I had a great time today in Harvard Square, right next to Harvard University. We had the best location in the best “city square” in all of Cambridge, right next to the subway entrance. Several thousand people walked by in the limited time between 10:30am and 3:30pm that Wheel Questions was open.
Harvard Square is a curious mix of the young, the old, the townies, and students. As we were setting up, some students were doing a survey as a class project to see who liked Craisins, the Cranberry Raisins. Some homeless people expressed an interest, some eloquently, and one in a drunken state where he mistook my hammer for a weapon. Several tourists stopped by to chat. Someone recorded a question on video with her sister dictating the question by cell phone.
A blind woman asked me to help her find her way, so I escorted her for 15 minutes and later she returned and asked a question on camera! And Iearned how to park in Harvard Square for “free”: get a parking ticket. Then it’s free all day until it’s time to pay the ticket, that is. When the event got rained out, I was able to grab a few volunteers to help me close it down without much damage.
I’m definitely learning some things about doing this promotion. I started off by wanting 5-second segments where people simply asked a question. Well, people are interacting with me before and after asking their question, and it’s strange-flavored to chop out a question without any context. Leaving in some of their interaction with me before and after the question I think is smoother.
I’m also sensing that video is not going to replace handwritten questions. Only a third of the people are brave enough to appear on video (or they dream about being famous). The two types are working differently as well. Handwritten questions can be deeper and more serious. The people who ask deeply personal questions or truly sad ones tend to want to write them and be anonymous.
Of course, appearing in a video is slightly anonymous, but I get more lightweight questions. That’s OK, because I don’t know how comfortable I feel giving deadly serious answers on video. The silly and moderately-intense questions are more fun and engaging on video than in writing. But on video, it’s hard for a person to be an ‘everyman’. That person clearly *is* someone, and I’ve taken to everyone them to give their first name.
So thanks to the rain, I finally have an early evening. I’ve been so intensely focused on drumming up questions, and coming up to speed on editing, that I’ve fallen behind on actually answering the questions. I’ll try to finish the video editing and do a ton of that tonight! I may drive out to MIT where I can borrow a classroom late at night to record my answers, when my roommates are sleeping and I shouldn’t be making noise.
Finally, I’m thinking that while I do want 1,000 questions and responses (some in writing and some on video), a 5-second question followed by a 20-second answer doesn’t make the best video. I think I may string together questions and answers into a 2-minute compiled movie. What do you think about that? Leave me a comment.