My Interview With InsideTheStory.org

I was recently interviewed for an article on The Future of Visual Storytelling for InsidetheStory.org. You can check out the article here and my answers to Adam Westbrook’s questions are below.

Firstly, tell us a little bit about Scrollkit – what does it do and how does it help people publishing on the web?

A simple way to think of us is that we are like InDesign for the web. We’re a visual editor that gives designers a massive amount of control over a single page. Because we allow you to edit pixels, not print fiber, you get to lay out pretty much any kind of media that you can think of. Video, photos, interactive effects, you can make pages that would satisfy Harry Potter.

You say that you’re on a mission to make the web more cinematic – what does a cinematic web look like?

We want more people to cry infront of their computer screens. Preferably from awe or joy. The web is the richest, most advanced publishing system we’ve ever had, but most stories posted on the web look like every other story posted on the web. We believe more people can tell stories online that are arresting and powerful, that they themselves are only capable of coming up with, but they need a tool that is more human.

So the answer to your question is, in some sense, I don’t know what it will look like and that’s exactly what makes it exciting.

Can web design achieve the same narrative, emotional or aesthetic results as a film, book or podcast? 

You can experience so many of our most mature mediums on an iPad or a laptop. You can read books, short stories, articles, watch films, tv, play classic arcarde games, and all of that is nice but they are all distinctly their own thing. The same is true on the web, what’s most exciting is not that you’ll be able to create a web page that achieves the emotional effect of a film or book, it’s that you’ll be able to come up with something that feels like it belongs in its own category. You mention, podcasts in your question but it’s funny because podcasts are they’re own thing and have only been able to be their own thing because of recent technology. They’re technically just audio files, so like radio in that respect but the way they’re distributed helped push them to be a unique format.

This is what attracted me to the nytimes “Snow Fall” story. It used videos, photos, text, but the piece didn’t feel like ‘multimedia,’ it felt like media, a single story told well. That’s what we need more of.

What’s wrong with the way we’re using the web visually at the moment?

Less is wrong about how we are visually consuming the web and a lot more is wrong with how we are making it. And the problem with how we are making it is that we aren’t making it in a visual way. The overwhelming majority of people fly blind when they make content on the web. They fill out two forms, a header and a footer, then preview it in wordpress when they’re finished. Imagine being a painter and not being able to see what happens as you wet your brush and slide it across your canvas. This is the kind of fundamental problem we have now.

I’m a huge fan of Bret Victor and his speech, Inventing on Principle ( http://vimeo.com/36579366 ). When creators see the changes they make as they make them, they make better stuff.

The web is very different from the traditional ‘broadcast’ media, but how does that change the way we tell stories with it? Presumably it goes beyond simply making things interactive and social?

Making things interactive and social is really awesome, if you can do that you are on your way. What’s not exciting is that, for most, that means putting a tweet button on their article.

The phrase ‘social media’ has always hurt my brain. All media is social by definition.

How does video fit into this? It’s described as the black hole on the web…is there a way to make videos more web-native?  

Video is the gorilla in the room. If you are compelling on video, you will rule pop culture. What is pop culture and what is web culture is getting more and more unclear. There are a zillion ways to make video more web native and people have been pushing that forward ever sense they had the bandwidth.

Finally, blue sky question: in your wildest dreams how do you see a perfect cinematic web looking ten years from now? What’s changed by then? 

To me, cinema is the art of making multimedia feel like media. You take a handful of technologies that don’t necessarily get along, then you find a way for them to complete each other. It’s always a messy process to get there and we’ve seen that recently. We are focused on the screen, we think we can significantly increase the quality of the content that people touch everyday.

Imagining technologies outside of the screen is the next frontier. I’ve been excited recently by MYO. You can control a computer by flexing the muscles in your arm.

My hope for the next 10 years is that they are as exciting as the past 10 years.