It isn’t (yet) all about the Internet

I’ve been doing an occasional series of commentaries for New Hampshire Public Radio on topics at the intersection of technology and society. The latest one, which aired this weekend, riffs on an item posted here about using sites like YouTube and Blip to catalog video clips about candidates who visit New Hampshire.

About an hour after the spot first aired, on Friday evening, I received a heartwarming response from an independent documentary filmmaker who said in part:

Just heard your commentary on NHPR, and jumped on YouTube to see your clip.

I wanted to say that your idea is profound and powerful. It’s one of those ideas which is so simple and so obvious you wonder why we all didn’t think of it.

A database of significant clips from candidates is the first thing I’ve come across in a long time that feels fresh and hopeful.

So, the next time a candidate comes to Warner (and lots are scheduled) I’ll bring my camera and upload the clip.

Excellent!

There’s a lesson here for me as well. It’s profound, powerful, simple, and obvious, and I wonder why it has taken me so long to think of it. The lesson is that it isn’t (yet) all about the Internet. Using new media for all they’re worth, blogging and podcasting like crazy, I’ve mostly failed to make connections between a number of important ideas and the vast majority of the folks who could apppreciate and advance them. By reaching out to public radio, I connect with people I’ve never reached before — people who mostly aren’t reading blogs or downloading podcasts, but who are listening to the radio while driving or making dinner.

I haven’t made many of those connections yet, but when I do it feels great and inspires me to try to make more. For example, I’ve struggled for several years to make concrete for people the abstract idea that tags are second-order addresses that create rendezvous points in information space. We in the vanguard just take that for granted. We’re used to attending conferences whose opening announcements include the declaration of the tag (e.g., etech2007) that will be used to aggregate photos and blog entries related to the event. But most people haven’t had that experience yet. So it was a real thrill to see NHPR’s primer on how to tag election-related clips on YouTube and Blip. Thanks to a single two-minute spot on the radio, I’ve helped make that idea concrete for people who will never read this blog.

4 Comments

  1. One of the great things we’ve found in politics with mainstream media is in terms of it’s viral potential it acts like a “super node”, cutting across our clustered little online communities and seeding those ideas in new networks. You’d think that the most logical distribution path for a story broken on the internet would be through the internet, and sometimes that’s the case. But very often those paths turn inward and hit a sort of wall.

    So to your comment: “By reaching out to public radio, I connect with people I’ve never reached before — people who mostly aren’t reading blogs or downloading podcasts, but who are listening to the radio while driving or making dinner. ”

    I would add that you are also reaching a lot of people who ARE reading blogs and grabbing podcasts, but for some reason that advanced mathematics could explain, just can’t get here from there…

  2. Jon … As a member of the newly formed PodCorps.org and a long-time member of The Conversations Network, I applaud your forethought on videotaping the comments of Sen. Clinton. I also applaud and back your comments on the use of the New Media to get these types of in-depth commentaries and information into a deeper penetration of the public consciousness and awareness.

    I would however, point out that your video contains one of the biggest sore-spots in the process: bad tech-handling of the final production.

    The audio and video are terribly out-of-sync; as much as 2 seconds. Yes, I know the point of the conversation is still brought across. The audio is very clear, while the video is a good 1-stop lower than it should be. Both of those are very useable. But a sync problem like your video displays is not acceptable.

    In fact, I dare say, a good 80% of your potential listeners will leave well before the points of the comment are discovered. And I’d also wager that an even higher number will be so disrupted in their listening by the sync problem that the result would be as it they’d never watched or listened to the piece at all.

    This should never have been released as a video with such a bad sync problem. As an audio only release, the information is very powerful. It would have been better to show a still shot of the person asking the question, the trans to Sen. Clinton, and show frame captures in transitional changes as the reply progressed. Even using the over-worked Ken Burns Effect would have been preferable to the out-of-sync video. The viewer would have accepted this format. But by allowing the video to continue, out-of-sync, the viewer is left to deal with a perplexing technical problem that was never going to be fixed; unnerving and disruptive to the thought process at best.

    A basic tenet in marketing is to, NEVER give your customer a reason to NOT say YES! This video gave the viewer (customer) every reason to say NO – both phyically in tuning away and mentally by tuning out.

    Sure it’s unfair. But do you really think the viewing public is going to be any less judgemental? This is the rule of humanity when it comes to media consumption: it’s LOOK that matters FIRST!! The bigCo media moguls spend billions of dollars each year making sure their products enter the airways with nothing but the slickest of wrappers. Despite what we all know about the near total emaciation suffered in the quality of content. Yet, their flacid content continues to sell. They know they MUST make it LOOK Good, IF they want to survive. The viewing public will give NO time at all to poorly presented material that is intended to be serious media productions!

    Some will say, “People flock to YouTube”. And they’d be correct. But, if we think people watching YouTube, for the majority, consider what they see there – on YouTube- to be serious media productions then we make a huge mistake in judgement! It is entertainment and the poor quality, to no quality, of the productions is part of that entertainment.

    This is one reason why anyone putting serious media material on YouTube will not see the returns received by those pieces who are found to be ‘entertainment rich’; regardless of quality in production or content.

    Again … I applaud your efforts and the direction your commentary is taking this conversation: we need it and agree with it. But, I also thank you for, unwittingly, displaying a perfect example of the need for tighter technical know-how in the production of media pieces by the regular guy or gal in the Stringer Corps.

    The audio and video are but technical parts of the greater story, yes. However, if the technical causes a wall to arise between the viewer and the information, then, ‘…we have a problem Houston!’.

    But can the untrained producer mix the two into a powerful influencer… or produce a silent killer from what could have been a fine media piece? This is a serious question that must be answered: and answered quickly.

    les

  3. “But a sync problem like your video displays is not acceptable.”

    You’re absolutely right, and you make a very good point.

    I think what happened here is a function of recording this off my TiVo. I tried to attend the live event but it was a full house, so I went home and TiVo’d it, then later captured that segment by dubbing from the TiVo into my camcorder.

    I’m guessing what may have happened is that by using two connections — an S-Video signal for the video, and an audio cable for the audio — I somehow created this synch problem. Which is, as you say, really bad. I’m obviously not any kind of video expert but I should have noticed and dealt with this, one way or another. Instead of ignoring the problem in order to make a point which, as you correctly note, is undermined by that very problem.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think most citizens attending an event like this would ever even think of trying to dub from a TiVo. The normal situation would be to record directly into the camcorder. In which case there are liable to be other problems — lighting, wobbliness — but I can’t see how any ordinary use of a camcorder could create a synch problem like we see here.

    Anyway, thanks for your comments. Harsh, but deservedly so, and well taken.

    Oh, one final point. I’m not suggesting that these individual clips will be, in and of themselves, influential. Rather, that they’d provide the raw materials from which collections could be assembled, by candidate and by topic. In which case a substandard piece like this one just wouldn’t get used — and hopefully, wouldn’t need to be because somebody else would have provided a better version of the same thing.

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