some new developments in web video

Caught in my tech news net over the last week:

Via Boing Boing, another new ‘meta’ service launches into public beta:

Dabble, a site that makes it possible to search, recommend, rate, discuss and be sociable about video hosted anywhere on the the net, has come out of private beta and launched for public use. Dabbler Lisa Rein sez,

Dabble collects metadata detailing the location, authoring, licensing information, and user-generated tags associated with hundreds of thousands of short video clips. Users visiting Dabble will see a search box allowing them to do a simple keyword search for online video clips. Their results, including both amateur and professional video, will be pulled from hosting sites all over the web. Users can then begin to collect their favorite web videos, adding new videos to their collection at will as they surf other websites.
Already, hundreds of hosting sites exist where users can upload their own videos to the web and thousands of independent sites. Dabble solves the problem of navigating through all these videos, no matter where they are hosted.

By the way, VideoBomb does a similar thing – allows you to ‘republish’ online video from any source without actually copying it (i.e. remains on original server), and then users collaboratively tag and rate it (like social bookmarking services –, digg, reddit – for ‘ordinary’ web content). VideoBomb is a not-for-profit enterprise that also makes the Democracy Player, which is the web’s most popular RSS reader for video content (in effect, a very schmick dynamic web video player for the desktop).

The other day there were some big claims going around for Gotuit – ‘premium content’ video service – being the ‘death of TV’ (because TV is just content, right?) on that basis of offering quantitatively popular commercial content, good user interface, and SUPER fast high quality playback (which I can attest to after playing with it for 5 minutes):

Boston based Gotuit Media launched Gotuit late Sunday evening. Gotuit offers users on-demand free premium content like music videos, sports clips and short films (the stuff that gets deleted from YouTube). Find what you want, click it and watch it immediately.The site is Flash based and will have a familiar interface for YouTube users. This isn’t about long tail user generated content, though. Gotuit has struck licensing deals with labels and other content owners to show a deep library of premium content.

Full story at TechCrunch.

And (it had to happen) see this article, also from TechCrunch on PornoTube. Note the old ‘porn as technological avant-garde’ discourse.

Web 2.0 crowdsourcers tossing coins to the crowds

Via CNet via Rachel’s

Saturday saw the launch of, a site that promises to share a percentage of the site’s revenue depending on how many viewers a video clip attracts.

CNet positions this as a ‘challenge’ to youtube. Read the full article for the rest of the hot air and vapours.

Now, because I am very old, I remember the late-1990s, before any talk of Web 2.0, when user-contributed music websites like were ‘the future of the music industry’, because they would allow undiscovered talent to bypass the gatekeeping mechanisms of the record industry. (Bearing in mind that conventional wisdom also suggested that these sites were really a workaround – a way for the companies concerned to stake out marketshare for digital music sevices without having to wait until the copyright mess was cleared up).

The idea ostensibly was that artists made their tracks available for free download and used the architecture of the network to ‘virally market’ their music, and that the cream would rise to the top in an unmediated, democratic fashion. Sound familiar? so far, so Youtube. But the business model for the artists (not for the site, which was based on an eyeballs-to-advertising model) relied on converting browsers’ attention into bums on seats at real-world gigs and online record sales – you could sell CDs via the site, a service offered in exchange for a small percentage of the sale price. There were some notable success stories – Darude’s single ‘Sandstorm’ became hugely popular on and effectively launched him, which he talks about in this interview. I had some of my electronic music up there, and even though hardly anyone ever downloaded it, I did get some radio play and some gigs scoring games (that you would never have heard of) and flash websites out of it.

Then along came a couple of smaller competitors, like, which announced that they would offer per-download ‘royalties’ to artists in exchange for the insertion of short audio advertisments at the beginning of each track. In the case of, this never really got off the ground because they apparently couldn’t settle on a workable system for this, and got embroiled in agonistic debates with the artist community that eventually stalled, and the site merged with a few months later. eventually integrated a pay-per-download system, but then also introduced payola schemes that effectively delivered a competitive advantage to the fat end of the long tail (e.g. ‘platinum’ membership which resulted in your tracks being prioritised in search and browse pages). It was a strangely schizophrenic and yet, in hindsight, entirely predictable pattern. More (from a younger, idealistic and more bitter me) on the demise of here, here and here. This model hasn’t died – for one, is still going strong, but I haven’t looked closely at its business model for a while.

So I’m wondering, a little tongue in cheek, just what does ‘Web 2.0’ have that is new for participatory culture, except for broadband video and RSS and apple-esque design elements like tabs and rounded corners? As Anne pointed out recently in relation to ebay, the trajectory I describe for digital music portals above is increasingly looking like a familiar pattern – it speaks to the question of just how far the neoliberal ethics behind business models that promote ‘participatory culture’ can sustain their tenuous links with cultural democracy once their platforms actually start to work in the ways their developers dreamed they would.

Crowdsourcing as Free Labour

I love Wired, it is just so blatant:

For the last decade or so, companies have been looking overseas, to India or China, for cheap labor. But now it doesn’t matter where the laborers are – they might be down the block, they might be in Indonesia – as long as they are connected to the network.

Technological advances in everything from product design software to digital video cameras are breaking down the cost barriers that once separated amateurs from professionals. Hobbyists, part-timers, and dabblers suddenly have a market for their efforts, as smart companies in industries as disparate as pharmaceuticals and television discover ways to tap the latent talent of the crowd. The labor isn’t always free, but it costs a lot less than paying traditional employees. It’s not outsourcing; it’s crowdsourcing.

In the most cynical of worlds, this is the payoff of the ‘creative commons’. Not cultural democracy, not universal cultural enfranchisement, but this. Well, what did I expect, I guess.


JumpCut is another new player in the “creative online community” business – the idea is to not only upload, share, and discuss, but also edit, collaborate and remix images and video online.

You can automatically import sets of images from flickr, too.

After having a quick play around with the editing interface, it seems pretty powerful and elegant. It’s set up to make quite sophisticated slideshows, with control over individual image duration (by manually entering values, though) and transitions, so it would also be relatively straightforward to use JumpCut to make and publish a very simple digital story using stills and an uploaded voiceover track.

Hypercreativity and Techno-Utopianism

So, the puzzle my Phd tries to solve (how creativity, cultural participation and the ‘democratization’ of technologies fit together) comes out of the hype around two converging ideas: the increased availability and production power of digital technologies for content creation and distribution (see Anne’s pointed mini-critique of some of this) and ‘creativity’ as life-fulfilling, as economic driver, as the means to participation and radical consumer-led cultural change (especially for the content industries). I want to find a way through this hype and try to extract what the possibilities actually might be, and for whom, and it what circumstances, and in whose interests, but first I need to say what I think is wrong with the hype.

So I love it when I find stuff like this, which contains every stereotype about creativity and every wrongheaded assumption about “production” and “consumption” I could ever wish for. Then I get depressed:

Generation C

[…] the C stands for CONTENT, and anyone with even a tiny amount of creative talent can (and probably will) be part of this not-so-exclusive trend.

So what is it all about? The GENERATION C phenomenon captures the tsunami of consumer generated ‘content’ that is building on the Web, adding tera-peta bytes of new text, images, audio and video on an ongoing basis.

The two main drivers fuelling this trend?

(1) The creative urges each consumer undeniably possesses. We’re all artists, but until now we neither had the guts nor the means to go all out.

(2) The manufacturers of content-creating tools, who relentlessly push us to unleash that creativity, using — of course — their ever cheaper, ever more powerful gadgets and gizmos. Instead of asking consumers to watch, to listen, to play, to passively consume, the race is on to get them to create, to produce, and to participate.

the fluff-piece goes on to gives lots of examples of how these manufacturers are “getting consumers” to “produce”.

See also Nations-Lite for an informative yet entertaining overview of “the most remarkable achievements and developments that are turning the UAE into a NATION*LITE* for prosperous HOME TROTTERS from Asia, the Middle East, the EU and South Africa”! Eek.