Seesmic and the Nabakov equation

Yesterday AJ Cann posted about his frustration with Seesmic, which he felt was going backwards in terms of usability. This led to an exchange in his comments via Seesmic (and cool, Seesmic founder Loic LeMuir joined in). If you haven't used it, Seesmic offers threaded video dialogue, much like the threaded text-based forums we have been so accustomed to in VLEs.

Seesmic has had some financial problems recently, it'd be a shame to see it go under. The outcome might be that this type of functionality ends up as a YouTube add-on. Personally I think Seesmic should pitch themselves much more as a direct educational tool, rather than general use. But then Loic LeMuir probably knows more about running web businesses than me.

What it did get me thinking about was 'the video threshold'. AJ related his experience with trying to get students to use Seesmic (they didn't, preferring Twitter instead). There is a resistance to using video in a casual, informal manner I think that has two causes:

1) Parsimony – for those of us older than 30, my suspicion is that we have grown accustomed to regarding video as 'expensive' in some sense – video tapes, DVD, broadband requirements – it's always video that costs. It costs in terms of storage and it costs in terms of effort. We used to have clunky VHS cameras, and complex editing suites to produce anything on video. The idea that you use it casually for a half-formed idea takes a bit of getting used to. This I think is a hangover from pre-digital, or expensive storage days. We'll get over it.

2) The Nabakov equation. Nabakov said "I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child". Many of us suffer a similar degradation in terms of communication quality. Me? I think like a distinguished author, write like a blogger, speak like an X-Factor reject. So, there is a reluctance to use video in a casual, unscripted manner because it exposes this rambling incoherent self (you only need to look at the exchange I had with AJ to see this in action on my part). I wonder if this is a generational factor too – teenagers now are used to videoing everything.

So why should you use Seesmic? My feeling is that although the initial threshold may be higher, once it is reached, you get greater buy-in. You make a slightly stronger connection when you are engaged in a video dialogue, which makes the motivation to respond greater.

Here's some research we should do – give one student cohort standard structured text forums and another set Seesmic and compare usage. My bet is that more people would use the text forums, but those who used Seesmic would use it more intensively and derive greater benefit from it.

So, below is a quick Seesmic vid from me to start the conversation, please respond via Seesmic, particularly if you haven't used it before.

Seesmic and the Nabakov equationAs part of a blog post at, where I am discussing the pyschological barrier people have to using video.


  1. Doug Clow says:

    The other big thing that slows the adoption of video for communication is that – like audio – it’s very, very *slow* for the consumer. Most of the time you can only watch/listen at the speed it was recorded; if you have the tools available (and they’re not, typically) you can probably get up to double speed, but beyond that it’ll get incomprehensible.
    I can skim hundreds of blog posts and Tweets in the time it’d take to watch a couple of videos. Skimming video and audio is very, very hard even if you have good tools – and the video and audio tools we have are desperately primitive compared to the text tools, and even the still image tools.

  2. Shame on you for not responding in Seesmic Doug! You are quite right though, which is why you need to keep Seesmic snippets short and snappy. The other problem is that often I’m not in a place where I can listen to audio easily – I’m at my desk at work, or at home and the TV is one, or on a train. Sure, I can put headphones in, but that requires, you know, effort.
    But you can multitask with audio, so you can have it running and be doing something else. As long as no-one mentions cognitive load.
    I’m a text kinda guy overall, but I think Seesmic works for getting a conversation going if that’s what you want.

Leave a Reply