Lighting video interviews, client testimonials etc.

Illustration of three-point lighting
Image via Wikipedia

Video, as a content type, is gaining traction with online marketing for a variety of reasons: inexpensive equipment, cheaper bandwidth and hard drive space, the appearance of several viable dedicated video community sites and the advent of blended search results in Google. So, to put it mildly, lots of people are exploring video at the moment.

If you’re putting talking heads into your video, perhaps getting a video reference for your great work and so on, the following video by Burlington, Vermont’s Bill Simmon will be very useful. In this video Bill covers how to deploy the industry standard 3-point lighting technique to achieve the following:

  1. Put enough light on the subject of your video (the person being interviewed) with a “key light.”
  2. Use light to keep the subject from blending into the background with a “back light.”
  3. Use light to keep the shadows on your subjects face from being too dark and dramatic with a “fill light.”

Bill uses a controlled studio and professional lighting equipment. This is probably beyond the means of most DIY online marketers experimenting with video. However, with a little creativity you should be able to apply the concepts he introduces using your own materials to improve the quality of your videos.

3-Point Lighting Explained! from Bill Simmon on Vimeo.

If you are fortunate enough to live in Burlington, VT and you’re interested in making better video, Vermont Community Access Media (aka VCAM) offers classes regularly. The above video was filmed at one of their classes. How’s that for cable access awesomeness?

Here’s a bonus link: An article about lighting houses.

Spam, Trolls and WordPress

Zombies Invade San Francisco!
Image by Laughing Squid via Flickr

One of my clients has had recent trouble with a Troll on their blog. I got them set up with the flexible and useful WP-Ban and sent them some instructions. It occurs to me that others might find this useful as well. Here is my Spam and Trolls post:

The true objective of this email is talk about how to use the banning tools available. This blog has been incredibly fortunate to have a wealth of excellent commentary and community. However, there are some aspects of comments that are no good for anyone: Spam and Trolls.


It’s important to note that spam is different from trolls. Spam is usually automatically generated, computer distributed and like unceasing tide of crap the washes across the internet in all venues. There is no single human behind the wash of spam out there. It’s like fighting zombies. Fighting spam is definitely an arms race style of endeavor. Your blog makes use of two primary tools for dealing with spam: Akismet and Bad Behavior. Both of these, like the spam they fight, are automated. Think of Akismet and Bad Behavior as good zombies.

So long as the (unwanted) viagra and (unwanted) sex toy ads aren’t showing up all over the blog, your good zombies are doing the best they can. If you notice a rise in these unwanted comments, let me know and I’ll see if we can tweak the settings a little more. Some of the more broad-brush approach to comment spam may eliminate comments that from real people having civil dialogue (aka a false-positive). A little viagra ad now and then is worth keeping a sincere person from feeling left out.


Near as I can tell, most commentors are sincere and well-meaning. But from time to time, someone gets a wild hair across their ass and decides to cause trouble. Trolls are different from spam because, unlike spam, Trolls are people. Some human being is actually using the few hours they have on this earth with the intent of distressing the readers of your blog. Putting your good zombies (Akismet and Bad Behavior) to work against Trolls will result in a lot of collateral damage (false positives). So you end up playing a little bit of whack-a-mole.

Your primary mallet in this digital version of whack-a-mole is called WP-Ban. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Look at the navigation options running down the left-hand side of the screen.
  2. At the bottom, notice the link titled “Settings.” There’s a little arrow to the right of the word “Settings.” Please click that arrow.
  3. More options will unfurl. One of them, towards the bottom, will be called “Ban.” Click it please.
  4. You are now editing who gets to see the site and who doesn’t. You don’t want trolls to see the site.
  5. The section to use is called “Banned IPs” Here you can enter, one-at-a-time, the IP addresses of trolls. But even better, you can use a “wildcard” character to represent all options for some of the numbers. I recommend that when you spot a troll, you take the first three numbers and use a wildcard for the fourth. This will lessen the chance of eliminating all commentary from an entire town in order to get rid of the one troll (AKA the “burn the village to save it” approach). If this becomes a chore or too much to manage, then use the first two numbers and then wildcard it. You will see examples on the page.
  6. Scroll down and save your changes.

Some additional notes:

There’s an option to ban by referrer. This is useful if, say, some wackjob uses his or her blog to funnel a lot of incensed people at your site and run amok. Sort of like a Troll invasion. Use the ban-by-referrer section to ban anyone coming to the site by way of that article. This is a little heavy handed but may be required from time to time.

Banned Message is what the banned people see. I have put a little note in there for now that reads “Sorry, we prefer a little more civility on this site. Usually the advice of “Don’t feed the trolls” works well enough. In your case, however, it didn’t.” If you want to, please feel free to change that message.

Ban Stats will tell you how often the ban has been applied. If you find yourself obsessively checking the Ban Stats, remember that the Troll is controlling your time every time you bother looking at the stats. As of this writing, the ban stat reads “1.” So yes, your troll has been put on notice.

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5 Analytics Tools for Twitter

Pre-preamble: Please note that I will be presenting “Measuring Social Media” at the May 27, 2009 Burlington, Vermont Web Analytics Wednesday and will be making a more up-to-date post on similar material following that event (between now and that time, feel free to help me out with resources and questions in the comments).

I was recently asked for my top five to ten Twitter analytics tools. And only the free ones no less. Elaine does a lot to help keep the town I work in well-stocked with bright, ambitious internet marketing interns, so I’ll see what I can do.


You knew I wouldn’t be able to keep this brief, right? I use blog posts as a way to refine my own thoughts about things, which means I can ramble on and on. If all you want is your quick point-by-point list of five great tools for measuring Twitter, you’ll probably be better off at one of the articles listed in the “Measuring Twitter” section of the Twitter for Business resource. If you enjoy my rambling, do please continue (and help me refine my thinking).

Turns out that it really is about you. And to a frightening degree.

Before we get into any sort of discussion at all about analytics tools, it’s very very important that we understand why we’re measuring anything. How we measure will effect how we use the tool. Sort of like quantum physics for everyday life.

Twitter is a perfect example. There are many folks who get very very excited by the number of followers they have on Twitter, it becomes their key performance indicator. As a result these folks do all sorts of shady things to increase their follower count. But an artificially inflated follower count on Twitter is unlikely to increase their own engagement with consumers. Their chosen metric, taken by itself, encourages non-productive behavior. As an aside, these marketers are using the same key performance indicator (KPI) as the thriving newspaper and broadcast television industries: potential impressions.

So let’s be clear about something, right away: what we choose as our key performance indicators says as much about us as it does about what we’re measuring.

Analytics in context

Now that we have that out of the way, most of my tools and suggestions are going to relate directly to the Reach/Acquisition/Engagement/Conversion/Satisfaction consumer life-cycle model that Justin Cutroni was kind enough to school me on. There’s lots of writing already on this model, probably most relevant would be in Web Analytics Demystified, but I’ll give you a thumbnail sketch just in case you’re new to all this measurement stuff:

  1. Reach: Before anyone can take action on your message, they need to be exposed to your message. That’s reach. In old-media it is measured in “impressions” aka the number of people who could have possibly seen your message.
  2. Acquisition: These people “heard” your message and took some action of some sort, signifying that your message had some sort of relevance to their needs.
  3. Engagement: People are using/interacting with/reading/watching/playing with your message.
  4. Conversion: People are confirming that your message is relevant to them through tangible, concrete actions (in business this would result, most likely, in someone giving you money or permission to try to sell them something in person).
  5. Satisfaction: It was as good for them as it was for you.

Analytics and action

I’ll be the first to admit that it can be entertaining to watch numbers move and shift in an analytics package. But if you aren’t taking action on those numbers, then it’s just geeky entertainment. You’d be better off going out to see a movie or hanging out with your friends.

Another model I’m fond of has to do with tactical decision-making and action. It’s called the OODA loop. It has lots of other nicey nicey names like “Continuous Improvement Process” and so on. But it was initially invented as a way for fighter pilots to dominate their opposition. The same guy who came up with the OODA loop (Johnathan Boyd) also invented the F-16. OODA, as you might have guessed, is an acronym:

  1. Observe: Lots of room for analytics here. Gather up that data.
  2. Orient: There’s room for analytics here as well, put that data in context.
  3. Decide: The end result of all that hard work should result in a decision. The data presentation options provided by your analytics packages should, ideally, help your decision-makers (who may or may not prefer to look at pretty pictures or spreadsheet-like tables or both in making their decisions)
  4. Act: This is where you begin to test the decision made in the previous step.

Once you get to step 4 you go back to step 1 and just keep repeating. The theory with OODA is that whomever can move through the OODA loop fastest will overwhelm their competition.

Ummm, weren’t you going to mention something about Twitter and analytics?

Ok, I’m getting real close now. Twitter is a social media service in which you can spread your message(s) to potential customers. If awareness of the consumer life-cycle is built into your use of Twitter then you will have an easier time applying consumer life-cycle analytics to the medium as well.

Twitter is also a media in which you can “listen” in various ways. As a result, what you learn via Twitter directly and through the application of analytics can help inform your decision-making process (especially during the Observe and Orient stages of the OODA loop).

5 Tools for the Analysis of your Awesome Twitter Life

I will present my five favorite Twitter analytics tools of the moment, along with what portion of the customer life cycle I use said tools to measure. I’ll also make some profound statement about OODA loops and said tool.

Here we go, five free Twitter analytics tools in no particular order:

The Advanced Twitter Search: Measuring Voice-of-Customer

Twitter is all about the content and this seemingly simple and mundane feature of Twitter gets you right to the content you need in order to develop meaningful insights. This tool used to be called Summize before Twitter bought it and folded it into the main app. Now it’s just Twitter Search.

You can search by date-range, geography or account. You can search for attitudinal signifiers (positive, negative, question). You can search by key word, phrase or topic.

To get scalable, repeatable results you’ll want to dip into the API and start piping Twitter advanced search data into your own database, but even without going that far you should be able to make some good use of the Twitter search for your analytical purposes.

Using Twitter Search to measure the customer life cycle:

  • Reach: Identify your market by identifying users talking about your brand/topic.
  • Engagement: Gather data on conversations about your brand/topic. Gather data on individuals directly addressing you or your brand on Twitter.
  • Satisfaction: Gather data on attitudes related to your brand/topic.

Deploying Twitter Search in your OODA loop:

  • Observe: Who is talking? What are they saying?
  • Orient: What else are they talking about? When do they say it?
  • Decide: If providing actual voice-of-customer data will help your decision-makers, advanced twitter search will help you find it.

Cli.gs: Measuring Message/Topic Relevance

There are many link-shortening utilities out there and they change all the time. I’ve tested out several and my current favorite is Cli.gs. Sadly, the service has among the worst UIs of the lot. But the features make up for it:

  • Click-through number that separates humans from bots
  • 301 redirect (not an analytics benefit, but still worth mentioning)
  • Retweet citations
  • Choose page connected to the clig based on geo-targetting (aka: send French visitors to French language version of your page, German visitors to German language version etc).

Being able to filter somewhat between humans and bots helps to improve your signal-to-noise ratio in your data. The 301 might help your SEO a little (I haven’t done any testing on this, and would love it if someone had something on this). Being able to follow the clig through various retweets is useful, especially to see how/if your tweet got edited. Multiple languages helps you segment by language.

It’s important to note, on the topic of tracking clickthroughs from Twitter, that you are tracking several variables: time of day that gets the most clickthroughs (by topic, by hashtag, etc), topic that gets the most clickthroughs, tweet format that gets the most clickthroughs etc. This is all adding up to a metric that helps identify the relevance of your tweet and your influence with your audience(s). Keep in mind that your audience changes throughout the day.

Using Cli.gs to measure the customer life cycle:

  • Reach: Track retweets (for those who don’t edit the link)
  • Acquisition: Measure the number of times your message was deemed relevant enough for someone to waste precious time clicking on your link.
  • Satisfaction: Collect commentary/retweet edits (for those who don’t edit the link)

Deploying Cli.gs in your OODA loop:

  • Observe: How many humans took action? How many bots took action?
  • Orient: What day did they take action, how long did the clig remain relevant?
  • Decide: Voice-of-Customer data related to the link may help your decision-makers.

Twitalyzer: Measuring Twitter Accounts

Sooner or later everyone wants to know how they stack up. Twitalyzer will help you do that, but more importantly it will help you identify where you might want to take action to improve your use of Twitter. Using straightforward methods to analyze performance in five domains of Twitter use (Influence, Signal, Generosity, Velocity and Clout), Eric Petersen’s Twitalyzer is both transparent and informative.

Your numbers may be small and sorry looking, but the tool helps you identify ways to improve that are based on your content and behavior, not on the number of followers you can collect. Twitalyzer is one of the few tools that measures how users engage with others via Twitter.

Using Twitalyzer to measure the customer life cycle:

  • Engagement: This tool is actually measuring you, measure your engagement on Twitter.

Deploying Twitalyzer in your OODA loop:

  • Orient: Twitalizer uses an index system that ranks account usage against all other account usage data it has. What’s your engagement and influence on Twitter compared to other users?
  • Decide: Twitalizer presents specific recommendations for improving scores in each domain in measures.

Dan Zarella: Getting the bigger picture

Ok. I don’t know Dan Zarella personally so I can’t tell you whether he’s a tool or not. Given the fact that he makes available some excellent, insightful research on how people are using Twitter, I’m going to guess that he’s not. In particular, his research into how messages are retweeted via Twitter is a must read for putting your own efforts in context.

Using Dan Zarella in the consumer life cycle:

  • Reach: Understand what a reasonable reach for your message might be.

Deploying Dan Zarella in your OODA loop:

  • Orient: How do your efforts match up against others?

Google Analytics: Conversion by traffic source

Yup. I couldn’t resist. One of the best Twitter analytics tools you’re going to find is by going to your Traffic Source reports in Google Analytics and looking for Twitter. Note that you’ll have to make some changes to the way you make your Cli.gs links (create cligs from campaign-tagged URLs) if you want to capture those via Twitter as well.

You may want to set up a profile or advanced segment for your Twitter traffic if you want to get especially in-depth. But to get started, you can probably learn quite a bit just by looking at the Traffic Source report.

Using Google Analytics in the consumer life cycle:

  • Acquisition: Track number visitors arrived on your site via Twitter.
  • Engagement: Track the likelihood of bounce from Twitter. Track how many on-site actions visitors from Twitter make. Track other engagement metrics.
  • Conversion: Track the likelihood of Twitter visitors to complete a site goal.

Deploying Google Analytics in your OODA loop:

  • Observe: What is the volume of traffic your Twitter efforts are driving to your conversion funnel? How is the quality of traffic from Twitter?
  • Orient: How is the quality of traffic from Twitter in relation to Twitter?

Some parting thoughts on Twitter and analytics

As a communications channel, Twitter is primarily a reach tool. However, given the interactive nature of the format, there are applications for Twitter in all aspects of the customer life cycle. In addition to tracking and analyzing specific actions people take as a result of Twitter activity, the content of Twitter itself is a fertile ground for gathering voice-of-customer, attitudes and buzz data.

Thanks for toughing it out to the end of this blog post. Please let me know how to improve it either in the comments here or send me a note via Twitter (@gahlord).

Ruthless use the Dock for productivity

This post assumes you are on a Mac. Otherwise you may be wondering what the hell I mean when I talk about “the Dock” because I’m not talking about where my cousin parks his Mumba.

Purpose of post:

Get the most out of your Macintosh by eliminating distractions.

Assumptions (and yes, Frau Berg told me already: ASS-U-ME aka assumptions make an ass out of u and me):

You have too much crap in your doc. It shines and wiggles and you’ve never made a conscious choice about what is there. If this is not you, read no further.
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How Apple convinced me to hack my iPod Touch

So before I get too deep into this, I love my iPod Touch. I think Apple is swell. I used my Touch for about two or three months before I hacked it. This post explains why.
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Learn Languages Fast.

I’ve been a big fan of learning languages for awhile now. Did some German and Russian in HS. Some Russian and Bulgarian in college. Messed around with French once when I was a kid. Learned some Jamaican Patois one spring break (much to the amusement of the locals in the villages I was visiting). Plowed through some Pimsleur CDs right before my trip to Japan (I’ll write more about that sometime, the general feeling was that the CDs were worth it).

Here’s a great article on language acquisition. While I’m a bit of a convert to the Pimsleur “no grammar” method, I do like Timothy’s quick teardown technique for languages. Can’t hurt. And if you don’t have the audio resources on hand or find yourself in a situation where language acquisition is unexpectedly required, I think his approach would come in handy.

I’d love to see more on this, particularly if it can be broken down into the fastest possible approach. Acquire expressive independence in a half-hour, say. Obviously you’d still not be a “fluent” speaker. But in what traveling I’ve done it seems to me that people appreciate a good faith effort enough to help you improve and treat you very well.

Finale Doom

I’m in the throes of doing my annual puppet opera arranging. This year I figured I’d hook up my Nostromo n52 to help me make it go down smooth.

Future post: How to trick out your Finale PrintMusic and n52 for the ultimate quick arrangement tool.

Yeah, it’s a teaser post but I gotta throw down something.


Gaming BMG (AKA: Getting full value from your great music membership)

Alright. First up. Confession: I have a BMG membership. It’s true. I bought all those INXS and Paula Abdul disks for 1 penny. I even taped the penny on the paper and mailed it in. Whatever. We’re here to talk about BMG survivors: the people who realized how ridiculous the game is, paid out their memberships, then just responded to the emails. If you know this shit, were born before 1975 but are still interested in reading this post… scroll on down to the second unordered list (that’s bullet lists for you all non-webheads).

First, a set of rules for other suckas:
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Brain Hacks: Staying Motivated

Read a good post over at Lifehacker today on how Seinfeld stays motivated to keep writing jokes. Some things in life get better with daily attention, anything which is normally called a “skill.” A lot of bullshit out there attempts to convince you that you need “talent” when often “practice” will yield the same or equivalent results. Try some daily practice instead. Jerry has a trick for you to stay motivated.

The short-form: Have a calendar with a wide enough view (like a year) and check off days that you complete a task that requires daily practice (like any skill: mathematics, music, coding, whatever). Your brain will like seeing that long chain of “I did that” marks on your calendar which will help keep you motivated to grow the chain even longer.

Get started right now. Print your calendar today.

In my typically overcomplicated way I’m using one calendar to track: bass practice, learning new skills and working out using a schema of different hash marks on the calendar. Maybe later I’ll post a follow up.

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Tired of debugging every bit of CSS sweet code you write? Are a control freak that came from print or letterpress or worse? You don’t mind declaring everything that needs to be declared? Bring on the hammer. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.

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N0D3 is my loose collection of random navel-gazing. You might find articles about web culture, analytics, Burlington or anything else I feel like writing about. If you find my posts a bit lengthy, you may want to try my Twitter feed instead.