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Creatively Speaking:

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One of the great things about doing this interview series for you all, is that I get to meet all kinds of interesting people busy creating all kinds of interesting Web sites, books, music, etc.

Today, I'm going to turn you all on to my new, favorite video sharing and video storage site,, which, by my way of thinking, blows the competition away. Started by Chris O'Brien, Andrew Wason and Josh Grotstein, Motionbox allows you to upload/store as many gigs of video as you want, and stream it, as well. (Vimeo and YouTube only let you upload up to 1GB and their HD quality pales by comparison.)

If you saw the little mash-up/film I made and posted a couple weeks ago, that was hosted by Motionbox. (You can find it reposted at the end of the interview below.)

And now, on with the interview with Motionbox CEO Josh Grotstein.

DI: When did you first decide you wanted to create a movie-related site and where did the original idea come from?

JG: Motionbox co-founders Chris O'Brien and Andrew Wason are the true visionaries behind Motionbox. They met at Bellcore (a Bell Labs spinoff), and eventually went on to create two pioneering companies in the online video space: Softcom (in the 90's) and Motionbox (in 2005). Along with co-founders Douglas Warshaw and Jenn Houser, Chris and Andrew realized that broadband penetration and processing power increases - along with what's come to be called cloud computing initiatives - paved the way for a new type of service in which everyday home video users could upload, manipulate and edit, store, and share all of their personal digital video "memories" online. The desktop, while by no means dead, was no longer a limiting factor in the personal video value chain.

DI: How are you guys different from YouTube or Vimeo?

JG: Just as the Internet as a whole did back in 1994-7, video on the web is experiencing its "Big Bang" moment, in which a huge explosion is followed by the creation of differentiated galaxies and stars. YouTube, Blip, Veoh, Vimeo, Hulu, etc. are stars of different sizes and shapes and intensities existing in the Media Galaxy. Motionbox is forming in the newer Personal Video Galaxy.

Thought of from a more down-to-earth perspective, Motionbox is to personal videos what Shutterfly is to personal photos. We provide a very safe, high quality, and easy-to-use platform to upload, edit, store, and share your video digital memories. We are not targeted at professional or semi-professional videographers (however, many of them are attracted to us due to our high quality service offering), but rather to the "chief memory officers" of the family who don't want to learn what AVCHD means, much less learn how to properly transcode files rendered using that format.

Motionbox's real asset is that we have the best HD format support out there, along with spectacular HD quality. AVCHD, which is a common format taken by most HD camcorders, has been really hard to deal with until now. We allot people to simply upload their AVCHD files with no need to convert them first. The results are pretty amazing.

DI: One of your biggest draws, of course, is that you advertise unlimited storage space and users can upload files of any size. Where on earth are you storing all this data? I'm picturing a warehouse-size server.

JG: We use a mixture of cloud and "internal" storage, and our internal storage is hosted at network operating centers. Our "mixed" architecture allows us to achieve an appropriate trade-off between high availability and cost efficiency. This in turn allows us to offer a differentiated service particularly to our premium customers.

DI: When a user uploads a video, what's the conversion process? What happens on your end during the optimization process before we see it?

JG: One of the great strengths of Motionbox is our technological ubiquity. We support more video formats than any other online video service, including AVCHD, which is popular on many HD camcorders. The fact that we support these formats makes it extremely simple for all types of users to upload to the service. As a consequence, users don't have to pre-transcode any of their files before working with us (which is not the case with most other services, especially for the newer HD formats).

We ingest the video source code in its entirety and, in the case of our premium members, store 2 copies of that source code for as long as a person remains a member. At that point, we transcode the video (again, regardless of its source origin) to a "raw", expanded format which then gets immediately re-transcoded into several different formats depending on the user. In the case of the premium user, transcoding goes automatically into our "standard definition" format until the user chooses to play a high definition version of the video, at which point it's also transcoded into HD. The user can also select to have the file transcoded over to download formats useable on devices like the iPod. Net, net --we end up storing multiple copies of each video file.

DI: What about those huge HD files? How do you plan on handling that as more and more HD consumer cams and flips hit the market?

JG: We're big fans of HD, and truly believe that the Motionbox service shines most brightly (perhaps another allusion to the astronomy analogy) when we're handling HD content.

That said, as you point out, HD is not without its liabilities, including increased storage costs and protracted upload and encoding time. Fortunately, the economics of our "freemium" subscription trial model allows us to offer a very robust HD product to our premium users, and a "taste" of HD to our free users. Also fortunately, the cost of storage is dropping as fast as upload speeds are increasing. So, we feel comfortable that we can meet consumer demand without sacrificing on our profitability margins.

DI: How far away are you guys from allowing users to manipulate/alter the motionbox player?

It's something a number of users have asked for, especially many of the more "pro" oriented small businesses and hobbyists using Motionbox. We're looking at a number of options here, including player color customization, and more control over the end screen, etc. We hope to have a solution later this year.

DI: What aspect of the site are you most proud of?

JG: There are a lot of different aspects of the site that are particularly noteworthy, including our very easy-to-use filmstrip mixing functionality, our large format HD player, and our various download formats. However, one of our most interesting recent developments has nothing to do with the "site" itself, but is rather a separate express uploader application running on Adobe Air. ( What's so cool about this app is that it allows users to queue many videos to be uploaded in the background without any need to monitor their progress or worry about changes to computer states. For example, if the connection to the Internet breaks, your upload picks up from where it left off and you don't have to start uploading all over again, which can be a particularly annoying issue when one is uploading large HD files. This "little" application enables us to overcome most of the effect of relatively slow ISP upload speeds.

DI: How many premium account holders do you have? How many free accounts?

JG: We don't release financial-related information on the company. However, I can say that we have over 1.5 million registered users and that this represents 6x growth over the past 6 months.

DI: What happens if someone doesn't re-up for a second or third year subscription? Do they have a way of getting their data off your server?

JG: Yes. One of the reasons we hold on to the source file for our premium users is precisely so that the user will be able to re-download that file at a later date should they decide to move their videos elsewhere. Obviously, we'd prefer that they stay with Motionbox, but we believe that if we can't continue to offer them a valuable enough business proposition then we shouldn't be in a position to hold their videos hostage. This is one of the factors that ensures we'll continue to innovate and offer added value to our current users over the years to come.

DI: What's up next for you guys?

JG: We will be announcing some very important developments in the coming months, both from a partnership and a product development standpoint. While I can't say much about either right now, I will say that in re: the latter, there is an extremely robust technology engine riding underneath the current Motionbox platform which has yet to be fully "turned on" as it were. Once we enable some of the application hooks into this engine, you'll begin to see some very exciting and novel video-enabled products emerge.

Browse through past Creatively Speaking posts here >>

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Creatively Speaking: MeetingBoy
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Read on to win a new Meeting Boy wall calendar!

We have a nice interview/contest today with someone you need to know about if you don't already. PC World named him one of the 10 Funniest People On Twitter. Like Racer X, no one really knows who MeetingBoy is, but whoever is behind this madness is one hilarious, talented fella. Tweeting out quips and one-liners, he's amassed close to 80,000 followers on Twitter as @MeetingBoy. I first got to know him (well, as much as you can know a masked-man) after he re-tweeted a Twaggie (illustrated tweet) we did off one of his tweets over on my start-up,

Then one day, MeetingBoy asked me if I'd like to give away one of his new MeetingBoy wall calendars in a contest. I said sure, under one condition: he do the following interview. So read the interview and follow the contest rules at the bottom of this post. We'll pick one tweet/comment at random and send you the calendar in time for Christmas! Good luck!

DI: First of all, where do you take your meetings? Tell us about your day job.

MB: I work in a glass & steel high rise in New York with lots of lazy idiots. The managers spout buzzwords to impress each other, and my boss is a clueless, bullying hypocrite more concerned with covering his own ass than getting things done. Does that narrow it down?

I am stuck in 3-5 meetings a day, so if there’s a way to waste someone’s time, I’ve seen it. And I’m sick of it. I must have really bad karma to deserve this. I must have been something truly awful in a former life, like maybe a manager or CEO.

@MeetingBoy: 125 PowerPoint slides? Well, I hope you're not presenting a case for how efficient our department is.

@MeetingBoy: Definition of insanity: holding the same meeting with the same people every week and expecting different results.

@MeetingBoy: Four meetings today. And then later, no doubt, a meeting with my boss about how I'm not getting anything done.

@MeetingBoy: I'm confused by this article about Bernie Madoff. I thought "white collar prison" was just a euphemism for my office.

@MeetingBoy: 7 hour conference call, though my lawyer says I'll be paroled in 6 with good behavior.

DI: How’d all this Meeting Boy stuff get started? Walk us through the early days.

MB: Since my biggest pet peeve in meetings is people who ramble on and on, Twitter was the right place for me to vent. The forced brevity was just right. If only I could force the people who write PowerPoint presentations to stick to 140 characters instead of 140 slides!

I’d been on Twitter before, but mentions of work had become a problem once people knew I was tweeting and started following me in the office. After I got a new boss last year, I created the MeetingBoy account so I would stop hearing about it. Since then I only tweet under my own name after hours.

@MeetingBoy: I'm married to my job. I don't love it. It was a shotgun wedding; I had knocked up my credit cards with all sorts of debt.

Early on as MeetingBoy, I was getting positive responses. People identified with my complaints-- in fact the most common response to MeetingBoy is “do you work at my company?”

Of course I hate buzzwords, and so many of my rants result from sitting through an hour of them. The word I hate the most is “robust”:

@MeetingBoy: At the end of the day I think we can all agree how tired the phrase "at the end of the day" is.

@MeetingBoy: When the revolution comes, I'm shooting everyone who says "robust". Well, except the coffee roasters.

DI: When did your first little break happen?

MB: Last October, PC World named me as one of the 10 Funniest People On Twitter. My following increased dramatically as a result. This was a huge surprise to me. I had no idea I had broken out of the Favstar community of internet jokers. After that my friends who weren’t on Twitter insisted I start cross-posting my material to Facebook and so they could follow along too.

DI: And then your big break?

MB: Earlier this year someone at Twitter added me to their Suggested Users - Funny list. I was pretty excited; after all, as my friend said, “It sure beats being on the Suggested Users - Not Funny list.”

Though some people would say my “big break” was when I got a boss that didn’t get my sense of humor, forcing me to put more of it on the internet. Speaking of my boss:

@MeetingBoy: We have high expectations for him - he got his MBA in business jargon from Wharton.

@MeetingBoy: You're right. It was wrong of me to question how another layer of paperwork would speed up the process. I apologize.

@MeetingBoy: Hey, everybody! My boss is running a special on poorly thought out, unworkable ideas today. The discount code is YESSIR.

@MeetingBoy: "Dumb it down. Remember, you're presenting it to management."

@MeetingBoy: "I didn't read the executive summary you sent. Can you just put the idea in a few quick sentences and send it to me? Thanks."

@MeetingBoy: New line on my job description: "maintain high morale". Told HR I could do it, but not if my boss keeps trying to motivate me.

@MeetingBoy: My boss is very susceptible to food poisoning. Apparently this occurs when he stays out late drinking.

@MeetingBoy: The boss sent an email at 11:30 "reminding" everyone that he's working from home today. He sent it from his Blackberry.

DI: Did you set out to achieve Internet fame or did the idea sort of take over by itself?

MB: I set out to vent about work in an amusing way, in part because I was so annoyed at how people in the office reacted to my being on Twitter. I certainly had no idea how to get people to write about me or who at Twitter to sweet-talk to get them to recommend me.

Being famous and anonymous is a little odd though. None of the benefits of fame have come my way. I’m not getting a better table at Sparks or celebrity gift bags at the Oscars. And no matter how many followers I have, I’m still stuck in the same meetings every day.

I would like to see a MeetingBoy calendar make an appearance on The Office. Seems like something Jim Halpert would have (though since he gave up his office, I’m not sure where he’d put it). Or maybe Michael Scott because he’s a “cool boss” and none of it applies to him..

DI: Talk about the tweets themselves. Mostly they are things you think up in these meetings every day?

MB: They are responses to things that happen in meetings. Or things I wish I could say. In a few cases I’ve actually said these things. Of course the names have been removed to protect the boring, the rude, the jargon-spewing types, the lazy, the bullies, and the people with “bad grammer”.

@MeetingBoy: I know, I know, but if your idea is so good, why hasn't some VP passed it off as their own yet?

@MeetingBoy: Sorry, I have to leave your meeting. I have something I need to do. I need to not be bored to death.

@MeetingBoy: This PowerPoint needs an art director? Wow! I never thought I'd say this to you, lady, but you're overthinking this.

@MeetingBoy: That email you claim I never sent you? Here it is. Along with your REPLY TO IT.

@MeetingBoy: No, I wasn't playing Devil's Advocate. I really think your idea is stupid.

@MeetingBoy: You are mean, incompetent, and ignorant. Life did not hand you lemons; life handed you CONSEQUENCES.

DI: But other times I see you attributing the tweets to other authors/publishers. How does that work?

MB: Sometimes I see a tweet that I wish I wrote. Other times my followers send me one I missed. Either way, if it’s something I think my audience would appreciate, I share it. After all, I don’t want to be like that guy in my office who thinks the only good ideas are the ones he thinks of.

For example, some of my favorite tweets that someone else wrote are:

@swimparallel: I've recovered from my death sickness. Now I'm back in the office. It feels like a lateral move.

@summersumz: Evaluating data, making conclusions. LIVING THE DREAM!

@kerissmithJA: Your cc list doesn’t scare me. I still refuse to respond to your email.

DI: So now you have this cool wall calendar. How’d that come about?

MB: A friend makes up a calendar with photos of his family, which I dutifully hang in my cube. I thought it would be cool to have a MeetingBoy calendar. I’d hoped to make a 365-page-a-day calendar, which I think would really work for my short quips, but I couldn’t find a way to publish it. So I went with a wall calendar, and asked for illustrators among my followers.

Of course once I had printed the calendar, I realized I couldn’t possibly put the calendar on my desk. I can’t have my boss or coworkers know that I’m MeetingBoy, and it’s probably better if they don’t even know he exists. Clearly I hadn’t thought this through.

I think the calendar makes a great Secret Santa gift. I think coworkers across the English-speaking world would love to get one.

Calendar available for sale online at

DI: Have you learned any profound lessons going through the self-publishing process?

MB: I’ve learned that self-publishing isn’t very profitable. I’ve been very happy with all the illustrations I got, though paying for them before I sell the calendar has made money tight.

I was going to try to sell them directly myself over the internet, but I couldn’t be sure that my secret identity would be safe. Luckily one of the illustrators owns a comic shop and they agreed to carry it for internet sales.

And I’d still like to make a 365-page-a-day calendar if anyone knows how to go about that.

DI: What’s next for you and what’s your ultimate goal?

MB: Next up I’m starting to do regular illustrated tweets on Of course I can’t draw, so I’m using some of the same illustrators from the calendar, and any new ones I pick up along the way.

My ultimate goal is to be the boss on The Office after Steve Carrell leaves at the end of this season. Though I would also accept President Obama declaring my birthday, June 23rd, to be a national holiday, maybe National Out-of-the-Office Day. Write your congressman to make it happen.

DI: Will you always hide your true identity Meeting Boy? Or will we one day find out you’re actually Racer X’s older brother?

MB: I can’t reveal my identity without losing my job and potentially risking never working again. After all, who would hire MeetingBoy? A surly, sarcastic person who will mock your every shortcoming on the internet to tens of thousands of people. Even I might balk at hiring that guy. He kind of sounds like a loose cannon.

Okay, contest time! Of all the tweets mentioned in this post, by MeetingBoy or someone else, which would you like to see illustrated on RT it with the hashtag #twaggies and we'll pick one of you at random to get the calender. If you're not on Twitter, leave your vote in the comments below. The tweet with the most RTs will also get twagged on twaggies, too!

For my interviews with Jason Alexander, Monty Hall, Mitch Albom, xkcd and more, browse through past Creatively Speaking archives here >>

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A chat with Jeff Garlin
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Jeff Garlin co-stars and executive produces the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. The unique comedy, which is one of the rare television shows to become part of the national zeitgeist, stars Seinfeld creator Larry David, with Garlin portraying his loyal manager. Born and raised in Chicago and then South Florida, Garlin studied filmmaking and began performing stand-up comedy while at the University of Miami. He has toured the country as a stand-up comedian, is an alumnus of Chicago's Second City Theatre, and has written and starred in three critically acclaimed solo shows. I was fortunate enough to get this interview with him when he spoke at an event a charity I work with produced.

DI: Which do you prefer: writing, directing, or producing?

JG: I prefer to direct what I write.

DI: If you were to retire, what would you do with your time?

JG: Nap and eat puddin'.

DI: What's your favorite food?

JG: Puddin'.

DI: Of all the comedians and actors you've worked with over the years, who has been the most enjoyable.

JG: Larry David.

DI: Is Larry David as obnoxious in real life as he is on the show?

JG: See my answer above.

DI: What's the biggest difference between Chicago and L.A.?

JG: Human contact. In Chicago you get it on a regular basis.

DI: What's one of your favorite films?

JG: Sullivan's Travels by Preston Sturges.

DI: If you could have lunch with anyone deceased, who would it be?

JG: My grandfather Harold.

DI: Who's your idol?

JG: My wife.

DI: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

JG: A comedian.

DI: Where do you like to go to unwind when you're not working?

JG: Wherever my wife tells me.

DI: If you could change one thing about Hollywood, what would it be?

JG: The street names.

DI: Shakespeare wrote: "Brevity is the soul of wit." What do you think the essence of comedy is?

JG: A plate of fresh cornbread.

DI: I heard you studied law in college and almost graduated before deciding to pursue a career in comedy. Do you think you would have been a good lawyer?

JG: That's on and it's not true. I studied film.

DI: What's more difficult: performing stand-up comedy before a live audience or performing on camera?

JG: Actually, my personal life is harder.

DI: Do you own an iPod? If so, what's the most unusual music you've got on it?

JG: Chin Ho soundbites from Hawaii Five-0.

DI: Who is the funniest comedian of all-time?

JG: Jack Benny.


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