As regular readers will know, in the last couple of months I’ve been experimenting with video both on my blog, and also with video sites like Seesmic (I’m lucky enough to be one of their pre-alpha testers).
At some stage I’ll write about the capture and editing aspects of this whole adventure, but not today. Today I want to take a brief look at the sites I’ve been using.
How well do video conversations work?
I’ll start off by saying that I still find video an awkward medium for blog or microblog-style conversations, for a number of reasons:
- There’s a clear need to get over your initial feeling of self-consciousness. There’s no way I’m videocasting if I look or feel really awful (OK, OK, that’s my default state, har har).
- There’s a need to have the time and quiet space to record video messages. I can’t imagine what it would be like if everyone in the office suddenly started using video services all at once. Firstly you’d all loop back to 1 (self-consciousness), then there would be mayhem with the noise. Lately I’ve been in open-plan offices and using these kinds of services is just not appropriate.
- Video can be time consuming to create… Seesmic gets away from this by just putting the record button straight in their flash app to enable the video to be captured directly with no post-editing. For other tools like YouTube you need to capture and edit the video before uploading it.
- Video and audio require so much more attention than text. I can scan a piece of text in moments… (a History degree will give you the ability to pick the salient points and precis a 500-page textbook in 20 minutes). With video I have to watch, listen, and I can’t easily backtrack to reconsider a point you’ve just made. And for a really conversational service like Seesmic, I have to keep coming back and watching every point made in a thread to get a true understanding of the conversation.
That said, video does work well for showing certain things, like screencasting software features or showing off real items, both of which can be hard to describe with words.
Which service works best?
In terms of conversation, immediacy, and the ease of just posting a blurb, Seesmic rocks. I’ve talked about its significant deficiencies before, and they mostly relate to the lack of social features in the interface like the inability to find and connect with friends. It’s not great for supporting multiple formats, either – you can either upload directly, assuming your camera is accessible from your browser’s Flash plugin; or you can post a .FLV file, which you’re probably going to have fun creating by converting from .MOV, .AVI or some such. No stats or usage data appear to be visible. When I’m able to use it, I generally do like it… but it hits points 1, 2 and 4 in my list above, so I don’t use it much due to lack of time, space, and attention bandwidth.
For searchability and scale, YouTube wins. Everyone has heard of YouTube. It’s accessible directly from AppleTV and a whole range of devices. You can upload in a range of formats. It has a very slight “conversation” aspect as it is possible to post “video responses” to someone else’s videos, but it’s not an ongoing conversation like Seesmic. Handy for embedding into blogs, and there’s some ability to find out how many views your videos have had.
… or Vimeo, or Utterz, or…?
There are other similar services around. If you want to upload video to a tumblelog on Tumblr, they recommend something called Vimeo (although you can point to another online video on another service). There’s also Utterz, which I also haven’t used but which appears to be more like Seesmic in terms of the community features and immediate conversation. To be fair I’m in no position to comment on either of these, but it’s obvious that online video is hot just from the proliferation of services.
So you may have guessed, based on the fact that I’ve left it until last – my personal favourite is Viddler.
Viddler is just so easy to use. It accepts a whole range of common video formats and will transcode them for you. You can tag your videos – and even better than that, you can add comments and tags at particular points in the video. I can embed the videos on my WP.com blog (which is not possible with Seesmic). It’s easy to find and connect with friends. There are groups. There are excellent stats which show where hits on your videos are coming from, including when a video is played through an embed on your site or another one… for example, I know that as I type this my Matter video has been played 2964 times and the viewed 4154 times, the majority of hits coming from a different site entirely (full URL lists are available, which is great).
Viddler does not offer a “video conversation” service like Seesmic… but for sharing, embedding and tracking online video, screencasts, or whatever, I just think it’s the best of the current crop.
Update: my friend Maria Langer has just started a series on using Viddler with WordPress on her blog – you’d almost think we were conspiring together 🙂