. Everyone on the team is on the same page or is on a need-to-know basis with regards to not worrying about what the other editors are working on.
Once the video is approved, the editor is alerted to this via Teamwork Projects, the Task is marked as complete, which is reflected in real time in Teamwork Desk. The client is delivered their edited video via Desk, and the thread is marked as “closed”. The client receives notification of the project’s status.
Using automation, it’s possible to handle hundreds of new job request via Teamwork Desk and Teamwork Projects every day, and know with 100% confidence which editor has been assigned to which client, and that editors and customers are communicating so everything is in sync.
This is no short order for a cloud-based video editing solution like BlushDrop, and Teamwork Project and Teamwork Desk are perfect for keeping everything moving forward and delivering quality and delight for customers worldwide.
Knowing that we’ve made people’s lives better by capturing and polishing everyone’s wedding smartphone videos into a genuine keepsake, makes it all worthwhile.
I was doing some housekeeping and came across a portfolio that captured well over 15 years of my work. Interesting, I spent so much time on this when it was done and submitted, I completely forgot about it. The timestamp is 2011.
This sampler touches on my motion graphics, photography, illustrations, web design, and 3D animation. If it’s a still from a motion graphic, you can probably find it on my YouTube page.
In the world of marketing, a viral hit is an elusive phenomenon. But over the years of talking dogs and Charlie biting a finger, digital marketers come to identify a few of the features of a news story that seem to work in favour of a meme event. I’ve discussed these points in the videography classes I teach where we touch on viral videos, but no local news event has hit so many of the right buttons so efficiently, along with one very unexpected and risky addition.
If you, like me, are interested in how a story goes from an innocent Facebook post to a global sensation, read on.
It’s important to state two things a the onset. First, this was never intended to be a global news story. Second, as a Digital Director, it’s my job to look out for and hopefully create viral events for the web. This story is a textbook example without even trying, which makes it very interesting to me.
What started earlier today as an innocent post from his mother to her friends exploded in a matter of hours into a classic viral news story, possibly reaching the highest office in Canada. A child’s mother posted on Facebook a casual invite to join her and her son for poutine, then maybe a bit of bowling. What ended up was nothing short of a global sensation in just a few hours.
Seems the story is the perfect mix of good natured fun, with the underdog winning. But how did this local story shared with a dozen or so friends get the attention of the federal Liberal leader of Canada, along with thousands of well wishes from across the globe? As I write this, this viral story is developing. In essence, a young 13 year old Peterborough, Ontario boy Odin was shut out by his school mates and nobody came to his birthday party. You can read the story, here. [@ptbo_canada]
The lede of any story, viral or traditional, is the heart of the story. It’s got to be easy to explain, easy to remember, and easy to share. In this case, we have a young boy, with Aspergers, bullied by other children, ignored on his birthday, then celebrated with birthday messages from friends, family, the community, then the entire world. Anyone with a child, or from Peterborough Ontario, or Canada, or with a unique name like Odin (the story trended early and strong in Norway) will have an emotional engagement with this story. The fact that it was swiftly put online with all the right functionality set it up for a viral news event.
Ease of Sharing
For a news story to go viral, the original story must be easy to share. Right now, the two most effective ways to share a story are Facebook and Twitter. The original story came from Odin’s mom, Melissa’s Facebook account, then was picked up on Twitter.
The original count was 38 Likes. This core group of shares made its way to the local online news site Ptbo Canada. From there is was posted to their Twitter feed, and @ptbo_canada has a very large and active Twitter following. The foundation was clearly set by @ptbo_canada, who has over the years curated a feed of relevant and local news and advertising stories. Stories that appear on this feed are hyper-local and generally of very high quality.
So when a story like this hits, it has the potential to reach tens of thousands of followers very quickly, and the story is self-authenticated by crowd sourcing. Basically that means you and your friends and your friends of friends are seeing the news event at about the same time, and you have an easy way of acknowledging the story (liking it) and sharing it (retweeting).
Community / Know Your Audience
The city of Peterborough has been recognized as being highly engaged in social media. In fact, in 2012 and 2013 local writer and event promoter Donald Fraser @ptbo_skeptic organized a gala night called Petertweeter Awards, recognizing the work done by hundreds of enthusiastic and energetic tweeters. While having a large, recognized community of online social media participants isn’t required for a news story to go viral, it definitely helps. The interesting thing about community is you can’t create it while an event is going viral. The community needs to be created, identified, and supported in advance. You don’t know what you’re curating when creating a community, that’s what makes something like Petertweeter so perfect. It’s built around a real, proper city. A viral story cannot be controlled. Once a reader self identifies with it, the story takes on a life of its own becoming viral.
This story had just the perfect mix of sadness, happiness, and hope. The original post touched on the fact that Odin put out a call for classmates to come to ‘hang out’, but that nobody came. This is a heartbreaking story for any parent. The fact that Odin has been identified as being on a spectrum brings it well into even darker territory. The story takes a turn for the better with a hint of a trip for a poutine dinner, followed by bowling.
But there are two elements that took the story safely into internet meme territory.
First was a unique name for the hashtag. I’m not sure of the origin of #odinbirthday but it’s perfect. (EDIT: thank you Neil Morton, well done on the hashtag). The name Odin is very unique, short, two syllables, and easy to remember. This promotes ease of ownership when it comes to Twitter.
The other social phenomenon that’s definitely risky but caused the story to jump off the page, was the inclusion of the child’s cel phone number, with a genuinely sincere request from the mom to the 37 or so followers, to send a birthday greeting via text message.
… the perfect breakthrough moment of a meme …
Including a cel phone for a text message greeting is something that every marketer would love to do, but would be talked out of in a heartbeat. That breaks all social norms and certainly caused the first wave of enthusiasm for the birthday greeting effort. But knowing that the invite came from the mother, and that in Canada incoming text messages are free (or we certainly hope so), created the perfect breakthrough moment of a meme. In terms of ownership, we had permission to play, and we knew that it would probably not cost us anything, and not cost Odin either.
Scarcity of Time
When selling or marketing a good or service, you have to take into consideration distribution and shelf life. You need to bring a product to market, which has a cost and element of scarcity. When it’s gone, it’s gone. That’s the way we used to market goods and services, and the way to do it traditionally.
On the internet, there are no costs or feeling that something will be gone. It’s a huge problem with internet advertising vs traditional media: with the internet there is no sharing of time like a 30 second commercial or half page of a magazine. There’s no sense that something will be gone. It’s called Long Tail marketing, where there’s hopefully an original fabricated demand, but then the good or service can live on forever.
In the case of this event, the original post happened on Odin’s birthday. The party was just a few hours later. It’s a huge risk to an advertiser to try to market something with such tight deadlines, but that’s exactly what happened here. The scarcity or exclusivity was real: the birthday party was just a few hours away. It created something rarely seen online: urgency.
Without knowing for sure, I suspect if the birthday was a few days away, the viral effect or sense of urgency would not have had any traction, and the event would not have happened.
Moral/Social Self Licensing
With ‘permission’ from the parent, and a vocal community standing up for the bullied young student, we have a textbook example of a relatively new phenomenon, Social Self Licensing, based on Moral Self Licensing. This interesting new segment of society is facilitated by the quick, easy and free ability to (a) share a news story, and (b) support the cause. Here we have the story of a local young man with Aspergers bullied by his school mates, ignored on his birthday, then through a simple click is redeemed and celebrated. This has been documented in depth a number of times online, and discussed in depth on a number of episodes of the No Agenda Show.
Much in the same way, we have Text to Donate for Haiti earthquake relief, or other global fundraising issues, but rarely do we have a local story that, as we say in the industry, ‘hits the right buttons’. Without even donating money (although some did) you can show support by simply wishing a child happy birthday. You have a story to tell your children, and you feel you’ve helped make the world a better place.
The dark side of this sharing phenomenon is a sit-back morality. People are quick to turn their Facebook avatars black to signify their support of a cause-du-jour, but can’t be convinced to get out of their chairs to actually do anything. Of interest, though, is the bowling event created on Facebook as over 2,000 attendees. Even the news showed up. I’m sure if this number is even close to accurate that it’s the most people this bowling alley has seen in one night, ever.
Obviously, Odin’s mother had no idea this would become the global social phenomena it became. But at it’s core, it was spawned by a sincere and pure desire to share a birthday and invite friends or family to come along.
In online marketing, we talk of this in terms of sincerity and integrity. Online customers or followers and quick to smell a rat, and will declare an insincere effort to sell us something of questionable quality as highly objectionable.
This story was not fake, it was very sincere, and the happy ending continues to unfold even as I transcribe my notes.
The Perfect Storm
This story could not have been more pure and well intentioned. I can assure you corporate entities are going to be analyzing this event for some time.
With a combination of ownership, lede hook, community, a savvy core audience of Twitter users, and above all scarcity, this became the holy grail of marketers everywhere. It remains to be seen if the story reached the Prime Minister’s office, [EDIT] but time will tell.
#odinbirthday Tomorrow and the days after that, remember to be kind to all the Odin’s out there. Thank you Odin & Mom for sharing your day
An overnight decision 20 years in the making. It’s my kid’s initials in binary.
I’m getting a lot of blank stares with this one, so I thought I blog it.
Indulge me while I take a moment to explain this one. Family, friends and colleagues are finding my latest project a little unusual and out of character, and I’m struggling to describe the orgin and motivation for this body art on the fly.
Since going through the PMI mentorship program during my recent career pivot as a digital project manager, and now as a mentor with the New Canadians Centre and Dreamcatcher Mentoring, I’ve found I can identify a few mentors in my life that have made me the person that I am today.
Going way back to the 90’s, I was privileged enough to attend a workshop sponsored by Softimage Montreal hosted by Tim Miller from startup animation studio Blur from Los Angeles. Blur has just broken through with a few groundbreaking animated project that shook up the industry. Here was a startup with real guts and edge, and it was headed by the colourful language boss Tim Miller. ‘Gopher Broke’ and ‘In The Rough’ were doing the festival circuit, and I as thrilled to get a seat at what I remembered to be a fairly exclusive workshop. Long story short, what I remembered most was his creativity, work ethic, near celebrity personality, and his tattoo.
I had seen tattoos along the arm before, but his was a real standout. From under his shirt to his wrist, but most of all being in the audience I noticed the elbow to the wrist. Since then, I noticed similar artwork on the right (or left, if a southpaw) arm of many visual effect artists I worked with. Most did a line, or incorporated symbols to create the illusion of a line, but the idea was that anyone watching a VFX artist work would be drawn to his arm. Most of time you sit next to the artist, and that might be all you see of him or her.
Additional credit is due to Peterborough businesswoman and doula Désirée Fawn for her amazing chemistry tattoo (right). I forget the chemical, but it’s what’s released into the bloodstream as a woman is giving birth. I’m looking for a link to a picture of it online. I understand this is the chemical a woman’s body generates during child birth. It’s truly is astonishing.
Another Peterborough business owner I admire is David Blondel, and his fascinating sleeve artwork. I have to ask him the origins of his work.
Finally as a mentor myself, I coach students in Canada’s far north, and I’m paired with students with a penchant for art or creativity. If they’re not pursuing video game development (which I endorse 100%), the second most popular career consideration is tattoo artist.
Tattoos keep coming back into my mentoring life. In fact, the more I think of people I respect and admire, what’s common with most if the existence of a prominent tattoo.
I’m not exactly sure how the idea of a series of numbers, and binary at that, came to be. But the origins of being able to read and write and do binary math and so forth definitely goes back to my days as a Computer Science student at Assumption High School in Windsor. Programming in assembly language on the PET and Commodore 64, required a knowledge of 1’s and 0’s and PEEKing and POKEing the values to move a program forward.
Then in about 2004 with all of my kids born somewhere I made the connection of a tattoo line, initials, and binary code. When I told people I had a ‘retro’ computer code idea they thought of vintage computer logos (like the original Apple logo), or (heaven forbid) a QR code. I never considered that. I knew all along it would be binary, my kids would work into it, and it would appear like a line from afar.
Then I was involved in a car accident in May of 2014, and I took inventory of some of the things I’ve always wanted to do. The tattoo came up again (my wife has known about this idea forever) and she was totally on board with everything (see below).
What Does My Tattoo Mean?
This is defined as a 2D array data type. By this, there are 2 dimensions. In my case, my tattoo consists of one dimension as the parent, and the 2nd dimension are my kids. Thus:
R[B, M, J]
… is an array called Rick made up of the first inital of my kid’s names. The square brackets are important as they tell the compiler we’re dealing with an array and not a mathematical function.
In programming, if I wanted to find out the name of the 2nd child of Rick, I’d define A as:
… and the result would be ‘Kid Number 2’.
Keep in mind this is 6502 Assembly and may not be entirely correct at that, but it’s how I remember it. A check with Wikipedia confirms my spotty math.
So, taking my logic into one level of obscurity, we get the initials:
… and ASCII equivalent in decimal further convolutes the message:
… and finally in machine-ready binary:
The Curse of the Spouse Tattoo
Until the night before I struggled with creating possibly a 3D array, enveloped by me, then my wife, then the kids. Or just my wife and kids as a 2D array, modified. But I admit I scared myself out of that one, not for fear of regret (we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary this year after all) but I didn’t need the bad karma to come. After all, this is in reaction to some pretty bad news after that car accident. Some tattoo artists won’t even do your spouse. So rather than risk the potential future bad luck, I swapped out the S for an R. This tattoo is a celebration of success and happiness, not something to blame a future unknown problem on.
Susan’s happy, and in fact she got the kids initials on her own design the same day. I’m really proud of her for going through with it, and being brave with her decision to use the inside of her wrist: a very painful part of the body we now know!
As for me, I loved the tattoo experience. I almost fell asleep it was so enjoyable and comfortable.
I’d like to thank Justin at Mike’s Tattoo in Peterborough for his excellent work, keeping things straight, and respecting my need to keep the numbers accurate.
I dare say I’d do it again!
EDIT: while researching the back story I came across this recent (2014) video tour of Blur’s new studio, with plenty of Tim. Funny, I hear him talk here and it reminds me of that animation demo many years ago. And the tattoos look great.
Scroll down to hear the entire 1982 mixtape ‘digitally remastered’ with my XS-Cargo device.
Growing up as a reclusive teenager* in Windsor, Ontario, I have a few fond memories that helped shape the grown-up that I’ve become.
* is there any other kind of teenager, really
Working the stage crew at Assumption College High School is one of them. Working the lighting board for the school dances was an easy way to get close to the sweethearts without actually asking them to the dance (clever!) (but not clever enough!) Drama club, same thing. School newspaper. Canoe club. All fond memories of events with absolutely zero memories of the inbetweens. High school itself, not so much.
In fact, I really enjoyed hacking the airwaves and later hacking the user port on my Commodore 64 safely at home.
Well, maybe not that safely.
Seems I was the unintentional creator of a rogue pirate radio station. I built a rig made out of Lego that housed a walkie talkie, which allowed me to broadcast to basically my mom without having to hold the spring mounted button in while queuing up my cassette and record player with an amp in the middle.
It was glorious, until one day after I signed off, a trucker (who I feared was waiting just outside my home) broke into my audio channel announcing that it was very much against any public airwave law to monopolize a frequency like I was doing, and it was doubly illegal to broadcast Bill Cosby records and later my famed mixtapes.
That scared the shit out of me having someone actually talk back on my radio station rig, and ended my broadcast career for some time.
On the topic of mixtapes, mine weren’t for anyone but myself. Those sweethearts were more interested in the sporty boys (I know, cliche, but that’s how I remember it) plus my mom really liked the artwork. So I did them for myself, and my mom, and would show off to anyone interested at a few parties I briefly attended. See the artwork, below.
Back then, you either had a record and record player, or a cassette and cassette player. Both required money, which I didn’t have a lot of at the time. So I dug into my dad’s album collection which wasn’t much more than the entire Bill Cosby library, and some jazz albums. Thus began my appreciation for jazz, and a good storyteller.
New music was a little trickier to get my hands on, and I’ll never forget the day when my dad brought home a cassette recorder with line in, which meant I was able to hook up to the line out on the radio amplifier with two RCA cables. I wonder if my mom has any pictures of me, but I remember sitting at the wall unit in the dining room on Sandwich Street, diligently recording songs off the radio using cassettes my dad brought home. I also remember the thrill of him bringing home rare NEW cassettes as opposed to recycled, unwrapping them from the Radio Shack or Canadian Tire Pulser shrink wrap.
The recording process was a real art form, because I did the fading in and out on the fly direct to the master. The challenge was to crop out the DJs, and I got to be pretty good at anticipating when they would start talking. If you take the time to listen to one of these mixtapes in its entirety, you’ll hear just a little bit of a DJ creeping through. What you won’t hear is the groan of me realizing in defeat that I wasn’t quick enough.
Another challenge was the dreaded ‘end of tape’. I had to decide if I risk recording a new track live off the air starting at anything further along than the 28 minute mark or so. Each tape was exactly 30 minutes per side, give or take as much as a minute. You had no idea when the tape would give out, and when playing back a cassette there’s nothing worse that blank space at the tail of a tape.
Soon I realized I’d get a much better bang for my buck by recording the end-of-year countdown shows, diligently fading out the tracks before the pesky DJs broke in.
There was a station in Windsor that broke ground by doing ‘all digital’ which meant they were using CDs as opposed to analogue carts. They called themselves OM-FM 88.7 or Lazer Rock 88.7 and they’re still around today as 89X. All I knew that as a Canadian station the signal was strong, the sound seemed clearer that the rest, and the pesky DJs didn’t talk as much as their American counterparts.
Hot Hyts 1982
So probably around New Years 1982 I produced Hot Hyts volumes 1 through 4.
From Duran Duran, the Rolling Stones, Joan Jett, Queen, Prince, The Alan Parsons Project, and many many more, this is a delightful glimpse into the mind and heart of a young nerd growing up in a suburb of Detroit, one of the most progressive rock and roll, punk and new wave radio markets on the planet.
At the end of Side 4 you can hear me messing around with the dial trying to tune in the clearest channel. I’m sure I regretted the mistake of hitting record and accidentally capturing this business, but it’s fascinating now hearing me turn the dial back in forth looking for the hit I needed to complete my mix. If you’re interested in hearing DJs from WABX, WLLZ, and WRIF… you will enjoy this blast from the past.
At the beginning of side 2… well, you’re going to have to take a listen. It’s me somehow getting my hands on a microphone for my one and only DJ moment in the entire session. I was 15 years old.
Edge of 17
Spirits in the Material World
Get Down On It
Hooked on Classics
Eye in the Sky
Think I’m In Trouble
Chariots of Fire
Let It Whip
Don’t You Want Me
We Got The Beat
Angel In the Centrefold
I Love Rock and Roll
Digital Mixtape: How This Happened in 2014
I was at a local clearinghouse XS Cargo and came across a cassette adapter Walkman shaped thing with a USB port on the back. One connector, a driver install, and a launch of Audacity, and I was in business. There are more tapes, plus a lovely recording from my then-girlfriend now-wife leaving me an answering machine message time-stamped at 2:50AM. That one’s in the private vault, but after 25 years it’s pretty amazing to hear her voice from so far ago. Gotta love technology and voices from the past from dusty analogue cassettes.
I received an unsolicited email that sent me on a goose chase trying to figure it out, including scrolling past adult video retail sites search results to find my answers. If this sounds like a disaster in email marketing, you are correct.
As an Interactive Project Manager, I know you’ve only got one chance to get it right when delivering a message. The hardest thing to do when writing content is to be direct, clear and easy to read.
I also have to measure my techno jargon babble when working with clients, stakeholders, sponsors and moms who don’t share my enthusiasm for All Things Tech.
So this email I’m going to share is, by my estimation, how NOT to introduce a potential client to a new product or service.
Here we go:
Dear Rick Dolishny Representative,
First of all, get our mail form in order. Most of us don’t have the name brand recognition of Walt Disney. Or this is just a bad mistake.
I wanted to follow up on the email I sent a few weeks ago. I wanted to talk to someone about how ### can increase your AOV and increase overall lift by changing customer behavior and influence overall spending habits.
Whoa, whoa, whoa , whoa. There’s so much wrong with this opening line I had to stop the presses. First of all, the trick about ‘following up on an old email’ is really stale, even if there was an email. If I wanted to hear more from you, I’d let you know. In my case, after scanning my inbox and trash, I had not indeed received any email from you.
Never, never, never use acronyms right off the top without letting the reader know what they mean. I didn’t know what AOV stood for until I looked it up, and even then I can only guess that it means Average Order Value. But that’s of course scrolling past the URLs for Adult Only Video stores. Not cool on so many levels. (sidenote: is AOV still in business?)
### enables you to offer universal rewards to customers who execute the targeted goal. These incentive offerings have high perceived value for the customers with low actual costs to you.
High value, low cost. Marketing 101, I’ll give it a pass. It’s a rewards program of some sort. But did a robot write this?
As an example, one of our customers, a top 125 Internet Retailer, shared results from their latest campaign. To give you a baseline, they typically offer a discount of $10 if the customer spends at least $100. Partnering with ### and spending a similar amount, they were able offer a $100 Restaurant.com gift certificate if customers spent that same $100. They saw their AOV increase from $130 to over $200.
Whoa! Stop right there. After hitting me with the AOVs and ‘overall lift’ you go in for the double tap and really make me feel like an idiot. I didn’t ask for more stats, so now I feel really stupid. And Top 125 is kinda lame. Is it top 100 or not? I can only think of a few internet retailers where I would actually spend real money, so top 125 doesn’t impress me. In fact, it makes me think of Amazon, Indigo or Apple.
### technology ensured these customers instantly received their reward by email or text and also provided the merchant with direct access to an online analytics dashboard displaying real-time transaction data.
This is perhaps just a personal observation, but anyone referring to a dashboard in any kind of pitch comes across as a douchebag.
We have partnered with multiple brand name reward providers including Fandango, ProFlowers, Berries.com, Shoebuy.com, RedEnvelope.com, Native Remedies and many others.
I would like to see if you have some time for a quick follow up call sometime this week or if you want, you can sign up directly here and we’ll have you set up with several free rewards instantly.
Feel free to check us out …
—– VP of Business Development
Email Done Wrong
Whew. I was bewildered and spent some time on the site and think I got it figured out. They are some sort of loyalty program. But holy smokes, this is about the worst calling card I’ve ever read. Let this be a lesson to anyone pitching a new product or service.
Be clear right off the top.
State a problem, then a solution.
If you’re pitching something new consider a demo video or graphics.
I’ve been using computers to edit video since the Amiga days, when Danish programmers brought Scala to the world. I was deploying content over dialup modems to digital signage outlets across the province for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission back in the late 90’s. It was the wild, wild west of media and whether I was in a truck delivering new video via CD to doctor’s waiting rooms or demoing non-linear edit systems in Las Vegas, I was often on the bleeding edge of technology.
Probably the one piece of tech that I remember the most was a software/hardware system built by a very resourceful crew in Chicago. It was capable of storing hours of footage captured from broadcast gear. They could add dissolves and wipes, and mix camera audio with music and sound effects. It ran on DOS and talked to a RAID controller that cost over $10, 000. They called their edit system DVision and it was the holy grail of the nascent field of non-linear editing.
DVision was quickly bought up by some Canadian developers in Montreal called Discreet Logic. Discreet as it came to be known was looking for a way to enter the desktop. Their proprietary systems like Smoke, Fire and Inferno, were well known in the high end visual effects world. DVision, or Edit as it was renamed, was just the ticket. It offered unprecedented power and speed and stability that was unheard of in the world of video editing.
Anyone that worked on Discreet Edit (branded for a while as Edit*) realized quickly they were working on something designed for speed. A few of the features haven’t existed since, maybe because they were under an onerous patent control, or maybe because in the race to get to ‘real time playback of 8 video streams’ someone, somewhere, forgot that video editors don’t like to wait. And they’re willing to pay a premium for features that get them out the door at the end of the day.
Discreet Edit delivered.
Then it was End Of Lifed.
End of Life
There were two things going against it. For starters, as a feeder workstation, working alongside million dollar workstations, it was kinda pricey. And the days of the million dollar Inferno suites were numbered too. The technology just makes things cheaper and cheaper. Edit became a middle of the road player, with upstarts like Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro nipping at the heels.
The other problem was Edit was a SD suite from the get go, never designed to work in HD. HD took over 20 years to come into production, but it was definitely in the intake and hardware manufacturers were in a race to the bottom in terms of cost and functionality.
Colour correction was a dog at best, and there never was a proper tool for anything but basic HSV tweaking.
Somewhere around 2004, after Discreet was bought by Autodesk, Edit was terminated. Wake parties were thrown across the globe (I hosted 2 myself) and we went our ways to Final Cut Pro and Avid.
I’ll flash forward past the next 10 years of post production. They are uneventful. Storage became cheap and a non-issue. Cameras became cheap. Monitors became very cheap. The role of the professional video editor disappeared, replaced by videographer, producer, or just editor (expected to do graphics, audio and script writing). And nothing really changed in NLE technology. With buckets or RAM and faster processors, it seemed like things were getting better, but the core of the process didn’t change. You could bang your head against the wall faster and in HD.
Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) Premiere
Then last week I bit the bullet and signed up for Adobe Creative Cloud. I do some part time teaching and qualify for the academic price of $19USD/month. I had been working with my academic Premiere 5.5 with my students and found it to be functional, but very, very clunky. Many of the workflow processes were taken from Premiere 1.0 back in the 90’s. I remember trying to use it real, real hard, and failing miserably. I was a Discreet reseller at the time and was 100% in sync with Edit.
But, the 2013 CC version of Adobe Premiere is a total game changer for me.
I don’t know what they call this feature, but Discreet Edit users rejoice! It’s exactly, no, better than the Picture Icon feature present in Discreet Edit. Now, you can over your mouse over any icon in the bin, and it plays. No clicking at all. If you do click an icon, then you have the ability to mark in and out points. The selected clip has a yellow horizontal bar to indicate In and Out has been selected. A tear came to my eye.Edit also used a yellow horizontal line. (even better, you don’t even have to have a clip selected. You can mark an in and out and it remembers your selection!)
With a + or – you could enlarge the size of the waveforms making them easy to read. Now, technically Premiere doesn’t do this exactly, but with their new Rectified Waveform display, it’s a joy to work with audio again. Plus with the keyboard shortcuts Alt +/- we’re almost there.
Premiere’s support for both EDLs and tape decks in a welcome addition to a digital world. Yes, I know I deliver mostly online or on DVD now, but it’s nice to know it’s there if I need it.
Intelligent Copy and Paste
One of the best features of Edit was the copy and paste. You could paste from one track to another, using the soft patch bay. Imagine my surprise to see a soft patch bay on the Premiere CC timeline! No surprises when it came to determining where a clip was going to end up. You can set your patch bay once, then edit using keyboard shortcuts like crazy, it just works.
Add to these features the Adobe CC Media Encoder (that lets me work while a sequence is rendering), the dare I say Inscriber calibre Titler, and the robust Mercury Engine support for real-time performance with my Quadro card, makes things fun again.
I still miss the Paste from Out. You could copy a clip, then Paste From Out and it pasted backwards. Amazing how often I used that.
We have 2 point editing, 3 point editing, 4 point ‘fit to fill’ editing, but no one has ever figured out no-point editing which would always clinch any Discreet Edit demo I was giving. It was like a paint brush for video. Just find a point on your timeline to start laying in video, scrub to a clip you want to use and rest it (don’t mark an in point) on the start of video. Right click and drag on the timeline and the video was inserted.
But I’m not complaining. The fact that I can have a conversation about scrubbale picons in a modern, HD edit system is reason enough to celebrate. I wanted to document the work Adobe has been doing, thank them for listening to a few grey-beards like myself, and creating a valuable product that even an old curmudgeon like myself can enjoy using.
This astonishingly and highly unusual email I received from electronic music DJ and composer Moby that breaks almost every rule about social media marketing… or it creates some new rules.
I realize we’re making this up as we go along, but blogging at 3AM and deliriously composing a meandering message with poor grammar, no sentence structure, in a self-deprecating way can’t be good marketing.
… or to Moby fans it’s just the kind of one-on-one conversation they’re craving.
hi.so, for the last 18 months i’ve been working on my next album. and now it’s done and i can write this update and tell you all (or at least what i can remember at 3 a.m sitting in front of my computer) of the relevant details.
in list form? sure, why not. i love lists, and in this case a list even makes sense. so, here’s my new album announcement list:
1-the album is called innocents. just to be clear (and possibly kind of pedantic), ‘innocents’ the plural noun. as in ‘a gathering of innocents’. or ‘a bunch of innocents’. or whatever the nomenclature is for innocents.
2-i’ve made the album in my bedroom studio, but rather than make the album exclusively by myself i’ve had a lot of help from other people. to wit:
2a-mark ‘spike’ stent helped me to produce innocents. you might know ‘spike’ from the work he’s done with muse and bjork and massive attack, among others. he’s amazing.
2b-there are a lot of guest vocalists and collaborators on the record. like: wayne coyne from the flaming lips, mark lanegan from screaming trees and queens of the stone age, damien jurado, skyler grey, inyang bassey, and cold specks. among others. they’re all amazing, too.
3-the record comes out in october. but, as it’s 3a.m, i don’t know when, exactly, in october. let’s say october 1st. but that might not be the right date, as it’s 3 a.m and i’m honestly just guessing.
4-the whole, entire tour for the album will consist of 3 shows in los angeles. maybe at some point in my adult life i’ll do more elaborate touring, but for now i just want to play 3 shows near my house. so, to be clear: the whole entire innocents tour will be 3 shows. near my house. ideally within walking distance of/from my house. more details and information will follow via email.
4a-the 3 live shows (aka-the entire tour) will be a mix of new songs and old songs. including lots of songs from my past that, hopefully, you want to hear. it would be weird to only play new songs, even though i really like the new songs. and, to be honest, i get kind of annoyed when i go to other people’s concerts and they only play songs from the new record. i love my new record, but i fully understand that you probably want to hear some older songs, too.
5-i have shot all of the photographs for the artwork for innocents and the singles. i’m not saying i’m a great photographer, but i’ve been a photographer since i was 10 years old (when my uncle gave me a nikon F), and i really like taking pictures. so, thus, i decided to take the pictures for the new album artwork.
6-the first track that we’re releasing from innocents is a case for shame. oh, wait, that’s not right. we released the lonely night with mark lanegan a couple of months ago. so i guess technically THAT was the first track. how about this: the first official ‘single’ from innocents is a case for shame.
a case for shame is a song i wrote with cold specks. she’s an amazing singer/musician from ethiopia and canada. i hope you like it.
“As the saying goes, “by the time you read this I’ll be dead.”
Toronto based artist and activist Shannon Larratt passed away last month. The word of his death was quickly passed on among the BME (Body Manipulation Ezine) community, a culture I don’t participate in but I respect for a number of reasons.
You can read his touching End Of Life document here.
On the topic of body manipulation, perhaps Shannon said it best.
“The fundamental question in becoming publicly modified is a question of finding a balance between how free you want to be and how hard you want to work. The more free you are, the more responsibility you have to take for yourself. The more you blend back into the crowd, the less freedom you have, but the ‘easier’ your life gets. But is it really your life if you’re not controlling it?”
You can read more about the community with a Google search for Shannon Larratt and BME. Warning: often NSFW with images I find disturbing.
So why the tribute?
Shannon was also a father, programmer, artist and entrepreneur.
And he was good at all of it, so I admire him.
As the founding publisher of BME he created a community of acceptance and hygenic practices and built his ezine to create a safe haven for people interested in extreme body piercing and tatoos and other manipulation. Many online tributes have recently come in with the headline, “Shannon saved my life”. With memories of my awkward teen years still in my mind as a father of teenagers myself, I know how important it can be to have a mentor who understands what it’s like to be different. Shannon was that voice of reason for people who were conflicted about their bodies. The comments on his blog, tumblr and BME speak for themselves.
His playfulness was infectious. For example, check out the header on his blog, “The best thing about censorship is … “. Once you figure out the solution, you’ll smile with the little Easter egg you’ve uncovered.
But above all for me was his bold use of colour and line and shape as evidenced in his paintings, some of which he shared credit with his young daughter. I’m still amazed at how inclusive he was with her, and how much he loved her. In fact in his blog he credits ‘Nefarious’ for keeping him alive as long as he was.
As his eyesight and ability to read diminished, he turned to jewelry as his creative outlet, and opened an etsy store. Also, he finished a large book on body manipulation that he and his fiance hand-bound in their studio in Toronto. I can’t find the exact quote, but he said in the preface to his book, “you’re holding art that was actually made by hand by the artist”. I love hand-made.
We had a few exchange via email around the Chrome Experiment time, but I never met Shannon and doubt I ever would have. For me, he was one of those personalities that are larger than life that sometimes are best left online. I definitely didn’t agree with his opinions all of the time. I found his recent appearance challenging and not at all pleasant. His exercise in tattooing his actual eyeball is as cringe-worthy as it sounds. But it’s not for me to judge. I just wanted to take a moment to recognize the work Shannon did.
A quote from his EOL message that spoke to me as a father, husband, son, brother, volunteer, world traveler, business owner, mentor and friend:
…seize every opportunity that’s in front of you and live life to the fullest. Even with everything I’ve done, there is so much more I wish I’d squeezed in. Don’t let a single day (well, maybe a single day) be idle. Have every adventure you can, and explore every street — although treat the one-way streets with caution. Don’t fritter you life away into television, random browsing, and pointless substance abuse (I have at times been guilty of all of these) — although remember there are valid uses for them, both for growth and entertainment. Have passion about the future, and in the present. Especially if you’re young, push your education and your skills to their limits on every level. Don’t just graduate highschool, get a degree, get a doctorate if you can. I know these things aren’t for everyone, they they are for most, and they also open doors to some of the most special adventures. Even if you can’t afford proper schooling there are many, many ways to learn, free courses to volunteering, and so on. Value your health, and the health of our planet, and strive beyond its borders. We have such a glorious future, but never forget that your part in that future could end at any moment, so live a life that you can be pround of. And of course love and treat each other well.