A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Check Out Ze Frank's The Show

The best video blog I’ve seen is The Show, which is produced every weekday by Ze Frank, a designer/performance artist who gained Internet fame a few years back with the Flash piece, How to Dance Properly. The Show is a weird blend of news commentary, personal observations and bathroom humor. I think it’s pretty fantastic and hilarious.

The Show also has some lessons to teach in how to use technology to build a community of users:

Anyway, The Show is worth checking out and is a great example of the kind of cool things people are doing with video blogs these days.

Blogs from Lebanon

The recent tragedy of war in Lebanon has spurred Americans, as well as people from lebis.gifIsrael and Lebanon, to turn to the Internet for support.  Groups of bloggers are publishing their struggles online.  These posts serve many purposes: providing a point of contact with family and friends, keeping others informed about what exactly is going on in daily life in the Middle East, and giving people from all over the world an accurate picture of the daily struggle faced by those in Lebanon and Israel.

The Lebanese Blogger Forum aggregates many individual blogs written both from and about Lebanon.  The blog From Fort Wayne to Beirut brings the war in Lebanon close to home, as it is written by an American University student who, in the middle of a study abroad program in Lebanon, found herself stranded with many other students in the violence of Beirut. The author of this blog has since made it back home to the US safely, and has dedicated her blog to spreading word about how the public can get involved and help the cause for peace.

CNN also did a short piece on July 22, called “Lebanon Blogger” about a Canadian-raised lebblog.gifLebanese young man living near Beiruit who is currently blogging about his take on the war in Lebanon.  Described by CNN as the “war in Lebanon, unfiltered”, Bassem Mazloum’s blog, “Lebanon Israeli Crisis”, provides a brutally honest view of the war from someone faced with the daily struggle of surviving in a war-torn country.

The war in Lebanon has also made it to YouTube.  Just by doing a quick search of “Lebanon war”, some 500 results came up, many of which are homemade videos created by people living through the war.

These blogs and videos provide personal insight to the war in Lebanon that is unusual to find among the jumble of propagandized stories published by the mainstream press.  It is quite remarkable how these bloggers and others have the frame of mind to write about and publish articles about their experiences even in such a chaotic time.  Despite the somber topic of these blogs and videos, this provides yet another example of how the Internet has changed the way people get news and the way they communicate with one another, even in a time of war.

Does MoveDigital Have Political Applications?

Techcrunch has a report today on MoveDigital, a site that gives organization a quick and easy way to distribute their videos in a variety of digital formats. I gave it a go and the site is very simple to use. The first step is to create an account and upload your video to the MoveDigital site. Copies of the video are then created in a variety of different formats, meaning end users can simply download the video to their computer in its original format (say wmv), acquire the video using bit torrent or download a version that plays on mobile video devices. Below is a screenshot of a widget you can put your website to distribute your video:

Organizations will be charged based on the amount of bandwidth they use (video size * number of users who download the video). So the pricing is based entirely on how much you use the tool. In addition, users who have accounts can choose to donate their own bandwidth to download the video.

Interestingly, according to TechCrunch, John Edward (D-NC) has already signed up for the service. You can view the torrent version of his videos here and the mobile versions here.

I think this is great technology but don’t think there are wide ranging political applications for MoveDigital during the 2006 cycle. Maybe 2008. I’m a pretty big tech nerd and I only occasionally use bit torrent and don’t really have much interest in downloading and watching videos on my phone. I’m pretty happy just watching videos on Youtube or other websites and its the rare video that I actually want to save on my computer for eternity. If I don’t do these things, I find it hard to believe that others are clamoring to at this point. Particularly to acquire campaign videos.

It’ll be interesting to watch though. And folks that are interested can monitor the Edwards page to see how he is doing - the site shows how many times each video has been downloaded.

The Politics of YouTube

Today on WashingtonPost.com I caught an article about YouTube’s emergence on the political scene entitled, “In YouTube Clips, a Political Edge” by Howard Kurtz. While it is no secret that YouTube has evolved into a hotbed for political commentary by the masses, it appears that “official” content is being repurposed as well.

I had already seen a lot of the homemade political rants and spoofs, as well as the ubiquitous clips of John Stewart and the cable news networks on YouTube, but the article inspired me to hunt down some content from “official” sources. Of course, the first one I found was from Hillary Clinton. The clip, entitled “No Public Schedule,” was taken from the New York Legislative Correspondents Association Show.

This clip shows exactly why homegrown videos are generally much more viral. “No Public Schedule” is clearly scripted, the clip is fairly long, the dialogue is boring, and although it is an attempt at humor, it is not particularly funny. The best aspect of the whole piece is the cameo appearances by a few NYC celebrities, including Donald Trump. If campaigns plan on utilizing YouTube (and other similar services) in their efforts, they need to do a lot better than this.

Trend to Watch: User Generated Campaign Spots

A recent New York Times article on the DailyKos convention in Las Vegas mentions in passing a trend that I think is going to be huge in the 2006 and 2008 campaign cycles: user generated campaign videos. The article tells the story of Ava Lowery, a 15 year old from rural Alabama whose video condemnation of the Bush administration was shown at the Daily Kos convention and has been viewed 40,000 times so far on YouTube.

Free video hosting and discovery sites like Google Video and Youtube simply didn’t exist yet in 2004. If you wanted to post a video online back then, you were probably going to have to pay. Plus, even if you did post a video chances are no one would find it since there weren’t centralized video directories people could search (YouTube and Google Video once again). Combine these factors with the plummeting price of digital video cameras and growing adoption of broadband, and you’ve got a boom in online video.

As people begin to focus on the 2006 election, I’d look for tons more videos like the one produced by Lowery. And I’ll bet one or two of them will be seen enough that they might actually have an impact on a race or two.