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Vlogs Ain't Blogs.

At the risk of a little pedantry, here are the six pillars of blogging from Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s Naked Conversations:

  1. Publishable. Anyone can publish a blog.You can do it cheaply and post often. Each posting is instantly available worldwide.
  2. Findable. Through search engines, people will find blogs by subject, by author, or both. The more you post, the more findable you become.
  3. Social. The blogosphere is one big conversation. Interesting topical conversations move from site to site, linking to each other. Through blogs, people with shared interests build relationships unrestricted by geographic borders.
  4. Viral. Information often spreads faster through blogs than via a newsservice. No form of viral marketing matches the speed and efficiency of a blog.
  5. Syndicatable. By clicking on an icon, you can get free “home delivery” of RSS- enabled blogs into your e-mail software. RSS lets you know when a blog you subscribe to is updated, saving you search time. This process is considerably more efficient than the last- generation method of visiting one page of one web site at a time looking for changes.
  6. Linkable. Because each blog can link to all others, every blogger has access to the tens of millions of people who visit the blogosphere every day.

Video fails.

It isn’t linkable.  Oh yes, you can link to a video, like any other web page.  But how does one, from within a video blog entry, link out to another site?  How does one link into a video blog entry?  How can you easily quote from a video blog entry? You can’t.  The content is monolithic and opaque.

Because the content is opaque, it’s not searchable.  You couldn’t build Google Blog Search, or techmeme around video blogs.  Both rely on an understanding of the content, and it’s relationship to others in the blogosphere.

As a result, it’s a far less social and a far less viral medium than a blog. 

Is a cat a dog?  An apple an orange?  No way.  And neither is a vlog a blog.

So, Rob Hyndman, there’s no risk of turning blogging into TV. Vlog’s ain’t blogs. 

Television’s idealists had grand ideas about the potential of their new medium, only to see television become… well, television.  We run the same risk with video on the internet, in part due to the democratization of the process.  It’s now so cheap to create video content for the internet that anyone can do it.  And, oh, how we are!

The problem is this: one of the points made repeatedly in this debate  is that some people may feel more comfortable with video rather than the written word.  Written words can be difficult to use effectively. Proponents of video feel that being released from the strictures of the written word will allow ordinary people to communicate more freely, and more effectively.  Blarney!  Communicating effectively is difficult, whether the medium is video, text, or audio. Brad Templeton, in the comments on his blog, says it best when he admonishes people to remember their audience:

People should not do video because they think it will be less work for them than taking the time to write well. And even if they will put in more work, they should remember the added cost to the viewer in time. They must make it worth it.


I suspect that for most people, myself included, the majority of video on the network today isn’t worth watching. It’s just not good communication.

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Jonny Goldstein September 17, 2006, 1:08 pm

    Nose flutes: 85 cents at http://www.nashco.com/noseflutes.html

    Your concerns are legit. People are working on all three, but it's probably gonna be a couple of years before it all gets worked out. I respect your decision not to vlog, but if you change your mind, that respect will remain intact.

  • Alec September 17, 2006, 1:27 pm

    I might dig out the video camera and record my rendition of the star wars theme on nose flute… but that will probably be the extent of it.

    I think the medium is still somewhat immature. When the day comes that you can easily embed that noseflute link INSIDE the video of you playing it, then I think that vlogging will have come of age. I still may not do it, given my own predispositions, but at that point it will have reached where blogs are today.

  • Gary September 17, 2006, 2:07 pm

    Soon it will be possible to search speech that appears in video, so those with a strong, clear narration will win out (which is another reason to learn some skills, in this case sound recording).

    You are comparing apples with oranges. Where are the compelling moving images in text content?

    The problem is that many people have fairly good writing skills, but few have any video skills. Many don’t even apply the basics of writing to video. I mean they make no effort to tell a story or take the viewer on a journey.

  • Alec September 17, 2006, 2:55 pm

    I think you and I agree that, moving image, or no, compelling and communicative narrative is a baseline.

  • Jonny Goldstein September 17, 2006, 3:42 pm

    Alec, I am compelled to quibble with your quibbles.

    1. Publishable—-Nowadays many laptops come with built in web cams, all come with video editing software, and a big segment of folks have broadband, making publshing web video very doable for a huge swath of people.

    2. Findable—Just accompany the link to the video with the standard text and links and people will be able to find your video just fine.

    3. Social. Videoblogging is unbelievably social. We just had a huge conference in San Francisco with people from at least 3 continents and all over the USA. Video on the web is a WONDERFUL social medium, since so much communication occurs via facial expression, body language, and voice. And it retains all the social tools that text blogging has, as one can accompany the video post with text.

    4, Viral. I admit, all videobloggers aren’t taking full advantage of this yet, but people who use YouTube certainly are. The ability to cut and paste links to video mean that video on the web is becoming viral. And more and more video services, like Blip.TV let people post code to copy and paste, so more and more vloggers will be making it easy for their video to spread virally.

    5. Syndicateable. Video podcasts (and most vlogs are also podcasts) are eminently syndicatable. That’s why they are called podcasts. A free aggregator like FireAnt collects videos with accompanying text and links to view at one’s convenience.

    6. Linkable: When video is part of a blog, it’s a snap to link to a post that contains video.

    I get your point that the video itself is opaque. That is, if you put it up with no accompanying text how could one find it, or the info within it? A truly fined grained search requires writing out a transcript that connected to the timeline of the video. This is actually pretty easy to do now with a plug-in from for WordPress, but most people aren’t doing that.

    Good communication certainly requires work, whether face to face, in text, audio, or video. That said, there is so much fantastic videoblog content on the web right now. I spent 2 hours last night watching videos in my videopodcast aggregator and was blown away by the quality of what I watched. Once you know who is doing good stuff and subscribe to them, you are set.

    Text is an excellent form of communication for a lot of stuff—-Long live text. You may be able to get by just fine living in a text only blogosphere. I personally don’t own a TV and do fine without it. But I’m omnivorous in what I consume and produce on the web, and that works great for me.

  • Alec September 17, 2006, 4:13 pm


    I didn’t set the criteria. You can thank Scoble and Shel for that one. The linkability and opacity issue is the thing which concerns me the most. And, frankly, the time to consume issue.

    Nose flutes rock, by the way.


  • PhoneBoy September 17, 2006, 9:50 pm

    Quicktime allows you to embed links into video, but the "links" only work if you are using Quicktime to view the video. For examples, check out the abcnews.com podcast for World News as well as MacBreak.

  • Vijay September 18, 2006, 12:28 am

    "I suspect that for most people, myself included, the majority of video on the network today isn’t worth watching." – I'd agree with Alec in this.

    The last time, I sat to figure out if there were any good videos to watch on Youtube, or google video, there wasnt any. The problem is that, the basic skillset for video recording and editing, is much more than what the average joe can handle. Perhaps, apple will start working on something like garageband for making videocasts.

    But as for the skill of story telling… well, thats something that can't catch up that easily. The differentiation in writing vs. video is that, while with writing you could target a specific audience, with video, it can be a totally different thing and visual cues can be interpreted in so many ways and there are too many details to cover.

  • Donald Smith September 18, 2006, 3:52 pm

    Don't forget a very important point, and the reason why many people in Radio never make the leap to Television… Anyone with good writing skills can BLOG, but to VLOG, you have to look somewhat human. 😉

    – Don

  • Alec September 18, 2006, 5:38 pm

    You'll note that there isn't a photo of me on this page… 😉

  • steve garfield September 19, 2006, 6:59 am

    The whole point abotu video blogging is that it's video in a blog.

    You retain all the qualities of a blog, and you get the added bonus of video.

    Look at my most recent video blog post.

    It was shot with a Canon S400 digital still camera that has video features and uploaded to blip.tv and then cross posted to my video blog.

    In the text area of the post I have links to everything mentioned in the video, and I have a transcript of what is said.

    So there you have it all.

    It's a moment, captured on video and shared, plus you get links and can read it instead or in addition to viewing.

    The benefit of viewing is that you get a sense of what it was like to be there. I could have written many paragraphs explaining it, but the video shows it.

    Also, no opening, credits, music…

  • steve garfield September 19, 2006, 7:00 am


    here's the post:

    Amanda Congdon announces Amanda Across America http://stevegarfield.blogs.com/videoblog/2006/09/

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