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After all, if you can compress a 90-character URL into 20 characters or fewer when sharing a link, that leaves you more space to provide information on what people will see when they click the link. That serves you and your users in two ways:
You can be more colorful in your description, to encourage people to click, and
You can give enough info that they may not need to click right away, but can perhaps “favorite” the link for later viewing or for reference.
Any of those seven link-shortening options work well, and there are no doubt dozens more available.
I’m returning to the subject today with an option some of you might find helpful, particularly if you work for a large organization. But it isn’t necessary that you be with a big company. In fact, even a small (but global) university can do this, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot.
You may have noticed some different shortened URLs in your Twitter stream from time-to-time, following a format like:
These are, as you might have guessed, custom-shortened links for a YouTube video, a story in the New York Times and a program note on CSPAN.
Why would they do that?
I see two main reasons for this strategy:
Branding: With youtu.be, nyti.ms and cs.pn, these organizations are “getting their names out” with every tweet that uses a link from their domain. Instead of the link being http://bit.ly/giXAam and just looking like hundreds of millions of others, CSPAN’s version carries its network name. Likewise for YouTube and the Times.
User confidence: With a bit.ly or ow.ly or TinyURL.com link, you never really know what’s on the other end before you click it. Creating a custom-shortened link system with a domain that you control enables users to click your link without worrying whether a site that is NSFW is on the other end.
How did they do that?
That’s the topic of my next post, in which I will take you step-by-step through how I created this shortened link to my annual Christmas Letter:
…I would have been able to get this one for about 23 cents.
As it was, I picked it up at Sears on Black Friday for $419, or about 40 percent off.
That 23 cents figure is just a guess, and is probably way high, in the snow blower/hard drive comparison of prices and capabilities over time. My dad bought his first snow blower about 40 years ago, and I think he paid about $500. In today’s dollars, that would be about $2,800. Even though my snow blower today isn’t as heavy duty as Dad’s was, getting it for about 13 percent of the price, in constant dollars, is pretty good.
That is, until you compare it to electronics, and particularly my favorite example, hard drives.
Last year I wrote about my brother-in-law, Lane’s, experience in buying what seemed then a massive hard drive in the mid-80s, and how I had bought a hard drive that had 200,000 times more capacity (1 terabyte or 1000 gigabytes) for $70 at a Black Friday sale. I also suggested that smart SMUGgles should mark their calendars for 11/26/10. I predicted that they would be able to buy a 1.5 terabyte hard drive for about $70.
I was wrong.
It was even better: Target had a 2 TB desktop drive (400,000 times what Lane bought) for $69, and a portable 1 TB drive for the same price. I just took a photo instead of buying a drive, because I have about 500 gigs of free space on my drive from last year. I applied that $69 toward the snow blower, a more pressing need.
I think I’ll wait until 11/25/11 to get another hard drive, when I should be able to get 3 TB (or more) for $70.
I had a delightful experience this morning before I left for work: having breakfast with my granddaughter, Evelyn.
There was a time when this wouldn’t be such a remarkable event. For most of human history, families typically lived in close proximity across several generations. In many cases, extended families might live under the same roof.
The mobility made possible by the internal combustion engine brought many benefits, but one of downsides from a parental perspective is that children grow up and move away instead of raising their kids close to home. We’re happy for the opportunities, but we miss our babies (and their babies).
I’m now starting to appreciate the bittersweet moments we created for my parents when my wife Lisa and I moved to the Twin Cities (100 miles away) in the late 1980s, taking our two children with us in pursuit of gainful employment. And when we moved back home to Austin in 1994, with two more little girls (one of whom turned 20 today!) and a baby boy on the way, it was really special to be able to be close to their grandparents.
Still, during that eight-year period, I think my parents probably got to see our kids about every six weeks or so.
Now my two oldest kids are married, and my daughter Rachel and her husband have moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Kyle is going to seminary. They have two children, Evelyn and Judah. Anyone who has been in one of my presentations has been introduced indirectly to Evie.
But I see Evie and Judah much more frequently than my parents saw our kids, even though we’re about 500 miles away.
This morning I had a really special experience that illustrates the power of technology to strengthen those family bonds weakened by distance. Through the magic of Skype (and I do mean magic), I had breakfast with Evie (click photos to enlarge):
Evie was having a bowl of oatmeal at her table in Grand Rapids at 8 a.m. her time, while I had my gluten-free Corn Chex at 7 a.m. my time in Austin, a nine-hour drive away.
For us, though, her breakfast with “Bapa Eeee” was just like being directly across the table from each other. And I think I speeded up her eating, because when Grandpa took a bite, so did she:
What applications can you see to enrich your life and work by using free videoconferencing?
In many of my presentations this year I have used the video embedded immediately below to illustrate the quality available through consumer-grade video cameras, such as the Flip video camera. With my daughter Rachel’s permission, here’s an example of what you get from the Flip UltraHD, from my granddaughter Evelyn’s first birthday party in August:
Here is an example of a video I shot earlier in April with the standard definition version of the Flip video camera (before we got HD), with Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth, in a room behind the dugout at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia:
You will note that in this video there is background noise from the indoor pitching machine and batting cage, but I think in both cases the quality of the video is perfectly acceptable for use on the Web. And since the HD only costs $50 more, I think it’s well worth the extra cost. (Of course, I’m kind of partial to the subject of that HD video .)
Kodak has some similar consumer-grade video cameras, such as the Kodak Zi8 HD, and their key advantage is that they have an external microphone jack, which could improve the audio quality in some cases. If I had used that camera for the interview with Jayson Werth, for instance, the batting cage noise probably would have been less pronounced. The good news: you can put in a huge memory card to get really long recording times without having to download the files to your computer. The bad news: extra cost.
Here’s an example of a video we shot with the external microphone, and uploaded to YouTube:
One additional advantage of the Kodak is it can record in 1080p, but can also downshift to 720p or even standard definition. Here’s a brief sound bite to that effect from my colleague Joel Streed, shot and edited as 1080p.
The downside of 1080p is that for a video of any length, the processing power required is pretty immense, without much of a perceptible difference in image quality, at least for Web video.
If you don’t see yourself complicating the recording process by attaching a remote microphone to the interview subject, the Flip video camera is fine.
So, to sum up, here are the advantages I see for each of these cameras (as compared with each other):
Simplicity and cost. One-button operation and a ready-to-go camera. With the Kodak, by contrast, you really can’t shoot video unless you have purchased an SD memory card. And if you’re going to take advantage of the external microphone, that means you need to buy an external microphone. So the Flip video camera price is pretty much “all inclusive” while you will have some additional costs for the Kodak. Given the $70 difference on Amazon you see here currently between the Flip and the Kodak, you’ll likely spend at least $100 more for the Kodak.
Solid, durable design (the Kodak’s USB connector seems a bit more flimsy)
Can use AA batteries. (With the Kodak, you could possibly be stuck with a temporarily unusable camera if the built-in rechargeable batteries run down. On the Flip Ultra HD, if you’re in that situation you can swap out the rechargeable pack and replace it temporarily with AAs.)
External microphone jack. If you’re shooting in a noisy environment, this gives you the possibility of using a remote microphone to get better sound. With the Flip you need to choose where you shoot if the sound quality is important.
Flexibility in storage. The Flip UltraHD holds two hours of video in its 8 GB memory. With the Kodak you can use a bigger card and record longer, although a larger card adds to the camera’s cost.
Multiple resolution choices. You can record 1080p, 720p or standard definition. The Flip UltraHD is just straight 720p.
The really good news to take away from this is that there are at least a couple of good options for capturing video using consumer grade cameras for use in your professional efforts in social media, whether it’s posting videos to YouTube, Facebook or some other sharing site. Both of these cameras are light, small and therefore easy to carry in a coat pocket or purse, so you’ll never need to worry about missing an opportunity to capture video.
The first rule of video is that you can’t edit what you don’t shoot, so these cameras both make it more likely you’ll get some good material for editing.
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