Other Ten Percent 12/31/13

Dec 31 2013

So I feel like 2013 is the year that the traditional format of OTP finally fully broke. It’s been looking kinda long in the tooth for a while now but I just took a week off with no warning and nobody complained because honestly, what are we doing here? I’m flattered you guys still show up for the commentary but when I started this it was actually kind of a service to find stuff that was worth your time. Everybody aggregates links everywhere now. It’s become the default mode of online journalism. That’s basically been the story of journalism since I moved to SF and not only is it common it’s kind of passed its expiration date this year.

The big “journalists talking about journalism online” stories to close out the year have both been about 2013 as a year of viral hoaxes where truth and fiction are basically indistinguishable in news now because we fired all the fact checkers and nobody’s all that angry you’re wrong in the first place. Neiman Journalism Lab has a super optimistic view of this as an exciting new path for journalism where the uncertainty has us think more deeply about issues instead of letting content houses dictate the truth to us. Esquire meanwhile has a piece decrying it as the ultimate death of journalistic integrity and begging readers to PLEASE do something because otherwise reporters might have to.

I’m not particularly won over by either of these arguments. Esquire’s right that news would probably be better with some consequence for misleading your readers but they decided this is some singular moment where capital J Journalism finally collapses when in fact it’s died 100 deaths before now and it’ll probably find some new ways to keel over dead in the next two or three years once we all get sick of Upworthy headlines and obviously bullshit “you’ll never believe this” stories. (A process that’s already starting considering the snark we’re throwing that way lately.)

And that’s actually the one where the logic is HARD to debunk. Neiman is basically arguing that the real value of a news story is in the comments section and endless follow up stories so go ahead and kill me now.

But despite everything wrong with both of them they do get at the fact that there’s not much meat on the content aggregation bone anymore. That system’s been pretty thoroughly gamed for maximum shareability at the expense of everything else and I’m not going to pretend like I’ve got the time or attention to avoid being fooled and fooling you guys in return so it’s probably time for a new direction.

I think we’re going all video all the time guys.

I know a lot of you like to read this at work but it seems like that’s been on the decline anyway as we’ve increasingly become important enough in jobs that they don’t like you staring at links for an hour no matter what their format is. OTP is a “catch up on the evenings or weekends” endeavor and I’ve made my peace with that.

The timing’s certainly right for me personally as I travel off to L.A. and try and actually make money off of creating television or online video or something visual I’ve taken a class in in the past 10 years. And more importantly it feels like the timing is right in a broader cultural sense. It feels like where all the weird and interesting stuff is actually happening right now.

It also helps that the problems with switching to video content look a lot like the problems OTP set out to solve. There’s just so much content sitting there waiting for somebody to explain why you should bother. Here’s 19 hours of a guy playing one of Alex Wawro’s favorite games of the year. It’s part of a channel with over a month’s worth of just this dude sitting there talking about a video game he’s playing. That’s just one guy. He’s not even the most popular one. A lot of people make money this way now. You can actually make a modest living off it.

Now I’m not suggesting you sit through 19 hours of watching a guy play a game. I’m not even suggesting I sit through that. I’m suggesting it’s time to start exploring the fact that we live in a world where that exists. The last time youtube updated its statistics page (which I swear was a year or two ago now) it was getting 100 hours of video uploaded every minute. That means it takes a little over four days for Youtube to generate more content than you could consume watching it every minute of every day for your entire life. Luckily a ton of that is like camera test video of trees which…wait shit now I’m fascinated by watching videos of trees. What was I talking about? Right, we can start making the overwhelming amount of video content manageable by sticking to deep dives into a few specific topics. Here are some examples of things that exist on youtube that we’ll probably end up talking more about in 2014:

SFX/VFX reels– You guys! Special Effects got weird again! It’s not just green screen effects and excessive CGI it’s digitally composing shots and it’s digitally composing shots ON THE CHEAP which is even more interesting to me. Sure you can still find the occasional behind the scenes special about these things with some cool stuff in it like this one for Gravity but it’s actually way more efficient to find the reels of artists or small VFX houses that want to show off how they composed digital backgrounds for like CSI:LA or something because that stuff can genuinely blow your mind. Here, look. Then look here at like an hour’s worth of people’s reels for the SFX they added to video games which work like that but also have to do it with the lowest possible amount of system resources so the special effects can be rendered in real time.

Helmet Cams– Yeah, I’m not going to stop being fascinated by the fact that people have started recording their POV consistently but I am going to start demonstrating my thesis better than posting the occasional cool video from io9 posts…though here’s one of those. Seriously though, that’s nowhere near all. Here’s the helmet cams of firefighters which is a thing I didn’t know existed before I hopped over to YouTube just now but of course it must and of course it’s fascinating and of course there’s hours of it on Youtube. There’s hours of bike riders compiling shitty things cars have done to them on the road and even more hours of them compiling seemingly reasonable things cars are doing that they think everybody should be really pissed about and I don’t ride bikes enough to know why. I can’t wait for the first video where somebody complains about how awful their roommate is using recorded footage of their perceived slights until they look like an insane person and one of the reasons I can’t wait is I just checked and roommate complaint vlogs are already their own sub-genre. Tons of the autocompletions for “Helmet Cam” followed by a random letter give you recorded footage of soldiers. Here’s one of them doing training courses. Here’s a whole channel of first person footage from Afghanistan. Youtube’s upload criteria keeps it from getting too graphic but I’m not sure if you want to watch that. Not really sure if I do either. Might not be a sub-sub-genre we explore that much. Or at least we might just explore the phenomenon without really getting into too many examples.

Machine vision- This is basically videos exploring how we’re going to process all the videos we have to explore along with more evidence that A.I. is already here it’s just weird and inhuman enough that we don’t recognize it as intelligence yet. Here’s a bunch of footage of a computer system identifying people and cars on the street in times square in real time. Here’s 10 seconds of high speed trading of Blackberry’s stock slowed down 30 times so a human with more knowledge of the stock market than I’ve got might be able to tell what’s going on.

MISC– The old RSS reader approach isn’t getting shut down. I need to keep my ear to the ground so I don’t end up talking about helmet cams forever and not noticing a cool gyroscopic robot cube for instance but I think we may be at the end of me using it for automated reblogging. In fact I’m not quite sure what format we’re ending up with for this. I’m probably going to experiment over the first few weeks of the year with actually delivering OTP as a video itself and seeing just how much video you guys can stand to deal with on any given day. Let’s wee where this goes.

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