Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

April 2, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

IN WHICH A DINOSAUR DEFENDS HIS TURF...Since I've been called out on the v-log issue — and also because I'm a little bored right now — here's a moderately detailed defense of my agreement with Nick Yglesias that v-logging kind of sucks. However, lest anyone take this too seriously, let me disclaim up front that this is a purely personal reaction. If you enjoy v-logging yourself, that's fine with me. Honest.

That said, here are my complaints, in reverse order of importance.

  1. The first objection is the most obvious one: it's so slo-o-o-o-w. A 20-minute v-log usually contains remarkably little content amidst all the interruptions, verbal tics, and hemming and hawing. I prefer my bloviating in more concentrated form. On a related note, v-logs are also almost impossible to scan, which I find endlessly annoying. I can scan a 3,000 word article in little more than a minute or so if I'm looking for a particular passage.

  2. V-loggers tend not to think out their arguments very well before turning on the camera, which means that I usually have to sit and watch for 20 minutes as they slowly and painfully piece it together. On a purely selfish basis, I'd rather that they spend the time it takes to hone their argument and write it down in a form where I can read it quickly, instead of blathering aimlessly and forcing me to spend the time to pick out the wheat from the chaff.

  3. Finally, I just don't get it. There's a reason political blogging has become popular: it's a genuinely different medium compared to other forms of political writing. Its combination of short takes, easy hyperlinking, interactivity (with other blogs and with blog commenters), constant updating, and accessibility by ordinary writers makes it unique. You can do things with a blog that you just can't do on an op-ed page or a magazine, and that's inherent in the medium.

    V-logging, by contrast, is just TV. It's literally the same thing that you see on PBS or CNN or Fox, except less professional. It just doesn't bring anything new to the table.

Having said this, though, I agree entirely with Matt's final point: v-logging is great as a training ground. If the point is to get better at doing TV commentary, v-logging is probably a good idea. (Though professional media training is probably an even better idea.)

So: would this post have worked better as a v-log? Upside: I probably would have explained myself in a little more depth. Downside: I probably would have been interrupted after each one of my three points. I think this would have made my argument harder to follow, not easier. Upside: The interruptions would force me to defend myself better. Downside: the kinds of defenses you come up with on the spur of the moment aren't necessarily very good ones.

Full disclosure: I don't really like professional v-logging (i.e., television) very much either. Also, I'd suck at v-logging. I don't have either the quick memory or the ability to think on my feet that successful real-time argument requires. What's more, v-logging is hard on bloggers because we can't just cut and paste stuff we want to comment on. We have to transcribe it first. So maybe this is all just sour grapes.

Kevin Drum 6:42 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (79)

Bookmark and Share

The other problem Kevin has with vlogging is that he isn't a hot babe.

Posted by: Brian on April 2, 2007 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Yes. Show us your tits, Kevin!

(for all the reasons Kevin cites, I agree, v-blogging is, at best, a fad - another good reason; people can participate in text blogging while they're at work. Most of us can't blast the audio without disturbing folks in the next cube.)

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on April 2, 2007 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

I would think the worst thing is the difficulty in providing hyperlinks. With a text blog, you can provide a link and call out a particular bit, and it's easy to follow the links (but still fewer people than should, myself included, follow the links). With a vlog, you have to say something like "at 4:36, Idiot 'A' says "I'm an idiot." This forces a reader to open the video, try and aim the scroll bar at 4:36, wait for it to buffer, etc. The Ctrl-F search doesn't work well either.

Posted by: Happy Chandler on April 2, 2007 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

OTOH, Jasmine and Inkblot could finally take over - if they ever wake up....

Posted by: xaxnar on April 2, 2007 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with all your reasons. I don't have time to watch someone think about what to say, and if they have written it all out beforehand, I can read many words per minute faster than they can speak.

I do like having links to video (or embedded video) of, say politicians making fools of themselves, or Stewart or Colbert making a fool of one, but that's not the same thing. I look through Crooks and Liars almost daily, but I read this blog and TPM much more often.

Posted by: anandine on April 2, 2007 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Vlogs can be good if the visuals are useful. Say Pammmy Atlas Cakes and her infamous video of the mosque with the huge hole blown in the roof. Even then though, 10 seconds of video attached to a regular blog post would probably get the job done more efficiently.

Generally speaking, I've had the same issues with podcasts for years. 20 or 30 or 50 or 90 minutes of meandering, joking, throat-clearing fluff which could be infinitely improved upon by transmuting it into 3 or 4 pages of organized, coherent, writing. Unless you're listening/watching for the quality of the presenter and his/her speaking ability, you'll get far more info from something written and produced/edited. Plus on the consumer end, it's easier to quote from, link to, analyze, discuss, etc.

Posted by: Flux on April 2, 2007 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, back in the real world...

Posted by: elmendorf on April 2, 2007 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with you, Kevin.

And one more strike against it-- it's only even accessible for folks with good fast broadband connections. The rest of us are totally left out.

Posted by: gyrfalcon on April 2, 2007 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Not only do I agree with all your points, I don't even click on videos at the professional sites (CNN.com, etc..) because of reason 1. I have to wait a few minutes for the initial advertising, and then have to sit through several minutes while the commentary slowly says what I could have read in less than a minute.

Posted by: Walker on April 2, 2007 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

...And I can totally listen to TV all day long while reading blogs, playing video games, and doing my household chores.

Whereas to watch videos on the net means I get it in lower res, from people who are worse speakers, and without the editing which speeds up the bites on TV.

So I'll stick to listening/watching online recordings of conferences, panels, and presentations - which is something you don't get on TV.

Posted by: Crissa on April 2, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

V-logging ... is just TV

TV is not a file you watch isolated from a mass audience.

However, the other points Mr. Drum makes about the ability to scan, receive and give feedback in real time with the written word is a reason why v-logging will probably not become the medium blogging has.

I could not respond with my thoughts this quickly and concisely with a video or audio file, but I can when I substitute your ears with your eyes and use the written word, substituting my mouth with my fingers.

Posted by: Brojo on April 2, 2007 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah...v-logging, as currently practiced, mostly sucks. Not only do people fail to get to their point, but I find myself paying too much attention to things like Mickey Kaus' extra-strength eyebrows or the vein throbbing on Ann Althouse's forehead right before she explodes in another hissy fit.

Personally, I'd just rather read.

Posted by: grape_crush on April 2, 2007 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez, isn't anyone going to defend v-logging? I know we're all a bunch of text-heads around here, but there's got to be somebody who likes watching video.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on April 2, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Take talking head television, give it lower production values and people less used to being on camera, and you have vlogging.

Also, I would imagine that bloggers are better writers than talkers---that's why they blog. On the flip side, I'm a big Daily Show fan, but I don't think I'd bother with Jon Stewart's blog if he started one. I'd assume he's funnier on camera than in the written word.

Posted by: JoshA on April 2, 2007 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

you miss the point - there are lots of grad students out there who acquired the ability to write something interesting in a rhetorically pleasing way. Being on camera is different because in most cases it's a rather passive experience so most think it's easy, but it isn't. When you get someone who has the honed rhetorical skills of someone who just finished their thesis on the long term political ramifications of the 30 years war and yet also understands 'being on camera' in a professional way and has the tech savvy to know that video can be just as hypertextual as text - well then video blogging will start to make more sense.

Posted by: saintsimon on April 2, 2007 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

"v-logs are also almost impossible to scan, which I find endlessly annoying."
Sounds like a job for Google.

Posted by: SP on April 2, 2007 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, bad v-logging is dreadful. As is bad blogging.

The upside of v-logging is that it allows the intangible qualities of personality to come to the fore, whereas blogging puts brains, writing skills and analysis first. In life, brains, writing and analysis are, for better or worse, not in the front.

One of "our side's" probelms is an undue emphasis on logic. Logic is overrated in my experience. How else would you explain the election of Reagan or Bush?

People who can deliver well-written and thoughtful commentary on cue in a compelling way are hugely valuable. If it took 20,000 new blogs a month for a year to get us Drum, Marshall, Kos, Atrios, FDL, etc., it's going to take quite a bit of bad v-logging to get the on-camera equivalents.

Or perhaps you LIKE the idea of Katie Couric as the top political analyst for millions of Americans?

Posted by: Jim Pharo on April 2, 2007 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez, isn't anyone going to defend v-logging?

How's this?: If it wasn't for vlogging, I would have never known how hot Garance is.

Posted by: Disputo on April 2, 2007 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

I predicted a couple of years ago that video would become the dominate means of communicating on the internet. YouTube has already indicated this. But video is probably not going to replace the written word on blogs, just like man on the street TV interviews did not replace letters to the editor. Video is for mass audiences, not mass producers. There is no way all of us can make videos, upload them and do it all over again many times for a single topic and watch everyone else's videos, too. But reading on the internet will not be the dominant way people use the internet in the very near future.

Posted by: Brojo on April 2, 2007 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

...there's got to be somebody who likes watching video.
Posted by: Kevin Drum on April 2, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

I already told you. I like watching video. Just not THAT kind of video. Yeah.

Or to quote Steve Jobs:
People get on the Internet to turn their brains on. They watch TV to turn their brains off.

That may be an oversimplification; but it says something, that these are fundamentally two different modes of experience, and they have different appeals for different situations.

An occasional video clip (like what Josh Marshall did last week) is okay - but superfluous. Then again, the most useful purpose I see for video is linking to things like specific excerpts from conversations, (or best of all:) testimony. Andy Sullivan uses video in a totally different way - but it enriches his blog to link to these external videos, and add his own commentary.

But where the commentary itself, the blog's CONTENT is concerned, that's best left to text.

From a Computer Science standpoint: there are two types of information access. Synchronous, and Asynchronous. (or serial, and random-access). Text has a lot of advantages in being asynchronous, or random-access - because you can use your eyes, or scroll-bar to access data anywhere in the "stream" any time. But video (and audio streams) are serial - you can skip forward and backwards, but it's very difficult to pick and index a specific point. The act of getting a chunk of information into your brain takes time - and the state of the art of the software (video players, and internet streaming) gets in the way of the random access, because it's very slow, and cannot give the user the information the user needs to know where they are, without playing, which is a time-dependent operation.

I'll say this: the QuickTime player, out of ALL the low-end software video players out there, is by far, the BEST, at providing a responsive "scrubber" control for the user to click, and drag, to a point in the video, while giving the user good visual feedback on where they are. It works best if you're not streaming, but if you're working from a local video file, and if you have a machine that's not being over-taxed, AND if you're playing a video format that supports this kind of activity. But the user still does not get an audio cue.

The worst players are the flash-based ones, that often don't even have a fricking PAUSE button or progress indicator to tell you how much time is left. User has no clue if they can get up and go to the bathroom, or if they have to wait for 30 minutes for the stream to finish playing.

So part of this is a technological problem (crappy formats, crappy bandwidth, crappy players). Which will be solved someday, probably by a small startup, running from the garage of a guy whose house is located in a neighborhood built on top of the smouldering ruins of the Microsoft campus in Redmond Washington, in the year 2185.

Video alone wont solve it (there's the link problem, mentioned upthread). But it will probably be some sort of combination hypertext/rich-video format, which must also include a software speech-to-text translation that's cued-up (with other metadata) along the video timeline to allow the user to freely index, and to extract context from even a paused frame.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on April 2, 2007 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

v-logging would only be worthwhile if the picture adds something. Generally speaking, a talking head alone isn't going to add much. Showing actual news, or interviewing someone, might work. But reading out something that you could have written as a blog entry? Not worthwhile.

Posted by: Joe Buck on April 2, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

I hear Condi gets strip searched before leaving the White House every day. They want to make sure she dont steal nothing. Bush has been known to take a peek while this is going on.

Posted by: John on April 2, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?

Posted by: Ann Althouse on April 2, 2007 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

These are my tips for going into any sort of recorded or televisised picture medium. You can be rest assured that, not only would I be fantastic at V-logging, I hereby challenge any and all--and there are at least a thousand liberals a day posting here--to a fight to the Video-logged death, so to speak.

1. Gesticulate wildly. Keeps people interested.

2. When cornered, puff out your cheeks and stick a finger in your ear.

3. Instead of "ummm, aaaah," always use actual phrases to fill time, as in "don't you know" and "it's written in the good book" and "sometimes you have to break some eggs to make an omelette."

4. Wear purple. It makes Jay Leno look good!

5. Facts are the enemy of necessity and necessity gives birth to a million rifles of the mind.

This has been another installment of where I give you valuable advice for nothing.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on April 2, 2007 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

I would pay $ to see Norm vlog.

Posted by: Disputo on April 2, 2007 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Norman Rogers on April 2, 2007 at 9:13 PM:

This has been another installment of where I give you valuable advice for nothing.

And worth every penny!

Posted by: grape_crush on April 2, 2007 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

The late, lamented Show with Ze Frank was the best v-logging around. Important to note that just producing 3-5 minutes of decent material M-F was for him practically a full-time job. Haven't seen anything to compare in terms of quality.

Posted by: dt on April 2, 2007 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

I with Nick.

vlogging screws up my firefox tabs and distracts from baseball, soccer, basketball, and football games that I watch while i scroll through my favorite blogs.

The only vlogging that I have enjoyed is that done by Pam Atlas; the comedy value is amazing.

Posted by: tomboy on April 2, 2007 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

I like to watch the occasional Brad deLong vlog -- he's done what Kevin wants, which is: he's boiled down his thoughts concisely so he doesn't waste your time heming and hawing. But even Prof. deLong can't make up for that stupid Ann Althouse (why oh why does tBogg send me there?) vlog about American Idol. I watched about 2 minutes that I will NEVER get back. On the other hand, I have yet to spend any time following up on Ann Althouse that I haven't deemed wasted so maybe it's just her, and not the medium.

Posted by: Wendy on April 2, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

I'm ordering a camera from the Internet right now. I'm going with a top of the line Sony camera--I prefer to do my V-logging with Sony Betacam for the production values.

I suppose I should build a studio. For a backdrop, I could use a picture of the Wye Oak and pictures of the classic cars I own.

Yes, this is going to come along nicely.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on April 2, 2007 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

Wait--that damned tree fell down!

Forget the Wye Oak. I thought it was still standing.

I'll use that old man cliff in New Hampshire. That'll be my backdrop.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on April 2, 2007 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

If American Hawk and Al team up to debate Norman Rogers over McCain vs. Giuliani I'd watch about five minutes of it before clicking back to porn. Unless, of course, AH and Al decide to Do It in the Road.

Posted by: fyreflye on April 2, 2007 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

This kind of reminds me of how I am slow to glom onto new technology--I was one of the last to get online, or to get an answering machine. I held fast to cassettes long before getting cd's.
Maybe v-blogging is like that for other people.
I can relate.

Posted by: consider wisely on April 2, 2007 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK


However, weblogs that include little daily show clips or music or political tv clips that are being discussed are cool.

Posted by: TomK on April 2, 2007 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

If it wasn't for vlogging, I would have never known how hot Garance is.

Sheepishly, I'm forced to agree.

Posted by: adam on April 2, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

I totally watch videos all day on television and the 'net. Lessons, documentaries, conferences, panels, speaches...

...But like I said, editing is king. Would we read your posts if you didn't spell correctly and spaces were added every time you paused in your typing? No! It's all concentrated into some readable format before it's put on your blog.

Unless a vlog has the same controls, I don't really care about it much.

Posted by: Crissa on April 2, 2007 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

fyreflye: "If American Hawk and Al team up to debate Norman Rogers over McCain vs. Giuliani I'd watch about five minutes of it before clicking back to porn."

Please. Any such debate like that IS porn -- just not the prurient kind that gets over-regulated by self-righteous people who probably wouldn't want you to know what's stashed in their underwear drawer.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 2, 2007 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

I agree, Kevin. V-log is mostly an exercise in vanity. For honest political discussion, the written word is far superior. It is much harder to plausibly spin in writing. Video is for demagogues.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on April 2, 2007 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK
Finally, I just don't get it. There's a reason political blogging has become popular: it's a genuinely different medium compared to other forms of political writing.

Well, no, that's not it at all.

That's part of the reason that political blogging became popular, and its the reason why professional blogging is viable.

The other part of the reason that political blogging became popular is not that it offers a new mode of communication but because it offers mass communication that doesn't go through the filter provided by the fairly narrow set of mass media oulets.

Vlogging clearly doesn't have much to offer in terms of the first (yet, though I suspect that vlogging will become more sophisticated both in available technology and effective utilization of what is available), but it has just as much as text blogging to offer in terms of the second. Plus lots of people don't like to read much more than the title of a thing, and increasingly those people are a major part of the Web audience.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 2, 2007 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

V-loggers tend not to think out their arguments very well

Of course, in the case of Pammie, her arguments on her regular blog are even less thought out, so vlogging helps her immeasurably. The fact that she's relatively easy on the eyes and a wacked-out train wreck of a human being is icing on the cake.

Posted by: C.L. on April 2, 2007 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Video is for demagogues.

Right you are. No one ever made a dime off that whole "Television" thing, did they?

Posted by: Norman Rogers on April 2, 2007 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

I won't watch bloggers talking to each other.
I won't watch bloggers wrestling each other.

I would watch blogger death match.

And I would pay to watch blogger cat juggling.

Posted by: jerry on April 2, 2007 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

Hitchens would be good at it. He can think on his feet, no?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on April 2, 2007 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Hitchens would be good at it. He can think on his feet, no?

As long as he has a cocktail in his hand.

Posted by: Disputo on April 2, 2007 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin on the V-logging thing. Heck, my impatience with TV news is a big reason I read blogs now.

Posted by: troglodyte on April 2, 2007 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

Simple math: Assuming that most people who read blogs are good to very good readers, the typical reader can probably average 400 words per minute.

The average person speaks at about 125 - 150 words per minute.

Therefor, you can almost triple your intake of information reading vs watching.

Got to go, time is precious.

Posted by: Rory Hester on April 2, 2007 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo >"...I would have never known how hot Garance is."

Ahhhhh, at least I`m not the only one (and brains too !)

And for those of you that want tags etc see this. Admittedly a version 1.0 but it does the job.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." – Buckminster Fuller

Posted by: daCascadian on April 2, 2007 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Deliberately, I haven't read any of the foregoing as I wouldn';t with a v-log.

Just as I don't really want even those I empathise with to know what I look like or where to find me, the v-loggers really want you to know who they are and to like or empathise with them to the degree that normally only exists in real life.

I'm thinking they are self-delusional, but I am no psychiatrist.

I do worry about where society is headed, and the reality connected to that.

Posted by: notthere on April 2, 2007 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

Thank God for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk. ... Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets. ...

Posted by: Travis Bickle on April 2, 2007 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

"If it wasn't for vlogging, I would have never known how hot Garance is."

Not to mention Ezra Klein . . .

Posted by: rea on April 2, 2007 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

Blogging, for me and I think for the other commenters at the few blogs I visit, is the ability to comment and react to comments about topics I have an opinion about. The intenet is interactive, creating feedback loops, networks and responses. I have mentioned before McLuhan said all inventions are attempts to replace the body, saying telecomsat was the invention to replace the neurological system, outering it. The net, with its ability to provide stimulus and input through the three major senses of seeing, hearing and feeling, duplicates the mind or a shared mind.

Someone above said watching a video file is a passive activity. McLuhan said TV was a cool video and radio a hot one. It has been my experience that blog commenting is hot, but wonder if youtubing is cool. The internet has it all, streaming audio, video, blogs, ranting iconoclasts, times billions, and it is continuously changing and adapting to both its inputs and outputs, just like the brain.

Posted by: Brojo on April 2, 2007 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

Now that I have read back a little, one counterpoint to listening to a coherent disertation or conversation (if you get one) is that it actually gives you time to think along, as you would in any conversation, while you listen, but you can't reply in real time. Blogs are like reading a book and, perhaps, might require more and longer thought before answering, but you can give your immediate reaction and get an answer -- whether reinforcement of slap-down -- right now.

Personally, with any difficult, new subject or original idea, I might prefer to mull it over for one or two or three weeks, with all the intercessions of real life, before replying in a meaningful way, but I can be induced to shoot my mouth off on a blog.

Most of us aren't interesteed in a one-sided conversation. You?

Posted by: notthere on April 2, 2007 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

Content versus form. v-logging makes sense when there is something to look at that needs to be seen/heard in motion to make sense. Youtube and ads certainly can work - but we've also seen such that didn't.

For some purposes words in print are the most effective way to make a point or communicate information. For other purposes a well-executed video clip is unbeatable. The example that comes to mind for me is that one that ran during the 2006 campaign (I forget who did it). It was the one that showed the difference between old style armor vests for the troops, and the newer ones they should have been given.

Too, don't forget how effective the music video based on the Squirrel Nut Zippers "Put a Lid On It" proved in the 2006 campaigns.

It's all about editing and production values; some people can sit down and put words on a screen in one go - but re-reading and re-writing first usually makes for a better product. Ditto for v-logging I suspect.

Olbermann's commentaries have amazing impact; I think v-logging will take off when we see that level of performance from people who are doing it nowhere else but the net.

Posted by: xaxnar on April 2, 2007 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

for some reason i will keep reading a shitty blog/comment, looking for some redeeming value...but will turn off a v-log in a heart beat if it reeks just a bit. I suspect I have a low tolerance for change/acceptance, or maybe i just don't want to listen to quasi narcissistic people that are so lazy, they can't be bothered in writing out a few sentences. But, this may be the direction it is all going...so be it.

Posted by: benmerc on April 3, 2007 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

I like Extradite and others' idea of a content-rich vlogger tool.

Some possibilities:

- PowerPoint + vlogging: you create a powerpoint presentation for your talking points, and then you give a presentation to the camera (when the presenter clicks the mouse it advances the slideshow.) Readers can use the slides to index into the video. The slides can have "rich" content, like hyperlinks, animations, or even, god forbid, their own video clips (actually that could be kind of cool, like if you link to a clip of someone else's vlog!)

- Probably some suite of editing tools that is as simple as powerpoint, but allows things like subtitles or whatever, as opposed to a secondary pane where the slides are shown.

I think this stuff must be on its way. Maybe next year?

Posted by: mk on April 3, 2007 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

I guess we should distinguish between

1) the current crop of textual bloggers extending themselves into video (questionable), and

2) what vblogging (and we'll be wanting a better word, no?) could be. In particular, sometimes when The Daily Show does a coherent 3-minute piece with perfectly-juxtaposed incriminating quotes from their victims' past statements, that's what video blogging could be.

Posted by: DonBoy on April 3, 2007 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Well, vlogging does have its moments.

One moment was when Ann Althouse lost every last marble after Garance happened to utter the phrase "Jessica Valenti breast incident".

That's when video is worth shitloads of words. Until then, she had been so good at acting as if she her parents had managed to impart some civilization to her.

Scales fell from our eyes.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 3, 2007 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

frankly0 >"...One moment was when Ann Althouse lost every last marble after Garance happened to utter the phrase "Jessica Valenti breast incident"..."

I think the big payoff for video in that one was watching Garance recoil from the unhinged attack. Body language that spoke volumes.

Can`t do that in text.

"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Posted by: daCascadian on April 3, 2007 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

I think the big payoff for video in that one was watching Garance recoil from the unhinged attack.

Yeah, if rolled eyes could kill...

Posted by: frankly0 on April 3, 2007 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

I'm amazed at all the negativity, and that there are so few thumbs up. I've been a bloggingheads.tv fan for better than a year and I think there are alot of great points about it.

The medium is not perfect by any means. I definitely discriminate based on who's vlogging, but on average I catch parts of one out of every...4 or 5. Sometimes I get in moods where I watch 4 out of 5 for a few weeks, then fade off of it when I get a Kaus overdose.

I am talking about the 'diavlog' not the 'monovlog' - I have no experience with a blogger sitting there talking to himself into a camera. That does indeed sound boring.

Vlogging Positive Points:
1. BACKGROUND: I can play a diavlog in the background on my desktop at work and do other tasks - a great thing for situations where I can't sit and thumb through visual content and search, focus, and read. The video is strictly optional.

2. SPEED On bh.tv - and I assume other forums, the video player has a speed-up setting. You can have it play at 150% speed without the voices turning into chipmunk voices - so you can whip through alot of content quite fast if you choose. bhtv also lists 5-8 5-10 minute topic links that you can jump directly to if you want.

3. DIALOG - vlogging has an entire dimension that blogging doesn't / can't have, and this is the entire reason it exists. Blogging is monological (hey, it sounds like it ought to be a word) - you, the blogger, spit your thoughts out, and while they are well-formed and carefully-arranged thoughts, they are all but completely unchallenged & unembellished other than a very rare response to a commenter by the author or an update or two.

The back and forth of a diavlog is where the real value-add lies; stances are attempted, evaluated, tested, and refined on the spot just like mine are when I have political discussions with friends. The spoken word creates a very different flow and rhythm in argumentation than the written word - not necessarily superior, just different. I personally find it a great complement to reading my blogroll because of the dialogical aspect.

4. EXTEMPORIZING - you call it a negative that some vloggers wander, I call it a benefit. As an example, Jim Pinkerton's got some fascinating views on things that DON'T come out in his writing AT ALL. In fact, I think he's kind of a boring writer, but is really interesting to listen to. While that's not true of every vlogger - some are indeed a bit on the boring side (cough* *Jon *cough *Chait *cough) - but there is great content on a diavlog that would simply never see the light of day in written format because the author would never think to write about certain minutiae in the recesses of their brain.

5. CIVILITY - Ann Althouse excepted, putting two people with opposite viewpoints brings the rhetoric down to a more realistic level. One of blogging's biggest weaknesses, in my mind, is the same general problem with the accountabiliy-free Internet, where your 'foe' is 1000 miles away. Even the most civil of blogs have the feel of people talking about others behind their back. As a result, blogs are so full of subtle hyperbole...alot of phrases like 'ludicrous assertions' and 'utterly contemptible' and crap like that. But put two people face to face and the over-the-edge stuff goes away. Even Byron York and David Corn's disputes are amicable on a vlog, where in the written word they shred each other. Even the video adds meaning in some cases, where you can read some facial expression and body language context into the exchange.

I'd urge everyone to give it another look. (If others are doing it besides bh.tv, I don't know about it - so all my opinions are based on that site). If you get going with a diavlogger you don't enjoy, then turn it off and wait for the next one in a few days. Quality varies wildly - I have a few favorites that I will stop down for from different parts of the spectrum: Yglesias, Pinkerton, Corn, and there are subject matter experts too like Jackie Shire(I think I'm thinking of the right woman!?) - who is a nuke proliferation expert. When she vlogs I feel like I'm at a university lecture (I mean that in a good way, as in - I learn alot, not a bad way)

Bob Wright can mail my check to....

Posted by: ssdagger on April 3, 2007 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

DonBoy - there also the potential of not merely editing clips of shows, but actual editing timely investigative reporting. Delivered in bite sized chunks and posted often a narrative can be developed.

I know of an experiment going with vlog reporting from Afghanistan by Arthur Kent - former Gulf War Scud Stud. www.skyreporter.com

I think the missing pieces are textutal interaction for us readers and comments for interactivity. But it's really pushing into a new medium.

Could be a new direction for those with some technical chops.

Posted by: canucklehead on April 3, 2007 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

It has the same requirements as other forms of television -- visual novelty, absence of boring pauses, and a quick start. There are people whom I am never going to see on broadcast television, but whom I would like to see on screen at least once. This includes at least a few people in local government and one or two deep thinkers. What seems to work better is a clear, quick audio stream.

I am cautiously optimistic that video blogging will be the next technical revolution.

Posted by: Bob G on April 3, 2007 at 2:58 AM | PERMALINK

If you can't do something interesting with a medium, why bother?

For that matter, I don't like movies that would be just fine as plays.

Posted by: Frank J. on April 3, 2007 at 3:35 AM | PERMALINK

there are plenty of good video podcasts.
drive time
rocketboom (with AC)
tiki bar tv

but for our regular textie blogers to talk to their web cam...
i think they will need practice and an a real camera.

Posted by: joe on April 3, 2007 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

also getting good will prepare blogers for when they are asked to be on meet the press

Posted by: joe on April 3, 2007 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

v-logging is a huge waste of time. It takes 30 seconds to say what you can read, more easily, in 10 seconds.

Posted by: POed Lib on April 3, 2007 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

vlogging does enjoy certain benefits that apply more generally to audio-visual presentations.

I have long thought that in understanding complex subjects, it's very valuable to have that material presented in more than one modality. That is, in addition to reading the material, it's extremely useful to have it presented in a classroom lecture, perhaps employing a blackboard. Indeed, I'd say that in my own experience, the classroom presentation is far more effective in enabling me to master the relevant points. But, again, best by far to have BOTH modalities utilized; the reinforcement of the same points along both brain pathways seems to go a great distance in promoting real understanding.

The point here is subtle, but it does seem to be confirmed by literally millennia of experience. Presentation in books has never sufficed to inculcate the best understanding of difficult subject matter.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 3, 2007 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

A lot of young people just do not read much. The only way to reach them is with video. Vlogs differ from television in that you can view what you want to watch and when.

The vlog I would like to see is taking every statement Britt Hume makes followed by someone correcting facts or disputing specious assertions.

Posted by: patrick on April 3, 2007 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

It's like watching kids in a play at punditry camp. Only the parents really want to see it.

Although, I don't know if Althouse's folks like watching her drink so much...

Posted by: Jersey Citizen on April 3, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Narcissism is right. Yglesias likes it for the same reasons he always kept his picture up on his old blog. He wants to get chicks. He wants to shamelessly promote his pundit-thing. He did Hugh Hewitt's show!

Did ya know he went to Harvard?

Posted by: luci on April 3, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

putting two people with opposite viewpoints

Vlogging can present two people debating, maybe five, but not hundreds or thousands. If there were 69 videos of comments, would they be watched and responded to in the same way text is? I doubt it. Video is very good for presentations or lectures and even one on one debate, but not for endless thesis, antithesis and synthesis by large groups of interested individuals with diverse opinions.

Video is also longer lasting. Images are quite strong, whereas texting can be more easily explained or regretted. I was involved in a heated comment exchange about blaming the troops not too long ago. If I had videoed my initial hostility, the image of my spitting madness would have far exceeded the actual content of my view. But what I learned from the exchanges with other commenters and my responses to them was that my ideas could become better honed and explained through text discussion. When my feelings about war were distilled into a concise expression about how war makes trophies out of dead babies, it was the result of the catharsis the dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis create.

Another thing about text comments vs. video, is that the written word in comments is a substitute for journalizing. While I write this comment it is almost all derived from the internal workings of my mind, withoug interferene about how I look or how others might perceive me. I am really putting my thoughts into words more for myself than for others, which I can then read as they are typed out. If I do not like something I edit and replace. Video does not have that kind of real-time feedback mechanism for content. Video feedback is obviously going to produce thoughts about the image projected rather than the content. We all probably have some kind of visual image of ourselves, but that image is probably not the one a video camera will capture. Seeing oneself over and over giving opinions would probably have quite an affect on the individual that texting cannot provide. These thousands of comments reflect the thousands of thoughts, but a video freezes them and attributes more to the individual than just a few paragraphs of text. Writing comments is almost timeless and formless, like thoughts, but video makes them concrete and historical.

Posted by: Brojo on April 3, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

I like it.

I get to see my favorite internet celebrities with more than just their words. It's alway nice to put a face and personality with the name. You can have it on while you do other thing just like regular television. For example, even without the AA meltdown, my generally low opinion of GFR improved markedly after watching her v-log.

Plus when the v-loggers are cute young women who can talk hardcore politics I fail to see a negative to that.

Posted by: MNPundit on April 3, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin that vlogging mostly sucks. Some of the few vlogs that don't suck are the Q & BA segments that Phil Plait put together for his Bad Astronomy blog. But there, the AV content serves a purpose: he answers a reader's question, and provides images and demonstrations to help answer the question.

Watching a talking head bloviate about politics, however, is not so interesting.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on April 3, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of people find writing difficult and believe they are much better at getting their ideas "out" when just talking to someone. vlogging would seem to such a person to be a nice little shortcut. what they don't realize is that vlogging (ideally) actually involves two steps, (1) writing, and (2) performing. you can't just skip the writing step. even if you are just winging it -- in which case you're just spewing whatever opinion you have ready-made, which is -- like a rough draft -- the most obvious, least subtle or complex or nuanced of your actual opinions, the least examined, the least refined. Even if you're a genius. It's disrespectful to waste people's time by not doing the work. The work is called writing.

Posted by: quisp on April 3, 2007 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK


TV is -- in fact -- a file that you watch isolated from a mass audience.. In fact, come to think of it, any vlogs I download to my laptop automatically drop into itunes and (again, automatically) sync to Apple TV, which of course plays it on my TV.

Posted by: quisp on April 3, 2007 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

The Dean scream was broadcast to millions of people many different times with comment by television network 'journalists'. The audience was passive, they did not choose to view the 'file', but they saw it. They saw it as a passive, mass audience, many on the same programs as everyone else. There was some differentiation regarding when and which demographic was exposed, but the 'file' was seen by almost everyone who watches the news. I saw it a couple of times. I never would have watched it on the net. That is what TV does.

If the Dean scream had been just a posting on YouTube, it would have been seen many times, but not as many would have seen it. Those who watched it would have had to search for the file and call it up when they were in a computing environment, connected to the internet. Their experience would not be a part of a mass experience, but individualized and purposeful. Even if you have already moved into the future and connect to the internet from your couch, your experience is much more unique to yourself and you still have to choose from an infinite number of files to view versus finite channel surfing to find out what others have chosen to put on at that particular time for you to share with others. On a computer the user has to tell it to do something. The internet does not choose anything except pop up ads. Most computers will remain static without input by the user. Turn on a television and even without choosing a particular channel the programming will change over time, without any input from the user.

I think there is a clear difference between the media of the internet and television. The differences are blurring, it is true. Because of cable and satellite, TV is no longer a shared experience as in the past when everyone, and I mean everyone with a TV, would watch the same program at the same time. TV has a lot more programming than when it was only broadcaset, but it can only be seen when it is shown on someone else's schedule. Tivo changes some of this, but if it is not on a schedule you still cannot record it.

Another big difference between TV and the internet, is on the internet anyone can be a producer of content.

Posted by: Brojo on April 4, 2007 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

As a blog reader, I MUCH prefer text to video, primarily because if I find myself getting somewhat lost in an argument, I can just quickly scan back up to an earlier sentence and work my way through the logic - plus check and make sure I've read the words right and interpreted the punctionation correctly - to help make sense of the statement. That's MUCH harder to do with video, because you have to rewind and forward until you get to the right point, and you can't watch or listen to it more slowly (or quickly, if the speaker's pace is slow enough that it's distracting you from listening well).

Also, I'm someone who loves to listen to music while surfing the web, and whenever I come to a v-log, I have to decide if I really want to watch the clip and take the time to pause my music turn my computer speakers up, watch it, turn the speakers back down and restart the music again. It gets to be a hassle after a bit. As a result, I am FAR more likely to skip a video entry and hope that I'll find a text-based entry at another blog on the same topic so I can find out what's going on.

Posted by: kriselda jarnsaxa on April 4, 2007 at 5:33 AM | PERMALINK

Brojo --

I think there are several meaningful distinctions to tease apart here. The first is the meaning of "mass."

When an audience experiences something en masse, as around the campfire, in the theater, or in a movie theater, they have an actual, physical, shared experience in real time. The emotional experience of it is distinct from, say, watching the same movie at home on DVD.

When a TV viewer watches a TV show at home -- and that show is being broadcast at that moment -- the viewer may identify himself as part of an audience (i.e. a member of the group of people who watched that show at that time), and this may have social implications (i.e. he can talk about it later with people who also watched the show; he can feel camraderie with the others in his group who value the show, etc.). But his experience of the show as an isolated viewer is distinct from that of an audience member watching something in a group (e.g. in a theater, in a public square, or even at a superbowl party in someone's home theater).

The home viewer who tivos, tapes, records, rents, buys or otherwise acquires content for his television and watches it later on his television not only is alone (not an audience member), but also knows that he is not a part of the group above, the one that saw it originally. This may or may not be a meaningful distnction to the viewer. However, note that there are people who pride themselves on seeing show x "when it aired." That is some form of privileged rank within the group of people who have seen show x.

It has also been noted tha the experience of the movie in the theater has its roots in the ritual sacrifice, the communal mass, etc., while the TV has its roots in the hearth, the fireplace. What that means for the internet, I don't know.

But back to the distinctions re form.

The viewer who watches a show on his computer or ipod or phone for that matter -- whether it's a TV clip on YouTube, a vlog, an itunes downloaded movie -- is, like the tivoer or taper or dvd renter, watching content alone and on his own schedule, without any sense that everyone else is watching this at the same time as me.

He is not in any meaningful way more proactive than someone who chooses a dvd and puts it in. As far as choosing to watch a news clip on the computer as opposed to choosing to watch a news show on TV, this is only more active if one views the choice (click on the vlog) as as the most specific possible choice of content (like clicking on only the news stories you want to read) rather than a broader choice of which channel you are going to watch.. Certainly, the experience of watching TV is just as active as that of deciding which vlogs or youtube clips to watch on your computer. When you don't care about the story, you change the channel. A video link that is hovering on your screen waiting for you to click on it is just like the grid on your TV promising different shows and waiting for same.

The rest is a matter of resolution, and on these matters the internet and TV are combining and interweaving literally as we speak.. I don't think anyone would argue much about 19" tvs vs. 42" as far as their experience of the news, for example (though I'm sure there is some difference in the experience when it gets bigger and louder). As the internet's capabilities merge with TV's, there will be no difference at all.

Your point about people being able to broadcast themselves on the internet is an interesting one. This was, of course, also the original promise of cable, back in the early seventies. That's what "public access" was/is. If I remember correctly, one of the trade-offs in the original cable legislation was that cable providers (in exchange for being able to compete with broadcast) would be required to provide bandwidth for anyone who wanted to show up at the studio to have some airtime to do their own thing. The internet now clearly and more capably has taken over this function. I would only note that nobody watches public access for the obvious reason that it usually sucks, and for the same reason nobody is watching the bulk of the endless wasteland of self-generated crap out there for viewing on the internet. Go to YouTube and watch a thousand pimples playing [fill in the blank: Stairway to Heaven, Hey Joe, song of your choice].

Posted by: quisp2 on April 4, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

The mass audience is being atomized and TV is changing. Or vice versa. Yet the ability for TV to give a common, timely, selected, mass experience is what makes it unique, giving it so much power to influence, which I do not think the internet will match even when it becomes video dominated.

Posted by: Brojo on April 5, 2007 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly