Interactive Video Live Web Online Identity The Social Web

The Value of Portable Social networks

CNN / Facebook
CNN videostream with Facebook integration (zoom)

The Obama inauguration was broadcasted everywhere. Every upcoming video sharing-, hosting- or distributionservice did something around the big Obama event.

I think the most exiting and successful combination was what CNN did together with Facebook. CNN had a high quality live videostream with Facebook updates from your friends talking about the video stream.

The power of distribution
Current TV
Current TV on the web (zoom)

Current TV was also broadcasting the event on television and used Twitter. Which is great for television, because television is a one-to-many medium and you can easily interact with the television by using a Twitter client on your phone or laptop.

Facebook was the best option for the web. Watching video on the web is more a personal and more interactive experience. This is what Facebooks adds. You’re watching the stream, not with the world (like Twitter+TV) but with your friends/contacts.

The computer is much more personal compared to a television and thus the interaction should be more personal as well. My social network is not your social network. It’s a distributed conversation.

Portable Social Networks
These kind of combinations or applications can only be created if social networks are (partly) open and allow services like CNN to use the network. For this event CNN didn’t create conversation tools, networks or any other infrastructure. They just connected the dots of Facebook to the dots of what they do best. Making live television.

This is what happens when services open up. You get the best of both worlds. Portable social networks are the future.

NY Times
NY Times
The New York Times homepage (zoom)

Ustream (zoom)

Joost (zoom)

Experiments Featured Live Web Music Online Identity Projects

The Eclectro Lovewall installation (video)

Eclectro Lovewall (interactive bluetooth installation) from Wilbert Baan on Vimeo.

Yesterday we had the first Eclectro party. As written in the last post I was working on a bluetooth/ application. And it worked :)

The Eclectro lovewall is an interactive installation that uses bluetooth to scan for mobile phones. Visitors are asked to change the bluetooth name of their phone into their username.

A laptop scans the room using the open source Roomware software. It connects to random visitors and searches the database for similarity. It then shows the similarity on a big screen by showing the profiles. A percentage and five artists both have in common.

The installation worked well and I got a lot of very positive feedback by enthusiastic visitors. A few things I learned.

  • It is possible to have a zero percent match but still have artists in common.
  • Similar artists are often Gorillaz, U2, Muse, Air.
  • It is very easy to join, people see something happen and they think it’s too difficult to join. If you tell them that all it takes is changing the bluetooth name of their mobile phone they are really surprised.
  • Explain, explain, explain.
  • People like seeing their avatars on a screen. Only showing avatars would probably make a successful application by itself.
  • Make the screen dark. I used grey photographs and still the brightness of the beamer lightened up the entire place.
  • The internet connection at public places is almost always difficult (unstable/low signal).

The interface with testdata (working demo)

Open in new window

And the photographs + Roomware installation
on Flickr + Roomware installation
on Flickr

on Flickr

Poster Eclectro loves bluetooth friendfinder
on Flickr

on Flickr

on Flickr

Starborough test de dj-tafel
on Flickr

Notes Online Identity


Last week I received the book Web-tv written by Bob Timroff. The Dutch book describes everything you ever wanted to know about publishing video or videoblogs on the web. From copyrights to video formats to aggregators, everything. ( and my graduation project are featured in the book as well.

A video is personal
It is more personal than text and even more personal than a picture. If you record video with your webcam or your mobile phone and you are in it you are broadcasting yourself.

Not only your thoughts (blog), not just your voice (podcast) or your esthetic moments (photo blog). You are broadcasting your mimics, how you move, how you talk, how you look.

By default we seem to be afraid to see ourself on video. It’s like watching a 3d mirror with a delay. You notice every little thing. Things you don’t always like about yourself. After a while you get used to this and it matters less.

The video blog, or the option to easily share ‘personal’ video is a new form of personal expression made public. More personal and more direct. We have to get used to this. Video feels very strong connected to privacy.

Video was always a very scarce medium. You needed access to movies or television and you needed to have message or idea. Television had to be interesting to be broadcasted. This does not longer exist.

Social networks are changing how we think about privacy. Privacy is retreating actively from the web, in other words privacy is not signing in to your profiles or comment on your virtual hideouts.

If you act in public spaces off- and online you will end up somewhere on the web, probably without knowing. This could be party pictures, your MySpace profile or a videoblog you make.

Seesmic is a service by Loïc Le Meur that tries to convert the conversation into video. Make video comments instead of text. It’s an interesting idea, I don’t know if it will always work, but I think this is the time for it. We are making a cultural shift. We’re less afraid to publish video featuring ourselves talking directly into a webcam and use video to give our personal opinion.

This poses new problems of course. Video is difficult for scanning by humans and by computers. How do you find the things that matter most without watching hours of (sometimes irrelevant/funny) comments.

The videoblog still exists. Only it’s a format for structural video. Like programs on television. The production is often far less professional than television, but there is some structure.

The large amount of video that is coming to the web has no structure at all, it will be thoughts and comments that have no meaning without the right context. And I think this is great. It makes the web a more personal space and this is the next step to a more immersive online experience.

Experiments Featured Interactive Storytelling Journalism Live Web Mobile Music Notes Online Identity

Urban Explorers 2008, reviewing the experiment

While waiting for Murcof at the airport we asked Jimmy Edgar if he would like to improvise something on an old Casio keyboard. Recorded on the roof (full recording) of Schiphol (Amsterdam airport / AMS)

The festival was a great success. Exhausting, but really great. During the festival we made around 400 posts on the special microblog.

What worked
Mobile services worked very well. Sending a photo through Mobypicture and directly sending an audio file through Gabcast give a really strong storytelling experience. Twitter messages are like SMS. Great to keep context in the timeline without actually having ‘to produce’ something.

Avatars on Eclectro Live

I think our idea to connect everything you post to an avatar (like Twitter), and make the coverage as personal as possible really helped keeping it clear for our viewers. At least for how much this is possible given the enormous amount of information produced. Organizing it on time gives a very good overview of what was important or special during the festival.

Microblogs are really strong live applications. Afterwards they are less exciting to watch. You can use it as a collection of material where you can search items for articles elsewhere.

The WordPress XMLRPC is wonderful. From the 400 posts we have published almost none of those was made on the website itself. The posts were created using other websites and automatically posted to Making publishing really easy.

What didn’t work
Video is difficult. Or at least uploading video is difficult. if you record a video it is still difficult to upload. When we recorded a video in high quality using a mobile phone (N95) the files get easily close to 10 Megabytes. If you want to upload/e-mail these files using UMTS you’re not only giving your battery a hard time, you’re also making it impossible to upload anything else during this process. Wifi often wasn’t available and when it was it was too unstable to upload or e-mail video.

I think services like Qiktv or Seesmic Mobile are interesting because the web-server is recording instead of your camera. Unfortunately those services can’t directly post a recording to a blog, yet.

We used a photo camera for recording video as well. This worked very well, the quality is good and Flickr is a great service for distributing files shorter than 90 seconds. The files recorded with the 8 Megapixel Sony Camera are around a 100 Megabytes. Uploading a 100 Megabytes in size. This requires you (or your laptop) to spend at least a few hours on a restaurant Wifi. Missing out on the festival. In the end we uploaded most files at night or in the morning.

We recorded the interviews on DV camera. This worked perfect, since there is no urge in getting the longer interviews directly on the web.

Two blogs
My idea was to maintain two blogs. The Eclectro blog and the Eclectro Live blog. /Live would be about us, a personal story about how we experienced the festival. The main blog would present interviews and reviews. This was just too much. We simply couldn’t make all this in a weekend and have a good time.

Ideas for live blogging / micro blogging
Op de parkeerplaats
You need a central spot with a computer and good internet connection. A central spot on the festival where you can empty a camera and upload a batch of files.

Think about what you want to do and if this is possible. Think about how you keep it clear to your audience what they are looking at. Most people don’t know what is happening and they have to understand what it is and why you are publishing. We explained it with a short introduction movie.

A few people asked me to add more structure to the website and make it easier to scan what happened over time. I think we need even more timeline based structure in a next version.

If you are telling a story make sure to tell everything. Tell what you expect and afterwards tell if your expectations were right or wrong. Make returning jokes / running gags. Keep it personal and keep your audience informed.

Jimmy Edgar performing on stage later that day

Hauschka is playing at the Urban Explorers festival 2008, Dordrecht, Netherlands from Wilbert Baan on Vimeo.
Hauschka adds little things like bells, plastic and metal to the piano using tape. A piano mash-up :)

Interactive Storytelling Interactive Video Online Identity Photography

Flick Radio, experimental radio drama with Flickr visuals

Flick Radio Screenshot RVU
Flick Radio is a Dutch (English subtitled) Radio drama about storytelling and about Flickr. Flick Radio is about a lot of things, but mostly it’s about Flickr. How we perceive identities on Flickr or in virtual worlds in general, we think to know people by the photos or items they post. And we fill in what we don’t know.

It’s a very interesting experiment and visual documentary made with ‘found footage’. It deserves your attention if you like documentaries, storytelling or photography.

Watch it in full screen DivX or in lower quality on YouTube.

Accessibility Featured Notes Online Identity

What happens to websites when your information is free to move?

Hypernarrative end of the website

Social websites are getting better, more used, more open and more complete. Why should you start a website or blog if you can also write on your Facebook. Or why wouldn’t you transfer or duplicate all your data from your Facebook to any other social network or widget.

Do we need custom coded websites?
We need interfaces that show the information, but do we still need custom coded websites? We’re transfering data via xml, rss and api’s from one website to another. We import contacts from one service into another. We’re trying to work to a universal/sigle sign-on and to standards in open social techniques. Technology (widgets) and design (templates) are available to everyone, you just take what you need.

The field is rapidly shifting, we are clustering information around people not around services anymore. Information gets easily transportable and because of this, free of the website it is presented on. There are already many communities and I’m sure the amount of smaller communities will grow fast within the next years.

Why start a website, if you actually would like to start a community? Communities are about engagement and engagement is the ultimate goal for most websites and the base for a long term relationship between provider and user.

I’m writing these articles on my hypernarrative blog, but why should I? It’s a closed environment (except full article RSS). I could as well start writing this on my Facebook, Flickr or Ning. As long as you all move with me :)

I don’t need a special website to express myself. I need an outlet to publish my thoughts, a community and readers that sometimes give me valuable feedback, ispire or correct me. And the funny thing is that my chances finding these readers in social networks are growing.

My options are changing. First I made a blog because it gave me freedom of publishing. I could stop using Dreamweaver for updates, change the lay-out or control the information anytime I wanted.

We’re getting into a situation where I don’t need to run my own blogsoftware or website to be in full control of my information. With the direction social networks are moving I can easily move my information everywhere I want, when I want.

The barrier of technology had its peak, for now. Everyone can make what he or she likes. We just need to find the tools we need. The real challenge in launching a successful website is in building a great community.

Featured Online Identity Social Classification The Social Web

How we created a metadata profile

My tagcloud
This is me, these are words extracted from every 850+ post ever published on hypernarrative. This is meta data; data about data. It tells you what hypernarrative is about, and since it’s kind of a personal blog it also tells you something about me. These words are related to the things I care about.

The size emphasizes its frequency and thus importance. Sure, most of these tags are general words. The value is not in the individual tag but in the collection of tags.

The last years semantic classification in the form of tags got really big. Not mainstream, but big. Why? Because it is a raw classification, you don’t need to know classification structures to order data the same way scientists used to know to order species (how many legs does this creature have?). Tags are free and easy, I can tag objects the way I like, there are no rules and you don’t need any knowledge.

In the last years we have created a new layer to information on the web, we tagged hyperlinks, photos, video’s, presentations and articles. Almost every new website gives us the option to tag. Tags are the new categories. Categories are closed, tags are open and infinite.

My semantic profile
But what if we trace tags back? Tags tell you something about the tagger. What if you would trace back all my web accounts and the tags I have used. If you collect this information in a database you have a semantic layer about me. I have a semantic profile, and this is valuable.

It shouldn’t be difficult the come up with an application that can use this. For example you could make a social network that automatically connects you to other people that have similar interests through the tags they have used on Flickr (what they have seen for real) on YouTube (what they made) on Delicious (what they like) on blogs (what they care about) and more.

It would create a cross websites social network that doesn’t need an invitation system. It just connects you to minds alike based on what you have done already. Maybe it’s already out there.

Link to the picture on Flickr