The Secure Smart Camera App for Human Rights Video : Video For Change :: A WITNESS blog

Bryan at WITNESS put up a blog post concerning the app that I am working on along with other Guardian folks.

The Secure Smart Camera App for Human Rights Video : Video For Change :: A WITNESS blog.

It’s worth a look if you are interested in the intersection of human rights, mobile technology and citizen media. It’s an open source Android project too!

Major League Baseball and the Live Web

Some time ago, I cut the cord.. disconnected from cable. Some time after that, I got rid of the antenna as well.

I still watch television content, just not over the air or via cable; rather with a Mac Mini hooked up to my TV via the internet.

For the most part this works out just fine. I have no lack of video available due to a Netflix plan for both DVD and streaming (I use the streaming service waaaaaaaaay more than the DVD service), Hulu, and streaming, video podcasts and BitTorrent. (I am by no means alone, many people I know have a similar setup.)

The one part that doesn’t work out so well is when I want to watch a live televised event. TV it turns out is a pretty good medium for dissemination of live events. It is on these occasions that I generally miss having cable or an antenna hooked up to my TV.

Specifically during the last election I had a hard time watching the returns come in via streaming stations, during the last Superbowl I actually ran a long coax cable out to my yard hooked up to an antenna to watch the commercials.

Last week, I decided that I wanted to watch some of the baseball playoffs (this week it is the World Series). Being able to go out and watch the game at a bar is an option, I did so the first night but I can’t do that for every game. For the next game, I decided that I would try to watch it live online.

I noticed at first that the MLB did have some kind of streaming service but I wasn’t ready to plop almost $30 for a subscription..

Instead, I checked for the game on Justin.TV and UStream. Unsurprisingly, it was there (and a lot of people were watching). MLB it seems doesn’t have the resources to shut down (through DMCA takedown notices) pirate streams very quickly. I loved the chat room on the one that I was watching. It was a bit like being at a bar but actually talking when I liked and ignoring when I didn’t (which is a bit hard when the drunk next to you decides to talk to you in a bar).
ustream baseball

The best version I found was a stream of an ESPN broadcast from India. I was watching the game with people from all over the US and the world. It was fun, people were chatting, talking about where they are from, which teams they like and so on. It was also kind of fun to watch the commercials from India especially since I didn’t know what half of the products/companies were. The quality of the stream wasn’t that great, it stuttered at times, it was pixelated, definitely wasn’t good enough to watch full screen and so on..

Unfortunately, being the internet, the chat at times would turn ugly. The trolls showed unfortunately showed up and did everything possible to incite anger in those there to simply watch and talk about the game.

Shortly after that, the stream was shut down due to a DMCA takedown.

This seemed pretty ridiculous to me. The broadcast I was watching was a low quality version of what was already on TV. The commercials were in place, MLB or Fox wasn’t paying for the bandwidth and so on. It was just opening up the game to an audience that couldn’t ordinarily watch it on TV due to where they live or not having a television available. I do understand copyright and the law and I know that this is illegal but I still don’t see the point is doing anything about it. Perhaps if MLB or Fox just made it available they could make a bit of money showing some relevant commercials..

In any case, it was time to go back to and have a look see. After trying to figure out if I could even watch if I paid for it (it seemed I couldn’t since there was a “National Blackout”), I decided to try out the alternate service: I thought that it was actually just a way to watch the playoffs rather than the full service and it seemed it didn’t have the same blackout restrictions.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) that isn’t precisely what you get when you sign up for What you get is a pretty slick service where you can pick and choose which cameras (up to 4 at once) you want to watch. You get the live audio from the TV broadcast. The cameras you can choose from are the same ones they have available for TV (blimp, slow motion and dugout included).
What you don’t get is the actual switching that occurs for the live TV broadcast. This is somewhat problematic since you can only see a portion of the action at any given time and many of the cameras when they aren’t live on air are moving around quite a bit, setting up the next shot and so on. It is actually very difficult to watch a game like baseball in this form.

What was also unfortunate is that the cameras weren’t in-sync. I realize that can be a bit difficult to accomplish but, come-on.. They could have tried to at least make them close. Even if you clicked the “Sync” button on the top of the screen never seemed to match up.

This service while technically interesting had a lot of possibilities but instead it just made me ache for a normal television broadcast. I have some new found respect for live event directors, switching between all of those cams for 4 plus hours of a baseball game is definitely a hard job.

Podcast Aggregation..

I was just looking through the feeds that I subscribe to in iTunes (audio and video podcasts) and noticed that every single one of them had a little exclamation point next to it indicating that it stopped updating as I haven’t watched or listened in a while.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, I really really do enjoy watching and listening to many of these. Second, I have listened and watch some of these recently, just not through iTunes (or my iPhone). Most through their website or through online radio (NPR shows on WNYC).

With broadband pretty ubiquitous and even phones being able to be used for listening to or watching online audio/video, aggregators are becoming much less useful (and increasingly wasteful when considering bandwidth usage).

Since really the only reason I still have to use iTunes as an aggregator is to sync things to my iPhone for viewing on the subway (where I don’t have network access), I decided to pare down the list quite a bit.

What I took off and instead will just watch/listen to online:
Alive in Baghdad
Ask A Ninja

(and a bunch that are defunct such as Boing Boing Boing, EFF Line Noise, The Show with Ze Frank, We Are The Media, WGBH Lab Showcase, <sniff>)

What I left on for iPhone consumption (mostly audio since I typically am doing something else like email on my iPhone on the subway):
Joe Frank Radio
NPR Science Friday
On The Media
The Onion Radio News
The TV of Tomorrow Show with Tracy Swedlow
They Might Be Giants Podcast Podcast
TEDTalks (Video)
This American Life

I also have a bunch that I haven’t decided yet for one reason or another. Mostly they are done by friends of mine and I just love to see their updates (bandwidth and space be damned):
Tech Trek TV, pouringdown, Ryan is Hungry, momentshowing,

(Nothing here is new, just wanted to take note of it)

YouTube New Features

Just checked out a video of McCain on Letterman. Noticed a couple of interesting features that YouTube is giving folks like CBS. First there was an ad before the video, second the video played in H.264 although it did have a link for the “normal quality” version and third there were a couple of nifty DHTML buttons up at the top.

Here is a screenshot:
YouTube CBS Letterman McCain Screenshot

Notice that everything but the video is grayed out. That is because I clicked the little film strip icon at the top left which stands for “theater mode”. You will also notice that the video is in the middle of the page with goofy graphical curtains surrounding it.

The icon directly to the right of that one, the little light bulb controls graying out the screen regardless of the theater mode selection.

Also notice that the ad at the top right (which reads CBS … and originally was a Schwab ad which matched the preroll video ad) is not grayed out.

In any case, none of this is new. (For reference do a Google/Yahoo search for “lightbox” to find a plethora of resources for accomplishing the same thing.) But is interesting to see what extra features and functionality YouTube is giving to folks like CBS.

C-SPAN online coverage of debate

C-SPAN has a really interesting site for showing the debate videos. It has a transcript search, a blog aggregation, a twitter message board and so on.

Here are some screen-shots:

Transcript along with video

Twitter and Blog Aggregation:

Transcript Keyword Visualization (wish you could drill down):

This might be even more interesting: Performance Group Blends Video Art, Public Service
“Three MIT grads have devised a way to “remix” the presidential debates — live. Friday night in Boston, they used custom computer software to analyze the candidates’ movements and speech patterns in real time, with a nightclub vibe.”

Politics and the Internet and Participatory Media

This is just too good to pass up.. On WNYC 820 AM right now, the Brian Lehrer show is doing a segment which is audience driven. A wiki is open for suggestions and discussion among the audience and essentially being used to drive the broadcast.

This is part of Lehrer’s 30 issues in 30 days comparing the presidential candidates stance on various issues. One thing that I have learned is that McCain is against Network Neutrality and Obama is for legislation that protects the spirit of the internet. (I had no idea that this was an issue between them.)

Go Obama..!

McCain says this:
“Unless there is a clear-cut, unequivocal restraint of competition, the government should stay out of it,” McCain said. “These things will sort themselves out.”

Kind of like the banking industry.. Let it sort itself out.. Great.. Ha!

“Google’s Idea of Primetime”

Over at Shelly Palmer’s blog I wrote a comment in response to his thoughts on a recent Google presentation where it was noted that kids and teenagers weren’t consuming YouTube as much as previously assumed. He discussed some possible alternatives (video games, comic books, Long Tail) but missed one very important point. (I left the following as a comment on his blog but the formatting was terrible so it is below.)

Regarding the consumption of media by teenagers, I think you are missing one very important aspect of online life, particularly as it relates to teenagers: Talking.. Every teenager that I have talked to and asked what they do online has said one of the three following things: MySpace, Facebook and AIM.

I break this down as follows: Constructing identity, meeting people and talking with them. Sharing media and consuming media, I believe are aspects of that but take a back seat to the primary socializing behavior. I think it is possible that we are entering an era much more radical than the rise of the “Long Tail”, we just might be going back to individual and small group storytelling as the primary media.

Come to think about it, it isn’t that radical, only seems different from the norm if you were born between 1940 and 1990.

Beyond Broadcast 2007

Beyond Broadcast, a conference that I was involved in organizing last year is happening again this year. It is coming on the heels of the Integrated Media Association’s Public Media Conference in Boston which is definitely a good time to have it.

Last year was great (despite the rain) with a series of fantastic talks and panels (check the archives). This year promises more of the same.