The End of an Era

NewZealand-road-IMG_2461Back in 2011, I wrote a post on the Viddler Blog about our change in focus away from Personal (free) users to business/corporate/education customers. That was a hard transition for me. It was even harder for the users. We occasionally still get messages from that old user base asking us where their videos went. I sent out so many emails, tweets, etc. I think we (I led the interactions with the old user base) handled it exceptionally well. When other companies decide it’s time to focus on revenue, they usually don’t go to such lengths to look after longtime free users.

Now, it’s time for my era1 with Viddler to end.

I’ve been with this lovely company longer than most. Seven years. In the technology and startup space, it’s rather remarkable for employees to stay with a company for longer than a few years. This was my first job experience outside of the entertainment (acting, producing, directing) industry and the retail space. I suppose I’m really loyal to products and people I’m passionate about. It has been so exciting and challenging to be a part of a company which has transitioned through some very different industries — albeit centred around interactive video.

For years, I’ve spent brief moments pondering about this day. What will happen with my videos? What will happen to the extensive rapports I have with customers and coworkers? Will another company tempt me away? Will I continue living in the USA (or move to Japan, Iceland, Spain, or New Zealand)? When I was told I’m no longer needed at the company, my initial reaction was peace and opportunity. (I didn’t think about any of the aforementioned questions until hours or days later.) I owe that to God. His plan for me is more than Viddler; more than sitting on my talents in one place; more than anything I can fathom.

So what is next? You tell me. I’ll be with Viddler until October 31st, 2015. After that, I’m all yours. Here’s my LinkedIn.

1I recognise ‘era’ means a humanly incomprehensible amount of time. Its use here is a little tongue-in-cheek; it has been a rewarding, loving, and great length of time. In my life so far, it has certainly spanned a large portion of it.

The Solution to Vertical Video

The introduction of video on the iPhone 3GS introduced an issue into society: vertical video. If you’re reading this online, then you’ve likely seen a vertical video. The iPhone 3GS only recorded SD (640×480) video. Now, iPhones record HD (1080p). Thus, people are sharing around huge vertical videos via social media, SMS, etc. If you’re unfamiliar with this, then watch the following video.

This has been prevalent since 2009, but has increased exponentially in the past 3-4 years. It seems educating people on the matter is a lost cause; (non-technical) people are complacent. (Snapchat also isn’t helping the situation.)

I have a solution which doesn’t require people to learn anything new. (Plus, it will make Instagram users squeal.) Device manufacturers just need to place a square imaging sensor inside phones, tablets, and any devices which people tend to primarily hold in a vertical orientation. Most imaging sensors in cameras (DSLRs, camcorders, REDs, etc.) are in a 4:3 or 16:9 (wider than they are tall) aspect ratio. Cameras were built to be held in a certain way. Phones were also built to be handled in a certain way. If manufacturers just place a square sensor in devices held in a portrait fashion, then the software can determine whether to record with a widescreen crop on the sensor, or not. Vine and Instagram have exploded the square (1:1) content market. I don’t like the limitation of a square (especially in video), but it’s far better than vertical videos.

iPhone 5 iOS 8 UI - Video Camera modeWith a square sensor, you would load the built-in camera app and it would function the same way it does now. However, when you switch to video mode and hold the device vertically, it will display a dark, translucent overlay on the live view from the sensor. That overlay will appear on more of the screen than the clear portion representing the content which will be captured (see image left). This may entice people to rotate the device horizontally — so they can see a larger image of what is being recorded. Even if they continue to hold it vertically, the video recorded will be horizontal. Huzzah!

So, Apple, Google, Motorola, LG, and all you folks. Get Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, and all those image sensor manufacturers to make you square sensors. Then spend a day tweaking the software to support it. Then give yourselves a big hug as you witness vertical videos being less and less viewed online.

From an art perspective, I have no issue with vertical video. I haven’t not seen it used in a creative, artistic way though. Enlighten me, if you have.

Oh, and Instagram users. You’ll be sharing photos created by capturing light to every single pixel on that sensor. Congratulations.

Graphic created by me using iOS 8 Illustrator Vector UI Kit, screenshots from my phone, and a frame from a vertical video Kali sent me. 

I need a room for SXSW 2014

Greetings! I have plenty of thoughts and ideas I’ve been writing over the past few years. Y’all will be able to feast your eyes on them one day. For now, I have a request.

I have visited the SXSW Festival since 2009. This year — 2014 — wouldwill be my sixth year. I just need some accommodation. Airbnb hosts have become wise to the event and some have raised their rates to ~$200-400/night during that week. That’s more than a lot of hotels — which all sold out in 2013. The closer the dates get, the more I’m coming to terms with not attending… but then I remember how amazing Austin is and all of the fantastic people I have met there. I digress (I’ll get nostalgic at another time).

I don’t need much:

  • Sleep – A floor, couch, or bed. I take up very little room and can sleep on almost any surface.
  • Dates – I’m planning for the 6th-14th March, but I’m flexible. These will cover the Interactive and Film events.
  • Proximity – Walking distance (less than 2km/1mile?) from the Austin Convention Center.
  • Friends – I have a friend or two in the same situation as me. Any extra space would be used by them.
  • Cost – Yes, I’m willing to pay for accommodation. Just not an arm and a leg. I’m happy to split a room with one, three, or ten people.

If you don’t know me, then you can gather a lot of my personality from this blog, my Twitter, and/or my Airbnb profile. The best way to contact me is on Twitter: @djsteen.

DKTHINKS – Siri in AppleTV

I don’t pay close attention to technology rumour mills. Apple rumours that get a lot of hype eventually reach my radar, but I don’t enjoy following something that has the potential to be completely fabricated just to get a few views on a blog/site. I do like to make predictions. Almost any prediction anyone makes it bound to come to fruition… some day. Although, some predictions are more logical than others.

There have been rumours and predictions in recent months regarding the future of Apple TV, and how it will contain Siri sooner rather than later. I don’t think any of these predictions have much thought or imagination put into them though. Hence, here’s mine.

A few things to note: When I refer to “record” I also mean access/download the episode/movie after it has gone live to air. This may be by auto-purchasing the media via iTunes, or adding it to your Hulu/YouTube queue (whichever is the cheaper/better/faster option). “Siri” is referred to when commanding the Apple TV to perform a function (record, play, save, download, brightness, etc.). “Apple TV” is the device/software that records, performs functions, and commands the television to perform its respective functions. That said, “Siri” and “Apple TV” could be used interchangeably.

Siri in Apple TV

This one is obvious: You’ll be able to speak commands to your Apple TV — even if you’re not near your Apple TV. Siri will be in all your devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, etc.), so you’ll just need to tell her what you’d like to do with your Apple TV:

  • Record a show/movie — Siri will have access to an EPG which is updated every 30 seconds. If a live show or sports event runs overtime (cutting into your program), then Siri will be able to adapt and record the show at the accurate time, and, more importantly, stop the recording when the show is over (not when it was originally scheduled to finish). Also integrating media fingerprint recognition technology (e.g., Soundprint, Gracenote) into the recorder/system would allow Apple TV to know when the show is actually over. The combination of this accurate EPG and media fingerprint recognition would result in 100% successful viewings and recordings. If you choose to watch a show ‘live to air’, and it’s not going to air at the scheduled time, then Siri would notify you via any communication method you choose (e.g., call, SMS, push notification, email, etc.).
  • Controlling volume — Not only will you be able to increase or decrease the volume of the television, but Siri will always be sensing (microphone, motion sensor, ambient light sensor, etc.) what you’re doing. First, advertisements (if any) will be the same volume as the content you’re watching. Second, if you walk out of the room, then Siri will pause the show and cue it back to where you left off by rewinding a few seconds. Third, if you receive a phone call or SMS, then Siri will pause the show and display it on the TV screen. Contacts you frequently communicate with will receive priority over others or unknown callers. In other words, some calls may be forced directly to voicemail if you choose to not be disturbed while watching a show/movie. Of course, all of these options can be configured ON/OFF in the settings menu of Apple TV.

Your iPhone/iPad is Apple TV

  • Eventually, Apple TV will no longer be a standalone device. It will be integrated in to all iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.). Thus, you’ll be able to use Apple TV on any TV — no matter where you are (home, friend’s house, hotel, tech conference). This will be exceptionally great if you’re in a foreign hotel and you don’t know which channel has the show/movie you’d like to watch. Hotels are notorious for having such poor user interfaces (TV and remote control) because they choose to lock down what you are able to do with the television. Apple TV could fix all this.
  • You will be able to connect your various media check-in apps (e.g., GetGlue, IntoNow, SideReel, Tunerfish, etc.), and Siri will pull data from them in order to know your viewing habits, likes, episodes/shows you have/haven’t watched, and so on.

Siri and Apple TV know where you are

You will be able to program Apple TV to switch on your television when a show/movie is about to go live to air. If you’re home, and unable to watch the show/movie at that time, then you’ll be able to command Siri to “wait [n minutes/hours]”. Siri will turn off the display and/or mute the volume until that time comes around. Additionally, Siri will know where you are thanks to apps like Foursquare, Google Latitude, and Find My Friends. If you’re not home at the time a show is scheduled to air (and subsequently turn your TV on), then it will not turn on, and it will record the show instead. Your calendar will also be involved in this decision making process. If you’re scheduled to be away at an event (e.g., South by Southwest), then your Apple TV will never turn on your TV during that time, and it will record the shows instead.

I’ve been referring to Apple’s Apple TV throughout this prediction, but Google (and others; less likely) could just as easily create a similar product that is just as intuitive and forward-thinking. We will see.

Photography tips for SXSW

I guarantee every single person attending South by Southwest 2012 will bring at least one camera with them. (If they don’t, then they’re consciously going technology-free at the event — I’m not sure why anyone would do that though.) Hence, these tips aren’t just for people that consider themselves photographers; everyone will benefit from these.

Batteries

As with all devices you take to SxSW, you’ll want to bring extra batteries and/or portable battery chargers. If you’re smartphone is your main camera, then I recommend any of these Duracell USB chargers (they can charge any USB device).

Date/Time

US Daylight Savings Time begins on Sunday, March 11th at 2:00 a.m. Austin, Texas, is in the CST (GMT -6) timezone. After Sunday, it will be CDT (GMT -5). – You want to make sure you have an accurate date/time on your camera(s). Many SxSW attendees will be traveling across multiple states and one, two, or more timezones. Most smartphones will automatically adjust their date/time as soon as you have a connection in the new timezone. Many of the latest standalone cameras will have some kind of timezone support. This will not automatically adjust unless the camera has GPS. I recommend changing the time (and date, if necessary) as soon as possible. If that’s now, then go for it. Personally, I change mine when the airline flight attendant says “prepare for landing”.

Memory

These days it’s rare that even the most snap-happy people will fill up their camera’s memory card in a single day. That is, unless you’re shooting RAW and/or HD video. Even if you only take 10 photos in one day, I recommend offloading those photos to your computer or external hard drive (if you brought either of those). Additionally, if you don’t have any backup devices (computer, hard drive) with you, then upload those photos to Flickr, Picasa, Smugmug, Picplz, Twitpic, and/or all of the above as soon as possible (at the latest, every evening in your hotel room).

Follow these tips above for a jolly relaxing and fun time at SxSW. If you enjoy photography, then join me and many others for Trey Ratcliff’s Schemer PhotoWalk at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 10th, 2012.

I’ll tweet and add more tips to this post if I discover more during the event.

SXSW. Now with less Parties.

Yes, I’m attending SXSW — as I have every year since 2009. I’m hardly an expert about the conference or the city of Austin, but I reckon I have obtained some decent experience during the past three years; albeit badgeless (I had the opportunity to share a friend’s SXSWi badge last year. I did meet some great people on the expo floor, but otherwise the badge wasn’t advantageous to me.)

I read C.C. Chapman’s post regarding parties at the event, and I felt compelled to share my own thoughts.

Last year, Rachel and I RSVP’d and organised our schedule (mostly the parties/nightlife aspect) with a lot of detail. This year, we’ll be just as organised, but I’m slashing the amount of parties I attend.

Noisy environments (concerts, clubs, crowded rooms) have never been pleasing to me (especially for my ears), and my fondness of schwag has decreased significantly over the past few years. Being badgeless and trying to get in to badge-only parties was a challenge, but it ultimately comes down to who you know. When we weren’t able to enter a specific party (badge-only or not) then Rachel and anyone else with us would get very disappointed.

“I just prefer smaller gatherings where you can actually get to know the people around you.”
—C.C. Chapman

The Bigg Diggnation Shindigg was always the best party because it had something interesting and interactive (makes bloody good sense, right?) during the duration of the party. Sadly, our position at the front of the mosh pit resulted in my iPhone screen shattering on the ground last year. I digress. Diggnation concluded at the end of last year, so I’m not sure if Revision3 will be hosting an event this year. If they do, then I’m not even sure I’ll attend.

The other only other event I have interest in is the Austin on Rails Happy Hour. They always have a decent selection of food (chicken wings, fries, chips, salsa, cookies, etc.). We don’t have much experience with Ruby on Rails nor are members of the Austin on Rails community. That’s not a problem though; as long as you register and know the secret word (2010) or the name of the party (2011), then you’re in.

Another event-that’s-not-a-party-but-will-be-partyrific I will be attending is Trey Ratcliff’s Austin Photowalk on Saturday, March 10th… I don’t care how many badges or invites to 12-star hotel rooftop parties you have on this night. This is a free, badgeless event you won’t want to miss.

So, what will I be doing while everyone else is losing their voices at parties. Well, either working, stalking The Ice Cream Man, and/or exploring more of Austin (it’s a great city!).

Will you be joining me?

Who’s heading to SXSW 2012?

I originally posted this on Google+ and Facebook last week. No traction in those places, so here it is on my bloggy blog. If you’d prefer to comment on either of the aforementioned posts, or @djsteen on Twitter, then go nuts. 🙂

Who’s heading to SXSW 2012?SXSW Interactive 2012 logo

In short, I’m looking for:

  • Accommodation. (Wanna share a room?)
  • Fun activities (not pointless, noisy parties).
  • Events for the Interactive and Film portions.

More details:
I’ve been to SXSW every year since 2009. It’s a great event with great people in a great city. For every one of those years I’ve had a buddy (read: girlfriend) to organise accommodation, plans, etc. Last year, that relationship changed from “girlfriend” to “good friend”. So, we’ll be hanging out while we’re there, but she has her own accommodation.

It seems all the tech “gurus” book their SXSW travel and accommodation as soon as SXSW opens registration (around October the year before). Most others seem to plan around this time (a month in advance; when there’s very little accommodation availability at most places). Last year (2011) was crowded because SXSW Music dates overlapped Interactive more than in previous years.

I guess I’m really just looking for someone to share a room with. Whether we split a hotel, or you live in Austin and wouldn’t mind me making a nice crevasse in your couch. Let me know. I have candy.

I typically go to SXSW for the Interactive (March 9-13) portion, but this year I’d like to see a film or two at the Film portion (March 9-17). They’re $10 at the door, and on par with the likes of Sundance entrants.

In past years, we’ve completed several Gowalla (sadly, Gowalla is now closed) trips in Austin, but I’d still like to see more of the town (away from the conference centre) because it is such a lovely city. I may be riding a Razor scooter again this year. They’re VERY handy (and quick!) for traveling around the different SXSW hubs in the city. One year, we did bikes. Those were handy, but the rental fees are more costly, and they are more complex in tight situations (crowds, buses, getting back to the hotel, etc.).

Lastly, there’s no more Diggnation, so no live show this year. I wonder if Revision3 will still have a big event at Stubb’s anyway. Either way, I’m not particularly keen on the event, so I might just skip it to get ice cream the Ice Cream Man.

Let me know your thoughts and plans. (Even if we’re not friends yet; we should meetup and hangout.)

Oh, and I go badgeless. Like a boss.