The benefits of publicness

My YouTube videos and comments now show my real name.

My YouTube videos and comments now show my real name.

I recently made the move of switching my usernames on various websites to be my real name. Previously, many websites I went on used the name “Zagorath”, or some form of it, like LOTRzagorath which I used on YouTube. Most notably, I linked my YouTube with my Google+ so that it is now using my real name for comments and uploads, and I changed from @zagorath to @jimcullenaus on Twitter.

But why would I go to the effort of making the change, potentially losing recognition among the few people that have come to know me (a few smaller YouTubers, particularly, on whose videos I regularly comment), and gaining a longer Twitter name?

For me, the main reason is simply consistency. I have a Google+ account tied to my real name, and I wanted the benefits of linking my YouTube account to that. In addition, I liked the idea that people could see my real name on both, so it was immediately clear that they were the same person. This second reason is also part of the benefit of changing Twitter along with them. Previously many of my accounts online could be split into two categories: those where I used my real name, and those where I used the handle Zagorath (or some variation thereof). Facebook, email, and Google accounts were probably the only ones that fall into the former category, while most others used Zagorath. However, even for this latter group, it has always been easy to find out my real name because in many cases that same account had my real name entered into another field. The best example of this is my Twitter account, where my real name has always been visible along with the handle.

Other than that, I believe that by using my real name people will be able to trust in what I have to say. By knowing this is a real person attaching their real name to what they do, I believe people will be less inclined to subconsciously discount or devalue what I have to say because of my anonymity.

Over time, I’ll see about changing over what I haven’t already changed (this blog, for example—Wordpress does not allow you to change your username, although you can change the URL), but for the moment I’ve made the changes on the majority of the accounts that I use regularly that I would wish to change

After I had drafted most of this post, I realised that this was something journalist and advocate of openness Jeff Jarvis (who I know from the This Week in Google podcast he co-hosts weekly on the TWiT Network) probably had something to say about, so I did a quick search and it turns out he’s done a post with the exact same title. His post is a far better one at actually describing the general benefits of being public and open. It’s a brilliant read, based on a chapter from his book “Public Parts” which—from what little I’ve read about it—looks like a really enlightening book. That post brings up some great benefits to publicness in a more general sense, and talks about being public not necessarily (or, not only) with your name, but with sharing information and knowledge in a public and open way. It’s a sentiment I can definitely agree with.

I definitely see the advantage of anonymity. It can allow people to express unpopular viewpoints without fear of potential retribution—social, political, or otherwise—but for me personally I think the benefits of publicness outweigh the negatives.

The effect of blogging on people’s writing ability

This is a blog post that originated from when I wrote for The Teen Geek, a website that has now been discontinued. I then cross posted it onto my Tumblr, before I gave up on that service.

This is my first blog post here, and effectively my first ever, so I thought it would be fitting to write a blog about blogging. Or, specifically, the effects that blogging can have on your ability to write.

Probably the most obvious effect it’s going to have is on your grammar—especially with regards to diction and punctuation. It stands to reason that if you are practicing using all those skills that you learnt in primary school, you’re going to get better at using them. If a writer is treating their blog in a formal or semi-formal manner, and doing their best to use correct grammar, then they will gradually, with the help of constructive feedback from their readers, improve in their writing skills.

Writing a blog may also help you with your ability to research and cite information. Another great tool for this purpose is Wikipedia. (I myself write for Wikipedia from time-to-time, and have even created a whole article.)

However, it is possible for blog writing to have a negative effect. This is particularly true if they rely too heavily on spell-check, and the ever-more accurate grammar-checks that modern word processors (such as Microsoft Office Word) have.

I think that it’s important for people to always treat their writing with pride, and no matter what they’re doing, they should try to produce a work of the best quality possible. The only exceptions I see for this are microblogs, where people need to keep the text as short as possible. If people follow this relatively simple rule, they can expect not only to see their writing abilities improve, but also they will likely get more positive reviews, and they will begin to see more traffic.

On the other side of the coin, reading other peoples’ blogs can also help to improve your writing ability in much the same way as listening to a wide variety of music will help a composer, or looking at a lot of artwork from various artists will prove beneficial to an artist.

As blogger and freelance writer Michael Kwan says in one of his blogs, about how to improve your writing:

If all you do is restrain yourself to your own little mental world, you probably won’t improve your writing. In addition to all the writing I do each day, I also do a fair bit of reading. I check out dozens of other blogs on the Internet, I read plenty of tech news through the usual sources, and I check up on the local paper to see what’s happening in the world beyond the blogosphere. Just through pure osmosis, you will start to collect certain ideas and styles that you can integrate into your own writing. This is particularly useful for people who have English as a second language, because it exposes you to the little nuances that they may not teach you in formal English training.

And he is absolutely right. Your writing will improve dramatically if you read other peoples’ blogs—and other forms of writing—because you will take some ideas from the writing of each different person. Gradually you will build up your own writing voice.

As a final point, blogging often will also build your own confidence; if you are getting some good feedback; and this can help you in all areas of life, from your future blogs, to getting a job, to asking a girl out.

Remember to listen to any feedback you get, positive feedback will boost your confidence, while negative (but constructive) feedback will help you improve your writing, so you can do a better job next time.

As this is my first blog, I’m going to request feedback from anyone who reads this. I really do need to know how this is. Any sort of feedback would be much appreciated. The same will apply to any later posts I leave.

I’m still, by the way, interested in any feedback you have on this.

Just my luck

I seem to get everything I need right after I need it.

I recently helped in making a film, and just a few days after the deadline for submission, the rainy season finally started. We had been waiting to try and film in the rain for weeks prior to that, and ended up doing the scene without the rain.

The day after the actual screening, my YouTubesubscriber box had a video titled “HOW TO MAKE FAKE BLOOD! – Special FX!“. The film had a scene with some fake blood in it, and although our props manager did a pretty good job of making the blood, it wasn’t perfect. On the plus side, the lower quality projectors actual made the blood seem better than it was on a high quality screen, by seeming darker and thicker.

Similar, but not quite identical, Final Cut Pro X was announced literally days after I finally finished downloading the older version of Final Cut Studio.

I’m sure if I went into it I could think of many more examples if I went into it. What examples of something like this can you think of that happened to you? I’m interested in seeing your feedback.

Overly vivid dreams

Just let me start by saying, this is a really long post, and although I think it’s actually very interesting, and I think you would enjoy reading all of it, if you just want the most important bit, skip ahead to where it says “this is where it gets most interesting”.

It’s fairly common knowledge (although not universally known) that people dream every night. Whether or not you remember your dreams depends mostly on whether or not you wake up during the middle of the dream. Given that we dream every night, it’s not surprising that most people occasionally remember their dreams.
There are so many different types of dreams, from nightmares, to wish fulfillment, but one that I find particularly fascinating are the “overly vivid dream”. You know, the one where you remember — at least for a short time afterwards — specific details that would never have been noticed in a normal dream. The ones that leave you wondering whether or not it was real when you wake up. Last night, I had one such dream.
I don’t remember how the dream started, (do we ever?) but what I remember is I was watching a film with my cousin in it. There was a really clever line of dialogue between him and a girl — who was a fictional character from my imagination, but was clearly meant to be some sort of famous actor — which unfortunately I can’t remember any more; at the time the line was extremely convincing, and I really wish I could still remember what it was (I think it was either some really wise/philosophical comment, or something romantic in a non-cheesy way.). Next, the two of them exchanged the most bizarre kiss I’ve ever seen: probably the first sign that this was a dream and not real. The two of them were facing the same direction, towards the screen, and then they turned slightly inward so that the corner of their mouths could just touch, and they briefly kissed, before my cousin left. Despite it seeming extremely strange now, to my dreaming mind it wasn’t so bad, and the rest of the audience to this strange film clearly enjoyed it — based on the background noise of the dream: yet another thing that made this dream seem life-like.
The dream then did another thing that seems perfectly normal during the dream, but is bizarre once awake: a sudden change to another scenario. In this case, my cousin (why is the whole dream about my cousin, I don’t think it’s ever happened before…) was being awarded with a trial-basis job commentating on professional sport. Exactly which sport it was was never mentioned, but because of the sports that are popular where I’m from, and what sports he’s good at, it was implied to be Rugby League. What is known, is that he would be commentating on the Saturday and Sunday games, and would be judged based on his performance during them whether or not to be given a full-time job.


This is where it gets most interesting (read on to see more)

He then went up to make a thank you speech. He starts his speech by saying he’d like to thank his wife. I remember thinking at the time how he didn’t have a wife, and then after quite a long pause, he confirmed this, laughing. He then went on with a fairly stereotypical thank you speech for a little while, before stopping, picking up his paper with notes on it, and showing it to the audience. This is where the dream got most bizarrely vivid and specific. This is why I’m posting about the dream.
During the dream, I could literally read the words written on the paper, and one section in particular stood out. Randomly, about two thirds of the way down the paper was a single bar of stave music. I remember looking at this music and reading out what the notes where to myself: G A A G, all in the treble clef right at the top of the stave. That’s G5 A5 A5 G5 for those music geeks among you. The fact that this writing was so clear, and the music notes so specific just goes to show how strangely specific dreams can sometimes be.
He then went on to explain how stupid it was that he was reading this from a script someone else gave him, and was about to give a proper, legitimate thank you speech, when I was woken up for school.
During the dream, and for a short while after I woke up, I remember thinking that I should go on Facebook and congratulate him on getting the job as a commentator. Due to the attention to detail in this dream: background noise, specific; easily audible, specific dialogue; and even the amazingly accurate visual effects; I was completely convinced, even for a short time while awake, that it had actually happened.
It just goes to show you how amazing and creative the human mind can be…
If you’ve ever had a dream like this, or one that’s interesting in any other way, please let me know about it.

48 Hour Film Project

This weekend (starting Friday, 29th October 2010) a group of friends and I participated in the 48 Hour Film Project. It’s a competition where groups from all around the world have to create a movie — write, shoot, and edit — in just 48 hours. They are given a specific genre (we got “Buddy film”), line (“Same same, but different”), prop (incense), and character (“Pham Minh An, Taxi/Xe Om/Xyclo Driver”).
Prizes are largely irrelevant in this event, but they can be found here.
For more details on the event, see 48 Hour Film Project, and 48 Hour Film Project Vietnam.

My group’s name was “IdleNation”, and we chose to create a film about two unlikely friends who help each other through difficulty, and in doing so discover that they have a lot in common.

It was an amazing chance to experience what filmmaking is like. As the editor, I had to learn about the intricacies of editing in Final Cut Express for the first time, only actually using  it for the first time just 48 hours before the project started. Despite this, I feel I learnt a lot about using the program, and editing in general over the course of the project.

Targets for next year: learn to use LiveType, Final Cut’s integrated title making program; learn how to set up the project’s properties — we recorded in 720p, but the final project is significantly less than that, and our canvas had black stripes at the top and bottom, this resulted in a low quality final project. 

We took a lot of our sound effects and music from iMovie, since this is classed as not for profit. Other sound effects and music were found at various sources online — all of them royalty-free, of course!

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, and I’m sure my group members will agree it was a great experience, however stressful!

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