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!

Definitely not just mobile “phones” anymore

I am totally not a phone person. I tend to use the phone only when I absolutely have to, or to call people I already know and enjoy talking to. Right now, I only have a crappy little low-end prepaid mobile phone because I only want it to coordinate with people when I’m traveling. Most of the time it’s turned off. And on my landline, I only check voice mail a couple of times a week.

But I’m fascinated by mobile technology, and I think within a year I’ll probably buy some kind of mobile device (either a tablet PC, smart phone, or something like a Sidekick) because they’re getting to the point that they can do reasonably well stuff I want to do on the go — like blogging, and research.

This excerpt from a recent talk by Google’s chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf helps illustrate why mobile is becoming so powerful. And I pity the media organization that doesn’t take mobile very, very seriously — especially outside the US, where mobile devices tend to be much more advanced and even more widespread.

Thanks to Liz Foreman of Lost Remote for the tip.

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.)

Social Bookmarking in Plain English, and then some

Over at CommonCraft, Lee LeFever recently published a great basic video tutorial, Social Bookmarking in Plain English. Here it is:

Video thumbnail. Click to play
Click To Play

Of course, there’s more you can do with social bookmarking than what Lee describes — he was just trying to cover the bare basics. For instance, you can use del.icio.us, a popular social bookmarking tool, to automatically create a daily post to your blog of all the links you’ve bookmarked in the last 24 hours. This is how I generate my links posts.

To do that, in your del.icio.us account click “settings.” Then under the “blogging” heading, click “daily blog posting.” After that you’ll have to fill in some geeky information. This feature only works with certain blogging tools, and it usually takes a little trial and error to get it working right, but it can be a great easy way to post more often to your blog while also getting all the other benefits of social bookmarking (which Lee’s video explains well).Now, if you use del.icio.us to create daily linkblog posts, then you’ll soon discover that you might want to have more than one del.icio.us account — one for posting links to your blog, and another for other stuff you want to remember and share but not necessarily post to your blog. If for that reason or any other you have more than one del.icio.us account, a hassle-free way to manage them is to get the del.icio.us complete add-on for the Firefox browser. I’ve been using that for a couple of years, and it’s brilliant.

YouTube debates for state & local politics?

Everyone’s gaga over the recent TV debate among the Democratic presidential candidates featuring video questions submitted via YouTube. Yes, that was very intriguing and refreshing. I think this approach has ample potential.

In fact, it’s too damn cool to leave it to presidential elections alone.

Personally, I’d love to see this applied at the state and local level — and not just for candidate debates, but about referenda, too. We’re all getting bludgeoned with the runup for the 2008 Presidential election like it’s the only race that matters. But in fact, when it comes to getting stuff done that directly affects most of our lives on a daily basis, state and local politics and issues matter more.

I haven’t had time to research this yet, but I’m hoping my readers can give me a leg up on this one. Has anyone seen online video debates happening in state or local politics? Give me some examples and links!

Here’s one example I found of state-level politics and public questioning of state senators available on YouTube. It’s not quite like what YouTube and CNN did, but it’s worth a look:

(Thanks to Kristin Johnson for nudging me on this topic.)

Pithy video advice on citizen journalism

At BlogHer this past weekend, I stayed out way too late on Friday night with my friends and citizen journalism colleagues Lisa Williams, Tish Grier, and Beth Kanter.

Back in the hotel room after a fair amount of wine and Italian food, Beth shot this incriminating video and asked us for advice on citizen journalism. The result is simultaneously succinct and incoherent.