Michael Verdi, Ryanne and others started videoblogging about a year ago, and the looking-back type videos are starting to come out.

Videoblogging has really been an amazing adventure so far. Here’s to another year of this. Let’s hope thousands, if not millions of people discover this as a hobby, as a way to connect, as a new art form. (Not as a business model, that’s not what we’re talking about here.) The videoblogging community has a real voice, and real values, and I hope those don’t get dilluted too much in the coming year. I’ve always felt podcasters are more commercial. Maybe it’s because they have Adam Curry and we have Jay Dedman. Leaders really set the values for a movement. Maybe it’s because of that name – podcsting – that implies a particular, commercial player, who seems to have co-opted the movement. (Lightnet might provide some hope there.) Who knows.

In any case, here’s to another year of videoblogging. May we not sell out, may we believe in the power of individual voices speaking truth and connecting. May we shave a few minutes of the average 4 hours the American watches television every day.


I was looking at a few popular websites that, how shall I say it, challenge my conceptions of what a good website is. Myspace continues to amaze by its ugliness. And sites like Blingtones generate, strangly enough, a *lot* of revenue.

PSP Update 2.6: Podcasting (RSS) and WMA Music Support!

Russell Beattie Notebook » PSP Update 2.6: Podcasting (RSS) and WMA Music Support!: Sony does the logical thing: they build in a podcatching client into the PSP. No synching via the computer needed, the audio files go straight to your PSP.

Of course they manage to fuck it up: the audio (no video??) streams, so you have to be connected to a wireless network for streaming.

This won’t take off. It’s almost there, so close, but misses a crucial part of podcasting: the caching locally and then listening whenever you want.

Sony will conclude people don’t want podcasts on their PSP, and the opportunity will be lost. So close. I hope they’ll improve it to the point of usefulness though. Even if it means I have to buy a memory stick. Sell cheap memory sticks, add video, and you have a killer app for the PSP.

Too bad they make their money on games, not hardware. Coz if they made money selling PSP’s, they would do everything to make it a more useful platform and fix these problems.

I’m getting sick of the “Ooops! The system was unable to perform the operation. Try again in a few minutes.” error messages at Gmail.

Don’t be cute, guys. There’s too much cuteness in these web apps these days. A useful message would be: “Couldn’t send this email right now. Try again in a few seconds.” The “system”? What is this, Big brother? (perhaps..)

PodGuide.tv: Mefeedia video podcast directory: “If, as I have, you’ve been discovering the wild and sometimes bizarre world of podcasts with your newly-acquired iPod, you may want to visit Mefeedia, a directory that lists thousands of video podcasts. It’s the place I go to find some of the channels I feature here on the site. The depth of the directory is astounding.

Yahoo! 360° – Home

The problem I have with Yahoo! 360° is that.. somehow, it seems to lack some kind of focus. I go there now and then, and as an IA, I can see the underlying structure, beautifully structured, it’s like a work of art almost. But I look at the first page I land on, and I see.. nothing. Some people I’ve added.. but nothing to grab onto. Nothing of substance. Then I click on some things, and I just see more empty pages. Sure, there are blogs, My Page, you name it, but it all feels like a bit of a wasteland. It’s just not satisfying, and I don’t find myself returning there often. Whenever I go it’s just professional curiosity.

Technorati tags and tag spamming

Sifry’s Alerts: Technorati Performance Improvement Update: look at the bottom of that post: “Technorati Tags: blogosphere, blogs, blogsearch, competition, feedback, givingthanks, google, gratitude, scaling, search, search engine, statistics, stats, technorati, wow, yahoo”

Those are not tags David uses for himself to find his own post back. Those are tags to make sure this post shows up high in Technorati tags. And they feel like the old keyword stuffing to me. Does the way Technorati handles tags encourage tag spam? I’ve always felt that with tags, it’s not about having a lot of them. It’s about having a small amount within a social circle that’s useful. When I see tag stuffing like in this post, sometimes I wonder: are tags going the way of the meta keyword html tag?

(Do I watch too many sex in the city reruns?)

Technorati Weblog: Temporary Keyword Search Limitation

Technorati Weblog: Temporary Keyword Search Limitation: “Today we experienced a so-called Dictionary Attack on our keyword search service. Someone was trying to extract the contents of our index by doing a large number of searches, going way back in time. Attacks like this can cause slower response times for you, our loyal users, and this makes us very cranky.”

Extract the contents of our index? Wow, these are weird times we live in…

DV Guru

DV Guru: “Mefeedia has been around since the beginning of videoblogging time (well a little bit afterward). In fact the founder, Peter Van Dijk, also helped start the yahoo videoblogging group with Jay Dedman – which is like a mecca for videobloggers (seriously, talk about a community).

Just recently, mefeedia spruced up their web site features by adding reviews. So now, not only can you subscribe to your favorite vlog, you can also see what other people are saying about them and write a review yourself. You can also apply tags to the videos you see and have your own video queue on the site, which you can apply an RSS feed to. Also, if you have videos on the site, you can bunch them up into an archive and show them off as thumbnails on your own site. Right now there are 1141 vlogs accounted for. Seriously.”

Editing rounds for website development

You know how, when you write a book, they assign you different editors? A grammar editor who looks at the book from the point of view of grammar and vocabulary. A technical editor, or factchecker, who checks there are no mistakes in there. A content editor who checks whether you’re talking about the right stuff and it’s interesting.

When you edit text yourself with those hats on, your really find a lot of things you don’t if you just try to improve the text without focusing on 1 area.

So the same can apply to websites.

You can go over a beta site in various rounds, and wear a different hat every time:

  • Focus on editing text.
  • Focus on writing the right text for usability.
  • Do a usability test.
  • Focus on the overall layout of each page: does it have a clear beginning? A clear title? A clear focal point?
  • Focus on interaction: is it consistent throughout the site?
  • And so on.

The advantage of focusing on 1 specific area and spending an hour or 2, 3 doing only that is that you really start to refine the site in a way that just general looking at it wouldn’t do. And if you refine it in enough areas, you get something shiny. Nice.

Do you use this idea of editing rounds with very specific hats on?

Who will host your vlog?

Netcraft: Podcasts Help Drive Demand for High-Volume Hosting: “As podcasts and video blogs consume disk space and bandwidth, will these large media files reside with major web hosting providers, niche startups spawned by the Blogosphere, or perhaps Yahoo or Google?”

Hosting videoblogs is a large-scale game, which is why I think it will soon (within a year) be the exclusive game of the big boys. Not to say startups like Blip.tv aren’t doing an amazingly excellent job – they are. But they’ll need serious cash to scale this up, whereas the big guys already are strong in that area. What startups do well is innovation, and where’s the innovation in free hosting? That seems to be an inherent problem with many of the video “free-hosting” startups.

Just to say I’m glad I’m working on a directory for videoblogs. Not only is it easier to scale, and easier to compete with Google/Yahoo/MSN. But it’s also, in my view, a more valuable project. Directories, especially for video, are super important, because search will not be able to play the dominant role for video taht it plays for the text web. Video search just isn’t enough, because video itself demands much more supporting metadata before you decide to give it your attention (you can’t scan it quickly and skip it). Video search is an unsolved problem, and will stay that way for a while, not because we can’t search video, but because the requirement for you to decide wether you want to watch or skip this video is much higher than just a list of search result.

In other words, video directories/sites that help you find the good stuff will have at least 5 or 10 happy years ahead of them (until video search becomes good enough). And the reason that doing an independent directory is important is that the big media companies (who have deep pockets to promote their stuff) are jumping on internet television.

If we create a world in which the internet video most people watch is that coming from big media, we’ve missed an opportunity. If we create a world in which the long tail of video can find itself, we’ve won.

That’s the challenge, and that’s why I hope that in a year, there will be dozens of videoblog directories, hundreds of community video sites, thousands of revlog blogs, filtering out that long tail, making it easy for you to find video you are interested in, not video that commercial interests think you should watch. That’s the vision.

I’m working on the nav of Mefeedia, the experience you have when watching videos in your queue, moving between your queue, feeds you are subscribed to and so on.

I could have specced this out, but I’m finding that just building it really works. I’m changing my mind all the time about how exactly it should look – I spend 5 minutes changing the layout, then putting on my users hat and playing with it for a few minutes… then thinking about it and making a change.

There is no way I could spec this and give it to a developer, because the spec would take longer to think through than actually building it. And I wouldn’t have so much opportunity to change my mind.

I was thinking yesterday that there really shouldn’t be such a line between people who spec stuff out and people who create. But it’s impossibly hard to find good programmers who can also make good decisions on what to build and how it should look.

Developing Mefeedia

Before I started this development effort on Mefeedia (we launched R1 last week, and we’ll be launching a lot more stuff soon), I made a list of priorities. What makes for the ability to roll out cool stuff fast?

  • Short development cycles. I didn’t get this at first, but mike from Blip.tv told me they use 2-week development cycles. So I started doing that, and it works. Two week development cycles rock. They really focus the mind, set deadlines. Two weeks I can handle.
  • Few specs. 32 signals is famous for saying specs are bad (no functional specs!), but I disagree. The truth is, it depends on your developers, and the relationship you have with them. I have 2 developers in India, and every 2 weeks I write a 2-4 page spec with the new functionality. I also give them page mockups, already integrated in the site (ie. non-working pages). That seems to work so far. The trick is: I don’t make a big spec in advance, I only spec things that we’re implementing in that 2 week cycle.
  • Take the time to remove functionality. The hardest part with innovating is: you have to find the functionality that rocks. Especially in a new field like videoblogging, where none of this has been done before, it is very easy to develop functionality that doesn’t, well, rock. There are 100s of functions I could develop. It’s not a lack of cool ideas. But some work, others don’t. And you need to be lean. So what I do is rather ruthlessly remove functionality. It does take some work to remove a function, but in the future you’ve gained less testing, less maintenance, and more focus. So spend the time to remove stuff.

This is what’s working for me right now. It’s a struggle, keep trying to find new methods to increase the ability roll out cool stuff fast. When you’re competing in a hot space where everyone and their dog has lots of VC money to throw around, focus is the only answer. I’m lucky to have my focus: a directory for all independent videoblogs. That’s plenty to bite off for now :)

TipMonkies » Blog Archive » Find free video podcasts with Mefeedia

TipMonkies » Blog Archive » Find free video podcasts with Mefeedia: “Mefeedia is an awesome service I heard about on Rocketboom which is very similar to RSS aggregators like Bloglines and Rojo but targetting the emerging market of video podcasts (or videocasts, or vlogs, or whatever you want to call them). In this way, it is similar to my favorite podcatcher/podcast directory, Odeo. Unlike other videocast aggregators, there is no need to download videos as they are streamed right from the browser. I currently subscribe to about 10 different video podcasts so I have a few gigs worth of video just from that, so it’s nice to finally just be able to stream content. The interface could use a little work as it’s not as clean and intuitive as Odeo but there is lots of great content, and you can tag videos, send them to friends, and do a few other cool things.”

0000016: Feature: Unicode support – Mantis

I need a plan for Unicode support in Mefeedia. Amazingly, PHP is rather bad in this regard. I’m using PHP and Mysql. Here’s a page that clearly shows the need for this.

So I have a question: what is the basic approach?

– Make sure stuff is stored in UTF-8 in MySQL?
– Make sure HTML uses UTF-8?
– What about the PHP part of the equation?

Any pointers to common sense around this are very welcome. Any good libraries?

I just had an insight. Metadata is determined by its usage, not its definition. That is, what people *do* with tags determines what they *are*, not how you define them. Same for lots of types of metadata.