I really enjoyed Paul Boutin’s article “A Grand Unified Theory of YouTube and MySpace.” He suggests that YouTube and MySpace have become smash hits not because of their social networking features, but because they are “easy to use, and they don’t tell you what to do.” Here are some highlights:

“Given up on BitTorrent because it feels like launching a mission to Mars? If you’ve sent an e-mail attachment, you’ve got the tech skills to publish on YouTube.”

“I think MySpace’s popularity has to do with its puppylike accessibility. A typical page looks like something a Web-enthralled high schooler might have put up in 1996, but with more pics and a soundtrack. I agree with design guru Jesse James Garrett, who says the site’s untrained layout sends a “we’re just like you” message to newcomers. That encourages them to experiment with content genres the site’s designers didn’t build into templates.”

“The easier it gets to use, the less geeky the Net becomes, and the more it starts to look like real life.”

I just updated the info about me on this website. I had to put together a history of speaking engagements, and have never kept good records, so after dredging it up from memory, I thought I would post the list. (If I’ve forgotten any, let me know.)

I’d like to be able to say that I like public speaking. I certainly welcome the opportunity to do it, and it’s growing on me. I love the chance to meet interesting people who come talk to me after the event. I’ve actually grown to enjoy the doing of it — in the moment, on stage, speaking about something I am passionate about. However, before the event is a struggle. I’m not sure I can call it “stage fright” since once I start talking I’m fine. I always have to over-prepare. I usually create way more material than I need, and then pare it down. I try to give my talk at least once completely so that I can get the timing of it, but I always feel stupid talking without an audience. It’s even harder with a fake audience, but it’s better practice. For small groups, if I know the topic really well, sometimes I just wing it with an outline, but I’ve usually gone through four or five potential talks in my head before the event. I don’t think I’m obsessive. I think that being really prepared it’s the only way to do it well, at least for me.

Here are a few things I do to get through public speaking panic, so I can can enjoy the event:
* think about the audience: who are they? why do Ithey care about what I’m talking about? what do they want to learn? (sometimes a good way to start the talk is to ask questions of the audience)
* prepare a great outline (this is never the same as a great set of slides — they complement each other)
* write down the first sentence (or the first few sentences) of the talk
* practice giving the talk while in the shower or driving or cooking dinner — it’s great to be able to talk while focusing on something else (in the live talk, that would be the audience)
* practice giving the talk to other people (to get their feedback, to make it real)

What do you do to prepare a great talk?

I just heard about Geekcorps (via sfwow mailing list). They describe themselves “as a non-profit moving at the speed of the Internet.”

“Geekcorps, a division of IESC, promotes economic growth in the developing world by sending highly skilled technology volunteers to teach communities how to use innovative and affordable information and communication technologies to solve development problems.”

I wish they had been around when I had summers off and lacked responsibilities that keep me at home. It sure seems like a fabulous way to see the world. I thought I would write about them in case any of YOU might like to volunteer :)