Tag Archives: seesmic

The year of consolidation

An interesting year so far in terms of online services ending or merging. I don’t have a good enough memory to mention all of those that have vanished this year, but there are a number of notable examples I thought I’d highlight, mainly because I’ve used them in the past. I last did a short review of some of these consolidations about two years ago.

So where to start… well, I just read the news that drop.io has been acquired by Facebook. It’s a file-sharing service which was incredibly easy to get set up. I wrote about drop.io a couple of years ago and at the time it was an exciting service with a lot of potential, a growing developer community, and some very cool plans like location-sensitive drops, content transcoding, and so on. I guess for me its utility was rapidly eclipsed once I discovered Dropbox which I now use to sync content between 2 laptops, a netbook, a home server and my iPhone, and which my Dogear Nation co-hosts and I use to share our content (not using it yet? try this referral link). It looks like drop.io is effectively closing on December 15th.

Two notable (to me) video services are going, too. [well, OK, as I write this, one has gone, and the other one is on its way]. Seesmic – the original video version, not the microblogging / update service – is closing. This was a service which wanted to pioneer a “video Twitter” conversation concept, and it was interesting to start off with – I mentioned it in my round-up of online video services back in February 2008. For me, I enjoyed the experiment, and there are a lot of ways in which video online has grown and become an effective way of delivering content, but text has remained my major conversational medium so Seesmic didn’t work out longer term. Of course it has spawned a successful business on the back of Twitter and other sites in the form of Seesmic Web and Desktop clients (and they acquired Ping.fm as well).

Another fun and fascinating video service has gone away – 12seconds.tv has just a page of video static greeting visitors now. I loved that service, although again I struggled to make longer term use of it… but I’m often to be seen sporting my 12seconds t-shirt 🙂

In the cases of both Seesmic and 12seconds I’m left to wonder where to re-host my content… kudos to both sites for enabling me to get access to what would otherwise be lost. I suspect I will end up dumping them to YouTube since that isn’t likely to go away in a hurry. Of course the Seesmic videos, particularly the conversational ones, won’t make so much sense without the context.

Vox went the way of the dodo in 2010 as well. As an early adopter I tend to try out most services and I had a small but largely inactive blog over on Vox. I can’t say I’m too sad about its end as I’m perfectly comfortable with a blog at WordPress… it’s funny that Windows Live Spaces bloggers are being migrated to WordPress too – a sign of the times I think, as we’re seeing many of these earlier diverse networks collapse into the larger, more established networks (Vox to SixApart/Typepad, and whilst Windows Live Spaces is hardly supported by a non-established brand in Microsoft, but they are obviously refocussing just like everyone else).

The final service worth mentioning, I think, is xMarks. This is a service I only started using in the middle of the year, in an attempt to synchronise my browser content between the iPhone and other devices. The sudden announcement that it was heading for the buffers back in September led to an outpouring of despair and support from the user community, and as a result what was looking like a failure ended up being a near death experience – they initially took user donations, and have now negotiated a sale (so this is more consolidation, in a sense).

So what’s next? Well the microblogging wars seem to have died out, Twitter has won over e.g. former contenders like Jaiku and Pownce, although most online services appear to be integrating their own “updates” concept to continue to seem relevant. The big spaces where I’m personally seeing competition / overlap at the moment are in sites like Tumblr vs Posterous for general content sharing, and in online identity landing pages where about.me, chi.mp and flavors.me want my business. There are a number of fascinating new music-oriented services as well and I think some of those will start to overlap as they add features. The rest of the competition and fight for success seems to me to be in mobile apps and between runtimes on the handhelds. Just a personal point-in-time observation as 2010 starts to draw to a close.

The circle of life played out on the Internet – early innovation and excitement, a plateau of limited success leading to, possibly, monetisation (and/or an explosion of copycats), and a quiet death disappointing a small user community, or heady growth and unlimited stock prices. It’s an interesting space to continue to watch for us early adopters…

Advertisements

YouTube, Viddler or Seesmic?

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

I have accounts on Viddler, YouTube and Seesmic. They all have their pros and cons.

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.

Viddler wins

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 🙂

Some other online presences – Seesmic, YouTube, Tumblr

I’ve become aware that I’m increasingly using a bunch of other online services, but that I don’t have very visible links to them on my blog, which is something that needs to be fixed. I need to tackle the About page very soon, along with that blogroll over on the right-hand side, too.

Seesmic

I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying out Seesmic, which is kind of like video Twittering.

I still don’t find it very intuitive or easy to use. The first problem is that it requires far more time and attention than something like Twitter, and thus I might comment in a conversation thread but rapidly run out of temporal bandwidth for watching all of the responses.

More importantly though, it is written in Flash and there are no URLs to profiles for individuals, so I can’t give you a direct link to my Seesmic page… and if you do have an ID there, you’ll just have to look for one of my posts to pop up in the public timeline in order to find me (or search for me using egowhore). They need to fix this.

Seesmic is pretty interesting though, and I’m giving it a go as much as possible.

YouTube

In keeping with the video theme, I also now have a YouTube profile. This is just an FYI in case you’re a YouTube fan… I’ve been thinking about the available online video services and may blog further about this soon. Feel free to connect with me over there.

Tumblr

My tumblelog has been quietly collecting my del.icio.us links and stuff for a while but I’ve started to occasionally post photo and video links over there too. I noticed recently that Tumblr’s functionality has significantly improved and there are far more options for customisation, a dashboard, and other nice things to play around with, so I’ve become more interested in using that again.

Tumblr is really a lot nicer than Suprglu, which I wrote about nearly two years ago but which clearly hasn’t had the investment that Tumblr has benefited from. My Suprglu page is still there, but I can’t see me actively doing anything with it.

Using iGlasses to fix your iSight

Apparently a bunch of my readers are getting a little bored with the Mac bias around here, so I’ll try to dilute it. But not right now 🙂
iGlasses-1.png
Here’s a Seesmic post I made this morning about iGlasses, a small piece of software that can improve your experience with the iSight cameras that ship in Macs. The problem is basically that although the iSight is a really neat tool and handy to have built-in, it does have some trouble with white balance and brightness in some circumstances.

I’d previously followed a useful guide to improving a webcam’s picture quality. That is definitely a useful read, but there are settings that can be tweaked in the iSight which can help too. For instance, it is possible to zoom the picture, change the white balance, brightness, contrast etc. – and have those settings applied right in the video application that is currently being used. You can create your own presets too. It works with Flash (which sites like Seesmic use to capture video) as well as all the obvious applications that would have a video input like Chat and Photo Booth.

It only costs a few dollars / pounds and frankly it’s just a great little app, so if you use the iSight then it is worth a look. One of the people who responded to my Seesmic post also pointed out that the makers eCamm Network make a nice selection of other products too – I think the little Huckleberry mirror for letting your iSight face outwards looks pretty clever 🙂

On Seesmic, Viddler, and WP.com video

Video twitter?

Whilst I was away I managed to get hold of one of the rare invites to try out Seesmic, a new “video twitter”-like service that is currently in alpha. Today, I finally got around to trying it out. Within a few minutes of posting my first entry, I started to get responses…. so I was immediately drawn in. A true social experience from the start.

seesmic-ui.jpg

Embedding video on WP.com

Then I decided that I’d quite like to be able to embed the odd Seesmic post into my blog, and that’s where things fall apart slightly. You see, if you are hosted on WP.com, only certain types of video or embedded content is supported, via short tags. According to the FAQ, that list includes YouTube, DailyMotion, Odeo and a few others. Seesmic offers embed code below the video, but WP.com strips it out.

That’s OK. WordPress.com is a free service, and I agreed to and accept the terms and conditions, and that includes limitations around embedding content.

Only, actually, the list of supported formats includes more than those mentioned in the FAQ. I posted a couple of items from Viddler this year. I’d thought that Viddler support was documented, but now I can’t find the explicit reference about it in the WP.com FAQ, the forums, or on the Viddler site…. in fact I’d thought that Viddler used to actually show the short tag for embedding on WP.com on the video’s page, but evidently I was mistaken (or the feature has been removed).

Why is this relevant? Well both Viddler and Seesmic offer Flash-based players, so I would have thought Seesmic isn’t too much of a stretch. It’s alpha, of course, so it’s fair if the WP.com folks want to wait before doing anything about it.

So I spent a bit of time scrabbling around looking for ways to embed Seesmic; remembered Viddler; failed to even find the information about how to embed Viddler, let alone Seesmic; and now I’m mildly annoyed.

The Seesmic experience?

So what do I think of Seesmic? Interesting. I’m not sure how much I will make use of the service, but we’ll see what happens. The interface is a little icky in places… For instance although you can “post reply” to a video, there’s no obvious way of seeing replies to your own unless you follow people or trawl the public timeline (update – ok now I see the “previous reply” link below the video, d’oh!). Finding and following friends is not as smooth an experience as I’d like, either.

I still like Viddler. A lot. I’ve not had much reason to use it, but the fact that I can annotate a video is really, really nice. I notice that I can effectively suck in content from elsewhere into Seesmic, but I’m not sure whether it will consume Viddler. Maybe I’ll take a look at that.

2008, the year of video-me? Who knows. I notice that video blogging is a big part of Quarterlife, so maybe it’s another scale waiting to be tipped.