Response 2: William Shaw’s questions about Nubs

‘Firstly, at the moment wit is still prized as much as quality, but will the increasing standards of advertising viral videos begin to crowd out the more low-fi productions like Leo Murray’s? Take a look at this ad about the persuasive technology of a musical staircase which turns out to be an advertisement by Volksvagen. Made to look low-fi by the adevertising agency DDB Stockholm, it became one of the most successful virals of last year. Advertisers are spending increasingly large sums producing these virals.’

Depends what you mean by ‘standards.’ Leo Murray’s animation is technically harder to make than the VW viral – but I’m guessing that’s not the point here. Viral adverts tend to cater to base tastes – they have to be ‘funny’ or ‘filthy’. Nubs have to be educative, intriguing and fundamentally need to make you think. So nubs and viral adverts have different standards. People tend to want to watch whats easier to watch and viral adverts tend to have an easier job of being an easy thing to watch – so they will always be more popular. For me, Leo Murray’s film is more of a movie trailer for a piece of think tank research than a video that actually explains the research – which for me makes it less of a ‘nub’. A cool video nonetheless.

But I guess that’s not quite the point your making. The VW video isn’t funny or filthy – it’s intriguing – which is incidious as, at the end of the day, they want you to buy a f**cking car. The difference between advertising and educational videos is something that we have tussled over many times on this blog before. An educational nub looks more like an advert, advertising has to appear more like ‘something that happened’ somewhere, or something educational. We all differ in our opinions. I think there is a difference and it’s one worth marking out. These are as well as I have been able to express my opinions recently:

‘A key issues with nubs, is the thin dividing line between advertising and educational content. Adverts used to be in ad-breaks on TV – now they can be anywhere. Most short videos used to be adverts – now anyone can make a short video. Basically, these days you can’t spot an advert according to when you see it, or what it looks like. This makes the difference between educational content and advertising a highly subjective and contentious area – it has to be decoded by the viewer on a case by case basis.

On Make Nubs certain characteristics have lead us to consider a video ‘educational’ rather than advertising. Principally it’s advertising if the purpose of the video is to promote an action – e.g. to solicit donations, to encourage a purchase or provoke an immediate change in behaviour. These results can be a consequence of watching the nub, but they cannot be the sole measure of it’s success. We also tend to think of videos as educational if they acknowledge that there are areas of ambiguity in the argument, that there a questions left unanswered and that the author does not have all the solutions to the story. ‘

Secondly, if nubs are the repository for political messages, will we soon have “nub wars”? As somebody in the office pointed out the moment they saw The Impossible Hamster, a climate sceptic might have made a video of a hamster growing not only fat but clever enough to start building new worlds.

Yup, it’s already happening and it certainly will in the next election. Nubs are just the video version of the political speech, the newspaper editorial, the thinktank pamphlet, the university lecture – the arguments that play out in these worlds, will be replicated in the nub world – but only if people who are predominantly communicating in the written and the spoken world, want to switch and learn to communicate in pictures and sound. I don’t know how likely that is. The main reason why most nubs are crap is because they are made by people who write, research and theorise but don’t have a clue about video, or people who can make video but can’t write, research or theorise. Our hope when we started blogging here a year ago was to bring these two communities together – we have obviously failed here so far. Maybe we can do something together? Any ideas?

Thirdly, do they respresent a kind of Darwinism of ideas; if an idea is not reducible to a three minute nub will it become worthles?

I like this idea. I think it’s a real challenge to ‘public’ intellectuals – I don’t know if it’s a fair challenge, but it’s probably a good one to have in the back of your mind if you have an important idea to share. Isn’t there some old adage like ‘why did you write 2,000 words? because I didn’t have the time to write 500’ – I feel that. I rather think that the power structure that exists around the development and dissemination of ideas is so tightly controlled that for most ideas, whether it passes the 3-minute video test is fairly tangential to it’s success – it’s more important that it gets in Propsect, on Start the Week, on TED or talked about at the ICA, ugh, I mean the RSA etc etc. But maybe if people start making really good ones….

(questions taken from this post)


Nubs blogged about. Response 1.

The Cokes are in the icebox/popcorn’s on the table! Horray! William Shaw at the RSA Arts and Ecology Centre has blogged about nubs. Think this might be the first time anybody has bothered to blog about them – thankyou William. I guess this means that the nub has gone viral or something, how exciting!  He raises some interesting questions, which I am going to respond to later.

He also posted this nub, from the RSA Animate which is a sort of hybrid of a teachnub and speechnub.

I can’t embed it but you can view it here

It’s an interesting effort (reminds me a bit of i met the walrus) and must have taken forever, but the jerky camera and bad sound are kind of off putting. Here’s something terrible we tried ages ago in this vein, but with the words of Tom Bentley rather than equally dense Matthew Taylor. I think this video underlines how hard it is to get complex information and complex words into a short video – we’re currently in our 7th week of trying to synthesize Robin Murray’s tretis on the social economy.

Sometimes words are just better when they come out of a face. E>G>

Britain’s got talent

This is an old Scorzayzee track. Pretty much the only thing he recorded.
Apparently he’s gearing up for a return in 2010 – but I do like this quote from an interview a few years back in his wikipedia entry…

“If I hear a beat and I get an idea again I’ll write another tune and put it out. But at the moment I’ve just got nothing that I want to say. I don’t want to talk for the sake of it. I don’t want to just make tunes for the sake of it, I want to do something special. All I know is that if I do anything else, it’s got to be worth coming back from retirement to say it.”

For more on the music video/nub fringe see

Disposable Heroes of Hiphocracy

and some more good Scorzayzee rhyming.

and the Lyrics:

Yo, the BNP still exists in Great Britain
Police brutality exists in Great Britain
Slavery made the riches of Great Britain
The Queen wears stolen diamonds, Great Britain
Her husband’s a Freemason, Great Britain
They killed Lady Di, Great Britain
Do I have to go into why, Great Britain

Your politicians are corrupt, Great Britain
Your prison’s full of crooks, Great Britain
Your education sytem is corrupt, Great Britain
Your laws are played out on #-talk, Great Britain
The IRA used to bomb your streets, Great Britain
Then you’re shaking hands in a deal, Great Britain
Thought you’d never negotiate with terrorists, Great Britain
Are Muslims your only Nemesis, Great Britain
The FBI’s Pedophile list, Great Britain
But keep it on a hush hush-hush, Great Britain


If I had an army, I would fight ya
If I had the police, I’d arrest ya
If I had my own court, my own judge and jury
I’d sit back and let history tell the story

If I had an army, I would fight ya
If I had the police, I’d arrest ya
If I had my own court, my own judge and jury
I’d sit back and let history tell the story

You sold weapons to Iraq, Great Britain
You sold your soul to America, the Devil, Great Britain
You haven’t got no religion, Great Britain
Do you really believe in Jesus, Great Britain
Thou shall not kill, Great Britain
Thou shall not steal, Great Britain
The homeless roam your streets, Great Britain
It’s all about your stocks and shares, Great Britain
A mortgage wrapped round your neck for years, Great Britain
The bank manager borrows you money, Great Britain
Now you’re in a whole heap of debt, Great Britain
Poverty is on your doorstep, Great Britain
Sit back and watch TV, Great Britain
Watch the adverts and buy #, Great Britain
Everything on finance for you, Great Britain
A slave to the system every day, Great Britain
While the rich take over your brain, Great Britain

Repeat Chorus

Don’t believe what you read in the news, Great Britain
You gave Palestine to the Jews, Great Britain
Stick your nose in people’s affairs, Great Britain
Councillors on 60 grand a year, Great Britain
More than the soldiers in Iraq, Great Britain
Then you have to pay your council tax, Great Britain
The queen lives in a house like Saddam Hussein
They’re both rich
So I guess they’re both one and the same

Great Britania, Britania ruled the waves
Pirates on the ships searching for the slaves
Control the world in this New World Order
Could a spent the war money on homes, food and water

I was born and raised in Great Britain
Brainwashed and put in a daze by Great Britain
I learnt how to wrap myself in Great Britain
Yo, there’s none better than livin in Great Britain

Repeat Chorus