At YouTube Boot Camp, Future Stars Polish Their Acts –

Vanessa Wilson was back in class last week for the first time since law school. Only this time, she said, she wasn’t bored.


Ms. Wilson, 27, was one of the winners of a recent talent search sponsored by YouTube. Her prize was a boot camp at Google’s Manhattan offices, where some of YouTube’s most successful stars led sessions on how to create a viral video, build an audience and bolster a brand.

Some of the tips that, with luck, might one day lead to a six-figure income? Don’t upload videos on Friday afternoons. Send e-mails to at least a dozen key bloggers and ask them to post a link. Surprise your audience. Don’t forget: there is key light, front light, flood light. And never, ever put the word sex in a title or tag. It could cost you some of the advertising revenue that YouTube shares with its content creators.

The boot camp is part of YouTube’s campaign to find its own original high-quality video content. Facing fierce competition from Web video services like Hulu, iTunes and Netflix, YouTube is looking to increase the range of content and improve the quality of its channels as it continues to try to make more money, even after doubling revenue, according to Google’s last quarterly report.

“We’re a platform,” said Margaret Healy, who has worked for YouTube for several years in the role of developing strategic partnerships with both big brands and amateur video makers. “We would like it if everyone who had the talent, interest and potential to gain an audience to come on YouTube and start a channel and make original content.”

In 2007, YouTube identified those amateur and professional video makers whose channels were drawing audiences, and the company began sharing advertising revenue with them under its Partner Program.

Ms. Healy said it was not easy in the beginning to persuade brands to spend advertising money on many quirky videos. But last year, the top channels under the Partner Program generated 100 billion views and attracted millions of dollars in advertising revenue. While most of them are big brands earning millions, there are several hundred people who began as amateurs who now make more than $100,000 a year, although most payments to the 20,000 channel operators are small.

In March, in a fresh effort to increase original programming, Google purchased Next New Networks, a Web video production company that now also delivers training and support to video makers in YouTube’s Partner Program. The 25 people who won YouTube’s talent search — their rising stars contest — began receiving help from Next New Networks at the boot camp.

For Ms. Wilson, 27, who makes YouTube videos about sewing and quilting and uses her Crafty Gemini channel to help sell craft supplies and patterns, the advice has been invaluable as she tries to turn her hobby into a business.

“I’m thinking now, how can I expand?” said Ms. Wilson, of Gainesville, Fla., who took up sewing while at law school. She spent four days last week in what YouTube called its first Content Creator Camp. “I could do a tutorial for Halloween. I could do something for all the holidays.”

Several of the teachers at the camp were from Next New Networks, including Joe Sabia, who is known for the innovative and amusing videos he began making while attending Boston College, and the Gregory brothers, who had the most-watched video on YouTube last year, titled “The Bed Intruder Song.” The Fine brothers, who have made YouTube a full-time job since last July, were also on hand to share their experiences.

While Benny Fine said that he and his brother were not earning a six-figure income from sharing advertising revenue under YouTube’s Partner program, he said they were making enough to pay the rent and cover the costs of their Fine brothers channel. It now ranks as the 58th most popular channel on the platform, bolstered by a weekly show, “Kids React,” that they started last fall.

By having a channel on YouTube, Mr. Fine said they were able to expand and sustain an audience around their work, helping build their own brand. “There are a lot of companies that can get you 2 million or 3 million views,” said Mr. Fine, 30, who works with his brother, Rafi, 27. “But no one becomes a fan of the content.”

Bryan Odell, 21, of Lincoln, Neb., one of the contest winners, said he hoped to become the next Ryan Seacrest. He parlayed his internship at a local television station, where he interviewed rock and music stars, into his own Web site and YouTube channel, BryanStars Interviews.

“There are a lot of kids going to college to become media stars,” said Mr. Odell, who left the University of Nebraska after his sophomore year to develop his Web site and YouTube channel. “What YouTube has done is made all of these jobs a reality because we can just do it and distribute it right to the Internet.”

Though a handful of the 25 winners are professional filmmakers, most of the campers were just people with a passion for a specific interest, like advising people on how to put on make-up or cook Korean food.

“We see people go from hobbyists to part-time job to business to career to stardom,” Ms. Healy said.

Others are using their YouTube channels to create a brand identity, to help promote the products they sell and draw attention to other businesses.

“This is my job now,” said Meghan Camarena, 23, of Modesto, Calif., a contest winner who was in camp last week. She makes music videos and sells T-shirts and other clothing from her YouTube channel. “I started in 2008 as something to do for fun. I now make a decent amount to pay my bills.”

One of the camp activities involved collaborating with a fellow contest winner on a video. For the project, Mr. Odell found himself in a Manhattan quilting shop, starring in a video on sewing directed by Ms. Wilson.

“We want to help each other,” he said. “We are all on the same team. No one understands a YouTuber like another YouTuber.”



Quick-response codes aim to capitalize on the boom in smartphones –

With cafes on nearly every corner in Vancouver, British Columbia, Ethical Bean Coffee Co. needed a way to stand out. The answer was an odd bar code with a maze of black boxes instead of the usual straight lines.

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About eight months ago, the three-store chain started putting these “quick response” codes in its train ads. When customers scan the little squares with their smartphone cameras, a coffee menu pops up on their screens. Then they can order a cup of coffee on the train—and have it waiting when they arrive at one of Ethical Bean’s shops.

Business has doubled since then, says Chief Executive Lloyd Bernhardt. “We catch people who are on the go and don’t have a lot of time,” he says.

With smartphone use soaring, many small companies are turning to these quick-response, or QR, codes to connect with customers on the go. They’re placing the codes in ads, direct mail, in-store displays and product packaging, and using them to link to a host of features—discounts, websites and videos. And, like Ethical Bean, many companies say they’ve seen a big sales boost.

But the codes present some challenges. Businesses often have to educate customers about how to use the codes. What’s more, even though businesses can download and use the codes free of charge, it can cost a lot to develop the promotional material that pops up on customers’ phones. There’s also the question of format. QR is the dominant technical standard, but there are more out there—which may confuse businesses and customers.

Outside the Box

QR codes have been around for a while, and many big corporations use them. In the past six months, though, small companies in the U.S. have flocked to the technology, thanks to services that let them easily create codes free of charge. Meanwhile, numerous phones, including many Androids and BlackBerrys, come with an app that reads QR codes. (Others, like the iPhone, must download the software.) Scanbuy Inc., a New York company that develops and manages QR codes, estimates that 30 million people in the U.S. have a code-reader app on their phone.

For businesses, generating a QR code can be as easy as traveling to a website. Consider code-making service Kaywa AG. A small business just needs to go to and choose the type of content that it wants customers to get when they scan the code, whether it’s a Web address, text, phone number or SMS. Then the business enters that content and clicks “generate.” A bar code pops up on the screen that the company can copy and paste onto its advertising or packaging, at no cost.

Businesses can also generate QR codes by adding “.qr” to shortened links from Google Inc. or bitly Inc. When customers scan a code that was created this way, their phones call up whatever is at the shortened address.

Many businesses use QR codes to send customers to their website—like Skylight Books in Los Angeles. One of the managers, Justin Jasper, says he displays codes next to staff-recommended books in the store. If the books are sold out, customers can scan the code and order a copy from Skylight’s site, instead of heading to a big online seller or chain store.


Other companies are getting a lot more complex. Larry Golden, chief executive of RSVP Publications, a direct-mail provider in Tampa, Fla., says he always links to video and interactive options, among other features, when he puts QR codes in his clients’ promotional materials. For instance, there’s the direct-mail postcard that RSVP created for Adam Gorski Landscapes Inc., a landscaping firm that works in the Bellevue, Wash., area. Next to the QR code on the card is an arrow pointing to the code, saying, “Scan me, I talk!” Upon scanning, customers are linked to the firm’s mobile site, which features a video of owner Adam Gorski discussing his work. There’s also an offer to receive a free tree with any installation, along with buttons to connect to the business via phone, email or Facebook.

The cards went out in February. In the four weeks after that, Mr. Gorski got double the usual number of calls and later hired two new employees to help handle the work.

Other businesses use the codes on packaging. Ethical Bean puts them on bags of coffee to share roasting secrets, among other things. In July, Pacific Natural Foods in Tualatin, Ore., will roll out QR codes on Soup Starters, which let cooks add fresh ingredients to a premade base. After scanning, customers will see a recipe, shopping list for ingredients and demo, says Jennifer Herrick, marketing communications manager for Pacific Foods of Oregon Inc.

Unscrambling the Codes

Still, the codes come with some headaches. For one, a lot of consumers don’t know what QR codes are. Lydia Puller, an agent with Alain Pinel Realtors in Northern California, has been using QR codes since last June. She says clients and agents sometimes see the codes and ask, “What the heck is that picture?” So, she has to explain.

There’s also cost. The codes are free, but the work behind them is not. Mr. Gorski pays RSVP $500 per postcard mailing to film his videos, and he says he got that low price only because he was a guinea pig for the company’s QR-code efforts. RSVP’s Mr. Golden says he has spent about $100,000 on mobile technology and content for clients.

Finally, there are technical standards. QR is the code most widely used by U.S. businesses. But there are competing standards available free, and even some that aren’t free are gaining traction. Customers could get confused, since not all reader apps unscramble all the codes. Meanwhile, there’s no guarantee QR will win out as the U.S. standard, so marketers might have to go back to the drawing board with new codes.

“QR codes are not the end-all, be-all,” says Ryan Goff, vice president/director of social-media marketing at marketing firm MGH Inc. “They may not exist in two years. But they’re a temporary solution to the problem of, ‘How do you connect people to online things in the real world?’ “


Pastor Wins Battle to Cite Jesus in Memorial Day Prayer

The Department of Veterans Affairs cannot bar a Houston pastor from invoking Jesus Christ in a Memorial Day prayer, a federal judge ruled in a case that is yet another illustration of anti-Christian animus in the country.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes told the department it was “forbidden from dictating the content of speeches – whether those speeches are denominated prayers or otherwise – at the Memorial Memorial Day, Prayer, Christianity, Scott RaineyDay ceremony of National Cemetery Council for Greater Houston.”

“The government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat’s notion of cultural homogeneity,” the judge wrote. “The right of free expression ranges from the dignity of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches to Charlie Sheen’s rants.”

In his order, the judge noted that the Rev. Scott Rainey, the lead pastor of the Living Word Church of the Nazarene, was likely to prevail on his claims should the case reach trial.

“The Constitution does not confide to the government the authority to compel emptiness in a prayer, where a prayer belongs,” he said. “The gray mandarins of the national government are decreeing how citizens honor their veterans. This is not a pick-up-your-trash sign; this is a we-pick-your-words sign.”

The case was brought on Rainey’s behalf by Texas’ Liberty Institute, a non-profit devoted to protecting freedoms and strengthening families.

Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer did not know what prompted the government to step into the matter, adding he was told by another minister that the Memorial Day prayers have been going on for over 20 years with the mention of Jesus without incident. Why it occurred with likely remain a mystery as the government conceded the issue at a Friday hearing.

“There certainly is a climate in our country that precipitates these types of actions,” Mateer said. “Secularists and separationists are trying to push an agenda that is telling government that you can’t have any religion in public.”

Rainey had given the Memorial Day invocation at the cemetery for the past two years and in each case mentioned Jesus Christ without incident.

The event at the public Houston National Cemetery is run by a private group, the National Cemetery Council for Greater Houston. This year, the director of the council, Arleen Ocasio, asked Rainey to submit his prayer for review. He sent a draft to Ocasio.

The seven-paragraph prayer spent the first five speaking of God in a non-denominational way, invoking “almighty God” and including the words, “We pray for peace among nations around the world. We pray for peace in the homes of families who have lost loved ones in these great battles. We pray for peace in the heart of every person present today as we seek you with our whole heart.”

The prayer closed with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and the line, “While respecting people of every faith today, it is in the name of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, that I pray. Amen.”

Ocasio said that Rainey would not be allowed to pray unless he removed references to one religion. Rainey appealed to the general counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Deputy General Counsel John Thompson sided with Ocasio, telling the pastor “the ceremony will commemorate veterans of all cultures and beliefs, and the tone of remarks must therefore be inclusive.”

“I am very disappointed that the Houston National Cemetery would take such an anti-freedom stance,” Rainey said upon filing suit. “This is my third year to be invited to deliver the invocation, and I have never been asked to edit the content of my prayer. While I consider it an honor to lead such a somber gathering in prayer, I will not forsake my religious beliefs.”

The suit sought a temporary restraining order that would allow the prayer as written. The judge on Thursday granted the request.

“While I am very disappointed we had to take legal action, I am glad that the judge agreed that removing Jesus’ name from my prayer is unconstitutional,” Rainey said. “I am honored to be allowed to pray in the name of Jesus at this somber remembrance of our nation’s fallen.”


Oracle CEO Larry Ellison in Tree Dispute with Neighbors –

SAN FRANCISCO—Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison paid $3.9 million in 1988 for a home in this city’s posh Pacific Heights neighborhood with sweeping vistas of San Francisco Bay. Now his view isn’t quite as sweeping—and that’s turning into something of a scene.

Mr. Ellison’s neighbors, Bernard and Jane Von Bothmer, purchased a $6.9 million home down the hill from the software mogul’s place in 2004. In the ensuing years, the Von Bothmers let the trees in their expansive backyard grow. Three redwoods and an 80-year-old acacia have since risen by several feet.


Larry Ellison

Mr. Ellison, 66 years old, is displeased by the taller greenery—very much so.

In a trial set to begin June 6, the billionaire plans to take the Von Bothmers to state Superior Court in San Francisco over how the trees have obstructed his floor-to-ceiling window views of San Francisco Bay. The court date follows a lawsuit Mr. Ellison filed last June alleging he will suffer “irreparable injury” from lost property value if the court doesn’t make the Von Bothmers cut their trees in order to “restore Plaintiff’s views and sunlight.”

The situation has become a full-blown spectacle. Mr. Ellison hired an attorney who specializes in “tree and neighbor law” to duke it out with the Von Bothmers. In a deposition, Mrs. Von Bothmer alleges she once caught workers hired by the Silicon Valley tycoon strapped into her redwoods, prepared to cut the trees without permission—a charge Mr. Ellison has said he doesn’t believe is true.

Amid the dispute, Mr. Ellison once offered the Von Bothmers as much as $15 million to sell their property to him, an offer the couple rejected, according to attorneys for both sides.

The root of the problem: Mr. Ellison “wants a pristine view, and they want their privacy,” says Marie Hurabiell, an attorney for the Von Bothmers.

Mr. Ellison would only speak through his tree attorney, Barri Bonapart, who says the CEO wants his views restored to what he has enjoyed since buying the five-bedroom, 10,742-square-foot residence more than 20 years ago.

The Von Bothmer’s green canopy has grown to block a swath of Mr. Ellison’s view from the third-level living room of his four-level home, Ms. Bonapart says. She adds that the Oracle chief uses the contemporary-style abode—one of his six residential properties—for entertaining and plans to spend more time there during the 2013 America’s Cup yachting race that he is bringing to San Francisco.

Ellison v. Von Bothmer case file

The view, with the trees at issue, from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s home.



Mr. Ellison isn’t the first celebrity to get into a row over greenery. Home decorating mogul Martha Stewart famously scrapped with one neighbor over shrubbery he grew between their homes in East Hampton in 1995.

In San Francisco, tree disputes often break out because the city is both hilly and wooded, resulting in blocked views for some. In 1988, the city passed a “Tree Dispute Resolution Ordinance” requiring a complainant to seek “initial reconciliation” with the tree owner, file a “tree claim” if that doesn’t work and, if necessary, submit the dispute to “binding arbitration.” If all else fails, the dispute can go to court.

According to Ms. Bonapart, the previous owners of the Von Bothmer home, David and Jan Sargent, agreed to Mr. Ellison’s request to keep the tallest trees on the property trimmed so as not to obstruct his views.

Mr. Sargent, a real-estate developer from Sausalito, Calif., says they made no such agreement.

When Mr. Sargent’s home went on the market in 2004, Mrs. Von Bothmer fell in love with its backyard of about 40 trees and shrubs. Mr. Von Bothmer, 44, a college history professor and son of the late Dietrich Von Bothmer, who was curator of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, also liked the home’s central location.

Over the next few years, the Von Bothmers discovered severed branches and other signs that their four tallest trees, including an approximately 80-year-old acacia, were being “topped,” or cut indiscriminately without permission, says Garth Drozin, another attorney for the Von Bothmers.

On June 2, 2006, Mrs. Von Bothmer and a handyman caught three workers in her redwoods preparing to cut tree limbs, according to Mrs. Von Bothmer’s testimony in her deposition. Believing they worked for Mr. Ellison, she confronted a manager at his home, Mr. Drozin says.

“There was an apology and a promise this wouldn’t happen anymore,” Mr. Drozin says.

In a 207-page deposition transcript from testimony given on April 8, Mr. Ellison said he never asked anyone to cut the trees. He added “there was no chance” one of his workers would have done so “because I would fire them instantly,” according to the deposition. “You know, I don’t do things like that. I’m a public figure.”

Mr. Ellison added that he didn’t believe trespassing had occurred, though he said “on one occasion” a worker stood on the retaining wall of his property to cut a limb from a Von Bothmer tree “that was coming over onto our property, and he was strapped in the tree.” In the deposition, Mr. Ellison said the “Von Bothmers complained and we stopped instantly, though we think we have the full right.”

From 2008 to 2009, Mr. Ellison exhausted tree-dispute protocols before filing suit, Ms. Bonapart says. Mrs. Von Bothmer, meanwhile, fired back this year by seeking to get her acacia—a non-native species to California—protected as a “Landmark Tree” by the city of San Francisco. That request is pending.

With the June 6 trial looming, both sides have met in settlement talks, though there hasn’t been a resolution.

Mr. Ellison has resolved a tree issue with another neighbor, though. In that instance—at Mr. Ellison’s principal residence in Woodside, Calif.—a neighbor complained after he planted some redwoods near their property lines.

“She said those trees would eventually grow and block her view,” Mr. Ellison said in his deposition. “So we removed the trees.”


Joe Queenan Hopes the Cupcake Craze Is at an End | Moving Targets –

An article in my local newspaper states that the cupcake craze afflicting this nation for the past few years may be fading, that cupcakes may be ceding pride of place to pies. Having attended several recent weddings where cupcakes were served in lieu of traditional wedding cakes, I greet this news with both joy and relief.

Like the Macarena, Tofutti, the pedestrian scooter, the urban cowboy look of the early 1980s and America’s brief, misguided obsession with Paris Hilton, the era when the cupcake was in the ascendant deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history. What a nightmare it has been.

Pastry historians agree that the cupcake craze was triggered by the repeated appearance of the puny, self-effacing confection on “Sex and the City,” a television program I have never seen for the obvious reason that it launches stupid Barbie doll-ish trends like cupcake mania. What began as nostalgia for an earlier, simpler time that never existed soon morphed into a bona-fide cultural juggernaut, with the cupcake officially asserting itself as an acceptable replacement for traditional, full-sized cakes at weddings, birthday parties, retirement send-offs and even funerals. People blogged about it. Martha Stewart wrote a book about it. Wedding planners wouldn’t shut their yaps about it.

My own belief is that a marriage that begins with the cupcake can only end with the Cheez Doodle, that a marriage conceived in frivolity will find its natural climax in tragedy. I’ve been married for 34 years; not once has a ceremonial cupcake insinuated itself into our relationship. A clafoutis or two, a few pear tortes, yes. But a cupcake? Never.

Last year, on a trip to Washington, I was ambling through the tony neighborhood of Georgetown when I noticed about 100 people lined up on 33rd Street, the queue snaking around the corner. I assumed that they were waiting for tickets to hear Lady Gaga or Sarah Palin, but when I asked my daughter, she said they were lined up for cupcakes at the city’s premier cupcakery, the subject of a recent cable TV reality show.

This was sick. This was pathetic. This reminded me of scenes from “Seinfeld,” when people would line up around the block to patronize the “Soup Nazi.” But at least the Soup Nazi (based on a real place) sells a product that is both nourishing and archetypal. Soup, even overpriced soup, is rooted in the mythology of America. Soup is not a joke. Cupcakes are.

With their fawning subservience to the cupcake, Americans had once again been led by the nose into mortifying behavior by the marketers who invent odious social trends and then trick everybody into thinking they result from a real paradigm shift bubbling up from the heartland. Nothing else can explain America’s brief, but inexplicable, infatuation with Menudo. Or Vanilla Ice. Or Lee Iacocca.

There is a subversive element at work here, too. The cupcake, to me, symbolizes compromise and acquiescence, a retreat from American greatness. The scaled-down cupcake—minuscule, inconsequential, silly—is a Carter-era bagatelle. It is frou-frou. It lacks muscle, sinew, cojones. It signifies that the cupcake eater, in the words of the immortal Warren Zevon, appreciates the best but is settling for less. Warren Zevon was never, ever seen eating a cupcake. He went to his death denouncing the cupcake. Or so I am told.

I am not entirely convinced that L’Époque de Cupcake has run its course, nor I am overjoyed that the serviceable yet ultimately humble pie may be replacing it. Marie-Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake,” not “Let them eat pie.” And she certainly never said, “Let them eat cupcakes.”

But a pie is better than a cupcake; it at least leads society back in the general direction of the Double Mocha Cappuccino Tiramisu Mirage and the Seven-Layer Nuclear Trauma Wedding Cake. And by pulling Americans back from the brink of disaster, it spares us an even more preposterous future, where people might line up around the block outside bakeries with names like Beignet and Macaroon and the ultimate nightmare: Georgetown’s Finest Toast. A society that would roll over and play dead for Machiavellian cupcake merchants is a society capable of anything


Richard M Mitzel Attorney Launches New Website

Attorney Richard M Mitzel today launched his new website

With over 40 years of experience Mr Mitzel brings a wealth of experience to the Brooksville, Spring Hill, Fl area.  Mr Mitzel's practice specializes in auto accidents, medical malpractice, legal malpractice, premises liability and insurance claims.

You will work directly with Mr Mitzel, not some assistant or non-attorney.  He brings a friendly down-home style to an often stiff and stodgy field.

His office is at:
Richard M Mitzel, Atty.
101 South Main Street
Brooksville, Fl 34601

Daniels Decides Against Presidential Run –

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced Sunday he has decided against jumping into the 2012 presidential race, saying a campaign would counter “the interests and wishes of my family.”

Mr. Daniels had been encouraged to run by many Republican governors and party leaders, who said the reputation he built in Indiana as a budget hawk would fit the public mood. Mr. Daniels had equivocated in public over whether to run, and his decision settles one of the major questions hanging over the 2012 Republican presidential field.

His announcement came in an email to supporters just after midnight Sunday morning.