On the challenge of being brief.

Back in 2000 I arrived in the South West of England as an 18 year old who was used to watching 24 minute documentaries on a range of subjects and I wanted to do the same thing. For the course I was doing when I was told that I had to do one minute pieces I was dissapointed because I thought I would never get through what I wanted to say in that amount of time.

It took a lot of effort and thought during those two years on that course but eventually I understood the importance of briefness. I understood that you can get the same idea in twenty words as you can in 2000.

As a result of this when I arrived in London to study for the BA in media and television studies I had the one sentence one point mentality and when i was told to make a ten minute documentary I saw this as more of a challenge than when I was told to make short documentaries.

The reason for this, precision.

There are a number of bloggers, used to the written word, who are moving over to video to deliver their message and as they do so their inefficiency with getting the point across gets in the way of the quality content they have to offer. On a number of occasions people tend to record ten to twenty minute interviews without cutting anything out. As a result the signal to noise ratio goes down.

As a video producer one of your most important tasks is to find the key points that someone makes in their argument and get them across to your viewer within the shortest amount of time possible. If you think that a news item is between one minute 30 to 2 minutes these are the timings you should work for. There is far too much content on the world wide web for me to waste a quarter of an hour listening to someone who cannot be conscice in the way he expresses himself.

It’s a shame because what is said may be of interest but I’m not ready to spend 15 minutes on one video clip unless it is a highly and well produced piece of documentary making with a range of interviews and analysis.

Social networking and freebase

As you’re painfully aware by now there are hundreds of social networking websites but none of them have a communal database. If you’re on orkut your data stays there, if you’re on yahoo communities your data is there. All these social networking websites are very similar in what they ask of you but different in how they link you. Loudmouthman got me thinking about how you could use a database like freebase to share this data between networks, sort of like openid but with more data.

Freebase is a database for volunteers, similar to a wiki but whereas the wiki is a collection of articles this is a database where you write the front end and implement it according to your needs. If you’re interested in video production and television for example you could take the television section of that database and make it accessible within that site. If you encouraged your users to create their profiles within that communal database then details which are not so critical to your persona (whilst being careful not to make phishing to easy)  could be used so that you input your data only once.

By having a communal database the migration from one social networking website to another would be far smoother, more transparent. You’d have the same user profile in a number of places and you would have more freedom to concentrate on what you feel is important. If one website goes down then that is not as critical since your presence is spread in a number of places therefore there is less opportunity to be in trouble should your main social website go down, as was the case with Facebook and Skype within the past few weeks.

RSS feeds are already helping to spread your presence across a number of websites and sites like Jaiku and tumblr help aggregate your daily output to a number of locations.  As a result of such practices. In effect you’d have built in redundancy. If one node goes down then five others can be used whilst waiting for your preferred  social network to come back online.

In summary since we are members of more than one community there is a demand for a communal database from which the sharing of certain types of data would promote the spread of online presence between more than one community at a time. By facilitating the process of setting up a number of communities there is less opportunity for us to be bogged down in content we are uninterested in. Communities, rather than forums could be far more specific to our needs.

I would welcome your views on this topic.

The Modern phonebook

Recently I have been trying to categorise websites and how they are used into single words. To this end I have recently started to view facebook as a self actualising phonebook. There are a number of factors which help to contribute to this feeling. One of these is the ability for me to add all “real life” friends without adding any “virtual friends” – friends I do not know in person. In so doing it limits the number of people in my contact list to those I have talked to in person at least once, but occasionally spanning two decades or more.

What is great about facebook is that those you have not seen in a decade are once more part of your daily life. I look at what people are posting and I know they’re in a number of countries. I can see which are their favourite films, whether they have recently travelled, whether relationships have crashed and burned or more. I can also see what they’re up to.

Twice in the last week I have noticed events put on by friends. One event was by friends whom are part of my University of Westminster days whilst others are from when i was a Bournemouth University student (albeit in Weymouh an hour away). When I went to the Westminster event I recognised quite a few faces since they are part of my recent history. It allowed me to meet new people and one comment was interesting. The girl who organised the event commented that most of these people did not know any others. She was the degree of seperation between all of us. As the night progressed so the links would strengthen and people who had been strangers just a few hours before would become familiar once again.

The next day saw me going to another facebook event but this time with people I had not seen for half a decade. By taking a look at the newsfeed in facebook I could catch up with these people. I saw that one friend was having their birthday that night and that another friend from the same time period was also going to be there. Looking through the photo stream I could see what the latest adventure had been. If people think that it’s important to mention something then it’s easy for you to notice and aknowledge this once you meet them next time.

When  you think of a phonebook you usually associate a limted amount of details like phone number, address, business and address. Facebook gives these details but it also gives us so much more. It’s a great tool for those of us who are mobile and willing to travel.

There are three contributing factors which help make facebook popular; the first of these is mobility, the second is international travel and the last is broadband.  The first two factors are related. I am thinking about the distance and time it takes to get from where you live to where the friend lives. If you’re in North London and your friend is in North London then it’s easier to keep in touch via the facebook newsfeed than to commute over an hour to see that individual. At the same time as more of us have international groups of friends so the cost of phone calls and ability to see how friends regularly declines. We need technology that allows us to keep up to date with friends and that’s why we need the enhanced phonebook. Broadband is the enabling technology.

There is a lot of information. Imagine taking two hundred pictures of an event where twenty of your friends are. If you have to mail each of these to each friend then this is going to take a lot of time and effort. Facebook allows you to do this without hinking about it, hence keeping friends you may not see frequently current to the life you are currently leading.  In effect the more open your network of friends are the easier it is to remain up to date with current developments.  At this moment in time Facebook is one of the best adapted to these needs

Ijustine and the Fake Steve Jobs

The fake Steve Jobs linked to this video before writing a short commentary.

Fake Steve Jobs truly does hate me. His 2nd hate post: http://tweetl.com/0u8

 “Phone Bill Girl and one of her fellow Ph.D. candidates are discussing the work of Roland Barthes and narrative theory in the context of Derrida and Chomsky, with a deftly handled digression into the recurring sexism of Norman Mailer’s work”

I have no idea where the inspiration for the video came from but the little remark is amusing. Fake Steve’s comment is about citizen journalism and by referencing Ijustine’s video he brings a satirical look at the question. In effect we hear so much about problems with accuracy and mis-information that this video is a nice break. it’s satirizing the idea of citizen journalism.

“Somewhere in heaven, Marshall McLuhan is weeping. Either that or laughing his ass off.” 

This comment is particularly relevant to the quote I used two or three days ago.

…makes each of us present and accessible to every other person in the world. To a large degree our co-presence everywhere at once in the electric age is a fact of passive, rather than active, experience.

Marshall McLuhan wrote that last comment fourty three years ago and today it’s a reality, but not as he envisaged it. The video of Justine having a little fun with a friend is a perfect representation of what the Web has become. Having spent some time researching the Operator 11 movement I have been surprised to find that people are video chatting to each other in a public place. Some of them are without shirts, others have a glass or a bottle next to them and yet more are falling asleep.

People are living their lives online. They’re going out to meet friends but they’re also social from the comfort of home. Looking at what several people have done on operatr 11 I found myself thinking that this is beavis and butthead web 2.0.  The reason behind this thought is the nature of the programs. Users like Rubberbangirl start a “show” and users connect to the stream and comment both in video and through the text chat. As they do so we get a sense of community and well being. Anyone anywhere in the world can participate at any time of day and McLuhan’s thoughts are getting more concrete with every day that passes.

At this moment in time Justine and other participants of Justin.tv are walking with the cameras life casting their lives. At the same time hundreds of people are sitting behind their computer screens at home watching as a number of lives occur in real life. Within a few months I expect that we’ll see these streams straight to mobile phones so that as one person lives and broadcasts their life so someone else is living their life as they watch another.

We’re living in the digital/electric age where everyone can talk to everyone else. Whilst Fake Steve is having fun in his way so we see a little snippet of how Justine has her own fun. Neither of them is write or wrong. They’re reflections of trends that are active. The only difference is that whereas Fake Steve and Justine have a high profile so most users are still relatively anonymous.

McLuhan’s thoughts and how they may relate to Twitter

“The simultaneity of electric communication, also characteristic of our nervous system, makes each of us present and accessible to every other person in the world. To a large degree our co-presence everywhere at once in the electric age is a fact of passive, rather than active, experience. Actively we are more likely to have this awareness when reading the newspaper or watching a tv show.”

Marshall McLuhan – 1964

Marshall McLuhan was well known for a period because of the theories he developed but over time he went into disrepute as people lost interest in his ideas. When the Internet and a new form of interaction with it, the World Wide Web came to be so McLuhan’s theories would once again become more relevant, at which point people began reading and studying his works, adapting them to this day and age.  I particularly the quote above. “makes each of us present and accessible to every other person in the world” describes twitter succinctly. When you have some free time later in the day take a look at twittervision and you will have a graphic representation of what McLuhan was talking about.

He began his discussion by talking about communication and how it sped up, especially at the beginning of this century. He speaks about how some of the worst dictators had direct communications to their soliders therefore doubt was out of the question. In effect there is no greater authority. Of course this is one example. On the other side we have a tremendous force for achieving great progress.
Anyone that currently uses twitter knows one thing. At any time of day or night you will see a global conversation going on. Those who are in Asia easily speak to those in Europe and those in Europe easily speak to those in America. In fact the technology goes two steps further. The first of these steps is the short message system. By it’s very nature twitter is more like the telegraph than other technologies. 140 characters to get your point across. It’s short. It’s quick to access and it’s easy to spread. The second point is that it’s mobile. You write your message and send it from anywhere and people all over the world may see your thoughts.

A result of this is the friendships that can form. I’m in Europe and most of my twitters are read in Europe since most of the people up a the same time as me are in the same time zone as me but there is an overspill whereby Americans get access. Look at my twitter list and you’ll see that people in South Africa, North America and Europe are following me and I’m following them. In effect this brings me to the second quote.

 “Electrical media however, abolish the spatial dimension, rather than enlarge it. By electricity, we everywhere resume person-to-person relations as if on the smallest village scale. It is a relation in depth, and without delegation of functions of powers. The organic everywhere supplants the mechanical. Dialogue supersedes the lecture. The greatest dignitaries hobnob with you.

Marshall McLuhan – 1964

As a result of high speed internet access and mobile telephony I can listen to the discussion of anyone around the world as long as they chose to use twitter and conversely everyone can listen to what I have to say. As a result of this state of being there is a global medium bringing people closer together. Ev Williams, the creator of twitter is currently on a round the world trip and he tweets what he’s up to frequently therefore a global audience is kept up to date. Friends who live in London twitter and I see what they’re doing and when they’re doing it. I can see how they’re feeling and I spot character traits. What’s more twitter is one of the most personal mediums I know. The twitter community is a world wide group of people who like to keep each other informed about what they do, whether it’s their latest blog post, their most recent job interview or the fact they’re tired and need to sleep.

That’s where the village comes into the equation. When you’re writing a blog post you’re an author. You must keep in mind who you are writing for. If you’re writing about how much you hate to sit in classrooms then keep in mind that both employers and teachers may find out how you feel. That audience expects the best you have to offer. In contrast twitter is temporary. What I wrote this morning is no longer relevant. What I wrote three hours is less relevant. What I write now is highly relevant. Now how does the village element come in?

A village is a small gathering of people who live in relatively close proximity. If the neighbour is in the garden reading a book you know about it. If they’re preparing a trip you’ll see the signs. If there’s a football game you’ll also know about it. In other words there’s a great deal of familiarity and collective experience. This creates a strong sense of community. Go for a walk in a village and you’ll say hello to everyone. Go to the shops and there’s a chance either you or the person in front of you will chat with the cashier. That’s part of village life. It’s the same with twitter. Jeff Pulver says good morning to the world, Justin and Justine just take the world with them and loudmouthman says goodnight. All of this is familiar.

In some respects you could say it’s like instant messaging but on a global scale and without restrictions.

The third and final point is one of the hot topics at the moment as the news media need to re-invent themselves.

” The telegraph quickly weakened this center-margin pattern and, more important, by intensifying the volume of news, it greatly weakened the role of editorial opinions. News had steadily overtaken views as shaper of public attitudes….”

I chose this quote because of it’s relevance to the debate that is now taking place almost fourty years later. He goes into how important the telegraph was for getting news to the masses and how there was a decline in the need for opinions since the news could be delivered straight to the people without opinion being delivered. In effect the audience would be given the chance to read the facts and make up their own minds about what’s important. With digital media and the progression of online news so we find that people get most of their news as soon as it happens. As a result of this trend newspapers that focussed solely on gettng people the facts about events would need, once more to go for the writing of opinions and editorials.

There’s a chance we’re living in one of the most interesting time periods for anyone working in the media.

David Pogue’s style

Too many video podcasts are badly produced and that is why David Pogue’s most recent episode was enjoyable to watch. He has a distinctive style. Whilst most video podcasters are content simply using a fixed camera at a desk he takes the time to create entertaining demonstrations of how the tech he is discussing are interesting.

In one episode he talked about how phones for children were great for some things but let down by others. He demonstrated his frustration at having an iphone yet not being able to talk about it because he was under embargo. In one episode he was testing noise cancelling headphones and wore all of them at once as he left through the front door of his house. Each of these little acts helped to make his podcast both entertaining and different from others.

In his most recent episode he brought attention to this fact, claiming that he would do it the same way as other video podcasters. He did do some things in a similar manner but overall he demonstrated creativity. By using cut away shots and gags he still avoided a static shot of someone talking and even makes his audience laugh. The way he did this was by demonstrating a mallet and a sensor and how you can smash your computer’s screen virtualy.

It’s great to watch these podcasts because they are well shot and thought out.

There are a number of podcasts that I find are lacking in quality. They re shot in high definition but the person is in a studio. In other cases they perform interviews but use no cut away shots to illustrate the person’s character and profession and as a result the interview is very hard to watch.

We’ve got great technology at our fingerprints. Almost any computer can now be used for editing and almost every household has at least one video taking device. Everyone has watched hours of television yet people have not learned how to produce videos to the standard that is required to make it entertaining. There is one advantage to today’s media landscape.

Those who are good video producers and content creators will attract a wider audience and as a result may be able to sustain what they are doing  and expand on their initial idea. Quite a few people have made their mark and are now living comfortably thanks to the ideas they have brought to fruition and shared.

Monday night picadilly line people

Last night’s fourty minute trip meant I got to see a lot of faces as I headed from one side to another. Some of these people would be forgotten within a few seconds whilst others would be remembered slightly longer. One girl had a disarming stare, as I headed to my first destination of the night. She got off within a few stops and my journey continued.

On the way back I was in good spirits after filming a few people perform their songs. I left so that I would have plenty of time to make my way home. It’s on this tube that I noticed all the people on the tube. Two guys, each with a drum stick were tapping to a beat no one else could hear. Another person was leaning to the right, onto the glass that prevents you from falling in front of the door should you sleep whist commuting. A food guide was being read by another person, either after a good dinner or because he was still hungry. Two or three more people were half asleep.

One individual had bloodshot eyes, possibly from excessive drinking. He had to stand since no seats were available. The London light was entertaining another. Hair could be seen playing with the draught you get from the open window at the back of the carriage as she travelled along the tunnel to her destination listening to her ipod. To my left was a woman reading the media guardian.

In the back pocket of one individual was a booklet for The Phantom of the Opera as he waited to get off as his tube stop was coming up. To his right a woman gesture to her companion indicatin the booklet. They looked happy with the thought of going to the event.

In front of me were two women around my age. One had a breadcrumb on her lip but didn’t realise it. To her right the opposite, an attractive girl with sandals, a golden coat and a silver ipod nano to keep her entertained on the journey home. Hearing was taken care of by the headphones but the eyes were darting around the carriage. One way, then another, without settling anywhere specific.

Everyone must have done this, sat in a tube train and looked at everyone around them, noticing little details, noticing where people had been and where they were going. It was the Monday night tube taking many of these people home.