Category Archives: librarian stuff

YouTube.com and the death of a website

A little lunchtime blogging. 

In 1999, when I created bobstricktips.com, bandwidth was expensive, few people had broadband, fewer people had camcorders, there were not really any free video hosting services on the web, computers didn’t come with video editing software, and blogs (as they are known today) didn’t exist.

Until this year, my site got about the same traffic every day and every week, regardless of my infrequent updates. This year my traffic took a huge hit. Why?

I have some theories. First, almost every computer you purchase now – especially Macs – comes with good video editing software. Almost every family seems to have a digital camcorder. So it is easier than it has ever been for any skateboarder to create a pretty cool video. I’ve seen videos by kids with virtually no training that look nearly as good as a professional job.

But once you have a cool video, how do you share it? In 1999, you needed your own website. There was no YouTube.com to slap your stuff into. And if your video content was popular you needed massive bandwidth, which at the time was expensive. BTT was pulling about 9 gigs a day of bandwidth at one point, which is a lot for a one-man show. Youtube has solved the problem for the average web-user.

But YouTube has gone beyond simply supplying bandwidth and storage space — it has created a social-network/search mechanism. Not only can you put your videos there, but if they are good you have an instant audience. Pretty neat. My own experiment with social networking involved putting a phpBB bulletin board on BTT, but after over a year I removed it. The quality of the conversation detracted from the overal quality of the site.

Back then it was even a little harder to create a website. You had to get an account with and hosting service, get your domain name, create the site, and upload it. You might even have to know — GASP — HTML.

Now free services like this (wordpress.com) allow anyone with two functioning brain cells to create a site, have a domain, upload images, link directly to Youtube videos and other content — pretty much without knowing any HTML or CSS at all. Perhaps best of all, WordPress takes care of controlling comment-spam for you, keeps the software updated, adds new features, etc.  Amazing. If your are a photographer, you can upload photos to a Flickr account with the same kind of built-in social network. With the nearly global change to digital cameras, you don’t even need a scanner.

So when I look at the traffic decrease at BTT in the last year, I can’t help but think that all these factors have come into play. And that’s really OK. I built BTT to teach some basics of skateboarding and it continues to do that very well. Everyone has a limited amount of time, and as the marketing people might say, there is just more competition for the same number of eyeballs now.

For me, if I want my traffic back, it means I’ll have to provide more than a kid with a camcorder and a YouTube account. I’m not sure what that is. Longer, better quality videos? Probably. I kept my videos short back then because bandwidth was expensive and connection speed was slow. Neither of those conditions applies anymore. whoisadamcolton.com, a site run by Adam Colton, contains great videos — high quality, long, well-thought-out, and entertaining. A site developed under the current conditions, unlike BTT.

I guess this is all a long way of saying I have been sitting on my lazy ass while my site slowly fades to obscurity. The question, I think, is whether it is worth my time to really re-invent BTT or leave it there, serving its original purpose, and move on to a more modern web-project.

Eureka!

Back when I worked in sci-tech libraries I used to read EurekAlert every day. Great site for keeping up with happenings in science and technology from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Over the last few years I sort of forgot about it, but I discovered it again yesterday while working on a search.

It now, of course, has RSS feeds and is even better than before. So check out Eurekalert.com.

the Internet Librarian 2006 – segundo dia

conference centerThe 2nd day of the conference has come to a close. Very good sessions today. I spent the morning learning about podcasting. Not a lot of technical detail, but I didn’t expect a lot, so that’s cool. I think we can get into podcasting without much, of any, actual dollar cost. I also think there are numerous library events that would make really good, useful podcasts for our public library patrons. Likewise, for my specialized client base I think there are some good podcasts I can seek out, subscribe to, and direct my users to when relevant subject matter appears.

The session on JavaScript and RSS was extremely interesting, and I suspect it will be very useful. The speakers presented various tools which use JavaScript to embed RSS feeds on “normal” web pages. The intranet site I’m building for city staff is potentially a great place to do this, and I’m sure the public library site could use it too (assuming we can get the CMS to allow it).

I also attended a session on Flickr. It turned out to be not only a very fun session, but also useful. I think the public library could do some really cool stuff with Flickr, and I’m making a list of some potential projects.

plaza

Tonight I went to a dine-around with about 10 other librarians. Good food. Very cool people. The official subject of the night was blogs, but conversation of course drifted to related topics. I met the librarian who runs this very cool Flickr photo collection. I love stuff like this because it’s real. It’s not someone blogging about what they had for dinner that night. anyway, I had cheese ravioli with shrimp. The restaurant was down on Old Fisherman’s Wharf. To get there you walk through the plaza (to the left). You will notice the white wall. It surrounds the plaza.
no skateboarding

About every 20 feet, the message to the right is posted on the wall. Not cool. I guess skaters could say they misunderstood the message. “I thought it meant bikes and skateboards. I was only on a skateboard.” When I was in Germany over the summer, public space was exactly that — public space. People could skate wherever and whatever they wanted, even right outside the museum in Cologne. Skate stoppers (little pegs they attach to ledges to prevent manuvers) are everywhere here in Monterey, which does have a skatepark. It’s free and concrete, and actually quite fun, but it really doesn’t simulate the kind of real street obstacles that modern skaters enjoy. Oh well – same ol’ same ol’.

dsc00002.JPGAnd as long as I’ve swerved over to the topic of skating, here’s a picture that Gary Holl took of me during our Sunday flatground session. Nice pic. I think I even made this fingerflip.

Back on the subject of the conference…I’m just astounded at how quickly some of the bloggers are churning out detailed reports of sessions. Rather than write my own when I the spirit moves me to do so, I may just link to some of the better write-ups and makes some additional comments.

Internet Librarian 2006 – day uno.

eateryI’ve now been in Monterey for two days.

1st day on my own dime. Rented car. Drove to San Francisco to skate. Had a great time. Drove north to Mill Valley to hang with my friend Dale and skate. Also had a great time. It’s always great to see Dale. Good to skate with someone who’s style makes sense to me and talk to an old friend about new things. As usual, I was so busy skating I forgot I had a digital camera with me. So no pics or video.

calamari2nd day — Day 1 of the Internet Librarian conference. So far the conference has been very cool. I spent most of the day in sessions related to some new (to me) web technologies. Paul Miller, of Talis.com, was an interesting speaker. He discussed the terms “Web 2.0” and “Library 2.0” – essentially a service outlook of engaging your customers and the technical tools that enable that to happen (http://www.talis.com/tdn/innovationdir). I was pleasantly surprized today by a session on information discovery of blog and podcasting information. I really only went to the session because after lunch I wanted a comfy seat, and that session was in the “nice” auditorium! haha. Anyway, besides providing some hints on resources for finding such information sources, the session gave me some ideas for new things to try at work. Actually, new things for other people to try, that I’d like to be involved with. In particular, I can think of some good applications for podcasting of some services the public library provides. Likewise, there are some really cool potential applications for podcasting to my own, specialized customer base.

At 5pm they opened the exhibit hall and had free food. I lurked in there for a while and took some pictures. Then I went down the old pier and ate some fried calamari while watching some sea lions beg for food. Nothing compliments the taste of good fried calamari like the smell of sea lion.

sealionI’ve decided that on Tuesday I’m going to attend sessions on podcasting all morning. In the afternoon it’ll mostly be podcasting, but also a session on JavaScript and RSS techniques that we might be able to use to include external content on our webpages, which is one of the main things I came here to learn. I’ve decided not to hit the session on Mashups. I think the topic is a bit too technical to get the detail I need in short sessions. I can learn it on my own.

Spam hits Blue Dot

The bookmark management site I discovered a few days ago — bluedot.us — has already been hit with spam. Ughhh… someone set up an account and “dotted” links to items from their adult toy shop. This is probably the biggest problem I see with social networking sites. If very strict control isn’t maintained over membership, the spammers will take over and quality will suffer. But of course, strict control over membership slows down the development of the social network, so what’s the answer?

Blue Dot

I just discovered what appears to be a new “tagging” tool for the web, Blue Dot. Its sort of like Digg.com or del.ico.us , but this one is trying to incorporate a social networking aspect in which you share your links and tags with a group of friends. Interesting. I set up an account.

We’ll see if this takes off. I haven’t have a lot of success getting myself interested in the whole tagging thing, but personalization of this tool might make it more compelling.

One interesting feature on Blue Dot is automated dotting on your personal blog. It was easy to set up my account so that anytime I post an entry here, on my Word Press blog, my Blue Dot account automatically “dots” that post, by monitoring my RSS feed. They feature this kind of support for quite a few blogging systems.

http://bluedot.us/users/bibliosk8

P.S. Man — less than 30 minutes after I made this post, it was captured by the blog search tool on Google. Scarey. The moral of the story — if you don’t want something to exist forever on the internet via Google, don’t put it up in the first place.