I feel that I’m at a point where I need to make a statement on the definition of videoblogging, and find some closure in what I’ve been pushing for, these last 20 months. And with Wikipedia now a lost cause, let’s go back to basics, a blog post.
When I got into videoblogging at the end of 2004, I was working in the blogging, microcontent and citizen media space, and it was like a light bulb had been suddenly switched on. I subsequently started the original Vlog entry on Wikipedia, pulling together several disparate articles about the space, into a single definition.
The key point however, was that videoblogging was still defining itself, and the overriding opinion on the videoblogging list, was that it was personal media, which distinguished itself very clearly from podcasting and other forms of amateur reproduction of traditional media forms. It was a socialist’s dream come true.
In recent days, the videoblogging article on Wikipedia has descended into a fight between too many self interested people with rather limited foresight. So much so that the article has even been marked for deletion. You’d have to be a complete moron to involve yourself to a degree where Wikipedia would prefer no entry, than have whatever they think they currently have on their hands. The last time I checked, the article went on about why citizen media exists, and what it hopes to achieve, which is about as far away from defining the term videoblog as you could probably get. The stupidity continues.
Having spent the best part of 18 months following, and at times pushing the debate, I think it is time to get back to that original dream.
Everyone seems to have their own opinion of what a videoblog is, mostly based on personal bias, what they’ve read in the media, and the few discussions they’ve read on the definition. The following is a summation of pretty much every argument and definition that I’ve seen or heard regarding videoblogging, and in many cases the typical rebuttals for each.
You can skip to the bottom if you just want my opinion on what a videoblog is.
A blog is typically defined as a web based log of diary entries, which by nature are dated and displayed in chronological order, hence the term blog, short for weblog, and originally web log.
The most common argument for the definition of videoblogging, states that because the term videoblog is derived from video and blog, then it must be a blog, but for video instead of text, or more simply, it is a video version of a blog, whatever that may be.
This ignores the fact that the term blog does not define itself as being textual, and thus a blog could in fact contain video, or could be primarily video, which makes the term videoblog redundant.
Additionally, it is commonly stated that because a blog is a chronologically displayed log, that a videoblog must therefore be chronological as well. Does this mean that a site which displays personal videos by tag cloud instead of date, is not a videoblog? Doubtful.
For a while last year, there was such a thing as an audioblog, which was to a blog for audio as a videoblog is for video. While opinions vary, it is arguably difficult to have a podcast without an RSS feed with enclosures, which is the mechanism which allows it to be downloaded and transfered to an iPod. So the term audioblog was soon dropped, in favour of blog, with a podcast now assumed to be a blog with audio which includes an RSS feed with enclosures.
Thus, just because the term blog and videoblog include the word blog, does not mean that one is a derivitive of the other, and it certainly doesn’t have to mean that a videoblog is a video version of a blog, a blog with video or must have the same attributes. They are different terms, so we are free to define them how we wish.
Videoblogs, it is commonly stated, must be viewed chronologically, for it is time which makes these videos so transient and “of life”. Yet as the amount of video on the Internet continues to increase, time will be but one of many ways to catalogue, discover and display video.
Content is now permanently archived for eternity. In late 2005 we saw the rise of revlogging, and as recently as June 2006, the videoblogging revlog project, where for 7 days, videobloggers would repost a video from their back catalogue. We are starting to keep and rewatch videos we like, which is a significant change in the way we interact with online media. The management of which will certainly not be the domain of chronology.
Some have tried to define a videoblog post by lenth of time, for example no more than 3 minutes in length. Like most arguments about the definition, the reality is not so black and white. What about the videoblogger who posts 2 minute 59 second videos for a year, and then accidentally posts one of 3 minutes and 1 second? Where do you draw the boundary?
With the rise of aggregators, how do we define aggregated media? The PAN publishes a daily video of around 15 minutes in length, an aggregation of other videos from around the web. If it only aggregated videoblogs (by a certain definition of length), then would their 15 minutes be or not be a videoblog? Some days they don’t contain videoblogs, so does this mean that are only sometimes a videoblog? Or perhaps never a videoblog?
When we have the technology and bandwidth to reduce the between video presentation time to zero, we will no longer have any clear user discernable boundary between items of video content. We will have our single aggregating feed, an intelligent agent which sucks down video content from wherever it finds “a video that I would like”, and we will sit down to watch a non-stop video stream, for as long as we wish to watch. If these are all videoblogs, are we watching a videoblog? What if this aggregation is done on the content providers site? Is it still a videoblog?
Another argument states that the majority of video posts must be videoblog posts, for the site to be called a videoblog. Yet others say that one videoblog post maketh a videoblog, regardless of other content. To assign minimum numbers becomes problematic when blogging software provides options for how many posts are displayed on the home page, or how recent the posts need to be. Go on holidays for a month and your videoblog becomes empty, turning you back into a normal blog again.
What of a web site (which is not a videoblog) which includes video in a feed, and a custom client does not display the content in chronological order? If a 3rd party client decides to read the feed and display the content chronologically, does the display by the viewer automatically make the site a videoblog, even though the publisher of the site has changed nothing?
If CBS puts video copies of their nightly weather report on their web site, does this mean they are a videoblog? Even though the entries would be displayed in chronological order, and they would be relatively short?
Would it be a problem that the content was all created in a studio, designed purely for television broadcast, and is being dumped onto the web as an afterthought?
What if they include a textual transcript of the video? What if instead of being the weather, a copy of their nightly 3 minute “what’s happening in your town” segment which comes on before the news, is published as a videoblog?
What if they took their nightly 30 minute news program, and released each news item as a separate video, whether in or not in chronological order?
Amateur vs. professional, .org vs. .com
Should a videoblog which is designed as a marketing tool for a large sporting good manufacturer, be considered a videoblog? Should we be concerned that they have no interest in citizen media, personal blogging or community communication? Buy this. Buy this. Buy this. Is this a videoblog? Some say it isn’t, but where do you draw the line between subtle product placement and unintentional shooting of a product in a personal video? Is it the intent, or is it the result?
Do we begrudge a fellow videoblogger because they are able to attract millions of viewers? How about tens of thousands? How about a thousand?
What if they attracted every single person in the world that was interested in snail carpentry, all twenty thousand of them? Does a percentage of total possible audience dictate whether they are a videoblog?
The common thread here is usually the requirement for a feed of some kind, usually containing enclosures, as opposed to embedded hyperlinks to the media file.
Feeds are typically displayed or used chronologically, however they do not necessarily need to be. The inclusion of a date, does not make something chronological. It is the sorting by date which does. Some definitions of videoblogging state that a feed is chronological and that a videoblog must have such a feed, without stating whether they must use the date specific aspects of the feed as an integral part of the web site, or not.
RSS and Atom are not structurally chronological. While they include dates for each entry, along with other metadata, which allows the viewer to programatically display them chronologically, they still do not need to be stored nor transmitted cronologically.
Some define a videoblog as a blog with a feed which has at least one media file, or video file. So, does a web site which is not a videoblog, which includes a videoblog post video file from an actual videoblog, in their feed as an example of a videoblog, automatically become a videoblog? Read that one back slowly.
Why do we have to define it? Just make media
Probably the biggest complaint with trying to define videoblogging, are the cries of why. Why do we need to define it? Why can’t we just go out and make media?!
I absolutely agree. In fact if you know me, and my 200 odd videos to date, you know that I’ve been one of the biggest proponents of just getting out and doing it.
However, this post is about trying to define what it is. While making media is way more important, it doesn’t mean that there is no need for a definition.
If you have no interest in the definition, then you should not participate in the debate. The just go out and do it line doesn’t actually contribute much, in fact it silences voices who may have wished to contribute an opinion.
So yes, go out an make stuff. But for those of us also wanting to try to define what it is we do, please let us do that.
One of the original drivers for videoblogging, was to bypass the traditional media gatekeepers, the media corporations which control the distribution and consumption of television, radio and print media. By creating and publishing our own content on the Internet, we are bringing an end to big media. We assume this is a good thing, although few people are able to say why.
However, there are and have always been other methods for bypassing the gatekeepers, such as fanzines and local newsletters, community/college TV and radio and Internet broadcasting, which makes it difficult to use this as a definition for videoblog.
No definition of videoblogging is going to be black and white, much like genres. e.g. if this is a videoblog, then surely this must be?
Does the aggregation of videoblogs make blip.tv a videoblog? Is the aggregated chronological viewing list created by FireAnt, a videoblog? If I have a blog, and paste the URL of someone elses videoblog or feed in my side bar, does that make me a videoblog? It does by some of the definitions above.
The future of web based video
In the near future, video will be everywhere on the Internet. It will be as, if not more prevalent than text, and it will all be connected together by feeds and other APIs. It will be a massive store of connected video content, upon which will be built discovery and management engines free from dated diary style data structures. Blogs will continue to explode, and include all manner of information, whether it be text, audio, visual or audiovisual/video, if indeed the term blog will continue to be used as it is today.
Using the technical definitions above, in a few years, all web sites with video will be videoblogs, because all video will have the technical requirements commonly used to technically define a videoblog. Thus any technical definition of videoblogging, must be incorrect.
The technical definition is typically used by videoblog aggregation sites, to categorise as many web sites as possible as videoblogs. This increases their potential market size, and in many cases justifies the reference to “vlog” or “videoblog” in their domain name.
With the rise of aggregated content and the soon to be non-existent boundaries between video content, as well as these new forms of media discovery and management, there will soon be no websites which do not contain video, displayed chronologically, with a feed containing enclosures. To call every web site a videoblog because of this, seems a little over inclusive to me.
What is a videoblog?
As you can see, the lines between various definitions are blurred, and in many cases are either contradictory or redundant. They span from big media’s interpretation that everything is a videoblog, through to Adrian Miles, who says vogging is a very specific form of hyperlinked media content, and everyone in between who has their own definition.
For every definition, there’s the tendency to virally include other examples. Is this a videoblog, is that a videoblog, “but that means this videoblog must also be a videoblog”… and in the same way that the lines between genres are blurred so are those of my definition of videoblog.
There are some videoblogs which fall outside of my definition, which probably are videoblogs, and some which fall inside my definition which probably aren’t. Where we cannot objectively draw the line, I’m suggesting that we subjectively draw instead upon the spirit of videoblogging:
Individuals creating personal media of a new genre and form, not being controlled by big media, and not simply reproducing that which is traditional in big media, such as television and movies.
So, for the sake of a definition, this is roughly what I think a videoblog is:
Short, personal, not for profit, mostly non-fictional, video on the web. Snapshots of life.
The last part is important. Last year I tried to popularise the term instant videoblogging. The idea being that videoblogs are created on a whim, not preplanned, just snapshots of life. I still believe this to be an important aspect of videoblogging.
A brief summary
Must it be viewed in chronological order? No. It is generally posted in chronological order, incrementally as it is created, but it need not be viewed that way.
Must it have a feed? No. It is about the content, not the technical, nor the structure. Removing my RSS feed would not suddenly make my site not a videoblog.
Must it be about a person? No. It could be about a dog, or a tree, or a shoebox, or it may not be obviously about anything.
Videoblogging is a genre
This doesn’t mean that only videoblogs are worth watching. Most of my favourite online video content, I no longer consider a videoblog. But who cares? Like any genre, just because I like comedy, doesn’t mean that I don’t also like science fiction.
The next step, is for people to get over the fact that not everyone is a videoblogger. Videoblogging isn’t the be and end all, contrary to what the media and the majority of people on the videoblogging email list say. In fact I would consider it simply an entry point, a simplistic and user orientated genre which helps introduce people to the big wide world of self created online video.
One need only look at the current projects being created by the original wave of videobloggers, to realise that there’s so much more to create and consume.
Videoblogging is an entry point genre. Then you get to see what happens next!
Updated 4th September 2006.