Mar 192006

There must be something in the air. I have been in identical conversations in the past week with folk I have been lecturing, professional content makers and colleagues. The problem of what to do about the tidal wave of content coming over the horizon and how to get noticed. I put to them that a great deal of the stuff that will be pulling the eyeballs away from your wonderful latest bit torrent distributed masterpiece is not other great well marketed contemporary content or prodigious user creations but work from 5, 10, 25 even 50 years ago. In five years time a hundred billion items of media available to us all. Most of it will be web 2.0 User Generated Content but probably more significantly the really good, accessed content, not often cited, will the great ‘sleeping archive’.

Working on the basic fact that media lives longer than people (particularly media that has been already digitized and in theory is immortal), then it is pretty unlikely any person has seen everything that has been produced before they were born and before they were conscious media consumers. Here lies something tantilising. Do we need to make anything ever again? Could the next generations just watch all the stuff that’s already been created. Mashing up basic long tail theories with actual figures from the emerging IPTV, broadband TV platforms (where more than 50% of content is what we call archive – past its sell by date) then content owners who have a big back catalogue are in for a great ride. But new content makers are going to find it tough against the archive and the UGC noise. Making programmes about the archive, now theres an idea! Or how about a series about the best of user content! Surely there must be more. Humanity still has stories to tell and the best ones will rise to the surface. One of the reasons there is a growing movement in stories being dispersed over lots of platforms is part of a necessary ‘make-it-unique’, ‘make-it-standout’ strategy. Create a part of the story for a bluecast on a tram, or a bit for the new fashion accessory video headset eyePod. Bandwagons, play and fashions will abound for the moment until a fully networked media world settles into global uniformity – or not. Enough theorising.

As a real world example I just popped along to Boing Boing to see a post/link about a documentary about the internet from 1972. Clicked on the google video link (Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing) and was just bowled over. Obviously as a closet media analyst, this sort of thing is compelling viewing as one is suddenly caught up in parallel cycles – nothing is ever new under the sun, only subtle layers of innovation. For example right at the start of the video a quote, “the notion that computer networks were not only needed but they were valuable and they are gradually coming into fruitiion” (F.J.Corbato, MIT), yea and this at a time when I was probably out in the street playing football, mostly unaware of what a computer was at 10 years old! Another portentious quote “at other levels you’ve got the facility that allows people to get together who are geographically dispersed and allow them to work together and find out what they need to do their jobs” Richard Watson, Standford Research Institute. Remember this was 34 years ago!. I like the 30 minute episode because it has a nieveity behind it, there is very little jargon and a sense that they were making it because it could be made, rather than because they saw a future where EVERY person in the world would be networked. In fact virtually everything they said about networked work environments now rings true for anyone with a computer at home but they wouldn’t know that – we have the luxury of retrospect.

So that is one example of a time-poor person, me, who should be doing better things, caught up in some niche that entertains, is enriching and definitely not from a pot of latest content. AOL/Warner with their In2TV offering look well placed in a recent article from Yahoo! with a bunch of old US shows, mostly B-shows at the moment, but for the US culture a hark back to the good old days – no brainer. The BBC of course has some wonderful archive that it will be releasing via the Integrated Media Player and of course eventually stream 85 on the internet – the old tech stream…;-) The list goes on – investors buy into those archives before its too late!

Wonder what folk in 30 years time will be looking at from our day. Perhaps the ninety seventh re-run of the Simpsons, joking about strange old debates we had about the likely long term of mobile video and quoting odd people from something called a ‘podcast’ (a term that dissappeared in 2012) who said broadcast is dead. So if there is a Gary 30 years into the future reading this blog (which is of course immortal 😉 perhaps you can add this to the chain, the archive media cycle continues.

Posted by Gary Hayes Copyright 2006

Sep 272005

Butterfly Beach Dog �Gary Hayes 2005It seems just as I get to post an article on the dawning of new forms of video search along comes, like the proverbial bus, two more at the same time. I have mentioned the moves Google are making also but this just out Wired Article – The Super Network – Why Yahoo! will be the center of the million-channel universe – goes into some good detail in the personalize media space…

“A billion hours of programming is meaningless without an efficient way to search it. Think of trying to find a book in the Library of Congress with no database, no card catalog, no Dewey decimal system. Today’s prominent search engines work great for Web pages and OK for still images, which usually contain captions or other identifying information. But video is much harder to sort through.” Josh McHugh

This article and a second looking at ESPN talks about to the whole long tail thing and goes a lot further in contextualizing collaborative filtering, psychographic profiling and social programming. It also talks as in my post from a couple of days ago about the importance of getting strong audio/visual data on-board as soon as possible.

“Several companies are logging closed-captioned transcripts so that shows can be searched with traditional text-search methods, and San Francisco startup Blinkx recently began captioning videostreams with voice recognition software. But computers are still a long way from watching and understanding TV. The thousands of data-center blade servers inhaling and annotating programs around the clock for Yahoo!, Google, and Blinkx are no more able to extract meaning than an ATM is able to know you’re having an affair by analyzing your withdrawal patterns. “I know how far we are from true computer vision,” says Horowitz, leaning back in his chair in a conference room at Yahoo!’s Sunnyvale headquarters.”

Horovitz is ex-MIT and founded Virage, a leading company in video analysing (again mentioned in my previous post), who are now embedded with Autonomy. Horovitz was apparently inspired by Marvin Minsky’s project for his MIT class – “get a computer to ‘see’ what is actually in a photograph”.

The important thing with this topical wave of interest in video personalization is what next? Just finding bits of film or TV down using searches such as  “the episode in Friends where Daphne has flu”  or “that film where frogs fall out of the sky” or “which films contain the phrase  “the future is already here” – is the first step. We need to get the “creatives”, you and I, thinking of the great cross-platform interactive services that are enabled by this – lots more, so much more on this to come 😉

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005