Cam x SouthWest

This is, by far, the most travelling I’ve ever done in my life. I feel like a horrible cliche musician under the duress of “road life,” who longs for the relaxing and stable environs of home.

Pshaw. I’m exaggerating, as the domain states, but I am off to SXSW today, probably the most exciting trip of recent times. It’s quite a surreal experience heading to an event where so many webloggers will be present. I’m really looking forward to putting real faces to the identities that I’m so familiar with.

I’ll be participating in Meg’s panel Peer to Peer Journalism: Weblogs and Collaborative Media on Tuesday at 12:30pm, as well as crossing my fingers for Blogdex’s nomination in the Web Awards.

The Cam Cam will be in full effect, so expect a mini-documentary upon return. I hope to see you all there!

My First Digital Movie Creator

My package came. I opened it, and as expected, out came a matte blue kids video camera. I haven’t been so excited in my life.

If you haven’t heard the Intel Play story, it’s worth a few seconds. Trying to make ground on the interface barrier between kids and technology, the Intel Play division was making some pretty spiffy little products engineered for the kid form factor. At affordable prices (all under $100), they were selling like hotcakes.

Just at the tipping point, their parent organization, the Connected Products Division proved unable to turn a profit, and was terminated. The Play Division, being dependent on core materials from its parent, was also shut down.

That’s just about the point that most of my friends heard about the Digital Movie Creator, a tiny video camera in the Intel Play line. It records 320×200 full motion video at 10 frames/second for 4 minutes. It uses a CMOS instead of a CCD which degrades the quality significantly (more tech specs here). Despite all of these inhibiting qualities, at closeout-reduced rate of $30, it’s the cheapest portable video technology in the world. While supplies last, you can still purchase your own direct from Intel.

The quality is better than what you might expect for web content. Which is to say, had the product continued to market, I’m sure there would have been a fashionable version for slightly older kids (like me), hoping to capture explicitly the weblog audience. is a video weblog run by a fellow Media Lab student that is trying to take advantage of this gadget to produce video content on a regular basis. We’ll see how much of mine actually makes it into public form. At the moment, I’m having a good time just making funny noises and contorting my face. But maybe that’s just the bright blue camera speaking.


In today’s SearchDay, Chris Sherman introduced a new project from the Columbia Natural Language Processing group called Newsblaster, an automatic content aggregator, which, unlike Blogdex, actually culls similar content into one descriptive passage. Chris noted:

“If such a system were combined with a URL monitoring service, and seeded with a taxonomy of subjects personally interesting to you, it could effectively create your own web “advisory” service, automatically building directories of promising sites annotated with high-level summaries that would spare you the time of manual searching.”

Sounds to me like the coming of personalized news, the underlying goals of which have always left me a little uneasy. Personalized news tends to converge, as one might expect, on your personal interests. If we take this model to the extreme, then would I ever learn anything entirely new? Something revolutionary? What I want is someone else’s personalized news, someone like myself, but different enough that they will lead me in a new direction. That, my friends, is a weblog. And thankfully, there are lots of those.

To be fair, I’m sure Chris is referring to some hybrid of weblog and news content, which is taking all of this into account. I just had to get the ‘personalized news’ rant off my chest. I feel better now, in case anyone is wondering.