Ok, you probably have already discovered about YouTube yourself. Some have called it the “visual community telegraph of our age.” Others see it simply as the Napster of 2006, with massive copyright lawsuits poised to occur as soon as the site is purchased by an organization with deep pockets. Indeed, the site is rife with copyrighted material, but next to those clips of the Daily Show and SNL are thousands upon thousands of great examples of user-generated content, like the LonelyGirl15 or Ask A Ninja videos we posted about earlier. For the tech set, there’s even these hilarious Mac vs. PC commercial parodies or Weird Al’s outrageous “I’m so white and nerdy” video. Enjoy them while they last!
Who knows what’s next? Why, Wired, of course. Among many other innovations, last year’s Wired Magazine NextFest introduced a new international icon for wireless Internet access, otherwise known as WiFi. Chris Anderson talked about the long tail. The future of exploration (see Richard Branson’s plans for Virgin Galactic) and robotics both received considerable attention. One presentation, “Green is the new Black,” described how “New homes, offices, and vehicles strutting down the retail runway incorporate innovative, sustainable materials while maintaining functionality and style.” We look forward to seeing what’s next in action down the road.
Tired of clicking from one metafilter to the next? Thomas Marban’s PopURLs.com displays the most popular links on social bookmarking sites like Digg, Del.icio.us, Furl, Fark, Slashdot, Wired, NewsVine, Metafilter and many others, all on one page, with direct links to the stories. Federated Media calls it a “dashboard for the hive mind,” a statement we’re inclined to agree with entirely. Constantly updated headlines are displayed on a minimalist black background. You can simply rollover a story to get a summary to pop up, which makes browsing that much easier. There are also feeds for the most tagged photos from Flickr and videos from YouTube, iFilm and MetaCafe.
LibriVox.org is an open source project that provides free audiobooks from the public domain without any advertising. To pull that off, LibriVox enables volunteers to record chapters of books and then upload the audio files as .MP3 and .OGG files back onto LibriVox, where they are then listed within the online catalog. LibriVox’s stated goal is to make all public domain books available as free, downloadable content. We wish them luck! If you would like to help, it’s easy to volunteer. Don’t worry — quite a bit of Tolstoy’s War and Peace remains to be recorded, along with numerous works of Shakepeare, if you’re feeling your thespian oats.
Yale University has announced that it is offering publicly-accessible digital videos of several courses on the Internet for free. While the courses can’t be counted towards a Yale degree, Yale did gain the distinction of being the first member of the Ivy League to focus on video lectures. Princeton and Harvard Law School have already made course materials available for free online, even offering virtual courses in Second Life. MIT, while not an Ivy, has taken the step of making all of its courses freely available to netizens.
Yale’s pilot project features seven courses, all beginning in the 2007 academic year. Examples are “Introduction to the Old Testament,” “Fundamentals of Physics” and “Introduction to Political Philosophy.” Transcripts, rendered in several languages, are available for download. This PDF describes the program in more detail.
Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools is is a Web site owned and operated by, of all people, Kevin Kelly, one of the co-founders of Wired Magazine way back in the 20th century. He writes about different “cool tools” weekly on his blog as well as other interesting topics in technology and culture in general, as one might expect from Wired’s “Senior Maverick.”
Memeorandum.com offers the reader a window into the online world of news, focusing primarily on U.S. politics and current affairs. Memeorandum auto-generates a news summary every 5 minutes, drawing on experts, pundits, insiders, outsiders, media professionals, amateur and professional bloggers. For those who want to focus in on technology-specific news and commentary, TechMeme, in the words of its creater, Gabe Rivera, “surfaces relevant links” and aggregates them in the same way, in real-time. For many tech bloggers, getting onto the front page of TechMeme has become a highly-desirable goal because of the influential readership of “A-list” bloggers.
Podzinger distinguishes itself in several areas of innovation, including an embedded media player that allows a user to play a podcast directly from within search results. This removes the need to download a podcast before listening to it. Additionally, Podzinger lists excerpts from the podcast that its algorithms have converted using speech-to-text technology, displaying the time and context of each occurrence of the term that was entered into Podzinger’s search engine. These excepts are linked directly into the podcasts, enabling a user to click directly to the time(s) in the podcast where the term occurred. It’s easy to add a podcast to your subscription lists on either iTunes or Yahoo!. It’s also possible to create and save searches for specific terms, allowing you to add that feed to whichever RSS reader you use and keep up to date easily on that topic. Podzinger has added the ability to search within video content to its offering as well, making it rather useful for finding keywords within your favorite iFilm or YouTube content.
The screen name “LonelyGirl15” has officially entered the annals of Internet lore. For a time, LonelyGirl15 was the most subscribed to channel on YouTube.com. Even if she’s been unmasked as a twenty-something actress from New Zealand instead of a child of a repressed religious family, her episodic video diary posts on YouTube, Revver.com and elsewhere created a genuine Internet phenomenon for the four months the mystery lasted, spawning its own cottage-industry of online investigators working to uncover the truth behind the lonely girl on all of our screens. Even after the Net’s discovery of her true identity and the production staff behind the series, LonelyGirl15 was one of the finalists in YouTube’s first video awards, making it to #4 in the user-moderated forum for best series before losing to Ask A Ninja comedic stylings.