Participation? Not without eyeshadow.

February 8, 2008

One of my favourite things about the internet is what might broadly be termed ‘participatory media’: in other words, people creating things and putting them on the Net.   I’ve been exploring the new-to-me world of videoblogging, and as a family we have already got started, by filming our new pet gerbil, doing a bit of editing, and uploading the whole thing to Youtube.  Yes! We rock.

The first stages of making short video is relatively straightforward, if cumbersome: you make your film, you transfer it to your computer, edit it and then post it to your Youtube account.  This takes 10 seconds to say and approximately 2 days to actually do, because in the meantime, you have had to figure out video editing software, figure out the idiosyncrasies of your cheap camcorder, locate all the missing codec, etecetera etcera. Still, we did it and it was fun.

On the back of this home movie success, I had the bright idea that I might get started in video blogging, or at least keeping a video diary to post here.  I do love video diaries.   I especially love the little amateur shows, like those on 43 folders.  Like mash-ups and home-made video, they prove that you don’t always have to be slick or have expensive technology in order to start a conversation or have an influence.

In the interests of getting started, I registered for Seesmic, the brand-new videoblogging site started by the charismatic Loic Lemeur.  Invites, I soon found, were like Wonka tickets.  Still, the company had to expand past the specially-invited core group and so eventually I got my invite and signed up in great excitement…

 …only to find that actually there are a number of somewhat obvious drawbacks to spontaneous video blogging, and I don’t just mean getting the webcam to stick in one place.  I mean fundamental problems.  Some of these are pure usability troubles, and some are more profound blocks to participation.

When you follow a video conversation on Seesmic, you click on a picture with a title, and the video launches, with its snippet of the ongoing conversation.  If you don’t know the people, you’re forced to select who to read on the basis of a) how interesting the title is to you; and b) whether there is anything about their appearance that makes them stand out.

You would not believe how many techy-looking guys in baseball caps put their mumbling videos on Seesmic.  I ended up clicking on people who just looked different, like the platinum blonde girl with the pink lip gloss. 

I also couldn’t join in, despite the remarkable ease of contributing a video post.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I could see that talking into my webcam at 11 at night was going to raise awkward questions.  Worse, I’d have to totally rethink my office decor.  In all, I reckoned I would need most of the following things to be in place before I could go any further:

  • An attractive, artistic backdrop behind my head, ideally showcasing a creative and rather minimalist office rather than the stationery cupboard behind my head
  • Contact lenses
  • A new haircut
  • A touch of make-up
  • Hell, a makeover from Debenhams
  • Voice lessons or preferably full-on media training, to prevent that rabbit-in-the-spotlight look and mumbled delivery of the inexperienced videoblogger
  • A completely empty house, so that kids and husband do not wander in halfway to ask whether I’m rehearsing a presentation
  • Personal security, for when I get popular and am stalked by crazed fans
  • No shame whatsoever

I will work on the backdrop first.

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