Tag Archives: video

United Breaks Guitars

This lovely little ballad was apparently the summer jam of ’09 while I wasn’t looking. David Carroll recounts his harrowing experience of witnessing the destruction of his guitar and then having to wade through the sea of red tape of indifference that is United Airlines. I’ve not quite had a $1200 guitar smashed by United, but I can definitely relate.

Right after I had proposed to Sara, before either of our families knew about our plans, we first had to check in with United at LAX. We weren’t sure which line to get in because our flight connected in San Francisco. Some flights were delayed, people were getting impatient, and any and all concerns were met with rising crescendos of “Sir? Sir! SIR!!!” The staff looked like they would lock us up as enemy combatants at any moment.

Long story short, we muddled our way home, but I’m not surprised that Mr. Carroll had this kind of experience. Now that this video has had over 7 million views, United says that they’ve changed their tune. They plan to use this video internally to address problems with customer service. I wonder if they’re really going to make the switch, or if they’ve just found a more charming way of berating employees.

David Carroll’s song is funny and true to life. But if United plans on using this song as a training tool without giving their workers the freedom to use their judgement and high enough wage to give a crap, then it will be no more effective than the volumes of airline humor that came before.

Data Pack-Rat

How many of you out there practice digital hoarding? Do you have a collection of music, videos, or pictures that you’ve never seen before tucked away on some hard drive or other? These days, it’s so easy to generate large amounts of data with high resolution cameras, broadband internet connections, and DVRs that just squirrel away tv shows for you automatically. At the same time, because some of that data is protected by copyright, there is always some government or corporate agent in the press telling you that whatever you are doing with that data on your computer, it’s illegal and they are going to stop you by any means necessary. Most people’s response is to download like crazy before the hammer drops (it generally never does). To top it all off, the price of storage keeps dropping like a stone despite this recession.  This will only result in so much downloading that people can’t possibly watch, read, or listen to their entire ever-expanding collections. If the RIAA and the MPAA can’t stop downloads, they have certainly found a way to keep people from watching them.

Science and Motivation

Not too long ago, Dan Pink held a very interesting TED talk on the nature of motivation. The speech is twenty minutes, so I’ll try to summarize. What business commonly assumes about motivation is wrong. Monetary or reward incentives tend to make people think more about the reward and less about the problems they are trying to solve. This philosophy took root because it was great for very simple tasks like the ones  you would find in a factory.  Unfortunately, today we live in a world where the knowledge work to design the factory is more valuable than the work that goes on inside. Providing people with the autonomy to do their own work properly provides much more motivation than a simple Christmas bonus. In fact, the introduction of such rewards can kill the creative thinking they are trying to foster.

Pink’s argument is a great example of unexamined ideas being sacrosanct even in our so-called age of rationality. There was a grain of truth to that carrot-and-stick philosophy, but when held up to scrutiny, its flaws make it impractical. You could even blame the current economic crisis on extrinsic motivation. The financial compensation offered to the captains of the financial industry may have blinded them to the fact that dealing in bad credit is no way to run a bank.

While the focus on intrinsic motivation may allow us to solve many problems, it’s something people have pondered for centuries. As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “A man does not have himself killed for a half-pence a day or for a petty distinction. You must speak to the soul in order to electrify him.” It may be scientifically proven wisdom, but it’s wisdom nonetheless, which has a habit of being warmed over by fanaticism and repetition until it contradicts its original meaning.

Dan Pink describes extrinsic motivation as a lazy and dangerous ideology.  I know he’s trying to make the strongest point possible for a 20-minute talk on a subject that encompasses an entire book, but I can see how his words could be twisted around. What if people start to believe that no incentive is the best incentive? Monetary rewards might not work, but the other three rewards Pink talks about, autonomy, mastery, and purpose still need to be there. Lack of any compensation might interfere with those three concepts. What if we try to apply intrinsic motivation to tasks that are too simple? Can we expect people to follow and uphold the law without the extrinsic disincentives of police and prisons?

Like any other complex problem, motivation is not something achieved through glib slogans and magic bullets. Dan Pink’s research was the result of a lot of creativity, observation and hard work. We can only apply his ideas when we incorporate those qualities in ourselves.

The Great Maginot Line of China

Via Mayerson on Animation

Here’s a video by Clay Shirky, author of the recent bestseller “Here comes Everybody”. He gives a little more detail to the kind of changes that are happening to mass media. I love it when he describes the Great Fire Wall of China as the Maginot line of the digital age. If you think about it, any countermeasures against transmitting or processing data are ultimately just as avoidable as the Maginot Line was. It goes against the basic tenets of what a computer is supposed to do, kind of like trying to stop an internal combustion engine using a fire extinguisher.  It’s especially ironic considering that China manufactures most of the devices that it’s so desperately trying to hobble.

What’s On Thursdays: Diggnation


You can’t really talk about Internet TV without making note of the great grand-daddy of video podcasts, Diggnation. Kevin Rose plays straight man to his co-host Alex Albrecht as they review and discuss the most popular stories of the week at the social bookmarking site Digg.com. In short, it’s two guys sitting on a couch, drinking beer, and discussing what they find on the internet.

Whatever Kevin and Alex are doing, it seems to be working. The podcast average about 200,000 downloads a week. Their first episode was released 2005, making it one of the longest continuously running shows on the internet.  It has sponsors, and even plays to live audiences from time to time. However, every time I download and watch an episode, I get the feeling that Diggnation is only benefiting from a lack of competition rather than a surplus of quality. The episodes are 45 minutes long, and I’m pretty sure 15 minutes of that is filled with long pauses, poorly edited youtube clips, and Alex reading out the stories rather than just summarizing them.  Not only that, the banter is secondary to the stories that they talk about. There aren’t many jokes, and there aren’t many arguments. It’s just Alex getting old-time-gold-prospector excited at finding articles that thousands of other people have already found, read, and voted on, while Kevin just introduces the next article like he was calling out bingo at the old folks home.

Perhaps I’m a little biased. I don’t want to watch two guys surfing Digg.com when I’ve got a computer and a net connection handy. People without the time or inclination to search Digg.com’s vast database of articles will find this show helpful. Still, I can’t help but think Diggnation may hold its position as one of the most popular internet shows out there only because it’s one the first. At this point and time, people who write and make jokes for a living still don’t know how to take advantage of this medium because computers are still considered specialized knowledge. The best and the brightest of entertainment are still tied up in traditional forms. A new generation of actors and writers is coming up who have been handling a mouse since before they could read. When that new crop of talent comes of age and finds that all television has been replaced by sociopathic reality shows, they are going to go to the one medium where they can work on their craft. When that happens, shows like Diggnation will simply fall by the wayside.