Posts Tagged ‘video’

Enhanced Salsa

Have you seen this video yet? If you haven’t, click on over to Vimeo and watch (can’t embed, for good reason). If you have, I’m pretty sure you would click on over to watch it again, just for fun. I would. Heck, I will. Be right back.

Okay, so. Amazing, right? I was absolutely stunned when I watched that video the first time, and I didn’t even comprehend that it was a site takeover until I watched the entire page swirl back into the salsa jar at the end. I had to watch it again (and again, and again) to catch the genius animation that snuck onto the screen, from the vines that creep up from the bottom to the slicing up of the Vimeo logo when the girl steps out of the frame to dance around the background. It’s interesting how much I have to force my brain to see the subtle shifting of the video frame and background zoom-in, since it didn’t even register the first few times I watched. This was more than an advertisement…viewing this was an experience. And even though I don’t like tomatoes or site takeovers, dang it if I don’t want to crack open a jar of salsa right now.

But aside from making me really hungry, the video also made me think of how certain media is presented to allow for an experience, to make the technology behind it disappear. That oh-so-smooth transition from “video on a video hosting website” to “Salsa Show!” was clutch to making me view this as more than a 40-second clip about a vegetable I really couldn’t care less about and something I wanted to click away from. Movie theaters are certainly designed to be invisible, and I think physical books are as well, providing only the turn of a page as the sole interruption between the written word and the reader’s imagination. Even then, that interruption is the mark of a good book: a “page-turner.” With the boom of electronic reading devices, it’s important to keep this feature in mind; which device will allow you to have an experience with a book, to make you want that salsa and nothing else, and then give it to you?

In the ramp-up to the iPad announcement, the internet ate up every little rumor and spit out post upon post of speculation about the features, capabilities, and technical specifications of the mythical creature. Then both during and after the event, many found themselves underwhelmed by the lack of glitter (No flash! No camera! That name!). Adam Frucci over at Gizmodo listed 8+ things that suck about the iPad, considering the lack of multitasking to be “a backbreaker.” But Joanne McNeil argues for the lack of multitasking in both the iPad and other devices because it solidifies the reading experience. The New York Times’s David Carr, as well as Jon Gruber at Daring Fireball, also noted the iPhone and iPad’s ability to, as gadgets, disappear, leaving as little as a finger swipe (page turn) between the user and the content. Similarly, while the Kindle can’t do much else, it certainly lets you read. What others may consider faults in these devices, readers should appreciate as features for creating a reading experience.

Now, as for what content is necessary for an experience, I’m not sure. That’s a whole ‘nother ballpark, but I think Kassia Kroszer hits one over the fence with her “What Are Enhanced Ebooks?” post. Now that we have the technology that allows us to create such enhancements and focus on them when reading, we need to actually deliver good salsa.

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A Moment of Optimism

About a year and a half ago I had the pleasure of meeting Gretchen Rubin in person, though I’d been following her on Twitter for some time before that. I was supposed to give a talk to authors about the power of the tools on the internet, and when the list of authors was sent out and I saw Gretchen’s name on it, I immediately called her and told her SHE should be leading the workshop, not me! At that point, a year and a half ago, she had a great blog (since has become even greater) and about 5000 followers on Twitter. Even more importantly, she was engaged with the community — and this was a few years before the publication of her book. We spoke for a few minutes on the phone and decided that she would come to the meeting despite the fact that she was more experienced with the tools than the other authors who would be attending.

Gretchen turned out to be such a gift to have at the meeting because as I would speak to these authors and tell them what I thought they should be doing, she would chime in as a member of their tribe instead of the outsider (me) and give her own perspective about what was easy or challenging.

Over the course of that next year and half I followed carefully what she was doing and was always impressed. We got together in person a few times, and I would tell her what a great job she was doing, we’d compare notes about this and that, and she’d always say “but will it sell books when the time comes?”

Well, it turns out that it does work (I feel like a broken record :) ). Gretchen’s book, The Happiness Project, went on sale on December 29, 2009. On Wednesday we found out that it will land at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list for the January 17 list. I realize that Gretchen’s subject lends itself to blogging and twittering more easily than other books would, and it’s got a great jacket, title, and traditional publicity — but there is no denying, IMHO, that Gretchen Rubin worked hard, for a long time, establishing a relationship with the community, and it paid off.

Here are 5 things that Gretchen did right:

1) As I’ve said, it’s not a “campaign.” This is a long-term relationship with your readers. Gretchen understood that and started the relationship long before (as in years) it was time to “promote her book.”

2) She talked about her book…but she also talked about other people’s books, and in general, we got to see the world through Gretchen’s eyes and to know her. She posted frequently, linked them up in Facebook (often I found them on Facebook), and had GREAT content. I don’t think there was a post I didn’t love and I felt like I found a little present every time she put one up.

3) Once the book jacket was done she put it up on the site in a place where people could always see it so she didn’t have to always “promote herself.” I hear this a lot from authors: “I’m not comfortable promoting myself.” Gretchen didn’t promote herself; she was fabulously interesting, and when I would click through to read her posts I was always reminded by the book jacket that it was coming out.

4) She didn’t sit around waiting for a publicist to make her famous. Yes, there is traditional media as part of the mix; lots of it in her case. But it’s a healthy mix of traditional and social media and they riff off each other. It’s like having a well balanced stock portfolio…not to mention that she has a tribe with whom she can communicate about all of this media.

5) Here’s my favorite one: The Video. The video the video the video. Every author needs one (kidding); most are not good. The thing I LOVE about Gretchen’s is that it is simple beyond belief, and what it lacks in fancy production and editing it makes up for in spades with heart and soul.

I watched this video a few months ago and was so moved I’ve seen it about another 10 times. I think about it all of the time. Watch here.

UPDATE:  The Happiness Project was published by HarperCollins.

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Just Say Yes…or How I Ended Up Speaking In the Kodak Theatre #140conf in LA

My view from the Acadamy Awards stage at the Kodak Theater

My view from the Academy Awards stage at the Kodak Theatre

How many people can say that they spoke on the the stage where the Oscars are held?

I have a personal rule, which is that whenever someone asks me to do something, I always say yes without thinking about it. Jeff Pulver one time told me that he calls that putting yourself in luck’s way. Usually, it turns out to be a good idea. I’ve agreed to do many things that I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to do had I taken a moment to think about it. One such instance was the #140 Conference in LA, hosted by Jeff Pulver. It was in the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles (yes, where the Academy Awards are held). I’m sure had I stopped to think when Jeff asked me, I would have been way too terrified to get up on that stage. Thank goodness I’m more impulsive than fearful because it turned out to be such a great experience.

Reasons I’m grateful that I just said yes to the #140conf in LA:

  • Got to have lunch with some of my favorite book peeps on Twitter: @vromans @booksquare @kirkbiglione @thinkmaya @permanentpaper. I find it truly profound that I have these friends around the country who I can learn from and connect with every day — and then even in person every once in a while. It reminds me what a gift Twitter is. Just think, even 3 years ago I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know these wonderful people — and now I can connect with them nearly every day, know what they read, think about book publishing issues, etc. What a gift.
  • Got to meet @JessicaGottlieb. I’ve been following her on Twitter for a while now and always thought she seemed like a lot of fun. She’s really funny in person. When her talk is posted, be sure to watch it on It’s good for a smile.
  • Got to hang out with my friend @MarkTauber who’s the publisher of @HarperOne. Good friend who I don’t get to see often enough. Really smart; awesome panel moderator (I’ll post video when it’s up online). Helped turn around a day that started out not so great. (thank you Mark!)


  • Left with an awesome Kodak video camera in my goodie bag. Thank you Kodak! You’re the best! What an amazing conference you sponsored. You are an inspiration. Be sure check out the Kodak speech in the opening remarks. I’m now a fan!
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Forget About Viral. Just Make It Great!

I have a bee in my bonnet about the chronic use of the word “viral.”

“Let’s make a viral video,” I keep hearing. To me, it feels like saying “Let’s publish a bestselling book” or “I’m going to be popular.”

I keep wanting to shout from the rooftops “just make it GREAT!”

Olympus has done just that with this great video.

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