While a successful date can be had any number of places, you can improve your chances with proper location scouting. I have prepared the infographic above and outlined the spectrum of difficulty based on various first date scenarios below:
Sports Bar: A novice move. Taking a first date to a crowded sports bar is like using a pencil as a tennis racquet: there's just no way it will work. While often well-endowed on the alcohol front, Sports Bars are haven to the jackass, and tricky to navigate without losing your date.
The “Original” Idea: A picnic by the beach, a DJ class, laser tag! Yeah you're clever. Just keep in mind you are walking dangerously close to the “just friends” line. A first date in daylight is only for the highly skilled.
Lounge (Just Before it Gets Crowded): The combination of minimal ambient noise, intimate table size, and a sexy vibe make the “just before it gets crowded” lounge hard to beat. When it does indeed get crowded, that's the perfect excuse to move somewhere else, extending the date without losing momentum.
A Friend's Party: The ideal bonding event. This “let's just check it out” event is great for sussing out how adventurous your potential mate is. The perfect mix of outside stimulus and conversational variety. Relies a bit heavily on your friends, so make sure you have no saboteurs in your midst.
Movie: A safe option, especially if you're unsure if there's chemistry. Minimal conversation is necessary and the option exists to extend the date to drinks afterward if both parties are intrigued. Can be considered a boring choice however, so proceed with caution.
Cliche Restaurant, 8pm: Ah the classic. Typically reserved for potential partners that you can see it “going somewhere” with. Conversational prowess is a key factor here and you better have mastered taking care of the check without your date noticing.
Concert: This is a surprising worst-case scenario. Inevitably you'll end up awkwardly standing next to one another, and given the volume, you'll be stuck in an unfortunate holding pattern of whether to talk or not. Concerts have been rigorously engineered to ensure you never make it to a second date.
One of the most complex social situations you will encounter is the 45 seconds that elapse while deciding where to sit for dinner at a restaurant. Your choice should appear natural, unbiased and haphazard if executed properly. Timing is everything.
These 45 seconds determine how enjoyable your next 2 hours will be. Once the pieces start to fall into place and people take their seats, your choices narrow. People sit, seemingly at random, and if you don't take the appropriate measures, you're inevitably stuck at the least interesting end of the table.
I have compiled the above infographic to assist you with some of the common configuration patterns:
4 Person Circle: This is the ideal setup. You are safe sitting in any seat. Regardless how interesting everyone is, you pretty much can’t go wrong. Note: as the diameter of the table increases, so too does the importance that you sit adjacent to someone you like.
4 Person Square: This configuration (as opposed to two chairs on each side) is less fraught with problems. Something to watch out for is diagonal conversations, i.e. breaking the into two parts and getting stuck with the more boring of the three tablemates.
6 Person Circle: How loud the restaurant is determines how important it is that you claim a middle seat. A quiet space allows for cross-table diagnoal talking, and generally one conversation. A loud space however forces multiple conversations and less diagonal.
8 Person Rectangle: To get one of the interior 4 seats, you need to time your approach expertly. You can’t be first, else you’ll be expected to file to the end. And you can’t be last, else you’ll be stuck with the least interesting seat at the table. Timing is everything.
7 Person Rectangle: It’s very easy to get screwed in this scenario. While it may appear like you can sit anywhere except the ends, this is not so. You are at risk of sitting next to the lonely end-seat, which requires you to speak soley to that person for the duration of the meal.
2 Tables of Any Size: You’re fucked. Regardless of how you time your approach, you will inevitably choose too soon. Lament as the other table’s attendance crystallizes into what is clearly the superior group. Sometimes it’s best to visit the bathroom while seats are chosen, so any seating disasters are the result of chance, and not your own miscalculation.
Halfway inside most women's clothing stores is a couch.
You've seen this couch before I'm sure. Rarely populated by any of the store's target demographic, its purpose seems curious. It just sits there, typically back-less, empty, and seemingly useless to the shoppers pinballing about the store. Not until you find yourself shopping companion to a determined woman does the couch's true purpose become clear:
It is the only safe place to wait.
Despite the popular notion that the couch “is a trap”, you can't go wrong waiting on the couch. The novice move is to take-up residence at the door and check your phone. Worse is to suggest you go visit men's shops in the vicinity. Both will result in accusations of “ruining the togetherness” of the shopping activity. Hovering too close is perhaps an even greater offense as this can cause stress on the part of the shopper. “You're rushing me” is the common refrain.
A delicate balance must be struck and the couch is where you strike it.
I find myself currently sitting on such a couch, deep in enemy territory, on what must be my third or fourth tour of duty (sixth if you count family outings). I'm not sure where I am, but I've surveyed most of this store's wares and feel a bit like a vegetarian at a deli counter. At least I made it this far.
Depending on a store's contents, a varying degree of chaperoning is necessary to get you to the couch. Cosmetics departments for example are difficult to navigate alone, and can prove precarious for the lone male traveller. Couch locations are often obscured by mirrors or hidden behind friendly shopkeepers spraying perfume with reckless abandon. Layouts like “Zara” can be the most tricky, as their couches are often tantalizing close to escalators, which as noted, are escape routes only for the uninitiated.
Once you find the couch, phoneless as noted, the purpose of your presence may come into question. Two prevailing hypothesis exist. First, the male shopper is often called upon to give his opinion on important matters, like shoes and bags. It's important to take a strong stance on these issues, even if your opinion has yet to formulate. Expressions like “oh wow” or “way better than the last one” are your best bets. Alternate hypotheses point to your effectiveness carrying the bags home, which is why the couches are often so close to the checkout, and help perpetuate the “couch as trap” theory.
Shopping with a woman can be done, but not without a couch.
If the title of this article initiates your gag reflex, join the club. Link-baiting froth like this is slowly driving me crazy.
Is there some rite of passage in tech-writing that requires periodic abstinence from random social-networks? The slapdash article with a catchy title is hardly a new tactic, but must it snake its way into every inch of tech journalism? Drenching something in hyperbole only amplifies the flaccidity of the chosen topic. You might as well write an article on 'How Society has been Changed by Technology'. Fascinating!
I wouldn't normally concern myself with the dronings of strangers' online travels, but in these particular cases, I can't escape. Just about every website, periodical and blog I visit has succumbed to this specific malady of content. I find the whole mess to be about as interesting as a post-game interview with an athlete.
A most unwelcome symbol in my life is the Uber Surge icon. It often means it's raining. That or it's 6:30pm on a Friday. However unwanted, it's existence is understandable of course. It represents an increase in price due to an increase in demand.
I have my own internal version of surge pricing when it comes to how much I pay to optimize my time for creative production. It has to do with how creative I feel and thus, how valuable I consider my time to be at a given moment. If I'm feeling particularly effective and capable creatively, I am much more likely to pay to decrease the amount of time needed to accomplish menial tasks. My creativity ebbs and flows throughout the day. I am unable to predict its movements, but when I feel it surging as it were, I take every necessary measure to keep it that way.
This means no distractions. This means no wasting time. Depending on the situation, this might entail an Uber Cab (worst is when we are both surging), a FancyHands email, or more recently an Exec call. I don't feel like anyone has really nailed some of the more frustrating time sinks (taxes, banks, postage, home improvements, etc) but I'm enjoying experimenting (as cost allows) with the options as they are now. It's one of the best parts about living in this technology petri-dish that is San Francisco.
Further reading, and what got me thinking about this in the first place: my friend Andrey has a good article on transactional costs.
As a follow up to my last post on how to make a promo video with no $$$, here are some thoughts on the efficacy of promo videos in general. I am specifically talking about promotional videos, essentially online ads, and not “explainer” videos. As I stated at the end of my last article, yes promotional videos are helpful, but it depends what you're after.
To quality my position, I am drawing on my experience with these videos. The most successful of which have been the Nosh 404 and Jotly videos. Time Magazine referred to the former as the “best 404 in the history of the internet”, and the latter ended up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. I will use my experiences with these and others to make the points below.
Views (kinda) Count
An effective promotional video means eyes on your product. The more eyes the better. View count is obviously how you measure this. While an easy barometer for how successful the video is, it does't tell the whole story.
What's important to understand is that views do not equate to conversions. This may seem obvious, but most people have an unrealistic expectation of the ratio of views/conversions. Let's just say it's typically abysmal. Just because 1 million people see your video does not mean you will get remotely close to that many signups.
This is important to understand. You can't obsess over view count. It's a good measure of coverage, but there are other benefits besides just eyes-on.
Brand and Image
Promotional videos are one of the strongest ways to convey your company's brand. The chosen style will go a long way in determining how outsiders perceive your product and the people that made it. This is especially important for recruiting. Ridiculous videos show that the company is willing to take risks, openminded and probably a fun place to work. There aren't many other ways to do this as effectively.
Beyond appealing to potential recruits, a professional promo video enhances the perceived quality of your product to customers. If I arrive at a new site and find a Square-worthy video front and center, I will assume the product itself to be of similar quality. Goes both ways though, so don't make a shitty video.
Two types of videos: those that are purely publicity engines, and those that primarily convey information about the product. I've experimented with both, and just like television advertising, both have their place.
Publicity engines are closest to what PR people call viral videos. These types of videos are generally riskier, but have a bigger payoff if successful (duh). They usually are ridiculous, funny, extreme, and play to cultural trends of the moment. What they lack in information, they make up for in entertainment. You want people to watch, and often this direction is an easier way to ensure that people will be engaged.
Side note, I hate the term viral, especially when it's asked for. Virality is difficult to predict and is a trait that can only be determined post-launch. You can do a lot to make your video conducive to virality, but luck will always play a big part.
Product-centric videos are less risky but do more to show what your product is about. They can still be entertaining, but are required to portray more straightforward information. It's still possible to be novel (not everything has to be a stale animated illustration) but this takes creativity. I like to think that you can innovate on three planes: content (script), production (style), or distribution (medium). Anyone can make a video like this, but it's way more fun to make one like this.
Videos are great for press coverage, despite what the periodic misguided article says. In the same way they make your product page look more exciting, they make stories looks more interesting.
If the video is good enough, it can generate its own press story. This is great because it allows for coverage outside of the normal tech channels and thus a wider audience. Can be hard to predict though. In my experience, there is no telling what will be appealing or not to press. A fickle beast.
You basically want to give people every possible reason to talk about your product. If one of those reasons is the promo video, great.
This is hardly an article long enough to be worthy of a conclusion. For further reading, there are of course stats of all kinds flying around about video's effect on conversion rates, bounce rates etc.
Short answer: yes, videos are fucking awesome and help in ways beyond just signups.
Flying home to DC, I encountered the CLEAR podium once again at SFO. I was once a member, but canceled almost immediately, overcome by the awkwardness of the process.
If you haven't heard of CLEAR, it's a service that prescreens you and allows you to “skip the line” at airport security. The point of the prescreening is unclear, as the membership only affects your placement in the security line. You still pass through all the same security checks as the unscreened masses, but you skip the line.
What they don't mention is that you don't really skip the line, you cut it. There is a difference between skipping and cutting. Skipping means bypassing. Cutting involves being placed in front of already wary and annoyed travelers – most of whom have no idea what CLEAR is, let alone any respect for its rules.
The process is annoying for everyone. CLEAR participants have a new and highly awkward security process to overcome, one that I would argue is far worse than just waiting in line. Non-members have to deal with the frustration and confusion of having this uncomfortable individual placed in front of them. Funnily, the CLEAR member who was deposited in front of me today ended up being “randomly” selected for a manual pat-down after the X-ray. $179 well spent, clearly.
Interesting idea, but the execution is hardly ideal. Not surprisingly the company in its previous incarnation went out of business. I like the idea of not having to wait, but paying to have a TSA agent push through the line is hardly the ideal way to “bypass security”.
And if you still have to take off your shoes after it all, it doesn't count.
I've seen a few topics on Quora recently, asking how expensive it is to make a promo video. The answers vary, but all involve using an outsourced shop and range between $10-$150K.
One skill I have developed while working at Firespotter is making promo videos really fast, cheap, and effective, without the help of an outsourced shop, usually with a crew of 1-5 people. Cost varies, but is always between $0-$2K. The most successful ones having been the cheapest.
Having just burnt the jets to get this video done in a weekend, the process is fresh in my head. Here are some tips for executing a solid video on a short timeframe, without spending a lot of money:
If you don't have a concept to shoot around, you're dead in the water. I never start working on a video unless the general outline has solidified in my head. Most of these tips will assume that you have an idea to work with. If you can't think of something, then you probably shouldn't be making a video in the first place.
Rent on a Friday
If money is super tight, rent the camera. If you rent on a Friday, most shops will call the weekend “one day” and you'll get the gear for two days for the price of one. If you're buying, the most cost effective camera, all around, for a startup to purchase is probably a Canon 6D. I personally use a 5D, but the 6D is cheaper and has just about the same video specs. If I could only pick one lens it would be the 35mm f1.4 for someone with experience, the 24-105mm f4 for someone without. It's worth investing in some audio gear as well as most cameras have absolute shit when it comes to onboard audio input quality.
Find Someplace Crazy
This is one of the easiest ways to make a video appear more professional or awesome. Basically just get out of your house or office and find someplace unique that works with your concept. If you're in San Francisco, you're in luck. There are countless locations that read on-camera as exotic. Use Google Satellite to scrounge for interesting looking places.
A Small Effective Team
First, someone has to be in charge. If you're going to move fast, decisions can't turn into long discussions. Someone needs to have the final word and be ready to deliver it quickly.
You only need one person to make an awesome video, but the sweetspot for me is generally around 3-5. Ideally you have:
1) People that have some experience being on camera. If I am going to spend extra money anywhere, it's here. People that are comfortable being on camera are crucial on shoots that need to happen fast. Actors are ideal. 2) A generalist that can handle a lot of gear. You only need one person to handle your camera/audio. This person should probably be you. 3) The Free Safety. Basically someone that can handle the unexpected glitches and speed bumps that inevitably will occur. This can also be you.
Learn After Effects
This is the intimidating part that is actually really easy. My weapons of choice are Premier and After Effects. If you have any experience with Photoshop or other Adobe programs, After Effects is actually very easy to learn once inside. It's basically Photoshop with a timeline and keyframes animation. If you can wrap your head around that, you can learn the basics in a weekend I promise. This is another easy way to make a budget video have really high production value.
There are a lot of crappy “film” apps out there. Nothing is better than a well organized Evernote Notebook. Each of my shoots has its own Notebook with separate notes for script, gear, shot lists and a brain dump area for thoughts as they come.
Generally I like to promote the video separately from whatever the video itself is trying to promote. There are two reasons for this: 1) some channels are just more tailored to media content, and will post videos but not say, mobile apps. A place like fstoppers for example. 2) If you time it right, the video can generate additional press, as opposed to being lumped in with your launch. Also, you don't want to be emailing people about more than one thing.
A Word on Efficacy
OK sure you can do a video for cheap, but is it worth it in the first place? This question probably warrants another post, so I'll make it so. The short answer is yes, but it depends*
Today we're launching our iPhone and Android apps for ÜberConference. I think you'll enjoy them, they both make conference calling easier than it has ever been.
We also made the video above to promote the launch. I've gotten a little burnt out on the typical app walkthrough style: shallow depth of field, over-the-shoulder app shots, precious indie music, happy hipsters hanging in Dolores Park, etc. We wanted to try something completely different.
I like our QVC-spoof because it's weird as hell for an app launch video. Who knows if it will “succeed” in getting the word out, but it sure was fun to make.
I was interviewed on one of my favorite blogs yesterday: The Great Discontent. It's a long interview and covers all sorts of topics, including how I got into design, why I dropped out of my grad program, and what I do at 1:14am. See the interview here.
I love TGD for many reasons, but let me list a few:
First, they don't shy away from long-form content. Interviews are as long as they need to be, unedited and full of a variety of topics. Tina does a remarkable job transcribing the hour long (in my case) conversation. I've done transcription before, and it's no easy task. I like this because it's rare; you just don't see really long interviews on the web very often.
Second, from a design perspective, the blog is fantastic. The responsive design keeps everything looking good across platforms – it's one of the best implementations of it I've seen. The typography and layout are also both spot-on.
I also love the format and how simple it is. The featured interview takes over the homepage and becomes the TGD page for that week. Next week, it's someone new with old interviews kept in the archive. Featured + an archive. Done. Love it.