February 2009


Finally had one of those “ah-ha” moments to appreciate how micro-blogging (Twitter, Yammer, etc) is basically “hall conversation meets the internet!”

In years past much collaboration occurred in the halls at work (or around the coffee machine).   During these ad-hoc discussions folks share what they are working on, maybe something new they have seen, possibly even something personal.   Key was short and often disjoint bits of information, but often valuable to your work.  As you would come and go you would pick up parts, some days more than others and might followup on something you heard.  

And then there was Twitter… and Yammer…

These new technologies and communities provide almost an electronic “coffee machine” around which discussion occurs.  While it took me a short while to appreciate and understand, this is clearly part of the significant change underway in how the internet is used.  And now the field of scope from whom I can have ad-hoc conversations has grown to be global.  This is really exciting – I can see this filling a critical gap in distributed work environments. 

So is there a negative?   Does this promote further distancing in folks from developing good interpersonal skills?   Take a look at this article at mashup http://mashable.com/2009/02/10/mobile-dating-stats

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Digital Media applications (sometimes called DAM or MAM) are designed to interact with digital media – video, images, audio – and face a number of challenges where the application architecture plays a significant role.  These challenges come from the nature of the bits themselves (the large number), the number of supporting technologies, and established workflows of which many have evolved over years of managing content, and the rapidly evolving industry.  While this topic could cover volumes, my goal here is to highlight some of the noticeable requirements I have seen recently.

VLF – Very Large Files

Rich media files, be it high-res print ready images or high-def video, are very large in size and often not well suited for direct interaction with end-users.   Considering the master files can be 100s of GB in size, the architecture of the application should support a number of requirements including:

  • Content delivery by separate application to help optimize movement (streaming servers, CDN, storage services)
  • Ensuring operations across process minimize content movement
    • While still supporting that some processes will need to touch/process content
  • The pre-existence of a large “library” of content – see point about minimizing movement

Content Processing Technologies – legacy & emerging

Rich media content processes depend heavily on many 3rd party technologies for everything from transformation, manipulation, delivery, editing, compressing, producing, etc.  The specific technology decision can influenced by factors including legacy implementations, support for specific file types, sometimes even variations of files types generated by a specific program, other integrated technology limitations, etc.    Realizing the application cannot possibly embed all technologies, the architecture should provide for:

  • Practical integration of 3rdparty technologies at key points within workflows. More and more these points are becoming anywhere within the flow.
  • Support for legacy or proprietary technologies still in use today for content processing
    • It may not be possible to force use of content processing technology
  • Ability to integrate with emerging technologies
    • Both as libraries and SaaS model
  • Recognition that 3rd party technologies may not be platform independent
  • Support of atomic transactions across multiple technologies, HW, systems

Workflows – often established and complex

The issues detailed above have led to many creative and often custom solutions.  Given the resulting content often has high value to an organization’s business (recall that rich media often is themonetized product), these processes become established and relied upon across the organizations within a business (ie. creative, legal, distribution, archiving).  In order to best support customers needs, expectations, and initial roll-outs – the system architecture should provide for the following requirements:

  • Support for modeling long established workflows already in operation. This requires high degree of flexibility as legacy workflows may have originated as custom code providing unlimited ability.
  • Ability to incorporate into workflows new “services” coming into market around rich media features – how to leverage.
  • Often multiple “media renditions” exist with different workflow/tool required for delivery
    • For example – FPO in the print world and low-res vs hi-res video proxies

Search is interactive

Originally search was taking a word/phrase and matching to an index for results.  While this works especially well for text based assets, in the media world you are often looking for the emotional connection of “did I find the right asset for the right purpose.”  Finding this right result requires a more interactive process than simply matching a word to an index – it is about the process of searching, understanding and refining a set of results for which I have permissions.  Architecture requirements to support this may include:

  • Low latency on search operations. Often users will need to leverage search as they are working with assets, for example to review changes. In addition they will be using the search process in a very dynamic manner to identify the right asset.
  • Support for dynamic structured metadata – while structure is important, it will change.
  • Relationships are critical – often the find process involves understanding how an asset was previously used and its relationship to other assets.
  • Ability in real-time to interact with your search via concepts such as narrowing, filtering, clustering, etc.

Although video has a great deal of attention, there remain equally exciting advances occuring around publishing.  Everything from Print on Demand (POD), electronic readers, and accessibility.  These technologies look to be rapidly advancing what “publishing” means, its availability to writers and readers, and opportunities for new advances.  As traditional revenue streams change, folks are forced to innovate bringing new ideas to how we produce and consume published media!

Recently in doing some unrelated research I came across a neat technology called Scribd.  While not new, it was new to me and quite interesting.   I also have been watching another technology from Amazon called Kindle.  With this I wanted to list out some interesting publishing technologies I was aware of and hopefully get comments on others.

This blog is not about traditional publishing nor meant to be an exhuastive list of eBook type options.   Instead this is meant to highlight some technologies I have recently come across and seek input from others.  If you haven’t already, I encourage you to wander the web and look at what’s new in with publishing.

  • Scribd – a service that provides a “place where you publish, discover and discuss original writings and documents.”  This services allows you to upload in multiple formats (like Word, PDF, PPT) and then publish in their iPaper format which can be embedded into web sites, blogs, etc.  They provide sharing and community type features.
  • Amazon Kindle – provides both a device and service for delivery of published media from Amazon.com.  A convenient aspect of the Kindle solution is the Kindle connects to the Amazon service using cell phone technology – so no need to sync via your PC.
  • Sony Reader Digital Book – Sony provides an eBook reader and store for eBooks.
  • LuLu– is a “digital marketplace” providing a service that “eliminates traditional entry barriers to publishing, and enables content creators and owners – authors and educators, videographers and musicians, businesses and nonprofits, professionals and amateurs – to bring their work directly to their audience.”
  • Publish2 – provides a “free service for journalists and newsrooms to save, share, and publish links to the best content on the web.”  In addition, the inventors of this technology host the Publishing 2.0 blog discussing how “technology is transforming media, news, and journalism.”