What makes a movie a movie?

There was an interesting post on Slashdot regarding an amateur movie that is distributed via BitTorrent that IMDB is refusing to list on its website.  The producers believe it is due to the fact that they are not using “traditional” media distributions methods and I believe they are correct.

So what IMDB is, is really an index of professional movies.  IMDB is not the Wikipedia of movies, etc.  You have to be “professionally” made with an actor who gets paid in something other than housing or food.  This is a bit disconcerting.  BitTorrent is as much a part of the new media wave as open source, blogs etc.  It is the transport infrastructure of this new wave.  In fact, it is many times more efficient than using traditional methods of delivery.  It is truly crowd-sourcing the sharing of files.

However, it seems that the medium is indeed the message in this case.  What if the movie being delivered via BitTorrent was in fact an amazing film?  A new Gone With the Wind or Amalie?  I don’t think it would have mattered, the decision is already made and anyone who uses that medium is not a “professional”.

Clay Shirky pointed out in his recent book “Here Comes Everybody” he notes that professions that are tied to and defined by access to distribution channels or a hierarchy of distribution should be worried.  Only by erecting fake barriers like the IMDB decision can they keep their “profession” in place.  The wave is coming and at one point it will destroy the walls they have erected.  Anyone down for creating an IMDB-like thing for anyone to update and use?  Sounds good to me.

Skybook? What if they mated meets Facebook + Skype

Last week, news erupted that Facebook was working on a phone, but the news was so bizarre that many held back, even the people reporting the information.  This should have been an Internet goldmine of discussion, but something was amiss and now we know why.

This past week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Skype and Facebook will be joining forces and that the Skype service would be seemlessly integrated with the worlds largest social network.  Anti-trust anyone?  Not right now, we don’t even know what Facebook is really worth, its still just too cool to value for any less than 40,50, or 80 billion.

The combination makes sense but what are the implications for new media? Is this really as simple as Skype in Facebook?  Below, I will argue that it is not, this is fundamentally different, both services are good at hyperpersonal communication but via different mediums – the medium is the message in this case.

Facebook excels at connecting people in a group-individual way.  In other words, individuals can interact and are augmented by different groups (networks, friends, etc).  The media is hyperpersonal in that it includes the thoughts of the user, their friends, and their friends.  It can be very intimate and detailed look into a persons life and thoughts.  However, that communication suffers from the medium it is using.  To truly “communicate” somebody has to move to a an application like Skype to hear and see the other person.  Further, Facebook’s chat isn’t really that integrated into their service, it feels kind of foreign and 1990’s in style and form.

Skype excels at giving already connected people hyperpersonal contact over large distances.  It is the global telephone network, and currently hosts a 13% of all international calls.  For all the press Facebook gets, Skype is becoming international telecommunications infrastructure.  So the real magic is making Facebook’s connecting prowess more hyperpersonal when that connection is made.

What if people could post live videos to their Facebook page via Skype, have people follow and call them if desired?  Create a conference call with your friends, transcript the voice via automated algorithms, and simultaneously all upload videos of yourself or where you are.  This seems a pretty powerful tool for individuals to have on a global level.

You can now get connected, congregate, discuss, record and disseminate all in one place.  Granted, sites like Justin.TV have been around for a while but the social capital generated by close relationships and their increasingly hyperintensive interactions will create much more of it.

What if people no longer had a profile pic but a live profile video?  Their life could be seen and heard in real time.  The ramifications are huge, and I’m willing to bet organizations around the world will leverage the new medium to interact like they never have before.

What have I missed here?  (A lot I am sure!)  What do you think this change means?

Why is the “Long Tail” a bad thing?

One of the affects of the Internet is its enabling of millions to challenge the status quo, the establish, the man, in a number of fields.  The term Long Tail was coined by Chris Anderson in his article for Wired magazine.  (I’ll spare you the description of the Long Tail, I suggest you read the Wired article and the Wikipedia entry before proceeding.)

I do not believe that new media will overthrow the beast, nor do I believe that traditional media will completely co-opt the nascent medium and either create the illusion that people have control or remove that possibility outright.  Both viewpoints to me are completely defeatist and really pushes people to give up on life as any form of control is an illusion.  My stance is that new media can in fact make a change, not overnight, and not in a Super Bowl advertisement kind of way.  The change will be organic and slow to grow, but the momentum it gains will be true and not easily lost.

In a world of enablement thanks to Internet does the media landscape actually change?  The part of the theory of the Tail that is hard to swallow is the concept of “hits”.  So if all these millions of people are enabled then they will discard the shackles of “old boys” in large numbers, let the revolutions begin!  Not quite.  The theory says that out of those millions there will be lots of failures and a ton of rubbish, however, a few stars will emerge that will challenge traditional players and that is the key.  The fact that some “hits” occur is all the tail is saying, the majority of the enabled people will sit unknown in different parts of their Internet world.

So the real question is more like an old one “if a tree falls in a forest with nobody around, does it make a sound?”  Well of course it does, but nobody was there to hear it, so maybe the better question is, does the sound matter?  Some may say no, it doesn’t matter or exist if someone is not there to witness it.  So let us ask an Internet version of that question.  If somebody writes a blog that is never read, does it matter, is there any value?

Indeed there is, in today’s world the fact that the blog was even created has intrinsic value, and in essence a butterfly affect of sorts.  That blog is indexed, search engines know that this blog is at the absolute bottom of the pile, and isn’t that worth something?  A ranking?  Statistics?

Let’s put it another way, the NFL is the premier American football league in the world, and college football counts as well, maybe even some developmental leage teams.  Hell, lets even throw in the CFL just for fun.  What about all those amateur leagues? Do they count?  Well, if you don’t believe in the Long Tail, then the answer is no, they don’t.  Doug Flutie was co-opted by the NFL and is only an illusion of the ability for upwards mobility.

Now what if these amateur leagues put up videos on the Internet?  What if you didn’t have to be a Doug Flutie in the first place and you were just some “dude”? You think that guy that dunked on Lebron James didn’t get a few phone calls?  I am gonna guess he did, and lets be clear, he was not NBA material before the infamous “amateur” game.  He has been enabled by new media, to the detriment of King James.

Another example would be the Flotilla incident of Summer 2010 and Twitter.  There is a real possibility that had the people on board not been tweeting their GPS location and uploading live videos that we in American would never have heard of it.  Granted Al-Jazeera had a reporter on one of the boats, but do you get Al-Jazeera at home in the States?  No, you don’t.  Twitter and the backlash from the masses forced traditional media to cover the story, in one way or another.

These are small examples, the unknown artist on iTunes, the flotilla survivors, the completely cloud computing based business like HotSpotVPN could not have existed just 5-7  years ago.  I totally understand pessimism, and usually lean that way, but to totally discredit the Internet powered new media is a dark path with way to turn back.

What do you mean Wikipedia is not a reliable source?

Last week I stumbled across an article about a new online encyclopedia of philosophy founded by one of the original creators of Wikipedia and sponsored by Stanford University.  Essentially, the article states that Wikipedia is a mess and an unreliable source, espousing the notion that structure and expertise is needed to ensure a reliable and citable source that is “worthy” of academia.

I do understand their point, and there have been instances in which Wikipedia has been incorrect but considering the size of Wikipedia it is actually more “correct” then the tried and true Encyclopedia Britannica.  That statistical fact to the side,  isn’t one of the core ideas behind the Internet the theory of the Long Tail and the enabling of peer-produced content and intelligence?  One could read the article as an attack on new media in general, regardless of the speed and accuracy of sites such as Twitter and Blogs, they will never “official”.  Are the official sources any better?

Let us take this a step further, at its core this is really an argument of open vs closed.  New media enables openness but the new frameworks created by it can be leveraged by more traditional players if wanted, so push old content view new means.  The argument that open means amateur and  stupid, is tired and antiquated.  The statement reminds me of old TV shows showing on traditional media, copyrighted for  60 years (and another 60 when the next congress gets sworn in!) and badly in need of mashups to get a new generation interested in them.  Can you imagine an episode of the O’Reilly factor that has been Rickroll’d?  That two minute clip is more entertaining than half of the copyrighted entertainment out of Hollywood and other traditional media.

I’ll take Wikipedia any day and if my paper is not academic enough because I cited the single largest source of human thought and expertise the world has ever known, then so be it.

When is New Media no longer new, and what is it anyways?

We have all heard the term New Media tossed around a great deal, and while I am sure we can all define it {wink, wink, nudge, nudge } , how do we know when it is no longer new?  When a substantial shift happens again will we go down the disastrous and un-innovative path and call it New Media 2.0?  Let’s hope not, as Web 2.0 must inevitable lead to Web 3.0 and beyond.  Software revision naming schemes work well for software, and not much else, let us keep that in mind.

So if we cannot name ir properly due to the fact that we cannot properly define it, then how do we know when the name/definition is no longer applicable?  I ask this question because of the “New Media” revolution coming to many TVs in the future.  You will now be able to watch your favorite non-conformist, outside of the distribution networks control, cutting edge, non-core based media on your TV.  The revolution will in fact be televised.

Not really.  The new hardware and software combinations that will be part of the TV itself, sold as a separate device, or by a traditional provider such as cable or satellite will dictate which media services you can and cannot use.   If YouTube, Flickr and Netflix are available on 75% of the devices, what happens to someone like Vimeo and FunnyOrDie?  Part of the New Media revolution is the abundance of choice, but the new systems being rolled out are mostly entirely closed (i.e. Apple TV) and have no desire to allow you to access every site out there.

Flickr isn’t looking so much like cutting edge media anymore, it appears as though it is being “pushed” upon the masses in the traditional way broadcasting always has been.  I hope you like the Flickr service for sharing photos because it might be 5 years before another provider is supported.  Granted, there will always be solutions for the techie geeks out there, but I’m talking about something that works out of the box.  A future in which YouTube or NetFlix are the sole brokers of content is not part of a revolution; it is returning to the days of limited distribution channels, akin to the CBS/ABC/NBC model.

Put into perspective,  since the dawn of the Internet based new media revolution, traditional corporations have seen it fit that one photo sharing site (Flickr), one video sharing site (YouTube), one movie site (NetFlix), one social network (Facebook) and one micro-blogging service (Twitter) should be brought to televisions everywhere.  We have been insulted, there should be riots in the streets, this is not what we have worked for.  Tens of millions of websites cannot possibly lead to one choice in a limited amount of categories.  TV is not the only way to consume media, and that is understood, but it is the last bastion of old(er) media, and one that seems to have won the fight.

Further, how long do you think it will take before YouTube is censored by Apple TV?  Here is an example, try and search for “Katy Perry California Girlz” on your computer, I’ve done it for you, you can find it here , now type this address http://bit.ly/bxAFaV into your iPhone or other smartphone.  It is a shortened version of the regular YouTube address.  Oh wait, the same Katy Perry video doesn’t load on your phone?  How odd.  It seems watching a music video on your laptop is kosher, but on your iPhone?  Well, that means you could listen to that song instead of buying it.  I wonder what other types of videos will be “left out” for viewing on a traditional TV screen.

It appears we can add a definition to what new media “is”.  It is most definitely open and as uninhibited as possible, with maximum amount of choice.  The majority of options that are currently in the tunnel are not open, and most likely will not be before there is fierce competition.
In the examples above, does this mean that YouTube is no longer new media?  Well, not really.  You do not know why, where and how the decision is made to send some content to x and not to y.  YouTube wants universal reach and would logically desire to be on every device out there.

Confused?  I am as well, but the point is to start discussion as to when new media may cease to be “new”.  The TV is iconic, and will be the battleground for the future of media.  Granted smartphones and computers are important but a win on the old distributions models home turf would ring in a new generation of content.  Choice, openness – that is part and parcel of new media.

Microsoft and Yahoo – The Bahoo Bonanza

It seems Yahoo and Microsoft have struck a deal to share revenue on ads to compete with Google.  That’s all fine and dandy, but the real kicker is Microsoft’s search engine Bing will become the default instead of Yahoo’s.  Its sad to see one of the earliest Internet companies lose the integral piece that made them famous, but it was even harder to see Yahoo turn into “altavista”.  Yahoo has been in a state of flux, with the only constant being their decreased market share.

Yahoo is not being bought, but I believe this is the beginning of the end for the company.  My predictions are as follows.

  • Microsoft will eventually buyout Yahoo and their will be a merge of services.
  • Yahoo and Microsoft services will become much more tightly integrated.
  • Yahoo’s mobile application presence will be leveraged (iPhone and Blackberry Apps)
  • Hotmail will get  the boot
  • Yahoo Chat will be replaced by Windows Live Chat (MSN)

Microsoft has much to gain from Yahoo, especially in “Street cred” and cross platform capabilities.  Remember that Yahoo is not a Windows shop, so Microsoft will be gaining invaluable knowledge from the cross-pollination that will take place between the company’s employees. While Yahoo doesn’t innovate nearly as much as they used too, this deal has the potential to get their juices rolling again.

What do you guys think?  If you were Yahoo or Microsoft?

Google Chrome OS – a game of chess

It should not be news to anyone that Google is working on a 2010 release timeframe for its newly dubbed Google Chrome OS.  What has been interesting is the chatter which has occured since then, many fingers pointing at Apple as the real beneficiary of this move.   However, nothing could be further from the truth.  What Google did was brilliant, very similar to its strategy with Chrome and I will outline it below.

The key to the Chrome strategy is that Google does not expect to get a large chunk of market share, what they want is to put pressure on Microsoft and Apple to add features similar to what Chrome OS has, which by nature will be very Web-centric.  This minimalist desktop approach that is tightly bound to cloud services is the core of Chrome OS, Microsoft and Apple will be forced to make adjustments that will be in Googles favor, just to compete.  Google is really in a win-win situation, as it was with their Chrome browser, that has a minimal amount of market share but was the initiator of more browser wars focused on Javascript speed and more stable browsing; both of which are central to Google’s cloud services taking off.

Google is not the only one who benefits, any company largely hedging their bets on the Cloud and/or web based applications has something to gain, even Microsoft does, however, Google does not have a dominant office suite or OS, they need this more than Microsoft or other big players do.  Their mental-market-dominance is the real force behind the change that will happen, not the quality of the OS they will release.

It becomes obvious that this strategy is mid-term in focus, Google is playing a game of Chess with Microsoft, with benefits being reaped slowly over time as their competition adjusts.   What is the next move and is it necessarily by Google or one of its competitors?