Behind the scenes: The making of a Tiny Chat

Tiny Chats video thumbnailBehind the scenes: The making of a Tiny Chat

How do you keep a courthouse kiosk clean?

a) Institute a scheduled cleaning and sanitizing regimen with a log.
b) Let the cruel salty ocean winds batter the equipment. Through punishment will come cleansing.

The answer, of course, is . . . b.

At least that’s what NCSC consultants Danielle Hirsch and Zach Zarnow said in their Tiny Chat video on courthouse kiosks.

Tiny Chats are short, fun, NCSC-produced videos that introduce topics that courts are talking about. The videos, which creatively provide valuable information, have grabbed the attention of the court community, and this seems like as good a time as any to lift the curtain and show Tiny Chat viewers what’s going on backstage. We’ll focus on Tiny Chat 34: Sea Captains and Kiosks because that’s one of Hirsch and Zarnow’s favorites.

They chose to do a video on public kiosks because they were receiving a lot of questions about them in the weeks and months after the pandemic began.

“Courts seemed to be overcomplicating what a kiosk should be,” Zarnow said. “They were telling us, ‘We need to find a grant to spend $30,000 on this,’ and we said, ‘No, you don’t. This doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.’”

Why sea captains?

“I don’t remember why and how I thought of sea captains,” Zarnow said.

“We were in a boring meeting,” Hirsch said, “and Zach texted, ‘How about sea captains?’”

After the boring meeting, they spent about an hour identifying topics to cover and jurisdictions with innovative court-based, court-annexed, or community kiosks. Zarnow wrote the quiz in three hours.

They presented information about kiosks in quiz form—rather than from an interview with a guest—because there isn’t a single model to highlight. “And a quiz,” Hirsch said, “was a way for us to cover a lot of ground and share a lot of best practices quickly, and hopefully interestingly.”

After Zarnow wrote the quiz, he and Hirsch brainstormed for hours on end about who would say what. No, that’s not at all what happened. They just sort of winged it. Zarnow, as an Irish sea captain, took the lead, and Hirsch, the ship’s mate, played off what Zarnow was saying.

“We try to keep it really organic,” she said. “We did it in one take.”

In that 11-minute video, viewers learned where they can put a kiosk, who can staff it, what services it can offer, what equipment is needed, how it should be advertised, and where to go for more information. They also learned that instituting a scheduled cleaning and sanitizing regimen with a log is, in fact, an excellent way to keep a courthouse kiosk clean.

Hirsch and Zarnow never write scripts. When a video includes an interview with a guest, as most do, they send the guest a list of questions. They might also prepare the guest that this will be a different kind of interview.

For one thing, Hirsch and Zarnow often wear costumes, most of which come from bedroom closets or garages. Hirsch stole one of her husband’s ties and often raids her kids’ closets, and Zarnow has used his wife’s jewelry and sunglasses. When there’s nothing to forage, they might turn to Party City or Amazon.

Despite the informality of Tiny Chats, two rules have served them well: Never make fun of a guest, and never make light of a topic. The rules must be working. The 80 Tiny Chat videos they’ve created are nearing 60,000 views, including 818 views for the sea captain/kiosk video and 3,078 views for the lawyer cat video, the most popular to date. (Watch it after you finish this story.)

Hirsch and Zarnow readily admit that Tiny Chats is a very different way to inform the public about what’s going on in the courts.

“They’re not meant to be fully comprehensive, like a two-hour webinar or a white paper,” he said. “They’re meant to be a little funny, a little short and a little nimble, and they’ll direct you to that webinar or that white paper.”

Share your technology successes at eCourts 2022, proposals due Feb. 18


Have you discovered the “sweet spot” to make your court operations run smoothly during the pandemic? Or maybe you’ve found an amazing tool or process that you want to share with others? The eCourts call for session proposals is open, and we want to hear from you! We’re looking for technology successes, innovative ideas and insights that speak to a diverse audience and focus on topics that impact both courts and their customers. The submission deadline is Friday, Feb. 18, and sessions will be selected by late March. This year’s conference is Dec. 5 to 7 in Las Vegas. Learn more at