Over the last couple of months, I’ve gotten to know Nicholas Reville, one of the founders of the Participatory Culture Foundation. They’re a non-profit near Boston who make a set of incredibly cool software, notably the Democracy Player. Works on Windows/Mac/Linux & is one of my very favorite new applications — think of it, loosely, as cable television with a zillion channels mashed up with your computer. More specifically, it’s a video player that lets you subscribe to Internet video channels — delivered over FTP, BitTorrent or other transports — and every time there’s a new clip or episode, the Player knows to go download it in the background — they show up in the player sort of like e-mails do.
They also make some software to let you broadcast videos, plus some rating & channel guide pieces.
For example, I subscribe to a couple of over-the-Internet shows — one’s called The Angry Chef and the other is Ze Frank. The Angry Chef is a terrific 20ish minute cooking show that the cook produces every once in a while. Ze Frank is a daily 4 minute comic sketch sort of like Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert (sort of). The Angry Chef is a very high quality show — both in terms of content and video quality (much better than you can stream online).
Here’s the best bit from a consumer point of view: videos that I’m interested in just show up when they’re ready. No action required. (There are some cool search capabilities in the 0.9.1 along with downloading, so that you can go to, say YouTube to search for videos on the Dallas Cowboys — it’ll monitor for new stuff and let you download & organize when new ones are posted.)
Here’s the best bit from a producer’s point of view: you can put up video very easily yourself, without paying the onramp toll of iTunes or going through the loss of control of something like YouTube. It should be easy for Kathy & me to put up SamTV — including putting up HD quality (if we ever get an HD camcorder).
In the large, it changes everything. Fundamentally democratizes video distribution, in a way that’s analogous to how free tools are lowering barriers to video production incredibly rapidly. In spite of my previous post (which I still believe), I think that YouTube & iTunes video & iMovie even ABC are changing the state of video incredibly quickly now, which is good. It’s always been a tougher medium to work in than, say, photography, but it’s getting easier now along several axes.
But here’s the really important bit: video is too visceral, too important, too human, to allow production & distribution to get funneled through just one or two or even half a dozen “authoritative sources”. The folks at PCF have put together what I think is a visionary new type of application to show the way.
Getting to know Nicholas over the past few weeks has really gotten me thinking more about it, and I’m convinced that I want to help. So I’m joining the Board of Directors & hope to do my part now — check it out.