If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is a video worth? According to the following statistics from November 2011, video is so popular in online media it is nearly priceless:

  • comScore (October 2011): 184 million US Internet users watched an average of 21.1 hours per viewer and engaged in 42.6 billion video views. A record 20 Billion Content Videos Viewed on Google Sites!
  • NielsenWire (November 16, 2011):  the amount of time spent streaming videos online is growing at a much faster rate than the number of video viewers.
  • eMarketer (November 28, 2011): forecasts the number of the number of US tablet users will reach 89.5 million in 2014 and by 2015 there will be 148.6 million smartphone users, stoking demand for mobile online video.
  • Mashable (November 14, 2011): 71% of US Internet users visit video sharing sites on a typical day.
  • Unbounce (October 31, 2011): reports that using video on a marketing landing page lifted conversion rates by 100%.
  • Futuresource Consulting:  forecasts consumption of legitimate free and paid for online video is on track to exceed 770 billion views across the USA, UK, France and Germany this year.

How to Embed a Facebook Video Into Your WordPress.com Blog
In his blog post, “Why Flickr Images Boost Your Blog,” blogger Ari Herzog illustrates the importance of including images with the words of your post. Given that there are different conditions under which you can use images on Flickr, Herzog’s blog also links to a very helpful blog post titled “A Complete Guide to Finding and Using Incredible Flickr Images.”

Given the above statistics, it stands to reason that including videos in your blog posts is an additionally important way to help people not only find your blog posts, but engage with them as well.

Noted social media consultant Chris Brogan encourages using video in blog posts, and he can’t be wrong, can he? Notably, in a September 1, 2011 Entrepreneur.com article, Chris also shared several helpful strategies you can use to start video blogging.

But not all videos are created equal. Rather I should say that not all videos are equally easy to include in your blog posts — specifically your WordPress.com blog posts.

YouTube and WordPress.com have facilitated the ability to insert videos with short URLs and  a simple code syntax (remove the space after and before the brackets; I needed to include the space here to prevent WordPress.com from actually trying to embed the example YouTube URL):

[ youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=video-id-here ].

However, for certain topics, as in the case of my recent blog post, (I’ve Had) The Time(line) of My Life, I wanted to include a video that was only available on Facebook. Doing so wasn’t nearly as intuitive or easy.

Eventually, after several minutes of serious searching online, I found a website with a solution that worked: How to Add,Show or embed facebook video on your wordpress, joomla, blogger blog or website.

To briefly summarize the three simple steps to follow so you can embed a Facebook video into your WordPress.com blog:

1.)  Locate the URL of the Facebook page in which the source video is embedded. The URL for the video from the (I’ve Had) The Time(line) of My Life post (pictured below) is https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=980256227111.

2.)  identify the number after the “v=” — in the case of the previously mentioned video, the number is 980256227111.

How to Embed Facebook Videos

3.)  Insert the number after the “v=”video into the code follows below. Again, as was the case with the YouTube example, please remove the space after and before the brackets (I needed to include it to prevent WordPress.com from actually trying to embed the example Facebook URL):

[ gigya src=”http://www.facebook.com/v/980256227111
codebase=”http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0″ width=”400″ height=”224″ ]

Please see the actual embedded video below:

And there you have it — you have successfully embedded a Facebook video into your WordPress.com blog!

What’s your (un)lucky number?

Yesterday, while volunteering during my younger son Max’s visit to his school’s library, we found and read through a Boston Celtics book together.

On the cover of the book was a picture of  the Celtics playing the Chicago Bulls. When Max, who loves basketball and is playing in a youth league, saw the picture, he exclaimed “that’s my team!”

He then added that he wears jersey number 13 (presently worn by Joakim Noah), to which I joked “unlucky 13?!”

Being a week shy of 6, Max looked at me and said “what does that mean?”

I then realized that  our cultural dislike (in some cases fear) of the number 13 — triskaidekaphobia in Greek — is not innate, but is learned. But why does our culture dislike the number 13?

Being that today is “Friday the 13th” — another common folklore-inspired fear (paraskevidekatriaphobia in Greek) — I wanted to briefly explore some of the origins for these irrational ideas. Below are some snippets of insights I collected:

According to the USA Today article, “Three Friday the 13ths, 13 weeks apart, a rarity“:

“The number 13 and Friday are recurring presences in mythological, spiritual and religious tradition. In Christianity, 13 people attended the Last Supper before Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ death on a Friday. A Norse myth warns of dire consequences for dining in groups of 13. Friday the 13th was the date the medieval Knights Templar were imprisoned.”

Interesting, the same USA Today article adds, “for many pagans, 13 is a lucky number, because it corresponds with the number of full moons each year.”

An About.com article, “Why Friday the 13th Is Unlucky,” offers these unique insights:

“…the number 13 may have been purposely vilified by the founders of patriarchal religions in the early days of western civilization because it represented femininity. Thirteen had been revered in prehistoric goddess-worshiping cultures, we are told, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days).”

“Twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, god of mischief, had been left off the guest list but crashed the party, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki raised hell by inciting Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods. Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly. All Valhalla grieved.”

“As if to prove the point, the Bible tells us there were exactly 13 present at the Last Supper. One of the dinner guests — er, disciples — betrayed Jesus Christ, setting the stage for the Crucifixion.”

Michael Shermer  — Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, and columnist for Scientific American — examines the reasons “why people believe strange things” in his February 2006 TED Talk (presented below).

You can also watch it on the TED website and follow along with an interactive transcript).

In his speech he addresses questions such as “Why do people see the Virgin Mary on cheese sandwiches” or “Why do people hear demonic lyrics in ‘Stairway to Heaven’?”

It is for many of the reasons above that people look for logic — or at least deeper meaning — in places where there might really be none.

Consider the many other fears explained in the ABC News article, “Fear of Friday, the 13th (Paraskevidekatriaphobia) and Other Unpronounceable Phobias.”

Often people invent explanations for things they don’t understand (or don’t want to confront). Just think about how the world functioned before the emergence of science!

For example, the current irrational obsession with all of the instances of “316” that presumably occurred when Tim Tebow lead the Denver Broncos to a playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend.

When it comes to Tim Tebow, many well-meaning and honestly inspired individuals nevertheless connect dots that don’t necessarily make sense connecting and draw conclusions that are entirely based on assumptions and anecdotal evidence.

“Tebowmania” seemed to hit a crescendo following the hysteria when what appeared to be a “halo” formed over Mile High Stadium in Denver last Sunday after the team’s playoff win.

Interesting, whereas many jumped to conclusions that it was some kind of heavenly sign, one rationally minded reader of the article (who uses the name “Rotten Rodriguez”) explained it as follows:

“It wasn’t a halo. I was at the game. After Denver scores pyrotechni­cs are shot out of a cylinder in the south end zone. A smoke ring came off the cylinder then floated over the stadium for as long as it take a smoke ring to dissipate.”

Superstitions and strange rituals have been a part of sports since people began hitting balls with sticks.  For a good laugh read the ESPN article “Curses, superstitions and sports,” the Business Insider feature “The 30 Strangest Superstitions In Sports History,” and About.com’s piece “Why Do So Many Athletes, Have Superstitions and Rituals.”

If you’re feeling academically minded, read the scholarly paper titled “An Exploratory Investigation of Superstition, Personal Control, Optimism and Pessimism in NCAA Division I Intercollegiate Student Athletes.

If only Tim Tebow wore the number 13 instead of the number 15, perhaps he could have provided some additional inspiration for those who suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia. Is Dan Marino is available?

That would be especially helpful this year since, as the USA Today article also points out, “for the first time since 1984, those three Friday the 13ths — Jan. 13, April 13 and July 13 — are exactly 13 weeks apart.”

So, if you do suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, maybe you should start Tebowing — or consider the luck-related insights of Guy Kawasaki to whom I attributed the phrase “go luck yourself!”

Update: Despite the above exploration into the absurdity of superstition, I wore my “lucky” Wes Welker jersey when my favorite NFL team, the New England Patriots, hosted the Denver Broncos for the AFC Divisional Game on Saturday, January 14, 2012 and they won! The following week, on Sunday, January 22, they beat the Baltimore Ravens in dramatic fashion at the AFC Championship Game, sending the Patriots to Super Bowl XLVI — while, again, I wore my “lucky” Welker jersey.

Unfortunately, the Patriots faced and — in an almost exact replay to Super Bowl XLII — lost, yet again, to the New York Giants on Sunday, February 5, 2012. And, in true ironic form, one of the many reasons the Patriots lost was because Welker dropped a badly thrown pass from Tom Brady — negating the Patriots attempt at a very possible come back win.

How’s that for luck and superstition? I admire Welker, but clearly I will need to wear a new jersey next year!

Photo Credit: “Friday the 13th” by Dennis Skley.

Are you grateful for the gifts you received this holiday season?

Hopefully, if you wanted an iPhone 4S (affiliate link) and didn’t get it (or got something you didn’t want), you were not devastated like these horribly ungrateful individuals. For more humorous commentary, consider comedian Jim Gaffigan’s thoughts on getting unwanted gifts.

If you did receive a gift for which you are not grateful, remember that somebody always wants — or at the very least could use — what you have.

Also consider that, during the “holiday season,” consumers bravely endured pepper spray on Black Friday, delivery drama for items ordered online, travel trauma, and the frenzy of family feuds.

Why? To purchase the “perfect” gift for you (just as you might have done for others).

Interestingly, despite the many challenges with which consumers were presented, in addition to the overall economic uncertainty, shoppers came out in force this past holiday season.

According to a December 15, 2011 Associated Press article, “the National Retail Federation…now expects holiday sales for the November and December period to rise 3.8 percent to a record $469.1 billion.”

The article further elaborates, “the projected gain is still below the 5.2 percent pace seen during the holiday 2010 season from the prior year, but it’s well above the 2.6 percent average increase over the past 10 years.”

Impressively, despite the odds against it happening, consumers collectively spent nearly one-half trillion dollars buying goods and services that, were it not for the holidays that necessitated the purchases, those items would have most likely never been purchased.

And now, with the holidays fading into the past, everyone is turning their attention to their soon-to-be-forgotten New Year’s resolutions.

When it comes to resolutions, people often list grandiose goals they intend to accomplish and, much like expectations for gifts, often the reality doesn’t match the fantasy. So, how can you start this new year with intention and reflection?

My suggestion? Instead of making a list of resolutions, make a list of three gratitudes — three people, experiences or things for which you are thankful and:

  • Provide a foundation upon which you can build your life;
  • Whose presence in your life gives you direction;
  • Act as wings that lift you through tough times.

Similarly, Chris Brogan encourages people to “forego the idea of a resolution, and instead, to come up with 3 words that will help you define your goals and experiences for the coming year” with his “My Three Wordsmeme.

So, what are my “three gratitudes?”

  1. My Sons: My boys, Jacob and Max, are my inspiration and motivation. Whenever I am with them, my heart fills with joy and my life is filled with meaning. Both have overcome — and continue to work through — unique obstacles, but they do so with grace and gumption. Their presence fills me with pride, love, and laughter.
  2. My Friends: I have a small core of friends — maybe 5 really strong connections, mostly from my undergraduate years at UCSB, but one or two from more recent years. While small in number they have provided me with unconditional support that has made a large impact.
  3. My Career:  Henry David Thoreau is quoted as saying  ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.’ I interpret this to mean that most people spend their lives pursuing practicality while foregoing their passion. While both are important, I am grateful to have transitioned into teaching, a career that is both challenging and rewarding.

Those are my three gratitudes…what are yours?

Photo Credit: “thank you note for every language” by woodleywonderworks.