Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 31, 2014 6:37 AM

Laughing All The Way To The Bank With James Altucher

 Episode #425 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

I got a strange email from James Altucher a while back. It was all about stand-up comedy. He was following my blog (which, kind of made me want to tidy the place up a little bit after knowing that), and he could tell that I am both a fan of standup comedy, and a student of the mechanics behind it. I love everything from how comedians develop jokes, to their biographies to documentaries about the art form, and even watching/listening to them being interviewed (yes, big fan of both Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee and Marc Maron's WTF Podcast). If you don't know James, he is a trader, investor, writer, and entrepreneur. His bio is an impressive one. He's an investor in Buddy Media (which sold to for about $800 million) as well as bitly. His latest book is called, The Power Of No, and it's a great read. Also, if you're not following his blog, The Altucher Confidential, you don't know what you're missing. James and I begun a dialogue about how important understanding standup comedy can be for business success. And, after several email exchanges and back and forths, I convinced him to come on the show to discuss just how important standup comedy can be for business success. The point is that neither of us are comedians (we wouldn't even claim to be funny), but understanding and appreciating standup comedy is probably something that everyone in business should study, because we both feel that it was an important factor in our professional journeys. Enjoy the conversation...

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast #425.

By Mitch Joel


August 30, 2014 8:35 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #219

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person "must see".

Check out these six links that we're recommending to one another:

  • Inventories of war: soldiers' kit from 1066 to 2014 - The Telegraph. "This is the sort of thing the Internet is great at. How military gear has changed as a result of technology and how we fight wars, for the last thousand years." (Alistair for Hugh).
  • The $5 Logo - The Folyo Notebook. "Can you get a well-designed logo for five dollars? On the Folyo blog, Sacha Greif decided to find out, which reminded me of my own adventures in design crowdsourcing (see Crapweeding). The answer? Not really - and with it, an object lesson in why client-agent relationships trump the infinite-monkeys model." (Alistair for Mitch).
  • Downtown Parking Lot Maps - Skyscraper Page. "A collection of amateur urban planners have taken satellite maps of cites, and demarcated the spaces dedicated to outdoor parking. You can see which cities are built for cars, and which for people. Unfortunately, this set of images has gotten so popular that Photobucket seems to have capped the users' bandwidth and is no longer displaying the images properly - but you can see some of them from this page, and further on in the forum thread." (Hugh for Alistair).
  • The Time I Spent On A Commercial Whaling Ship Totally Changed My Perspective On The World - Clickhole. "A very long, but definitely worthwhile, article about one man's experiences on a commercial whaling ship. Turns out the captain is obsessed with chasing after a particular whale. You won't believe what happens next." (Hugh for Mitch).
  • An Unusual Cure for Not Enough Sleep - Scientific American. "Not getting enough sleep? Me neither. Who is? People who do yoga and meditate, right? They've got the goods on us. They understand mindfulness, while the rest of us are just a bunch of morons wandering through life, having anxiety attacks and self-medicating over self-imposed deadlines and arbitrary work that doesn't really change much of anything in terms of the greater global good. Ugh. Maybe I shouldn't write when I'm this tired? WRONG! Just tell yourself that you're not tired. That works, right? Actually..." (Mitch for Alistair).
  • Lorne Again - Grantland. "It's hard to imagine just how powerful Lorne Michaels is. Some people just know the name as the guy behind Saturday Night Live. Don't kid yourself. He is a media and marketing juggernaut that owns a lot of the stuff that we have all come to know, love and laugh at. With that, comes the story of a fascinating man. We've had hints and glimmers at his life via people who have been on SNL  - and have had the pleasure of being interviewed by Howard Stern - but this is a story that needs to be told. If you're interested in media, television and the entertainment industry, pack and lunch and enjoy this in-depth feature." (Mitch for Hugh). 

Feel free to share these links and add your picks on Twitter, Facebook, in the comments below or wherever you play.

By Mitch Joel


August 29, 2014 5:13 PM

Emotion Is The Fast Lane To The Brain

We talk a lot about storytelling and brands, don't we?

Let's reverse that thought: how many brands are actually great storytellers? Dig a little deeper how many marketers do you know that are great storytellers? I see a lot of marketing and communications professionals who are able to create and transmit a message, but professional marketers who have studied and labored over creating stories? Marketers who have published stories (fiction or non-fiction) with success? They're probably few and far between. This recent Google Talk took me by surprise. I went in suspecting to hear the usual presentation on how a story is created, crafted and manipulated. I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen. Doug Stevenson is not someone who was on my radar, and I'm usually skeptical of former actors who are now trying to give leadership lessons on persuasion and presentation skills. I like being proven wrong. Doug has a book titled, The Story Theater Method for Strategic Storytelling in Business, that makes no attempt to turn you into a great actor, but does want to make you a "star" in whatever the room that you have to sell an idea happens to be. What's most interesting is how he takes stories and helps turn the teller into a better storyteller.

Want to be more interesting, convincing and passionate in a room? Watch this: Doug Stevenson: "The Power to Persuade - The Magic of Story"

By Mitch Joel


August 28, 201411:53 PM

Be A Designer Of Something

Some people don't think that they are creative.

I don't agree. I believe that everyone is creative in their own way. Some people don't think that they're job is all that creative. I don't agree. I believe that every job requires different layers of creativity. When this point of conversation and contention comes up (and trust me, it's a conversation that I find myself having more often than you might suspect), it can be hard to convince someone that what they do, in their work hours, demands some level of creativity. The challenge, of course, is that creativity is the output. The output of anything can be hard to see. Even if it's the work that one does, day in and day out.

Maybe it's time to forget about the output.

If you're struggling to find the creativity in the work that you do, why not forget about the output and start focusing more on where the work is coming from. Work from the origins of ideas and not the output of them to understand your own layers of creativity.

Be a designer.

This is going to make my designer friend's skin crawl (apologies in advance), but maybe everyone needs to think and act like a designer. Designers rule. What kinds of things will you design today? What designs will you manifest to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow?

Grab a notepad.

I've decided to take my words a little bit more seriously and deliberately with every passing year. Call it a personal challenge to keep myself learning and motivated. It's not that the words weren't being taken seriously before, it's that I want to constantly up my game. I carry a notebook and a pen everywhere now. I used to rely on apps or just emailing notes to myself. I'm back to paper and ink. I'm going paleo on my writing. I want to see how my hands handle the thoughts as they tumble out from between my earholes. I want to hesitate with that pen. Think about the words. Tinker with those words and design a better way to write something. To say anything. To literally and figuratively scratch at the words.

Design a deck.

Maybe it's a deck in your backyard, maybe it's a PowerPoint deck. When I think about client work at Twist Image, I think about designing a PowerPoint deck. How can I take this idea and twist it into an understandable presentation? How will the idea be designed? What images and story will support the brand narrative? Designing a deck isn't about the slides, it's about designing a story.

Become a designer.

It's not just for people in creative positions who get to wear shorts and sandals to work. Start with a pen and paper and write down some ideas. I love how my friend, James Altucher, carries around a waiter's pad and doesn't start his day unless he's written down ten new ideas. He's designing! What's he designing? Who knows. The point is that he's planning, thinking, researching and designing his ideas. That notepad and paper are blueprints and he's constantly designing something with them.

Being a designer gives you freedom.

It's true. Think about it. If you fashion yourself as a designer of the work that you're doing, you are also giving yourself some real and serious freedom to think before doing, to plan things in a more methodical way, to no longer worry about going to a physical location to get something done. Be a designer. I'll find myself pulling the car over to the side of the road to get something down. I'll find myself staring off into the landscape to see what rolls back in on to that pad (instead of watching another episode of American Pickers). Allowing yourself to be a designer is a great and simple way to give yourself the freedom to explore the work that you do, and what you bring to it. Not only the job that you're doing, but the industry that you serve. You don't need the title on your business card for it to be real. You just have to choose to become a designer.

Choose it. Become a designer. What's the worst thing that could happen?

By Mitch Joel


August 27, 201411:45 PM

Breaking Through To The YouTube Culture

Brands are struggling to understand YouTube.

It's a mystery to most brands why some videos work and other don't. There are videos that breakthrough and achieve viral success (the kind of action that then gets picked up and amplified by traditional media) and then there's everyone else. For the most part, brands participate in YouTube by creating pre-roll and post-roll ads (essentially TV commercials that are played before or after a YouTube video is viewed). The introduction of this ad format was met with mixed emotions by YouTube viewers. Since then, YouTube has introduced TrueView (that little button that enables viewers to skip an ad after five seconds). This works, because it gives the viewers control and - more importantly - it's a signal back to advertisers that their message is either working... or not. The cumulative data that YouTube is gathering around TrueView will also enable them to teach advertisers how to create messages that YouTube viewers might actually care to watch. If done well (and, I'm betting that YouTube will do this exceedingly well), it could usher in a new era of commercials: one where the ads being created actually have the viewer in mind. Heaven forbid.

But, YouTube should mean much more to brands.

Have you seen the latest issue of Fast Company magazine? Bethany Mota is on the cover. I've been talking up Bethany Mota for a long while (more here: Is Bethany Mota The Future Of The NewFronts?). I was first introduced to her by my teenage niece, and it led me down a deep rabbit hole of YouTube viewing. It's nothing new that YouTube is creating celebrities who have millions of subscribers on their own YouTube channels, but it's becoming so big and important that if you want to know about how to connect with specific segments, you may be better off finding out who the YouTubers are, instead of splashing your spend at specialty TV channels. The pulse of YouTube beats in a very different way.

That very different way.

This is the true struggle with brands and YouTube today. Sadly, most brands are simply trying to sell their wares to people who are watching YouTube. The real opportunity (and the one that most brands aren't focused nearly enough on) is trying to become a part of the YouTube culture. It's a slight, but important, nuance. If you were looking at getting your brand more involved on YouTube, I would be asking this one, very important question: are we trying to sell to the people on YouTube, or are we trying to become a part of the YouTube culture?

How does a brand become a part of a culture?

This can be answered in two words: not easily. This is why the vast majority of brands give up the dream of creating content and opt into a buying media mindset. It's almost easier to burn through the cash than to try and be relevant to an audience. Scary? Yes. True? Probably. Becoming a part of the culture is partnering into it. It means doing things that add value to the community - not to your bottom line. I wrote about this concept in my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete. All too often, brands focus on creating a message that shouts loudest, when they could have spent the same amount of time and effort doing something that the audience might actually like, care about, share with others and have a desire to connect back to. Brands shun this, because they feel like they are limiting the message to a much smaller audience (it is, after all, easier to just pay for as many eyeballs as possible). But, there's a new nuance to this: YouTube has become so massive - and these YouTubers have built up such strong followings - that brands can now connect and add value to these niche audiences that still have a mass following.

Don't believe me? 

Go and pull up the viewership on a TV show that you feel could reach your target audience. Now, go and look at how many subscribers Tyler Oakley has on his YouTube channel. It may not be the same kind of viewers, but the point is that his numbers (and there are many others like him) typically trump the kind of mass media numbers that traditional brands look at. And, that's the point: it's not just that YouTube has its own culture anymore (it kinda always did). It's that now - right now - it has scale. Mass... mass scale and, sadly, most brands think that the best opportunity to capitalize on YouTube comes from posting a commercial and crossing their fingers that the viewers don't simply skip it.

YouTube's culture. It's real. It's growing. What's your play? 

By Mitch Joel


August 26, 201411:36 PM

A Twitch In Time

Admit it, you had no idea what Twitch was until Amazon bought it for one billion dollars, right? And suddenly, I'm watching two guys do something in Minecraft, and I have no idea what they're doing because they're speaking Norwegian... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 25, 201410:01 AM

Amazon Plus Advertising Equals A Danger To Google

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 24, 2014 8:58 AM

The Efficiency Of Brands

 Episode #424 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to. Welcome to episode #424 of Six Pixels Of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast. I was in Silicon... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 23, 2014 8:03 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #218

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see? My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 22, 2014 8:15 PM

Cheap. Efficient. Elegant.

How good is Hollywood at showing us the Internet on screen? Not The Matrix, but reality. Whether it's text messages or the Internet, have you ever wondered why text messaging and web browsing is so poorly done in movies and... Read more

By Mitch Joel