Vlogging: Video Weblogs - WebReference Update - 030306 | WebReference

Vlogging: Video Weblogs - WebReference Update - 030306

WebReference Update: March 6, 2003

This week we've got a special treat for you, a story on vlogging, or video weblogs. Guest author Andrew Beach, founding Partner and Director of Convergent Media for Last Exit LLC, writes about the new blogging phenomenon.

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New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. FEATURE:  Vlogging: Video Weblogs

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1. FEATURE: Vlogging: Video Weblogs

E-mail, web browsing, and streaming audio and video are all examples of applications that utilize the network of the Internet to function. As these various technologies connected to the Internet blossom, it only makes sense that we would see some crossover. This much talked about convergence of technologies, where old problems find new solutions, takes shape in many forms. Video on demand, Internet radio stations, and Voice over IP (VoIP) are all examples of convergent media and what it can mean for consumers.

A relatively recent phenomena in the Internet community are weblogs, or blogs as they are commonly referred to. Though some weblogs date back as early as the mid 1990s, their popularity didn't truly take off until 2001. Simply put, a weblog is a website, which acts as an online repository for the writer's thoughts; typically in chronological order, so the latest entries are at the top of the page.

Initially those who understood HTML updated weblogs manually. Once technologies appeared that allowed a wider audience to publish blogs automatically, interest in them rapidly took off. Companies such as Blogger and Movable Type provide solutions that make adding new entries to an online journal a simple task, prompting some to update several times throughout a given day. There are now many hundreds of personal weblogs available, covering a variety of topics. As a medium, blogs have started down a convergence path; looking to incorporate new technologies into these online journals.

In a bid to present a richer story, many bloggers (one who blogs, of course) began posting photographs in addition to their entries. Almost overnight, photo-only weblogs began appearing, where few words would ever be posted; an entire story told through photographs. An even more convergent twist came up last year with the long awaited release of Danger's Hiptop, sold through T-Mobile as the Sidekick. This phone/camera/web device suddenly allowed bloggers to take their show on the road, no need to wait until you've gotten home to share an amazing scene or funny aside. The next technological leap for weblogs was audio.

Again, this was a situation where the more technically inclined led the way; adding posts of digitized audio clips either recorded directly onto a computer or digitized from an analog source. New services such as Audblog have now made it possible to make audio weblogging as easy as leaving a voice mail, literally. With Audblog, a service from San Francisco based ListenLabs, once you have set up an account, all you have to do in order to add an audio message to your weblog is to dial a phone number, enter your PIN number, and at the tone, leave a message. A time-stamped MP3 version of the message is made available in your assigned blog immediately. Audio blogging has met with mixed reviews so far, but it will no doubt catch on. Even before audio has become a full-blown component of weblogging, video is already being experimented with, but it may face the biggest battle to achieve acceptance.

Jeff Jarvis is considered by most to be the first person to try video blogging on a regular basis ( http://buzzmachine.com/ ). He and other bloggers like Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit ( http://www.instapundit.com ) have been carrying on a discussion of the merits of video blogging or "vlogging" for the past several months. Jeff records himself giving commentary, then digitizes the video and posts it. Due to the nature of how he records his entries (speaking directly to the camera) Jeff's postings take on the same quality as a news commentator.

In Jeff's view of a "vlogging" world, everyone would post their own video commentary, a mixture of information, local news, viewpoints, and entertainment and we would be able to pick and choose topics we wanted to view from a wide range of web pages. Even he admits it is still a technology in its infancy:

"I'm still trying to find the right voice for these things. I know that right now, they're either embarrassing (my sacrifice for my art) or merely imitations of bad TV. But I'm starting to feel comfortable with the form." - Jeff Jarvis 12-2002.

However, critics of Jeff have more fundamental issues with video blogging on the whole. Brad Wardell of http://www.joeuser.com posted commentary on his weblog disagreeing with the concept of vlogging going mainstream. His argument is that video is an inefficient medium for sharing data and commentary. That it is difficult to quote commentary from (he lists this as a key necessity), and that video corrupts the message, making it harder to concentrate on what is being communicated. While Brad makes a good point, I think he and Jeff are missing the potential and therefore point of a video weblog.

Video logs shouldn't be viewed as a replacement to words, pictures or audio-only postings - they should be another tool available to the author. Unlike television or print publications, the Internet will allow our multimedia commentary to live side by side with text. Each will be able to take turns supporting the views expressed in the other medium. Furthermore, video need not be held to just a commentary situation; the portability of most consumer-level video camera technology means that anyone wanting to can express themselves in documentary or narrative style film on a daily basis and post for viewer consumption.

Iterations of vlogs could include:

* Amateur film or animation
* Proud new parents documenting babies first, well, everything * Documenting travels
* Local theater or music performances (if allowable by copyright laws)
* Highlights of favorite local sports team
* Video diary
* Training
* Artistic expression

The other major criticism of vlogging is the speed and ease of publishing new entries. Technology already exists that would make this easier, it just has to be adapted to the task. Digital still cameras and consumer mini-DVs that record directly as a digital file immediately cut out the step of needing editing software or capturing the video to computer. Webcams can also be co-opted for recording directly as a digital file, but the quality of the video is often not very good and it is not nearly as portable a solution. Bluetooth, the newest wireless protocol, would further speed up the ability to share files when paired with a phone that would support it.

The Sony DCR-PC120BT is one such Bluetooth device. Linking the camcorder to a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone (such as a Sony Ericsson t68i), allows the unit to send and receive emails with MPEG video or still attachments. Both Nokia and Sony Ericsson are working on new cell phone technology with small built-in digital cameras. Once such products are on the market, vloggers will have an all in one device that allows them to post directly to their website.

From the standpoint of the backend technology, a company needs to make it as easy to share video quickly as Audblog makes it to share audio. This will improve interest in vlogging just as methods for automating the publishing of regular weblogs have increased their popularity.

As vlogging technologies become automated and easier to use more people will begin utilizing them. Just as happened with traditional blogs, a sense of community will develop within this group. As this community develops, they will become the voice that helps guide how vlogs expand and find even more distinctive uses.

Video weblogs do not need to be seen as a replacement to the weblogging tools that have come before, merely a new adaptation. They will no doubt reach at least a certain level of mainstream acceptance and use. As the Internet itself develops and we find other methods for accessing information regularly rather than sitting at a computer, they may gain even a greater dominance. The nature of the blogging community has always been one of independence and video serves to help expand that spirit of individualism even further.

Vlogging stories:


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About the author. The Internet and film have long been passions of Andrew Beach, leading to his collaboration on short films with international writers and to the development of new ways to converge video with the computer.

Now as a Founding Partner and Director of Convergent Media for Last Exit LLC < http://www.lastexit.tv >, in New York City, Andrew continues to apply his experience to compelling moving image work and to innovative content delivery systems.

That's it for this Thursday, see you next time.

Andrew King
Newsletter Editor, WebReference.com
aking at jupitermedia dot com

Created: March 6, 2003
Revised: March 6, 2003

URL: http://www.webreference.com/new/030306.html