Category Archives: Social Media

50 YouTube (and Online Video) Tips and Tricks

Given that this is the 8,000th post to my blog, and I just passed 50,000 YouTube subscribers last night, I wanted to make this post something special. With any luck, the content herein is just the beginning of a series of suggestions that could turn into something more (either here, or in an eBook). People ask me how I do what I do all the time, especially when it comes to live video or my videos on YouTube.

It’s a numbers game. YouTube is now 25% of the Internet’s search traffic, and if you’re not doing something on YouTube, you’re… crazy. Yes, you can still place your videos on a variety of other video hosting services – but if you’re not putting them on YouTube, you’re missing a HUGE opportunity.

Video is easy to “do” these days. You actually have to go out of your way to screw things up. You no longer need to go through some video editing guru to get something done – and you don’t need to spend much money to get going. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you already had everything you needed to be placed on the path to YouTube success.

You’ve been thinking about recording and uploading videos for some time now, but you just didn’t know where to start. You were afraid to start? If I can be of any assistance, then I’m more than happy to do so. Welcome to the first version of my “50 YouTube (and Online Video) Tips and Tricks” list. I did my best to stay away from the obvious, or at least spend a bit of time explaining WHY these semi-obvious points are worth making.

I’m also hoping that the rest of the community will extend this series of tips and tricks – and help make it their own…

  1. Success is relative. For me, success was reaching 50,000 subscribers (which is currently more than Oprah has). For you, success might be something completely different – and that’s perfect. If you start judging your own level of success by somebody else’s metrics, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Have goals, but let them be YOUR goals. Set your own bar, and then set out to jump it.
  2. If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what video is worth. You’ll be enhancing, not undermining, your other Internet endeavors if you push your efforts to YouTube. If given a choice between watching something or reading about it, I’ll readily admit that I’d rather sit back in my chair and view a video than scan notes for more information. If you’re going to put a series of videos on YouTube, regular ol’ still-shot sequences are… yesterday’s news. Nothing demonstrates a product better than an actual demonstration.
  3. Buy good cameras. This point should go without saying, but I’m surprised at just how many videos I’ve seen (on YouTube or beyond) that just weren’t watchable. Heck, even I’ve uploaded videos that I’d consider sub-par! I’ve experimented with a variety of devices, and am continuously looking at newer, better solutions for my efforts. Make the best with what you’ve got, but if you can get better – go better. In some cases, a regular ol’ Webcam will be sufficient. How does it look to YOU? Now, how does it look to OTHERS? Let me put it to you this way: nobody has ever complained about a video looking too good.
  4. High resolution = higher quality. While it’s okay to record in a standard 4:3 format, 16:9 (widescreen) is not going away anytime soon. If you can record your videos in high definition, do it. 1280×720 pixels is the “HD” resolution that YouTube will host for you. The good news is that you can record in this size without spending much more than a couple hundred dollars these days – it’s quite affordable, and the results should speak for themselves.
  5. What hue are you? Every camera should be color calibrated – be wary of any kind of automatic settings! It’s not likely that your webcam has a “white balance” feature in the software controls. If you’re using a camcorder, digital camera, et al, then there should be a “white balance” setting somewhere.
  6. Buy a good microphone. I’ve made countless recommendations in the past (and will continue to do so), and few of them have cost more than $100. You don’t need to go all-out when it comes to basic audio equipment, and you won’t need much more than a USB port to use one that’s worth using. Sometimes, capturing good audio is impossible (because you’re limited by mobile recording devices, or something beyond your control), but make bad audio an exception – not the rule. We’ve got coupons for just about every USB mic available.
  7. Lighting. If you are doing a product review or demonstration, your lighting is even more important than ever. People need to see what it is you are showing them. While you don’t necessarily need stage lighting, using sufficient light to project the details within your scene is crucial to producing a good video. The more light, the better. Having more than one light source will help alleviate any kind of shadows. You don’t want people reaching for their brightness controls when your face graces their screen. If they have to squint to see what you’re trying to show them, either you didn’t frame the shot well enough or it wasn’t well lit.
  8. Create a scene. Think about what’s sitting behind you before you hit the record button. It’s very difficult to take someone seriously if behind them is a completely unmade bed, and junk scattered all over their dresser or desk. Yes, this may be your “lifestyle,” but it’s distracting to viewers. Just because you’re creating amateur content for the Web doesn’t mean you have to look unprofessional when doing it. There are going to be times when scene contents are a bit beyond your control, but do your best to remain cognizant that a video is much more than just you or the scene.
  9. Find your voice. If you don’t have much of a personality on camera, you might as well not record. Let the real you shine through, and if you’re not very energetic… consider sticking to the written form of communication (assuming you can write well). Just because you can record video doesn’t mean you’re worth watching for longer than fifteen seconds. That’s about how much time you have to get someone’s attention.
  10. Be yourself. If you’re using YouTube to catalyze discussions around your interests, then the worst thing you could do is come across as disingenuous. There are going to be people who will accuse you of being the worst human being on earth, but that doesn’t make it any less so if you’re… yourself.
  11. Practice. You’re never going to get better by watching other people. Try recording some samples and upload them as private videos. Send the links to your friends and family, and ask them for feedback. Realize that you will learn from mistakes, and keep at it. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to show the world what you have to offer. If you’re unsure about how you’re doing, record the same segment three times. Watch every one of your takes, and select the one you like most. Will it take more time to do? Yes, but there’s nothing wrong with inching your way towards perfection.
  12. Consider live streaming. Not only is it good practice, but people in your community may record your stream “behind the scenes” and post those clips on their own YouTube account, to which you are able to embed in your own blog, link to from your YouTube account, etc. This could help build your community and establish your brand. I don’t use or recommend live video services that don’t enable the user to capture (on demand) and download the recorded segment to upload elsewhere. I’ve also had to sacrifice a bit of overall video quality just so I could capture my community’s chat in many of my videos – that’s important to me. DISCLAIMER: I sit on Ustream.tv’s advisory board, but I was using their service and providing feedback before being invited.
  13. Keep it simple. If your effort is overwhelming you, it’s not going to be fun – and if it’s not fun, then you’re not likely to stick with it for long. Some people get so caught up in having the most expensive camera, the most expensive microphone, the most expensive props, etc. Sometimes, all you need is… something, anything. Start small, then expand from there. Don’t make something more complex than it needs to be, especially when trying to communicate with other people. Keep It Simple, Smarty!
  14. Value-add. What are you doing that’s different from everybody else? Your brand is a given, but what else are you doing that nobody else is doing? What’s that ONE thing that makes your videos stand out? It is important to find a niche that nobdy else is in. This helps provide perspective that others wouldn’t have thought of, and further establish your brand past your name, avatar, or Web address.
  15. Have a hook. Start out differently with every video if you can. Draw people into what you’re going to share with them.
  16. Stay on topic. Even I tend to ramble if I’m interested in a topic, but I do my best to at least keep the ramblings relevant to the reason I’m recording a video. Think of your YouTube videos as segments inside a larger show. If you need to refer to notes, then please rely on notes. If you like to improv, by all means – roll with the punches. Just keep ‘er flowing and going.
  17. Don’t put people to sleep with your screencasts. If you have no energy in your voice, you’re not going to keep people listening for long. Unless there’s an absolute need to do a direct walkthru of software, you’re better off referring to it on a screen that’s facing the camera (with you as the subject of the scene). Not to mention, if your mouse isn’t moving within a screencast – the video is completely static. If you’re into editing videos, you could always switch to a screencast mid-video and then back out to you for the close. Keep that video lively!
  18. Use humor. Funny is good, especially when it’s unexpected. If your sense of timing is off, the “funny moment” translates into an “excruciatingly painful experience.” You won’t be able to hear people laugh on the other side of the screen, sadly – and a random LOL doesn’t mean much. Funny, much like success, is relative – just don’t push it. If you can take a less-than-serious approach to your subject, go for it (lightheartedness breaks down barriers). A controled amount of silliness is oft preferred to a recorded display of i-ate-too-much-sugar-itis (a very fine line to walk, indeed).
  19. Short is good. YouTube will limit (most) producers to 10 minutes, so it’s important that you use those 10 minutes wisely. Most people will tune out after the first minute, anyway. Doesn’t bode well for me, as most of the videos I record are closer to the 7 minute mark – but somehow, I’m able to make it work. The community doesn’t seem to mind, so I don’t mind either.
  20. Give people something to look forward to. If you stick to a schedule, people will look forward to it. Like my webcam giveaway on Fridays – people are in the live chat waiting anxiously for the giveaway, and it is something that they look forward to every single week. This doesn’t mean you need to create your own giveaways, but it does mean that you need to have a routine people can put on their calendar and make a habit out of.
  21. Give people a reason to send your video links to their friends. Many people don’t use YouTube’s search tool, but rely on the opinions of others. If someone comes across your video and finds it interesting, helpful, or funny, your chances of having them send it to someone they know increases. Likewise, if you are creating useful content, you can expect others to “Favorite” your videos, embed them in their blogs or social profiles, or share your creations with their friends via instant messages or email.
  22. Stick with a signature. Assuming they make it through the entire video, give ’em a familiar sign-off. For me, it’s saying something along the lines of: “We’ll ‘e’ ya later!” I started doing that back when I had a show on WHO Radio back in the day, and I took that signature with me when I began hosting a television show – adding a “three finger salute” to the mix. That’s what geeks used to call the CTRL+ALT+DEL keyboard shortcut.
  23. Don’t let them go without knowing where you are. The Web thrives on links. Assuming these videos can and will be extracted and embedded throughout the Web, everything you want to convey must be within the video itself. Don’t rely on descriptions and tags for everything (other than for discovery on YouTube itself).
  24. Ask questions of your audience. You’re presenting a call-to-action in every video. Ask for feedback. The feedback may or may not be what you are looking for (remember the trolls), so be prepared for both positive and negative remarks.
  25. Treat each one of your videos as though it were the only video that someone might watch. Each video should stand alone, even if it’s a part of a series. It should be complete, from stem to stern. Leave no stone unturned, even if you realize that your audience has heard the same thing before (like your signature sign-off).
  26. Don’t be afraid to try something new every once in a while. If you usually record by yourself, consider having your girlfriend, spouse, children, or even your parents into a video. Change the view, change the tone, change the expectations of your viewers – who knows? Experiment. Try something extremely short-form if you’re used to doing long-form – or vice versa.
  27. Stamp information on every one of your videos. When you upload something to the Internet, anybody can take that content and use it as their own – without necessarily giving you credit. For this reason, and this reason alone, I always take the extra step to add one of my domains (as a text overlay) to videos. Watermarking them with some kind of URL is going to make it more difficult for another person to use that video elsewhere without having them first jump through the hoops of eliminating my stamp. This text is made to be a part of the video itself. Yes, people have still ripped me off without keeping credit, but at least I’ve given casual users a hurdle to overcome before cheating me. This is also one of the reasons I refuse to use any third-party service to upload directly to YouTube (before being able to stamp my own information onto the video). Any software video editor should be able to help you do this.
  28. If you want to use somebody else’s music, be sure to get the rights. Why risk a take-down? Find the appropriately Creative Commons licensed music or get permission. If you’re intent on using music in your video, and you’re unsure of licencing, then (once your video is uploaded) use the “AudioSwap” tool that is one click away from any video on your My Videos page.
  29. Don’t get hung up on title screens or post-roll credits. They’re necessary for television shows, but you’re not creating a television show – are you? If anything, rely on your production routine to add “lower thirds” (graphics or text that might run along the bottom of your video).
  30. Use annotations! When YouTube added the annotations feature, I wasn’t sure what to make of them. However, after realizing I could place an annotation over the entire length of the video to tease people to related videos that I had recorded (or to community videos / responses), I started to integrate them into all of my videos. You’ll find the “Edit Video” button on any one of your pages. There, you’ll see the “Annotations” feature – and you can use this to place call outs or hyperlinks to any other page on YouTube. They’ll display over your videos on YouTube and in all embeds – all the more reason to use the “note” annotation, which allows for the insertion of YouTube URLs.
  31. Use the bulk upload tool. If you’ve recorded more than one video to be added to your account, or if one of your videos is over 100 megabytes in size, then this tool will come in handy. No matter, this is my preferred method of uploading directly to YouTube, if only because it’s the only one that gives you a percentage upload indicator. You can upload higher-quality videos with ease!
  32. You don’t need to edit video to make great videos. I do everything “live-to-tape” because editing video is a pain in the AVID. Yes, I sometimes have to shoot take after take after take – but I also don’t have to edit video when I’m finished! They say that it takes one hour of video editing time to produce one minute of footage. That’s not a stretch. I might get through 90% of my effort before stopping and starting over again – because I know I could do it better, or if I wasn’t energetic enough. This may take practice, but it will also (potentially) save you mountains of time in the short and long-run. At most, with this approach, all you should ever need to remove is space at the beginning or end of a recording.
  33. Capture attention with your title. Keep it relevant to your topic, and make it something that people would be drawn to click. This information field is also indexable, so you REALLY need to be sure it is relevant to the content you’ve produced. It will show up in the “Related Videos” sidebar widget as well. Be succinct, pithy, and lead people into watching and subsequently commenting or fowarding your creation.
  34. Lead with a link in your description. One of the few places that YouTube allows you to pass along a live hyperlink is in your video’s description field. Just be sure you write it like it might appear in your browser’s address bar. For example: http://geeks.pirillo.com/ – just like that (and yes, I recommend always using a trailing slash with URLs). This will be the first thing people see when they go to read the description for your video. Make it something actionable!
  35. Use tags, profusely. People will likely find your videos through search – and using relevant tags are key for discovery. Tags are nothing more than keywords, linking people to videos which also contain the same tags. Not only will this help you attain more views from YouTube searches, it’ll also help categorize your own videos on YouTube (in an ad hoc manner).
  36. Put extended show notes somewhere. Today, most search engines can’t index the audio found within videos – nor is any given video thumbnail information-dense. Without a fair amount of corresponding text, few will ever discover what you’ve recorded. At least, the option is there to read and/or watch and/or listen. Video without separate text notes is like corn flakes without the milk.
  37. Bring people elsewhere. Chances are, you have your own Web site – so why not let people know about it? They can’t read your mind, and they likely won’t research it on their own. Mention a site, potentially, at the beginning of your video – most certainly at the end. If you don’t have your own site, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t run out and get one ASAP. Tease people back to your blog, to a service that can benefit their specific needs, or to a community that you’ve set up for them. They may never come, but they certainly won’t if you don’t invite them or give them a reason to look. Don’t be afraid to share the addresses to your social profiles on the Internet (Twitter and the like).
  38. Get your community involved. If you’re not engaging your audience, you’ll find growth to be a tremendous challenge. Don’t assume that your community consists only of close friends and family. If your videos are public, it will make sense to expect others to find them. Your content will have a great role in these people subscribing to you and expecting more.
  39. Don’t feed the trolls. This should come to no surprise, but the level of intelligence found in most YouTube comment threads borders between “insane” and “inane.” It’s perfectly fine to respond to feedback in a clear fashion, so long as you keep your own wits about you – realizing that YOU are in control of what stays and what goes there. Constructive criticism should never be ignored, but addressed (and that’s not to be confused with outright flames).
  40. “Viral” isn’t a marketing strategy. Viral means contagious, and that people can’t get enough of it. This is a good thing, and something you should keep in mind when recording your videos. It’s also something you can’t expect, even if your video is incredibly creative. The more important question to ask yourself is: are you creating good videos, or fluffy / unimportant things that nobody cares about?
  41. It’s less about the defined (read: subscribed) audience, and more about the audience that will continue to discover your videos through keyword searches and established content discovery mechanisms. When Google started to intersperse YouTube videos with their organic search results, it suddenly became very important that you start uploading videos to YouTube. The trends are moving in an upward direction.
  42. Embed elsewhere. If you have your own blog (and you should), you should be driving traffic back into your YouTube profile in every way possible. Link to your videos wherever you can, but be sure that they are relevant. Don’t be afraid to share your YouTube URLs with your Twitter followers, friends on Facebook, etc.
  43. Not every video will be a hit. Spikes will come from runaway video hits (or seasonal videos). If you’re getting dozens of views over an extended period of time for most of your videos, it could be for a variety of reasons – none of which may be related to the value (or quality) of the video itself. It might be time to re-evaluate your strategy, or to look into other ways of generating genuine interest (NOT spamming).
  44. Publish with regularity. You don’t necessarily need to stick to a daily, weekly, or monthly routine – but if you let too much time lapse between videos, your community will lose interest and forget about you. Stay on their minds. If you’re running out of material, DON’T repeat yourself – spend some time creating unique video responses for friends’ videos, possibly.
  45. Post bulletins to your subscribers. You can attach one video thumbnail to each bulletin, so you might as well take the opportunity to let people know that you’ve done something YOU believe is worth watching. Hyperlinks will not come through as clickable, so don’t expect much traffic from them. Still, this is another piece of the YouTube puzzle.
  46. Use one of your videos to respond to others (either your own, or someone else’s – hopefully, someone who knows who you are). You’ll find a “Post a Video Response” link on every video page – click it, then select the video you want to use as a response. Remember, you can respond to your own videos. The chances of someone watching a related video are rather high.
  47. Make playlists. These will help you link your related content together, and make it easier for your community to find videos on specific topics. This will also help them stay on your YouTube page, and increase your video views. Moreover, you can add your own community members’ videos within the same playlist – further extending the interpersonal connection.
  48. “Favorite” videos that your community makes. This will show your fellowship that you are doing your best to promote their creations, thereby (theoretically) increasing their visiblity (and highlighting their participation). This action will also show people that you are truly interested in what they have to share, potentially bringing you more viewers.
  49. Complete your profile. Tell visitors about yourself – and if you haven’t already written a bio, there’s no time like the present to do so. If your list of credentials isn’t outstanding, start thinking about what you can do to further establish authority. Why would someone want to subscribe to you? Sell yourself, because you simply can’t expect that anybody else will. Remember, be yourself – and be honest. You can add or remove elements from your profile page at will, understanding that turning on profile comments is pretty much welcoming nothing but spam.
  50. Support your most prolific supporters. If you notice that someone is consistently responding to you, following up with videos, sharing resources with you, etc. – give credit where credit is due. This will not only enhance their experience, but (believe it or not) it will increase your value to them – and hopefully, vice versa. Your supporters will continue to recommend your efforts, aiding your growth and viability.
  51. Strive to be consistently complete and insightful rather than a flash-in-the-pan. If you’re deluded enough to believe that everything you upload will be a hit, you’re in for mind-numbing disappointment. It’s better to see a long string of pseudo-successes than it is to be a one-hit wonder.
  52. If you’re going to focus your video on a product or service, if at all possible, have it in your hands (or somewhere near you). There are certainly going to be times when a discussion without product is warranted, but don’t feel obligated to share your opinion about an object that you’ve never touched. Your two cents may make more sense when you’re referring to something that you have sitting in front of you. People usually don’t want to hear why you think a product or service is great if you don’t have it.

Now, I’ve been thinking about fleshing out some of these points (as well as adding others) to compile a “YouTube eBook.” Is that something that might interest you?

Are there any other tips I may have left out? What are you doing to find your success on YouTube?

Request: Record a Video Review of Your Phone

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How would you like to make money, simply by creating videos? All you have to do is sign up over at ExpoTV and start creating product reviews of your own! Come take a look at what I’ve been doing there.

I am issuing a challenge to you here and now. Sign up over at ExpoTV, and then create a video review of your cell phone. Tell us what phone you have, whether you love it or hate it, and give us a blow-by-blow of the good, the bad, and the ugly. If your video review meets their guidelines and is accepted for publishing, you can make yourself some cold hard cash!

In addition, one of you is going to win a prize package! You will receive:

  • PCTV HD Ultimate Stick – Watch and record SD and free HD TV with no service fees on any PC using the Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick. The digital TV tuner and personal video recorder software run directly from the Stick’s on-board flash memory, so you can plug it into any computer and start watching and recording TV in seconds – no installation required.
  • Pinnacle Studio Ultimate 12 – All new Pinnacle Montage theme based editing – designed by professional producers and artists – puts incredible creative power at your fingertips. Simply drag and drop your video clips and still images to preview your movie – and watch your content come alive, complete with Hollywood style multi-layered effects, animated graphics, titles and Hi-Fi audio.
  • Dazzle Video Creator Plus – With Dazzle Video Creator Plus, anyone can produce great looking movies to share with family and friends. No prior video editing experience is required. Simply transfer videos to the PC.

Just one of you will receive all three of these items, worth a total of about $300.00. All you have to do is sign up under me and then create your own video review. I will take a look at them all, pick one out at random, and we will have a winner.

You can, of course, create even more review videos for the folks at ExpoTV. I’m challenging you to start with just one. When you realize how fun and easy it is to make money, I’m betting you won’t want to stop there.

Want to embed this video on your own site, blog, or forum? Use this code or download the video:

Are Most Dating Websites Scams?

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You probably don’t want to meet someone who is talking like their brain has temporarily taken a vacation. You take that chance if you meet someone online, and/or through a dating website. There are some dating sites that aren’t quite on the up-and-up. Some of them want your credit card before you can even create a profile for yourself. That, to me, seems to be not-so-legit. You have to be wary of the type of site you choose to look for your future love on.

You want a good online dating experience, right? You might remember the interview we did with Kevin Carmony a few months ago. That conversation was mostly about Linux, but we did discuss his newest project, as well. Kevin is the CEO of Dating DNA, which is what I wanted to talk to you about today.

Dating DNA is the Internet’s central nervous system for online dating. Its patented technology encapsulates all your dating information into a single 9-digit number (i.e. 254-736-844), allowing you to privately integrate all your dating information across the Internet’s social graph. Dating DNA lets you generate 1-click compatibility scores with millions of other people at websites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Craigslist, and hundreds more.

Every day, more and more people are using social networking sites to find new people to date. Utilizing these sites is free, and provides a more natural way of meeting people than traditional dating sites. Dating DNA is the first service to address this trend, by bringing the convenience of sophisticated matching tools to these new social networking avenues.

Dating DNA is honestly a 100% free site! When you fill out your profile, you are creating your DNA… unique information about you. You are given a pin number. Other people who may be interested in you can put in your pin number, and find out how well you match up to each other, based on the answers you have given. This is certainly different than what you are likely used to, which is a good thing!

They’ve made this as clean and easy as it can possibly be. It’s even fun to fill your information in, and check out other people. There aren’t even any ads on the site, which is a relief! Go check out the site, browse some ads, and found out what your Dating DNA is today.

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Has Social Media Changed Human Beings?

Geek!This is Patrick John OMahony’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Let me introduce myself. I am Pat O’Mahony – and I am a PRE Baby Boomer. I was born 64 years ago in 1944, during World War II. Most people consider “Baby Boomers” as “a person born between 1946 and 1964, following World War II”. So officially, I am NOT a Baby Boomer. Admittedly, not by much – but I got here ahead of them.

I see the NEW Social Media as an old progression and continuation of what makes us “Human Beings”. In my lifetime, I have seen a lot of things change. Lately, I have been studying and researching the manifestation of the New “Social Media”. The proponents say that New “Social Media” will change everything. Actually, I think that they are understating the case by several degrees of magnitude.

We not only have to be social, belong somewhere – we have to interact and communicate with other people. We do this, just to be Human Beings. It is what makes us human.

First, let us look at the essence of a “Human Being”. Above all else, “Human Beings” are social creatures belonging to a tribe or group. People need to be with people, preferably with people just like ourselves. We all know that “no man is an island”, that a former punishment was to be “a man without a country” and that even today, one of most extreme forms of punishment is solitary confinement.

Second, “Human Beings” communicate. They communicate like crazy. I remember reading about anthropologists suggesting that the reason we are human and not apes, living in the trees, is that we can communicate with language. It makes sense.

Third, “Human Beings” have always been inventing ways to communicate. We have invented hundreds of verbal languages. Thousands of years ago, before writing, our ancestors drew exquisite pictures of bison and horses on cave walls to communicate (with the Gods or with other Human Beings, we do not know). We “Human Beings” invented writing, pictographs, ideographs, signs and symbols. Do you want to express a word, a thing, an idea or a process? We can do it!

Fourth, in every aspect, we invent something and then we make it better (and better). In every way that we can measure, our communication systems are getting better. In speed, our communication systems have been improving. From early telegraphs to today’s digital magic, the speed of communications has been getting faster (and faster). In bringing the communicators closer together, the barriers between the two has been decreasing. From the early Post Office letters, to the early telephone, to today’s digital and visual phone calls, the “media” has been getting us closer and closer to the real thing.

This new “Social Media” is nothing new. This “Social Media” is just the latest chapter in mankind’s ability to communicate, in mankind’s improvement in his communication systems. Sure, some of the old ways to communicate have been superseded by this faster, “closer” method. Newspapers are the some of the first to fall – along with TV stations, and the music industry.

But, overall, our ability to communicate is changing: faster, closer and changing for the better.

Yes, some of the communicators will even write and talk about sex on the internet. Sex is also one of the things that make us human. But that is for another essay.

How To Take A Year Off And Travel The Country For Only $180 Using Social Media

Geek!This is Amy Bugbee’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

My husband Shane and I set out on a year long road trip with $180 in our pockets, we had no savings account, no credit cards, no back up, our only safety net was the Internet. WIth our dog and turtle in the back seat of our Chevy Blazer, we left with a few blankets, a bag of baking gear, a suitcase full of clothes, and most importantly, one laptop computer, an HD video camera, and a donated digital audio recorder. The recorder was given to us by a supporter we met at a podcasting meeting we found on Meetup, so we were already putting social media to the test.

A journey such as this is not for everyone, but for the adventurous few who dare, it is possible to survive for a full year on the road using nothing but technology – and a little elbow grease. Our plan was to use the Internet to find work, shelter and conversation.

In addition, we planned to give people an outlet to speak their mind in the videos we were posting, bring more voices to the Internet, and promote any businesses willing to help us out.

The first rule of the road was Craigslist. This is where we found the most work and the most support, second was our “friends” on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. I even used eBay to auction my cookie baking service around Christmas and had a great time whipping up cookies all afternoon for a nice lady in the Chicago suburbs. We also contacted other bloggers, vloggers, and various Internet personalities that might be willing to barter some promotion, this garnered mixed results, some were helpful, and some were not, and don’t even get me started on Adam Curry! We really wanted to use Couchsurfing.com, unfortunately the fact we were two people with a dog and a turtle was a bit more than most folks wanted on their sofa, it would probably work much better for a single traveler than our hoard.

We contacted a variety of businesses and offered to promote their gear if they would send us some, to this end we acquired shoes, clothes, baking mixes, and even a waterproof laptop case from Otterbox. Along the road other needs popped up, like car repairs, dog sitting and food, and typically with a quick Internet search and few emails everything was taken care of, in exchange for their service we made video commercials and posted them online. Once when we were nearly starving in St. Louis, we called a local BBQ stand and asked to come in and film an episode of our Internet TV show. The owner pumped us full of delicious meat and side dishes and then sent us off with a case of BBQ sauce and probably half a pig. We felt a little guilty about the royal treatment we’d received, but in the end the man was thrilled with the business our online video brought him, and he still emails us to this day!

To work our way across the USA we used the “Gigs” section of Craigslist, that’s where people post for temporary odd jobs such as raking leaves or help moving, and many of the people we worked for were supportive of our project and offered us food, shelter, gas, and even doggie vitamins. In the course of our trip, I worked cleaning houses, mowing lawns, and even spent a day at a gun show. Shane fixed gear plumbing in Knoxville, and we both worked as ranch hands in New Mexico and bottled rum in New Orleans. The other section we used with great success was “Barter”, there we posted ‘Will Trade Wife” or “Will Trade Husband”, these were for non-sexual trades of labor, cookie baking, and fix it help, most people found these posts amusing and it lessoned the fear of allowing strangers in one’s home. Perhaps our most important Craigslist barter of all was in Portland, Oregon when we traded our Chevy Blazer for an old RV, from which I am currently typing this article.

For places to stay, we usually posted in the “Community” Section under “Local News”, “General”, or “Politics”. Since our road trip was following the election year, we would ask if anyone out there had an interest in being a part of an Internet TV show about the election. We also stayed with many online pals, it was exciting to meet many of our “friends” in person for the first time, and many of the people we met hooked us up with their friends all across the country.

On the days we had no money and no place to go, technology helped us in another way, we would find a Kinkos that was open 24 hours and take turns working and napping in the truck. Kinkos is a giant corporation built on computer technology, it is a great hub for small business owners to appear more legit via telecommunications, teleconferencing, digital copying, and they seemed rather used to weirdos milling about at all hours of the night.

Technology is an ever evolving matter, so one must also be willing to adapt to the changes. Much of what we began the year with changed drastically over the months. Our website upgraded three times, changing Word Press templates that adapted to the crossing over of more bloggers to vloggers. The way in which we uploaded our videos changed too. We began the year using lulu.tv, who was paying us a small amount per month to post videos. After a few months, they dropped out due to funding issues and we began manually posting on several websites, including Blip, Revver, and YouTube. About halfway through our trip we discovered Tube Mogul, which automatically placed our videos on every website we chose with just one click.

During the year we also brought technology to other people, we set up an old chum in Chicago with streaming radio, convinced a gal in Mississippi to do a regular blog, got tons of friends to join various social and video networking sites, and the rum distillery we worked at, bottling the best Cajun Spice Rum in the world, is now doing their own Internet TV show. Even some of the subjects from our videos hooked up together from across town and across the country.

In the end, we made it the entire year by utilizing technology and the Internet. We lived below the poverty line for certain, but the dog and turtle didn’t seem to notice, and Shane actually put on a few pounds from all the great meals we shared with fine people. It brought us all a lot closer together, and we have a world of new friends from sea to shining sea, most of whom we manage to keep up with through email and social networks. It just goes to prove, there is nothing more broadening than travel, and nothing so grand as technology.

Now, get going!

We used a MacBook laptop, Sony HD Handicam, Edirol recorder from Roland, and Shane’s homemade stabilizer bar.

What is Brand Loyalty?

Geek!This is Mark Davidson’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

What do Apple Macintosh users and Harley Davidson owners have in common? Those products have become a part of people’s lives and self-identity. They feel a sense of ownership in the company. They form communities around the product, and in essence become salespeople and marketers for the product. They have a fierce loyalty, and they are vocal about it.

Ideally, as successful business owners we should want people to feel a sense of ownership in our sites and blogs. We should want our social media sites to be a part of their lifestyle. One of the ways to accomplish this is to create a sense of community and inclusion. The goal should be that our users should feel as though they are not only part of something bigger than themselves, but something that they feel they are invited to join.

It’s important that we figure out ways to promote communication between users on our sites. We should arm them with promotional tools to help promote our sites—for example, by creating a widget (clickable button) for their blogs that link back to our sites. Another example is that one day a week, we could host an open comment night on our blogs where users can ask questions, give suggestions, communicate with other users, and interact with them online. We could then additionally interview different users on our blogs, and by doing so we can take an active interest in the lives and businesses of people who are not only interested in us, but in others with similar interests. It allows for the creation of a cyber-fanbase-community, much like those that Apple and Harley-Davidson have.

We can also start looking to identify things that our users have in common and help them to make connections with each other. This is similar to how sites like Facebook and Ning help create a sense of community among users by allowing users to create groups. Another thing sites like those have deployed successfully is to allow users to search for each other by interests, occupation, marriage status, and geographical location.

Businesses could also encourage and foster meetups based on their social network—this way users can meet each other face to face. The more we can promote communication and interaction between our users online, the greater the sense of community they will feel. This is critical to both retaining active users and having our users virally market our sites through word of mouth. Mini Cooper is unusually adept at this, and have both regional and international meetups on a regular basis that are based on online social networks.

If you have a social networking site, you’ll want to make it easy for your users to invite their friends, family, and work associates to use your site. However, there’s a lot to be said about initial exclusivity and creating desire. One of the things that Google did right with Gmail was to make it exclusive. Google gave each person a limited number of email invites to give out to friends. When Gmail first launched, a buzz was created online as people actively sought out invites.

Remember, each mention of your site on a message board or social media site is a mini-advertisement. The more we can get users to talk about our sites and blogs in their emails, IMs, social media sites, message boards, and blogs, and the more we can get users to mention our brand(s), the quicker we’ll see our user bases grow and the more active users we will be able to retain…and the more customers and clients we will reach.

As successful business owners, we should want to engage people, create two-way dialogs, encourage participation, listen, and respond. The only way to create a sense of ownership in our sites and blogs is actually to give away ownership. Let others have the spotlight. Our blogs are not about our egos. Our blogs are about our audience and readers. They aren’t about us.

How to Meet Geeks

You can take advantage of this growing community by being an active part of it. After all, it’s yours!

1. On the front page of http://geeks.pirillo.com/ you’ll find a list of the day’s registered birthdays. It takes less than 20 seconds to stop by someone’s profile and wish them well. You don’t have to be creative about it – a simple “happy birthday” is more than enough.

2. Watch http://geeks.pirillo.com/groups/group/list?sort=latestActivity for the latest happenings in the Groups. If you see something that interests you, join the group and start participating. Remember: it takes participation to evoke participation. If your favorite group isn’t showing up in “latest activity,” it’s because you’re not posting there. 🙂

3. Post your favorite daily news links and announcements in http://geeks.pirillo.com/forum as they come in throughout the day and night. No easier way of discovering who shares your thoughts. Posting a question that’s already been beaten to death isn’t very helpful at all. Did you just buy new hardware? Find new software? Tell everybody!

4. Keep an eye out for bloggers on http://geeks.pirillo.com/profiles/blog/list?pageSize=15 to see which geeks share your passions. Instead of simply leaving a commeent or passing the link to a friend account, why not click the user’s avatar and add them as a friend? Reach out!

5. Embed your own YouTube videos (or any of your videos) via http://geeks.pirillo.com/video/video/addEmbed and be sure to tag it accordingly. Your personality will draw people to you when they see what you’ve done!

6. Search for keywords on http://geeks.pirillo.com/memberSearch to see who matches you. Hopefully, every geek has filled out their own profile to the best of their ability. It’s all about discovery, my friends!

7. Go back to the front page when you have a moment – check out the latest activity that’s front and center! Not only can you click on member names and buddy icons, but their activity as well. Did they just upload a song you love? Did they just comment in a thread that sounds interesting? Did they just befriend one of your friends? The Activity Stream is incredibly revealing!

8. Keep your eye on http://geeks.pirillo.com/profiles/members/ which lists all the latest members to join the network. I wouldn’t recommend pouncing on them immediately, but once they’ve added a few things to their profile – why not personalize your greeting? Nothing would make a new geek feel more welcome!

9. When you do something interesting on Geeks, why not share the link with your Facebook or Twitter friends? It’s easy to do, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same people who follow you outside of Geeks would be more than interested in following you on Geeks.

10. Have you posted your event(s) to http://geeks.pirillo.com/events yet? Like, game tournaments, release dates, or anything else you’re interested in? Increase the chances of someone finding you before you find them… by simple participation.

To aid your navigation of Geeks features, several sub-menus were added to the menu bar recently. Go explore!

Journalists vs Bloggers

Chris Hughes writes from the UK:

Alright, I’m a journalism student in Britain right now, and I have just started my dissertation on blogging, titled ‘are bloggers journalists’ obviously I went through Google to find out peoples opinions and your Google video came up.

One point I would like to make as a person who chose to study journalism wanting to be a journalist ironically paying to be a journalist to my university is that. Journalists doesn’t just want to right a story because we get paid we write and chose the stories because they’re important we provide a public service and we choose to do so. Bloggers right about what they want to right about, which might be similar however journalists right not only what people want to hear but what they should hear. I might come across as biased in this but to be honest I am, I am writing for all the journalists out there who have chosen to do so who train hard, who work hard. We can’t be so easily replaced or generalized as bloggers simply because we both right on the internet. The core of being a journalist as you said was to be objective and the core of being a blogger is well as you said not to be objective but subjective, it’s a personal opinion.

Journalists and Bloggers are fundamentally different, and no they are not journalists because they are not objective and for other reasons. Which if you would like I will explain in another email, as for this email I would like to presume that I have tried to explain how we as journalist feel, to be so easily replaced is somewhat annoying and rather insulting, that any ‘Joe blog’s’ (forgive the pun) can be a journalist by writing a ‘blog’ seems too easy. Journalists might not get it right all the time, we might not get it wrong all the time but we try each and every time and we ARE accountable for our actions, at least in this country. Well I’ve tried to make my point as always people will agree and disagree but I hope for the most part people will agree.

I think the lines will continue to blur – and that people always need to consider the source, no matter who presents any particular piece. I’ve met bloggers who are better informed than their journalist counterparts… and vice versa.

What is Plurk?

I asked my friends to explain to me what the hell Plurk was all about. Their answers were quite telling:

It's like Twitter for jr. high kids. – Nathaniel Payne
it's like twitter, w/ better attachment functionality, on a horizontal time-line thus easier to review, but not mobile friendly. – clarke
I agree, it's silly – Ryan
-100 karma for Nathaniel! 🙂 – Chris Harris
Its Twitter with the ability to have threaded conversations. The horizontal timeline is hard to get used to, but the mobile app is vertical. – Mike Templeton
Like everyone said it's like Twitter with an Ajax on crack interface that is not impressive and something that I can't see lasting beyond the initial buzz it got because of Twitter's instability. – Chris Rodgers
twitter for kids or painkiller for heavily depressed tweeple – Dobromir Hadzhiev
move moves the wrong way – Marc Canter
have you ever played defender? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D…) its twitter with a defender interface 🙂 – Scott Cropper
-1000 karma for Chris Harris! (which will be rendered as a severe beating at the next dmtweetup) 😉 – Nathaniel Payne
@clarke, http://www.plurk.com/m <- mobile version 😉 – AJ Batac
its like an unnecessarily complicated version of twitter that nobody really uses – so maybe it's more like pownce 🙂 – Jennifer Van Grove via twhirl
it's a chat-room where you can post with ping.fm 😉 – Dieter Schwarz
It is a more complicated Twitter – Jared Radosevich
It's a dog without a head. i.e. a website without usability – directeur
As long as Twitter remains unstable, Plurk is the most Twitter-like option out there that also happens to be new kid on the block. – Scott Kitchen
It's essentially Twitter, but the conversations stay self-contained and don't send out a lot of noise to the timeline. There are toys like karma, but most people ignore them. – Starman
Oh, yeah, and it works 😀 – Starman
@Nathaniel nooo, -1000 makes all my plurk smilies disappear. you bastard!! – Chris Harris
Twitter is to statements as Plurk is to conversations. Even more than twitter, Plurk requires adding friends and interacting with them. This interaction is the reason so many people are falling in love with it. If you want to know more, feel free to send me a plurk: http://www.plurk.com/user/TeegTeeg
tried to use it for a few weeks, but the big problem is that they simply don't have the user base. you end up talking to the same 2 people and after a while, everybody is bored and goes back to twitter (if it's up). – Mark Schulz
Pluk is really twitter with consolidated replies and tweets on a timeline instead of in a stream. – Greg Hollingsworth via twhirl
Right now I have over 300 friends on there, only 1 or 2 of them are teenagers, many are computer geeks of one kind of another, a lot are experts in their fields. In the 3 weeks or so that I've been on Plurk, I've already learned more and received more answers to my questions than I ever did on Twitter, even though I actually have more friends listed on Twitter. – Teeg
Plurk is like wurk. – OpenAllNight
Plurk is like Twitter but with participation and interesting conversation. To generalize all Plurk users as "high school kids" is very misleading. If you get on, conversate and make friends you'll see what the buzz is all about. – Patrick Britton
it's Twitter with conversation that you can actually follow. It's got good search functions and none of my Plurk friends are teenagers – Sharon Hurley Hall
It's like Twitter with more conversations, more community, more responsiveness from founders, and less egos and snarkiness. – Mack Collier
"its like an unnecessarily complicated version of twitter that nobody really uses – so maybe it's more like pownce :)" Has 155 friends on Plurk, been there maybe a week. Twitter, 127 followers and I've been there for several months. Not to mention Plurkers actually talk to you, Twitterers just blab on about their own self indulged lives. – Patrick Britton
Plurk is amazing. Many of the comments here are naive and misleading, not to mention ignorant. If you like community interaction Plurk is an awesome choice. – Konstantino
It's a faster, horizontal pownce with a rating system that's very stable. – Nexeus Fatale
No "fail whale." 😀 – Patrick Britton
It's more fun at times. I tend to get more responses. but it's only cause people are trying to build karma. timeline is an interesting interface that allows a little better view of when in time everything is happening. – Josh
Josh, they're helping you build karma when they respond. They build karma by getting responses on their posts. A neat idea that drives conversation levels up. 🙂 – Teeg
Twitter on crack. or meth. or your mind enhancing chemical of choice. – jane
I agree with Konstantino "Many of the comments here are naive and misleading, not to mention ignorant" For one, my teenage years are long forgotten and my plurk friends are adults with adult conversations… I LOVE Twitter for the sharing of great business information & links but you cannot have nor follow a conversation there. On Plurk you can create or follow conversations from beginning to end if you want, & some conversations are long we discuss all sorts of topics personal and or business, politics.. – Linda Zimmer
silly chat room with emoticons & reaching for a level of *karma* gets ya better emoticons. that being said, there have been good discussions there 🙂 – Barbara K. Baker
oh, and FriendFeed is still better. just not as… silly! – Barbara K. Baker
plurk confuses me, thus I keep playing along. sorry I can't explain it, but that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger. – Peggie Arvidson
Plurk is simply public, threaded chats displayed on a timeline. It's not like twitter except that it limits posts to 140 like twitter. Think IRC but more organized. Think IM but publicized. – nicerobot

I tried to like it – and maybe it’ll grow on me – but for the time being, it will remain a sideline in the grid that is my social graph.

How do You Update your Friends with what's Happening Now?

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When you want to update your friends as to what you’re doing, how do you contact them? Do you call them or email them? Or do you maybe send out a Twitter or MySpace bulletin? Any of these things could take you a lot more time than necessary, having to log into all these different places. How do you know you’re getting your information to everyone, in all places? These sites keep getting more and more plentiful. It’s good… and bad. It’s good because it’s nice to see innovation. It’s bad because people leave one place and become active in another, and then they aren’t staying up-to-date with you!

It’s hard to stay updated with all of these places. Luckily, there is a new service that is in private beta that will help. Ping FM is a new service that will make your social networking life much easier. You simply update what you’re doing through their service, and it will shoot it out everywhere you have memberships. At first, there were only a couple of sites listed to shoot them to. Now, they are up to seventeen different places! There are several ways to update, as well. Use your AIM or GTalk accounts, an iPhone or iTouch, shoot off a text message, or an email! You can configure which sites and accounts you want messages to go to.

If you’re interested in downloading and trying this out, use the code: letmeping. So check it out for yourself! How much easier can it be to keep everyone clued in on what’s going on with you, at any given time? This is getting a huge thumbs up from me. Hopefully even more services and sites will be added as time goes on!

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