Today, a chapter on Video!
Intelligent Teams/OPML Workstation is an OPML site that is optimized for embedding short video and other widget-based media.
The future of the web is clearly in short video. Video is the new web design medium.
The future of OPML = the carrier for video. OPML is the open, public format for video websites and for videocasting.
For example, here is a simple but effective combination of OPML and video in a small video website.
Consider the following:
I. Why is video the future?
1. Video is catchy, viral, and conveys emotion more effectively than all but the most well-crafted text. Small videos are viewable on cell phones, iPods and other media players, and PDAs–as well, of course, as on PCs.
2. Video is accessible. Users can view videos more easily than they can read. Nuff said.
3. Video is easy to make. I make mine on an old Cannon Elph still camera, using its “movie” feature. New still cameras make mpg4 videos, of up to two hours in length, on one 2gig flash card. Panasonic and Sharp both do HDTV-like aspect ratios, look-and-feel.
4. Video hosting and serving/bandwidth is free at YouTube and a bunch of other sites.
5. The “video layer” of the web is developing fast. Most of the buzz is now about videos. Not audio, and certainly not about text.
II. Why do we need an XML-based carrier for video?
Discrete videos strewn across the web are more like raw material than like actual destinations or programmed experiences. The same was true of mp3 audio files prior to the invention of podcasting. Podcasting provided context–lists, directories, subscriptions. Podcasting provide the ability of individuals to make their own customer context–playlists, personal directories, and subscription lists. Podcasting provided ways for users to share these lists.
III. What happened to open audio, open music, and open podcasts?
Audio does not have an established open XML-based carrier standard.
Community innnovation has been thwarted in the audio and thus the podcasting world by Apple. Apple adopted a non-standard, closed format for the XML meta-data layer that organizes its library of songs and podcasts and feeds its menu systems. Apple could have used OPML or some other open standard, but did not.
Apple’s underlying music files are in a proprietary format, they are covered by a highly restrictive DRM (read today’s NYT essay on this issue), and the files themselves can only be accessed by way of a downloaded special software client. The files cannot be accessed by a browser on the open web.
It is thus very difficult to create independent web sites that incorporate Apple-controlled content. If Apple made music and podcasts available openly on the web, things would be different.
The good news, as we will explore in more detail later, is that user-generated video is already evolving in a different, more open manner. As a community we should jump on this opportunity. Part of this is due to open design choices made by the video hosting sites. YouTube, Google Video and other popular video sites make their files available for direct, unmediated web access, with no DRM.
By contrast, a closed trend is solidifying as downloaded music, podcasting and mobile phones converge. Phone companies seem intent on adopting closed systems for cataloguing, conveying/distributing, and selecting songs.
IV. Why did the blogroll, RSS subscription list, reading list ecosystem evolve in a more open manner?
Community innovation in the parallel world of text-oriented RSS “reading lists” has been much better supported, because vendors have more or less standardized on OPML as a way to share sources and lists among
1. Blog aggregators like Bloglines, Newsgator, and Attensa;
2. Feed proxy services like Feedburner;
3. OPML authoring and hosting services including web-based Intelligent Teams, and client-based authoring by Dave Winer’s OPML Editor and Pito Sala’s Blogbridge;
4. Search services like OPML Search;
5. Source-popularity and sharing services like Bloglines’ Most Popular Feeds and Bloglines Share, and Share Your OPML;
6. List-based dynamic-content analysis services like Megite and TopTenSources;
7. Social bookmark services like Stylefeeder that create OPML lists (TopTenSources provides the most powerful bookmarking and sampling technology I have seen, including one-click aquisition of YouTube videos, in a free tool you can get by signing up to create a TopTenSources topic or page.);
8. Community production, editorial, directoy and membership sites such as Intelligent Teams, TopTenSources and Lisa William’s Placeblogger, as well as more focused yet massive directories created at such sites, such as the by-now-famous James Corbett Open Irish Directory and the cryptic but fascinating “pro” sites of Biotic;
9. Feedlist display sites such as the AJAX-rich Grazr, Intelligent Teams‘ “browse” services and widget maker.
10. Outline-based blogs, either using OPML backends or adopting OPML-like outline conventions. See an example of an “almost outline blog” here, where a reading list, by the addition of commentary and other forms of references, is fast evolving into a powerful, directory-enhanced, visually-appealing site. A thoughtful discussion of this issue, at this point in time, is available here by John T. of Library Clips.
11. Outline-based web sites and public directories.
12. OPML power-users and pioneers, such as Harvard’s John Palfrey and Library Clips’ John Tropea (also mentioned in the next section, because John is the author of this well-regarded commentary.).
13. OPML industry commentary services such as Library Clips,
and enterprise 2.0 commenters like Charlie Wood who get OPML.
The good news is that in the case of user-created text, OPML–an open, stable, XML-based standard–is succeeding at enabling an ecosystem of creative people, products and companies to work more or less together, to interoperate, to exchange, and to co-evolve.
The bad news is that the world of text and reading lists is pretty small. To say it perhaps too bluntly, only a small percentage of web users prefer to read. Probably no more than a few tens of thousands of participants are engaged in reading RSS sources to the extent that they value a reading list. Compare this to the millions of participants in the iPod/iTunes universe who value and regularly use audio playlists.
V. How does video provide a new field of action?
Video provides a new opportunity to combine openness with richness, reach, beauty and immediate emotional impact
Videocasting already is huge, supported by channels and subscription services on YouTube.
Open, XML and OPML-guided videocasting can also be huge. Its advantages are that the creator of a videocast can be in control of the context in which his or her videos are seen. YouTube is well-engineered, but almost any web designer can make a better surround for a particular set of videos and a particular audience. Videocasting, using OPML, can provide a way for designers to create rich surrounds and contexts. They can do so quickly, as prototypes or as permanent installations.
At this historical moment, the world of video is quite open to the development of a community-based third-party, independent directories.
The content on YouTube and other video sites is diverse. The videos available range from investment analysis and business presentations to the classic, cat-on-a-toilet offerings. Budding acting troops have serialized shows. Rap and rock videos abound. YouTube is about as open as the web. Contrast this to iTunes, where formal catagories and commercial offerings dominate.
VI. A simple call-to-arms
Take advantage of the simple-yet-power OPML tools available today. Create contexts for videos.
Video viewing lists. Start by making lists and blogrolls of favorite videos on YouTube or similar site. This method is fast, simple, and provides some degree of context.
Multi-media-based OPML web sites. But once you are going, you can do so much more! Use OPML frames to combine forms of media–images, audio and video–on sites you can create in an evening.
For fun check out http://www.davemoore.info. I made a video site for my brother Dave while recovering in Iowa from back surgery (“no heavy lifting, all indoor work”). The original site is at http://intelligentteams.com/browse/about…. Then at Dave’s suggestion we bought the domain name for “davemoore.info” for $1.99. Best deal of the year.
So visit Dave! (Family summary: Dave and I and our third brother Charles grew up in Iowa. Dave went south, and then further south, and eventually planted his deep roots in Iowa City, from which he continues to range widely. Charles ranged widely as a quarter-horse trainer and outdoorsman, settling in Wyoming, by way of most of the states of the American southwest. Our mom passed away in ’94. Our dad is lively and creative and living in Iowa.)
VII. How can we seize the moment?
1. Put anything you like up on one of the video hosting sites such as YouTube. Put up political video, home and family, professional, music and entertainment, comedy, technology, space travel–you name it. The new video platforms exist for you!
2. Create distinct, personal web micro sites that reference those videos and other offerings.
Here is a brief “how-to” to help you create rich web pages in OPML:
a. Open an OPML outline in one of the many OPML writer/host suites, such as Intelligent Teams.
b. This outline, when displayed in the “browse” function on your OPML host site such as Intelligent Teams, or when displayed in an independent AJAX OPML viewer like Grazr, becomes an outline-oriented web site. Each node in the OPML file is now a page on your new site.
c. Each of these OPML nodes can now be treated as a distinct page that can function as a mini-site. Each page can be developed using plaintext, HTML, and scripts–if your OPML writer allows them (see item f, below).
d. How do you do this? You simply write your desired web page code into the “text” field in any of the OPML nodes. This works because when OPML files are read by OPML software, the “text” field is not parsed as XML, but rather is preserved whole and passed through to the user’s Firefox, Explorer or other webbrowser to be interpreted and displayed at the time it is loaded.
Thus material written into the “text” field does not need to conform to XML rules. Anything that the final, end-user browser can interpret can be included effectively. This means that each node’s “text” field can be used as a defacto iframe-like capability, into which one can encode rich web page material.
e. To include YouTube or Google video in your pages, simply copy the “embed code” provided by the hosting site into the “text” field of a node. The result is that a video player–typically Flash-Shockwave, for example–and an associated video are coded into the outline page and displayed when that page is subsequently viewed by an audience member/visitor to the page.
f. Use script-friendly OPML tools. In order for this use of OPML to be effective, your OPML file must viewed in an OPML displayer that allows scripts to be executed by the end-user browser.
Some OPML displayers and many blogging software services remove scripts. For example, the WordPress version on which this post is being constructed blocks scripts, which is why there is no video in this post. Intelligent Teams is an example of an environment that allows scripts in its writer as well as in its viewer. Thus it can handle not only video, but most widgets, as well.
3. Add display customization and personalization including text and skins that display those videos in a context of your design. Now you are free! Your materials are no longer enslaved to the look and feel of YouTube, flicker, or any other site. Now your materials enhance your minisite and your brand and image, not simply that of the file hosting platform.
4. Because you have used OPML you now have a portable web site design, viewable in Grazr, OPML Workstation, or any one of a host of other viewers.
When you use OPML you gain portability and transformability. Indeed, you will be able to view your design simultaneously, without altering its core code, in widgets, gadgets, mini-sites, aggregators and so on. No need to choose just one. See John Palfrey on OPML for Teachers, in a widget-maker, for example.
VIII. What is the key transformation we are making in web site architecture?
We are making web sites that take as a given, and as raw material, a rich understory of graphics, text, music and audio, and especially video. Web sites reference this material, organize it, shape its presentation, and guide the experience of each audience member.
From a technical standpoint, the new web is characterised by write once in a display and directory language like OPML, reference many (videos, audios, data sources), and display broadly and prolifically, everywhere.
Write once, reference many, display everywhere!