Archive for the ‘youtube’ Category

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

My YouTube Break-even

Dig the hole deeper.

In the last week I’ve started posting screencasts about LibraryThing, under my YouTube user name, LibraryThingTim. And, of course, I’ve been watching videos. 

Today, I crossed a line I’m going to call “My YouTube Break-even.” The videos I made have been watched more times than I have watched others’ videos.

So, add up every time I’ve watched the eyeglass-catching video, FunTwo, Clay Shirky on love, Pulp, Tarkan, Fionna Apple, Weezer,* Turkish cooking videos, parkourthe anchorman and the lizard and John Stewart—which comes to 693 times—and it is just slightly less than my own videos have been watched. I have moved from being a net consumer to a net producer of YouTube videos.

The moment of relative equipoise is a special one—and rare. The sudden removal of access barriers to creative production and dissemination has created an explosion of “user generated content,” but it has not lead to attention equality. Traffic on the web tends to follow power laws. A small number of blogs, websites and videos get outsized attention. 

It’s probably true that receiving attention correlates with giving it. People who write interesting blogs tend to read a lot of blogs too. But giving attention can never scale as fast as receiving it. If the laughing baby spent the rest of his life watching YouTube videos all day long, he will never see as many as saw his.

And some people don’t even try. The folks at Universal Music Group have watched only 3,927 videos. Assuming they use the account to upload and test their own videos, they didn’t even bother to watch 700 of their own videos once. And, at the extreme of this and many things, we have Britney Spears. She, or her “people”—have watched only 25 YouTube videos, but they forced the rest of us to watch her efforts 188 million times. That’s 5,700 years of progressively more fetishized hip-thrusting!**

There’s still hope for me. LibraryThing screencasts will never be as entertaining as exploding Mentos. And there are hundreds of 90s alternative Boston-band videos yet to watch. 

I can climb out of this!

*Or Weezer, which ought to count ten times.
**Have Utnapishtim and Britney Spears ever occupied the same grammatical clause? No.

Labels: attention, britney spears, power laws, utnapishtim, youtube

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

Shirky/Weinberger… the Movie

It’s hard to boil new, complex ideas down into a 5-minute movie. Antropology professor Michael Wesch has a rare skill for it. The movie above, R/Evolution, thumbnails the Shirky/Weinberger argument, about the assumptions built into physical information, and how digitization changes knowledge.

It’s something I’ve touched on many, many times—it’s the intellectual justification for much of what LibraryThing does—but never as neatly as Wensch has done. R/Evolution has this flow to it. It’s compelling stuff.

In this vein, I recommend the video he’s best known for Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us, which won a 2007 Wired Rave award. LibraryThing member benjfrank recently pointed me to another of his videos, A Vision of Students Today.*

I think, however, there’s a danger when you squeeze an argument. It took me a long time to be persuaded that Ontology is Overrated was right. I had to get over Shirky’s somewhat glib style. Reading Shirky my instinct is to ask say “Wait, that’s too simple!” and “But what about?” I like my arguments both tighter and more detailed. I’m a convert now, but I think I think many will have even stronger reactions to this video. I’m guessing that, for many, this will be their only exposure to the idea. That would be too bad. So, my recommendation is, see the movie, but don’t settle for it. Read Shirky’s Ontology is Overrated and Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous.

That said, I want Wesch to do a five-minute on LibraryThing :)


*Also compelling, but the former educator in me thinks that when students start going on about how what they’re learning isn’t “relevant to their life,” some really good teacher should be there to hold up a sign saying: “The point of education is to make your head a more interesting place to live in.” And when someone hold up a sign that says they only complete 40% of the reading, I want to hold up a sign that reads “40%=F!” Maybe I could IM it instead.

Hat-tip Felius (LibraryThing sysadmin John Dalton).

Labels: everything is miscellaneous, mike wesch, shirky, weinberger, youtube