Teaser video for Confessions book: now up!

The first in a series of videos O’Reilly Media has made for the book is up.

This also appears on the amazon.com page along with the sample chapters.

42 Responses to “Teaser video for Confessions book: now up!”

  1. Kathy Sierra

    I love what this video says (and I’m a HUGE HUGE HUGE fan of the book), but please… reconsider the idea of putting up text that matches what Scott is saying. Studies have shown this increases cognitive load (Chandler/Sweller ’91, Mayer ’01), and it’s a big distraction from an otherwise *wonderful* message. Other options: put the words up against music only, or between spoken words, or have visuals that include only a single key word from what Scott’s saying. It’s the matching word for word with the audio that’s a problem.

    I love the video anyway, but you know I can never resist a brain-friendliness opportunity ;)

  2. Robin

    Nice! I have read the sneak-a-peak chapters at amazon and liked it very much!

  3. Alex

    Hi Scott, nice to “see” you again. Love the video, the jotted clipping, even when the text follows your words, but that music! Urgh! I reckon it will be 100 times better without. :)

  4. Truls

    Very nice. I was considering buying the book and now I am sold.

    I agree on the music though, last time I heard music this bad on a video the people in it were nekkid ;-)

    And may I just say how much I have enjoyed your blog through the year(s). Thank you for that and I hope you book is as huge a success as it seems to warrant.

  5. Branimir ?orluka

    Hi Scott, great video! You can literaly feel the power and the enthusiasm.

  6. Scott Berkun

    Hi Kathy! Thanks for the note, I’ll pass it on to O’Reilly’s video folks who produced this.

    As far as cognitive theory, I’d argue advertising breaks various established principles all the time since their goal is not to teach, but to maintain interest for 30-60 seconds and be memorable in some way. For an ad, like this one, it might not matter if the cognitive load were lower if it also meant that people didn’t watch more than 10 seconds of it.

    This video might not be interesting, but the notion of breaking cognitive psychology principles for reasons like this make sense given the theory of advertising.

    I think someone could write an excellent paper about how many principles of cognitive psychology are broken by the most popular television ads, movie previews, etc.

  7. Kathy Sierra

    Scott: the video is *too* interesting ;) We’ll have to disagree on whether this is a valid reason–and way–to include cognitive load. The need to get and keep attention is no different for advertising/promotion vs. learning (or entertainment, for that matter), even if the implementations may vary. The notion that there is a tradeoff — that reducing cognitive load comes at the risk of attention — is a misconception. There are many ways to spark repeated attention that do *not* have a side-effect of increased cognitive load.

    I agree that maintaining attention and interest are crucial, and that continually introducing nano “wake-ups” are a powerful tool to do that. I’m saying that the way it’s done in THIS video (with the text words exactly mirroring the spoken words) is having an opposite effect, at least at the below-conscious level.

    I doubt it matters for a video of this length, and with this particular–and awesome– message, I’m just making this point because your book is loaded with fantastic examples of how to improve presentations, while this video includes a technique known to be harmful, especially IF memorability is the goal.

  8. Scott Berkun

    Hi Kathy:

    Thanks for the follow up. We mostly agree here :)

    And just for the record I didn’t design/make the video, Kirk & Suzy @ O’Reilly Media did, I approved it, but it’s their creation.

    I agree on the principle, so no argument there. There is more cognitive load being created in stuff like this.

    But I’d argue that for something short, if that extra load creates subjective value of being interesting, exciting, fun or even just different and therefore memorable, the tradeoff can be worth it. I think there are many successful advertisements that create unnecessary cognitive load. Hell, I think TV shows like CSI and Numbers do tons of things that create unnecessary cognitive load, but I bet they have an argument for why the stuff they do helps their ratings. (I Can’t believe I’m using Jerry Bruckheimer’s CSI to defend something I’ve done, but there it is :)

    And I agree there are many ways to be interesting without unnecessary cognitive load – I could have been naked in the ad or been standing precariously on a ledge, but doing something fun with text was easier to do.

    It’s also interesting to note this text over voice is very trendy these days, for better or worse – I’d love to know what you think of these.

    I think the trend started with this one:

    And you know an idea is mainstream, when it’s in a Ford commercial:

  9. Puneet

    Joining the discussion Kathy & Scott are having. My opinion is limited to this video only.

    In the video Scott does a good job of being coherent and clear. I can see he is excited about the stuff he is talking about. That keeps me interested in listening to more of what he has to say. His pitch is a good one. And due to all these, I think the text is a distraction. I like the background score and Scott has my attention but when the videos is showing just text with his voice in background and does this more than once, I can see the context switching that my brain has to do.

    If this discussion were not going on, I would have just thought: Something did not feel right in the viewing experience but hey I have read his other stuff so this must be good too.

    On a side note, the Ford ad is cool but at the end of it I am thinking that was a different ad. I am NOT thinking I wanna know more about F-150.

  10. Bryan Zug

    While I can’t speak to the cognitive load issue, I do think that the differentiation issue matters — and what I mean by that is this —

    The talking head land rush days are over unless your audience already has a vested interest in your content. Video podcasting + web video + flip/nano/camera-everywhere-yada means that our landscapes are saturated with talking heads now, and we need things to spike the punch (so to speak).

    Text callouts akin to this are easy/cost-effective to do, and do accomplish the differentiation (for now anyway).

    But I do think that the mirror-every-single-word-with-mutliple-reveals-from-every-single-direction-is a bit over the top — simpler would have been better and differentiated.

    Do love the video in general though and can’t wait to download the book.

  11. Scott Berkun

    Turns out there are tons of these, often based on interesting dialog from movies.

    One of the best of the bunch, cognitively speaking, was this one, where various visual tricks are used to illustrate the concepts that are being described.

  12. TJ Goan

    Kathy – this seems like a reach. Sure, we’d be worn out if we watched a 20 minute presentation in this style, but I don’t think the science supports the view that increasing cognitive load (temporarily) reduces memorability.

  13. Elisabeth Robson

    So I agree that the text adds cognitive load, that’s clear.

    However, I also think that in an ad, what you’re going for is impact. No one is trying to learn from the ad. The purpose of the ad is to make an emotional impact of some kind.

    I think what all these videos are doing is using the text as a visual device to increase the impact of the ad. It is not used to convey specific facts or information.

    For instance, in the wedding crashers video, they used the text very cleverly:

    1) the text is part of the design in all the videos, but in wedding crashers, they also incorporated it into the movie theme by having the text form into the shape of a woman at the end. That’s a nice touch that transitions to the woman’s “oh” at the end.

    2) the text is there primarily, I think, to reinforce the concept that figuring out how to meet women feels overwhelming, that the amount of information going through the guy’s head is a LOT. The text – the amount of it, and the speed at which it appears – reinforces the concepts of “overwhelming” and “a lot of information” which is precisely the point.

    Your video has the fast pace of an ad, and you are a fast talker, and I think seeing the text highlights that pace, which generates excitement. So the text reinforces the concept of “exciting”, which is great, because many people think of making presentations as unexciting and a chore. I have to admit that after watching your video twice, I don’t remember most of the points, but I did feel that emotional impact, certainly enough to make me want to buy the book. So, no, I didn’t learn anything in the video (other than people are chicken, love the chicken sound), but the ad worked: it got me excited about the book.

  14. Kathy Sierra

    @TJ Goan — I agree (re: size)… my previous comment said, “doubt it matters for a video of this length”

    and to Scott: As I said earlier, this is a book *about* presentations, so I’ll hold you to a different standard for being an example of the very thing you’re helping us learn to do.

    And quoting all of our mothers ;) — just because others do it doesn’t mean it’s OK. We can like otherwise compelling content not *because* of the techniques used but sometimes *despite* them. There were some brain-hostile “tricks” I put in the first HF book, based on my incorrect interpretation of some research. And it’s been *extremely* difficult to extract them from the format because other authors assume that because the *book* worked, the techniques within must all be sound. In reality, the book worked ONLY because there were enough brain-useful parts to help compensate for the bad ones I either accidentally and/or sloppily included.

    You, Scott, are of course awesome so this is all academic. That we’re having this discussion is just one more reason I’m your fan.

  15. Scott Berkun

    Kathy wrote:

    > to Scott: As I said earlier, this is a book
    > *about* presentations, so I

  16. Kathy Sierra

    @beth you would have been excited *without* the use of that text. I’m certain of it. But I do agree there’s a way in which the all-the-words-matching-audio can be used *to* add to the emotional impact, just as an unbalanced camera angle can create an feeling of unsteady disorientation regardless of what’s in the scene.

    Any ad has the goal of memorability. Whether anything is actually *learned* is a separate issue, and I agree — it often isn’t the point of an ad (including this one), but to generate excitement. That said, the Clio awards are littered with the ghosts of ads that everyone loved, but nobody recalled (when the time came to, say, BUY something).

    Again, though, I’m making more general points just because, well, this is fun :) And also because the damage of cognitive load is–in my opinion–the single biggest reason why your books (Beth) are some of the top sellers of the last decade.

  17. Steve

    Haha – unexpected interchange. I think the comment string is as interesting as the ad. I’m delighted by the positive exchange in the discussion.

    My 2c. We’re talking about a little different composition focus in the examples Scott posts and the Teaser video. By character count, the ads in the examples seem to follow a narrower count ruleset for screen load. I think that’s what throws me on the load.

    I do think that execution of the word play would be better served with a shorter set. At this point it’s flying characters – not many folks can flash decipher the number of elements being composed at one time.

    Either way, it doesn’t affect my decision to buy / not to buy. It’s clear that the author has something interesting to say. That’s what’s important. To me, flying kittens as an interlude wouldn’t have been that detrimental to the message — but it would have made me chuckle.

    Good exchange. Thanks for interacting, Scott! Kudos and grats on the book.

  18. Kathy Sierra

    @steve — I can’t resist responding to: “To me, flying kittens as an interlude wouldn

  19. Olivia Mitchell

    This is fascinating. When I first saw the video (before this comment stream was here) I was struck by the word-for-word text and got distracted by working out if was indeed word-for-word!

    I agree that the text does increase the cognitive load. The question is is the increase in cognitive load worth it – does it add anything?

    My view is that it doesn’t – but would be interesting if there was any research on this to back that up.

    But I also think that it’s probably not critical in this case because of the power of Scott’s speaking.

  20. Julie Dirksen

    Thanks @KathySierra and @OliviaMitchell for flagging this conversation — really interesting.

    Okay, so here’s what I’m curious about — there is a lot of interesting research about the impact of cognitive load on willpower and consumer choice (best know is the cake or fruit salad http://bit.ly/1PbU9N, but there are a number of others, for example: http://bit.ly/Dn90f or http://bit.ly/3uHKP3).

    So, if increased cognitive load diminishes willpower, does that make it *desirable* in a marketing piece?

    I suspect in this instance, that impact of diminished cognitive load on the consumer choice decision would have a miniscule impact (compared to the much more likely determining factors of interest in the subject matter, or the engagement with Scott as a speaker). But now I really want somebody to do the study where they show the version with and without the words, and see if it could have a measurable effect on intent to buy.

    And, oh yeah, gonna definitely check out the book!

  21. Chris Atherton

    Hi Scott

    Another fan of cognitive load theory here ;) I find your video tremendously stimulating and exciting

  22. Bert Bates


    I can’t wait to read the book!

    With that said, my experience watching the video went something like this:

    first two seconds: fun, interesting
    third second: ouch, this is making my brain hurt
    4th-10th second: This is Berkun! There’s gotta be something good in here, I’ve got to force myself to cut through the noise to find the message.
    11th-134th seconds: Okay, I can weed out the noise, just barely, okay, there’s a good thought, I’ve got to save that, in the face of all this noise. Okay there’s another good idea, must… retain… in the teeth of the gale, must… retain…

    In summary, if you didn’t have a great message you might want to use this technique to leave the user with some kind of emotion, but you’ve GOT a great message – and it’s buried.

    Last thought – on the surface it *looks* like the Ford commercial – but there are crucial differences, in this case the devil’s in the detail.

  23. Kathy Sierra

    Wow. I think what bothers me the most is that this technique (and the promo video itself) is being defended in the same way we’d defend an ad for beer or some OTHER product with nothing truly useful to offer–“it’s about generating excitement / emotional impact.”

    If that’s really the goal, then I can’t argue. But I’m disappointed. Here we have a product (Scott’s book) with deeply useful advice, and a communicator who has packaged and can deliver that advice in a highly memorable, stimulating, USEFUL way. Yet we’re using lowest-common-denominator arguments on the promo video… “it’s just to create emotional impact so people will be excited and buy”.

    People will buy this book because it will help them kick ass. My advice would be to leave the “But It’s Just An Ad!” arguments for those who have nothing of value, and trust in the authentic content you have. The “differentiation” argument applies to those who can’t compete on either real or perceived added value. Scott’s book already has both.

    O’Reilly missed an opportunity that most never have–a chance to use a promo/ad to add something of value to our lives. Not because it’s a “nice thing to do” — but because it’s one of the most powerful and efficient ways to promote a product, service, or cause.

    Give me one presentation tip I can use, and I won’t be able to stop myself from buying the book. Not because I’m filled with a sense of excitement about the BOOK, but because I’ll be excited about MYSELF. It wouldn’t matter if it was delivered in crappy webcam with zero production value either.

  24. Jeff Bailey

    I am not really sure that cognitive load is the important thing here. I find the words flying hither-and-yon very, very, distracting.

    I think what Scott is trying to sell is the idea that he knows something that will help us “Kick Ass” as presenters. I found a couple of videos of his presentations and he is an excellent presenter. This video undermines that. I actually got so tired of the words beating me that I turned away from the screen. The focus should be on Scott not the “word army.”

    The video would be very effective with nothing more than Scott’s voice and image. It just doesn’t need the extras that have been slathered onto it.

    Count me in with Bert and Kathy. I am going to read the book in spite of the video not because of it.

  25. Sara Winge

    Thanks for the comments, even though they sting a bit. We’ll think hard about cognitive load, message, and visual impact when we do next video. This was a first for us, and an experiment. It’s great to hear about your experiences, and get a direct sense of what worked and what didn’t for different people.

  26. Sarah Milstein

    I’m among those who were sold on the book before I saw the video, so I’m not bringing a totally neutral perspective. But I did have the remarkable experience of spending the entire video trying to figure out why it had text-over and consequently missing everything you said, Scott. In fact, toward the end, I think you might have explained who the book is for–and I vaguely wondered, “Did he mention any categories that include me?” If you did, I missed the answer!

    Which gets to Kathy’s last point: If the video had instead involved a tip that could help me become a more kick-ass speaker, I would *know* the book is for me. I would also be recommending it right this minute to people who ask me for public speaking advice–and I’d be sending around the link to this page so they everyone see for themselves why it was for *them* too.

    Not to belabor the point, but if the video had been trying to help me learn something, I suspect the text-over would have a created a cognitive load inconducive to learning. (Cognitive distraction: Is “inconducive” a word?)

    Interesting discussion! Looking forward to the book. :)

  27. TJ Goan

    After reading the many insightful contributions here, I watched the video again. The second time around I too found the text overwhelming. Was it because I was being too analytical, or perhaps it was just a difference of context (e.g., my task load). Anyway, I judged that I was too close.

    Being a true geek, I ran a quick test on a favorite service of mine

  28. Mary Treseler

    What a fantastic conversation.
    Disclaimer: I’m Scott’s editor and while I enjoyed the video, it is not about me. Thank you all for the feedback. We at OReilly, have been following this thread and we’ll be sure to revisit content and form for future videos.


  29. Scott Berkun

    Thanks TJ – that was awesome.

    One new observation for me is how ironic this thread is. Given the goal of the trailer was simply to draw some early attention to the book, had we more conservatively followed design theory and brain-science, this ad might not have provoked as much attention as it did for the problems it has.

    Now I’m not saying this is a good trade-off – Hell, it certainly was not an intended trade-off – but it does point out why the goal of seeking attention outweighs all others in much of modern advertising. The somewhat negative attention this ad generated still had a positive effect on the number of people who watched it, and the number of people who have a positive impression of the book.

    The main aesthetic/design goal I had was not to do yet another “boring author guy talking boringly about his book” which you see everywhere, and probably turn off after 10 seconds. I simply wanted something more interesting and lively and when I saw the rough and final cuts of this it qualified.

    Kathy’s point of their being a higher bar for me, or for this project, since I’m supposed to be a public speaking expert and this is a form of public speaking is valid. I’d never do anything like this in a presentation and having the ads line up better with the advice in the book would be pure goodness.

  30. Tom Nagle

    Fortunately, it appears my brain was able handle the extreme cognitive load Scott’s minute-and-a-half video has placed on it.

    Cognitive load theory was not developed in response to kinetic typography videos (like Scott’s). Attention-getting reasons not withstanding – I think the video DECREASES cognitive load on the brain. Here’s why:

    1) The video is short
    2) It references a few key points about the book
    3) It reinforces the key points with words, pictures, and movement – for different learning styles.

    It seems the use of kinetic typography videos to educate and tell stories has risen astronomically in the past few years (and I am not referring to every graphic design students After Effects’ projects on youtube).

    One of the best examples, in my opinion, of really effective use was in the movie I.O.U.S.A. I am not sure if the link below will post:

    Looking forward to the book, and best of luck Scott.


  31. Kathy Sierra

    @Scott “Given the goal of the trailer was simply to draw some early attention to the book, had we more conservatively followed design theory and brain-science, this ad might not have provoked as much attention…”

    Here we go again… ;)

    In the next paragraph you said, “Now I

  32. Tom Nagle

    Oops…this was the link to an effective example of kinetic typography (like Scott’s). The link above is completely worth watching, but isn’t all kinetic typography.

  33. Tom Nagle

    One more time…here’s the link (I tried to embed it in the previous post). Let’s get that edit function working on comments!

    I just saw Kathy’s comment above…if you really wanted to make learning materials much more effective, the first step would be make them much shorter. More fun wouldn’t hurt either.

  34. Kathy Sierra

    I better take this chance to state that the video *is* very, very cool and beautifully produced. (in a month or so I’ll be begging them to make one for MY next book). And the “Confessions…” book is amazing (I was one of the lucky ones that got an advance look and it “grabbed me by the throat, pinned me to the wall, and did not let up ’till I’d finished”.

    To those who might not know us personally, one of the awesome things about O’Reilly (that Scott and I and Bert and Elisabeth and Sara Winge are part of) is that we have these kinds of arguments-I-mean-fruitfuldiscussions a LOT. You just don’t see them in public that often ; ) I am relieved and happy to hear that others are getting something from the discussions as well!

  35. Scott Berkun

    @Kathy: Didn’t mean to imply an unavoidable trade off. I agree with you (I really do :), and know for a fact brain-friendly can be interesting/exciting/ here.

    But there is always the tradeoff of time – designing to gain attention in non-brain friendly ways is definitely easier. It requires less skill / knowledge / effort. Good design of any kind usually requires more effort and patience and iteration. So all I meant was I was willing to trade my design concerns for the timeliness of getting this out before the book.

    Even though I agree in degrees with most of the criticisms raised here, and on twitter, I think this is one of the best author/book/promo thing I’ve ever seen. Of course this doesn’t t say much as the bar seems so low. Has anyone seen an excellent video ad for a book? I’ve searched and they’re all on the other end of the spectrum – coma inducing & deadly boring.

  36. Kathy Sierra

    @scott: hah — yes, here we are debating the merits of something that is so much more than most books will ever have :)

    I’ve made those tradeoffs myself, many times, to go for the quickest way to craft something that’ll get the brain’s attention rather than working on ways that could be more useful. Especially in presentations where I always figure I can — “make it up in post”.

  37. Doug

    I thought the video was cheesy and Scott looks like a dweeb.


    (Editors note: Doug has known Scott since they were 7 years old and has maintained a preternaturally consistent level of maturity over three decades)

  38. Doug

    The editor’s note was fabulous, although I would decribe my level of maturity as supernatural rather than preternatural.

    In any event, all the best on this particular endeavor!



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