THE PRICE OF HONESTY
I almost hate to point to this, because it's a very personal situation. This video shows the price of being honest on your videoblog: Losing your kids. Anybody who watches Nathan Peters' videos knows he loves his kids, but then he created a cathartic and disturbing "evil twin" video saying he does nasty things, like locking his kids up for 22 hours. Someone took it seriously and reported him to Social Services. They showed up and found out about his drug use, and perhaps along with the videos had enough cause to take his kids.
This morning I had a really expansive and meaningful conversation about vlogs with Amy, Carl, and Carol and Steve. We talked about bloggers getting fired, and how putting ourselves out there on video may have unpredictable consequences. But the benefits of this global-yet-personal conversation, we agreed, are potentially great for the human race.
Nathan's situation shows that free expression (especially involving illegal behavior) has its costs. I hope Nathan does everything he can to get his life on track to get his kids back.
STUDIOUS STEVE GARFIELD
I'm a blog monster today. (Fred Schneider: Blog mon-sta!)
KENT BYE HAS A PLAN
Description: This is the first vlog episode about an open source, investigative documentary about how the television news became an uncritical echo chamber to the countdown towards war in Iraq -- and proposed tools for collaborative journalism that can provide some solutions.
Featuring: Jay Rosen, Dan Gillmor, Doc Searls, Jonathan Landay, Pamela Hess, Bill Plante, Halley Suitt, Marilyn Schlitz and Kent Bye.
CHUCK ON NPR
Chuck sez: We were gonna join the team and help them figure out what this was gonna be. And then they brought in a lot of old media people and suddenly the openness... closed. And we were left out of the process.
Reporter Laura Sidell did a really good job encapsulating Current's prospects and practices, ending on the this note: "As young people fill the internet with personal content, they may find network TV altogether less appealing." Indeed. However, I'm still supportive of Current.tv for promoting the idea that the audience can and should create their own media.
HERE'S HOW I FEEL THIS WEEK
It's hard to believe I've already been doing Minnesota Stories for 3 weeks. No wonder I'm exhausted! This week has been completely grueling. I'm a one-man internet startup living on Mountain Dew. With the help of my crew (Starfire, Duane Kuss, Media Mike, Green Green Water's Dawn and Jamie, your name here.)
I spent mid-week at the International Symposium on Local E-Democracy [video here]. I filmed it of course, and presented as much videoblog gospel as I could on my panel. I shared the panel with Mayor RT Rybak and Brian from Audio Activism. Brian and I had lots to talk about, and Rybak seemed super into MN Stories, so it was a great time.
I was totally on Rocketboom this week!
There's so much more, but it's all a blur. Right now I'm getting ready for my Eastward field trip... I keep alternating between being shy and gloating about my Harvard Blogumentary screening next week. Sounds like Andrew Baron is going to hookup with me and Steve Garfield in Cape Cod. Did I just say that? Is this my life?
One last note, a very happy one. Every 6 hours, including the wee hours, we've been force-feeding our little kitty Sabby and giving her fluids twice a day. Well, it's paid off. Today the vet said her blood test showed she was basically back to normal, healthy kitty levels. Hooray! Lorika was worried that she'd potentially have to deal with something bad happening to Sabby while I was gone, which would be unbearably hard, but the planets have aligned in our favor.
WE ARE THE MEDIA
I've been remiss in announcing this fantastic collaborative site:
We Are the Media: News from the Vlogosphere
If you're interested in videoblogs (and I hope to God you are, otherwise you must surely hate me) you should be gobbling their goodies every day. That sounded kinda dirty.
Boring historical note: I added the phrase "I am the media. We are the media." to my sidebar back in the heady days of January 2004. I had an epiphany after reading some other blog posts and reflecting on my own experience getting a press pass at Dean Headquarters in Vermont:
FORBES & BUSINESS WEEK GET VLOGS
It isn't anything like what you see on TV, and that's the point. It is new, personal, amateur, and growing more popular every day. There is a grassroots video revolution going on online and TV and cable network executives better take note.
Rocketboom naturally tops the list, rubbing elbows with the very best of the web. Blog Power, by Forbes editor Matthew Schifrin, introduces all their top picks for 2005. He was "especially struck by the growing movement of video bloggers."
I'm happy to say Secret Vlog Injection was among the dozen vlog sites reviewed in the Forbes guide. They thought my Paris Hilton commercial remix was "hilarious." However they strangely discount the fact that I only have videos on my videoblog. That's quite on purpose, though I've long been meaning to add a vlogroll.
Next up, props to BusinessWeek's Blogspotting blog. Heather Green recently posted about Humanwire, the exciting curated citizen media project coming soon from Rocketboom's Andrew Baron and a cadre of citizen journalists (including me). I recently had a great conversation with Heather about Current TV and videoblogs, and she really gets this stuff. Keep on the vlog beat, Heather!
Current TV is launching August 1; look/listen for my thoughts on NPR and in BusinessWeek (I think). It looks like there's a local TV news story about Minnesota Stories and vlogs brewing too - just the break I've been hoping for.
Jesus. Chuck promises not to post anything more about himself for at least 12 hours. Chuck regrets any offense taken at his egregious self-promotion and media whoring. Chuck is the bastard you love to hate.
NEW YORK TIMES DOESN'T GET VLOGS
The New York Times shallowly surmises videoblogs in their Critic's Notebook article, Watch Me Do This and That Online. Writer Sarah Boxer concludes: Congratulations. It's television!
Sorry Sarah, videoblogs are not television. Here's why.
First off, here's a news flash: You can link to videoblogs. Unlike the excellent Wired News article on the same topic, the New York Times doesn't link to any videoblogs or any videos. Their thumbnail photos show a Quicktime player, yet they lead nowhere. For some reason they do link to Neopets.com. WTF? Perhaps they have a wrongheaded policy of only linking to "whatever.com" which clearly fails. The New York Times is doing a great disservice by not linking to the subjects of their article, which are frigging web sites. Looks like the links have been added to the sidebar.
The first half of Sarah's article is nice enough, giving the reader a few dollops of vlog from across the spectrum. She gets into trouble when her thesis arrives: Already, though, it's beginning to look a lot like television, at least in spots. Some vlogs even share television's worries, chief among them the burden of coming up with fresh programming on a regular basis.
She cites Rocketboom's recent request for the audience to send in story ideas. While it's logistically true that story submissions will make life easier for Rocketboom, the comparison to television programming is way off the mark.
CLUE #1: Videoblogs interact with their audience. This is not a weakness. It's a strength.
Television transmits one-way information to its audience. Weather photos emailed to local news represent a lame exception, but it's a start. Videoblogs exist in the realm of links and conversation. It's sort of like Burning Man - everyone is a participant. Sure, you can passively watch videos, but everyone is encouraged to comment and make their own videos.
We are all potential creators and participants. We all have a voice.
The very concept of audience begins to melt away.
In his book We the Media, Dan Gillmor says "My audience knows more than I do." Rocketboom opening its doors is a celebration of the geekosphere; an invitation to be creative and hijack the "channel." Indeed, Minnesota Stories is built on the concept of people with video cameras hijacking the channel.
Everyone is creative and has a story. Want to borrow my transmitter? Go for it. Better yet, build your own. You won't hear these words from television.
Sarah then dips into the vlogosphere's real reality show, The Carol and Steve Show: It wants to sell out, but who would buy? Maybe a laugh track would help.
CLUE #2: Do not confuse the packaging with the contents.
Videoblogs are authentic voices. The Carol and Steve Show is a superb expression of "Mundane is the new punk rock." Sure, it hearkens back to TV Land sitcoms, but then you see... Carol and Steve watching TV. Or running out in the rain trying to grill. Or sitting in bed. In other words, they're going about their real lives on camera. And there is no laugh track.
Who would greenlight this show? Carol and Steve, that's who.
Sometimes there's a laugh track on ZipZapZop, but you know what? I hung out with Clark, and he had the little laugh track/applause toy with him. He really does hang out with his guitar and play goofy songs. ZipZapZop is one genuine facet of the scintillating human we call Clark ov Saturn.
We may well be in the television radioplay phase of videoblogs. The "show" is one of many forms a vlog can take. Sometimes the wrapper looks like the old medium. But what's inside is real people, without a producer, without a middleman. What's inside you can't buy at the candy store. It's homemade and one-of-a-kind.
Sarah focuses on one of my favorite videobloggers, Ian from The 05 Project. She says he's beginning to look a lot like "Fear Factor" and gives him some deserving compliments: He has Conan O'Brien's direct delivery and David Letterman's deadpan. In short, he has television charisma. I'm thrilled about all the nice things she says here, but...
CLUE #3: We don't look like television. We look like ourselves.
Ian isn't great because he vaguely resembles an amateur amalgamation of late-night talk show hosts.
Ian is great because Ian is Ian.
Bored kids were daring their friends to do outrageous things long before Fear Factor or the invention of television. The difference is, Ian has never met his new friends. But that doesn't make them any less real.
To say we look more like television personalities than our own personalities is wrong and perverted.
Really, the more I think about this the more shallow and ridiculous it seems. Videoblogs are lightyears away from television. I've got this little planet it my hands; I can spin it around and jump into someone's life. I can talk to them. I can show them my life. We could not do this before. Television doesn't have anything to do with it. The comparison is lazy and, frankly, embarassing for the New York Times.
You can lead a horse to vlog anarchy, but you can't make it understand the revolution.
MY TOUR SCHEDULE
Chuck is M.I.A. for the near-future. A lot of my time is spent talking about and working on Minnesota Stories. We've also got major family action, and our little grandma kitty Sabby has been in intensive care for kidney failure. That will be a future vlog post... Meanwhile, here's me:
WOODS HOLE FILM FESTIVAL, Xwhaves
July 31 - August 1. Cape Cod!
It's the Steve and Chuck show. Steve Garfield and I are doing a 2-hour vlog presentation, and then we'll be on a panel about new distribution methods with the legendary Dave Winer, "one of the fathers of the blogosphere and the coder responsible for RSS and web-based citizen journalist movement that it spawned."
August 2. The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School
I wrote the videoblog revolution and why I'm part of it for NextNext Big Thing, a "youth pulse newsletter." How strange that marketers will read about videoblogging in the context of a "youth trend" that thrives without... marketers.
(Ongoing) Helping organize a Vlogathon fundraiser. This is one of those "Capital G Good" projects to make the world a better place. More info when we get the idea fleshed out.
Peace out. Send me your Minnesota stories... [email protected]