Ze Frank is My Hero

I remember the first time I saw one of Ze Frank's videos in 2005 (I think). It was called "On Valentines Day" and I never forgot it. Funny, raw and clever. Little did I know that he would become such a rock star.

Paul Kaputska at New Tee Vee recently did a great retrospective of Ze's video blog show called, well, "The Show", which recently ended after one year. I have been so impressed. Ze deserves all the credit, accolades and praise that has recently been heaped upon him.

As Paul describes:

But what really distanced The Show from the rest of online video was Frank’s quick embrace of interactive technology to make his audience part of the proceedings, a facet that will likely live on as an enduring case study of how to build a supremely successful online community that doesn’t just watch, but participates.

Ah yes, we come to the meat of matter and why I am so fascinated by Ze's project. You see, Ze didn't just make a video blog - he created a community around himself. He used his talent and charisma to bring people in and engage them in projects that, while usually inane and useless, serve as great examples of what people are motivated to do in a community setting.

Example 1: Ze asked his community of "sportsracers" to dress up their vacuum cleaners and send in pictures. Of course they did, en masse.

Example 2: Ze decided that the earth had never been a sandwich, so he challenged his readers to simultaneously place 2 pieces of bread on opposite ends of the earth at the same time. He didn't stop with the challenge, but provided a supremely useful map to help sportsracers find the necessary global antipodes. My friends Duncan and Jon Rawlinson made a video and took the prize (via Spain and New Zealand).

Ze also created something he called "The Org" which enabled members (including yours truly) to interact by location, submit photos, etc. Like The Show, it appears that The ORG is currently taking a break.

My point? I have 2:

  1. My first point is that communities (online and off) need leaders. They don't have to be Ze Franks, but they need visibility, personality and recognition. Who is your Ze Frank?
  2. My second point is about engagement and mobilization. Discussions are great, but what are projects that the community can work on together? Will your community rally around solving a problem or producing something original? The first step is to ask them.