Interviewed for VizThink Issue of “Associations Now”

A few months ago myself, Sunni Brown (VizThink Austin) and Mike Rohde (VizThink Milwaukee) were interviewed for an article on visual thinking called “Are you a visual thinker?“. It ran in Associations Now Magazine, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives & The Center for for Association Leadership. At the time I thought it would just be a little piece in one of the back pages of the magazine but it turns out they had bigger plans and ran it as the cover story.

In fact, they went the extra step further and hired Mike Rohde to design the cover and provide illustrations for the article. The end result was a fantastic looking piece that exposed the idea of visual thinking to a whole new audience. Mike did a great write-up over on his blog about his process in creating the illustrations which is worth a read.

Of course if you truly want to learn from the masters, both Sunni & Mike (along with Austin Kleon) recently recorded a, very well received, VizThinkU workshop with VizThink called Visual Note-taking 101 where they share their secrets and advice for producing excellent visual notes.

I have to admit too that I was pretty stoked to get my first block quote in an article. Having it hand drawn by someone I’d call a friend makes it that much sweeter.

Overall the article turned out far better than I ever imagined – be sure to give it a read, as well as Mike’s blog post & the VizThinkU session. Thanks to Associations Now and especially Mark Athitakis, who penned the article.

– Ryan

All Photos by Mike Rohde,

CBS gets the message, but not the point.

Good news today as I see that at some point on Friday CBS announced they would be bringing back Jericho next season.

For those who haven’t been following the “saga” CBS pulled the plug on the rookie series just days after they ran the (very good) cliffhanger season finale. This created a proverbial shit storm online as viewers streamed onto message boards etc. in support of the show.

Not content with stopping at phone calls and emails the angry fans took a unique approach to getting CBS’ attention:

Those calls were followed by a deluge of roasted nuts, an estimated 25 tons of them, sent by fans of “Jericho” in echo of the “Nuts!” response of the show’s main character, Jake Green, to a suggestion of surrender in the season finale. (That, of course, was a reference to Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe’s response to the German demand for surrender at the Battle of the Bulge.)

Yeah, you read that right 25 tons delivered to their door courtesy of the legions of fans online.

The problem here is that while the television viewers had dropped off throughout the season, there was a growing set of viewers who were watching the show through services such as CBS Innertube, their on demand streaming site. Problem being? CBS doesn’t count them as viewers.

Basically if you’re not watching your local CBS affiliate, you don’t matter:

For them, CBS now has a message: Please watch “Jericho” on broadcast television.

Because CBS finances its shows based on measures of viewership of regularly scheduled broadcasts, “it’s of primary importance,” Nina Tassler, the president of CBS Entertainment, said in an interview.

“We want them to watch on Wednesday at 8 o’clock,” or whenever CBS schedules the return of the series later this year, Ms. Tassler said. “And we need them to recruit new viewers who are going to watch the broadcast.”

So by reviving the show, if even temporarily, it’s clear that CBS got the message but from the quote above it’s also clear that, once again, big media has completely missed the point.

Source: CBS Revives ‘Jericho,’ With a Plea to Fans

How is the ‘web’ going to change education?

I think it’s pretty plainly clear to many that big changes are well underway in how people create, consume and consider media – but every once in a while it’s great to have a physical reinforcement of the changes afoot.

Take a look at the following video:

If I were to tell you this was the latest studio released video from Modest Mouse would you even question it?

The background (from Wooster Collective):

Myself and a couple have friends have entered the above into the Modest Mouse video competition. Using green screen footage provided by the band we cut a simple music video. We then degraded the images and printed out each frame sequentially. (all 4133 of them) We then nailed each “shot” of 50-100 posters to various structures and posts. Then using a digital SLR camera with a long exposure we frame by frame shot each poster. Oh, and theres a little video projection (again, frame by frame on the SLR) just to mix it up. There is no compositing, no shortcuts, just lots of blood, sweat and tears, and a huge Kinkos bill!


I remember a little over 10+ years ago sitting down in front of a non-linear editing system for the first time (A Media100, followed shortly by time with Avid & Quantel systems). At that time they were systems that ran in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, well out of reach of the average consumer – and now pretty much every machine comes out of the box with much more horsepower and many of the features that those systems had, for free.

I’m amazed almost every day now by the talent and creativity I encounter online but it also creates an interesting question for me:

How is the post secondary education system going to adapt?

Tools and information are practically free these days – the notion of sharing your ideas & discoveries with as many as possible is quickly becoming the norm. In 1995 I went to school to get access to equipment that was beyond my means, access to the knowledge I needed, and hopefully connections into the industry.

Now, for the cost of a year’s tuition I can hook myself up with a decent computer a still camera and a video camera, the tools. The net contains countless tutorials, essays and examples where I can learn the fundamentals, the information. And, well, connections have never been easier to make through sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and people’s blogs. So what’s left?

Has post secondary education simply become a reflex rather than a necessity? Are people applying because “that’s what you do”? Certainly there are some disciplines where equipment is still largely inaccessible to the masses (Sciences/Medial) but realistically, how long until we see the first “co-working” labs emerge? Community funded telescopes?

Will (have?) post secondary institutions simply degrade into certification bodies? Somewhere you go once you feel you’ve amassed enough knowledge and experience that you can demonstrate competence?

Freebies, Disclosure, and Monetizing the Blog…

The other day Joey deVilla (a.k.a. “Accordion Guy“) added to the ongoing saga of the free Ferraris w/Vista that Microsoft gave bloggers around Christmas (the Acer, not the car). Microsoft’s intial stance was basically “Do what you think is right” when the bloggers were finished reviewing them ( Suggestions were: keep it, use it for a contest or send it back) – after the initial uproar they changed it to “Uh, maybe you shouldn’t keep it”.

Seems the traditional media finally clued into the story a week or so ago as a columnist from the Sun (should I have put quotes around “Media”?) took him (and bloggers in general I would say) to task for accepting the machines or other perks that are being offered to them occasionally – his suggestion was that the traditional media would never accept such “bribes”.

It’s about trust
At the end of the day the whole debate is quite silly. I think what traditional media forgets is blogging is still much more a personal medium then editorial. The bloggers I read are people I know, know of, or am turned on to by other bloggers/people I TRUST.

Yes, there’s the Splogs etc. out there, and some people are going to generate the PayPerPost crap but at the end of the day consumers need to take some responsibility and consider the source. If it’s just some random blog that I encounter randomly via searching I’ll hunt around for additional sources before coming to a conclusion on something – “I read it on the Internets so it must be true” just doesn’t make the cut.

It’s about Disclosure
I think the key point where this debate hinges on is disclosure. Certainly both bloggers and traditional media share the same obligation to disclose certain facts or events that people should be aware of which may or may not have influenced their opinion.

I think in the bloggers realm that’s more than enough. A “just so you know Microsoft gave me this kick ass system with their new OS on it to review” is more then enough to inform a reader that they need to decide whether or not they trust the source or to keep on moving.

From what I’ve seen there wasn’t any pressure (maybe a “it’d be nice if you could…” but nothing forceful) to post anything, positive or negative, about the system or it’s OS. Personally I trust Joey and will take his review(s) at face value.

Also with a freebie there’s little value attached to it. Yes, the system is worth about $2K, but it wasn’t something Joey decided on – so he has no feelings of having to justify his “purchase” or decision.

It’s Not About Monetizng the Blog
Last but not least I thought it might be good to lay out my own “policy” here on the blog.

Ads – yes I’ve got ads scattered around the page. Right now there’s blogkits, text link ads and adsense powered ads placed here and there – why? Truth is I like to experiment and learn about the different systems/economies that are at work. At current click through rates I may get a check from Google sometime in 2025.

Amazon – yep have the affiliate links too. Again part of it is to just play with the system and part of it is that it allows me to easily grab images of book/DVD covers etc. when I post something that requires them.

In both cases I have no interest in optimizing the blog to increase click-throughs etc. – Like most people I won’t say no to the extra buck or two but the reality is I’ve got no intention about trying to play professional blogger etc. And if you’ve read for a while it’s probably pretty clear I’m not topically driven by what has the highest bounty on click throughs.

Free Stuff – Shortly after this story started I encountered a video blog post (EDITED: Here it is – it was Loren Feldman @ 1938 Media) where he outlined the ridiculousness of the situation and made his disclosure statement which was basically (paraphrasing here) “If you want to send me stuff fine. If it’s something I’m interested in I’ll use it and I may or may not blog about it, if I do blog about it I’ll be honest so make sure whatever you’re sending me is good”.

Sounds like a pretty reasonable policy to me – like most I’d never say no to free stuff but as you can probably tell by my disgruntled consumer posts I’m not the kind to pull punches. So on the notion of disclosure/review policy I think I’ll simply end with a “What he said” – if you make something that you think is up my alley I’m happy to try it / play with it but I’ll also be honest about it. Perks / Free Stuff & enough money for half a can of Coke all all just side effects of blogging, none of them are primary motives (at least for me).

Disclosure: “Free beer won’t guarantee a better review but it certainly might cause me to forget some of the negatives” – I’ll be sure to disclose if free beer was involved in the process of reviewing.