Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tube Tantrum

Hey readers,

I hope you are all having a wonderful Sunday afternoon like I am. My next rant is about a series of issues that plauge over 40 million people every day across the world. So sit back and relax as I point out the annoying quirks in our favorite video sharing community: Youtube.

Now, as most of us know, Youtube allows people to share videos of their favorite things, or post their own creations online for others to critique. It's safe, it's free, and all you have to do is follow a few rules. You have the option of flagging a video you think isn't suitable for the website, and being able to save that one comedy skit you nearly died watching is just awesome. It's a giant alchemy of every kind of video, some types you never knew existed, such as AMV's (Anime Music Videos) and fan dubs.

But that's precisely the problem! There's too dang many! It's all in a big, unorganized heap that we have to sort through. If you grew up without cable or satellite TV like I did, then getting high-speed Internet and logging onto Youtube is the next best thing. You can look up any video you want and watch for free. Sounds great, right? Well let's just hope that what you're looking for is on the most-popular list.

The main issue I have with Youtube is that is uses the same searching techniques as Google: finding individual words in lines of text and ranking them according to the number of hits they get. But why is that an issue? You have to be ultra specific with your terminology as you search. How come? Because there are too dang many articles or websites that make mention of stuff every day! You could be looking for an article that talks about classic movies, but somewhere in there you get a hit for a tutorial on how to use Windows Movie Maker. Why? Because the tag line has the very word "article" in it.

A good example of what I'm talking about is a search I did last night. I'm not a big fan of South Park, but I saw a funny clip from an episode that made fun of World of Warcraft. I laughed so hard I nearly choked! My family is coming to visit me in a few days. With them is my younger brother who likes the series. So I figured, "Why not favorite that clip to show him?" All I had to do was run a quick search and narrow it down to the correct video, right? A task that should have only taken a few minutes nearly drained a hour of my time. Want to know why? Because the clip didn't exist anymore!

That's right. A short video clip I had watched only a week ago had vanished without a trace. I typed in every search phrase I could think of using the words "South Park", "World of Warcraft", "episode" and "funny". The list of hits I browsed through was everything BUT the clip I was looking for. I got hits for music videos, fan made trailers of the episode, but not the episode itself! Heck I even got a hit for Invader Zim. I have three words for this...what the crap?! Even if the guy hated the site, quit and deleted everything on his account, there ought to be at least ONE other user out there who would gladly take his place. But no, I had to go all the way over to Myspace and look it up there. An easy way to fix this problem would be to have a better category system. All it takes is a simple program that requires videos to be labeled properly. And please, for the love of all that's sacred, get rid of the tag lines! Half the irrelevant hits I got were because the dumb users who posted the vids wrote in every possible tag word they could imagine. They REALLY want their videos to get watched! It's like searching for a needle in a haystack except there IS no needle anyway!

Another thing about this site that really sticks in my craw is the big deal they have about copyrighting. I'll use a hypothetical example of myself. If I post a Star Wars video, let's say an actual clip from one of the films, no editing, no dub or anything. Let's pretend that I forgot to post George Lucas as the director and 20th Century Fox as the studio that made it, or let's say I didn't know at all. Chances are that video will be scrapped. Why? I didn't give credit where credit is due. That's understandable in some cases, but why can't you just send me an email politely asking to correct the problem? If you go around deleting every video that violates your guidelines without giving them a chance, not only will they be confused as to what they did wrong, but they'll quit the site for sure.

The online laws of video copyrighting and piracy are as confusing as the website itself. No one gets it right all the time, so cut some slack!

Something else that's really odd are those red bars at the top of the screen telling you a video has been removed for whatever reason. If you click on a video link, you may see something like this:

"This video has been removed for terms of use violations."

Ok, that's fine, a little vague, but I have no complaint. It was probably obscene or something. On other occasions, however, you may see a line like:

"This video has been removed due to claims by Paramount Pictures."

What?! Are you freak'in kidding me? What's a billion-dollar studio like Paramount doing on Youtube anyway? It's no wonder that there are hardly any full-length movies on the site. There are video size limits yeah, but it's because the users are scared out of their wits! The big boys upstairs seem to be real paranoid about the whole piracy thing. I wouldn't want my work being copied illegally, but these guys have taken it to the extreme. It's like the Spanish Inquisition all over again: a complete search of the entire Internet looking for offenders. You'd better have plenty of ways to prove your innocence or you'll be burned at the stake, heretic.

This is just insane. I mean, if you were having a conversation with a friend trying to tell them about a great book you just finished, but had to keep repeating the author's name and publishing company every time it came up, you'd lose your mind! Same thing with Youtube. Do we REALLY have to give credit to something as well known as Star Wars? Half the world already knows who made it, and we're more than happy to educate the next generation. Fan videos seem to be a big target for this crap. But here's a thought: since most fan videos are dedicated to things that are popular, why not have Youtube just do a Google search and learn about it? If it's as popular as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, is there a need to say who wrote it? I sure as heck didn't invent either!

Speaking of Google, don't use it to search for videos you can't find on Youtube. Why? Because more than half the search results will be from Youtube anyway! My only advise is to chat with users who might have what you want and ask them to email it to you. Then hop back and forth between Youtube and Myspace. One of them is BOUND to have it.

*Sigh* Well, I'd better calm down before I hurt myself.

Power to the pen and those who wield it without fear of institutionalized repression!
(Original quote by Taylor Harbin)

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