Cruxy Presents Suzanne Vega (Virtually)

Tomorrow night, (Friday, July 13th, 7pm EST) Cruxy will host a one-of-a-kind event as Suzanne Vega returns to her avatar form for a special virtual listening party in Second Life. Vega will be celebrating the upcoming release of her new album BEAUTY & CRIME, out July 17 on Blue Note. I caught up with Jon Oakes to get the inside story. 🙂

What is Cruxy?

Cruxy is a media platform that allows any digital content creator (mostly emerging filmmakers and musicians) to promote and sell their works. Here’s a simple example: You’ve shot a short film. You put it in Mp4 format and upload it to Cruxy. We create all of the thumbnails, previews and promotional widgets for you. You set a price of $1 for others to buy a download of the film. We handle taking the money from the buyers and delivering cash to you (less a small fee that we charge).

Here’s a real world example of Cruxy in action. Some folks in the Midwest have a company called ShortTrackWorld. They go (in their cool van) to lots of small car races all over the Midwest where regular folks race their super modified race cars around… you guessed it, short tracks. ShortTrackWorld films the car races and then uses a satellite link to upload the videos from the event to their Cruxy page. They sell the videos of the race event to the drivers and fans and the videos are available just hours after the race. It’s pretty cool in action. You can check out the ShortTrackWorld page on Cruxy here:

Recently we’ve been more focused on helping creators get their work into virtual world environments like Second Life. We see that as the next phase and our main focus moving forward.

What is the status of Cruxy as a startup, and who is team?

We are two full timers with a coterie of supporters, contractors, advisors and well-wishers. We are financed by our personal savings accounts, some paying engagements, anxiety and sweat.

Nathan Freitas and myself, Jon Oakes, have been working together for over eight years through three different (successful!) startups. We have built a ton of different technology, products, and solutions for people ranging from the government, to major corporations, and other technology businesses, but are most excited now to be applying our skills and inspiration towards creating new economic and marketing models for creative people, as well as the entertainment industry. Through, we get to work with true indie talent and give them access to our entire platform. Working with a major artist and label such as Blue Note allows us to customize aspects of our platform, and create unique solutions, which also happen to help pay the bills. Its a good setup, and allows us to see the radical changes that are happening in this business from multiple standpoints.

What’s some of the interesting technology behind

As a startup, we need to be smart about how we spend our money so we use Amazon’s S3 and EC2 services for all of our server and data delivery needs. We pay on a variable basis (we did not have to go plunk down $25k for a bunch of servers and commit to a high monthly data service fee). This is really “on demand” computing and it allows us to scale in a pay that is precisely correlated ith our traffic and demand… rather than investing everything in infrastructure and hoping to fill up the pipe.

We’ve built a pretty robust system for syndicating media content. We built our syndication system to use the XSPF format which gives us unlimited dynamic playlisting capabilities.

We’ve also built a “virtual world widget” which allows people to distribute their music to their avatar in Second Life. They can then stream their music into their land or venue in Second Life so others can experience their music in a totally new and social way. Rather than just have a bunch of people anonymously visit a web page and listen to your stuff, with the virtual world widgets, you can hang out in your virtual environment in Second Life while a group of people check out and discuss your work.

Besides Second Life, are there other places where creators can syndicate their media?

Cruxy supports a variety of technologies that allow any media upload to our system to be republished and indexed by almost any standards-based service on the web. We’ve got flash widgets, RSS feeds, XSPF feeds, and even some microformats support. We also recently announced our deep integration with FaceBook so creators can get their work out to their FaceBook network more easily. We expect to launch this feature in August.

Looking towards the future, we see the growth of gaming and virtual worlds as online social environments to be a huge opportunity for creative artists to gain exposure and income. We fully intend to extend the Cruxy platform into these types of spaces and economic models.

What’s the story behind tomorrow’s Second Life event with Suzanne Vega?

We have built a virtual lower east side “Ludlow Street” circa 1990 environment to promote Suzanne Vega’s new album “Beauty and Crime”, which is full of songs about various aspects of New York. Suzanne will join us (in avatar form) for a live interview and take questions from her fans. Avatars who attend will also be able to watch video of some of her recent live performances and sample her new album.

Each attendee to the event will receive a Virtual World Widget that allows them to host their own listening parties and share the music with friends in their own land or club within Second Life.

What makes this event with Suzanne Vega different from her first appearance in Second Life?

We used the new Second Life voice beta software for this event. We also built the lower east side environment where avatars can come to hang out, drive taxi cabs, talk on pay phones and spray paint on walls long after the event. This event is about more than just the event… it’s about the environment where people can come whenever they want and sample the album while experiencing the New York that so inspires the album. We’ve got graffiti by Zephyr, the prolific graffiti artist of that era and guitars by Robbie Dingo, the renowwnded Second Life designer, at a LES guitar shop.

One other thing to note is that the MTV virtual lower east side is designed for the 18 to 25 crowd that might not remember New York pre-Guiliani. We wanted to recreate more of the grunge aesthetic that we so enjoyed in our 20’s in NYC.

How big is the market for what you are doing? Breakdancers and indie musicians don’t really make much money, right?

What everyone is realizing is that there is a growing appetite for independently created media content.

Cruxy is also one of those UGC filter sites. The higher end of the UGC market puts their stuff in Cruxy. We don’t get much of the teenage car surfing or flatulence type stuff (nothing against it as a… social… expression, but it’s not what Cruxy is about)

Thanks Jon. Good luck with Cruxy and Suzanne Vega’s event tomorrow! 😀

“Graf art building on Virtual Ludlow Street New York”
Photo Credit: Nathan Freitas

Jonathan Oakes founded and managed his first start-up, a systems integration consultancy, at 24 years old. In 1998 Oakes co-founded ThinAirApps, where he served as CEO and Chairman leading the company to a successful acquisition by Palm Inc. in 2001. Oakes spent over two years at Palm, as Senior Director managing corporate and product strategy. Oakes earned a BA in American Studies from Skidmore College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Over the last ten years, Nathan Freitas’ career has spanned the academic, corporate, and non-profit worlds, solving difficult problems through the thoughtful application of technology. His work has been built into Palm handhelds, on display at JavaONE and SIGGRAPH, included in Wikipedia, and covered in media ranging from Boing Boing and Slashdot, to the New York Times and Howard Rheingold’s book “Smart Mobs”. He also plays a mean double bass.

Bill Cammack • New York City • Freelance Video Editor •

Twitter Has “Ruined” My Life

For those of you that don’t know what twitter is… Basically, it’s a DIY (do it yourself) chat room. You choose people that you want to “follow”, and you can see when they type something to the twitter site. People can choose to follow YOU, and they’ll see what you type to twitter. There’s no forced mutual following, so sometimes, it’s a one-sided deal. You can see what someone’s saying, but they can’t see what you’re saying… which is unfortunate for them when they ask a question that you “tweet” (somehow the verb form of twitter…… meaning each entry should be called a TWIT or the site should be called TWEETER, but anyway…) the answer to and then an hour later, you see them ask again if anyone has a solution for them. 😀

I think twitter’s more effective in areas where people are in relatively close proximity to each other or at least can get to where other twitterers (tweeters?) indicate that they are or that something’s going on. It’s extremely useful during conferences, like SXSW or PodCampNYC. Twitter works on cell phones as well as computers, so people on-the-go can still find out the latest information, ASAP. The benefit here is that instead of texting… or, could you imagine, actually CALLING several people to tell them where you’re about to have lunch, or what floor you’re hanging out on and with whom

Photo Credit: Jared Klett

… You can make one “tweet,” and everyone that’s following you receives the same information at the same time. (PS – If you don’t know what twitter looks like, you can see it on my macbook pro screen on the right side of the picture.)

So, by now, you’re saying “All I’ve heard is positives!” 😀 Yes. That’s true. 🙂 I think twitter is a very positive thing, or at least it CAN be. It all depends on how you use it. If you clutter your “friends list” with people that don’t do anything, but seem to always have something to say about the NOTHING they do all day, then it’s a waste of your time and energy to read the feed. That’s not my ‘problem’… it’s exactly the opposite! :O

The first day I became aware of twitter, I ‘crawled’ through my friends’ friends lists and added people that I thought might be interesting to follow. I was doing something that day, and I don’t remember what, but I remember doing just ONE thing… 🙂 So I happened to have added someone that appears to be an actress. A “tweet” comes up that she’s heading wherever to meet with whomever. I’m like “ok”….. Then, while I’m still doing the same thing, and time doesn’t really seem to have moved at all, another tweet comes up from her saying that NOW she was heading to a different location to do something else. I’m like “ok”….. So while I was sitting there, still doing the same thing… over the course of the day, she did at least SIX THINGS in six different locations! :O I noticed how interesting it is to ‘eavesdrop’ on the goings-on of someone that’s in a profession you don’t know anything about, but I ALSO noticed that I could have done a lot more with my day than what I did while she was scurrying all over the place being effective.

I chalked it up as a fluke, but the same thing happened the next day and then the next day. To make matters worse, the rest of the people I added are workaholics also! 😀 So now, all day, every day, I get to hear about where they’re going and what they’re doing and who they’re meeting with and what’s happening in Second Life and what country they’re in and which conference is starting and who’s the keynote speaker and who’s broadcasting live on the Internet right now…..

On top of what they’re ACTUALLY DOING, I have to hear about what they think is interesting on the net, who made a new video, who didn’t get paid for the unauthorized use of their photo coughlanbuicough, what’s the latest social site somebody created, how to get invites to be a beta tester, what just crashed their browser, which phone shoots the better video, who updated their blog, what’s the latest HD camera that records MP4…..

And then, while you’re trying to be more productive with your day, AND you’re checking out all these links that people sent out so the tabs on the top of your browser are increasing and getting smaller and smaller… You get to find out who’s going to lunch at such and such a place, who’s going out for drinks later, who’s flying into town for the weekend, where the Wii Sports tournament’s going to be, which bar is giving out free beer RIGHT NOW!, the sun just came out over Central Park, the party’s moving from location X to location Y….. So now, instead of having the excuse that you don’t know if anything’s happening tonight or this weekend and actually getting to USE the time that you had allotted to being more productive, which was ALSO spurred on by twitter… You’re hanging out all the time, to the wee hours of the morning, then spending the better part of the next day updating your flickr set! 😀

Oh, yeah… It also doesn’t help that people live in different time zones. :/ When you’re in the middle of your day, people are talking about “GOOD MORNING FROM HAWAII,” then when you’re done, they’re talking about going out to lunch…

As you can see, the overall effect of this twitter phenomenon is that there are NEVER enough hours in a day anymore. :/ Every second you’re not running with the pack, you’re falling behind. Unfortunately, I don’t subscribe to slackers, so it’s always build, create, innovate, move, report, link, blog, videoblog, discuss, contemplate, debate….. You just have to do as much as you can and eventually call it a day. 😀

There is one downside-downside to twitter, and that’s when it CRASHES, and suddenly, you’re “flying blind”. Twitter has two types of crashes. Type-2 is complete denial of service. 😀 Either the site doesn’t come up at all or it comes up but doesn’t let you type anything and doesn’t give you any updates from anyone else either. You just sit there looking at this screen that says “so-and-so said whatever about 3 hours ago.” Suddenly you start trying to activate the telepathy that you just KNOW you have that will allow you to discernn where people are and what they’re doing, even though none of the “tweets” are coming through at all, hahaha. I suppose it’s the same way people feel when they open the fridge and find out that someone drank the last of the Kool-Aid and didn’t fill it back up! :O You just stare at the container, IMAGINING how good that Kool-Aid would have tasted… IF it were actually IN the container. :/

The Type-1 twitter-crash is way more frequent and way more frustrating! 😀 Twitter lets you type things, but then there are random occurrences right afterwards. What you typed mght disappear into thin air, and twitter acts like you never typed anything at all. It might appear in the list of “tweets”, but then, when you refresh, it’s gone. You can type something and what appears in the list is a duplicate of something you typed hours ago, competely replacing what you actually typed. “Tweets” show up out of order and randomly appear and then disappear upon refreshes. Etc, etc, etc… Anyway… Type-1 twitter-crashes inspire denial as well as disbelief as you realize your carefully crafted post, complete with hyperlinks, has been eaten by twitter and if you didn’t select it and copy it before pressing “Update,” you have to start all over again.

You can imagine the effect these crashes have on the twitter-dependent… suddenly scurrying to use email, instant messaging and telephones to try to find out what’s going on…… 😀 It’s not for the faint of heart. So beware, and be aware! 😀 Watch out for the effects of TMI (too much information). If you recognize it starting to be too much, take a bunch of people off of your “friends list” to slow down the traffic to only relevant information that’s useful to YOU… or Just.Say.No! 😀

Bill Cammack • New York City • Freelance Video Editor •

Best Laid Plans

One of the perils of doing a “daily” blog is that…. you have to do it. 😀

Already, on day 2, technically day 3, since I started on the last day of last year, I missed a day of my “daily” blog. That’s because A) I didn’t have anything I wanted to post in the morning, and B) I walked out of the house, supposedly for a couple of hours and never came back! 😀 The next time I was around a computer was about 2am, and I wasn’t in any condition to write anything decent (or stay awake :)) AND 2am is already the next day anyway.

So… YESTERDAY, my friend Dave was off work and wanted to hang out around lunchtime. Since we were going to be downtown, I decided that this day would be a good day to get a different camera. I’ve been shooting ReelSolid.TV and E.M.S. with a Canon miniDV camera, and it’s a real drag to set up and make sure everything’s proper… That’s fine for something like ReelSolid, because those are mostly “finished” pieces, so being able to set up and do all my zooming and manual focus etc comes way in handy so I can express myself properly. However, once I switched to the format of E.M.S. (Eight Million Stories), which is really “slice of life” snippets, what’s really important is to catch that moment that’s happening right now. That’s where a miniDV camera becomes reeeeeeally inconvenient…

a) get it from wherever I’m carrying it, like a backpack for instance
b) press and click the button to turn the camera on in camera mode
c) while I wait, take the lens cap off and try to attach it to the handle, so it doesn’t clunk around and make noise
d) keep waiting for the opening graphics, blah blah blah
e) camera is online… except I found out that it doesn’t adjust itself to the light of the situation for another 10 seconds or so. I found this out on the Harlem Race shoot where I would suddenly want to tape something, then when I looked at it on the computer, it would become lighter a few seconds after I started shooting, making the original shooting worthless to me.
f) hopefully, I already checked to make sure the focus was where I need it to be to start shooting what’s going on right now. Also, the auto-exposure needs to be proper for me to get the shot. I might possibly need to be in low-light mode if it’s dark. If the focus doesn’t work for me “out of the box”, I have to auto focus at the subject, then hit manual focus unless the subject’s constantly moving (or I am), in which case I leave it auto, but I might have been shooting an interview just before, so the focus might be manual and I have to take the time to click it to auto before starting that process.
g) somewhere in that process, I might have needed to click the release and swivel out the viewer. If I were planning to be in my own shot (without a tripod), I might need to flip the viewer also, so I can see where I am in the shot.

By the time all this happens, and probably some stuff I didn’t think of as I’m writing this “off the top”, it’s not likely that the moment is still THE SAME MOMENT that it was when I got the idea to shoot it in the first place. 😕 Again, this is fine for something where you planned a pretty high ratio between how much you shoot and how long the final piece is going to be. If you don’t have the shot, you just use something else and make it work. In “slice of life” snippets, it is what it is, so you need to be recording WHILE it “is what it is”.

This is what happened to me on the very first E.M.S. video, “Beef in Chinatown”. Joey and I were on the way to the club where DJ Blazer One was spinning, and while we were rolling in slow traffic, there was a commotion going on in the street. A bunch of people were literally rolling on the ground, on the sidewalk, and every once in a while, someone would scream “He’s Got A Knife!” 😀 The funny thing was that I was still talking to Joey about what the plan was for shooting in the club, and I totally hadn’t planned for E.M.S. to start “right now”. I started going through my process I described, and by the time everything came online, people were getting back up off the floor, so it doesn’t look even 1/3rd as funny on tape as it did in person. Had I had a camera that was faster on the draw, I would have had a better representation of the situation.

So… I started researching digital still cameras that take 640×480 video @ 30fps. I googled a little bit, then I decided to search the Yahoo Videoblogging Group to see what they had to say. I saw an article by kitykity (from talking about a Sony S600. She also made a video with it and posted it and I was very satisfied with her results. I knew I wanted a camera that would shoot 640×480 and 30fps. I looked for another article I had seen where Randolfe Wicker mentioned the make & model of the camera he showed us and talked about @ a recent videoblogging get-together @ Art Bar. He was very impressed with his new camera, so I thought I’d check that one out as well, the Samsung NV3.

After much googling and checking on Cnet, B&H Photo and the local electronics chain stores we have around here, I couldn’t decide between the Sony Cybershot W70 and the Samsung NV3. I could even have gone with the Sony W50, since it’s a newer model than kitykity’s S600, so that was a third consideration. I decided I’d have to take it to the street and check out the display models.

I started getting ready to go and called Dave, who was already downtown, but his phone rang through to voicemail. I finished getting ready and called Dave and his phone did the same thing. A little later, I got a call from Dave. He was in his house now, and his cell phone had run out of batteries. So much for THAT plan. 😕

So… I hit the streets solo……..

BeachWalks in NYC!

Roxanne Darling of was in town today. I had a great time this afternoon. 😀

Here’s the “BeachWalk” we did together: Beach Walk #258 OTR

initially, we were going to meet up with Jan… another videoblogger, but it turned out that she had to work alllllllllllll day, so Rox and I decided to meet up @ 3pm. I had had a bunch of ideas where we could have gone to shoot near water, but it was raining AND foggy, so we decided on South Street Seaport, since it’s by the water, but the upper levels provide cover from the rain. Rox ended up taking a cab instead of the subway, so I headed west to meet her @ the West Side Highway. It would have taken her A LONG TIME to get to the east side with mid-day traffic, so I passed the WTC and checked out Battery Park City for potential locations.

When the cab showed up, I noticed that Rox was filming the driver. It turns out that he’s a musician and makes CDs that are right up’s alley. From there, we headed west to the Hudson river, but it was really too foggy to see Jersey on the other side, and I thought I could BARELY make out the Statue of Liberty. We found a spot and did our BeachWalks episode.

Since we were running out of daylight, I suggested that we walk the two blocks over to the WTC. We were coming from the west, where there isn’t any public transportation, except cabs, and maybe one bus line if it runs down the W.S.H. Everyone else approaches from the east (unless they live in Battery Park City). Because of that, the tourist-y information booth and photo gallery is set up to accommodate people coming from the east, and it was completely on the other side of the site from where we were. We stopped at a section where you can see in without fanfare, lights, colors, tourists or pictures. I was in NYC on the day-of, but Rox had mentioned that she probably hadn’t been here in eight years, so I figured she hadn’t seen the location with her own eyes… Actually, probably more important than SEEING is BEING so close to where the towers used to stand and seeing how far down it is to the construction from ground level, and seeing how wide the missing area is, compared to the buildings that surround that area…. as well as understanding that so many people died right.over.there. I could tell Rox was having a moment… she decided not to tape…….

From there, we checked out the tourist setup, complete with bright colors, poignant pictures and captions that said something like “time to move on”, which was REALLY funny/interesting, because after experiencing the site, when we started walking, Rox was talking about people’s reactions to things and how people try to say how someone should or should not react. It was as if someone rushed up and painted that AFTER listening to what we were talking about on the way there. 😀

After that, we found a cafe and had a really interesting conversation, mostly about videoblogging, with a minor in psychology. Eventually, it was time for Rox to head out, so we hopped on the train and got out of dodge.

I had a great afternoon. Rox is a really fun and intelligent person, and as a ‘hardcore’ New Yorker, I got to enjoy a non-New-Yorker’s reactions to things like the WTC and crowded sidewalks. 😀

The Saga Continues……..