Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The brilliance of "getting it" with YouTube, Twitter and more

I had two experiences recently that have solidified my conviction that doing it "the old way" is a really good way to lose cool points. As someone who thrives on cool points (the father of two teenage boys and a college professor), these revelations benchmark an appropriate place in my learning.

The first experience that I learned from was the 2008 Beijing Olympics, brought to us in the United States by NBC. I believe I watched more of the Olympics (so far, anyway) this time than any other, though I haven't yet figured out why. I realized that something just wasn't right, but I kept coming back for more.

I suspect it had something to do with just coming off a fairly intense productivity push, to be followed after about three weeks (perfect timing) by another. It might have been the "most spectacular opening ceremonies in history" though I did not see them. It's possible that it was the record-setting gold medal quest by Michael Phelps (I was a swimmer as a young boy about the time that Mark Spitz was setting the previous record). I doubt that it's because the gymnastics judges have a clue what they are doing (I won't even get into what I think they were motivated by when they ripped not one, but two Americans off in favor of Chinese gymnasts).

When I saw danah boyd's post on Olympics 2.0, I knew I had identified the problem.

As danah noted, for those who don't want to be stuck on the arbitrary schedule of NBC producers, it would be nice if somewhere we could get real-time feeds (I would settle for just-recorded video) of the events. I think we have figured out that there are some that would still be excited about watching the recorded event for the first time, but for those who are addicted to now, it would have been a great idea to demonstrate the technology capabilities of the 21st Century. And yes, I would accept this option for a fee. Thanks, NBC, for giving us an example of the "old way." Aren't you partnered with Microsoft on many fronts? That explains a lot!

The second experience was much more cutting edge. My son rented (the old-school way, from a bricks-n-mortar Blockbuster store) a copy of the movie Never Back Down. I wasn't too excited about the movie when we started watching it, as I am not a huge advocate of people beating each other up for the sake of seeing who can incur the most mind-numbing, near-fatal injuries, but I agreed to watch the movie. The story line was actually pretty enticing, the language and shown violence were somewhat limited, the subtle message was decent and the acting wasn't the sub-B-rated junk I expected.

But the grasp of powerful marketing strategy was phenomenal!

During each fight, and many other places throughout the movie, you see people with mobile phones shooting pictures and videos. Periodically, you can see an actual video camera in use, but it's relatively small and operated by a teenager so you know it's probably digital. Now, that sparked my interest, but the next logical thought was "what are they doing with those?" There were a few shots where one person stood next to the other and played the video on the device that captured it, but I wanted more!

The movie ended, and we moved naturally into the clips at the end that were cut, re-shot, etc., and I saw it. A montage of YouTube videos and responses that showed exactly what goes on in the world (not the stuff that Directors and Mega-companies think goes on). There was a conversation, in real time, using multi-media, to talk to others about life experiences. Videos on Youtube (and probably others) were portrayed in the air, in no particular order, with text comments in follow up . . . and people were having conversations!

Imagine what NBC could have done with that! What if, in real time, we could watch AND discuss the adventures of Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Rebecca Soni, Dalhausser and Rogers, Walsh and May-Treanor, and of course the U.S. men's basketball team. How much traction could they have gotten if they handed off back and forth between their website and "live" or at least big screen coverage? What if instead of watching a mind-numbing video of the marathon or what seemed like hours on the rowing the announcer slipped over to the comments (screened and filtered, of course) on their blog?

And what if they mentioned the conversations on Twitter(see @olympicnews or @OlympicsBlog, or the list of olympic medals there from @olympicmedals?

What do you think?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Does bigger mean better? (lessons from Chicago)

Another trip -- another message. I'm home for a couple of weeks now.

Does bigger mean better?

I don't think bigger is always better, I think it depends on the context (I know, just like a lawyer/professor -- the answer is it depends).

While in Chicago, I went to the John Hancock Tower with my wife and kids. The tour options included an audio-video ipod-like device that allowed you to punch in a number that corresponded with numbers on the windows to learn more about the view.

One of the messages from the dark-haired male actor on Friends (David Schwimmer) was that the John Hancock Tower, though shorter than the Sears Tower, was better. He supported this position by saying that although the Sears Tower was taller, it was on the outskirts of the downtown area while John Hancock was right in the middle, where all the action was.

I didn't go to check out the Sears Tower, but I have it from three reliable, related sources that he was right.

The pics are shots from John Hancock to Sears and back. More at my Picasa Album here.

What do you think?