Image: hitthatswitch/Flickr

Image: hitthatswitch/Flickr

Ever wondered what makes a video go viral? As an online science video producer I’m constantly mulling over this question, trying to figure out the right formula of content and style to create a popular video.

Some students of YouTube claim that viral videos have common characteristics.  Kevin Nalty, a professional marketer and “weblebrity” with over 187 million views on YouTube, thinks he has the formula at least partially figured out. He writes in his  book “Beyond Viral: How to attract customers, promote your brand and make money with online video” that viral videos tend to include these types of content:

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Thanks to the web everything’s being crowd-sourced–from encyclopedias (see Wikipedia) to science (see FoldIt) to journalism (see iReport) to political campaigns (see Obama’s, 2008). So it was only a matter of time before filmmakers caught the zeitgeist and started producing crowd-sourced documentaries.

The most ambitious such project, from director Ridley Scott, debuted last Thursday at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. “Life in a Day” is a 94-minute film that documents the lives of regular people across the globe. Shot by amateur filmmakers at different times and on different continents, the film was edited down and arranged into the chronology of a single day.

Continue reading Is crowd-sourcing the future of science and nature documentaries?

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David Attenborough in "The Life of Mammals"

David Attenborough in "The Life of Mammals" Image: BBC Worldwide

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on

It’s 2011 and one of this year’s goals  is to relaunch this blog. When I started back in ’09 my goal was to build and grow a “portal” website that would cover a lot of different areas of science. But this is a fool’s errand unless you have limitless time and resources to play with.

So is back with a more personal bent and  a new focus, which is to explore the intersection of science, journalism and multimedia. Or in other words, I’ll  mostly be writing about how we tell true stories about the natural world using all of the modalities of multimedia available to us in the 21st century…whew! Don’t worry–I promise it will be fun.

So with that, let me start by sharing with you some of the science and nature documentaries that have made an impression on me over the years and continue to be a source of inspiration as I create my own body of work.  If you think I’ve missed an awesome movie or three let me know in the comments.

Death by Design:Where Parallel Worlds Meet (Friedman/sBrunet, 1995)

This is a documentary about apoptosis–a.k.a. programmed cell death; a topic most documentary producers wouldn’t touch with a very long stick.  But it’s  artfully pulled off  by Jean-Francois Brunet and Peter Friedman (a microbiologist and film director, respectively) by blending archival footage of Hollywood musicals with microcinematography of cells committing suicide.

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If you are looking for an exhaustive, comprehensive list of 2009’s best science stories–you have come to the wrong place. If that’s your cup of tea, I’ll direct you to Scientific American’s incredibly complete and insightful slide show of the year’s biggest stories.*

Instead, what follows is a compendium of the ten stories that I personally found interesting, culled from the mysterious depths of my Facebook and Twitter accounts. These are articles that, for one reason or another, I deemed compelling enough to share with my friends and colleagues–and now with you. And just like the seconds counting down to 2010, we’ll start with number ten and work our way down to number one.

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