An Interview with's J.D. Lasica
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4

Lasica: A couple of things; specifically, as far as Flickr is concerned. We are approaching Yahoo and asking them to open Flickr's APIs, so that Ourmedia or any site can tap into them and use them in the same way that Flickr is doing. Some of the folks at Yahoo have been really open about promulgating the idea of open source so this is a really great way to prove it in the multimedia world.

I just wrote a book called Darknet: Hollywood's War Against Digital Generation. The whole idea behind that is to explain the personal media revolution and some of the conflicts between that and Hollywood and Big Entertainment, trying to hold back some of what's happening in this sphere. The thing that's really happening is that personal media is becoming social media. The kind of stuff we're creating with photographs, with video, with podcasts, we don't want to just have this stuff stored on our home computers. We want to share it with our friends or with a wider circle of colleagues or even strangers. Because that's what you do with media. Media is there to be shared.

That was the whole reason for creating Ourmedia in the first place. We saw that the tools for creating these personal media forms have been getting easier to use, less expensive, more pervasive. But we saw that there wasn't really a place to share this media with a global audience; that's what we wanted to enable. What you're seeing with Flickr and what you're going to be seeing with Ourmedia and other sites is media as sort of a social experience, so the folksonomies that come with tagging every single piece of media are going to create interesting new ways for people to move through media. Instead of a linear fashion of organized taxonomies and ontologies, people are just going to be able to decide on their own how to organize this media and how to attach new meanings to video and audio and photos and all the rest. So it's really kind of exciting to see how this has taken off on its own.

Koman: It's not that long ago that it would have been thought strange to share personal media with the world. The defaults have been towards privacy and limits, and this seems like a switch. Just change the defaults and a whole range of unexpected things could happen.

Lasica: Yeah, I think that's true but especially among young people and the more tech-savvy crowd, since the advent of Napster, they've seen the internet not just as a communications or information retrieval medium, but as a social medium that engenders community. It's a community space. The longer you spend online and the more you've used P2P networks, the more you experience media as something to be shared, to be used in a group fashion.

Koman: Do you think this will impact what you could call traditional creativity? Do you think what's happening could change what it means to make a movie, for example?

Lasica: For sure. For decades, there's been one rule of moviemaking. You go out there with a whole crew of people and shoot a movie, and then there's a months-long process of editing and distribution. All of that is being exploded out of the water now. Anybody who wants to be a filmmaker, all they need to is grab their camcorder, go out there into the world and create their own vision and put it up on the Web. It doesn't have to be linear; it can be a shared experience, it can be a group of people getting together to create something.

All the rules are off. And we're seeing interesting new forms ... I don't even call them movies or film anymore. Basically it's video--whether you're doing it for television or theatrical release or on the Web, eventually it comes down to pixels on the screen. It could be a video blog, it could be a digital story, or some other sort of independent film. We're seeing all these different forms being uploaded to Ourmedia.

Koman: You know, there's this Coppola quote from when he was making Apocalypse Now, where he envisions that video cameras would allow a million filmmakers to bloom. But from then to now, we've seen America's Funniest Home Videos, but we haven't seen, you know, quality stuff. So I guess I have a question about quality. Of the vast amount of stuff that will be uploaded, how do you separate the stuff you actually want to look at and stuff that even has any intention of being looked at by people who don't have a personal relationship with it?

Lasica: I guess I would have two answers to that. One is that what you find interesting might not be the same as what I find interesting, so the same kind of laws that apply to the blogosphere apply to the video blogosphere as well. There are going to be home movies and independent productions that do find an audience, but it will be an audience in the dozens or hundreds instead of the millions. And that's fine. The people who create those works are probably going to be happy with that kind of reach, as long as it's the right dozen people.

As far as separating out the cool stuff from the really crappy stuff, we're still at the beginning stages. There are things we're going to be incorporating into Ourmedia in the next couple months that actually address that directly. One is ratings. Everybody who's a member of Ourmedia will be able to vote on every piece of media on the site and rate it from 1 to 5. So on that very fundamental, very crude level, that will immediately allow some things to surface.

There are some aspects of social networking, called Groups, which will be incorporated in the next few weeks. And that will be another way for people to socialize and recommend works that they find on the site. There will be other ways to find stuff, as far as moving through media through social tagging. You know, you're right, it's going to be hard to find really good stuff without some more tools.

Richard Koman is a freelancer writer and editor based in Sonoma County, California. He works on SiliconValleyWatcher, ZDNet blogs, and is a regular contributor to the O'Reilly Network.

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