Mobile Video

Being an iPhone user puts you into a strange place — on one hand it is one of the more advanced devices available here in the States, but lacks some of the core features found on other devices that have been available here for quite some time. The feature I am referring to is the ability to record video. I just played with Brad Kozlek’s 3GS and was so impressed with the camera and the video options that is causing me to get really itchy for one. The video quality sort of blows my mind in general, but the ability to instantly post it to YouTube or email it is a real game changer. Posting of video to YouTube has been on a tear lately, but the 3GS adoption will just blow that up. Here’s a quote from a post at the YouTube Blog that lays it out …

In the last six months, we’ve seen uploads from mobile phones to YouTube jump 1700%; just since last Friday, when the iPhone 3GS came out, uploads increased by 400% a day.

I’ll add a little link to something else YouTube is going to kill at — citizen journalism. If you take a look at this post, Helping You Report the News, you’ll see they are clearly going after the “in the moment” style reporting that Twitter is dominating. The combination of mass adoption of devices, services, and the emergent ease of interoperability is a game changer. I find it really amazing to watch as hyper-connected social networks are fueling personalized text accounts of events and will now promote easy video as a basis for mass communication. To me it is stunning.

What I am struck by is how unprepared a site like Vimeo looks to me given all these recent moves … clearly video recording and editing was not much of a surprise to developers and while Apple chose to directly integrate posting to YouTube there doesn’t seem to be much of an excuse not to have a native video app ready to go. A quick search of the App Store reveals nothing. All I’m saying is that lots of people are buying these new devices and a properly designed application can provide huge opportunities to extend your brand and participation.

More and more this is what I am seeing with the whole iPhone ecosystem — apps drive traffic and can really make or break an existing service. There are a dozen or so Twitter clients all vying for our love, Apple has helped YouTube extend its reach, WordPress is making it happen with a native app, as are so many others. Being prepared to pounce in the mobile space seems more and more critical even if it is to drive traffic to existing services. Now, can I wait until October when AT&T will let me update for a reduced price? Perhaps.

Our Boom De Yada

I’m sure many of you have seen Discovery’s advertising campaign, “The World is Just … Awesome,” in which lots of people sing a modified version of I Love the Mountains, called Boom De Yada. Discovery’s version is really inspiring, so much so that if you go to YouTube you’ll find hundreds of versions of it from people all over the world.

I spent a little time over the weekend watching a bunch of them and once you start exploring it is tough to stop. So many of them are really inspiring, but the one that really made me smile is an original version from a fourth grade class.

Now, you can say this is just people imitating other people but if you ask me there is something deeper going on here. I am of the mind that the web is a platform for starting conversations — and I’m not just talking about online conversations. If you follow what probably happened in the example above you can begin to see how powerful this is … perhaps their teacher saw the commercial and got the idea that his class could make their own. This simple thought (enabled by technology) motivated that group of kids to work together to create something original, new, and challenging. They had to work together to make it happen … and then by sharing it with the World gave a whole other set of people the inspiration they need to try something new together.

So that’s exactly what happened after I showed the two videos above to Madeline and all her cousins Saturday night while we were in Bloomsburg … they instantly wanted to make their own. Over the course of an hour or so, they each wrote pieces to the song and decided who was going to do what. It was so cool to see all of them working together to make something. In the middle of it they wanted to find a way to include two of their cousins who live in Florida so they wrote them in as well. It was amazing watching them come up with the words and perform it. I think it made the whole house a really happy place! I know I had a blast getting to spend time with them while they laughed, sang, and edited with me.

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 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.