June 20, 2008
Talking Business: A.M.D. and Its War With Intel
How to Truly Bring Online Video to the Mainstream
Aside from my troll feedings this week, I’ve really been doing a fair amount of thinking about online video, here at the blog and elsewhere. Between my thoughts on the framed discussion between Hulu versus YouTube, our own video productions at Mashable, and some discussions elsewhere I’ve had on the value of shortform video versus long, that’s where my head has been.
I’ve mentioned in the past my aversion to all things billed as the next big thing (Twitter, YouTube, APML, FriendFeed podcasting and a few others), typically followed by my subsequent adoption of said technologies, and even to a certain extent evangelism for them. I remember when YouTube first started getting buzzed about, I was still pretty deep into my evangelism of podcasting, and saw the technology as antithetical to where online video was headed as a whole. Obviously my initial reaction was proven wrong, but recent discussions and reactions I’ve been reading to various posts I’ve done recently have caused me to revisit the initial analysis I had on the idea.
When I wrote yesterday in response to Mark Cuban’s claim that Hulu was “kicking YouTube’s ass,” a commenter had a thought specifically that conjured up my old analysis:
In my opinion, Hulu is kicking YouTube’s ass in quality over quantity. I rarely find anything worth watching on YouTube, and when I do it’s 1-3 minute clips. I’ve been using Hulu as a replacement for cable. I will gladly sit through three or four ten-second commercials per episode to be able to watch (essentially rent) full length HD television shows for free. Since the addition of The Daily Show and Colbert Report I’ve been spending at least an hour or more there per day.
What is the Veg Factor?
What is this original analysis I keep referring to? Well, as I said, I was particularly entrenched in the world of podcasting, which was at the time shaping up to be the root culture for user generated content. More important than the culture was the technology move behind it, which signalled a slight shift from the “seek information out and consume it” mode of the web to a subscription “push” model of “set up a subscription and have it show up where it’s convenient” mode.
I shortened this long mode name to something I called the veg-factor (as in vegetable, a derivation of the couch potato). I’ve described it in the past here as such:
To illustrate the veg-factor, think about the type of media consumption you do in the morning, while you’re getting the kids ready for school, or fixing breakfast in the morning while you’re getting ready for work. Morning show format news-ish programs are designed for this low-engagement, veg-factor consumption. They’re, in large part, designed to be background noise that delivers some entertainment and utility to your morning.
Likewise, in the evening, you come home from work, you switch on the TV and catch the local news or a Seinfeld re-run, and leave the TV on through Wheel of Fortune or whatever reality program du jour is on this season. Most people won’t even touch the remote until prime-time starts. That’s the veg-factor in action.
Applied to podcasting in relation to YouTube, podcasting theoretically provides some of that veg-factor in action. The idea is that you load your videos or audio files into your hardware player of choice (or even a spare computer’s media player playlist), turn it on and veg out. It doesn’t matter how long each clip is - as long as your player is capable of going from one item to the next without a button push, it’s gravy. Alternatively, with YouTube and other embedded video websites, to watch more than a few minutes of quality entertainment there needs to be clicking. There needs to be searching. Worst of all, there needs to be thinking.
Not that thinking is bad, or that video entertainment naturally precludes thinking - but I’d rather be thinking about what I’m watching than thinking about what I want to watch and the best way to find it. Hulu takes this thinking out of the equation slightly but still constrains the user to a browser experience, one which has it’s clear benefits, but still prevents a one to one translation of traditional television.
Surely Someone is Doing It?
Joost (been a minute since anyone’s uttered that word, eh?) works to solve this a bit with a third party application, but adoption has been slow largely due to the fact that they are attempting to re-invent the wheel. We already have a number of variations on the wheel, and we sort of like them already (or at least know how these wheels work). We’re wary of new wheels.
That’s why we need to look at taking the existing technology and applying it to existing modes of information consumption. It really can’t be that hard, but all the hardware manufacturers and PVR/DVR software providers are really against doing anything in a way that represents the traditional ways of consuming media.
I’m talking about iTunes and Miro, which after all this time doesn’t allow for automatic creation of playlists of podcasts (effectively ruling out the FlickerFan/Mac Mini platform as a solution for me). I’m talking about Yahoo Go!, which is my favorite PVR software in existence, but still doesn’t create playlists from podcasts or automatically flip from one video to the next. I’m talking about TiVo, who has such a convoluted installation procedure for integrating podcasts it merited a news story here.
We have the technology (RSS). We can build it. Cheaply, even! I’ve put together PVRs with my own custom scripting for less than $100. Why don’t we have them as mainstream devices? If we can do it for our audio players, it can’t be that hard to do it with video.
Until the hardware catches up with the software and solves the veg-factor problem, YouTube, Hulu or podcasting will still be relegated to the minority in the typical media consumers’ diets.
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Movie Gadget Friday: Sunshine
Filed under: Displays, Misc. GadgetsAriel Waldman contributes Movie Gadget Friday, where she highlights the lovable and lame gadgets from the world of cinema.
Last month on Movie Gadget Friday we reviewed the rough and rugged modified gadgets of the post-apocalyptic era in The Road Warrior. Shifting from stick shifts to spaceships, this week examines the pre-apocalyptic adventure of a team of astronauts tasked with re-igniting the sun by delivering a massive payload in Sunshine. Based in 2057, this near-futuristic film has heavy influence from 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact. With relatively unexplained artificial gravity, inner-spaceship scooters and gold leaf heat-deflecting spacesuits, many of the gadgets and technology are taken for granted in this 2007 release.
Structured as a small room on board Icarus II, the 3D projection deck serves as a way to boost astronauts' spirits and calculate routes. Translucent walls with embedded light-emitting cells make up the entire cube of a room, allowing for an interactive 3-dimensional experience without the need for external projectors. It's unseen yet as to if this experience requires the use of optical tracking cameras for a gestural user interface. Specific cells have the ability to toggle on or off depending on the specific need of the projection. While this gadget realistically blows away any CAVE we've seen (guesstimating these visuals to be upwards of 100 million pixels), the tactile-keyboard-loving-geek in us is still unrealistically holding out for a touchable hologram to toy with. More after the break.
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Obama: Israel justified in providing for security
Edith Macefield finally moves
(from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Edith Macefield died at home, just the way she wanted. The Ballard woman — who captured hearts and admirers around the world when she stubbornly turned down $1 million to sell her home to make way for a commercial development — died Sunday of pancreatic cancer. She was 86.
According to the Seattle PI story, Barry Martin — the senior superintendent in charge of building the giant parking garage around her house — struck up a friendship with Ms. Macefield, and used to drive her to the doctor, pick up her groceries and prescriptions, bring her lunch and even cooked her dinner from time to time. Rest in peace, Edith.