Archive for August, 2008

About a year ago I had a bizarre experience where someone I was hoping to connect with in finance finally admitted they were avoiding me because several other folks at a conference had warned this person that I was “a blogger”. I was stunned: I have never slammed anyone or revealed confidential information and it seemed it was the mere fact of me having a blog that made this crowd suspicious and wary. That experience resulted in my post explaining why I have a blog. Last night my spouse and I watched a video that once again leaves me feeling intrigued, amazed, increasingly left behind and thinking that if people can’t deal with me having a blog, well….you’d better watch this: An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube. It’s 55 minutes and worth every second.

It’s a really thoughtful study of why people vlog (video blog, essentially) a history of major social events in the development of YouTube, and itself a pretty impressive remix by the author/presenter. I literally felt chills watching a video section of internet lawyer Larry Lessig talking about how everything people do on YouTube is at some level illegal due to copyright law (yes there’s fair use, but media companies have gotten the act of acquiring material itself by “ripping” DVDs made illegal). Larry’s voice is speaking, his key words are appearing on the screen as digital text, and this is overlaid onto dramatic music and an artistic video made from copyrighted movie content that has been beautifully re-rendered. We looked for the source and it seems Professor Wesch and his research group (as participant anthropologists) blended two videos themselves: one is a Larry Lessig’s talk, I think it’s the TED talk on how “the law is strangling creativity” .
The other is a video called “Us” by a user called “blimvisible”. On YouTube this user actually has her (Professor Wesch also excerpted some online dialog that suggested blimvisible is female) own “channel” and you can find the video there as well as see a channel view of YouTube. This video itself is a remix of lots of copyrighted movie clips placed to a copyrighted and not-re-recorded song with a chorus about how we are all living “in a den of thieves”.

Professor Wesch talks about the YouTube “community” and the dialogs that happen there, but I wonder if those communities are a little threatening for folks on the fringe. With all these “communities” if you don’t stay in the conversation, it gets away from you. Perhaps for some the thought that a conversation could be occurring about themselves or issues important to them in a forum that is overwhelming for them to monitor, is itself overwhelming. I seem to have some resignation to it, possibly because I’ve been in tech for a while. Perhaps here’s where I benefit from growing up reading the Washington Post, where the lesson I drew from its coverage of federal politics is that there are no secrets and you bet somebody is going to publicly skewer you with yours sooner or later. As a kid always wanting to minimize closed doors, I ended up a bit of a goody two-shoes. Little did most of us know we’d all be public, in this disconcerting and difficult-to-manage way where the distance between obscurity and global scrutiny can be a matter of hours and a few seconds of video.

There are tools to help. I asked Darrin what he uses to keep abreast of Picnik news and he has used blogsearch.google.com, Google alerts and Technorati over time, though now Picnik gets sufficient mainstream coverage and the company has enough employees internally sharing news that he doesn’t use those so much anymore. He also mentioned search.twitter.com, where I can see that people have “twittered” about Picnik: 44 minutes ago, an hour ago and 17 hours ago (to which Darrin responds “wow, that’s a dry spell!”, but it is also Sunday morning). Comparatively, the most recent “tweet”s about ‘Socially Responsible Investing’ were 1 day ago, 3 days ago and 11 days ago.

While there’s value in figuring out which info streams are the ones for you (Professor Wesch says that most videos are seen by 100 or fewer people) and how to stay up to date, my best suggestion comes from Pema Chodron: clear seeing, calm abiding and letting go.

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