7 Breathtakingly Simple Ways To Create Amazing Shareable Viral Video Content

July 26, 2017 Comments Off on 7 Breathtakingly Simple Ways To Create Amazing Shareable Viral Video Content

I’m a helpful sort. I like to pass on my knowledge and share it with others in the hope that it makes their life easier or happier. So here is my foolproof guide to creating viral video content.

  1. Either find or produce a video. It can be good, sure. It can be heartwarming or it can showcase the profound stupidity of some human beings, or it can be really kinda meh. It doesn’t really matter – you make or find something that works for your purposes.
  2. Write a title, ensuring that every word is capitalised. It doesn’t matter that society has been moving away from the overuse of capital letters for decades now (Estate Agents aside, as the Guardian style guide notes). You go right ahead and capitalise everything, like some latter day mediaeval monk who hand letters manuscripts with a proper quill if that makes your little heart happy.
  3. Ensure the title makes a promise it probably won’t keep. “You Won’t Believe What Happened When…” or “It Was Just Another Wedding Until…” or “You’ll Be Blown Away When You See…” You will believe it. It was just another wedding. You won’t be blown away. Trust me. That bridegroom isn’t much of a dancer.
  4. Break the most important rule of great writing. This might be point four, but it’s the most important one. That rule is simple: show, don’t tell. Or as Anton Chekhov wrote, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” But what did Chekhov know of likes and shares?! Pffft. You tell your little heart out, baby. Tell me what’s in the video. Tell me why it’s breathtaking. Tell me some background too, why dontcha? Tell me every damn thing you can think of to say about that video till I’ve scrolled down through your telling for at least three minutes trying to find the damn thing. And then maybe tell me some more just in case I don’t feel told.
  5. Include some screenshots of the video. These should look like they are the video, but not actually be the video link. You have to be careful with these – just enough for me to click, realise my mistake and move on, but not so many that I lose interest and click away. Quelle horreur! We can’t have people navigating away!
  6. Make sure the video is somewhere on the continuum between slightly disappointing and complete crud. Those are the ones that gain the most traction.
  7. Right after the video, have the most enormous Facebook and Twitter sharing buttons the world has ever seen, and have at least a paragraph exhorting people to share the love, pass it on, delight their friends and neighbours and Facebook stalkers. EVERYONE NEEDS TO SEE YOUR VIDEO! And it is other people’s job to make sure that happens – not yours. Use passive aggression, smarmy sales phrases, blatant manipulation – whatever you need to do to get that video going viral!

But please, whatever you do, don’t ever create something simple and elegant that speaks for itself, and doesn’t need any preamble whatsoever other than a short, sharp, intriguing headline. We can’t have that kind of thing circulating on the internet.


Dear Teacher

July 17, 2017 § 6 Comments

Dear Teacher,

Every time you tell my daughter that her well-argued opinion is incorrect because it’s not on your marking memo, you teach her that her opinion only counts if it conforms.

Every time you tell my daughter she may not wear a legitimate part of her school uniform to be warm, because you believe she won’t look smart enough, you teach her that looks are more important than health or self-care.

Every time you hold my daughter to a standard you are not prepared to uphold yourself, you teach her that hypocrisy is part and parcel of being the stronger one in the power relationship: that there’s no need to lead by example.

Every time you punish the whole class for the misdemeanours of a few, you teach my daughter that justice is an illusion.

Every time you admonish my daughter for not being ‘ladylike’,  you reinforce the notion that she will by judged by her gender rather than her contribution to society.

Every time you expect my daughter to do a pile of school work in the holidays, but are quick to point out that you don’t want to do so, you teach her that double standards are permitted if they’re held by those in authority.

Every time you flounce out of the class in frustration at work not done, you teach my daughter that throwing a tantrum and walking away are appropriate ways to deal with conflict.

Every time you decide a test or assignment is ‘not for marks’ because the whole class underperformed, you teach her that results may be manipulated to create a particular image, and that it’s not okay to fail sometimes.

Every time you fail to enforce consequences for serious infringements like plagiarism, you silently condone it.

It’s not just about homework and assessments, or finishing the syllabus. It’s not just about passing and failing.

Every time you do any of these things, a classroom full of impressionable young minds is learning how to lead and be led, how to make one’s way in the world, how things really work.

Every parent knows that children learn far more what their parents do, than from what they say. Someday, dear teacher, your charges will forget how to factorise, and identify the passive voice; how to titrate a solution, or name a cloud formation.

But they won’t forget the way you behaved; the way you made them feel. That’s where the real learning happens.

How to be a good patient

July 5, 2017 § 3 Comments

I have dealt with a lot of doctors in my time. It’s not that I’ve been particularly ill, but I was married to a doctor for two decades, and I’ve been a health journalist for about the same length of time – although one had nothing to do with the other, coincidentally.

This has given me a unique vantage point, and when I interview doctors for the stories I write, the same things come up over and over again: a kind of wish list that doctors have when it comes to their patients. So here’s a handy how-to, in the interests of fostering good doctor-patient relationships.

First, resist the urge to google your symptoms. A few weeks ago I went to a braai [barbecue] and came home with a bunch of symptoms, feeling decidedly unwell. “I’m a health journalist,” I thought. “I can figure this out.” By the time 1am arrived, I had added anxiety and insomnia to my symptoms, as I’d convinced myself I was going to die from smoke inhalation with a side order of salmonella. It turned out I had a bad flu, twhich morphed into pneumonia. I’m pleased to report that I am still alive, several weeks later.

As the epithet on the mug on my doctor’s desk says: “Don’t confuse your Google search with my medical degree.” Your doctor has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the human body – trust me on this. I’ve seen the books; I know how much doctors need to know to get those two degrees. And then there’s a whole lot of experience on top of that, which adds to their already impressive knowledge. The good ones know what they know, and they also know when they don’t know and it’s time to send you to a specialist. Find yourself a good doctor – there are many out there.

Once your doctor has made a diagnosis, by all means go to a reputable site like mayoclinic.com or webmd.com and read up some more on whatever you have. But don’t google symptoms and expect a sensible diagnosis to pop out. The diagnosis is everything – you can only treat an illness properly when you know what it is.

Second, accept that you may have to wait sometimes. Doctors don’t like running late any more than you do. Believe it or not, they have spouses and families and other commitments just like you do. (And please be considerate – they are also entitled to time off to rest and spend time with their loved ones. Don’t pester them after hours if they’re not on call.)

But they are also aware that they have a duty to be thorough in taking a history and examining you – both of those things are part of the diagnostic process, and help them to decide if further tests are necessary or if they can simply send you away with a prescription.

In fact, you should be wary of the doctor who doesn’t take the time to listen to you and examine you properly, but runs exactly on time. If your doctor runs late it’s probably because they examined the patients before you properly, and gave them the attention their malady deserves. When it’s your turn, you’ll get the same care and attention. If you don’t – find another doctor.

Then, go back to the doctor if you’re not improving. It’s a bit much to expect your doctor to be psychic too. They can’t tell that you aren’t getting better unless you tell them! There are very few conditions with only one option of treatment, and every body is different. Some people respond well to one method of treatment, and some don’t – so go back and say, “This isn’t working,” or “I’m not feeling any better,” or “I’ve noticed that I have this or that side-effect.” Work with your doctor and you’ll get better treatment.

Which brings me to my next point: take the treatment as prescribed. Too many people only take some of the treatment, or do some of what is suggested and then mutter about how useless the doctor is. You’ve asked for their expertise, so use it! Comply fully with the treatment and if it’s not working, then go back to them so they can try a different tack.

Finally, take responsibility for your own health. Partly that means living a healthy lifestyle – eating well, exercising, not smoking, drinking moderately and getting enough sleep. But it also means asking any questions you have – about what is wrong with you, about your treatment, about how you can support the prescribed treatment. Your doctor wants you to be well. You want to be well. If you work with your doctor instead of against them, you’ll have a much better experience overall.

  • A postscript: if you find yourself at a social occasion with a doctor, it is not okay to start asking them about your medical conditions. If you want their opinion, make an appointment during consulting hours.

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