Posts tagged 'Media'

Make A Podcast Out Of A YouTube Username

Have you ever wanted to get an RSS feed of portable media player ready video files from a specific YouTube user? Yea neither have I. But if I ever did, I now know where to go. makes a podcast feed straight from most YouTube users uploads. You just give it a username and it spits out a feed for iTunes, Zune, or other RSS catchers. The idea is clever and YouTube does all of the encoding on it’s end. transforms the publicly available RSS feed of a YouTube user and modifies the video URLs to get the MP4 version. Then it’s just a matter of forming the RSS feed using the other meta data. Screenshot

If you ever wanted to start a video podcast you could easily let YouTube host and distribute your files to your viewers now! I just need to find some good YouTube users to follow in order to take advantage of this handy tool.

Revision3 Not Immune From Bad Economy

Internet video may be in the midst of a boom, but the Tech-TV haven Revision3 canceled 3 (how ironic) shows and laid off several well-known production staff today. If you were a fan of the shows PixelPerfect, popSiren, or Internet Superstar you’ll be disappointed to hear the shows have been canned, or more appropriate for the Internet medium, 404’d. Apparently the shows don’t fit in the long-term plan for Revision3 (grow a large audience and make a gazillion dollars.)

Revision3 Cancels Shows

Part of the staffers let go today are producers/talent Jay Speiden, Sarah Lane, and Martin Sargent, and Diggnation cameraman Glenn “Hippie” McElhose who is now freelancing for Revision3. Even though Glenn makes an appearance in nearly every episode, I figured Diggnation would be excluded from cuts due to the popularity/revenue of the show and the low cost of production. After all, how hard could it be to film two guys on a couch who frequently plug sponsors for 45 minutes every week?

I’m sad to hear that Martin is getting the boot. His show Web Drifter was a personal favorite of mine. Seeing the wacky, kooky individuals behind some of the strangest sites on the net always brought a smile to my face on my morning commute. They were supposed to start the series up this fall but it appears that won’t be happening anymore. I wonder what they will do with any unreleased episodes they’re sitting on. I’m interested to see what Martin and Jay will be doing next.

Martin Seargent and Sarah Lane Bricked By Revision3

So while Internet video may be gaining large audiences, they sure aren’t getting enough advertisers to join them. Most of the ads I’ve seen on the shows I watch are for and Audible. I’m guessing the core audience for Revision3 shows is a techie crowd. If Revision3 wants to succeed they’ll need to move more into the mainstream and/or support shows that cost a lot less to make. They are starting to do this with their Revision3 Beta program which has many shows taking cue from the couch-centric Diggnation. Maybe they should adopt a donation model like NPR or the TWiT network. Leo Laporte seems to be doing ok for himself.

Plurk Brings A Breath Of Fresh Air To Microblogging

Twitter may be the king of the 140 character-limit hill but with it being down more than it is up, it is nice to have options. Pownce was seen as a possible “Twitter killer” offering a more stylish interface and a bevy of additional features like nested replies (keeping conversations neat and tidy) and embedded media options. But it says something when one of the main people behind Pownce, Kevin Rose, flings his Twitter address all over the place. It’s a real shame because Pownce is better organized and even includes a business model. Too bad it’s a virtual ghost town compared to the fluttering Twitter community.

Dead Twitter

Plurk is a similar service with a unique visual twist. Instead of reading your messages in a linear stream, Plurk displays your correspondents on an attractive timeline. Each Plurk can be directly responded to like a mini-forum eliminating the barrage of @ responses that comes with Twitter. Taking a page from Facebook’s status update feature, Plurk lets you specify an action like “is”, “likes”, “thinks” etc. which are uniquely colored similiar to the popular Twitter mashup Twistori. The site tips the scale when it comes to AJAX effects with lots of fading modal windows but provides a rich experience for consuming the stream of information presented before you.

Plurk Timeline

The two most unique features that Plurk brings to the game are Cliques and Karma.

Cliques in Plurk are just like Cliques in real-life: an exclusive group of people. Plurk lets you separate your friends into different groups so you can better filter messages coming to you. Cliques also let you send out a message to a certain group of people so you can keep your messages to your family hidden from your group of co-workers.

Karma is a community status indicator so you can easily spot the active members from the passive on-lookers. Your score is calculated every day and is influenced by you and your friends Plurk activity as well as friend referrals. It’s a pretty clever idea by the site creators to help build buzz by giving a useless number to try and grow. Think of it like a score in a video game.

Plurk is still missing an open API so other people can build apps on top of the service and mobile support so people can send Plurks in while they are out and about. But Pownce was in the same boat when it first launched and adding those features hardly helped it’s market share. The real test will be if Plurk can attract the hordes of Twitter followers because microblogging services like this are only useful if the people you know (or want to know) are part of the game.

Oh and the mascot is a dog without a head.

Plurk and the headless dog.

Follow me on Plurk, Twitter, Pownce, and a bunch of other social services.

Russell The Movie Star

Kristina needed to make a movie for her Introductory Design class. Lucky for her she chose me as the star as my schedule just happened to be free! The movie also featured everyone’s favorite Puck the cat. I’m proud to be apart of one of the most suspenseful movies of the year. Check it out…

It took about a day to shoot all of the pictures and another full day of editing in Final Cut Express. Kristina scoured for sound effects and music in my impressive collection that I have built up over the years since I was in school. Hopefully she gets an “A” for her late night of editing, but if not, we still had fun making it even if it isn’t the most professional flick on the interwebs these days.

PodCampDC 2008

PodCamp DC Opening Keynote

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of attending the very first PodCamp DC. PodCamp is a new media unconference, meaning the participants decide the schedule of events and topics on the day of the conference rather than in advance. There was quite a diverse set of topics ranging from the nuts and bolts of podcasting in Podcasting 101 to an interactive discussion on the future of Social Media and New Journalism. The attendees were just as diverse as the topics from the young techies like myself all the way up to retired grandparents.

One thing that really surprised me was the number of senior citizens at the event. I saw a guy typing away on his Acer laptop running Ubuntu and another lady who looked to be a grandmother wearing a Red Hat Linux baseball cap. I thought the people that attended these things were mostly young computer nerds though I was pleasantly surprised to see people of all gender, color and creed.

Her Flip video camera (atleast that is what I think it is) matched her glasses.
Her Flip video camera (atleast that is what I think it is) matched her glasses.

Probably the most insightful talk of the conference was given by Gretchen Vogelzang of the MommyCast. She talked about how her and a friend turned a simple podcast about motherhood into a six-figure business attracting big name advertisers like Dixie, National Geographic, and Warner Independent films. Gretchen and Paige put a lot of research into their work and it shows with a loyal following that rivals that of a major media property.

Gretchen Vogelzang gave on of the best talks of the conference about how the MommyCast got where it is today.

Gretchen Vogelzang gave on of the best talks of the conference about how the MommyCast got where it is today.

Social Media and New Journalism was a great talk with old media veterans Jim Long (NBC News) and Andy Carvin (NPR) discussing how new media was shaking things up in the traditional news space. They covered the mass propagation of information via Twitter citing the recent Illinois earthquake which quickly spread around the Twitterverse before any traditional news team even had a clue about what was going on.

New tools like Qik let you stream live video over the Internet from your cell phone. While the quality is low there is the ability for people watching the stream to chat and send comments straight to the cell phone creating a new dynamic between producer and consumer. You can see their whole talk which as recorded using Qik below.

Another product mentioned called Utterz lets you call a phone number and leave a voicemail which will be converted and uploaded to the Internet and pushed out as a podcast. Interactive tools like Qik and Utterz make covering an event in near-realtime a possibility.

This dynamic duo talked about how New Media is disrupting journalism. They demoed Qik and Utterz and sparked lots of good ideas from the packed crowd.
This dynamic duo talked about how New Media is disrupting journalism. They demoed Qik and Utterz and sparked lots of good ideas from the packed crowd. See the footage from their talk below.

When lots of geeks get together, a gadget meet-and-greet is sure to happen. I saw a Nokia N810 Internet tablet and Asus Eee PC. Both were small, portable devices for surfing the web in a Wifi-heavy area.

Lots of gadget gawking going on at a geekfest like PodCampDC

Lots of gadget gawking going on at a geekfest like PodCampDC

The rest of the time was about meeting new people and trading ideas. I helped answer a few questions for a guy named Andrew who wanted to run a blog and video podcast all from his Blackberry. Using WordPress and Postie he can accomplish this as he travels around the country. Everyone seemed to be all abuzz about Twitter and I found a few more people to follow although it is getting harder and harder to keep up with all of my followers. I think I will be cutting back some.

Hard Time Hearing
There was so much discussion and exchange of ideas going on.

All in all, PodCamp DC was light on content but heavy on people. I heard a few complaints about the lack of technical podcasting instruction like the New Media Expo of late last year, but that’s what you get with a free, local conference. I know there will be a whole lot more presentations next year! I still had a great time hanging out with fellow web nerds.

You can see the rest of the photos from the day on my Flickr page. And if you want to see all of the pictures from the event just search for the tag ‘podcampdc

If you missed out on this unconference, there is the Social Dev Camp East coming up in 3 weeks. It is on May 10th, 2008, in Baltimore. I’ll be there and if you’ll be there do say hello.

Other PodCamp DC Recaps:

A Masters Of Digital Media Degree?

While watching video podcasts on my hourlong commute to work this morning I saw a short interview with Gerri Sinclair, the executive director at The Great Northern Way Campus. Located in Vancouver, Canada, The Great Northern Campus offers a Masters degree in Digital Media backed by four leading academic institutions: University of British Columbia; Simon Fraser University; Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design and the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Center for Digital Media - Campus

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Digital Media from the Art Institute of Philadelphia not too long ago. While A Masters in Digital Media has a nice ring to it, the courses sound rather hokey. Improvising Story and Character? Building Virtual Worlds? Classes grounded around real-world skills are more attractive to me. I don’t really see how this curriculum could prepare someone for the challenges and obstacles of digital media in the real world. Where’s the emphasis on up and coming web technologies? Online video distribution? Interface and usability design? These are the types of things I would like to advance in.

Digital media is still in it’s infancy and unlike the business, law, or medical fields, experience far outweighs any kind of degree. Plus technology is changing at such a rapid pace that it is a real challenge to nail down a curriculum that doesn’t become obsolete by the time students graduate.

(via On10)

XBMC Recruiting For Mac Port

The clever hackers that brought a media center platform to the original Xbox are at it again. Last May the group announced they were porting the Xbox media center platform to Linux and needed some help from other Linux developers. Now they are putting out a call for OS X developers to help port the software to the Apple operating system.

The original XBMC project brought photos, music, and videos from the PC to the TV. While not the easiest to set-up, I found XBMC to be the most flexible media center software I have ever dealt with. Since September of 2005, I have been watching all of my downloadable content like podcasts and webisodes from the comfort of my couch. Using a hacked Xbox and my home network I could easily stream standard definition content to my TV. Remember, there wasn’t a big boon of HD content available back then like there is now, not that the old Xbox hardware could handle the demand of even 720P video.

XBMC Windows Media Center Skin

So if you know a Mac geek that can do some C/C++ programming send them over to the XBMC guys. The more open-source media projects that are available to compete against Windows Media Center and Apple Tv/Front Row the better it will be for digital media as a whole. And this time around XBMC won’t need to be hacked together to get it working though a name change for the project might be necessary. Just imagine this thing running on an Apple Mini in your living room connected to an HDTV. Sweet!

Re: Why Social Applications Will Thrive In A Recession

Josh Bernoff wrote about how social applications will thrive during a recession. He noted advertising facts and figures from the 2001 recession to backup his claims, which all seem perfectly valid. But poor Josh seems to be missing the most important reason for social apps to keep on chugging. When massive layoffs hit companies needing to cut the fat for survival, ex-employees will be left with an abundance of time. And what can they fill that time with? Poking their friends virtually or starting a massive vampire/zombie war.

Now I don’t want to say social networks are a complete waste of time. They are kind of like a mullet: business in the front and party in the back. People will flock to social networks looking for job openings, utilizing connections, and otherwise use it for strictly business. But once the practicality runs dry they will turn to socializing and in turn pointless applications. This overload of free time is what will get social networks through the economic slump. As logical as it sounds for advertisers to keep pumping money into online advertising because it is more targeted providing a greater return on investment, social advertising is still an unproven experiment.

Targeting ads based on what people are searching for is safe. Sneaking a recommendation into a users news feed hoping they will share it with their friends, not so much.

Behind The Scenes Of Revision3’s Website

The people behind’s new look took a step into the limelight for the latest episode of the Revision3 Gazette.

Stephanie Chu, Mark Rebec and Ron Richards are the dedicated web team at Revision3 who have been laboring for months to bring the new to life and took some time out of their busy schedules to share with the Revision3 audience the answers to many burning questions.

They didn’t answer any of my burning questions as the three sat in front of a greenscreen with the new website scrolling in the background. If you agree with me that the new look is bland you will probably think the same thing about the 3-person team explaining the going-ons behind the browser.

Microsoft’s Zune 80 Is A Joy

Around the end of October my Creative Zen Vision:M suddenly died on me during my morning commute. It’s no surprise that the player finally pooped out after being with me every workday for 2+ hours a day since I got it on Christmas, 2006. It was a fine media player and I would have gotten another one except Creative wasn’t making them anymore. Besides, the new Zunes were out with better features at a much cheaper price. So naturally I decided to “join the social.”

One of my favorite features of the Zune is how it keeps your place in the song or video after powering down. This makes it a breeze to pick up where you left off without fuddling around with bookmarks and now I don’t even hesitate listening to a podcast for a short drive. With my Creative Zen Vision:M I would spend more time loading and saving my place than driving on short trips. This feature is not important if you listen to music most of the time, but a podcast junkie like myself is always starting and stopping episodes and it is a relief to have a player take care of marking the place in my audio and video files for me.

Zune 80 Front and Center

The physical design of the Zune 80 is compact and simple. The player consists of two buttons, a large 3.5″ screen and a squircle for navigating. The squircle is a combination of a touch surface and button interface. Using your thumb you can flick up or down to move through list items just like an iPhone or press up or down for more precise navigation. Holding one edge of the squircle down will gradually speed up the seeking of a list when you need to go through a lot of items. To help you stay oriented as songs scroll by, the player will show the first letter of the track in a big, easy to read font so you know when to slow down. Basic categorization like Artists and Genre is available along the top which is accessed by moving left to right. To the right of the squircle is a play/pause button which is also used as an on/off switch when held down. On the other side is a back button. Navigating around the Zune is a real pleasure and a big improvement over the Zen player I was previously using.

The dimensions are pretty much like any other hard-drive based media player on the market. The Zune 80 is thinner than my Zen Vision:M and is probably just as thin as an iPod but I don’t notice the difference during everyday use. The player fits in my backpack and in my jacket pocket and that is all I really need to carry it

A Zune 30 would have been sufficient for my needs at the discounted price and with the newer Zune 2.0 interface, but the newer Zune 80 packs better video hardware. Formerly left to transcode MP4 files for playback on my Zen, the Zune has no problem playing these processor intensive video formats natively. Lots of podcasters offer their video up in the iPod-friendly MP4 files and since I have a device that supports the codec, a bigger selection of content is available to me. With the latest firmware update, I can now unsubscribe from a podcast feed right inside the player on the go making it easy to sample new podcasts without the extra hassle of managing feeds. When I dock the Zune with my host computer, the Zune software automatically adds the new content and removes the media I watched or listened to as well as updates any podcast feeds I have marked ‘unsubscribe’.

Using the squircle on the Zune 80

Speaking of the software, the Zune 2.0 software is good enough for syncing media to your device but falls short in a lot of areas. For one, it is resource intensive causing my machine to slow down considerably when using it. To be fair, my 4 year old computer doesn’t meet the recommended requirements but I still didn’t think the software would be a big resource hog. If you don’t use the official Zune 2.0 syncing software then you are out of luck as any third party software is locked out from managing the Zune hardware. I would prefer to use the excellent Media Monkey software for organizing and syncing my media but since the Zune uses proprietary drivers, there looks to be little anyone can do to break the tie with Microsoft.

Once you have your media set-up, the software isn’t that difficult. At first there were issues with duplicate podcast episodes showing up but as I made my way through the unplayed media, the issue sorted itself out. The Zune does a great job at staying synced with my computer. I just have to plug the Zune to the USB connector and off it goes with little intervention for me. I haven’t tried using the wireless syncing yet. In face I have turned the wireless capabilities off for the time being because I have never found another Zune device nearby and I would rather save the battery power than send out messages to my non-existent Zune neighbors. But one powerful feature about the wireless capabilities in the Zune has gone unnoticed. Wireless sync only works when the player is charging. Since I only have the included USB cable which connects to my computer, it doesn’t make sense for me to use wireless sync. But if I had a the Zune dock that connects to your TV than what I basically have is an Apple TV that I can carry in my pocket. Think about it. The Zune 80 will sync wirelessly with your computer and can output video to a standard definition TV at full resolution. Anything you can watch in your pocket, you can easily enjoy on a larger TV parked in front of a comfy couch. What’s not to love about that?

My biggest complaint about the Zune is there is no obvious comfortable way to hold it, especially when watching videos. The rectangular design is simple and makes great use of the space, but there is no place to put your hands. The best way I found to handle the Zune 80 is to rest the bottom corners in the web between your thumb and the index finger of both hands. Similar to holding a book.

This is the best way to hold a Zune 80

A must have accessory for the Zune is the leather case. Not only does it protect the player from outside abuse, but it gives you something to hold on to while watching videos. The squircle pokes through but the buttons are covered but usable through the brown leather case. A large flap goes over the device to protect the screen when not in use and is secured by a magnet. It’s easy to open and stays out of your way while using the Zune.

Microsoft Zune 80 with premium leather case

If Microsoft is listening, they really need an accessory that lets you control the device while it is tucked away in a backpack. Creative had a wired remote control that allowed you to play/pause, change tracks, and adjust the volume all by a little dongle that goes between your headphones and the player. This was a dream to have on morning commutes with my Zen in my backpack and the remote clipped to my shirt. A wireless version would be cool but dealing with a battery to keep it charged sounds like a big hassle.

After a month of using the Zune 80 and putting it through it’s paces, I am really happy with my purchase. Every morning I wake up with glee knowing that my commute will not be a dull, monotonous one-hour train ride thanks to my slick media player to keep me informed and entertained. If a digital media player is part of your daily life then you will know how important it is to compare what is on the market and find the best player for your needs. Apple vs. Microsoft politics aside, the Zune is a fantastic device that I could enthusiastically recommend to any media junkie I meet. Don’t let the trash talking sway you, as I truly believe the Zune 80 is the best portable media player out on the market right now.

Update: On January 8th, after writing the bulk of this review, my Zune suffered a software crash as I was walking home from work. The podcast that I was listening to suddenly stopped and the screen read “Could not play track”. Thinking it was a problem with just the MP3 file itself, I tried to play a song from my music library. When I selected play from an album view my player froze and became unresponsive to any button mashing I attempted. When I got in front of my computer I looked up the hard reset button combo which requires holding the back button and the top of the squircle. This Microsoft knowledge base article details everything you need to know. Upon reboot I was greeted with this lovely message, “To recover from an error, Zune must erase all content.” The only option was to hit “OK” by pressing the middle of the squircle. The media player would then reboot and this process continued forever in an endless loop.

After digging around on the net for a better solution, I decided my only course of action was to replace the firmware and completely wipe out my nearly 40GB collection. Following these arcane directions, I managed to get my Zune back to its factory default. It then took me all night to reload all of the songs from my library back onto my fresh Zune.

I suspect this crash was due to a hard drive glitch and I can’t really blame Microsoft for the fragile nature of hard drive based portable media players. Problems like this will eventually be a thing of the past once solid state flash memory, which has no moving parts, comes down in price. For now I thought it was important to add this addendum to the review of what problems can happen after normal use out in the wild.