Recent advances in software design, often referred to with such labels as Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and Social Media provide a great opportunity to look at old problems and consider if they could be solved better with a new approach.  We are already seeing this with social media applications where collaboration (i.e. email based on 40 year designs) is being reinvented with new integrated platforms for email, blog, wiki, IM, micro-blogging.  Now we should ask what opportunities exist to solve other “old” problems with new 2.0ish solutions.

What are we learning about software?

If you asked folks what “social media” or “2.0” means – you likely get some varied answers.  There is already much written on the definitions of Social Media and W20/E20.  Instead of focusing on specific features or platforms, my intent is to focus on how this revolution is changing how folks approach using software to solve problems.

Some important attributes I see include:

  • Simple.  The features for the products tend to be simpler, how they are used is simpler.
  • Easy to use.  Users of software now expect it to be easy to use and not get in their way.  This is related to “simple” but not identical.
  • Anywhere/Anytime.  Users can access from anywhere anytime, especially mobile devices.
  • Collaboration.   Where possible allow for open collaboration amongst involved parties.
  • Transparency.  Folks are becoming far more transparent – just look at tools like Facebook.  This breaks down barriers and provides opportunities for software to be more efficient.
  • Cloud.  Whether the “cloud” is internet or intranet, users are becoming more comfortable with cloud based computing and seeking the benefits of this application delivery model.
  • Mashup & Integration.  Information and access to services to operate on this information is key.  Users are expecting more to be able to connect with providers of both to help better solve their problems.

There are many concepts/features emerging from this 2.0 revolution and include Wikis, Blogs, Micro-Blogging, Profiles, Mobile Apps, Portals, etc.  And we should expect more new ideas to continue being introduced which users will want to leverage.

Can we do better with social media influences?

So the big question – can we solve old problems in new & better ways providing improved efficiency, user adoption, transparency and availability?  I think so!  But this cannot be achieved by simply taking an “old” app and gluing on a couple of 2.0 features – the app needs to be re-conceived from the ground up.   A simple example relates to hybrid cars – you do not simply take the engine from a hybrid and drop into a traditional gas powered car.   Instead it gets redesigned from the ground up taking into account weight, strength, aerodynamics, etc.

How about some examples?

Ultimately I believe this revolution could provide opportunities across most software.   For example:

  • Documentation.  Imagine the possibilities if documentation were prepared, reviewed, managed in a wiki like form!  Available on-line, anywhere allowing for distributed contribution and collaboration.  For example a writer who is participating in translation could be working in near real-time on latest docs from remote locations.
  • Expense Management.  Consider if your expense management tool were simple to use, seamlessly integrated with your mobile device, collaborative to allow for efficient review!  This might decrease the time spent entering, allow one to get reimbursed more quickly, and better allow the business to manage/monitor expenses.

These are just two simple examples.  Can you see how this could dramatically change how a lot of old problems have been solved?

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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.”

This is a great time with many new (and some not so new) video related technologies coming to market.   Many of these are service based and cover everything from capture, management, editing, tagging, distribution, and monetization of video. 

In doing research recently, wanted to at least capture and list technologies I have come across that sounded interesting.  Considering this is a big space, these will only be a drop in the bucket – so please comment with more!

This list does not imply endorsement nor confirmation of their products capabilities.  Considering the sophistication of these products you should see their web site for complete product information.

  • Omnisio– provided ability to create your own video applications by editing and mixing with non video elements such as onscreen comments and slide synchronization.  They were acquired by Google last summer and merged into YouTube but can only find the text annotation capability online now.
  • Jumpcut– consumer and community targeted service for online editing, remixing, and publishing of videos and images
  • JayCut – another consumer and community targeted service for online editing, remixing, and publishing of videos and images
  • GorillaSpot – their SpotMixer platform provides a turnkey solution to allow for “user-generated generation” of video to share via email and social networking sites.
  • Multicast –  providing a service for delivery and monetization of live and on-demand video content
  • Pathfire – from their site:

…provider of digital media distribution and management solutions to the television, media and entertainment industries. The Pathfire solution—which includes a robust distribution network, flexible hardware solutions and innovative software applications—delivers unprecedented control for both content providers and stations…

 The company’s proprietary computer-vision based video indexing, search and interpretation algorithms empower content owners and publishers to efficiently monetize their digital video content, and advertisers to automatically target ads to thematically relevant video content.

  • Spinvox – voice to text service
  • Inlet Technologies– provide encoding, transcoding, and streaming solutions & services which “enables new media for new networks”
  • Ooyala – video platform providing delivery, analytics, syndication, advertising, interactive video features.
  • Blinkx– early pioneer in video search who “uses a unique combination of patented conceptual search, speech recognition and video analysis software to efficiently, automatically and accurately find and qualify online video.”

Please comment and share new technologies you have seen and I will continue to post more I come across.