Reader feedback: How can MicroExplosion improve?

I had a conversation recently with a blogger talking about how it's hard to know reader's expectations for your blog. After thinking about that for a while I decided to just ask you. So here it is. What can I do to improve MicroExplosion? What type of content do you expect to see here? What should I continue (or discontinue) to improve this blog? Is there an area of content I should speak to more often? Is there something I should do less often? I'm looking for any constructive criticism you can provide. It's wide open. Fire away...please!


Regarding online video

In the coming weeks Greg Atkinson (from ChurchVideoIdeas.com) and I are going to do a joint blog post about some new online video editing tools that are available. Since Greg's got the video editing expertise he was kind enough to do this with me. He'll be providing a review of the tools and I'll sit back and enjoy the ride provide application of the tools for churches and ministries.

In the mean time here are a few thoughts regarding online video:

Embed! - One of the biggest advantages to online video today is that it can be embedded into people's blogs, websites, MySpace pages, etc. courtesy of those nifty embed links. If you're going to put video online don't limit people to only viewing it on your own site. Let them grab it and post it themselves. You'll extend your reach exponentially. If you're determined to get people to your site through these videos then put the address on the beginning or end of the video.

Wear it out. - All the old barriers to using online video are down. You can host the video for free, get free bandwidth, get free online video editing tools, and get cheap digital cameras. All you need to do is make the time to do it. If you've been doing video for the church or ministry for a while and you're not putting it online then shame on you. You're missing a great opportunity. If you haven't been capturing video of your church or ministry, just start doing it. Get in the habit and then begin working to sharpen your skills to make remarkable videos.

Let go. - I recently heard someone say they could post embedded video to their site but if they found someone had misused it they could somehow take it down or pull the video back from the misuse. This is 100% false. If you put a video online in any form there are tools that can allow someone to capture it. Once that video has been captured someone can use it for whatever they want to. If you have deep concerns about online video misuse you probably don't need to even dip your toes in these waters. My suggestion is to put video online and let it go...set it free. Let people grab those embed links and post them to their blogs or MySpace pages. Don't let the slight chance that the video could be misused to prevent you from doing it.


Video of the Week: Second Life Explained

I prefer to post an embedded video for these "video of the week" posts but this week is just a link...but it's certainly worth viewing. It's a brief overview on Second Life from CBS News Sunday Morning. If you've wanted to get a quick review of what Second Life is you'll want to see this video. If you want more information about the interviews, you can check out David Pogue's (the reporter on this story) blog post with more from the interview with Second Life's creator.

Here's the video link.


Comment Spam - Are You Guilty?

In a continued effort to get a personal handle on this bucking bronco called web 2.0 I've noticed the emergence of a shift and I finally feel like I've seen enough evidence to confirm my earlier observations. The shift is this: the definition of spam has evolved and expanded and there's a chance you might be a spammer and don't know it.

Let's start from the beginning and then talk about a shift: spam as we have come to know it over the last several years is unsolicited promotion from someone you don't know and 99.9% of the time we're referring to email as the medium by which that spam distributed. As people have gained an understanding of what email spam is, it has become more widely recognized and there are more protections in place for the average person against it. Likewise, all upstanding websites have confirmed opt-in email lists and the consequences for being labeled a "spammer" have created terror in the heartland for reputable marketers. None of this, unfortunately, seems to have led to much of a decrease in actual spam (according to my Gmail spam folder) but the filters are much better and our own ability to recognize spam is also better than it was even a few years ago.

That being said, spam has moved beyond email into web 2.0. There are spam blogs, spam MySpace pages, spam videos, etc. This seems to have been the natural progression of spam and although I don't like it, I'm also not really surprised either. The shift, however, is that a comment on a blog or website may very well be considered spam now too. A spam comment (do we call them spamments?) is one in which a person comments and leaves a link to something outside of the discussion they're commenting on.

For instance if I saw a blog post about iPods, a potentially spammy comment could say:
"Hey, I wrote a review of my recent experience with an iPod that died after six months. Check it out on my blog MicroExplosion."

Whereas a clearly non-spam post saying the same thing would be:
I just had an iPod die on me after just six months. What's the deal?

If you're skeptical that this shift is taking place take a look at a few things here...
This guy made a pretty innocent post (but crossed the line as described above) on Digg and got drilled for spamming.
This PR professional talks about it happening on his blog too.

Today I was reading Chris Thomas' blog where he's giving away an iPod and a guy posted a potentially spamish comment there too.

It feels like the rules have changed and there was no formal announcement to let everyone know. I've seen this shift emerge just over the last year, or at the very least it's begun to show itself more clearly over the last year but I can't help but wonder if the same feelings we have now for email spam will soon be the same for comment spam. I know I've been guilty of this kind of commenting in the past and I really think twice now before I comment on a blog. There are no rules or guidelines here so it's hard to grasp in some ways but if this is the way the spam tide is turning at least you can now say you were given the heads up here.


Back from NRB

We had a good couple days in Orlando at NRB. Yesterday morning I got to sit down with Brad Abare for a little while. Brad has his hands in a lot of different things. I knew him more for his work as the founder of ChurchMarketingSucks.com but he's also the Director of Communications for the Foursquare denomination and runs his own cause marketing agency called Personality. It was great to meet him (and he was even kind enough to drive me over to another hotel on his way to the airport.) I look forward to future conversations with Brad.

The middle part of the day was filled with meetings of various sorts. We had a client meeting for Walk Thru the Bible (a White Post client) and later met with the GodTube guys for a while, a brand new addition to our client list.

We had dinner with some Walk Thru staff and friends from Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and OnePlace.com.

I ended the evening talking with Greg Atkinson. I first discovered Greg many months ago through his blog, ChurchVideoIdeas.com. He's also a presenter at numerous conferences (he spoke three times at NRB I believe) and just recently joined Bent Tree Bible Fellowship to serve as their Technical Arts Director. Greg's a great guy with a sincere heart for ministry and a passion for excellence in churches. It was really good to meet him in person after trading emails for so long.

Today we had one final meeting and that was it for the trip. I heard multiple times that NRB will be in Nashville for the next ten years. That works for me.



Yesterday I flew to Orlando to the NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) Convention. White Post Media has a series of meetings of the next two days with some existing clients and some new ones as well. I've already heard there have been some interesting discussions about new media in a few seminars so I may have to run down the recordings from those sessions. Today's going to be good...I'm going to connect with a few guys I've wanted to meet in person for a while and also get the chance to learn more about a new client for us.


Video of the Week: Crowd Prank from Japan

I'd like to thank my brother for sending this one to me. Anybody in Nashville want to do this here? It could be very funny. I especially love the last one they do. We would need fifty people minimum I would think. This reminds me of the kind of thing Improv Everywhere would do. If you're not familiar with Improv Everywhere, check out the Slo-Mo Home Depot mission for a little initiation.

Link for feed readers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4qNP-3uYG8

Anyone going to NRB?

I'm heading to the NRB Convention in Orlando this weekend. If you're going to be there I'd love to meet you. Just send me an email and let me know: fourthbill@gmail.com.


Stats: Worldwide blog count & daily web video views

On Monday I had the opportunity to talk to two groups about how understanding web 2.0 can help their organizations. The first group I spoke to were the good people at Katcher, Vaughn, and Bailey, a PR firm in Nashville (thanks for the invitation Steve). The second group was the marketing department and some editorial staff at Randall House, a publishing company here in town.

In both cases I gave an overview of the six categories of web 2.0...the "massive Volkswagon" acronym MASSVW. We also discussed some additional terms like RSS, wiki, AJAX, and tags. One of the things that seemed to get everyone's attention were some stats about blogs and online video. You may find them interesting too if you haven't seen any recently. Here's the breakdown on both with the data I had:

Worldwide Blogs Count (source Technorati)

  • Jan. 2004 - less than 2 million
  • Jan. 2005 - 6 million
  • Jan. 2006 - 24 million
  • July 2006 - 50 million
  • Jan. 2007 - 60+ million

Online Video - Average number of views per day
(source ComScore)
  • Oct. 2005 - less than 25 million
  • Jan. 2006 - 125 million
  • July 2006 - 700 million
I haven't seen any more recent data than July 2006 but I wouldn't be surprised to see that Jan. 2007 online video views reached 1 billion per day.

So what does this mean for you? First, if you're not one of the 60 million bloggers you might want to consider starting one. Blog writers are blog readers and the number of people who will read your blog is higher now that it's ever been. Second, how are you using online video to help you? Are you creating opportunities for people to embed any video you put online? If you're not, you are missing a tremendous opportunity.


Video of the Week: The Ultimate Touchscreen

Remember that cool computer screen interaction from the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report? Do you also remember when we saw the new touchscreen functions when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone? Well, check out the video below. It's the ultimate touchscreen and appears to have been introduced in a smaller, slightly less developed format a year ago. Here's that video too. Thanks again to Craig for making me aware of this technology. The company behind this is Perceptive Pixel.

Video link for feed readers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysEVYwa-vHM&eurl=


Web app: Picnik - online photo editor

Last month I discovered a great online photo editor called PXN8. A few days ago on TechCrunch I saw they too like PXN8 but say there's an even better online photo editor available now called Picnik. I checked it out and have to say it's very sweet. I asked my friend (and photoisseur) Ray to check Picnik out and he was quite impressed by some of the advanced editing tools provided in Picnik. The site strikes me as a better designed and slightly more intuitive version of PXN8. I haven't done a comparison of the features between the two but I'm planning to use Picnik for my photo editing needs now.


World's oldest newspaper, now without paper

Craig sent me another great story tonight. It turns out the world's oldest newspaper has decided to go all digital, meaning you can't get it on paper anymore unless you print it out for yourself. The article doesn't go into details about why the decision was made but the publishing rights were recently sold to a Swedish government agency and I assume it was all about cutting back costs. The paper was founded in 1645 and was down to a circulation of 1000.

The article has a quote from the paper's chief editor (Editor-in-Chief for us Americans I assume) for the last twenty years. He said, "We think it's a cultural disaster." Cultural disaster? Really? Considering this guy just lost his job, I can see why he thinks it's a disaster, but culturally? I don't think so. If he's truly interested in the paper living on he would see that this is the only way it can actually happen. The fact of the matter is that the site will be read more online than it ever was as a printed document and how can that do anything but retain its cultural relevance? What the chief editor sees as the final blow is likely going to give rise to a new life for this old newspaper.

If this is a cultural disaster then let's consider a few more under the same definition:

  • Transportation: from horse to automobile
  • Communication: from telegraphs to telephones
  • Light: from candles to light bulbs
  • Bathrooms: from outhouses to indoor plumbing

So here's the big question, do you have some "cultural disasters" you need to create where you are?


Video of the Week: Save the pants!

I'm a big fan of what some creative companies are doing with viral video. Shout (yes the stain remover people) did this and it was very good. Thanks to David Pogue for finding this.

Link for feed readers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpMIRJLtMFM


YouTube clearly trumps web 2.0 technologies

One of the blogs I read daily is Micro Persuasion by Steve Rubel. He had an interesting post today about a little data mining he did with some web 2.0 terms like widgets, Second Life, podcasts, blogs, and RSS feeds. It was interesting to see that blogs are the clear front runner in popularity among these areas but the surge in Second Life interest was exciting as well.

What was noticeably absent from the list was any reference to online video. I did the same search as Steve did but dropped the RSS feeds and added YouTube. What I found was staggering. YouTube makes the other technologies look like nothing. I expected YouTube to be a contender with blogs but not trounce it the way it did. I was just telling someone today that there's been a rise in online video interest over the last year. This data suggests that it's not a mere rise, but rather a massive surge. So what's the moral of the story? If you're not thinking about online video right now you're getting behind very quickly.