Great essay by Paul Ford on the hidden infrastructure that makes most of your favorite user-created viral videos possible: 4' by 8' by 1/2" slabs of drywall, screwed into studs and painted beige.
The people dancing and talking and singing in beige rooms with 8' ceilings are surrounded by standards, physically and online. Technological standards like HTML5 also allow us to view web pages and look at video over the Internet. All of their frolic is bounded by a set of conventions that are essentially invisible yet define our national physical and technological architecture. Their dancing, talking bodies are the only non-standardized things in the videos.
This is a nice article about how memes are often made or promoted deliberately by financial interests and not because of a spontaneous popular uprising, but mostly I wanted to highlight this statement:
Google's YouTube, not Apple's iTunes, is now the dominant force in music.
I've been convinced for awhile now that YouTube and not Android or Google+ will be their main source of revenue if/when Google's search business wanes. (via @claytoncubitt)
The news, coming amid a national debate about gun control, rippled across the blogs and social networking sites where his videos were popular. Tributes on Facebook and Twitter came from fans stunned that such a well-armed expert had not been able to defend himself.
"For him not to pull out that gun and try to defend himself, he had to feel comfortable around somebody," his wife, Amanda, told a television channel in Lexington, Ky., where he used to live. "Either that or he was ambushed."
Here's a FPSRussia video showing off a fully automatic shotgun that can shoot 300 rounds per minute even after being submerged in water:
And this drone with a machine gun on it is terrifying:
Update: Just to clarify because I'm getting a bunch of mail about it, Ratliff was a gun nut and the owner of that YouTube channel, but he was not the person in all those videos...he was more like the producer/camera operator.
Also, that quadricopter machine gun thing is CGI and a commercial for a video game. Soon enough though.
Why has Yahoo! chosen to transition Delicious to AVOS? While we love Delicious (and our users love Delicious), we wanted to find a home for the product where it can receive more love and attention. We think AVOS is that place.
When will AVOS officially start running Delicious? We anticipate Delicious in its current form will be available until approximately July 2011. By agreeing to AVOS's terms of service upfront, you will allow us to move your data when the time comes to transfer control to AVOS.
In defending itself against a copyright lawsuit brought by Viacom, YouTube notes that the media company has been surreptitiously uploading its copyrighted content to YouTube for years.
For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately "roughed up" the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko's to upload clips from computers that couldn't be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt "very strongly" that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.
I heard that the staff of the Daily Show and Colbert Report upload the shows to YouTube as soon as they can after the shows air and then the next day, lawyers from Comedy Central hit YouTube with takedown requests for the uploaded shows.
Drei Klavierstücke op. 11 is a set of pieces written for the piano by Arnold Schoenberg in 1909, some of the first western music to written in an atonal style. Cory Arcangel took a bunch of YouTube videos of cats playing the piano and fused them together into a performance of op. 11.
This project fuses a few different things I have been interested in lately, mainly "cats", copy & paste net junk, and youtube's tendency in the past few years to host videos that are as good and many times similar to my favorite video artworks. I think all this is somehow related.
Cory's no-bullshit statements about his art are just as entertaining as the work itself:
So, I probably made this video the most backwards and bone headed way possible, but I am a hacker in the traditional definition of someone who glues together ugly code and not a programmer. For this project I used some programs to help me save time in finding the right cats. Anyway, first I downloaded every video of a cat playing piano I could find on Youtube. I ended up with about 170 videos...
I am offering large printable files to anyone interested at no cost. Computer files are the most easily reproducible information on the planet. In this particular case I see no reason to imbue a false sense of preciousness on the work. The information I gathered to create the collages is publicly availaibe, and the collages themselves are no different.
Thru You is a site that showcases remixed YouTube videos...the singing from one video combined with the drums from another and the piano from a third and so on. I was skeptical but these are really well done. Do I even need to say that this reminds me of Christian Marclay's Video Quartet? (via sfj)
Online political observers say President-elect Obama's innovative, online-fueled campaign will likely evolve into a new level of online communication between the public and the White House -- the Internet-era version of President Franklin Roosevelt's famous "fireside chats" between 1933 and 1944.
You may have noticed that the video of Burn-E I embedded looked a bit better than a normal YouTube video. YouTube has been quietly offering high-quality versions of some of their videos for quite some time via a "watch in high quality" link just underneath the player. It's not HD, but it's definitely an upgrade of YouTube's legendarily crappy video quality. By default all videos on YouTube and embedded on other sites load at normal quality, but there's a way to set your default viewing quality to high, link to high quality video, embed HQ video, and even save HQ videos for later viewing.
Set your default viewing quality to high:
When you're logged in, go to Account / Playback Setup / Video Playback Quality and set the option to "I have a fast connection. Always play higher-quality video when it's available."
Linking to YouTube videos in high quality:
If you need to link to a high quality video on your blog, append &fmt=18 onto the end of the YouTube URL, like so:
Upon arriving at the YouTube page, you'll see the highest quality video that YouTube pushes out. The full technical details are available here...basically it's a mp4 encoded using H.264 with stereo AAC sound at 480x360.
Embedding high quality YouTube videos:
The &fmt=18 trick doesn't work here, but a similar trick does. For each of the URLs in the embeddable code that you get from YouTube, add &ap=%2526fmt%3D18 onto the end, like so:
Saving high quality YouTube videos:
When you're viewing a high quality video on YouTube, you can use the KeepVid bookmarklet to download the mp4 file for later viewing on your computer, iPod, or iPhone. I tested this with the Burn-E video and the resulting mp4 was in letterbox format (480x198, or roughly the standard 2.40:1 aspect ratio).
BTW, here's a comparison of the low and high quality for the same video.
Update: I switched the example videos and code because YouTube took the Burn-E video down.
Update: I got an email from a YouTube engineer who tells me that format 18 isn't even the highest quality you can get. Check out Dancing Matt in format 22, aka 720p. Furthermore, some videos don't have a format 18 version (if the uploaded movie doesn't have sufficient quality, for instance). (thx, phil)
The pictures of the accused are startling in the banality of the faces. (While the spelling of many of the names -- April, Britney, Brittini, Cara, Kayla, Mercades, Stephen, Zachary bring to mind a revived Mouseketeers.) A number of the girls look surprisingly similar, but minus the prison garb, they could just as easily be reacting to a berating for poor schoolwork. The boys, who were posted as lookouts while the girls carried out the beating, look a little more ready for jail.
The pictures are fascinating in the narrow range of emotion they convey, from self-pity to sullenness, but to my mind all stop before genuine contriteness. (I'm reading this in, of course, but I have a hunch I'm right.) Yet there's an all-American look to these kids that can only remind us how narrow the line is between good and evil.
I may or may not be headed out to South Carolina this weekend—their Democratic primary takes place on January 26th—and the new way of learning about places before ya go is YouTube tourism. Apparently there is a lot of hunting (yikes!), fishing, and drag queens in blackface (double yikes). And then, on a much more serious note, there's this short video of "Jared trying to live it up a few days before being sent to basic training at Fort Jackson, SC." It's posted a woman who wrote that "I am twenty years old..believe it or not. I am missing my husband terribly. He is at basic training in Fort Jackson, SC. He will be graduating in March. I can't wait!"
I have finally found the guy I want to marry. Seriously, this is my favorite YouTube video right now, and I'm not even sure that I can explain why. Something about the soft color, and the quiet. And he's so sensitive. (I sure hope he's 18 or older or I'm gonna feel real bad inside.)
Congrats to the Vimeo team on the launch of the latest version of the site. Here's the announcement post. The login/signup page is awesome. I also like how Vimeo has found room in the crowded video-on-the-web field, even though YouTube dominates the space. Vimeo is to YouTube as Facebook is to MySpace...not in terms of closed versus open (you do know that Facebook is AOL 2.0, right?) but in terms of being a bit more well thought out and not as, well, ugly (and not just in the aesthetic sense).
One of my favorite business model suggestions for entrepreneurs is, find an old UNIX command that hasn't yet been implemented on the web, and fix that. talk and finger became ICQ, LISTSERV became Yahoo! Groups, ls became (the original) Yahoo!, find and grep became Google, rn became Bloglines, pine became Gmail, mount is becoming S3, and bash is becoming Yahoo! Pipes. I didn't get until tonight that Twitter is wall for the web. I love that.
A slightly related way of thinking about how to choose web projects is to take something that everyone does with their friends and make it public and permanent. (Permanent as in permalinked.) Examples:
Blogger, 1999. Blog posts = public email messages. Instead of "Dear Bob, Check out this movie." it's "Dear People I May or May Not Know Who Are Interested in Film Noir, Check out this movie and if you like it, maybe we can be friends."
Twitter, 2006. Twitter = public IM. I don't think it's any coincidence that one of the people responsible for Blogger is also responsible for Twitter.
Flickr, 2004. Flickr = public photo sharing. Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake said in a recent interview: "When we started the company, there were dozens of other photosharing companies such as Shutterfly, but on those sites there was no such thing as a public photograph -- it didn't even exist as a concept -- so the idea of something 'public' changed the whole idea of Flickr."
YouTube, 2005. YouTube = public home videos. Bob Saget was onto something.
Not that this approach leads naturally to success. Several companies are exploring music sharing (and musical opinion sharing), but no one's gotten it just right yet, due in no small measure to the rights issues around much recorded music.
Here's a fun rumor. I heard that the staff of the Daily Show and Colbert Report upload the shows to YouTube as soon as they can after the shows air and then the next day, lawyers from Comedy Central hit YouTube with takedown requests for the uploaded shows. Which makes total sense...sort of. The people making the shows want them to be seen while the lawyers want to ensure that people are paying to see them. It's a crazy media world we live in.
Deaf people are making good use of YouTube. "Many of them aren't comfortably fluent in written language. For many more, sign is and always will be their first language. YouTube gives them an easy, expressive, unmediated channel for many-to-many communication." (via rc3)
Before YouTube and Google Video came along, video on the web often suffered from taking too many cues from the production values of traditional media. Even in the early days of YouTube, a typical video made by someone for an audience was like a mini-movie: 15 seconds of titles, followed by 10 seconds of the actual content of the video, and then 10 seconds of closing credits. Eventually, many people came to realize that all that crap at the beginning and end was unecessary...it's OK not to have a 40 second video if you only have 10 seconds of something to say. Ze Frank took this notion to the extreme; he often launches right into something at the beginning, eschews transitions, and he just stops at the end. If an episode of The Show is 2 minutes long, it's because he has 2 minutes of something to say.
Podcasters have been slower to break out of the mold provided by talk radio. The playing of music before segments and as transitions between segments makes some sense on the radio, where it's used in some cases to fill airtime. But for podcasts, there's no need to fill airtime with anything but content. 30 seconds of music before the actual podcast begins is the audio equivalent of Flash splash pages on web sites. For instance, the Diggnation podcast has 10 seconds of ads and 30 seconds of theme music before the hosts start talking and even then it's more than a minute before there's any new information. It's important to set expectations and the mood (also know as branding), but it's possible to do that in a much more economical way -- something more akin to the Windows startup sound + "hi this is [name] from [name of show] and let's get started" -- or at other times during the podcast.
Interestingly, when I was looking around for examples of this wasted airtime, the folks making the most economical use of the listener's time in producing podcasts were from the mainstream media. That is, the people innovating on the form are not the same as those who are innovating on production. Perhaps in an attempt to seem more credible, native podcasters have embraced more traditional forms while those with experience producing audio content for other media are more free to tailor their content to the new medium.
Must be something in the water today...Paul Boutin has a story on Slate today that makes the same point about BitTorrent, YouTube, and Google Video that I did this morning (although somewhat more succinctly and entertainingly):
The guys behind YouTube hit the sweet spot. Most important, they made it head-slappingly easy to publish and play video clips by handling the tricky parts automatically. Given up on BitTorrent because it feels like launching a mission to Mars? If you've sent an e-mail attachment, you've got the tech skills to publish on YouTube.
The final paragraph of the article contains this interesting bit:
The same Alexa plots that show MySpace and YouTube obliterating top sites reveal that Flickr, Digg and del.icio.us have plateaued with audiences barely bigger than Slate's. Photos, news, and other people's bookmarks just aren't as interesting as bootleg TV and checking out the hotties. The easier it gets to use, the less geeky the Net becomes, and the more it starts to look like real life.
Expect more bootleg TV and hotties from kottke.org in the future...I need some Alexa love.
The other day I realized that within my little online social circle, there's been a lot less mention of BitTorrent lately. It used to be that someone would link to a cool video, the site hosting the video file would go down because of high traffic, and then someone who grabbed the video before the outage would put it up on a torrent site so that everyone could see it again.
And then YouTube and Google Video came along. They offered free hosting and fast (free) bandwidth for videos so when people want to put some neat video of something on their sites, they just slapped it on YT or GV and pointed to it. And more important to the point about BitTorrent, they work completely within the browser environment. You upload videos to YT in the browser (GV has a standalone app for uploading) and the Flash-based viewer works in the browser (most Web users have Flash installed). They offered a seamless end-to-end solution to finding and watching videos all in one application.
Compare that with how you typically watch a video with BT. First you download a torrent file, then open that file up in your BT client (which you need to have previously downloaded and installed), then the file downloads, and finally you open that file in a media player, generally QuickTime, Windows Media Player, or some other player that needs to be downloaded and installed...and hopefully you have the right versions and codecs for the video in question. And that's just the viewing side of things...publishing videos via BT was even more difficult, particularly for non-technical folks.
That BitTorrent took off at all is a testament to the utility of downloading files from multiple sources simultaneously, but it's also telling that once an easier-to-use alternative came along that offered many of the key advantages of BT, people switched1...and really quickly too. Eventually BT will have to find its way into the browser (AllPeers is promising a Firefox extension that will do just that) and somehow overcome the multiple media players problem in order to find success.
 For videos of the type I'm talking about anyway. BT is by no means unpopular these days, particularly for feature-length movies, lossless music files, and other really large files. YT and GV are only taking BT's "marketshare" in the realm of short video. ↩