Asynchronous Video Threading

I spent the day on Seesmic yesterday and had a 90-post conversation involving several of the members. I’ll say first of all that Seesmic has made TONS of improvements since Andrew Lipson gave me an invite 3 months ago. They’re always making improvements to their site, so this post may very well be outdated relatively soon. 🙂

If you don’t know what Seesmic is, it’s basically like having a conversation with people on a bunch of stickies. In a way, it’s like Twitter, except it’s video and audio instead of text. You get to record a video which goes into the “public” timeline, and other people can watch it just about as soon as you post it. People who see your video can record their own video and make it a reply to your video if they so choose.

They relatively recently implemented threading as a one-dimensional, reverse chronological timeline. This was way better than no threading AT ALL 😀 but having held a several-hour-long conversation on it that was about actual intellectual concepts, not “what to name a dog” or “who’s going on a date tonight”, I got to experience the downsides of asynchronous video threading in Seesmic’s current format.

The reason I make a point of it being asynchronous is that it’s not a real-time conversation. It’s more like twitter or an email group than it is like Yahoo Live where several people speak to each other simultaneously, or even chat rooms, where everyone’s there at the same time and can jump in with their opinions if they feel like it.

Liz Burr made some excellent points that I hadn’t paid attention to as I was absorbing so many other things during a full day’s use of the app. Someone had made the point that because you record your own video and decide when to stop it, you get to say what you want in its entirety without being interrupted. Liz mentioned that since it’s asynchronous, you can be turned OFF at ANY point, or not listened to at all, as your screen name and icon are attached to your video in the thread. This means you have more of a chance of if someone decides that what you have to say isn’t worth listening to based on your behaviors and what you had to say in previous videos. I “knew” this, but I hadn’t processed it until she mentioned it to me. I was already employing that behavior, for example, after listening to a post from someone that I determined was garbage, I would skip anything with their face on it after that.

At this point, I should mention how Seesmic is set up for people to become aware of people’s posts. It’s important to understand this to understand why one-dimensional threading is NOT optimal for an application like this. There’s a “public” timeline that catches everyone’s videos. This is world-wide, but you can set it to only pick up posts in your language. That’s still A LOT of people, and it’s not even open to the public yet. Your next option is a “friends” timeline. You get to choose to “follow” people, and only their videos will show up in this timeline. This is another way you can elect to bypass people whom you’ve determined have nothing valid or intelligent to say… don’t “follow” them. They’ll still show up if you’re looking at a thread that they’ve contributed videos to, but then you resort to visual parsing and skip them as usual.

These abilities to select people to follow and people to “allow to speak” by clicking on their videos and watching them all the way to the end absolutely alters each person’s perception of a thread they arrive to. Seesmic member Otir read a perfect analogy of the situation, telling the story of a bunch of blind people whom were all offered different sections of an elephant to feel and then to give their opinion of what an elephant is like. Each of them had their own perception of “an elephant”, and that perception colored what they had to say about elephants.

First of all, if you’re following certain people, their posts come up in your “friends” timeline. If you click on the member’s icon, you go straight to their opinion. That’s a good thing. However, you’re jumping in in the middle of the thread. You can click “conversation” and see the entire list of posts in that thread. This is where your personal bias comes into play. If you don’t have any respect for the people earlier in the timeline, you might skip their videos entirely, bypassing much of the context of the situation. If there are a whole lot of videos before the person you’re following, you might not be inclined to watch an hour’s worth of posts before you enjoy what you really came here to see… thus, bypassing much of the context of the situation. If you’ve determined that the person you’re following is more credible than others in the thread, you may be inclined to reply along the lines of that personal bias. This is where we get the blind people approaching the elephant from different sides and angles.

Another “problem” with this layout is that what you’re looking at is NOT actually linear other than chronologically. The posts are laid out by the TIME that they were posted to the site, but they are not differentiated by the TANGENT of the thread that that particular post followed. This leads to a circular, “telephone game” situation, because people show up to a thread hours after it started, read something a “friend” of theirs posted, which was dealt with hours ago, and respond to that person’s post without watching all of the surrounding material.

My thread was 90 posts long. Even if each person took only one minute to say what they had to say (and I’ve seen videos that were 5 minutes long, so if there’s a time limit on individual videos, it’s NOT shorter than that), that means that to absorb the entire thread, you’d have to sit there as long as a feature film. People aren’t going to wait that long to reply. As a matter of fact, people started showing up and making NEW threads asking for someone to summarize my thread because they didn’t want to go back and read it all. This is another way that posts get “lost in the sauce”. People show up and want to be involved, but don’t want to put in the work to go back and experience each post.

Another reason it becomes circular is let’s say you have three tangents in a thread. As the original thread participants scramble “left and right” (since it’s all appearing as a one-dimensional timeline) to deal with tangents, 20 posts down the line, someone reads something from a tangent that was already resolved, hits “reply” and now, your 21st post is actually a response to your 5th post. :/ Then, THEIR “friends” see what THEY posted and continue the previously resolved tangent, causing the original thread participants to scramble over there and put out THAT fire… AGAIN. :/ Meanwhile, the thread splinters more and more and is misinterpreted more and more but LOOKS like a single, chronologically-ordered discussion. The snowball rolls further downhill when someone shows up to post #60, which is really only three posts removed from post #5 and doesn’t want to read the rest of the material, so they assume that all 60 posts have been along the same tangent.

Like I said, this only comes into play if you’re trying to have an intelligent conversation. If you’re just socializing via video, you don’t need to worry about tangents and following thoughts and concepts. You just throw up a “me too” post and you’re good… you feel like you’re a part of the conversation, whether people are “following” you or not.

Jan McLaughlin mentioned an addition that I think would work very well in these situations… the ability for the originator to moderate their thread. I suppose the ability to assign mods would be useful as well. A couple of days ago, I left a 32-post thread of mine for a few hours and when I returned, it was around 60. Thinking that there was much interesting material to sift through, I clicked on it, only to realize that two people had started online dating in my thread. :/ Instead of taking their chances in the “public” timeline, the best way to try to get each other’s attention was to click “reply” so that it would show up in their “replies” folder (an alternative timeline to “public” or “friends”. The unfortunate side-effect of this was that as they kept “reply”ing to each other, their posts were being added to my thread.

It would be lovely to have a way to separate irrelevant posts from your thread. It would be lovely to be able to remove videos posted to your thread by people that just showed up to act dumb. Not *delete* them, just remove them from YOUR thread so that new people arriving after the fact wouldn’t bail on your 70-post thread because there are 30 posts worth of online dating inside it that’s completely indistinguishable from on-point conversation in a one-dimensional reverse chronological timeline.

Seesmic’s making tons of improvements, so I’m sure features are coming down the line that will facilitate intelligent conversation, such as GROUPS. The ability to have a discussion only amongst the people that *you* choose would be a major development. There’s no need to block others from reading it. Just stop them from diluting the content and making the originators waste time running around putting out fires. Like I said, they’ve progressed in leaps and bounds in the three months that I’ve been on the service.

Personally, I’m a fan of synchronous interaction, whether we’re talking live video or text chat. Even IRL, I enjoy holding arguments against 5 people at a time. 😀 The upside of asynchronous conversation is that you only have to make your point ONCE, and everyone hears it and we can all move forward and explore greater depths of the conversation. The downside is that you have to actually BE THERE at the time it’s happening to be a part of it. If you show up hours later, all you can do is watch the archive, if there is one.

The upside of asynchronous conversation is that you can join in on work breaks, when you get out of class, whenever it’s convenient for you, you can add something to an ongoing discussion. The downside is that depending on how much time has elapsed between the beginning of the conversation and your arrival, you might not be willing to put in the work to absorb the entirety of the conversation anyway.

Bill Cammack • Cammack Media Group, LLC

The Lab – Production Log Pickup 02

So I found my new ‘out’ in the very first video clips I had selected. I hadn’t considered it an out because I thought I was going to use all that footage that I had initially logged. Even with the new ‘out’ being so close to the beginning of my selects, I still had too much footage to make the show as short as I wanted it.

The problem was that it took too long for Dante to get to the point where Veronica asked him how many girls he had had sex with. If I just took the relevant part at the end, it didn’t make sense to just jump into their conversation there. If I took it from the beginning, it was too long, because the pacing of an hour and some-odd movie is going to be different from the pacing of a 4-minute show. I decided I needed both, but not Dante’s full explanation of why women just have to “be there” for a guy to enjoy them, and a guy has to do so much more work to please a chick. I took the parts I needed and decided to bridge with dialogue as if someone ran the wrong clip to start off the show. I felt this was the best way to establish how it got to the point that Dante says something about the number of women that have had sex with him, which leads to Veronica’s question and gets the real dialogue started.

Now that I knew what clips I was going to use, I had to write the dialogue AGAIN to work with the new sections. Interestingly enough, the new dialogue had a REALLY good ‘out’ that I could have punched to my credits with. I was really debating using it instead of the ‘out’ that I chose during the previous process. I decided to stick with the out from the clip, even though I wasn’t really breaking continuity. I ended with a clip on “Swingers”, and ended with Brainy’s dialogue on “American Pimp”, so really, either one would have worked for me. I ended up using both by getting back into the ‘out’ clip earlier so that in effect, there are two ‘outs’. There’s the dialogue-out and then the show-out instead of just having one or having the dialogue set up the final clip.

Actually, I skipped a step or a few. The new dialogue-out came from visual support of a line I was working on for one of the bridges beween clips. I was looking through college pictures of various girls’ dorm rooms because at the time, I had a line that said “… you don’t want to know what she was doing in college :D”. As I was looking through them, the pictures became the actual point instead of the support of the point. The point became that there’s visual proof that the girl/woman you’re currently dating or married to spent time with other guys before you, and you have no idea whether that was intimate time or not…. Therefore, there’s no reason for you to make a big deal out of what she did in the past. Once I wrote the new lines, based on the pictures, I didn’t know how punchy it was until I looked at the footage. So, even when writing something, you don’t know if the delivery is going to give it a different meaning or usefulness than when you wrote it.


2007 Broadband Emmy Awards

NATAS + MySpace = 2007 Broadband Emmy Awards

National Television Academy press release

LOS ANGELES – January 8, 2007 – MySpace, the world’s leading lifestyle portal, and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, presenters of the coveted Emmy® Awards, today announced they have joined forces to honor premium broadband content on the Internet. MySpace will serve as the exclusive online partner of the Broadband Emmy Award submissions, empowering video producers and filmmakers to submit self-generated content for consideration through the official MySpace Emmy profile at

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences debuted its first Emmy Award for content distributed via broadband and portable delivery last year and honored creators in four categories. This year, The Academy will triple the number, honoring creators in 12 categories in four content areas: Entertainment, Sports, News & Information, and Public & Community Service. In addition, high school students are eligible for the National Television Student Awards for Excellence for broadband-delivered content in all seven student categories. Read entire NTA press release…

Now THIS is going to be interesting. 😀

[Full Disclosure: I am a NATAS Emmy Judge as well as an International Emmy Judge]

There are several ongoing debates within the community of people and groups who make videos and post their created content on the Internet. One of them is “what is and what is _not_ a video blog”. There’s another debate about videos posted in “closed” environments vs those posted in ways that make them accessible to whomever happens to be searching the net for video content. A MAJOR debate is what aggregators should and should not be doing with RSS feeds from either content creators or hosting sites.

Yet another daily debate is “what is QUALITY content?” or perhaps “what makes a show popular” or “what makes a show _good_”. The problem, IMO, with making distinctions about what constitutes a popular show is that depending on where you look and how you look at it, shows that get similar amounts of hits can be spun to look like either one is more “successful”. There is no agreed-upon site that can actually track site date consistently and accurately.

This makes sense, because there’s no bottleneck… Meda that goes to the internet goes straight out. It doesn’t have to go through EPs, producers, editors, quality control, legal, studios, stations, channels, local distribution points, cable boxes, televisions. There’s nowhere you can go and say “this show delivered 80,000 units through here and that show delivered 50,000 units, so the first show has more viewership for this period.

On top of that, there are several ways to get data from a site. If someone goes to my web site, they might view a page and then not view the video. They might open the page but not read anything on it at all. They might bypass the main page because they linked to a permalink for one post. They might not hit my site’s pages at all if they subscribe to my videos in RSS. They might not hit the RSS more than once if they are downloading the videos and watching them offline. So… if one site uses page hits to judge popularity and another site uses video downloads, they’re going to see things completely differently, even looking at the exact same site. If you have to have a particular widget installed to count in the rankings, you can forget it entirely as far as accuracy. Anyone who hits the site without being “part of the program” doesn’t count in the stats.

Anyway, I doubt the 2007 Broadband Emmy Awards will have anything to do with page hits and downloads. The Emmys in general are about quality content and quality production values. That’s what makes this contest interesting. MSM (Main Stream Media) is now getting involved in putting clips on the internet in mass quantities. All of a sudden, there are videos on MySpace with laugh-tracks. :/ All of a sudden, a “new” show appears with 30 episodes uploaded on the same day! :/ Reading the eligibility requirements for the MySpace contest, “Repurposed material originally produced for traditional media is not eligible”. That’s good, because cutting three minutes out of a professionally produced, shot and edited piece shouldn’t put you in position to compete with someone that made their video specifically for the internet. That doesn’t mean the internet piece isn’t well done or professionally produced, but it’s apples vs. oranges.

The first category open for submissions is “Entertainment”. It’s open right now, and “News & Documentary” opens on Feb. 26th. They both close on March 26, and finalists will be notified in April.

As usual, make sure you read the fine print in contests or even when you choose a hosting service to upload your videos to. Check out these terms of service in The Rules of the MySpace My Emmy contest:

By entering the Contest, you grant Sponsors a perpetual, fully-paid, irrevocable, non-exclusive license to reproduce, prepare derivative works of, distribute, display, sub-license, exhibit, transmit, broadcast, televise, digitize, otherwise use, and permit others to use and perform throughout the universe the Material (including without limitation, the underlying intellectual property therein to the extent necessary to exploit Material) in any manner, form, or format now or hereinafter created, including, but not limited to, on the Internet, and for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising or promotion of Sponsors and their services, all without further consent from or payment to you. The completion, expiration and/or termination of the Contest shall not affect Sponsors’ rights regarding Materials or Sponsors’ other rights hereunder. Sponsors shall have, forever and throughout the universe, the right to use such Material in any manner as determined by Sponsors in their sole discretion, including without limitation, the right to make changes, alterations, cuts, edits, interpolations, deletions and eliminations into and from such Material and the right to package such Material with those rendered by other Entrants in connection with the exploitation of such Material, all without further consent from or payment to you.

That’s fantastic! Look how progressive those terms are! Throughout the universe! 😀 Wow! They must know something we don’t know about pending space travel. Anyway… here’s the link to the Broadband Rules from MyEmmy.TV. If you’re willing to pay the $400 entry fee, you can skip all the TOS shenanigans and soul-selling.

The MyEmmy.TV page also includes the Judging Procedures & Criteria:


Content, Creativity and Execution are the primary standards for judging. Each criterion is given equal weight.

Judges will focus on the clarity of presentation of information, as well as the visual impact of the entry. Judges can also give weight to the entrant’s utilization of “broadband” capabilities, (e.g., interactivity, and viewers’ choice of images). Although any entry originally produced for “broadband” transmission is eligible to compete, the more the web’s capabilities are demonstrated in the production, the better the chances may be for winning.

Advocacy and presentation of strong points of view are eligible for award consideration. “Self-published” work by individuals as well as production entities is also eligible for consideration.
All “Broadband” entries/URLs will be viewed at home and judged in one round to determine the nominees and winner. Judging panels will consist of content experts rather than technicians. There will be separate panels for each category, although there may be an overlap with some judges serving on more than one panel. Judges vote via secret ballot using a scale of 10 for the highest and 1 for the lowest rating in each area (Content, Creativity, and Execution), for a total of 30 possible points.

OK… So I see what’s going on now. 🙂 Myspace is holding a contest in which the winners will be sponsored to the official Emmy competition. There are going to be two levels of judging. You can skip one level altogether by paying the entry fee and going straight to . If my understanding after skimming the official entry rules is correct, as long as you made your content specifically for the internet, any level of professional involvement, time or money spent on the project is fine.

I’ll be interested to see what MySpace promotes to entrance in the actual Broadband Emmy Awards. Let’s see if any of the “mom & pop” user-generated content gets the nod over studio-produced work. I’ll refrain from mentioning any shows that I think could compete favorably… VERY favorably in the competition, just in case my region is involved in the judging and asks me to participate.

Either way, I think both the MySpace contest and the official Broadband Emmy Awards are fantastic ways for content creators to gain exposure and/or accolades. It’s definitely worth considering entering… whether it’s a video that was already done (since March 2nd, 2006) or one that you’re planning up until April 2007.

Bill Cammack • New York City • Freelance Video Editor •



Having just watched Beach Walk #192 again, I realize now that the audio skipped the first time I listened to it. I mean, I knew the audio was skipping (probably because of something taking processor cycles on my computer), but I didn’t figure I missed any of the point of Rox’s videoblog. I missed two words. I missed “with” and I missed “us”.

The difference that it makes is that it transforms the sentence “get something going” into “get something going with us“. 🙂 The rest of the conversation in the blog was left vague, intentionally, so Rox could make her point without spilling any of her beans, so I carried my context with me as I watched the video.

My comments are the same, except I see the question more as a business issue, involving whomever “us” is, rather than a relationship issue.

I think context is important, and especially tough to decipher over the internet. There’s not a lot you can do other than TYPE LARGE and “use quotes” and smileys 🙂 :/ 🙁 to attempt to ‘flavor’ your conversation. People can take what they THOUGHT a communication was about and run with it, to the point of building complex scenarios on top of something that never existed in the first place. I mean… you sign off of AIM thinking you typed “I love you” to a chick, but you actually typed “I lose you”, and she goes around crying to anyone that will listen about how you’re dumping her! 😀 That is… until you call her on the phone later on, wondering if you can see her and she has a fit until she calms down enough to tell you what you did wrong to her and everyone finds out there was a one-letter misunderstanding.

I think people should strive to get to know each other so context becomes less of a factor because they have a good understanding of the other person’s way of being towards them.

The more you know…..