If you guys recall back in June, I gave a similar workshop under a snazzier title: “Youtube and Beyond” (watch video blog / read workshop wiki). This will be an updated version…
Online video sharing: present and future
Date: Friday, 2nd November 2007
Time: 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Location: TLC, 212 Capen Hall, North campus
This session is for anyone who wants to get started with sharing videos online. Explore the world of free video sharing services, learn tips to producing great video for web, and look into the future of online videos.
For this newer workshop, I hope to prepare video encoding guides for the various video sharing services out there, including Youtube, Viddler, Vimeo and so on. I’ll share them here as well of course.
The Teaching and Learning Center typically caters to faculty and staff (and not the general public). If you’re in Buffalo, you can try registering here as a guest and just indicate “Invited by Kevin”. The registration system should automatically cap the no. of sign-ups so we’ll have space. For friends on the other side of this planet, I’ll try to livecast this…
According to renown network researcher and chair of the Social Network/ing Symposium, Barry Wellman:
Social Network/ing Week is a forum to facilitate knowledge transfer and interdisciplinary collaboration between research and industry/government participants. This event, which promises to be the first of many, includes research presentations from the Faculties of Arts and Science (sociology, computer science, physics, political science), Rotman School of Management, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the Knowledge Media Design Institute.
Given my schedule, I can only attend one day, that’s Thursday, Nov 1st. As usual, I’ll be bringing my sousveillance backpack, and since an EVDO mobile connection might get too expensive in Canada, I’ll be relying on in-house wifi for narrowcasting events live via my blog. In other words, I can’t guarantee anything, but I’ll try to set it up.Clarification: I left an important part out of what I said here… I will provide the video feed only if I get permission from the conference organizers and speakers to do so. Please understand that this idea was last minute, thus I will only know when I ask at the event itself.
Joseph Smarr, Plaxo’s architect, and John McCrea, VP of marketing, talk about their new “online identity aggregator”
Despite us living in an open “Web 2.0″ world, there are still popular services we use that still rule our data as their own and keep it locked within their “walled gardens”.
Wait, what’s a Walled Garden?
In Internet-speak, I would explain “walled gardens” as web sites that…
1. Require registering an account to enter,
2. Lets you play and trade information (e.g. personal profile, news from friends),
3. But doesn’t let you use it elsewhere (e.g. personal blogs),
4. And everyone else who wants to see it has to go to Step 1.
5. The idea is to trap users on the site (i.e. to score on advertising).
OK, how about giving me some examples?
Sure! AOL was an infamous example, and it’s losing momentum today (See AOL’s history of layoffs). According to SearchSecurity.com (2004), AOL is generally considered the major, and most successful, practitioner of the walled garden approach. According to a spokesperson from Disney (arguing against the recent AOL – Time Warner merger), 85% of AOL users never leave AOL territory; according to The Economist, almost 40% of the time Americans spend on the Web is within the confines of AOL’s walled garden. Do note that these are old numbers, and they have probably dropped now since more users have left AOL.
OK, so what can we do about it?
It’s about time we took back ownership, control, and portability of our online identities. From our personal profiles, to status updates, to our friends lists, we should be able to choose where and when we want to share it. Right now most of us may have account with various services, making it hard to manage friends and updates across the board.
Socially “Bridging” Applications
We could use applications like MoodBlast (for Mac) which gives you one-click updating of your status across various services, namely adium, facebook, ichat, jaiku, skype, tumblr, twitter, and yappd. Social web browser, Flock, does a reverse by aggregating friends activities across social networks in your sidebar. I’ve also tried search engine Lijit which has a bevy of neat features, but the neatest of which includes the ability to search within your blog, del.icio.us accounts, etc, as well as that of your social circle (which is likely to have content similar to yours). There might be more of such time-saving apps out there, so if you know any, please drop a comment.
Lifestreaming: Syncing by Replication
As I’ve blogged extensively before, we could also use lifestreaming tools like Jaiku, TwitterFeed, FriendFeed (and many more on Mark Krynsky’s LifeStream Blog) to make it easy for friends in each network to see our activities across all networks. This lifestreaming method is akin to samizdat, which was the clandestine copying and distribution of government-suppressed literature or other media in Soviet-bloc countries. It’s ironic how we’ve resort to using ancient anti-censorship methods in combating controlled spaces in our digital age.
The Social Graph: Return to The Semantic Web
Apparently we’re starting to get back on track with microformats. It’s back the the idea of the semantic web where web content follows a particular standard which allows it to be understood not just by humans, but by computers as well. Scientific American has a good piece on The Semantic Web, explaining how it works. Part of this movement includes a better (deeper) approach to taking control of our online social networks, by having us define content and links we share in terms of relationships and properties.
Relating to this, there’s a new (somewhat confusing) term which embodies our relational selves… it’s called “Social Graph”. This recently stuck with bloggers, social networkers and web developers alike. Brad Fitzpatrick and David Recordon shared their Thoughts on the Social Graph, which they define as “global mapping of everybody and how they’re related”. Check out their page which has a presentation explaining this concept in detail.
On a pragmatic note, Plaxo stands as a great example. I love their address book service which syncs my contacts across all my networks and helps me discover old friends in new ones. They also recently released a working open-source app which they called an Online Identity Consolidator (not sexy, but it works). As mentioned on the Plaxo’s Online Identity Consolidator page…
An important aspect of the open social graph is being able to declare the different sites you use and tie them together. That way, your friends can keep in touch with you across multiple services, and you won’t have to tell each new site what other tools you’re already using.
The easiest way to tell people—and computers—about the sites you use is to link from your home page, blog, and profile pages to the other sites you use. If you add rel=”me” to the link tag, it says “this is another site about me”. Many sites already do this, and services like wordpress make it easy to annotate your links like this.
Plaxo’s Online Identity Consolidator—which you can use here or download the source code and use yourself—starts with one of your web sites and crawls all the rel=”me” links to find the other web pages you want people to know about.
You can try this out for yourself right on their page, but chances are you’d probably find nothing linked to you since you haven’t added any rel=me tags to your links yet. It’s a bit of work, but some web services, like WordPress, have had this all along. Just take a look at the “Links” tab in your WordPress dashboard and you’ll see a “rel” column right there… Never gave it a second look did you? I’ve seen earlier versions of WordPress having an entire XFN section, which I’ve been curious about but it never got popular enough to take off. If you’re wondering what XFN is about…
XHTML Friends Network (XFN) is an HTML microformat developed by Global Multimedia Protocols Group that provides a simple way to represent human relationships using links. XFN enables web authors to indicate relationships to the people in their blogrolls simply by adding one or more keywords as the ‘rel’ attribute to their links
Popular “wall gardens” like Facebook must either open up, or die. They are likely to milk users for all they’re worth until users figure out how to take back control of their online identity. Competition in the form of Plaxo’s open address book (connecting friends across networks) allow us to become first class citizens once again, instead of being held hostage by the very same services we depend on. I can’t wait to see more services adopt such open social graph / XFN standards.
Update 2: More social graphing… Google and Friends to Gang Up on Facebook (Oct 31st, 2007) by rolling out a common set of standards to allow developers to write programs for Google’s Orkut and other social networking Web sites. Meebo also released their “rocket ship”, which are third-party apps that work within meebo’s multi-protocol IM system. Right now Meebo let you make video/audio calls (TokBox), voice chat (Pudding Media), and group voice call (TalkShoe) on meebo, plus you can even create your own live TV show (UStream) to share with your friends!
I’ve always wondered what this String Theory business was about since some physicists believe it could be fundamental enough to become a “theory of everything”.
Discover Magazine recently ran a user-generated video contest asking for people to explain String Theory in Two Minutes or Less so here you see the winning pick of Columbia University physicist Brian Greene. Here’s his rationale for choosing “String Ducky”. It’s novel because the “ducky” video uses anecdotes to explain complex issues.
A little explanation is in order: Section 377A (“Outrages on decency”) states that “any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.” Forgive my kindergarden speak here, but this obviously applies to male on male (as in homosexuals), as well as female on female (as in lesbians).
Now my interest in Keep377a.com lies in it opposing my traditional accounts of how an emerging blogosphere behaves, where the tendency would be reactionary and anti-establishment. Not surprisingly, this makes Repeal377a.com a natural Internet meme. After all, what better cognitive motivation to partake in civil discussion than to challenge any direct opposition to one’s freedom? While Keep377a.com does in its own way maintain the peace and freedom of those who have enjoyed it (the conservative segment of heterosexuals did end up with more signatures), its existence is a larger reflection of a populace willing to engage in true intellectual democracy.
On democracy, while blogs could facilitate collective intelligence, there are two foreseeable problems about it:
First, we can’t simply expect an intellectual web to emerge… as much as theorists like Pierre Lévy (1994) optimistically envisioned it, it isn’t on everyone’s immediate agenda (though it could emerge as an unconscious byproduct). Much like the web’s landscape (see Shirky’s Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality), Second Life stands as a testament of how an entirely man-made world (virtual) swings both ways, with some beauty (e.g. numerous digital art galleries) but more sloth (e.g. numerous deserted waste lands).
Second, the wisdom of the crowd doesn’t subscribe to any notion of ethics. In other words, intelligence is amoral. In the case of choosing which 377A petition to sign, there is an instituted polarization of opinions, where we are forced into a binary decision. This simple binary makes answering easy to a larger, more complex question. All the more so when you have thousands partaking in the same ideology with you. Once we are lost to the binary, it would be tempting to feel that opposing ideas should fall down under the wraith of righteous indignation.
Back to the idea of intellectual democracy, just because there are facilities on both ends to lay one’s claim, would this be decent enough evidence of heightened intellectualism among our networked Singaporean populace? Not exactly.
I made the mistake of not capturing the remarks left by signatories on both petition web sites. It’s gone from their sites, and probably for good reason. From there you would be able to tell how these votes may have been more of a fashionable exercise, rather than one born of heartfelt idealism. Popagandhi, a homosexual blogger herself, has provided the much needed insight into many of these misappropriated remarks left by many signatories. She lists down all the untruths seen on these sites, from homosexuals being HIV carriers, to the inclusiveness of animal sex, to the contradiction to Asian values. Indeed, those in her position are constantly (and tiresomely) misunderstood. In truth, I know little about what homosexuals do, apart from watching clips from Queer Eye for a Straight Guys and Queer as Folk, but I am able to discern from wheat from chaff by asking friends and looking up credible sources.
Seriously, it is indeed rare that we find discussions reaching this level of sophistication, where a balanced point of view is taken and carefully debated. That is an ideal, but it’s also beyond the means of the general populace. As I’ve mentioned in my earlier writing, perhaps this is the nature of the multitude, where points may be downright wrong, but the open democratic discussions themselves are essential to the well-being of citizens.
We’ve already witnessed a pattern of participation, from the number of people who vote, to those who leave the remarks, to those who blogged about 377A. Alongside with that come a growing sophistication, where the more experienced netizen would know to perform their own background investigation, from archiving potentially important web pages (think sharedcopy), to looking up online credibility by content and traffic analysis (e.g. technorati, alexa), to googling up mentioned references (see ODEX case). It is more important to note though, that the greatest value comes from the unique perspective each of us shares to these online discussions, which could be invaluable regardless of our age or profession. The more points of views shared, the higher chances of realizing something we might not have considered before. We are indeed learning from one another, and subtly patterns of use we deem productive in aiding future discourse.
On a lighter note, isn’t it surprisingly wonderful how both repeal377a and keep377a could even exist without being shut down by the Singaporean authorities? After all, the remarks left behind might have been traditionally subjected to legal action.
Save a library… The Rambling Librarian informs me that the National Library Board is inviting bloggers to be their official citizen reporters for the soon to close library@Orchard (they even have a “moving on” blog). This is great especially if you’re a library or book junkie.
You’ll be given a pass which gives you open access to the library to conduct interviews with the public as well as the staff working there. You’ll also get to go behind the scenes, to see their library workroom to observe how entire book collections are sorted and managed (I’ve been inside one before, and it’s pretty neat!). I’d totally be there, but I’m stuck here in Buffalo.
The goal is for citizen reporters to help preserve the library through text, photos or videos, before it’s physically gone from existence after Nov 30th 2007. If you’re up for it, you’ll need to attend a (brief) briefing on the 30th of Oct, 7.30pm at the library@orchard. Please RSVP by dropping an email to email@example.com or check out their blog, Moving On: library@Orchard in transit
As you can guess, it’s aimed at persuading women to quit smoking. Along with this motivational web site, the Health Promotion Board also set up a blog in the past week for TCS actress Yvonne Lim to keep a log of her quit smoking journey. Before this, she’s been a smoker for five years running. While this public journal is the closest thing to a reality blog I can find locally, I’m interested to see what would happen if someone actually catches her taking a smoke. As exciting as that sounds (not), if you happen to be in the same journey, at least you’re not alone.
BTW, if you read the blog comments, apparently there’s a 12 year old girl called Eunice who’s cheering her on! Wendy Cheng (Xiaxue) is also doing her part by being one of the FreshAir ambassadors (try finding her!).
The Straits Times has a good article about the campaign which spans four month long. Most notably, a unique aspect of the campaign features the “Ad-busting” of several retail partners’ advertisements for this year’s anti-drug abuse message. In this Youtube video, you’ll see graffiti artist Zack commissioned by NCADA to do exactly that. Both Estee and DK have photos of more ad-busted advertising posters.
While it’s difficult to compare this to what world renown activist Bansky does (he is after all an artist activist, not an advertising man), these ad-busts do make for an interesting cross-breed of irrelevant advertising messages. It does call for added attention upon that second glance you give when you realize an oddity in the ad. To add on a little fear factor, take a look at the campaign’s official website at ifyouplayyoupay.com.sg… looks like it came off a sequel of The Ring.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, Singapore’s campaign focuses on how drug abusers would face arrests as noted by the prison bars visual stimulus seen across the board. It’s typical Asian value to use fear as a form of persuasion against a certain vice, though I do fear the messaging is lost in all the glitzy advertising. This is quite the contrary for drug abuse commercials in the States.
To explain, let me first tell you that when I talk with my American colleagues about how it’s typical for us to get caned by our parents when we were naughty brats, they’d scream as if hell broke loose and retaliate by saying that they’d never allow anyone to physically abuse them like that. Well, surprise surprise, this somewhat explains why both our cultures end up having distinct social problems of our own.
Bearing this in mind, American drug abuse commercials tend to use humor instead of fear as a persuasive instrument. For instance, watch this Anti-Weed commercial that’s airing on national TV right now. It’s clever because it works on two levels: 1) For the younger audience, there’s a talking dog gently telling you he misses you, 2) For the older audience, the talking dog exists because you’re truly messed up on weed.
Choosing humor over fear takes into account that much needed appreciation of taste. Quite seriously, would viewers rather talk to their friends about getting arrested or something funny they saw on TV? Getting past that first conversational barrier is what I see as key, since speaking about it reflects an active thinking process, where the meaning of the messages gets self-actualized at a subsequent cognitive stage. Unfortunately, in our “quick results” Asian cityscape, this sophisticated value is indeed hard to convey to the client.
In particular, Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal made a comparison to Microsoft’s Vista, where he noted how “[E]very piece of software and hardware I tried on two Leopard-equipped Macs – a loaned laptop from Apple and my own upgraded iMac – worked fine, exhibiting none of the compatibility problems that continue to plague Vista.”
From what I’ve experienced with the new operating system, this cat seems to be faster and mightier. Still, expect to face hiccups at least for the first few weeks where developers will have time to fix the apps to play nice. Being a blogger, I tend to use quite a number of open-source and social applications, a few of which have failed to work in Leopard.
So far, Pukka (a quick del.icio.us bookmarker) crashes upon login [no longer as Justin just released version 1.6.2 which has Leopard compatibility!], and the Last.fm standalone player (build 184.108.40.206) doesn’t want to launch at all. Having a Sony LocationFree TV base station, my Mac client no longer works as well (think “TV to Youtube” captures). Granted, for a major OS transition like Leopard, this trade-off is close to nothing since everything else works as before, if not more efficiently. I’m still looking out for apps that don’t work in Leopard (and no, Armor Alley was sweet, but doesn’t count). If you know of any, holla back.
Oh, I do have one more gripe though… it’s got to do with Stacks.
Leopard’s new Dock has folders of files organized automatically in a neat stack. One click and the stack springs open, revealing items in an elegant arc or an at-a-glance grid. Looks good right? But notice something unproductive about this… there is a limited number of items that actually gets displayed in the arc as well as the grid.
To explain, I’ve mentioned the following over at TUAW:
“If you think that’s bad, what about how you can’t default to simply popping up a folder hierarchy in the dock to show all your items, rather than to have stacks (or the grid option) offer you a smaller selection of your files, only to have you click once more on the “Show in Finder” arrow just to see what you could in your folder back Tiger? It’s simply unproductive and downright silly not to give the old option back!”
In Tiger, I could keep a folder in the dock and in one-click browse the folder’s hierarchy to open what I want. In Leopard, dragging any folder to the dock forces it into a stack, so I’ve to click once to span it out, then once more to search the folder in the Finder.
I’ve tried looking for a way to not activate a docked folder as a stack, but no dice. Any takers?
Here’s a higher quality audience perspective video of my presentation as guest speaker for Chris Ferrari’s New Media Class (DMS155) at the University at Buffalo (SUNY).
Chris invited me in as an experienced blogger, where I told my life story on how I got started and how I got as far as I did. Popular bloggers plan for readership by focusing on a particular genre. Good bloggers write really really well. I do neither. What I did do is enjoy writing about anything and keeping it at a comfortable pace.
Who are you blogging for?
It’s great if people like reading what you write, and unless you’re blogging for a profit, I believe that the number one audience for your blog is none other than you. I write what I like because it’s a self-actualization process, where I live out the thoughts and opinions I hold dear (i.e. muse), manifesting them into the real world.
On Lifecasting + Privacy
In the presentation, I also gave a short history on lifecasting (from cinema verite to justin.tv), why I personally do it and how. Students fielded questions on privacy which I was alluded to how I’m being more aware of it than the regular Joe simply because I am putting more at stake. Even though it seems like I treat my life as an open book, I exercise greater control over my privacy as I become very aware of it. For instance not everything goes on the blog and I typically turn off the sound on my video stream. Remember, we are already constantly being surveyed involuntarily, if not for surveillance cameras, it’d be through sacrificing our personal information for something of value (to join Facebook, use Gmail, etc).
Ironically just this morning, USA Today published an article relating to how teens in their 20s are reared on reality TV, paparazzi, cellphone cameras and the insatiable maw of the World Wide Web, so it’s no wonder most of them think a little differently when it comes to privacy. Thing is not all of them do (like most of the students I’ve met), so age might not be a good enough factor in considering one’s privacy preference.
Finally, an age old question returned with a second life: Isn’t all this contributing to internet pollution?
I’ve always been mindful of how everything we produce, be it infantile blog postings, to gigabytes of lifecasting videos, all contribute to a greater though messier web. Andrew Keen put up a good fight in explaining how web-based amateurs affected journalism and the news industry, while most other critics argue about the benefits that come from collective intelligence, wisdom of the crowds and so on. I tend to sit on the side where sharing something is better than nothing, no matter how immaterial it would seem to the masses. Aside from my argument that it would eventually be valuable to someone (if not now, then later) and how the web intrinsically affords us that ability to share even the most minute of things, I do see the validity from the other side of the fence, where less can be more.
As we debate on how and what we should share online, most of the content that is deemed valuable today emerges through the process of popularity. From Google Search ranks preferring web pages that have higher inbound links, to popular articles being Digg (or voted) by users. While it seems fair game for all, there are really interesting things that fall off the sidelines never to be noticed.
Memetics is a controversial field which seeks to explain how our minds and cultures are designed by natural selection acting on replicating information, just as organisms evolve by natural selection acting on genes.
I believe that’s where presentation or the packaging of content comes into play. We can’t expect an intellectual web (or blogosphere) to emerge all of a sudden, but the fact that more of us are engaged in some form of discussion on the web allows an opportunity for gaining enlightenment. Over time, more of us would be able to sense the patterns of mass consumption, and play on it much like how we understand the subtle rules of a new game.
On virtuoso, I offer a simplistic notion that a few of us are capable of using contexts, such as humor, to frame ideas and thoughts, making them not only attractive, but readily consumable by the masses (i.e. easy enough to understand). Returning to the problem of internet pollution, while everyone sharing bits of everything might make searching for something a little harder, I do see this as a natural trial and error process by the human collective. Still, those who want to be found, would over time know how to make themselves that much more findable.
In a few waking hours, I’ll be guest speaking at the New Media Class (DMS155) here at UB. I’ll be tackling questions students have posed for me, which has thus far included blogging, lifecasting, privacy, as well as how-to tips on getting sponsors (as mrbrown once told me, do think of readers first!).
Dr. Kevin Lim recently graduated with his PhD in Communication at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). Dabbling for both pragmatic and play, he seeks an ideal interplay between online and offline life, through social networking, blogging and lifecasting. He openly wishes to become a "social cyborg", where the meshing of human and networking technology would allow one's presence to be augmented by the minds of many. Read more...