Your Own Movie Studio

It still seems like a dream. As kids we may have envisaged that one day we would have our own space ship but probably few dreamed of having their own movie studio. One reason is that a space ship is a tangible single object. A 50s sci fi ship would fit in a garage. We knew even then that a real rocket capable of getting out of Earth’s gravity had to be huge to blast off up to 11 kilometers per second, many times the speed of sound. Yet the personal space ship was still appealing.

A movie studio wasn’t something you’d think of in your future garage. Studio lot buildings were aircraft hangers with a cast of hundreds. Just look at the credit list of any Hollywood movie to realize the scale of these productions. The list can take several minutes to scroll.

Who then would have dreamed that in the 21st Century you could make movies on a card table? And not just 4th-rate home movies screened to your friends and relatives polite enough to sit and watch. The potential is there to do entertaining and even important movies.

Cats are some of the funniest actors in the world. They make up a lot of YouTube time. But home productions can also touch on topics that the mainstream media have either overlooked, buried, or would find unprofitable to screen. They also may arise from countries whose censorship laws prevent any independent news from escaping.

Current movie cameras, even in mobile phones, are capable of capturing quality audio/visual without need for special crews with lighting and microphones. A traditional crew usually needs a trailer to accompany them just for food & drink refreshments, let alone their lights, cables, reflectors, mixing desks etc. A self-styled ‘reporter’ armed with a mobile phone device can beam up news content to the world at large. The images can be edited with laptop-level gear into high quality studio levels of production.

Plenty of companies like Digital Juice and those that sell Virtual Sets and Chroma Key gear can provide the slick visual and audio intro’s that we see on commercial TV channels. Your home-grown newscast can look very similar to a commercial production because for a modest outlay you are essentially using the same gear. I often see the same ones I’ve bought used in NFL productions! These companies now use Chroma-Key and the same sorts of digital effects that we can now buy at realistic prices.

Videoblogs have also changed consumer behaviour. The attention span of someone sandwiching a YouTube video into their schedule is quite different to someone settling in with popcorn to watch an evening’s movies. The traditional movie takes several minutes to roll the introductory credits. A YouTube video would be well & truly finished before then. The videoblog is often a 30 second grab. Indeed, this affects the ability to embed ads for revenue as a 10 second ad can seem proportionately more of an annoyance for someone preparing to view a 30 second video.

All this has profound implications. Where once blogs were dismissed as at best 3rd-rate news sources and at worst as misleading ‘conspiracy theorists’ and quacks in the age-old tradition of ‘pamphleteers’ they are now taken seriously by the search engines as sources of fresh and commercially-independent information. A blog may well come up higher in search rankings than a multimillion dollar commercial news source. Indeed, a blog is international. A traditional TV station, even if part of a vast corporate network, may only reach a few countries. Traditional media outlets are now forced to offer ‘free to cyberspace’ information to stay relevant.

With all this power comes new risks and opportunities. Never forget that some of those early pamphleteers were instrumental in bringing about the civil rights many of us now take for granted.

Fasten those seatbelts.


Learn Guitar in 10 Minutes

Music has long had distinct traditions of performing and listening. Traditional Chautauqua brought orchestras to communities that had plenty of do-it-yourself music with church choirs, folk music, guitar-pickin’ and fiddles. The 21st Century can expose an infant to any pop song or symphony at the flick of a touch screen. But when it comes to learning to create music, little had changed. Music training, even with electronic aids, still required the learner to master the physical skills to create the sounds as specified by the composer. Only a small number complete the complex process of learning a musical instrument.

Music educators began to look for ways to engage “the other 80 percent” -ie- those who don’t pursue music once they leave school.

The ‘play by ear in 10 minutes’ system was created for this purpose. It has all the attributes of a disruptive innovation. Like the early motor car compared to the horse initially it seems to offer no advantage. Kids who can learn to play a chord with one finger could probably just as easily use two or three fingers. … they still have to count to twelve to play twelve bar blues … to play by ear they still have to listen carefully to the songs … etc. But the key point is that they just don’t do it. Most never bother.

So this system is a disruptive innovation because it creates a new market rather than a new technology. A DI uses existing elements and is often actually simpler than the technology used by the mainstream. We’ve seen this music cycle many times before. Pop music becomes too difficult for the common folk. A craze then develops around grass roots play-it-yourself instruments like: the ukulele craze in the early 1900s, the bouncing ball sing-along, DoWop groups, Hootenanny, garage bands, and kara-oke. Our music systems are all aimed at the most casual easy to learn level.

Your own international studio network

Something else no science fiction writer predicted was the capability to run an international media network at negligible cost from a laptop. Not long after everyone had become their own publishing house for ebooks and articles the doors were opened to free multimedia hosting. Where artists once needed a wealthy patron to host a gallery viewing and musicians needed live gigs suddenly anyone could put up .mp3s and .mp4s for free distribution and download. Instead of struggling to get airplay on someone’s radio show you could now host your own radio show with an international audience.

But why stop there when you can have your own radio station? … your own TV shows, your own international 24/7 News shows via free RSS feeds, your own TV and movie studio? …  in other words your own international media network … all run from a laptop, mobile or even an internet café.

The potential for all of this is only just being dimly realized. Any person with a mobile phone becomes an ‘international news correspondent’. They can transmit a quick bit of text and pictures (before the authorities spot them) which their colleagues on the other side of the globe can assemble into a professional-looking newscast. We’ve already seen this with Twitter reporting and it has the potential to become a routine 21st Century medium. I’ve given some examples just to show how easily it can be done. is literally a 24/7 international network. The RSS feeds provide updated generic news.

If you have a specialist niche and following all you would need to add would be a bit of your special content. We’ve had examples of this for some time with enthusiasts like astronomy clubs.

The theme of network-tom is based around helping you get started with your own multimedia. We start from the most basic forms such as a slide show then add media as needed such as audio, animation, video, chroma-key (blue screen) and special effects. A professional-looking production is now possible on a very low budget. The demo’s and tutorials give you ideas and show you how.

Chautauqua for the 21st Century

The Chautauqua movement in USA pioneered adult education for common folk. We’ve tried to recreate a version of this for the new Century as an e-Chautauqua. The 20th Century version brought new information to rural people who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to libraries, lectures and concerts. The 21st Century has change all this. Information is everywhere. The common psychological themes are

  • empowerment
  • imagination
  • experience

In the 19th Century a good speaker with an oil-lamp slide show based on hand-etchings could conjure mental images of distant galaxies. 21st Century pre-schoolers have Hubble space telescope images.  But common to both is the thrill of that first look at the moon through a telescope. It is like the difference in experience between a picture of a pop star and meeting the star in real life. The less makeup and costume the more we feel we’ve experienced a connection with something real.

So our common theme is do it yourself. This can mean many things: It can mean build it yourself or experience it yourself. And sure, common sense prevails. It is often cheaper to buy something at a discount or second hand than to build it yourself. A set of lenses and parts may end up costing more than buying a telescope … A pop star’s album may cost you less than going to a karaoke to sing it yourself. But experiences are priceless. They are what life is all about.

Our e-Chautauqua ‘tents’ are structured around the main themes of traditional Chautauqua:

  • Education
  • Reform
  • Expression

As with the traditional tents they cover a range of activities from psychology through astronomy and music. But you can apply the do-it-yourself, experience-it-yourself logic to your own areas of interest.

The mental business card

The ultimate goal of flyers, business cards, clubs and directories is that people connect. So the ultimate goal logically is a mental business card, mental flyer, mental club and mental listing.

There are two streams of contact: ‘Can those who search for me find me quickly on the Web?’ and ‘Can people come across me who were searching for something or someone else me on the Web?’. The goals of traffic may be the same but setting out the trail may require different strategies and resources.

Pop stars at the top don’t need reminders. They can shorten their name to Elvis or Madonna as their mental business card. If your name is uncommon like Ebenezer Geheuchenschtein you may have little competition. An internet search will quickly find any page with the distinctive phrase ‘Ebenezer Geheuchenschtein’. But if you want people to find you by your nickname ‘Eb’ a search on that pulls up over one billion pages with those two letters (including popular eBay).

My own situation is a good example. The logical ultimate mental business card goal for my name ‘Tom Benjamin’ would be that you only needed to remember ‘Tom’ or ‘T’ to find me via search engines. But those bring up some pretty stiff competition. The letter ‘T’ brings up 24 billion search results. ‘Tom’ narrows it to a mere 2 billion. A logical approach would be to buy a rhyming domain name like, which indeed I did. I bought and  So all you’d need to remember was ‘that guy Tom in Australia’ to logically find me. So it’s a good start as a mental business card but even that is no guarantee. Someone else may have bought the name. Or you may leave off the ‘au’ or ‘-‘ and get someone else’s site. Nor does it guarantee the search engines will find me.

The search engines will be looking for links to my site from other people. If I want people to find me who weren’t particularly searching for my name I need to link my name with their searches.

For example, common searches are “How can I use the internet to make money?”, “personal brand” and “making money with …”. So you would try and find a tasteful way of getting these key words into a page (as I’ve just done here by putting these words on this page!). The search engine will look to see if the words are used in a logical way that follows from other parts of the page and links. The engines rely on search robots for this vast scale indexing so it requires some care to get the right mix of words so that the algorithm doesn’t regard it as an attempt to mislead.

So understanding the psychology of the internet is a good start. It changes rapidly. Methods that worked last week can become tomorrows Myths of the Web. For example –

  • Do you need more followers on Twitter?
  • Do you need an exact match domain name?
  • How important is ‘page rank’?
  • Do you need a groovy hi-tech web site?
  • Do you need to be popular: friends & hits?
  • Will buying ads help your search rank?
  • Should you comment prolifically on blogs and forums?
  • Must you submit site to search engines?
  • They say ‘Content is king’: does that mean ‘professional-quality’?

The answers to such questions change over time. People make a living offering you a service to keep up with these changes.



The Psychology of the Internet

No science fiction writer can be said to have predicted the internet. There were vague references to information networks but most saw it in terms of post-World War II era when computers were huge government and corporate monstrosities fed by teams in white coats. The decentralized form it took, fed by common folk from their homes and desks, evolved almost as soon as they connected their personal computers. Private individuals became personal brands in cyberspace.

There are distinctive approaches to branding: in traditional terms they would be

  • flyer
  • business card
  • club
  • directory

A flyer is given to build contacts with strangers. A club is a place where you are encouraged to make contacts with like-minded people. A card is something you give to someone you’ve contacted. A directory helps people find and contact you. You need all four methods. One can’t substitute for the other.

A club is a social network. Online versions can be chat rooms, hobby posts and forums, with social networking as the primary function. Business networking is regarded as a sort of by-product. The same was seen in traditional service and social clubs. You joined to see and be seen in the community. Those with a good social presence often got business deals as a by-product.

A business card website can be as flashy and inefficient as you like. It’s like a shopfront sign. Your fans are already in the neighbourhood. They already know you. They’ve sought you out. They want to be entertained or buy from you. They want to connect with you. Flash games, movies, picture galleries and QR codes even if they slow down the site may add to the attraction for the true fan.

 A directory website has to appeal to a completely different audience – an inhuman audience. They’re the search engine robots. Robots are maths equations. They can’t appreciate your artistry, humour or humanity. Graphics and games slow them down. They read text. A directory website is optimized for the search engines. Because the search engines are continually re-programmed to make better search experience a site that is well-designed for human traffic will usually appeal also to the search engines.

Flyers and any sort of push advertising are imposed on people. A small percentage response is regarded as good and can be sufficient to be effective. So we may focus on one or the other crowd and sacrifice the other or lead them to different sites. Tasteful and concise may appeal to some at the expense of others who will be attracted by garish and corny. For example, we’ve all seen conversational ‘copywriting’ that looks like this:


Do you wonder why I’m writing this way?

Well, it works. (with some folks)

Yes, that’s right.

Short narrow columns.

Two syllable words.

Folksy, populist appeals.

Special ‘today only’ deals.

Calls to action.

Blah, blah blah


This sort of copy-writing appeals to some audiences. If over-used it signals ‘this guy is trying to sell me something’. But many internet marketers still swear by it.

Some e-mail follow up is essential because one-to-one communication closes deals. But the low price of bulk email has resulted in legal sanctions against spam. So the e-mail ‘flyer’ has to follow on from the business card and directory form of contacts.

These are four very different psychologies. Together they make up the psychology of the internet. Most other methods can be described as variants of these four themes.