bestkungfu weblog

Advice to (audio | video) bloggers

Filed in: accessibility, media, tech, Fri, Mar 7 2003 18:52 PT

Glenn Reynolds is a videoblogger now, and it didn’t take but a few hours before someone gushed to Slashdot in a thread titled “Are Video Blogs Ready for Prime Time?”

“Ready for prime time,” they say. Jesus, people, give it a rest before you strain something. All that Instapundit is proving is that he’s making the leap from blogger to media entity (more on that coming soon).

My reasons not to bother trying to be one of the cool kids this time:

  • If my hypothesis that 99% of the Web is crap (relax, it’s a big Web, so maybe your odds are better than you think), then 99% of a narrow sampling of the Web working in a new medium is a frightening thought.
  • Talking on cue is hard. I was a reporter for a real live TV station long, long ago, and I’ve had to do standups from memory, as well as reading from a Teleprompter. It is a very unnatural process, and broadcasting school serves to make it look and maybe, eventually, feel like a natural form of communication. Usually, you’ll either do more takes than you do making your answering machine message, or you’ll come out sounding like a zombie, which is Bad Entertainment.
  • Most people are not pre-programmed to communicate visually, and when they try, they do poorly. Item: how many good graphic designers are good information designers, or vice versa? And if we’re anywhere near as bad with static imagery as I think we are, video is going to be a nightmare.
  • People usually read faster than they can watch or listen, so they’re not going to waste time hoping you can entertain or inform them. That’s what TV is for.
  • People can scan textual content meaningfully. In fact, scanning is the dominant information-gathering mechanism in Web browsing. They couldn’t scan in audio or video players if they tried.
  • Text blog reading is done actively, as users scan and read the information that interests them. Audio and video content is inherently passive; therefore, the only value you can provide is active and engaging personality and good quality imagery and sound.
  • …which you won’t provide, because you’re not as gregarious or photogenic as you think you are, your lighting sucks, and your bare walls look just like mine. The ability to buy a camera and some software does not help you in this department.
  • Your bandwidth problems won’t help you either.
  • Your content will not be referenceable or searchable in any detail. That is, where people in blogspace [collaborate with/cannibalize] each other as a major design [goal/flaw], each audio or video weblog is going to have to be able to stand on its own merits and be entirely original content.
  • You will never make it accessible. Seriously. Prove me wrong. Download MAGpie 2 and caption your videoblog. (You can do the same with spoken audio content by creating it as video and then adding captioning, but nobody does.)

Here are two ways to plan for the design of meaningful and lasting audio and video content online. Want to impress me? (You know you do.) Start one of these up, or show me where it’s being done.


Coordinate a single stream of video packages provided by several authors. Wrap them in a common interface. Require all participants to caption and mark items in SMIL. Use the linking functionality in media players (which has been in there for years) to allow users to navigate meaningfully from one bit of content to the next. Maintain a digital archive of available stock content on sharealike terms, because you’re always going to need B-roll, and stock footage is spendy.


If the nature of audio content usage is passive, then indulge the user and produce passive content. Create your own affinity group (which is exactly what a circle of blogs represents) around a style of music. Make music in Reason (not cheap), or Csound (free), or record it in and mix it down with Pro Tools FREE (er, free-as-in-beer). Publish it with a Creative Commons license. Augment your own new music with what others produce. If the average blogger can sit around an hour a day waiting for something to say, s/he could just as easily be making electronica. (Provided s/he is not at work. Slacker!)

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