Posts about live

The challenge of live search

As the web turns live — with broadcasters streaming and with anyone carrying a mobile phone broadcasting — the next big challenge for search will be how we can find what’s going on while it’s going on. How can we search the live web?

I’ve written here before that witnesses sharing what they see via video from their mobile phones will change the essential architecture of news. No longer will CNN tell witnesses to send things to them that they then vet, package, and present to the world. When a Qik or Flixwagon user sees live news and broadcasts it on the web, it won’t be through CNN. CNN’s challenge will be to find it and its choice will be to link to it or embed it or not. That changes the role of a news organization in the ecology of news. It might even take them out of the flow of much of live news unless they can come up with systems to find and recommend what’s happening now.

Even when dealing with known, branded sources of live broadcast, there’s a challenge. I want to see whether anyone — TV or radio network or citizen armed with a Nokia — is going to broadcast Barack Obama’s speech about race from Philadelphia today. But I can’t find that.

Google is not prepared for the live web. Google values pages that grow links and clicks over time. It understands the permanent web. Of course, that is a protean thing, a growing brain. But it’s not live. Technorati likes to think that it gives us the live web but I’d say that instead it gives us the dynamic web, the latest static pages. It also doesn’t give us live.

How can you find and value live? Looking at links will make you too late. Traffic might tell you something — why are people swarming around this video stream? — but that, too, will be unreliable and probably too late. Brand won’t be a help because the witness will almost always see and share news before a reporter can get there.

Nobody would have had any reason to know that I was on the last PATH train into the World Trade Center on 9/11 but if I’d had the phone I had now, I would have been broadcasting the news from eye-level — not from rooftops three miles away — as it happened. How could you have known that?

There will need to be a new system where, Twitterlike, he who’s broadcasting live can alert the world about what he’s sending and others — audiences or armies of interns monitoring these feeds — help the good stuff bubble up and quickly.

If this doesn’t exist, the live web’s value will be as perishable as smoke. If it does exist, we’ll probably find what’s going on — what’s news — around the present news architecture. And then we’ll have to wonder how we vet and confirm that what we see is real.

Live changes everything — again.

* * *

Seconds after posting this, I see Dave Winer — who else? – at the start of such a structure of leading us to the live web. He Twittered: “I’m making an MP3 of Obama’s speech. I’ll publish it a few minutes after the speech is over, 15 minutes from now.”

The human satellite truck

Visionary network news photographer Jim Long is gleefully putting himself out of business. Well, actually, he’s expanding his own business, for network executives should be plugging into his brain. But he’s reducing the need for that gigantic camera he lugs all over the world. While in Africa traipsing after George Bush and company, Jim turned on his mobile phone and hooked it into Qik.com and broadcast Sir Bob Geldof speaking. No big camera. No satellite uplink. No editing into packages. No b-roll. Just the news now.

But this is more than just broadcasting live from anywhere — that’s important enough. It’s also interactive: we can ask the correspondent to ask the subject questions: live lets us in on the conversation.

I’ve also been playing with Flixwagon, a Qik competitor that powered MTV’s Super Tuesday mobile coverage, and it’s dead easy: one click and you’re broadcasting. This is hugely changing.

: Also note from my friends at the Guardian that one of the paper’s still photographers won a Royal Television Society award for best international news. Repeat that: a newspaper photographer wins a TV award. TV’s not TV anymore.

(Disclosure: I write for the Guardian and consult for them and Sky.com, also an award-winner at the RTS.)

The world from a purse

I’m amused that the Times is wowed that Fox News has a small trick that can broadcast TV while moving.

Except iJustine can do that with nothing more than her purse.

Years ago, I told a friend of mine at News Corp. that TV should be putting web cams in the homes, offices, and even cars of experts and sources so they could go on the air anywhere, anytime. One of her TV colleagues pooh-poohed the idea, insisting that this wouldn’t give them “broadcast quality” (is that an oxymoron?).

And, of course, soon you won’t even need Justine’s purse. I met last week with Nic Fulton, who has been leading the mobile journalist project using a stock Nokia phone with software that lets a journalist publish video, audio, photos, and text. That’s not live — yet — but soon will be.

TV from a truck? Dern, what’ll they think of next?

iPhone and the future of news

Something significant happened in the coverage of the otherwise insignificant and comically unnecessary lines that formed outside Apple stores waiting to get the iPhone:

The event was covered live, in video, directly to the internet and to the public, by the people in the story, without news organizations.

That is a big deal: the start of live, video witness-reporting. Scoble did it. More than one of Justin.tv‘s folks did it. So did GroundReport.tv and Diggnation and the gadget blogs and more than I can list.

picture-2.png

Not to mention, of course, all the reporting that went on via Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, blogs. . . .

Two months ago, after the video of the Virginia Tech shooting went up online — more than an hour after the news occurred — I speculated that someday soon, we’d see that same video from a news event being fed live, directly to us on the internet.

Well, that didn’t take long.

As I said in that post, this necessarily changes the relationship of witnesses to news and news organizations. When it is live, producers don’t have time to edit, package, vet and all the things that news organizations have always done. They can’t intermediate. All that news organization can do is choose to link or not link to what we, the witnesses, are feeding, as the news happens.

The news is direct, from witness to the world.

The infrastructural challenge in this is that we, the audience, won’t necessarily know where to find what’s going on. For a time, there will be portals for live — UStream et al — but it’s already hard to find out what’s happening there. Portals don’t work. So I imagine that news organizations will need to devote people to combing all the live video to see what’s happening out in the world. The real value will then be alerting all the rest of us that something is going on now so we can watch on the internet . . . or perhaps on our iPhones.

ijustineiphone.jpgAnd, of course, soon those iPhones will be the means of gathering and sharing that news, as soon as they have video cameras and as soon as AT&T gets its act together. Son Jake told me that iJustine, one of the Justin.TV lifevloggers, doesn’t need to carry a backpack; her small camera hooks up to a Vaio in her purse. So the gigantic ENG (electronic news gathering) and SNG (satellite news gathering) trucks with their dishes and expensive equipment and expert operators are replaced by . . . a purse, and soon a mere phone.

This also makes this transaction interactive: The audience can interact with the reporter. We can ask questions and share information and suggest they go shoot this instead of that.

Now add in GPS and SMS and the idea that people who happen to be near a news event can be alerted and assigned to open their phones and start shooting: Everybody at the Glasgow airport with a video phone gets an SMS suggesting that they start shooting and sharing whatever they see; a flaming car just rammed the front of the terminal. Others there can be warned to stay away from the door where the danger is. Live.

So imagine that Wolf Blitzer on CNN is standing in front of a wall of screens showing our video from the scenes of news. Imagine that MSNBC sends us alerts when news happens live so we can tune into the internet to watch. Imagine if the BBC can assign viewers near any news event to start shooting and sharing. Imagine if CBS News prepares for an event — a storm — by asking the public to all be streaming in their witness-eye views. Imagine also that we can go around these organizations and set up alert systems to tell each other, directly, what’s happening where and to show it happening, live; that is precisely what happened in the case of the iPhone lines.

Problems? Of course, there are. I never sit in a meeting with journalists without hearing them obsess about all the things that could go wrong; that is, sadly and inevitably, their starting point in any discussion about new opportunities. I blew my gasket Friday when I sat with a bunch of TV people doing just that. So, yes, someone could fake a news broadcast and, because it’s live, you don’t have the time to vet. But you can issue caveats and triangulate with others in the area or choose not to link to or show something you doubt. You can also set up systems to vet trusted contributors and ban fakester. We in the public will also doubt and it is the job of journalists and educators to help them doubt; that is the media literacy we need to strengthen already in the age of 24-hour cable news. Yes, nasty things could happen before our very eyes and ears. Someone who’s in grave danger in front of the Glasgow airport might actually say “oh, shit.” I would. And, yes, through each lens, we’ll see just one angle on the story; it is necessarily incomplete. But we can also get more people to show more angles on that story than we ever could with just one camera and one SNG truck — which usually arrived long after the news is over, leading to the tortured tense of TV news: “Police are this morning hunting for… Firemen are this morning sifting through… Neighbors are this morning wondering…”

Life becomes a 24-hour news channel. And we see news through the eyes of witnesses.

Even though the mass of iPhone lines in front of the Apple stores was a nonstory, it still was a story that changed news profoundly.

: LATER: Just read a very good related post at TechCrunch by Duncan Riley. He calls this eventstreaming: “Eventstreaming is the missing link in Web 2.0’s challenge to network television.”

Ubiquitous news

Jim Long meets Jamal Albarghouti, the Virginia Tech student who shot that video. And see Daniel Sieberg’s report on how the students kept themselves informed via the web during the siege. Note that the webmaster for the student-news site, Planet Blacksburg, is interviewed via UStream, which allows anyone to stream live on the internet, a la Justin.TV, as does ComVu. I said below that news from witness-reporters will soon come live; this is how.