Wow! was the only word that can really sum up the Open Video Conference last weekend in New York City. It was an amazing confluence of people from the worlds of online video, art, free culture, open content and web technology. This is not a group that comes together often, but it turns out sparks fly when they do (in a good way).
Paul Kim, Chris Blizzard, Paul Rouget, Asa Dotzler and myself were all there for Mozilla. Also attending was Sebastian from Daily Motion and number of others working with Mozilla on open video in the run up to FireFox 3.5. We figured that we should post some quick reflections and takeaways. Here we go:
First take away: people who make video are great potential allies. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth talking about. Whether I was talking to Brett Gaylor about user annotations for RIP: A Remix Manifesto or listening to Lauren Cornell talking about online video art, it’s clear that people who make video ‘get’ the potential of <video> becoming a first class citizen of the web. These are the people that really can show what’s possible with open video at the creative level. And they want to do it. The thing is, they’ll need help. There is a real need to reach out and work with video creators on this front.
Second take away: we have a long way to go. The conference provided an opportunity to dig into the practical questions of making open video work — which was a great reminder that there is a ton of work ahead. Despite best efforts, the amazing video feeds from the conference ended up in Flash and not <video> plus Theora (archived versions coming in open video soon). The lively codec panel clarified a number of things, but still left us with more questions than answers (Blizzard to blog on this separately). And, over and over, individual filmmakers expressed a) excitement about open video technology (they love the interactivity it can bring) and b) confusion about where to find good and easy to use tools to start playing with this stuff (there really aren’t any yet). All of these things are solvable, especially if we work with people who make video everyday. But we’re clearly still in very early days with open video.
Third take away: there are some simple things we can do now to build momentum. Everyone was in constant brainstorm mode in NYC. One good and simple idea: develop a campaign or visual element that says ‘this is open video’. Blizzard, Nicholas and I are going thinking this through, and will post again soon. There were also a number of ideas around helping creators use open video, partly through better documentation (Blizzard has some ideas on this) and partly by encouraging people to experiment (PCF and Mozilla announced an open video contest with this in mind). These are tiny first steps, but they are a practical start and a good way to keep the energy from the conference flowing.
Of course, the big take away is that open video is both important and fun. Dean, Elizabeth, Ben and all the volunteers did an AMAZING job organizing an event that showed this. They invited the right mix of people, programmed the right content and threw the right parties. The organizations that backed the event also showed tremendous leadership and prescience — Participatory Culture Foundation, Kaltura, the Yale Information and Society Project and iCommons. All of these people and orgs deserve a huge thank you (I hear clapping!).
Next steps: start doing the small and easy things (open video awareness and documentation), and figure out a way to pick up some of the hard stuff along the way (better codecs, easy tools, deeper connections to the people who make video). The good news is there are alot of people and orgs that want to make it happen, and they are gathering around this idea of an Open Video Alliance (the umbrella for the conference). Good things ahead.
PS. A full video archive of the conference sessions is coming soon. In the meantime, you can see one of the demos that Blizzard and Paul Rouget gave here and Blizzard and my slides here.