Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

July 2005 Archives

Video iPod + podcasting = videoblogging renaissance?

There's been so much hullaballoo over videoblogging lately that I find myself wondering exactly what it'll take for me to really get into it – and this morning I figured it out.

A video iPod, or easy podcast subscriptions for my Treo.

Weblogs are awesome. Weblogs present personal data and opinions and reports in a format that's easily skimmed while you're waiting on something else. It's a single-focus partial attention medium; you can be listening to music and reading weblogs at the same time. Podcasts take weblogs and shift them to a different medium, which is awesome because now I can listen to podcasts during long drives. Videoblogging, however, requires both audio and video attention, which makes it a dual-focus medium – rendering it only suitable for partial attention when you're in a passive environment. Single attention stuff can be experienced while your active attention is placed elsewhere – you can't read weblogs while driving, but you can listen to podcasts. You can't watch videoblogs while watching television or listening to music, but you can watch them while waiting in line for something or riding on the subway.

That's where I think videoblogs are going to finally nail the "portable video" concept for phones, PDAs and any eventual video iPod. Hook up a podcast subscription model to video weblogs and autosync the latest content with my phone (and warm fuzzies sweep over me in a cascade when I imagine an automatically-updating movie trailer videoblog/podcast (videocast? vidcast?) that means that whenever I'm bored in line I can whip out my Treo and watch the latest movie trailers that I didn't even have to go looking for. How cool would that be? Same with video game trailers, free music tracks, radio stations, and friends' videoblogs. I don't have to keep up with them everyday, but they're instead designed to be there on-demand when I have a free moment that I don't want to spend studying the ads on the walls at AutoZone.


Event: Kevin Smokler in Chicago.

Event! My friend Kevin is going to be right here in Chicago tonight as a part of the Gapers Block Authors' Roundtable: On Authorship, Blogs and the Changing Literary Landscape. I'll be there – come join us!

Doomed, you say?

Fast Company asserts that the iPod is doomed due to Apple's failure to support an economic ecosystem around it. While it's debatable that this mentality did originally result in the market defeat of the Mac OS by Windows, I think Belkin, Griffin, Bose, Harmon-Kardon, and the dozens of other companies making iPod products would all cry "Horsefeathers!" And the author's initial assertion that the iPod shuffle has met with "limited success" is just ignorant and wrong, according to American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu, who believes that Apple may be moving one million iPod shuffles a month.

I like Fast Company, but someone needs to do a little more research.

Oh, and my theory for how to make the next iPod just as revolutionary? Video iPod with an easy setup to rip existing DVDs into a copy-protected iPod-friendly format. I'd like to watch videos on my pocket device too, but I'm not about to go repurchase my entire media collection in some proprietary format (*cough* *cough* SonyUMD *cough*). And the rumors of an iTunes video store? Awesome. Not sure how to satisfy the instant-gratification element there, exactly (download times at today's bandwidth restrictions still suggest that a high-def file would take hours to download; the high-res V for Vendetta trailer alone was 137MB and took over ten minutes), but it's still awesome.

V for Vendetta trailer!

V for Vendetta trailer! If you have the machine for it, the high-res QT7 trailer is a whopping 137MB. That's a lot of bald Portman.

So many things are happening!

Holy crow, how did life get so crazy interesting so fast? After a couple of bizarre weeks, things here have begun to crackle and pop in all kinds of great ways. If you remember that scene at the end of Who Framed Roger Rabbit when they knock down the wall to ToonTown, you'll have a pretty clear idea of where things are right now with me. :)

Ordinarily, I'd suggest that this would mean a lull in posts here, due to the sudden crazy demands on time, but I've actually found the opposite to be true -- that I actually post more when I'm busy because of a revitalized interest in things. So there may be a flurry of posts here today and tomorrow, a lull as I go home to Ohio for a week to help get my grandmother's house ready to sell, and then a resurgence in August. After that, it's off to school and a myriad of commitments there.

Life is so bloody interesting. Onward!


I miss storytelling.

I'm hoping that my grad school program gives me a chance to get back to my storytelling roots, because man, do I miss it. This weekend I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and, as always following a good read, it rekindled my dreams of creativity. For the last five years, my storytelling creative energy has been shunted into designing webpages and other such things, with a couple of notable exceptions, and I'm feeling the burnout something fierce.

My favorite creators are still Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Jonathan Carroll and Jim Henson, and now Joss Whedon and Mike Mignola have been added to the mix. Other favorite creators include Jeff Smith, Tim Burton (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was amazing), Kevin Smith, Umberto Eco, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino. I want to take all these guys and throw them in a blender – which is essentially the way creativity works. You consume like crazy and then your output is a blend of all your influences, necessarily colored with your own style.

I see amazing things like Mirrormask coming up on the horizon and it gives me hope that there is a market for the kinds of things that I want to be doing, but when I sit down to actually create it, I feel exhausted. I used to be full of stories, and now I find it difficult at best to muster the energy to put one together. Running your own design consultancy is hard – you wind up worrying about money all the time, you're constantly spending time on projects that you never get paid for, and right now I have a good half-dozen freebie web design projects that I've promised for people that are in serious danger of never happening because every time I fire up BBEdit and start writing code my heart sinks and I start getting frustrated.

Maybe this idea of "I'll do web design so I make a bunch of money and can focus on what I really want to be doing" was a horrible mistake. My hope is that all that time has paid off in getting me into a wonderful grad program, and now I can start to focus on getting back to what I really want to be doing: making worlds. And that the connections and friendships and partnerships I forge in the next two years helps me connect with this in a professional world, so that I can eat and raise a family while doing it, without having to continue doing something else as a day job.

Thank God I got into grad school. I'm so ready for a life change it isn't even funny.


What are the keys to your heart?

Hmm. Most of these are bang-on, except that the first one has some exceptions. Mostly I'm attracted to the intelligent, loving, creative and fun type, and "good manners and elegance" are niceties – but then again, I don't know if those are even options, so whatever. :)

The Keys to Your Heart

You are attracted to good manners and elegance.
In love, you feel the most alive when things are straight-forward, and you're told that you're loved.
You'd like to your lover to think you are stylish and alluring.
You would be forced to break up with someone who was emotional, moody, and difficult to please.
Your ideal relationship is lasting. You want a relationship that looks to the future... one you can grow with.
Your risk of cheating is zero. You care about society and morality. You would never break a commitment.
You think of marriage as something precious. You'll treasure marriage and treat it as sacred.
In this moment, you think of love as something you thirst for. You'll do anything for love, but you won't fall for it easily.

What Are The Keys To Your Heart?

(Stolen from Laura.)


Holistic? Honest? Senioritis in reverse.

Yesterday I had three epiphanies. Check it out.

I. If I continue Dreamsbay while I'm in school, I need to outsource my client management.

I've always had a hard time disconnecting my personal life from my professional one. I believe that one should always be honest, and every time I've ever tried to live a compartmentalized life, it's gotten me in trouble. In my opinion, it's far better to live a holistic life and thus not put on the phony face that one tends to assume is necessary for a "professional". This also has been known to get me in trouble, because when I don't lie to a client they sometimes get upset. I don't sugarcoat things, and when I don't know the answer to something, I'm not going to lie.

When I left my last dayjob, I soured relations with my old boss because I told her months in advance that I was thinking about moving, and we spent the next couple of months with her hounding me as to whether or not I was leaving, when I'd be going, and so on. She was pissed that I didn't know, and I was pissed that my being honest and open had such negative ramifications. I'd done amazing things for my department, I'd extended our capabilites, I'd radically improved relations with other departments in the company, and I can't ask her for a letter of recommendation because of that experience. I know she's been bad-mouthing me behind my back. Again, it's all I can do not to call her out on it – I recognize that managing uncertainty is difficult, but I have a hard time believing that a simple two weeks' notice would have been preferable. Unfortunately, that's my take-away lesson from that experience.

More recently, I have a client that's irritated because something's taking longer than it was supposed to, but the reason why it's taking longer is a one-two punch of a technology not being fully ready for prime time (this is the last time I use a 1.0 release on a client gig) and the client wanting to be able to update the site without learning how. While I'm all about keeping the user interface simple, nine times out of ten the beauty of the output is directly proportionate to the complexity of the backend. The client wants drag-and-drop simplicity for updating, but they don't want to take the time to enter all the metadata associated with it, or take the time to remove the spaces from their filenames, or even take the time to run it through a utility to do it for them. It's taking all my strength not to reply to their cussing me out in kind – especially since all the troubles they're complaining about are the result of their not wanting to bother to learn and their unwillingness to pay for further development. So I wind up doing weeks of additional work for free. I'm about to the point where I'll refuse to give estimates anymore.

So, yeah. I feel that honesty is critical. I feel that bullshitting people is wrong. I feel that sugarcoating relations with a client is wrong. That said, both of these experiences make me realize that it may be a necessary evil – so if I continue my consulting business in the future, I'm this close to hiring a used car salesman to do the sweet-talking for me. Oh, and hiring an enforcer as a collections agent. I need a sweet-talker and a Guido.

II. The rhythms we develop in school have long-reaching impact.

I still feel the pull of the new every fall, and the desire for relaxation every spring – two instinctual desires for change implanted in me through the academic calendar. I'd recognized that five years ago, when I graduated from college. What I just realized yesterday is that there's also a four-year twitch – ever since last fall, I've been feeling a distinct urge for a new direction in my career. What I recognized yesterday is that I started feeling that almost exactly four years after graduating from college. Four years in high school, four years in college – and then four years after that I was ready for school again.

Notably, this theory has a hole in it big enough to sail the Titanic through – not all academic sessions are four years long. Grade school for me was seven years (K-6), junior high was two years, and then only high school and college were on four-year periods. My CMS program is only a two-year M.S., and then if I continue on to my Ph.D. after that, God only knows how long that'll run.

That said, however, I am so ready to go back to school. As I noted in my earlier post, I am so ready to go back to school, which leads me to my final epiphany.

III. I have an awful case of senioritis in reverse.

I am thoroughly excited about grad school, which is resulting in an increasing antipathy towards my consulting work, especially in web development. Lately, every time I fire up BBEdit to write code, I start to get a stomachache. This is not good. I still have ideas for things I want to build and design for clients, but they're becoming increasingly eclipsed by my thinking about school-related stuff: transmedia storytelling, branding culture, and so on.

For example, yesterday I went to get my hair cut, and I spent a couple hours bumming around Westfield Mall just people-watching. I sat in the center court for a long time taking note of what people were wearing and thinking about what their choice of wardrobe actually said about each person and the branding culture as a whole. The phrase that kept popping into my head was design narrative – when someone purchases an outfit, are they attempting to identify themselves with the brand (characterization from outside, grafting the pre-existing identity of the brand onto themselves to gain identity), do they select the brand because they identify with its character (characterization from inside translating into purchasing brands that match their pre-existing identity), or...? I'm inclined to believe it's some combination of the two. It does raise an interesting question: what are you trying to say with your clothes? Do you even think about it? Appearance is, like it or not, a broadcast of identity – what do you want your appearance to say about you? And, more insidiously, how can brands help you say it?

I've got less than sixty days left before the start of classes. I can't wait until I can start thinking about this stuff for class credit, writing papers that could be sent to people that make real-world decisions, and in short having some real impact.

Bring it on.


The Halo Effect, indeed.

From my friend Kevin:

So my friend MJ Rose is doing this really cool project as outlined below...

"On July 5th, coinciding with the release of THE HALO EFFECT, Mira Books has teamed up with "VidLit" to produce a short film that uses animation and the latest in digitial multimedia illuminate the world within the novel. Rose has secured pledges from real-life supporters - her publisher, agent, family and friends – who will collectively donate $5 to the nonprofit literacy organization, Reading Is Fundamental, for each website or blog that links to Rose's THE HALO EFFECT VidLit before July 19."

Rose's goal is to get 500 blogs to link to the VidLit and raise $2500+ for the charity."

Here's the video which is prety damn neat. Reading is Fundamental is the nation's oldest children's literacy organization providing 5 million kids with new, free books every year.

Go ahead and blog it. It's for a good cause.

Consider it blogged!


Refocus the lenses on the Handycams.

Right now my mind is racing, cruising at an altitude around 35,000 feet. It's been a crazy week. A quick recap is in order.

Last week I headed up to Boston to meet up with one of my future classmates and look for apartments. What I found when I got there was a reintroduction into my tribe, both literally and figuratively. Figuratively, insofar as Ivan (the classmate) and I hit it off insanely quickly, which suggested that the CMS program is definitely going to be a sort of homecoming. Literally, in that we spent four days crashing on the floor of the good Jared Dunn, a friend of mine from SXSW. Early on in the weekend, Ivan crashed early and so Jared and I headed up the Diesel Cafe in Davis Square, where we sat and talked about the current locations of a number of old SXSW alums. Both reconnection and new connection were very, very cool.

On Thursday Jared took Ivan and me to the Thursday Meetings at Berkman bloggers' gathering at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at the Harvard Law School. Once there, we met a whole roomful of fellow tribe members, including Erica George, Shimon Rura, Bill Ives, Malchus Watlington, Josh Ain and j Baumgart. I am extremely grateful to already have a group of built-in friends when I arrive in Cambridge, which will also include Jared's housemates. I'd been a little apprehensive of this move, since I'd only had two friends already in Boston – not to belittle you in any way, Ryan and V, but I was nervous about the circle that I'd be running around in on a daily basis. :) It turns out I needn't have worried at all.

While in town, I also got to meet with Parmesh Shahani and Dr. Henry Jenkins. Dr. Jenkins is, of course, the head of the CMS program, and Parmesh is spearheading the Branding Cultures lab in which I might be working. I knew Dr. Jenkins was a great guy, but it was a relief to meet Parmesh in person and have a great time with him as well. Ivan and I met up with Parmesh at an Indian restaurant for Sunday brunch, where I had lamb kebab and scrambled eggs for the first time, and a glass of the best freshly-squeezed OJ I've ever had. Over breakfast we discussed apartments, the mission of the branding lab, student government and the program in general. For most of it, I sit back and let Ivan do the talking, content to listen. This might come as a shock to those that know me, so consider it a testament to my instant respect for Ivan's general cred, but it's also indicative of something else.

Over the last couple of years, I've grown fairly bored with the web design routine. To keep myself interested, I've constantly been tackling new challenges like doing more in-depth Flash development or learning new techniques in CSS or XML. But guys like me do get bored with the same general thing after a while – if you're reading this, Kori, I'm sure you've seen the same thing happen in your husband – and now it's time for something different. The Comparative Media Studies program is a perfect mash-up of my interests in technology and the humanities, but it's also very much new territory for me. Working in this sphere feels raw. It feels exposed. Even writing this entry feels awkward, because I'm right in the middle of rewiring my brain for these new avenues. It's difficult to knuckle down and finish up some old client stuff because my mind is now rapid-cycling through topics like game design, transmedia storytelling, branding culture and convergence. My mind is primed and ready for it, and as a result I imagine there's going to be a ton of new posts coming along that have to do with these elements (although whether they'll appear in this blog or somewhere else has yet to be determined).

As I was flying back to Chicago, we flew over the fireworks display and I marvelled at the change of perspective. The fireworks were still beautiful, but they were beautiful from a different perspective. The fractal metaphor hit me a half-second later. My perspective on a lot of things is changing, and that's good. It's scary, as change can always be scary, but it's good. The last time I felt this way was when I graduated from high school and was apprehensive about college – I was uncertain about what pieces of my former life I would take with me into the next phase, who would continue with me and what roles they would serve, what kind of face I wanted to put forward for the new introductions, et cetera. It's a winnowing, or a small rebirth, or a form of chrysalis stage. I've described it to others as bringing my life into sharper focus, like refocusing the lens on a camera. The line that keeps going through my head is the opening of a poem I wrote back in college: "Refocus the lenses on the Handycams." The poem was about spending time in Los Angeles for the first time and the mind-expanding and perspective-shifting effect that had on me. It feels like that now, only in reverse: instead of expanding my universe, it's bringing my internal world into a clearer view and crystallizing a lot of things that I've been kind of hazy about in the last couple of years. It's making some of my grandiose schemes real, in the same way that I attempt to make things real for my clients. The role reversal is amusing, and it's the right thing at the right time. My hope is that this galvanizing effect then puts me in the right place to continue expanding my experiences, only armed with a clearer sense of purpose and the right tools to continue realizing my ideas.

Like I said, it's exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. I'm excited and nervous and spooked and thrilled, all at the same time. It's going to be one hell of a roller coaster ride, and I can't wait to get started.


The possible treason of Karl Rove.

It's too big a story to let it be buried. Emails at Time Magazine may reveal that Karl Rove was Matt Cooper's source, and was responsible for blowing CIA agent Valerie Plame's cover.

More details are here, courtesy of The American Prospect.