Saturday, May 17, 2008

Seesmic Scores Hollywood A-Listers

By now you may have heard that several famous Hollywood A-listers paid a visit to Seesmic, the popular "Twitter for Video" discussion site founded by web entrepreneur Loic Le Meur. The celebrities included movie directors Steven Speilberg, George Lucas and actors Harrison Ford, Shia Laboeuf, Karen Allen and Cate Blanchett who joined a discussion on the upcoming release of the new Indiana Jones movie.

Jemima Kiss from the Guardian was one of many who posted several questions to the movie directors and stars and got direct replies from Mr. Speilberg himself. In her post, Spielberg pops up on Seesmic, Kiss said, "It's a simple enough idea but incredibly exciting; I just posted a few direct questions to Spielberg and Karen Allen... and it's quite a buzz watching them reply directly to your own questions. Seesmic is quite intimate too - like most people, I just use my webcam and was still wearing my pyjamas when I recorded."

Kiss asked Speilberg about his plans for the small screen and he replied that he was working on a web project he can't talk about (which Kiss thought it might be a paranormal social network), a games company and a few TV projects.

Kiss said that Picture Production Company put the event together and added that, "Beneath the froth, though, there's a directness and energy about this that really works, though lord knows how much engineering (both technical and bureaucratic) must have gone into this. The best thing about it is that it bypasses the Hollywooid/Cannes schmaltz and gets straight into a conversation."

The web exploded this morning with bloggers reporting on the big news. A publicity event like this will the make popular video discussion site even more popular and mainstream for video conversations as word gets out. Look at Oprah, she's using Skype all the time.

Loic Le Meur has behind the scene details on his blog with photos of their set up and links to all the videos.

He explained that, "I wish we would have given some notice to our community but we did not know obviously until the last minute if it would happen or not and the production team had requested the videos being posted in private first, then unlocked, which would not have allowed us enough interactivity. Some videos were posted in real time, but it was a good surprise and not planned, so no way to tell people to show up. (more...) This experience illustrates how video on the net and Seesmic can be a fantastic way to get our community closer to celebrities and ask them questions directly. They would not have accepted live and the asynchroneous Seesmic format worked very well. They took many more questions from journalists that they would have in face to face as Seesmic passwords were distributed to journalists around the world."

In his VentureBeat post, How to mainstream a web app in a hurry: Get Spielberg, Lucas and Ford aboard, MG Sigler said, "Is it a publicity stunt? Sure. But really how many things aren’t in this day and age? Yes, it might have been more interesting to see Spielberg or Ford in their pajamas answering questions rather than it being a fairly obviously more professional set up (camera on tripod, chair in front of backdrop, off-camera interviewers, etc), but we’ll take what we can get. Remember, Hollywood celebrities also have an image to maintain."

Scoble called it a huge win for Seesmic and pointed to heavy discussion threads FriendFeed. He also added that you can view the individual pages here:

On a sour note though, the publicity on this was kept secret and the surge of viewers to Seesmic actually created outages at sites like TechCrunch who recently turned on video comments which are powered by Seesmic. Michael Arrington, who is also a Seesmic investor, ripped into Le Meur for not giving investors a "heads up" and has since disabled the video comments plug in as it caused outages on his site by the server reboots.

There were a share of exchanges on Twitter on this subject and Le Meur posted a statement and an apology video that he'll do a better job in the future of communicating with investors, partners and users.

Regardless of the controversy it created through the system outages,
this is another example of the power that video conversation can create, and it's by far the most direct form of communication.

A round up from Techmeme as of 4:20 PM PDT:
UPDATE: Added to Loic's quote.

UPDATE 2 (on 5/22/08): Added Seesmic du jour 149: Indiana Jones 4 in Seesmic