A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Socializr Succeeds Evite

Dear Evite,

We're breaking up.  It's not me; it's you.  And I've found someone better.  Her name is Socializr.

Best of luck in future projects,

J. W.

If only it were that simple to get Evite out of my life. Unfortunately, 99% of my friends still insist on using it, despite its numerous flaws.  In 2007, Time Magazine renounced Evite as one of the 5 Worst Websites.  Following that up, Wired Magazine blasted the site in an article titled Why Things Suck: Evite.  There are even sites dedicated to how awful of a service Evite runs, and yet it still remains wildly popular.  I'm far from the first person to write about this phenomenon, but I'm here to recommend what I have found to be a far better product: Socializr


Delta's YouTube Fame

YouTube + Some Creativity + Some Courage (can) = Success

YouTube is known as the land of videos of dogs running on treadmills.  While there is certainly some substantive content on the site, there is also a lot of — shall we put this nicely — fluff.  Sometimes YouTube hits are substantive while others are mere fluff.

One of the more recent hits on the site falls into the substantive category; it is a Delta Airlines in-flight safety demonstration video.  Yes, you know those boring demonstrations at the beginning of your flight that you ignore 'cause they're boring and you hope to never have to rely upon the information they present.  Well, people are watching a safety video intently without even flying.

This is an example of how a normally staid item can turn into a viral hit.  However, your father's safety demonstration is not destined for Internet fame.  Delta had to take a less traditional approach when producing this video.  

image Delta wants more passengers to pay attention to its safety videos, and that's why it added some cheeky and sassy elements to its recently debuted presentation.  For instance, while explaining that smoking is prohibited on the Delta planes, the main narrator, Kathleen Lee, waved her finger in the camera.  When I was flying home from vacation last week, I sat there and asked, "Did she just wave her finger at me?"  What a flirt!  That caught my attention (plus the fact that Lee — aka "Deltalina" for her resemblance of Angelina Jolie — is absolutely gorgeous).

What I find more interesting is not the fact that Delta lightened up this serious and important aspect of its passenger service but that the airline placed the presentation on YouTube before it even premiered on an actual flight.  This was a cheap and easy way for Delta to help accomplish its goal of promoting passenger safety.

Was posting the video on YouTube a success?  While I can't speak for the airline, I think it has achieved success.  As of this posting, this video has had more than one million views since it was posted in late February of this year (we're talking an airline safety demonstration!).  Further, CNN reported that more than 300,000 views occurred before the video's in-flight debut.  Plus this new video has garnered Delta a lot of free press and more YouTube views (see the Safety category of Delta's blog).

Thus, Delta gets a gold star for its idea of posting this video on YouTube because it was smart enough to recognize that the video had potential and had the courage to try posting it in the first place.  Delta even gets some bonus points for putting behind the scene pictures from the video's shoot on its flickr stream. 

Brightcove Launches Much Improved User Interface


Brightcove is a web video publishing platform aimed at professional publishers that, according to Techcrunch, streams several hundred million videos a month.  Its clients include large media brands like Showtime, Lifetime, HBO, the New York Times and AMC (you can watch Mad Men through their player on the AMC website).  Brightcove is a paid service with prices starting at a few thousand dollars a year.

I have used Brightcove on random projects over the years and developed a love/hate relationship with the product. 

On the positive side, it is definitely the most feature rich video publishing tool I’ve ever used.  Among other features, Brightcove offer six different video players you can customize and allows you to quickly and easily set up custom video playlists and automatically serve lower quality versions of videos to people with slower Internet connections.  It is the engine behind Barack Obama’s creative Barack TV section and AMC’s Mad Men user generated video contest.  The feature set is truly impressive.

On the negative side, up until a few days ago Brightcove had one of the most maddening user interfaces I’ve ever used.  Truly awful.  Simply uploading and posting a video involved downloading a desktop client and then separately logging in to their web interface and going through more hoops.  Simply uploading a video and getting the appropriate embed code took four steps when it really should be done in one motion.  Assets, Titles, Lineups, Players.  After spending probably thirty minutes a day in their interface for a month, I had basically gotten to the point where I could do what I needed to do but had in no way mastered the platform.

So when I logged into Brightcove on Tuesday and saw that they had completely overhauled their user interface I was not happy.  It had taken a long time to get my bearings in the old interface and I had no interest in learning a new one, which I assumed would simply be confusing in different ways. 

I was wrong.  (View an overview of new interface on Techcrunch here.)

While not as easy-to-use as YouTube or Blip.tv, the Brightcove user interface has been streamlined dramatically while retaining the robust feature set that made the tool unique in the first place.  Uploading a video no longer involves installing a desktop client and has been reduced to one step.  All the value-added features are still there, but are quarantined from the upload process so that they don’t create static in the video upload process. 

Basically you can now safely use Brightcove without having a Masters degree in Computer Science.

Would I now recommend Brightcove?  It depends.  For probably 95% of the clients I work for, I’d push them towards Blip.tv if YouTube isn’t cutting it.  Blip allows for really high quality video, is relatively feature rich and costs less than Brightcove.  Brightcove is overkill for most people.  However, now that the user interface problem has been fixed, I would whole heartedly recommend Brightcove for the 5% of people that need a really high end web publishing solution.

Product Website Highlight: Acne.org

Many product-selling websites include a lot of Web 2.0 tricks to convince the Internet surfer that the product is worth checking out.  Heck, even Cheerios has a website which includes a flashy splash intro.  Most product sites seem to be nothing more than an excuse to have a site, like a self-fulfilling prophecy of owning a company:

"Well, if we have a product, we must have a website!"

Certain consumer products have useful and inventive websites, such as this one I recently found: Acne.org.  I found this site through a linked video in YouTube.  The site contains many of these videos, which is a brilliant idea for free advertisement (click on the thumbnails for full-size pics).

Acne.org Home Page

The site is massive in content.  From just the home page, a viewer can tell the large amount of information conveyed throughout all of the separate pages.  The top menu bar alone contains more than twenty different sections from which to choose, all separated under broader categories.  Many of these sections include video demonstrations of the tips and tricks that the web master (and product creator) hopes to teach.  These video clips are high quality, short, well-scripted, and have reasonable volume.


It's Hard to Sell Something That's Free

A post on ValleyWag recently announced that file-sharing uber-giant BitTorrent would be laying off 12 of its 55 employees.  This accounts for the entire sales and marketing department.  This decision has been made in light of the recent failure of BitTorrent's staff to sell Best Buy its Torrent Entertainment Network for a rumored $15 million.

Since it's only been a year since CEO Doug Walker replaced founder Bram Cohen, it's likely that the entire company may soon be considering a revamp.  After all, Walker commented on making some changes to the store idea last March.

There is speculation that the deal fell through mostly due to the FCC and MPAA's recent crackdown on file sharing.  Outspoken Chairman of HDNet Mark Cuban freshly criticized the MPAA for combating the ‘problem' with prevention instead of promotion (we've all seen those commercials with the hip teens extolling the virtues of not stealing songs).

He claims that movie theaters need to invest in a positive message about the fun of going to the actual theater to watch movies, especially with the ever-growing price of admission.  Author of The Pirates Dilemma Matt Mason agrees with Cuban, saying that theaters should offer a movie-going experience and quality that will never be surpassed by file sharing.

Can you really ever defeat file sharing programs though?  No matter how great the quality and ‘experience', the fact remains that file sharing is free.  And "free" almost always wins.  Unfortunately for them, BitTorrent also recently learned that it's hard to sell something that's free.