Unlocking Video #1: Jump In, Don’t Get Stuck on Details

The Learning Lab stage of the Knight-Mozilla “Unlocking Video” challenge has begun. Our submitted idea, Cahoots, is on the front burner here in the office, but we’d love your input throughout this process.

We are going to be publishing weekly blog posts about the experience – what we are learning in the regular webinars and our own process of moving toward a solid, interactive prototype. Get us on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments section on these posts to give feedback and advice. If you are a developer, we would love to work with you on seeing our vision move to the next step.Knight-Mozilla "Unlocking Video" Challenge

So, we invite you to join us on this adventure. Aza Raskin, our first Learning Lab lecturer, taught us the importance of asking the right questions – but we need your help. Keeping with the times our design focuses on user interaction and draw from a collective pull of knowledge. Take a look at the design and don’t be shy to weigh in with your own two-cents. ┬áTogether we can make the journalism industry even more relevant in the digital age.

With that said, let’s explore our idea a bit.

We noticed that video has largely gone unchanged for decades, despite its move to the internet and despite the radical shift in how people consume information taking place via social media. It is still stuck in a box on a screen. But we know the web is now more social than ever. By becoming more social it’s also adding context and perspectives to interactions and content on a scale that just wasn’t possible in the past.

Cahoots will be a social plugin for publishers that will embed videos from a variety of sources like YouTube or Vimeo into a popcorn.js framework. For those of you who haven’t explored popcorn.js yet, go be amazed by the possibilities.

Cahoots - click to enlargeInspired by the crowd-sourcing movement, Cahoots will incorporate a Wikipedia-like notes section that runs with the embedded video, allowing viewers to comment on specific frames. A user might leave a comment complimenting the videographer on a creative transition, while another might recognize the building in the background and provide the name or address.

Of course there are things to consider that we aren’t sure how to handle. Anonymity is a large issue. Do we force viewers to connect via social networks, or support the 4Chan argument of anonymity for protection?

How do you verify user submitted information? Following our second learning lab with Burt Herman, founder of Storify and Hack/Hackers, it’s nice to know we’re not in this boat alone. Credibility and verification continues to be a challenge for Storify and it’s users. One possible solution for Cahoots would be a user-based rating system for comments similar to that of Reddit and other messaging board sites.

We see some of the problems. Keep your eyes peeled for a (glitchy) prototype in the near future.

7 Responses to Unlocking Video #1: Jump In, Don’t Get Stuck on Details
  1. steve miller
    July 15, 2011 | 9:49 am

    Great idea! To make your case for the need for an app like this, you might want to start out saying,

    “We’ve noticed that top businesses tend to be idea-driven – soliciting ideas from all levels of their companies, from their customers and from the larger world. Just look at Jack Welch at GM or Sam Walton at WalMart and you find them learning from everyone and implementing systems to capture those ideas.

    Programmers often publish their programs first in beta, in order to work out kinks and crowd source ideas.

    We believe it’s time to make video production more idea-driven, and we think we’re developing an app that might help….”

    Also, you could review the inefficiencies of the current ways people are getting the videos reviewed. (Put it up on YouTube and people either rave or put up snarky comments, but don’t tend to give ideas for improvement.)

    Good luck! Looks great!

    J. Steve Miller
    Author of “Sell More Books: Book Marketing and Publishing for Low Profile and Debut Authors”

  2. Char Milbrett
    July 15, 2011 | 10:11 am

    I watched the video. I had to replay it to catch your names, rather than referring to you two as the ‘guy on the right’ or the ‘man on the left’ said this, or did this.. etc. I thought it was interesting. I was a little distracted by the body language. You both interacted well, Clay seemed a little nervous, clutching at his shoulder. Noah was fairly confident. It was very real, very comfortable for the most part. I like using twitter to discuss my writings with the public. It is nice since I can select my audience, with the search mode I can add people who have already indicated an interest in the type of writing I am into. I also use Facebook for interaction. Good luck in your endeavors. Looks great for your first interaction!

  3. Juan
    July 15, 2011 | 12:42 pm

    The mockup does a lot more to sell the idea than the description. In particular, I love the notion of a heatmap that suggests what kind of annotation activity there is on specific sections of the video.

    From a technical perspective, I’m more intrigued about what kind of video manipulation you have planned with popcorn.js. I’ll definitely keep an eye on this project and use every opportunity to add my two cents.

  4. Phillip Smith
    July 18, 2011 | 5:37 pm

    Great stuff. More sketches! :)

  5. Brett Gaylor
    July 18, 2011 | 6:05 pm

    Noah, Clay – this is a great idea, I think people will really use a tool like this. Definitely it covers some aspects of popcorn that we were hoping OTHERS would build :) Particularly the heat map of user comments. I assume you’ve checked out the Radiolab popcorn demo, which integrated soundcloud style comments.

    In all the demos we made, we always stayed away from server components (which would presumably be necessary for things like logging in and commenting) simply because they take longer to execute properly, but I really do hope you begin iterating on this and you’ll find lots of support from the popcorn community once you do! I hope there is a way in the MoJo process that they can help you scaffold some of these ideas quickly.

    I agree with the one commenter that it would be great to see the wireframe in the body of the blog post so we could check out out afterwards as well :)

    Looking forward to getting in cahoots!

  6. Brett Gaylor
    July 18, 2011 | 6:06 pm

    Silly me. Just realized you have the wireframe lower in the post.

  7. Clay Duda
    July 19, 2011 | 9:39 am

    Wow, thanks for the solid perspectives and honest opinions. It really means a lot and is invaluable to us in the process of making this little concept a reality. Let’s just start from the top:

    Steve – I love the idea about crowdsourcing the problems of video on YouTube or similar. That may tie in directly to our next step (discussed more below).

    Char – I stay behind the camera 99 percent of the time for a reason ;) While this was my first time actually on screen, all the innuendos you pointed out (and that I continually point out to people when shooting) really do have an impact in how an idea is communicated and received. I’ve already been perfecting my ‘on-screen persona’ so hopefully it’ll only get better.

    Juan – It’s a good point you make about the mock-up being a better representation than our written words. The exercise was half for our own benefit, helping us refine our ‘elevator pitch,’ and to play off of Aza Raskin’s presentation where he emphasized the importance of communicating an idea clearly. It’s good to know what works well and not so well. Thanks for the input.

    Phillip – We hear you loud and clear. We might even have a few tricks up our sleeves..

    Brett – We love RadioLab’s Popcorn.js demo. Honestly, we hadn’t seen it before we started to develop our own idea. The SoundCloud-style comments are similar to what we have in mind, but hopefully our end result will be a little… cleaner or at least clearer than the SC interface. Communication is key for us, especially since the project is geared toward newsroom integration.
    The heat map is one of our favorite parts, but in the grand scheme of getting this thing together it will probably be toward the bottom of our to-do list. Our immediate next step is putting something tangible out there. We’re far from programmers ourselves and are seeking a little on-the-fly guidance as we go. PLEASE don’t hesitate to chime in.

    Well, if you’ve made it this far in my comment response I’m assuming you’re genuinely interested in unlocking video. Since Noah and I aren’t programmers we’re a little torn about the best route to go for the prototype/tangible example. So we’re asking you: Should we do a motion-based video detailing cahoots or attempt to get a web-based version up, likely using SoundCloud as a temporary comment interface? The video may be a bit more labor intensive, but we know we can do it. The whole javascript thing is still a bit new for us, so the web prototype would be taking a leap of faith.

    Blog comments are cool, but if you want to kick it in real-time find me on Twitter @ClayDuda. Best, and thanks again.

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