Mathemusician Extraordinaire
November 13, 2013 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Vi Hart speaks at XOXO and is funny, meandering, interesting, and musical.
posted by Rory Marinich (21 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I had a really hard time watching this, and it makes me so thankful that my worst presentations weren't ever filmed and distributed to anyone who cared to watch on the internet.

The thing about speaking is that if you're going to make a show of breaking conventions, you have to understand why the conventions are there in the first place before you can subvert them to communicate your ideas. Any time you're speaking you're holding the audience hostage, and you have to do right by them.

I kept waiting for her to let us in on the joke, until at the very end I realized this was just a really nervous and poorly prepared presenter. The actual content of her talk doesn't start until about 9 minutes in.

I really enjoy Vi's scripted, prepared videos.
posted by danny the boy at 4:26 PM on November 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Does she ever actually play guitar? If only someone had had a clippy thing.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:40 PM on November 13, 2013

Guitar playing
posted by Ad hominem at 4:43 PM on November 13, 2013

she also speaks out against the google+youtube integration: "Google's recent untrustworthiness is certainly what got me getting this old website back up and running, and why I decided blogging is better than vlogging right now... Taking all the collected data and computational power of Google and using it to optimally encourage people to watch advertisements and argue with each other is, in this author's opinion, brazenly unethical... I'll continue posting on my own RSS-enabled site and making my videos available as torrents..." (via)
posted by kliuless at 4:56 PM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

See also Vi's self referential string quartet, among other amazing bits in her Gel talk a couple years ago.
posted by mark7570 at 4:59 PM on November 13, 2013

If seasoned professionals jump the shark semi-frequently how much more dangerous for the self-made quirky, ironic nerd. Danny the boy hit it on the head. But, wow,... what a disaster! I couldn't watch the whole thing.
posted by cleroy at 6:13 PM on November 13, 2013

Vi Hart is not an especially ironic person.

On the contrary, one of the reasons she's so delightful is how unabashed she is in her enthusiasm for things.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:41 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I sadly have to agree with danny the boy. I like Vi Hart's stuff a lot, but this was the most disappointing talk of the conference by a considerable margin. (That said, the video she showed during the mini film fest was great, and she was very nice in person, so I'd still call it a net win!)
posted by danb at 6:56 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jeez, tough crowd here. Never had a projector-presentation die on you? If you did, would you stomp off the stage in a big huff, or just curl up and dye? I think I just saw VH deal with some tech glitches as reasonably well as possible.
posted by ovvl at 9:06 PM on November 13, 2013

Vi Hart on conferences and her XOXO talk.

"It’s weird to see it all fancily filmed and edited, because it makes it seem almost professional and prepared, rather than the quickly-thrown-together unrehearsed improvisation that it was. This is in contrast to my videos, which I spend huge amounts of time scripting, producing, and editing, yet sometimes people still get the impression that I’m actually rambling in real time."
posted by archagon at 9:39 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

ovvl: "Jeez, tough crowd here. Never had a projector-presentation die on you? If you did, would you stomp off the stage in a big huff, or just curl up and dye? I think I just saw VH deal with some tech glitches as reasonably well as possible."

Yes, I've had a projector die on me. After the first time you learn to bring a backup projector because the venue's might be shit, and after the second time you learn to bring printed handouts so you don't burn half your allotted time trying to fix it, and after the third time you learn to arrive 4 hours early to test everything yourself.

Look, if the conference fucked up and their equipment was terrible, that's on them. What wasn't, was the entire rest of her talk. The long rambly parts before her preso quit on her, that did not serve to communicate anything except her general ennui, and a dislike of talks and conferences. (What does that do except for insult the audience and other presenters, btw?) And leading the audience in song? Just because you jokingly point out that you're going to do something self-serving, doesn't give you a free pass to actually do it. Laughing at her own jokes. The non-squitors, the inside references. Not knowing down to the minute how long the talk will take. Not being prepared with a way to time your talk. Apologizing, repeatedly for the talk. Contriving a filler at the end because your talk didn't take as long as you were allotted.

And actually, that last part was the most disappointing. She could have used her song as a way of explaining how song structure works, and then making it really interesting by going further and explaining how she was adding fractal complexity on top of it. This is THE thing that she is known for and does really well. But it requires visualization to really grok, and since it wasn't planned, what the audience got was just a nice song.

I don't know what the deal here was. Did they get her to speak last minute as a replacement for someone who backed out? Did she change her material at the last minute, as she alludes to, because she was tired of giving the one she had done many times before? Or was she asked to talk about something she didn't feel qualified in addressing?

Public speaking is hard, and I hate to see anyone go through a hard talk. I cringe because that could (and has been) ME. I don't know why this has been bugging me so much. Probably because I really like her stuff, and I hate to think this is someone's introduction to Vi. There are people out there who can talk off the cuff with a few minutes notice. I wish she had declined this one.
posted by danny the boy at 10:40 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh gross. I just read her blog post about it. Yeah that is pretty much contempt for the audience, and a wish to never get invited to speak anywhere again.
posted by danny the boy at 10:44 PM on November 13, 2013

ovvl: "just curl up and dye?"

Well, that's how you make tie-dye.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:49 PM on November 13, 2013

I skipped through all of the musical and technical glitch portions, but found the parts I watched to be satisfying, funny, and entertaining. I fully understand that her message could be polished, but I'd much rather watch a unique (or just under-represented) message done poorly than some biz-dev slimeball rambling the same word salad platitudes about social media.

Note: Sorry about the strawman :(
posted by GrumpyDan at 11:07 PM on November 13, 2013

Maciej’s talk at XOXO was wonderful. “Henry David Thoreau was a content creator active in the 1850’s…” so good.
posted by migurski at 11:26 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

FWIW when I watched this a few weeks ago it seemed like a fine presentation to give at XOXO, "an experimental festival celebrating independently produced art and technology."

And I'm really curious what field danny the boy is in that "bringing your A game" means bringing your own fucking projector to someone else's conference.
posted by pwnguin at 11:33 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Once upon a time I made most of my living speaking. I got tired of the travel, repetition, egocentric way every event thinks it is special and expects me to feel the same… I’m super jaded to the utmost maximum level. I don’t accept speaking invitations anymore. Yet somehow, I ended up at XOXO a couple weeks ago scheduled to give a talk…"

"If I ever find myself accidentally giving a talk in the future, I will make sure it DOES in fact go horribly wrong, just for the novelty, because the XOXO talk may have been slightly non-standard, but I could do better…"

"It was a pretty good event as far as events go, and though I did not feel the specialness of it as keenly as other attendees seemed to, I had a good time overall, and the audience was more than up to the challenge of following along with me as I entertained myself." - Vi Hart

She doesn't give a shit so I'm going to stop giving a shit.
posted by danny the boy at 12:22 AM on November 14, 2013

I'm there in the audience shots smiling and clapping along. I found this talk fun to see in person - it was exciting, with the sense that anything could happen next. I preferred it to hearing another "how I found success" story, which is the basic XOXO format and good too, but hearing something weirder was great. This suited XOXO as a conference trying to be more than a standard tech conference - trying to build a friendlier atmosphere with people more willing to listen to each other and more open to possibilities for interesting things.

Some of the talk refers to other talks that happened before hers, including a running theme of jokey agriculture references (because the first talk of the conference turned out to be about agriculture) and people playing music on stage (at the end of Max Temkin's talk and the beginning of Adrian Holovaty's talk).
posted by dreamyshade at 12:38 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe I needed to stand up and clap while watching this, because, as a non-participator, it wasn't getting me involved. I did appreciate her confidence, as I'd learned from the R U Datable FPP that confidence is not what you feel, but what you do. I'm confident that this is an interesting comment I'm making and if you don't think so, that's OK too. I'm not going to throw you out. So everyone stand up and clap while you read this. If there was a rest of this post, it would be about farming.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:17 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

> She doesn't give a shit so I'm going to stop giving a shit.

You said it once, why say it twice?

Personally, that's not what I got out of her post at all. It seems that Hart has run into the same problem plaguing so many other creative professions, too frequently for conferences to still be fun for her. XOXO turned out to be a pleasant exception, given its quirky nature and friendly atmosphere.
posted by archagon at 9:29 AM on November 14, 2013

I don't see that as a disrespect for the audience at all, but rather the opposite.
posted by archagon at 9:35 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

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