Video Blog Comments (Ironically) Aren’t Conversational

TechCrunch has added video comments to its blogs, courtesy of Seesmic. Oh lordy. Think you’re feeling overwhelmed by social media? Try following video comments.

Online video has gotten traction as a one-way communication and entertainment vehicle. Is it ready to add “conversation” to its portfolio of uses?

Where Has Online Video Worked?

YouTube is undeniably the success story of online video. And what has been so successful there? Entertainment. Selected hits from amateurs have become mega hits, like the guy playing Pachelbel’s Canon on his electric guitar. The most popular videos on YouTube are professionally produced music videos, as reported by Michael Learmonth at Silicon Valley Insider. My 4 year old is a huge fan of Feist.

This entertainment is very much a one-way experience. They play. You watch.

Online video has also been useful as a communication tool. Google has been particularly active on this front, such as with this video explaining Google Apps.

The training video, again, is a one-way communication.

Seesmic’s Mission: Make Online Video a Conversation

Seesmic wants to turns these one-way communications into conversations among two, three, heck even dozens of people. You post a video, someone posts a video in reply and you post back. Kind of an asynchronous conversation. From the Seesmic site:

Until now, online communication has lacked personality as it’s been limited to text (IM, SMS, email). Now, Seesmic brings conversation alive through video. See and hear people share their experiences straight from their webcams, join in live conversations, and engage in real interactions with real people.

The concept is pretty innovative. As always, the question is whether it makes sense in real world usage.

My Rant About Online Video

I personally do not watch videos online much. If I land on a page that has video instead of text, I usually hit the browser’s ‘Back’ button pretty quickly.

Why? I don’t have time to wait on whether the video will be interesting. After the video loads, you then sit through its latency to see what the person is saying. It’s a crap shoot as to whether the time was worth it. Thus, the Silicon Valley Inside story about professionally produced videos YouTube dominating doesn’t surprise me. You know what you’re getting ahead of time.

Which brings us back to online video comments.

The Blog Video Comment Experience

The implementation on TechCrunch seems to be well-done, based on the video comments of several people. Kudos to Seesmic for making that happen. This is an innovative idea.

Three issues make video comments less conversational overall than basic text comments:

  1. You have no idea what you’re getting when you click a video
  2. It’s hard to reference someone’s comment
  3. It takes too much time

Video comment quality: Variance in comment quality is a well-known dynamic on blogs. It will apply to these video comments as well. This comments here and here on TechCrunch intrigued me…

The big difference is that with text, you can pretty quickly size up the quality with a quick scan. You have to endure much of the online video before realizing it won’t serve up nuggets of insight.

This is a turn off, and it undermines the participative quality of comments. If people aren’t watching your video comment, then you’re not really participating in the conversation.

Referencing comments: Say someone leaves a 60-second commentary on a post. You’re going to have to remember that interesting thing that was said 27 seconds into it. And then you’ll have to rewrite the interesting thing to properly reference it in your text comment. Or in your video reply.

The burden of tracking an audio commentary for response purposes hurts the conversational aspect of video comments.

Too much time: Keeping up with the entire thread of a conversation may require viewing several videos. On the TechCrunch post, I found the time for each of 43 video comments. Average run time = 29 seconds. Median = 24 seconds. The typical text comment doesn’t take 25 seconds to read. So your time investment just went up to stay on top of videos.

And that detracts from the conversation.

Final Word

I’ll admit to sticking through several of the 43 video comments on the blog. There is something to the idea of watching a person speak their comments. The hard part is to know which ones will be worth it. I assume over time, some people would just have a flair for the medium. Regular blog visitors will consistently click their videos.

But the majority of video comments will just be time sucks. There’s probably a real opportunity to implement some sort of rating system on comments, and on people who comment that will help filter out the video noise.

Still, I prefer text comments for the conversation. Learning on my time, not the video creator’s.


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Web 2.0 Inside the Enterprise? Forrester, AIIM Weigh In

Forrester produced a well-covered report this week announcing that Enterprise 2.0 will be a $4.6 billion business by 2013. In my RSS feed of FriendFeed updates containing the term Enterprise 2.0, there were probably a couple hundred related to this report – Google Reader shares, bookmarks, Twitters, etc. Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb has a great post about the Forrester report, with dollar figures.

About a month ago, AIIM came out with its own report on the market for enterprise 2.0. It was a work produced in conjunction with the likes of Stowe Boyd and Andrew McAfee.

After reading both of these reports, it’s clear there is a common perspective out there, but some differences worth noting as well. It’s instructive to look at both.

Forrester: Projections Focus

Forrester is paid for its expertise and forecasting. Their reports are well-regarded in this regard. Based on surveys of over 2,200 companies, this report is a forecast of the dominant technologies of Enterprise 2.0. Grounded in the market, fueled by its analysts’ views.

Forrester’s report strongly cleaves the Enterprise world into internal facing and external facing uses.

AIIM: State of the Market Focus

AIIM’s goal seems to be more of an Enterprise 2.0 temperature check of companies today. Surveying 441 company representative, AIIM didn’t try to forecast the future so much as see where companies’ heads are today.

AIIM’s report addresses both internal and external uses, but generally blurs the discussion between the two.

No Unanimous View of Top Technologies

Forrester’s report considers seven different technologies for the Enterprise 2.0 space. AIIM’s report goes much deeper. AIIM’s respondents came up with a much larger set when asked the question, what technologies make up your definition of Enterprise 2.0? To compare the two analysts, I selected the top seven participant responses from the AIIM report. Here’s how Forrester and AIIM show the leading technologies of Enterprise 2.0:

Five technologies showed up consistently between the analyst reports:

  • Social networking
  • Wikis
  • RSS
  • Blogs
  • Mashups

It’s interesting to note the differences between the two reports. Forrester included podcasting as a leading area of spend for Enterprise 2.0. AIIM’s report includes podcasting as well, but survey participants didn’t include it very often in their current definitions of an Enterprise 2.0 platform.

Forrester’s report did not include social bookmarking and tagging, but AIIM did. The Forrester omission probably says something about their view of the dollars to be spent on it.

Forrester included widgets, which is a nod to their strong focus on external uses of Enterprise 2.0. AIIM’s respondents like collaborative filtering, which is the basis for recommendation engines.

A Few Thoughts

Social networking comes in strong on both analyst reports. Forrester has spending here running away from all others by 2013. Call this the Facebook effect (MySpace didn’t seem to inspire the same trend to the enterprise). Generally, Facebook controls its “borders” and has a handle on everything that’s going on. Relationships, groups and activities all occur within the walled garden. Enterprises share a lot of these characteristics. Social networks will become the next generation intranet.

Also, note the disparity here. Companies are just coming to terms with the idea of social networks for employees, while the blogosphere seems to have left the mainstream social networks behind. Call that difference between the easy freedom of thinking and conversations, and the hard decisions of where to spend money and sweating your stock price.

Wikis come in surprisingly low on the Forrester side of things. I say that because some of the best known uses of Web 2.0 technologies inside companies are wikis. In fact, wikis are the #1 thing that respondents consider to be Enterprise 2.0 in the AIIM survey. Perhaps they have a lower cost, so that the same number of implementations will result in lower dollars spent.

RSS comes in strong for both reports. That is great to see! RSS holds so much potential. Just look at the growth of FriendFeed to see how RSS can create really new and interesting applications. RSS inside the enterprise will increase information awareness, and can be a basis for research and discovery the way FriendFeed is on the consumer web.

Blogs are ranked highly in both reports. Very nice to see. There’s still a mountain to climb before employees get comfortable with them. For companies that do have adoption of employee blogs, I expect there will be a boost in innovation.

Company blogs are interesting animals. The worst way to roll those out is treat blogs as glorified press release vehicles. That would be a waste of time. But what do you put on a blog that would be interesting? A couple of companies serve as examples. Google’s blog has a very conversational style of its products, general technology issues and other geeky stuff. Cafepress’s blog talks a lot about their products, which could be boring as hell. But Cafepress manages to relate products to larger issues, which makes it a bit more interesting.

Mashups are in the lower end of the top 7 currently, although Forrester projects spend on mashup technology to be the second highest after social networks. Here’s where I think Enterprise 2.0 will lead Web 2.0: mashup adoption. There are so many existing “big iron” software systems inside companies, that rip-and-replace is an expensive undertaking when you want to add new functionality. Mashups extend the life of these systems. In the consumer web, we’re experimenting with mashups a la Yahoo Pipes and Microsoft Popfly. I’m not sure the average consumer is going to bother with those. However, the average IT professional very much wants to look at mashups.

Those are some general thoughts. What do you think about Enterprise 2.0?


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