Easy Capture

With the emergence of an environment like YouTube, the ability to create and share rich media has gotten really very simple. I’ve written here and elsewhere about the notion of simple creation and even simpler embedding and I think for the most part people are really starting to get it. The idea that I can sit down, point my iSight at my face, and instantly record and encode video straight to the web is really powerful. But if you want to do that as part of the Academy in an official sense the process is much more complicated because we don’t offer the same level of simplicity as they do. Granted anyone with a browser, a relatively fast Internet connection, and a video camera can get video online quickly, but if I am doing this for class (teaching or taking) it can be more complicated. If I go outside our walls I am relying on a third party platform that does not really provide any sort of institutional identity assurances — in other words, it isn’t tied to my institution’s authentication system. Is that a big deal? That is up to you (and a thousand differing opinions on the matter).

I am of the mind that we can’t be building clones of spaces like YouTube … we just can’t afford it and we certainly can’t keep up. But where does that leave us when it comes to letting faculty and students explore rich media creation and sharing within the campus walls? That is the question that torments me as I promote digital media as artifacts of learning — if we can’t really support it, can we really promote it? I find it amazing that over a third of Penn State students reported creating at least one digital media piece last year and I find it even more amazing that about a third of Penn State faculty report using YouTube as a classroom teaching tool. Why then would we want to reinvent something that is working so well? I don’t have a quick or snarky answer to that one … like I said, I am tormented by what to do. If you have the time or the interest I spent a few minutes exploring these ideas a little deeper by using the Quick Capture feature on YouTube.

It isn’t just digital video that I am talking about. Over the weekend I got an email from a student that is relatively typical …

Hi, I need to make a podcast in my class and my teammates and I have never done it. Can you send us information on where to go to get help and where we can go to get equipment?

That to me is frustrating. Even after the progress of the last several years it is still a real process to record, compress, upload, embed, and share a simple recording of a group of students sitting around and talking. Why can’t we just have something like YouTube (or if you remember back in the day, Odeo) to help us do it? We do … right? But then that old question comes back, why in the world would we build it?

With all that in mind, we are thinking about what infrastructure needs to be in place to make this happen inside the walls of the Academy. Like I mentioned yesterday, we are rethinking the whole podcasting eco-system and are currently investigating Apple’s Podcast Producer. We’ve been testing it and it makes the creation of digital media artifacts (audio, video, screencasts, file sharing) extremely simple. From a single interface a person can authenticate, create, and post a rich media file to a whole host of services — iTunes U, Blogs, YouTube, etc. It enables an Apple user (no idea on the PC side yet) to launch a very simple client application, select from 4 choices, and record. Very basic stuff, but all the heavy lifting — editing, encoding, and posting — is handled behind the scenes on the server. It would be an exceptional tool for so much more than podcasting … things like screencasts, recording presentations, practicing music, and so much more come to mind instantly. Would us having our own environment to do this raise the level of participation?

Apple's Podcast Capture Application

Apple's Podcast Capture Application

But even with the simplicity I am still left wondering if we even need to go down this path … doesn’t YouTube do this already? Damn voices! Thoughts?

Community Question: Lifestreaming

With the closing of several Google services I’ve been thinking about some of the content I (and a bunch of other people) publish across the social web. So much that I want to get some ideas about what many of you think about it all. If you step back and think about how many new people are joining and actively participating in social networks, one has to consider where we go from here. What do we do to protect the emergence of our meta identities — each crafted in small pieces across many networks. As a simple example, take a look at the emergence of Facebook with adults … according to a new report issued by the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s December 2008 tracking survey:

The share of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years — from 8% in 2005 to 35% now.

That is a whole lot of people creating lots of real data about themselves and their relationships. Even if you don’t worry about closures or server meltdowns, consider the following from a post on Read Write Web:

The most obvious example of this loss of access to lifestream data? The inability to access anything beyond beyond page 162 on Twitter. No matter how many times you’ve posted, you cannot go back any further than 3240 tweets. So, every new public message you send removes one from your history. (To see this in action, simply add “?page=162” to the end of any Twitter user’s default URL.) Those who had seen Twitter as a journal of sorts for recording fleeting moments for posterity, suddenly found those moments just as fleeting online.

I’ve talked to lots of people who think that their Twitter streams belong to them. The reality is that we are trapping our thoughts, relationships, and content in someone else’s microblog. It has bothered me since we used Twitter in my CI 597C course — much of the course dialogue happened in the backchannel there and much of it is lost. Clearly this only one small example, but I am guessing you get the idea.

So I am curious about what kinds of strategies we should be considering as we continue down this path? I doubt the answer is to stop participating — the ship has left the port and it isn’t coming back in. What do we think?

Community Question: Identity

After last week’s experiment with crowd sourcing the definition for “community” I was curious to see if we could keep the momentum going with a new community question.  This week I am hoping to hear from you as it relates to the concept of “identity.”  This is another one of those terms that we all throw around quite a bit — does it refer to a role you play in a particular social context, is it a mash-up of all the stuff you do on and offline, or is it something all together different?  I’ve written and struggled with this concept in the context of the web and learning design for quite some time and could use some help. I’d love to hear how you define identity in 30 seconds or under.

Ideally you’d post this as a video comment over at the youtube page the video below is embedded from.  If you need to know how to do that, I’ve uploaded a screencast showing how to post a video response.  Please help me keep this going and lend your voice to this week’s community question!  Thanks in advance.

Community Driven Thoughts

Last week I decided to try something very different than what I usually do to engage a group of people.  I sat down and recorded a minute and half video with a Flip Mino HD asking people to define the term “community.”  I posted it to Youtube last Tuesday and I have to say that I am actually overwhelmed by both the responses and the use of video for this purpose.  I’ve created dozens of videos, but I’ve never done the “Hey Youtube, what’s up” variety.  One of the important things I learned … video is very powerful — even talking heads.  I’ve always dismissed it, but there has been something very engaging about watching these responses come in. It has started to change my mind about it as a way to get people to interact and connect.

In my video I asked that people post a video response to youtube so we could sort of see if a threaded conversation can happen via video.  I’m not sure youtube really supports that in a traditional sense, but I think it does create a new dynamic that a traditional message board just can’t.  I’d like to hear thoughts about that if you have any.  Some other things that stunned me:

  • In one week the video collected 604 views!  Youtube has some very cool analytics built into it so I know for the most part how people are arriving at the video, where they are coming from, their gender, and age range.  Very interesting data.
  • Everyone did exactly the same thing I did … in other words everyone responded with a talking head video.  I expected at least one person to “produce” a response by editing together clips or making something that was different than the rest.  I actually started working on one over the weekend where I was going to mix in some text and footage from around campus to illustrate communities in action.  I ran out of time and I am guessing that is one reason these were all the same as well.
  • Our definitions for the most part all centered around a similar set of themes — collection of individuals with common interests.  A few ventured outside of this and mentioned sharing, the notion of participation, and the ability to “collectively kick some ass.”  All of them appeared to be very sincere and were insightful — even the Reverend’s Queen’s English version!  I especially like mediacupcake’s idea that we are all here on Earth together so we are all part of a community with that shared interest.
  • All of them made me smile in a way that surprised me.  I love getting comments, but I really loved seeing people actually talking to me.  I was stoked to when pwhitfield started with, “Hi Cole, you don’t know me but …”  Just perked my interest in a new way.

So where does this go from here?  I’m glad you asked!  I think my colleague, Allan Gyorke, and I might try this as an open course designed to explore a question like, “what happens when we use grassroots video to have an open community of learning design professionals define what it means to be part of that community?”  What I’d like to do is design something that would work over the course of the spring semester each week working through a new definition via the 30 second question model and seeing how it plays out.  I think those who wanted to participate could find ways to synthesize the responses into a real working learning experience for us all.  So with that in mind, you’ll see a new video here soon asking another related quesiton.

Anyone interested in participating in something like?

Community Definitions

I think for the most part we all walk around with a working definition of community … I’m not sure we’re on the same page when using the term, so I was wondering if we could crowd source it.  With that in mind I am hoping we can try to build a shared definition given how much we all toss the term around.  I also wanted to try something a little different … instead of just leaving a comment here, I was hoping we could experiement a little bit in the use of video as a communication medium.  If you’d like to participate, follow the link to the embedded video below to youtube and post your response as a video comment. I’ve added a video to show how to do just that.

What would be cool if we could get a series of 30 second responses that we could use to mash together to maybe drive to some opportunities for an extended conversation.  I could see the outcomes coming together in a lot of interesting ways — a single video, a series for further exploration, and much more. If people do participate, I could see this being an ongoing series where we could essentially create a bunch of these questions and responses to be used for all sorts of things.  I am at once both interested in seeing how youtube really works for facilitating computer mediated discussions and to explore the use of interactive video for building shared understanding.  Anyone willing to participate? Please don’t leave me hanging!

As if the video isn’t enough, I added some quick thoughts on this that I recorded on my iPhone on the way to work this morning. Take a listen to the podcast.