Tutorials (and marketing) should NOT be boring!

If I haven’t said it before, I’m saying it now: CommonCraft’s video tutorials ROCK! This is a company whose “product is explanation.” They have a distinctive style that is uniquely charming and effective because they capitalize on making it look low-tech with paper cut-outs. Don’t let that fool you, they really know what they’re doing.

Even their latest Halloween message is a brilliant example of a well-executed, memorable, and effective tutorial: Zombies in Plain English

IMHO, it’s impossible not to love a tutorial that includes the subhead “Step 3: Kill the Undead”

Watch it all the way to the end. And watch out for those zombies!

Jott: Auto-Transcription as Entertainment

RBerteig, via Flickr (CC license)
Cattle eater? Huh?

I’m trying out Jott, a free service that transforms short (30-seconds or less) phone messages into text, sent by e-mail or SMS to you or whoever you choose. This fits in with my overall strategy of managing all my tasks through e-mail. (Yes, GTDinbox is still rocking my world.)

I’m using it not only to send reminder notes to myself when I’m away from my computer, but also to send quick messages to my husband. As I was cooking lunch a short while ago, I grabbed my phone to send him a reminder to get a couple boxes of cat litter.

Here’s what he received:

“Hey dude, we are out of cattle eater and that we need some. Could you pick some up today and bring it over, two or three baskets of it. Thanks.”

Well, needless to say, the local Safeway probably doesn’t carry much “cattle eater,” and certainly not in baskets. But he did figure it out and we both had a good laugh. Such is life when you rely on automated transcription as a communication tool. I’ve had fun with this before, especially with Babelfish.

I’ve heard that some people use Jott as a microblogging tool. That is, you can jot to an e-mail address, and several popular blogging tools allow you to post by e-mail. I was thinking of trying that too, just to see how it work. So if you see any requests for “cattle eater” or other cryptic items here, you’ll know what’s up.

What are your favorite Jotts or other autotranslations gone awry? Please comment below.

Stephen Colbert v. Andrew Keen, online troll extraordinaire

Comedy Central
Watch this video. Better skewering than a shish kabob festival!

My colleague Tish Grier has joked that the fastest way to get traffic to your blog is to “flame an A-list [blogger].” That’s the troll ethic in a nutshell.

Andrew Keen — a consummate smarmy snobbish gadfly and author of “The Cult of the Amateur” — definitely has his troll routine down pat. In fact, by peddling his ill-informed, poorly reasoned scorn for all things online, he’s managed to piss a lot of people off (not just geeks) and sell a lot of books.

Hey, good for him. There are harder ways to make a living.

Last night, Keen was a guest on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. Don’t miss this video, it’s hilarious — and telling. My favorite exchange:

Keen: The Internet is destroying our culture

Colbert: Doesn’t the internet spread our culture? I mean I can go onto any old web site and get any old picture I like. Isn’t that culture?

Keen: That’s stealing culture.

Colbert: But it’s still culture, though. I mean, the Nazis stole culture but it was still culture.

Keen: It’s worse than that, it’s worse than stealing culture.

Colbert: It’s worse than the Nazis? The internet is worse than the Nazis, that’s what you just said sir.

Keen: Even the Nazis didn’t put artists out of work.

Colbert: Tell that to Egon Schuler.

…Note, though, that despite his avowed internet aversion Keen does have a blog. It even allows comments, to which Keen does not deign to respond.

(Thanks to Tom Vilot for the tip.)