The first short film I ever did, an exercise in skeptic art

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/08/23

Unusual realities
That drove me straight down to my knees
Never thought I’d see things like these
If I had a dream
 
If I Had a Dream by Undercover
(from the album Branded, 1986)

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s in Southern California (yes Seattle-ites, I am a Cali refugee, thank you for not closing your borders) – I worked with a non-profit music production agency that fostered the exploration of meaning through the creation of music.

Back then I would not have described it like that – we thought we were just making what we called, in naive retrospect, “Christian Rock”.

But much of who I am today – my love for complex stories and conflicted characters, stems from deep things people in that community taught me about life, art, relationships, and critical thinking.

One of the pivotal bands I got to interact with at that time was Undercover and one of their leaders, Ojo Taylor.

Undercover’s Branded album was, for me, one of the first pieces of spiritual art that wrestled honestly with faith, doubt, and skepticism.

Those of you who know me know that while I land on the Jesus side of things regarding The Question of God, I come to that conclusion after much wrestling of angels.

Like Jacob, my gait is informed by the limp of, and deep respect for, the skeptic’s heart.

(Which is one of the many reasons my son is name Thomas.)

In the spring of 1991, I took footage from a summer 1990 Undercover concert I video-ed in Redlands, California, back to the Media Center at Pepperdine and made my first short film – A video of the song “Time” from their album Balance of Power.

I had abandoned the television and radio production major that I went to Pepperdine to originally study, believing that I could learn things faster than the instructors could teach me by just doing projects and facing real world challneges, while making things I wanted to make.

I spliced in a bunch of public domain footage I took from some cool laserdiscs the university had, in order to draw the themes of the song out.

Last week, Ojo from Undercover found me on facebook. Then, this AM, my friend Jason pointed me to the video I made nearly 20 years ago.

Just looked at it for the first time in a long time and I am really struck by how much it is reminding me of things I had forgotten of my own journey.

It’s funny sometimes how much we don’t remember about ourselves.

Anyway, I thought I’d post it so you could take a look if you have a moment and get a glimpse of how I ended up being, ummm, me ;)

Time by Undercover, 1990



I’m joining Lilipip as Director of Business Development

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/08/03

Most of the web sites I’ve worked on over the last 13 years face a small set of common challenges -

  1. How do you get the attention of an audience already fatigued with information overload?
  2. If you do manage to grab attention, how do you compellingly connect people with your product, service, or concept?
  3. Finally, how do you keep it simple enough to not lose folks along the way – all while avoiding the pitfalls of boring and forgettable?

If you’ve been in a strategic web session with me anytime in the last 24 months, you’re probably sick of what I’m about to say.

But I’m gonna say it anyway.

Short, well-written, visually-memorable web videos are a stunningly smart thing to do on most web sites – they’re an effective way to deal with every one of the strategic communication killers I’ve listed above.

A bit about how I became convinced of this (and where it’s leading me).

Through my work producing Ignite Seattle video and capturing events like BarCamp, MindCamp, Presentation Camp, and Jackson Fish Market’s Small and Special conference, I’ve seen, time and again, how web video is much more than “TV on the internet”.

When done well, it enables people to teach things to other people – to spread knowledge and understanding where it needs to go – in ways that those of us who originate content rarely imagine as we create it.

Seeing friends like Lee and Sachi LeFever at Common Craft demonstrate how thoughtful visual explanations really can help people worlwide has been eye opening.

Beyond being all manner of cool, their “In Plain English” series has inspired me to examine how I can not only become a better “shedder of light” in my daily life – it’s also inspired me to consider how I can help other people do the same.

Which leads me to the title announcement of this post – as of today, I am joining Lilipip Studios as Director of Business Development.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lilipip and its founder, Ksenia Oustiougova, they are a Seattle startup that specializes in creating animated web videos about your product, service, or concept.

The best way to explain what we do is to show you – so I’ve pasted a video Lilipip did for Zappos above. Take a look at it to get an idea of the kinds of things I’ll be helping folks develop.

Also noteworthy is that Lilipip works with independent writers, illustrators, animators, voice-over artists, and musicians worldwide to produce this work.

As Ksenia and I became friends, it was clear that we share the same belief in the power of these sorts of videos. We also share a deep appreciation of small, special, sustainable approaches to business.

When Lilipip began to take off and it was obvious they needed to grow the team, my wife Jen and I began to seriously discuss re-configuring our lives to join a startup.

After much reflection, we decided to take a leap of faith and do it.

So, watch that Zappos video – And ping me if you know of anyone who could use one of these. We’ve got a great team and a proven process – with transparent pricing!

P.S. I’m not saying there’s a direct correlation between Amazon’s recent purchase of Zappos and the Lilipip video, because causal inference is hard – but casual inference, on the other hand, is quite easy.



Fostering Cross Tribal Community in Seattle (parts 1 & 2) – Mind Camp 5

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/04/12

Here’s video I produced of a great discussion my pal Brian Dorsey facilitated on “Fostering Cross Tribal Community in Seattle” at Mind Camp 5 on November 22, 2008. We were gathered at Synapse Product Development in downtown Seattle (an incredible location). I’ve embedded parts 1 & 2 below.


Fostering Cross Tribal Community in Seattle (part 1)
From Mind Camp 5
from Bryan Zug on Vimeo.


Fostering Cross Tribal Community in Seattle (part 2)
From Mind Camp 5
from Bryan Zug on Vimeo.



Kindle My Faith (Book Pitch 2.0)

Posted by bryanzug - 2009/02/06

I’m not working as of yesterday and I have a Kindle on backorder — which is kinda funny when you think about it.

I’d been debating ordering one for a year or so. Would I really use it?

My friend Randy Stewart said he didn’t like his and got rid of it — recommending I wait until v2.

My pal Lee LeFever kept raving about his.

Then a month ago I was in a training session that really kicked my ass about writing. Not tweets. Not blog posts. But articles and books and presentations.

It was a huge wakeup call.

And when I thought about what it takes for me to write fluidly and well — I came back to a writing hack Scott Berkun and I have talked about a lot — you need to read to write — and not just surface read, but deep read.

Which is a conclusion that kinda sucks for me, big time — because I don’t deep read anymore.

Twitter and TechMeme have ruined me.

They’ve rewired my synapses so that I scan >> scan >> scan for nuggets (and pass them along so that the important news can find its way), but then I never take the time to go deeper than that.

And for all of the fruits of these new patterns of information consumption — I really do feel guilty for not picking up a printed book and reading — it leaves me feeling like I am less of a person — the poser who snuck into an American Lit Class and is hoping that none of the liberal arts majors find him out.

But life’s taught me to really examine any guilt/shame feeling I have — even when it seems to be a very minor thing like this.

Whenever I get the guilts, I know I am supposed to dig deeper and ask — what’s at the root of making me feel this way?

That’s when I realized something that made me order the Kindle — which is going to take a little bit for me to explain, but stick with me, skimmers, ’cause I think it’ll be worth it.

I don’t read print books because they are inefficient, in an “if the news is important, it will find me sort of way“.

If I come across a nugget in a book, anything I want to underline or dogear or tape to my bathroom mirror, I am completely frustrated that I cannot link to it, note it to one of my action lists, or copy it, without interrupting my flow.

I know I could go back and transcribe it, but the truth is, I never do — just like I’m never gonna digitize the hundreds of hours of MiniDV tape of great events and people I’ve captured over the years.

That little barrier to efficiency stops me from starting.

Then I began thinking about that little barrier through the lens of Clay Shirky‘s, Here Comes Everybody, which I bought in print (with the cool button cover!) and haven’t read yet.

But! — I have seen the videos and skimmed the posts ;) — which have me agreeing that I, too, am completely baffled by information that has no mouse.

Which is why I decided to buy a Kindle.

I talked to Lee at Mind Camp 5, to confirm that the Kindle has copy, paste, and notation functions — because that, to me, is the minimal definition of Shirky’s mouse notion.

Now I’ve got a decision to make.

When I ordered the Kindle back on January 8th, it was listed as backordered for 7 weeks. Being the impatient person that I am, I even contact friends at Amazon who used to be on the Kindle team to see if I could get it any faster.

They said no way — Oprah cleaned them out and there were none left.

Which wasn’t a big deal at the time, ’cause I figured, maybe the stars would align and I’d be one of the first people to get a Kindle v2 — which, if you’ve ever had that happen before with a market disrupting gadget, is a total geek high — doesn’t often get better than that for nerd edge cases like me.

So I was hanging in there, but today the plot has thickened, as they say.

I now have no steady paycheck coming in, a limited amount of savings, and no firm work lined up.

Reason tells me I should trim staff and aggressively cut expenses.

But poetry tells me something else.

It tells me that it might not be the right decision to trim this $350 expense — maybe what I’ll learn from the experience will be worth the price, despite the risk — this is a heavy thought when we’ve still got preschool and day camp to pay for.

Poetry tells me that this might be the exact right kind of “illogical anti-bean counter” decision — the tale of which might help explain through story (in lieu of bullet points) what I’ve been trying to articulate to all of my dear friends from the print side of design — that the world is vastly changing — it’s happening much faster than any of us ever imagined — and it’s probably a good idea for us to get ahold of some new wineskins.

When I start to talk like that to friends who have not had their synapsis fucked with like mine have been, they either look at me blankly, like I am Charlie Brown “mwah, mwah, mwahing” it, or — they look at me like I’m intentionally trying to be a dick (instead of intentionally pursuing them with a deep love and doing my damnedest to explain something very urgent).

Poetry tells me this might be the exact right kind of “hang onto your hats kids” moment that we will remember years from now — when the form magically came alive and transformed into the content — showing how I can’t hardly imagine writing anything without a mouse anymore, either.

So, I think I’m gonna keep the Kindle on order.

I’ve got a funny kind of faith that it’s all gonna work itself out.

: : :

I have imagined writing deeper think pieces for many years now, maybe even books — always trying to find the time to stop for a minute.

Right now I’m thinking that this shitty first draft might make a nice chapter in a book called “Google and the Search for Soul” — which would be about the wonder of this age and how its changing, and challenging, our humanity.

That book has been a baby I’ve nurtured for a while — and when I’ve shared my secret with friends like Scott or Don, I always try to infect them with the spirit of the thing by describing what the cover would look like –

It’d be the Google interface with the word soul in the search box — and the mouse hovering over “I’m feeling lucky”.

Then I usually add something about how I’m sure Larry could back me up if Larry had any objections to that design.

Then I tell them how I’d get ahold of Tim in a very Book-Pitch-2.0-ish sort of way and we just do this thing.

Maybe I’m nuts, but I’m kinda infected with a crazy imagination right now — and I hear Tim likes Chesterton.



Seattle Mind Camp 5: Sustainable Work/Life Patterns

Posted by bryanzug - 2008/11/21

Kendall Guillemette and I are gonna get a discussion session together at Seattle Mind Camp tomorrow on sustainable work/life patterns. We’re calling it “Seattle Mind Camp 5: Sustainable Work/Life Patterns (…is Calacanis a Saint? Something Else?)”.

See flier below. Some seeds for the discussion –

  • How do you structure your work?
  • Is banking on a buyout like saying, “I’m gonna play in the NBA?”
  • What’re your successes?
  • Your epic fails?

Also cool — we plan to use an iPhone audio meter to insta-poll the crowd on what we should talk about (if it’s a decent size).

Special shout out to all those who need a refresher on “All Your Base Are Belong to Us”.

Seattle Mind Camp 5: Sustainable Work/Life Patterns



Participatory Narcissism and why Counting Crows has sucked since back in the day

Posted by bryanzug - 2008/03/22

So I finally got Mars Edit working again with my wordpress install (upgrading wp did the trick) and am getting back in the flow of posting as I come across interesting things.

One of my favorite bloggers, Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror quotes Maciej Cegłowski’s notion of Participatory Narcissism concerning a recent post by Paul Graham.

After a while, you begin to notice that all the essays are an elaborate set of mirrors set up to reflect different facets of the author, in a big distributed act of participatory narcissism.

Which is exactly why just about “everything” Counting Crows has done “after” their first album has sucked so bad.



Web 2.0 Expo Target Sessions for Monday

Posted by bryanzug - 2007/04/16

Here’s the sessions I’m scoping out for Monday at the Web 2.0 expo –



Rives at TED: It is not a question of if you can, it’s do ya?

Posted by bryanzug - 2007/03/21

The TED conference videos are some of the most amazing pieces of free learning I have ever seen. While working out last week I was going through the que of them on my iPod when I came across this 4 minute piece by spoken word artist Rives — a riff on “If I Ran the Internet”.

Amazing — I watched it over and over again for 40 minutes on the eliptical.

As some of you know, I aspire to geek spoken word, and this, I think is the pinnacle of that admittedly narrow genre. Choice quotes –

  • “It is not a question of if you can, it’s do ya?”
  • “We can make ‘you’ve got hallelujah’ the national anthem of the cyberspace every lucky time you log on.”

Here it is from YouTube —



Creating Passionate Users: Face-to-Face Trumps Twitter, Blogs, Podcasts, Video…

Posted by bryanzug - 2007/03/16

God bless Kathy Sierra.

Over the last few months I’ve found myself trying to explain the deepening (and real community) aspects of meatspace interactions that my wife Jen and I have been drawn into as a result of participating in online community.

Ruthie's Shoes at Northern Voice 2007

Usually we are trying to explain to business colleagues or friends or family or members of our church that, yes, indeed — online community is a part of real community and not the equivalent of social cheese-whiz that some describe it to be.

But, yeah — as I’m working to explain it I often see eyes begin to glaze over — and I can tell that folks are either not buying it or I’m not communicating very well.

Which leaves me — searching for ways to compellingly relate how online community has become real community for us — looking for the stories and patterns that engage both the emotion and the intellect.

Enter Kathy Sierra.

This morning I read her post from yesterday describing her keynote at SXSW. The post is called Face-to-Face Trumps Twitter, Blogs, Podcasts, Video… and is full of great passages on how all this social web software drives a deeper desire for face-to-face community.

My favorite quote –

…all our globally-connecting-social-networking tools are making face-to-face more, not less desirable. Thanks to the tools y’all are building, we now have more far-flung friends–including people we’ve never met f2f–than ever before. We now have more people we want to connect with in the human world, often after years of electronic-only contact.

Nice insight — sticking that pattern in my bag of tricks — something tells me the “online community isn’t real community, is it?” questions aren’t gonna stop anytime soon — this stuff is continuing to disrupt everything.

Did I mention that my mom who just got her first computer for Christmas is now IM’ing all the time — the world really is getting flat.



Great Primer on Open Source Folkways

Posted by bryanzug - 2007/03/15

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that two good friends of mine here in Seattle were cross posting on their blogs about Flash/Flex momentum and how a healthy open source governance structure might be helpful in pushing momentum even further.

My natural question — have you guys met face to face? Wanna grab some food?

So last night I met Ted Leung and Ryan Stewart for dinner down at Ivar’s on the waterfront. Great time, great view, great conversation.

Though Ted and I both work in the tech industry and have been friends since Mind Camp 1.0, I had never heard him talk about his long history with open source communities and governance (Apache, et al).

All I can say is that I learned a ton about that and distributed project/team folkways in general.

Great, great evening.



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