Sunday, March 25, 2007

Voter Generated Content, Take Two

As has been pointed out by my good friend, Bill Kent, in the comments to my previous post on this topic, the now infamous Hillary/Barack/Apple/1984 video mash-up was not quite so independently produced as was initially thought.

But... This does not change anything I said about voter generated content, and the impact it could have in the 2008 presidential election. In fact, in some ways, it supported what I wrote about the official process masquerading as voter generated content.

Here's an example of the real thing... The guy who shot it, Zennie Abraham, is real. I've met him, and he and I are YouTube friends. This is just a voter and supporter (but not staff or professional PR flack) shooting some footage of a rally, and posting it online for the public to see:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Voter Generated Content

A new term entered into the political and viral video lexicons over the past few days, "Voter Generated Content." Although I'm quite sure there have been previous examples of voter generated content, the video that led to the coining of the term, and is causing all the big fuss this week is this:

The video, "Vote Different," uses Apple's famous 1984 advertisement announcing the introduction of the Macintosh. Big Brother from the original ad has been replaced with Hillary Clinton, representing the Democratic establishment, and the hero is now wearing a t-shirt with the logo from Obama Barack's presidential campaign.

Why is this video creating such a stir, when other voters have been making vlogs and home-made ads promoting their candidates (or bashing others) for a couple of years already?

Because this one is well-produced, and has had over 1,000,000 million hits in just a few days. This one is causing a stir, because it is the first "voter generated content" that has garnered major media attention, and that candidates have to respond to.

This is an exciting development for democracy that opens up the debate to every citizen who has the skills to get their message out there, without the need to be a part of any official committee, party, or FEC filing - And it will be seen as a dangerous development for democracy that takes away any ability to control a candidate's message, control who pays how much for a candidate's campaign, or any verification or spurious charges.

While I think many of the fears are over-stated, and I tend to agree more with the positive and exciting elements of voter generated content, I am also jaded enough to realize that within weeks each major campaign will have staff dedicated to generating mock-voter generated content.

Candidates who want to get a negative message out to the masses, but want to maintain an arm's distance from the message (plausible denial), will be planting videos through volunteers who have no official connection to the campaigns. It will soon become difficult to tell the difference between authentic voter generated content and the candidate's own stealth campaigns.

Still, this danger is better than the alternative of trying to regulate what individual vloggers and viral video hobbyists can say or do in their original content.

Digital democracy is exciting, but nobody said that it wouldn't get messy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.6

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.6 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away. Once again, a day late, but that's only to ensure your reading pleasure...

Only a handful of postings made it into this week's edition, but I assure you, they're all well worth reading.

Carnival of the Decline of DemocracyBarry Leiba presents Abusing the USA PATRIOT Act posted at Staring At Empty Pages.

Rick Sincere presents AEI, Brookings Sponsor Election Reform Conference posted at Sincere News and Thoughts.

David Parker presents Helen Keller and "subversive verses" posted at another history blog.

Rich Brooks presents National Leadership Award from Congressman Tom Reynolds (and the follow-up, Congressman Tom Reynolds: Shame On You!) posted at flyte: web marketing strategies for small business.

vjack presents Cultural Divisions and the News Media posted at Atheist Revolution.

The next edition of the Carnival will be posted (we hope) on Monday, April 3rd, 2007 with entries requested by Saturday, April 1st, at midnight -- April Fool's themes are welcomed!. Submit your blog post for the next edition of the carnival of the decline of democracy using our carnival submission form. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Can an old guy make it in the world of online video?

In my time on YouTube and LiveVideo, it has certainly been pointed out to me many times that I'm a bit older than the "typical" 'Tuber.

Actually, I've found plenty of other old, tired, gray-haired dudes that I'm proud to call my friends, but the fact is that it's the younger generation (and a couple of notable exceptions from the much older set) that get all the attention, video views, and subscribers.

So, what's an old dude to do if he wants to promote his channel to the masses?

Watch today's video and see what I mean...

Friday, March 16, 2007

A step toward a national primary; A step away from democracy

The 2008 presidential candidates are all drastically re-thinking their primary season strategies, now that California has moved its primary up to an early date of February 5. As a Californian, I'm supposed to be thrilled with the idea, and agree with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said that:
Moving our presidential primary election from June to February means California will have the influence it deserves when it comes to choosing America's next presidential candidates.
But is it true that California previously had no influence on presidential primaries? And is this step toward a national primary actually a good thing for our democracy? I think it's possible that the answer to each to each of these questions is "no."

First of all, California has always had plenty of influence on the race, the question is simply, "What type of influence?" While the average voter has had to wait until June to let their voice be heard at the primary ballot box, California has always played an early and important role in the money primary.

Whether it's wooing liberals in Hollywood, talking to visionary libertarians in Silicon Valley, or reassuring traditional values ranchers in the Central Valley, candidates from every party and all political views come to California to meet, greet, and get a check from the leaders of the Golden State's three major industries.

While the average Californian doesn't get the same opportunity for face time with candidates the way they do in New Hampshire, we certainly are made aware of their visits, and have the chance to support our favorites by voting with our checkbooks.

So, the early primary doesn't really give us that much more voice in presidential matters. In fact, by forcing Californians to go on record earlier in the primary season, we actually get less of a chance to see how our candidates perform as they stump across the country, debate, and demonstrate their leadership skills and ideas.

And that, in fact, may be bad for our democracy. As more and more states join the rush to be among the early deciders, to "make their voice heard," we head a step closer towards establishing a single, national primary (or, at least a small number of "Super Tuesdays" that shorten the primary season to a handful of weeks).

This does not favor democracy. This does not favor debate, deep discussion, or the evolution of ideas. A national primary favors one thing above all else, and you know what it is: Money. It favors a recognized name and reputation, yes, but those things are just a part of money and establishment.

No room for underdogs or dark horses here. A pretty face, well recognized, and ready with a short sound-bite is all that will matter in the national primary.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like the idea of testing a candidate, and getting to know him or her over a period of months, through a series of local and regional elections that get larger and more complicated throughout the year. Seeing who gets burnt out, and who gets stronger, is a big part of deciding who you think can lead the nation in times of adversity and stand up to greater challenges.

So, we Californians now have an early primary. Yippee. I'm so happy to live in such exciting times.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More on Viacom, Viral Video, and a word from the future

My posting the other day about the Viacom lawsuit against YouTube/Google was, of course, not the only comment in the blogging or vlogging world about this. You'd think it was the lawsuit of the century the way it's been talked about - and in some ways, that might not be too far off the mark.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which caused a bit of an uproar a few years ago when it passed, will be tested here, and the results could have far reaching effects well beyond the world of YouTube.

Are common carriers and service providers responsible for the acts of their users? The DMCA says no, but Viacom says that YouTube's business model is based on copyright violation, and therefor they have made themselves responsible. Viacom, of course, owns iFilm and other net properties that have the same attitude toward copyright as YouTube.

Beyond all this, which you can read on any blog, or hear in any vlog, I want to make one quick comment, with example, about the power of viral video. This is bigger than YouTube, and its because the content creators extend far beyond Viacom.

Whatever happens to YouTube, viral video will survive based on what we, the vlogging community, create -- not based on what we rip from our TV screens.

Among the thousands of blog posts about the lawsuit was this one from CrapHammer, 'Viacom causes quite a stir'. Within that posting, Sean embedded a video from YouTube on the subject. Here it is for you:

Recognize that fellow? Why, it's me of course. I discovered this by accident, there was no permission granted, and no permission required. In my YouTube preferences, I click the box to allow embedding. This is how viral video works.

So, while you're hearing all the shouting from each side of this Viacom versus YouTube debate, remember this: online video is not all about posting poorly encoded chopped up clips from South Park. Original content, shared among users, as a means of communications --- This is viral video.

To demonstrate my point further, here's a Viacom parable, courtesy of Dr. Metropolis:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dr. Evil sues the future!

Yes, at long last, the lawsuit you've been waiting for... Media giant Viacom (MTV, Comedy Central, Sponge Bob) sues Google/YouTube for One Billion Dollars!

So, what's going on here, besides the dinosaurs protecting their eggs?

1 - Many YouTube users upload copyrighted material that is owned by Viacom (and others).

2 - Many other YouTube users prefer to watch such clips on YouTube at their own leisure, rather than at the times dictated by TV and cable stations.

3 - YouTube uses "passive copyright enforcement," meaning that it is up to copyright owners to file complaints, rather than an active system of screening every upload for possible copyright violations.

4 - This happens on every video site, not just YouTube, but the other video sites have no assets of their own and are not owned by asset-rich Google.

5 - Viacom, being a dinosaur, is unable to adapt to the new media realities, and prefers to throw its massive weight around in a way designed to crush the new media.

6 - Viacom may make some headway in this battle, but ultimately it cannot win the larger fight for the future of how we choose to be entertained.

Bottom line: Viacom cannot un-invent broadband, file sharing, or the desire for creativity and freedom.

What can they do (if there weren't dinosaurs, that is)?

1 - Accept that the technology to capture and edit their content is not going to vanish just because they sued Google.

2 - Embrace the users using short clips (either unedited, or re-formatted into new derivative works) as their grassroots promotional team. Continue to request the removal of complete, unedited programs from YouTube where warranted.

3 - Negotiate in good faith with GooTube (and others) for a reasonable copyright and royalty solution for the future that recognizes that media creations cannot be controlled the way they have been in the past.

And, finally,

4 - Admit that they got the One Billion Dollars figure from Austin Powers and pay a royalty on it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Bigger than YouTube, Bigger than MySpace!" - Why bother?

The question on the mind of anybody who follows Web 2.0 businesses and technology is always something like, "Who will topple MySpace?" or, "Who will knock out YouTube?" The assumption being that as these market leaders get old, fat, and lazy, it will allow for newer, more nimble competitors to take over their position as the new market leader.

Here's a radical concept for you: Newer, more nimble companies should forget about trying to be the leader in either online communities or viral video, and concentrate instead on niche markets. Get ready for the latest web sensation: specialized sites for online interaction.

The SFGate article linked to above is primarily about community sites (ie: mini-MySpaces), but I believe the same principals can and should apply to video sites as well. The article details all the the companies concentrating on either building niche community sites, or providing the tools for users to create their own niche communities.

What I haven't seen in this article, or anywhere on the web yet, are companies focusing on niche markets for viral video sites. Why try to be YouTube, who wants to everything to everybody (and disappointing everybody in the process), when you can be the video leader for a certain sub-market that's already got a community identification? Why not a viral video site just for musicians? Or a viral video site specifically built around the needs of disabled people? Or mountain climbers, or cat or dog owners, or...?

The untapped, open market for anybody planning on creating a viral video site in the next six months is this: niche markets. A viral video site that's not one big open space, but is a combination of smaller, community-branded spaces. Here, I'm giving you this idea. This concept is now out in the ether for anybody to use. But, if you use it, and if you read it here first, I won't complain if you reward me with some pre-IPO stock or other remuneration.

YouTube isn't going anywhere, and it will likely be the market leader for the foreseeable future, but its over-all share will a smaller percentage of the whole. It's not that YouTube's slice of the pie will shrink; it's that the pie itself will grow. And a big part of that growth can (and should) come from more specialized viral video sites.

Topic two: Incentives to participate... One possible way to entice users to these new community sites is to provide incentives. Going back to the SFGate article, here's how one community site about clubbing (sponsored by Anheuser-Busch) does it:
MingleNow has been photographing clubbers "clinking" beer mugs and uploading the photos onto their Web site. Users gather points every time they upload their own photos (4 points), invite a friend online (1 point) or comment (2 points). Those who rack up 40 points become VIP members and gain access to MingleNow parties at their favorite nightspots. ... In some cases, the clubs are paying MingleNow to take pictures in their clubs, and in others clubs are banking on the increased online buzz to drive customers their way.
That's a cute idea, and if it works it will be because the incentive (private parties) is meaningful to that community. If the incentive were simply a coupon for $1 off a 12-pack of Bud Light it might not be as effective. Cash is always a good incentive, and both YouTube and LiveVideo have each promised to join Revver in sharing their revenue with content creators. But, specialized communities have more opportunity to create meaningful non-cash incentives than general communities.

Linda Stone, a pioneer in social networking a decade ago at Microsoft who now lectures and writes on technology topics, leaves us with our final word of wisdom for the day, "First, the technology has to be easy for the consumer." Second, "it has to add value to their lives."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Coulter: "Offensive remarks OK if they're not true!"

The story, if you haven't heard it by now, is that conservative "writer" Ann Coulter, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), said, "I was going to have a few comments about John Edwards but you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot.'"

But don't get upset, because she wasn't accusing the Democratic Presidential candidate of being a homosexual, nor was she implying anything negative about homosexuals by using that "f" word. It would only be insulting, according to Coulter, if Edwards really were gay.
The word I used has nothing to do with sexual preference. It is a schoolyard taunt, and unless you're going to announce here on national TV that John Edwards, married father of many children, is gay, it clearly had nothing to do with that. It's a schoolyard taunt.
You hear that? Coulter's use of an offensive term was not offensive because it wasn't true. It's only a harmless "taunt" meant to call somebody's masculinity into question and make implications about their sexual preferences by using negative stereotypes of a minority group.

Nothing offensive about it. Unless, of course, somebody else wants to out Edwards as really being gay. Come on... I double-dog dare you...

What Coulter is saying with this "apology" is that she'd gladly admit to making offensive anti-gay remarks if somebody will step forward with proof that John Edwards enjoys hot man-on-man action.

And this is the state of political discourse in America in 2007.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.5

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.5 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away. Okay, let's get right to it!

Carnival of the Decline of Democracygreen | rising presents Does Capital Punishment Make For A Sustainable Society?

Phil for Humanity presents Do You Think You Live in a Democracy or a Republic?.

Rickey Henderson presents Shhhh! He's Pondering! posted at Riding with Rickey.

Dave Burdick presents Gloves come off in Libertarian primary race.

John presents The soldiers I've known posted at hell's handmaiden.

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Why Does George Bush Hate Our Troops? posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

brent diggs presents Webster’s To Reclassify ‘Nuclear’ As Two Syllable Word posted at The Ominous Comma.

The next edition of the Carnival will be posted on Monday, March 19th, 2007 with entries requested by Saturday, March 17th, at midnight. Submit your blog post for the next edition of the carnival of the decline of democracy using our carnival submission form. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A**holes: certified and amateur

Warner Business Books will shortly be releasing a new book that will is destined to be a business classic, if only for its title: The No Asshole Rule - Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't, by Stanford Professor Robert I. Sutton.

Beyond the catchy title (that I'm sure just about everybody who's ever had a job can relate to), Sutton actually does have something to say about the toxic effect of a**holes on the workplace:
Assholes have devastating cumulative effects partly because nasty interactions have a far bigger impact on our moods than positive interactions - five times the punch, according to recent research. ... These findings help explain why demeaning acts are so devastating. It takes numerous encounters with positive people to offset the energy and happiness sapped by a single episode with one asshole.
There are also, according to Sutton, degrees of a**hole activity. We all may be guilty of occasional bad moods leading to "temporary a**hole" status. And then, there are those who qualify as "certified a**holes."

Many people have suggested that I should get certified, but I don't want to give up my amateur status.

Read more about the book, and Don Griesmann's full review, at

Friday, March 02, 2007

Yes, I'm evil - And a new Carnival!

I'm a horrible blogger. There, I'm sorry. February was a busy, crazy month, starting with a funeral, ending with major new work assignments, and stuffed with many other distractions in between. I promise to be better in March.

Over on my Highway 17 Music blog, I've just posted the second edition of the Carnival of the Blogging Guitarists. Readers of this blog are familiar with my Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, so just picture the same concept, but non-political, and with six steel strings.

To ease you on over there, here's a cross-over post: William Losapio on Anyone Attempting to Persuade Using Limbaugh Logic Will Be Removed From the Premises! Yes, there is a guitar connection there, you'll have to read his post to find out what it is.

Twitter Feed