21 University launched November 30th (read the welcome announcement). I am taking the time here to do an extended one way discussion of the concept with those of you who read TDL, and I think, have a deeper understanding of T21C. I plan to repeat this process in a more general way at The21Convention.com, so the article you are reading here will not cover every single detail, just the extra awesome ones.
A. The 21 Convention is not The21Convention.com
A picture of a hammer is not a hammer. The website is not the company, the event, or the concept. It is a specific expression of those entities. I think most people understand this, but it is still worth clarifying. In this context, 21 University is not a replacement for The 21 Convention. It is something entirely separate and unique.
B. There are more differences than meets the eye.
The21Convention.com functions in a rudimentary capacity compared to what 21University.com does. So there are similarities. But there are probably more differences than there are similarities. These differences range from global content organization, down to the fundamental tech aspects of the website.
Compare the following two URLs for example, which represent the same lecture from Doug McGuff M.D.
The former is superior in every possible way I am aware of for a site of this size. The hidden benefit is perhaps the most crucial difference of all : it is easier to identify what the content is by glancing at the URL alone.
One of the long term goals I have for 21 University is for people to treat the website as a primary. Rather than typing “21 University” into a search engine or following it through social media, they don’t hesitate to type it directly into their web browser on demand. While the concept of 21 University itself may not scale to tens of millions of people, I think it is possible to foster treating the website as a primary for those who are passionate about it.
Short, easy to read and understand URLs are critical for this in my estimation. And The21Convention.com will never have this. Nor even 21Convention.com (in the instance that the company owned it, which it does not).
This doesn’t just apply to the home page and specific lectures either. It also applies to macro categorization of the videos. Compare the following for something specific like ethical philosophy …
Even with an additional layer of categorization to reach ethical philosophy, the latter still comes out shorter in the URL department (although that’s not entirely fair given that ethics is shorter than individualism, and ethical philosophy is not directly accessible on The21Convention.com — although if it were the url would be longer yet).
The url as it is used on 21 University is shorter, easier to understand at a snap glance, and is more rigidly defined in an educational context.
C. The21Convention.com is not the primary problem.
I think many people would read the above and ask “why not just overhaul/update The21Convention.com?”. True, the original website can be modified to mimic many of the new functions of 21University.com. And it will continue to be updated and refined; technically as well as in purpose, focus, and function. The problem is, in my judgement, a complete overhaul is unwise, a waste of resources, and doesn’t address fundamental differences.
The21Convention.com is very old at this point, and gutting it to start over is very time and treasure consuming. It was not built and released with the same original intentions that I have for 21University.com.
Also, The 21 Convention will never be 21 University (and vice versa). T21C in concept alone was never intended to perfectly house an infinite number of lectures. It just fulfilled this need and function as it arose.
21U is designed from the ground up to meet this need, better than The 21 Convention ever could manage it’s own content.
D. What about the Youtube channel?
Due to the nature of lectures from The 21 Convention, our primary Youtube channel consistently produces metrics 5-10x higher than channels of the same subscriber base size. What this means is : channels with approximately 150,000 subscribers (as of the publishing of this article) produce many of the same statistics as our main channel with 33k subscribers. Often, slightly less in certain measurements.
This is completely abnormal. But a welcome abnormality =).
In spite of this, the billion dollar giant known as Youtube wasn’t designed to host videos from The 21 Convention. It was designed to host an infinite amount of content from an infinite number of channels. Millions of people producing millions of hours of video. This means control over the content as it is presented on Youtube.com is limited by whatever Google/Youtube wants it to be limited by and to. This is their right and I respect it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it and just sit still.
21University.com is the derivative answer to this dilemma. Youtube hosting the videos is excellent, but the platform is not ideal per what I need and want for content from T21C. Lectures encountered and organized on 21U are designed to be a fundamentally and overall better experience for the viewer.
Videos directly accessible on the Youtube channel tend to dominate SEO on Youtube.com. But their ranks on Google/Bing/Yahoo are far behind. Same goes for their homes on The21Convention.com. The simple fact is, text searches are extremely competitive — at least in English. This is because writing has a much lower barrier to entry than (quality) video production.
Almost anyone can start up a WordPress or Blogspot blog and start publishing.
But not everyone can build a multi-day conference and film it in HD with $12,000+ worth of video/audio/lighting/computer equipment + manage staff/volunteers/speakers/attendees/supporting infrastructure.
Shit iz complicatedz sun.
21University.com is my answer to this opportunity for additional search traffic hitting the lectures, off Youtube. I don’t expect the website to crush it MarksDailyApple.com style, but I think there is room to grow in that direction and get some substantial traffic to the primary videos from non Youtube text searches.
Some day, accurate English and foreign language translations may also be loaded into the videos on Youtube, which could lead to an insane boost in traffic should the captions be indexed and searched by search engines.
F. Social Media
You may notice on 21U that there are zero social media sharing options. This is based on few contributing factors. For starters let’s clear something fundamental up in this context : Youtube is not a social media platform.
Youtube is a content management platform for videos, hosted by Youtube, owned by Google. It is also the second most popular search engine and website in the world to my knowledge — ahead of Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, etc.
Second, I believe social media as it relates to businesses is highly, highly, fucking over rated. [If you are discovering this idea for the first time, try not to freak out, I know what it’s like to be suckered into thinking social media is the future of the future of the future].
In many cases, there is probably little to no harm in creating an official account and allowing individuals to follow your work. This however, is not the issue at hand.
What is at hand is dedicating part of your visitor’s attention and your digital real estate to social media sharing buttons, in likely addition to a subscription/follow button set of some kind. Unless your audience is hyper-active on social media sites, I think this is pointlessly redundant, a waste of space, adds distraction, and is wayyyyy too generous a stance towards social media platforms for what you get in return.
You’re essentially plastering free advertising for them all over your site in an attempt to get some (chaotic in quality/demographic) traffic.
There is a connect widget on the site at present, but soon this will be downsized and modified to be less of a distraction.
In my opinion, social media is a bubble that won’t pop but will slowly deflate. Similar perhaps to the student loan bubble in the US. Although the reasons are different; with student loans, the reason it won’t pop comes from special government protection, also known as stupidity pasted over with corruption and evil philosophy.
G. Mobile non-ready
I’m not interested in encouraging people to experience 21 University on a mobile device. I would much rather divert that specific traffic to the Youtube channel (that is hosted by a company with an endless pool of resources to optimize the experience for mobile use) and The 21C Store (to purchase downloads of the lectures for offline/local use).
I think trying to make a product appeal to everyone, in every context, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to the end of time, is a recipe for failure. I might even have the website setup so mobile visitors are recommended to visit those web properties when trying to access 21U from a mobile device.
Call me a control freak all you like, I actively don’t want viewers distracted or multi-tasking when learning from lectures on 21U. Distractions should not be produced on our end as a company, nor should they be enabled by us for the viewer to encounter outside of the website.
But the entire universe is going mobile!!!!
Hrrmmm … yeah, I hear AOL is the future to. Or was it social media?
Everything is going to be social and mobile. Or not.
I think mobile hype and excitement is more legitimate than social media hoopla, but still, much of it is a novelty effect that will slow down soon enough. Especially once kids who grew up with smart phones from day one hit their 20s.
To be clear, I think mobile technology is great. But the obsession with ultra-universal hyper-minimalist technology is a novelty that will not last.
Those are my thoughts for now, however, I may add additional thoughts later with regards to advertising, profit, etc. (21 University is not a not-for-profit venture).