Digital Distraction

 

The thoughts expressed here were originally posted on the Pocket Film Productions blog. They were spurred by personal experience, this facebook conversation, and this podcast episode.

In my career, people come to me for creative video, social strategy, or insight on trends. But those strengths are hindered by a trait I’ve always struggled with. I am easily distracted. My perpetually darting mind is not a positive quality, especially as a trait I can’t really control. I end up frustrated, overwhelmed, and constantly in doubt of my abilities.

While that hardship is mine to bear and overcome, it wasn’t really created by me. It was fostered, very deliberately, by the architects of our digital world.

The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.
— Data scientist Jeff Hammerbacher

Virtually the whole Internet is monetarily driven by advertising. And as somebody who makes ads for a living, let me tell you why this does, indeed, suck.

Media outlets measure success in several ways, but there’s one important measurement we’ll consider here: time. The more time you spend with Facebook, YouTube, Buzzfeed, Clash of Clans or elsewhere online, the more those channels pat themselves on the back.

It makes sense. With more time, the more you’ll click around, the more ads they’ll show, the more advertisers get seen, and ostensibly the more people buy from advertisers. Everybody wins, right?

Not necessarily. What you need and what you’re inclined to do are two very different things. Heck, what you want right now and what you really want in life are different things. Right now I want a milkshake, but what I really want long-term is to look like Captain America.

They’re polar opposites.

Another thing I really want? Clarity. Peace of mind. Ample time spent on fulfilling endeavors. None of these things would help the social channels I use, or ultimately the advertisers who pay for those channels.

I’m not anti-advertising. It absolutely serves a critical role in bringing producers and consumers together. When the right advertiser finds me, and serves an ad for something I truly want, then I’m actually glad I’ve been targeted and advertised to.

But when the advertising-driven model of commerce is seemingly the only option in media consumption, perverse incentives creep in.

One of my favorite authors discussed this in his first book, Trust Me, I’m Lying. Self-confessed media manipulator Ryan Holiday was an advertising prodigy. As head of marketing for American Apparel, he took the brand from obscurity to a household name. As you may guess, he accomplished this without Super Bowl ads, but by manipulating weak points in the media landscape. He did stunts that brought attention to the company, like buying ad space on porn sites when nobody else would. He started false rumors about the company, knowing edgy publicity was better than obscurity. He gave false tips to local press, then when they published his gossip, he’d use that as a lead for bigger press outlets, working his way up the chain till he was on national media. It’s the skill-set of a con-man, even if he didn’t technically break any laws.

Holiday only stepped away from media con-jobs when he saw how damaging it could be. His own company was the subject of an entirely false rumor that CNN asked him to comment on. Even publicly denying the accusations would have hurt the company, as it partially legitimizes the entirely false accusation. He deftly persuaded CNN to shut down the story, but it was enough to demonstrate the potential fallout. He’d gone into media manipulation like it was just a fun game, then realized how directly this impacted people’s lives.

You can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need won’t satisfy you.
— Dallin H. Oaks

Here is the conundrum. I don’t think Facebook, Google, and others are nefarious predators. I don’t think advertisers are trying to ruin your peace of mind. But I do think we’re all subject to the systems we build, and this particular system has weaknesses that should, to everybody’s benefit, be engineered away.

Games.jpg

I've had an iPhone for six years, and have never played games for more than two minutes. But take a look at the App Store's suggestions. It's overwhelmed with games and *&$%# stickers. Because that's what I need more of in my life. Just not enough stickers.

What if instead of optimizing for time on site, Facebook optimized for relationship satisfaction? It is a social network, after all. Shouldn’t my social network improve my real-world social life, meaning time away from my screen? What if instead of optimizing for dollars spent, Amazon optimized for tranquility? What if when I search Google for answers to my personal problems, it directed me to look inside myself? You might think this is nonsense hippie talk, but it really isn’t. This could be an incredible business.

Amazon Prime is $99 a year. The price has gone up, I think it used to be more like $70 per year. But the convenience is worth it, so I didn’t flinch when the price went up.

But what would I pay for a service that credibly offered to increase, not my convenience, but my happiness, fulfillment, relationship quality, and inner peace? I’d pay hundreds. I’d pay thousands. I might pay tens of thousands a year, depending on how believable the claims were.

Any of the big four tech companies (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, or Google) could do this. I’d like to say a well-funded startup could take on the challenge, but it’s not likely. This needs to be implemented at the operating system level. Having a meditation app doesn’t do much good if the device itself is designed to distract us. Increasingly, operating systems are operating our lives. They’re our calendars, reminders, personal assistants. Are you ready to give up your iPhone for a small no-name OS? Didn’t think so. At least one startup already tried and failed.

Who will take this on? Who is going to pivot their business to help directly and dramatically improve lives rather than advertising? Maybe a program called Facebook Now? Amazon Prime Plus? Google Life? Apple Integrated? I think they'd have a lot of eager buyers.

Until that happens, I only have a couple suggestions. I just started using the Moment app. It tells me how much time I spend on my phone in each app. Simply being aware helps me curb the behavior.

The other thing that helps is getting outside. Go for a hike. It's summer. You'll be glad you did.

Summer 2017 Update

Guys, there has been a lot going on. Big things. I've been too busy to stop and take note of it all until now. I'll be brief.

  • The feature documentary project I started into four years ago, Life on Bitcoin, was finally released. The film was released as a VidAngel original, part of their offering of original premium content. If you want a full update, and a good run-down of why it took so long, you can check out the update posted to our Kickstarter page.
  • The TV show I co-created premiered five weeks ago! Tune in Tuesday nights at 8:30 MT to see The New Creatives, and exploration of creative the life and process.
  • Beccy and I bought a house! It's old, and we're thoroughly renovating the entire place. We tore down walls. We ripped out the kitchen and the bathroom. We've laid new floor. It's been a challenging project, but we'll have just the home we want in just the right location when we're done... hopefully soon.
  • We're headed to Canada soon for a family reunion. If you've never been to Banff, it's a thing to behold. 
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming was great. Ya'll should check it out.

Why Bitcoin Will Go The Distance

My last blog post here was 5 months ago, and there is plenty I should (and hopefully soon will make the time to) write and update. But in the meantime, here is something I was self-compelled to write a few days ago when bitcoin was getting a lot of naysaying in the press. This modified version was originally published on my facebook timeline here


With the price of bitcoin shooting up (1 BTC = $1,088 right now), there's been a lot of buzz about the world's leading cryptocurrency lately. And the pundits seem to think it's doomed. Let's look at their analysis.

Dan Crumb, Capital Markets Editor a the Financial Times, argues that while bitcoin is trading at over $1000/BTC, the market capitalization for the whole bitcoin ecosystem is still a rounding error on the scale of the global economy.

NOTE: You'll only be able to view this link once before hitting a paywall.

Is that really your argument, Crumb? You're criticizing bitcoin because it's... small? The level of hubris and shortsightedness here is hard to exaggerate. Where do I even start?

Let's look at this 1995 article from Newsweek titled "WHY THE WEB WON'T BE NIRVANA". Clifford Stoll, who I'm sure is a smart, capable man in his own area of expertise, enumerated the many reasons the Internet would never deliver on the apparent promises. One of Stoll's big objections was how small the Internet was. In Stoll's own words:

Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping–just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?

The failure to think in exponential terms is one of the most persistent shortcomings of tech forecasters. Exponential systems move very slowly... and then very quickly. Human brains don't naturally grasp this. We evolved to understand the world linearly, as most of the natural world around us operates by those terms.

Mother Jones published a perfect visual example of this in 2013. Their subject was artificial intelligence, but the dynamic is exactly the same.

Back to Dan Crumb. His next objection is that bitcoin is a terrible currency because of the volatility.

Okay, sure. Bitcoin is historically volatile. But you know what thrives on volatility? Speculative investment. And that's a big part of how bitcoin is growing right now.

There's an interesting tradeoff between bitcoin's volatility or stability and its use as a currency or investment. In bitcoin's early years, it is (and will continue to be) volatile. That makes it an investment opportunity with potentially huge returns. As it matures, the investment opportunity will dimish, right in line with its use as a stable currency. As the investment opportunity decreases, the currency utility increases. The two are inversely proportional, and that dynamic will make it possible for bitcoin to climb the seemingly insurmountable mountain of becoming a globally used non-national currency. Volatility isn't bitcoin's weakness. It's the growth mechanism.

Crumb's final epithet against bitcoin is that it "has all the attributes of a pyramid scheme, requiring a constant influx of converts to push up the price, based on the promise of its use by future converts. So the ultimate value for bitcoin will be the same as all pyramid schemes: zero."

Crumb either doesn't understand pyramid schemes, or network systems, or both.

What good is a fax machine if you're the only one who has one? Who did the first person on facebook talk to? They needed more people to join the network. And the more people who joined, the greater the value of that network, and the greater the incentive for more people to join. This is called the Network Effect, and it's the functional dynamic of virtually every example of information technology.

This is the literal opposite of a Pyramid Scheme.
As pyramid schemes grow, their liability grows.
As networks grow, their value and utility grow.

Pyramid schemes have no inherent value. None. Zero. If they're selling a product, it's just a lure, a red herring, not the product. Bernie Madoff's investors were doomed from the start, because they weren't investing in anything with utility. It was a locked but empty safe, a house of cards, there was nothing behind the curtain.

That does not describe bitcoin at all.

Bitcoin accomplishes what experts previously thought was impossible. It transmits information and value without a trusted third party. Mathematicians literally thought this wasn't doable, as every prior system relied on trusted third parties. It's a well known computer science conundrum called the Byzantine Generals' Problem.

In practice, bitcoin overcomes this. With bitcoin, users are able to transmit virtually any amount of money to anyone, anywhere in the world, instantly, at virtually no cost, with no third party intervention. The value of that ability is hard to overstate.

Blockchain technology, and it's most prevalent implementation in bitcoin, are a Pandora's box that can't be closed again. It will need to grow, adapt, and change in order to serve a dramatically wider group. So did the Internet. So did the cellular grid. So does every system.

I know Crumb is probably an intelligent person. But intelligence doesn't matter if your model is wrong. Just as sophisticated hardware can't work without proper software, intelligence is useless (or worse, dangerous) without the proper mental models.

Remember Clifford Stoll? The guy who wrote the 1995 Newsweek piece about the doom of the Internet? He made an interesting observation.

Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet–which there isn’t–the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

A lack of salespeople is just silly. Salespeople appear as soon as there are willing buyers. But what's not silly is a "trustworthy way to send money over the Internet". E-commerce first used PayPal and similar third-party transmitters. Now a better method is developing, one that I think even Stoll and Crumb will be using before too long.

An American Actor in Israel

Read More

The Presidential Race and Wasting My Vote

Read More

Happiness, Greatness, and the Attitude Matrix

It's sloppy, but I think it does the job.

It's sloppy, but I think it does the job.

Last night, right before bed, I had a thought, and quickly scribbled it in my phone.

Here is the gist.

In life, you have actions and expectations. And they're related.

If you don't work and don't expect progress, then you're just lazy. You'll be content to live in your parents' basement and never accomplish anything. Your effort extends just enough to stay amused with distractions till you eventually die, quickly to be forgotten.

If you work and expect no progress, then you're defeated. You'll live your days as a small cog in a much bigger machine that doesn't care about you or your contribution. There is no hope or light. Life sucks, and then you die.

If you don't work and still expect progress, you're entitled. You think the world owes you by birthright. You haven't done anything to merit this reward, and will be very disappointed with whatever fortune befalls you, good or bad. You, precious little gem, always deserve better. In squalor or splendor, you'll live dissatisfied till you die.

If you work and expect progress... well, that's the sweet spot. Of course progress doesn't come easy, but when has anything worthwhile been easy? You expect your efforts to pay off, and eventually, through sheer grit and determination, they do. When the day comes for you to leave this world, you'll be warmly remembered, missed, and those left will be better for the life you lived.

This is how every great man and woman has ever lived. Greatness doesn't come any other way.

And here's the real kicker; Happiness doesn't come any other way either.

If you want to be happy, and you want to do something meaningful in your life, there is only one way.

Happiness and greatness are found in exertion in causes you firmly believe are greater than yourself . Anything else falls short.

Find  what you believe, work hard, and be happy.


NOTE: This bears some similarity to Peter Thiel's Optimist/Pessimist—Definite/Indefinite matrix. He was thinking about nations, I'm thinking of individuals.

Cult of Startup Podcast

When people ask for advice in business, marketing, or startups, I think it's important to teach with stories, and to share the lows with the highs. It's hard to learn usable lessons if all you get is a perfect polished narrative that doesn't allude to the failures and pains along the way to the summit. I tried to share some of that with Luke Bayard on the Cult of Startup podcast recently.

It ain't always easy to talk about the hard times... but it's important. So I try.

Click the image below to head on over to iTunes and give it a listen. Hope you find it valuable.

The Orabrush Mafia

Devin, Joel, and me.   Photo credit Jeff Harmon/Orabrush

Devin, Joel, and me.  

Photo credit Jeff Harmon/Orabrush

It's funny how wrong first impressions can be. As much as I'd like to think myself wise in my foresight, I'm often wrong about people when I meet them. Some of my best friends are people I didn't think much of at first. Some of the biggest pivoting moments in my life came from seemingly inconsequential decisions.

When I first met Jeff, I didn't think he was a genius. I just thought he was an average dude. And when he asked me to make a video with him, I thought we were just having fun. It was just another dumb YouTube video. I dramatically underestimated both him and the video.

The other day, Jeffrey Harmon of The Harmon Brothers pointed out that our original Orabrush video is still being used to promote the product. It has 26.5 million views.

It's been 7 years since we launched the Orabrush campaign that started our careers (see full story here). That video also launched many other careers and multiple companies.

People in tech/entrepreneurship know about the PayPal Mafia, but I think in the video marketing world, I'll start referring to my former colleagues and me as... the Orabrush Mafia

Here's a partial list:

  • Orabrush - The tongue cleaner brand that started it all. The company has changed hands a couple times since the original team was onboard, but continues to do well, and our videos are still used to drive sales, seven years on.
  • Orapup - Our followup product is a multi-million dollar business in it's own right.
  • Molio - The marketing spin-off to Orabrush represents household brands like Wilson Golf, ghd, MileIQ, and Strider.
  • Harmon Brothers - Makers of some of the most crazy (and effective) video ads of all time. Don't believe me? Check out their portfolio
  • Ackermania Creative - The outlandish genius of Joel Ackerman, writer for the original Orabrush videos, the original Poo~pourri video, and more. 
  • Devin Supertramp - That awesome-adventure-YouTuber? He was Orabrush's first in house DP and editor. He shot and edited our (in)famous Bad Breath Test video. He started his own channel about a year later. Now he's one of the most sought after YouTube personalities on earth. 
  • Jake + Katie Schwarz - Maybe you know their name, maybe you don't, but there's a good chance you've seen their work. The Schwarz' absolutely gorgeous video work is used to promote high end TVs and displays. Need some stunning 6K or 8K footage? These are the people to go to. Jake was our in-house DP after Devin left to pursue other projects, and Katie produced many of our videos.
  • Stuart Edge - Stuart began at Orabrush in 2013 as an intern. It wasn't long till he started his own channel incorporating what he was learning about production and marketing. His third video was one of the most viral pieces of web media I've ever seen.
  • Notable Mentions: While they didn't work at Orabrush, there was a group of close associates that went on to do great things, including Plaid Social Labs (acquired by Corbis in 2015), Lindsey Stirling (the most successful woman on YouTube), The Piano Guys, and others. Can't Stop Won't Stop sold $250K of music from these videos, and is now launching a remarkable music licensing platform.
  • Generally speaking, Orabrush helped catalyze the creative video community in our little Utah Valley. Read more about the Utah UTuber community in this 2013 TechCrunch piece.

It's a pretty substantial group, with some impressive accomplishments. I'm proud to be associated with and continue to work with many of these people.

So how did this happen? I'd credit a few common habits.

Bias Toward Action - Jeff Bezos of Amazon has expressed his bias toward action. If you're presented with the choice of doing something imperfectly or waiting to do it later, don't wait. Do it now. All of the people on this list who have succeeded did it by aggressively doing their thing right now. When I was roommates with Jeffrey Harmon, he would have video ideas at 11:00 pm that we had to start on immediately. That was annoying at the time. In hindsight, I realize it was one of our competitive advantages. Don't wait.

Ruffle Some Feathers - Harmon Brothers are famous for poop jokes. Ackermania Creative is anything but politically correct. Devin Supertramp didn't ask permission before pulling off some of his crazy stunts. For the most part, you don't need permission, and not everybody will love your work. That's okay. Do good work, and plenty of people will love it.

Deliver Regularly - All the people I've worked with who have done great work continue to do great work. They're looking ahead, working on something bigger and better. What they've accomplished before is great, but it's not enough. It's just preparation and education so they can accomplish the next big thing.

Orabrush got millions of views? Sold millions in product? Great.
Everybody who worked on that project took what they learned and then made sharper content with higher goals.

Here's the cold reality, kids: Nobody cares what you did. They care what you're doing now and what you're doing next.

What do you think? Is there anybody I'm missing out? Other traits you think should be included? Leave a comment or drop me a line at austin@austinmcraig.com.

Recent Videos and Turning 33

Turning 33 years old wasn't an event I looked forward to. I didn't even think about it till it happened.

"What do you want to do for your birthday?" my wife would ask.

"I don't know", I'd say. "Haven't even thought about it." And that was the honest truth. I've got much more going on than mid-life mile markers. My wife and I had a quiet birthday together, and she got me the best present. It was thoughtful and personalized and something money can't buy. I recently took up metal detecting, and she found a plot of family land for me to hunt. It was farm land in the 1800s, and stands unoccupied now. I get to search it out all by myself, hopefully to find coins and artifacts. That may sound weird, but trust me, for a metal detectorist, that's a perfect gift.

A little while back I produced a video for Plugfones for the Kickstarter launch of their second product. I'm really happy with how it turned out, and it was a successful campaign. They raised  $427,247 of their $35,000 goal.

This video is bittersweet for me. You might notice I acted in the piece myself a bit. I enlisted family and friends too. It was better to hire my brother-in-law with his chainsaw than an actor whose experience with dangerous equipment is questionable. The old man with the table saw is my father in law. He was a master craftsman with a full wood shop. When we finished filming, he mentioned that he was feeling a little under the weather. He passed away in his sleep that night from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. These are the last images of him, from his last day on earth. 

Credit to Eric Thayne of Celadora Studios and photographer Tyler Stevens for these images.

 

Besides that, most of my last several months have been occupied with a new project that we haven't announced yet. As far as my career work goes, this is something I'm more excited about than I have been for a long time. Stay tuned for the full reveal and debut this Fall.

 
partyparty.gif

But here is the best part of life lately; this little boy. We just celebrated Fathers Day, and it was my first as a father. This kiddo makes every day happier than it could be otherwise. He's bright and curious and good natured. He crawls and pulls himself up to standing and nothing beats his perfect laugh. He's the best, and I'm a very lucky dad.

More and better updates coming soon. Exciting things coming, personally and professionally. Thanks everyone.

P.S. This is my current listening obsession, recommended by That Audio Guy after working together last week in L.A. at Vidcon. Dude has very good taste in music. 

2015 EOY Update

Note: This post ended up being a strange personal history mingled with present musings.

The later half of 2015 has been eventful for me, even if I perpetually feel there's more to be done. Let's recap.

I've already written about the premier screening of Life on Bitcoin. Since then I've been submitting to film festivals and courting distributors. There are promising prospects, and this film should be available to the world very soon.

The Pocket Film Fest was stressful and fun all at once. We flew Jason van Genderen of the Pocket Film Academy in from Australia, and had film submissions from many countries. It was a blast.

On September 10th, in the wee hours of the morning, a little boy was born in Salt Lake City. Beccy and I have adopted that perfect little boy. His name is Bruce Merril Craig, and we're hopelessly in love with him. While it's exhausting, being a Dad is blissful. There is snot and crap and spit-up. There's 3:00 AM screaming and a mountain of responsibility bound up in anxiety, but I don't care. I love my son. I'm in love with this perfect little boy.

Two days before Bruce was born, we moved into a new apartment that I'm convinced is the best in our (small) home town of Provo. Special thanks to the exceptionally talented professional Meikel Reece for the photo.

Two days before Bruce was born, we moved into a new apartment that I'm convinced is the best in our (small) home town of Provo. Special thanks to the exceptionally talented professional Meikel Reece for the photo.

I'm working on a new project in quiet mode, and will share more when the time is right. That project, while exciting, has delayed work on Shadowcast. It's frustrating, because there are amazing opportunities to push this forward every day, but I'm one man, and don't have the resources to tackle it all. The rapidly emerging world of VR/AR forges on. Some of my observations:

  1. Amazon Is Developing Augmented Reality Without the Dorky Headgear - This aligns with my original thesis. If Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are all investing billions in AR/VR, you can be certain that Amazon and Apple are not far behind. There is a slim chance that Apple may not pursue, but they'd have to very deliberately decide to focus on a larger market, like the self-driving car*.
  2. Snapchat’s Future Lies in Augmented Reality - I failed to predict this one, but I think the author is right. Snapchat is clearly aiming to rank among the top platforms/tech firms on earth. You don't turn down a $3BN acquisition offer otherwise. And their progress in the space, while superficially trivial, is very clear. They're poised to move AR from a kitschy tech novelty to a mainstream activity.
  3. I've been to The Void now a couple times. They're in Lindon Utah of all places. It's totally inexplicable; by all accounts they should be in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Boston, or maybe Austin TX. But Lindon? Trust me, I lived there, this is not a likely setting for what purports to be one of the major players in a totally new experiential medium, upending myriad industries. But they just might do it. It's a truly spectacular experience, and I'm eager to see them develop. I'd love to partner with them on Shadowcast if there is a fit.

This Christmas, my entire family, all 5 siblings, spouses, and a couple dozen nieces and nephews, will get together for... well, if we're including my newborn son, the very first time. My parents recently returned to the US from four years serving the people of the Costa Rica at the LDS temple. I'm excited to have them home and for my son to learn from his loving Grandma and Grandpa.

Life is funny. Four years ago this week, my parents left the country. I dropped them off at the airport in the early hours of the morning, knowing I'd miss my folks, but that they'd bless many lives with their service. Three years ago this week, I kissed my girlfriend for the first time, after she worked a long day at the business she owns and runs. She soon became my fiance, and then my wife. We married in Costa Rica. I'm more impressed and in love with Beccy every day. Two years ago, we'd just finished an insane lifestyle experiment, living on Internet funny-money for three months as newlyweds. The price of bitcoin was soaring, and I went to London and then New York to do interviews with Al Jazeera America, CNN, and others. One year ago this week, I was lucky enough to help in a world-record setting effort: staging the largest nativity scene ever. There were literal miracles that happened there, the hand of divine providence making our efforts possible. Mountains weren't moved, nor seas parted, but countless variables came together in virtually no time in the most wildly improbably way. I believe it's because God wanted it to happen. This week, in 2015, Beccy is hosting the Beehive Bazaar, I'm watching our little boy and wrapping phase one of a new project, and life is so good.

I'm blessed far beyond my merit, though I imperfectly try to live up to those blessings every day.

Hope you're all well, and that this season brings your great peace. Let me know if I can help that happen in any way.

- Austin

*Apple is rumored to already be deep in development on self driving cars. A stealth startup called Farady Future is gearing up to rival Tesla, and hiring away the best from many related disciplines, They somehow have many billions to do so. Rumors say it's a front for the Apple car. Either way, they are working on an auto of some kind, and likely VR as well.

Launch Campus and Pocket Films Podcast

I'm happy to be the the first interview on Trevor McKendrick's new podcast, The Launch Campus. 

Trevor is a proven entrepreneur, and somebody I'm eager to learn from through these podcasts.

Listen online here, or find it on iTunes here.

Speaking of podcasts, have I mentioned my own nascent effort in Podcasting? Along with Jordan Petersen and Jason van Genderen, I've started the Pocket Films Podcast to discuss mobile-made filmmaking. We're producing this fast and dirty, but I'm happy with what we've done so far. If you're interested in the world of making movies with what you already have, tune in here.  We haven't pushed this at all, and are really feeling out what it is we want this podcast to be. If you have thoughts, suggestions, comments, threats, or other feedback, send it along to info@pocketfilmfest.com.

This podcast is (obviously) part of our Pocket Film Fest efforts. The selection committee just watched all of our submissions from this year, and will announce soon who will be screening at the fest! If you're in or around Utah during the first week of September, COME! It'll be a guaranteed good time. The films are fantastic. We'll screen my own film, Life on Bitcoin, as well as another documentary, Raiders!. And of course, our shorts program, comprised of dozens of mobile-made films. You won't want to miss it. See a full schedule below, and get tickets here.

Life on Bitcoin Premier and Encore Screening

This post was originally published on the Life on Bitcoin blog


It was an eventful week last week. We premiered our movie. The world premier was a huge hit. On July 18th, we screened at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale California. An eager crowd turned out. The reception of the film was very positive, we're happy to say. We were thrilled to partner with the BitGive Foundation, with a portion of all proceeds going to their efforts to improve global health and the environment. We were also thrilled to have ChangeTip involved, who provided food and drinks, as well as their service that was perfect for tipping any and everyone involved at the premier. Just a few days later, we screened again, this time at the Internet Archive. The Archive is an incredible organization in an incredible space. Their aim is exactly what the name says: They intend to archive... the Internet. They're building the Library of Alexandria, 2.0. The setting is fitting to this lofty goal. They occupy an old Christian Science church in the Mission District of San Francisco. Beccy at Archive

After you've recovered from the stone columns and the open chapel space, complete with stained glass windows, you might be struck by another interesting thing at the archive. There are little statue people flanking both sides of the chapel. That's because the archive's founder, Brewster Kahle, wanted to commemorate all employees who have worked at the Archive for three years or more with their own likeness, in a four foot statue.
Internet Archive Little Poeple

Here is Brewster explaining why they do this.

We were thrilled to be at the Archive, and very excited again at the warm reception the film had. Brewster kicked things off with e brief introduction.
We had the help of Purse.io, who sponsored the food and drinks. If you haven't tried them yet, I'll add my plug here. I ordered The Age of Cryptocurrency from from Purse as my first purchase, and when the book showed up, it was signed! Really awesome service, and if you're a regular Amazon user, they're very worth checking out.
We're so happy to get this movie in front of people. Stay tuned, friends. More screenings being lined up and announced soon, and before long, this film will be available to stream right into your home.

Thanks for helping make all this possible, team. We couldn't have done it without you, and our hope is that all our efforts combine to spread the promise of this technology. Stay tuned to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages for updates. More and better coming soon.

Irons in the Fire

It's funny trying to be a successful entrepreneur. It's not a job, and it's not freelancing. It's something else. It's building something from nothing. It's taking what's in my mind and making it real, tangible. I think it's as much a creative endeavor as painting, sculpting, or any other artistic pursuit.

There are three things that are taking up all my time lately.

Life on Bitcoin - This project is finally getting finished and released. It's being color corrected, sound sweetened, and the score is being added right now. We locked the edit just a couple weeks ago. I'm thrilled to have completed my first feature film. It took longer and was harder than I thought, but totally worth it. Watch out trailer, and come to a screening.

Pocket Film Fest - We launched the fest last year on little more than an idea and a lot of excitement. It went better than we could have hoped. It was a ton of work, and there were a few sleepless nights in there, but we're building something I've very proud of. The fest this year will be bigger and better in every way. Jason van Genderen of the Pocket Film Academy is coming from Sydney Australia. Studio C will be there. We'll have a ton of prizes and amazing films. You should come. AND, you can now listen to the Pocket Films Podcast (launched today). 

Shadowcast - Like the first two ventures on this list, this is starting out as a simple idea. It's an idea I've had for years, but like I've mentioned before, ideas without work don't go far. I'm finally working on this, and I think there's never been a better time to bring this particular idea to life. Interested in a sneak peak? You can watch the pitch I gave for StartMadness, my pitch to investors, and if you've read this far, I think you can check out the demo video we're working on to announce the product.

I'm pretty happy to be working on so many projects that I love and care about. Now to make them profitable. Upward and onward.

ShadowcastVR in the Start Madness Pitch Competition

The the encouragement of smart friends, I entered into the Start Festival's pitch competition, Start Madness.  So late on Monday night, I made a 60 second video. 

I've been dreaming of this product for at least 6 years, and fully expected somebody else to bring it to market. But I haven't seen it. So if nobody else will, I will.

I've had a hard time explaining this to people, because it really requires demonstration.

I'm glad to see that people responding. As of this writing, it's leading the popular vote.

I've seen this as a gaming console, an arcade in your pocket, but that won't and can't be the only use case. We need killer apps. My mind was blown last week when my friend Jason at Klugonyx suggested it'd make a fantastic heads-up display, or HUD, for car navigation. What an awesome idea. Now to build it.

If you have other ideas, observations, concerns, questions, etc., I'd love to hear them.

And if you could help by voting daily, I'd much appreciate it. I'll even remind you via email daily, if you'll oblige

Thanks team. Let's build something awesome together.

The Greater Power of Work Over Ideas

After years of dwelling on what makes a venture work, I've decided it's work that makes it work. Ideas are cheap. Work is expensive and hard. If you can put in enough work, you'll figure out a way to make it work.

Don't get me wrong. I love ideas. I'm very much an idea guy. I love what Richard Branson said about ideas in a recent blog post, and how Jason Silva ignites so much excitement about the power of ideas.

Ideas are essential, but they're only a start.

I was asked by a friend to evaluate his business idea. He emailed an outline of what he hoped to create and crowdfund. He wanted me to be quiet about the idea, and was clearly very protective. I've been there myself, wanting to preserve my idea by being careful with it. But I've learned that doesn't work. Isolated ideas die. Ideas that spread win.

I've copied my response below.

Hey man, this is a great idea. I'm confident this could be developed into a fantastic product, could find a lot of money through crowdfunding, and could launch an awesome company.
But ideas are just a starting point, the first step on a long journey. The execution will require a lot of development and collaboration between specialists focused on refining this concept into a tangible product. It'll take significant sums of money to even bring it to the point where crowdfunding is possible. Setting up manufacturing and managing logistics is it's own enormous task. And then communicating that idea clearly to consumers and investors is another task altogether, both in crafting the message and pushing the message out through various channels.
Ideas can happen in an instant, and can pass just as quickly. The value of a product is created over years of work and investment.
It may seem like you don't have the connections to create a product like this, but I'm confident those connections are available to you. It's never been easier to get something designed and manufactured than it is today. Use Upwork to hire a freelancer. Find somebody with a 3D printer to help you prototype the basic form of the product. Validate your ideas by talking to potential customers (even friends, as long as they're going to be perfectly honest with you). Read "The Lean Startup". I could recommend a lot more books on the subject of starting a new venture. Find entrepreneurship meetups. Go to a Startup Weekend, not to develop your product, but to learn what it takes to make ideas into products. You'll meet some great people at an event like that too, people who might share your vision and believe in your product. And they'll have some of the myriad skills necessary to bring it to life.
I have a piece of consumer tech that I've been pondering on for literally years. I keep expecting somebody else to develop the thing and bring it to market, but nobody has. It's not even a secret, I've talked to other people who have had the exact same idea. Lots of people have had this idea. But nobody has put in the years of work and research necessary to take it from idea to product available on store shelves. Not even me (so far).
Don't be protective of your ideas. Ideas are common (even good ones). Your idea is a really good one, but nobody is going to steal it, because what they'd be stealing is a mountain of work and risk. And if they're willing to put in all that work and risk, enough to bring this little idea to life, then frankly they deserve all the reward.
But nobody will. Because they have their own precious ideas that they'd rather work on.
I'd actually advise you to do the opposite of protecting your idea. Talk about it a lot. Talk about it with everybody. It stands a much better chance of becoming a reality. You'll never know if you meet the perfect partner for design or marketing or engineering or distribution if you never talk about it. Tell the whole world what you want to do, and tell them that you're looking for partners to join you for the ride.
This is probably much more advice, and maybe totally different advice, than you were expecting. But I think it's the right advice. Best wishes.

 

Orabrush Bad Breath Test Nominated One of the Most Iconic YouTube ads of the Past Decade - #10YearsofYouTubeAds

As they say, "It's an honor to even be nominated".

YouTube just announced it's nominations for the most Iconic YouTube Ad of the past Ten Years. The original Orabrush Bad Breath Test video is among the nominees. 

Do me a solid, head over and vote. Then share across your networks that Orabrush should win the #10YearsofYouTubeAds contest. 

The Bad Breath Test video, filmed almost 6 years ago, was the thing that helped launch Orabrush from nothing to a multi-million dollar company (which was just acquired for millions of dollars). To this day, that video sells the Orabrush better than any other video we've produced, gaining 22 million views (and counting). It also launched a lot of great careers (including mine) and several more multi-million dollar businesses thereafter. Virtually ever career success I've had is in some way derivative of my work at Orabrush.

I'm really proud of the work we did at Orabrush, and it especially stands out in this contest. Of all the nominated videos, we're arguably the only group that wasn't promoting a household name or using a world class ad agency. We're ranked with the likes of Budweiser, T-Mobile, Old Spice, Nike, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo, Dove, and Pepsi, as well as ad agencies like CP+G, Wieden + Kennedy, and Buzzfeed. I'd say we did pretty good for a bunch of recent college grads and a retired inventor.

And in case you haven't seen it (or just want a little nostalgia) here's our ol' video below.

"Real Artists Ship"

I just finished teaching a marketing class at LDS Business College. It was a great experience, and while I'm not the world's greatest instructor, I was glad for the opportunity.

One student messaged me about our semester long assignment to create original content. He hadn't published any material because he didn't feel it was good enough. We talked about his grade, and then I shared these thoughts with him.

"More important than the grade is this: If you want to create good art, literature, computer code, physical performance, or anything, you have to put it out there. You have to call it done and let the world see it. Athletes compete before they know they'll win. Software companies ship programs with bugs. First draft novels have typos. Every chart topping musician started as a kid making ugly noise, probably in some garage with angry neighbors yelling for them to shut up.

Even putting it that way is generous. Our first work in whatever field we choose is, almost without exception, embarrassingly bad. 

There is a quote attributed to Steve Jobs. He said "Real artists ship". 

That sentiment has been echoed in different words by so many brilliant creators, and not incidentally, marketers and business people.

I totally understand the desire to not put your stuff out there, especially when you start. It's bad. The stuff we're making when we start is really quite bad.

In school, I studied broadcast journalism. We did reporting exercises to prepare for careers of live broadcasting. I had one of the most epic frozen-in-the-headlights moments in BYU history. I stood petrified and wordless on camera for a very uncomfortable 20 seconds solid. Dead air. My classmates will remember, but hopefully nobody else will ever see it. I wonder if that tape still exists.

But I kept practicing. I had no choice, it was the main work of the class. Within a year, I landed a spot at the student anchor desk. A year later, I was hosting a weekly BYU TV program.

In my last semester, I got hired to produce a daily webcast for the business school. They'd come and talk business, I'd film and edit. I'd never produced before, and it was unwatchable. The production value was non-existent. I did this every day, and improvement was marginal at best.

Four years later, the same person who hired me for that job helped me finance my first feature length documentary, to be released this summer.

If I hadn't been paid for doing my first web ad, and if a brilliant video marketer hadn't pushed the thing out to the whole world, there's no way I'd ever have released the first Orabrush video. At first, I was honestly embarrassed. I didn't want to show my family or friends. The lighting was bad. The sound was bad. The humor was juvenile. I'd just completed my degree in broadcast journalism. I was supposed to be doing investigative reporting, not making stupid videos for YouTube. That's how I felt at the time.

That video now has 21 million views, launched multi-million dollar companies that just sold partial assets for millions of dollars, and set my career and many others on an awesome trajectory. I have more opportunities now that I could ever could have hoped for when graduating.

But it never would have happened if we hadn't shipped the finished, and very flawed, product.

In your creative life, finish your work. Put it out there for the world to see, and start the next thing. Repeat the process with a deliberate focus on improvement, and nothing can stop you. You will get better, and eventually, you'll be great at what you do. Every world class performer knows this, and it's what makes them who they are."

I honestly can't remember, but I think I edited this video together in 2011 after binge watching Shira Lazar's "Partners Project". I have it privately listed on my YouTube account, but can't find it anywhere else. Incidentally, the video was produced when these creators were all much less successful and talented than they are today.

Latest Projects: Snappower Charger and Domo Promo

Life is busy. It's no surprise, and not really a virtue. Frankly I'm trying to be less busy and more productively lazy. But more on that another time.

A couple projects I've been working on have gone public recently, and I'm excited to share.

The Snappower Charger
I was contacted by the team at Snappower at the beginning of the 2015. They're the geniuses behind the Guidelight, which launched the company and raised almost a half million dollars on Kickstarter in 2014.

For their followup product, the Snappower Charger, they asked me to produce a crowdfunding video. In ten days, and with over a month left in the campaign, they've pre-sold $600,000 of product.
Update March 2015: The Snappower Charger finished the Kickstarter campaign with $839,301 in pre-orders.

Check them out on Kickstarter, and order yours today. I know I'm excited to receive mine.


What Is Domo?
In December, I worked with the extremely talented Luke Lewis at DOMO to explain their service in video. Today, DOMO announced a new round of funding at a $2 billion valuation, and open doors on the software offering. They also made our video live on the site.