15 years ago I wrote an essay called “What if Media was Media?” It was based around an idea that might interest others, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. As I wasn’t on the internet back then, all I could do was print it out and give it to a few people who might be able to help me…

The core point was that people may come to understand copyright more deeply because computer file formats will have layers of rights information built-in. In 1994, people hardly ever referred to contents of computer files as ‘media.’ I was imagining a system where all movies, TV, radio and music was created, distributed and delivered in digital forms.

I saw that the flexibility of digital media would make it much easier for old-fashioned media to be copied. To facilitate ubiquitous distribution, I thought it would be interesting if the file format itself included information on the rights-holders.

Imagine buying a video camera, before you first use it, you enter unique contact information (possibly pointing to a .tel registry entry). The camera would then encode your ID into all the footage you shoot. You might even choose a default copyright statement too: ‘©2009 Alex Gollner – For rights see fee table at’

Once the rights information is included with the footage, then every time the footage is played elsewhere, the playback software will determine whether the person watching the footage would want to pay a one-off fee, or license to watch as many times as they want. Of course they could get an advertiser to pay on their behalf:

An imaginary ‘media payment preferences’ control.

They would also choose whether they want to watch on their own, or play it to larger audiences:

The system could also take into account times when footage is incorporated into other productions. If you witnessed the feel-good story of the week – when a talented and brave airline pilot saved passengers and crew by landing his stricken plane on the Hudson – and shot footage that news organisations all over the world wanted to show, they could upload it from your camera. If media rights were encoded into the file, each time the news item is shown on TV, from an archive, streamed on a corporate website or even embedded elsewhere, you would get a cut of the fees paid.

It’s a dilemma. On one hand ‘the little guy’ would automatically get paid. On the other, everyone who has a camera pointed at them will want to know what’s in it for them…


Matt Davis suggested…

An open source subtitle plugin that allows in-sync tweet-style text on ANY non-text media.

Of course I can’t just link to this idea, I’m supposed to add value…

Commentary on the quality of the books available in a local library in the 60s by Orton and Halliwell
Back in the sixties writers Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell were first known for the prank when they defaced books from their local public library.

In the 1970s audiences started partici… pating during midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I first heard about Hypertext back in 1986 from Peter Brown. He pointed out that every time academics quote text from somewhere else, a link should appear that will take you to the document from which the quote comes.

The silhouette of the MST3K commentary team
Not long after that, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 started in the US. It was a show featuring silhouettes of people making ad-libbed funny comments in front of a series of terrible B-movies. This was followed by more shows featuring ‘unauthorised’ commentary on content such as The Chart Show (to a small extent) in the UK, Beavis and Butthead and Pop-Up Video in the US.

Videodiscs and latterly DVDs popularized commentary tracks and alternative subtitles. These days you can download fan-made commentaries and alternate subtitle tracks (used by those pirating movies into other languages)

Due to the academic uses hypertext was initially put to, I thought it was mainly used to comment on other people’s work to make attribution clearer. That use has fallen by the wayside. Maybe it’s time to revive the idea.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if people could upload commentary that is designed to be overlaid on top of other content – including video and audio. Instead of linking to a page, video or podcast, the content would appear as a new background for the current page. You would then use a layer on top to comment or add to the content below. If a video or podcast played, the player would pass timecode information to the layer above so that comments could be displayed at specific times.

This example shows a pop-up comment overlaid on top of a video on a YouTube page:
Showing how a page could use another page as a background

You could choose how your overlaid comment would look, and how you’d show which page element is being commented on:
A picture showing the darkened background

As well as text commentaries, you could also add picture, audio and video overlays to any content on any page.

This is just the beginning – a way of creating mashups using HTML 5.X…

Either Microsoft is terrible at creating videos, or they have a good sense of an ironically bad video. Check out this submission. I think they know what they’re doing:

Play Microsoft Songsmith demo video

Their newly announced product available from Microsoft Research automatically generates accompanying music to any words you sing into your computer. You can choose key and musical style. You can then go back and change the chord progression if needed. $40 gets you a downloaded application that might be fun.

Songsmith gives me another idea.

smFrontczak: Imagine an application that you tell a story to, it adds sound effects, ambience to your speech and even music to turn your story into a higher production-value podcast or radio play. This would happen using voice recognition to understand the story in conjunction with a large sound effects library. smFrontczak could also enhance radio plays, characters could speak selected stage directions, which could be edited out of the final version.

George: The cathedral's got a mosiac...
Connor: Hurry, it's almost noon!
The children leg it across the bustling
market square and burst into
the murky cathedral.
Mark: The sun! The sun!
The cathedral clock begins to strike noon
(continues over the following)
George: The beam's pointing right at...
...the Blue Knight's shield!

If actors (or a talented individual using different voices) read this script out, the smFrontczak could interpret the script by fading out the busy market square to the left, fade in the cathedral from the left and change the ambience applied to the voices to make them sound as if they are in an echoing hall. Then church bell strikes could commence and continue (with reduced volume) during the scene.

When films are in preproduction, teams are brought in for previsualisation. Storyboarding and animation software (sometimes in 3D) are used to plan scenes to guide many departments. Perhaps the smFrontczak could be used to support the sale of a script in the first place – a tool to turn actor’s readings into dynamic radio plays…

This is the next step on the way to the day when someone will invent a real Holophoner.

The Holophoner is an imaginary device from Futurama, the animated series set 991 years in the future from some of the people that make the Simpsons. It is a musical instrument that uses holographic technology to create 3D operas to accompany the music.

I hope it’ll be a few decades until a real Holphoner appears. In a way, the technology and media industry are paving the way for the day when an individual will be able to compose and perform a complete sensory experience and share it with an audience.

What will audiences need imagination for then…?

On the BBC iPlayer, as well as watching TV from recent days or weeks, you can also listen the output of national and local radio stations. Most music shows can only be heard for seven days. The podcast versions cannot include any commercial music. For example, I can listen to the Adam and Joe show on BBC 6 Music in full (three hours long, in a format relatively difficult for people to keep on their computers) or the podcast highlights on iTunes (mp3).

Imagine if audio (and video) broadcasts and podcasts were combinations of the broadcasters’ and local playlists. If music cannot be licensed for more than seven days, the podcast playing application could insert music from the playlists on the listener’s device. If tags were added at times when music is played stating the title and artist, it could play from the local device if present. If not, similar music could play. In Apple’s iTunes 8, the Genius system is designed to create playlists of similar music. That system could find replacements in a listener’s library to follow the mood of the show.

If you were listening to a combination radio broadcast/local playlist ‘live,’ there could be user-interface item to how much music content was from the radio station playlist, and how much is local:


This could be the way that future radio stations work, each listener could configure the shows they way they want. They could choose how much control they have over the music, whether they hear news, weather or traffic reports. Different shows might have different settings depending on the music choice or the kind of things the DJs say between the tracks.

Listen to the most recent Adam and Joe radio show using this RealPlayer location. Listen to the highlights podcast via iTunes.

It would be interesting to imagine a similar system for visual content.

What if my visual feed was similar to my audio feed – the way music is played on radio. What if media organisations had playlists that I subscribed to?

Maybe the visual channel that I will tune into will be made up of four to five minute vignettes. Longer than traditional previews, they’d be excerpts from dramas, comedy shows and documentaries. Entertaining and stimulating on their own, but with the option for me to wait for the next ‘track’ to come along, or for me to choose to see the rest of the play, film, documentary, documentary series or comedy show. Like singles on a radio station, I would expect high- medium- and low-rotation pieces. They could be designed to be re-watched.

Movies, TV shows and documentaries usually include ‘set-pieces.’ These are the bits that you talk about afterwards without reference to the plot. The sections excerpted in the better review shows: ‘Remember the bit when they were trapped in the trash compactor and the monster with the one eye attacked them?!’ ‘What about that bit when he had to stab her in the heart with the adrenaline needle! Wow’ ‘I didn’t cry when she told that story about how her owner forgot about her when she grew up and left her to be sold by the side of the road… it just got a little dusty in the room!’ These are the set-pieces that could be included in a visual station feed. Each could have simple intro to explain the stakes for those who hadn’t seen the source film or show. If you register that you have seen the source, the big moments from the second half could also be included in the playlist.

It may be that not everyone will want to pay the full £6 for the 2 hour film, or £18 for the complete 24 part series. They might want to pay a little less for a set piece or two. Just as people today pick the best tracks from an album as opposed to the whole work.

Imagine if short films and animations could get included in the mix. What would a TV channel be then – a filter to prevent you being taken over by the massive flow of content out there? What about shared experience?

We’ll see.

Some radio stations are different from others. They can be divided into two groups: entertaining and stimulating. On the entertaining stations, the vast majority of the tracks I hear, I like. On the stimulating stations, things are less certain. DJs who care about music more than the musicians. People who are still DJs (instead of the industry term: ‘presenters’), who know who they are is less important than the music they choose to play.

I’m not always in the mood for the stimulating choice. Sometimes I even want to have music on that I can ignore at some level. But sometimes I want to hear stuff that I might not like. Then there is a better chance that I will hear something else – one track later – that I would never have heard before. If I followed my demographic and listened to a radio station that played music from my youth, I’d find that entertaining. Just not very stimulating.

That’s radio. How does that translate to the visual medium…? To go in another direction: how can I integrate my media with that broadcast from elsewhere?

Here is a post with the my first set of notes posted via – I’ve made a very few changes (enclosed in brackets):

Session 1: Networks and not-works. A taxonomy of social media platforms and how they help and hinder communication.
Benjamin Ellis of

The way Social Media Platforms (SMPs) are constructed is important

SMPs are at the stage the telephone was in 1880s

Corporates say that SMPs are less efficient than email conversations

Remember that Facebook is the face of SMPs

Media = content in general: photos/videos (not TV/Press/Radio)

Different people use the same tools in different ways. Twitter for my friends, my job, my career, my hobby

Twitter. Started as status. @ use by community changed it. DM changed it again

SMPs engage two senses: vision, audio

Add time to media makes it linear

Whereas text can be skipped and scanned it is counted as non-linear

Linear media requires bigger investment in time for community

If an SMP only allows links, people have the option whether to access additional media

Initially, the quality of the community you adopt is more important than the quality of the SMP you create to support it. (That may be so, but watch out that a better SMP may come along and take the community away from you)

Twitter followers are fans. You don’t want the star to know about you, so you follow them, not friend them. (A distinction from Facebook)

Following: Publish and subscribe. Subscribers can choose how much they get. Much better than contacts pushing their content via email.

In SMPs, a brand broadcasting to people is OK – a back channel can be available rarely in special cases for people to chat back

Small brands may not be able to scale their property of remaining in a conversation with customers. SMPs might be able to help

SMPs make money when they give brands access to individual private conversations (But some don’t dare to do this or they will lose their community very quickly)

SMP taxonomy comes from the kinds of links between people. Friending vs. Following.

SMPs don’t yet support the polite decay of relationships

Technology representation of social network may be inaccurate because we don’t want to face up to stopping relationships (in offline relationships we guess when they are over, it’s OK. There may lots of inaccurate parts of people’s social maps that show relationships that are dead – SMP long tail)

Inverse power law – famous people become more famous because they are famous (i.e. we follow people who have lots of followers, which gives them more followers etc.)

SMPs give us insights into our contacts’ social networks – unlike in the real world

(A more evolved marketing policy:) sell to those with the right contacts, not the most contacts (People with few links who bridge between large groups of people)

Facebook want to help app developers connect the discrete social networks we are connected to – not via us

Dunbar says that the size of the neocortex in your brain determines the size of the group you can handle being part of

He says people can generally handle being in communities of 100-250 people.

(With modern technology) People have tiers of relationships. We use friends of friends for outer tier – for up to 1000 members of our community

SMPs need to maintain constructive feedback and not break links between tiers

Session 2: Will PR inherit the social media earth?
– A discussion amongst attendees moderated by @JanetParkinson

@blogtillyoudrop and @sylwiapresley do Word-of-Mouth marketing: engagement with potential ambassadors to maintain long-term relationship with brands

PR usually try star bloggers to create content on SMPs.

Gemma: it is difficult to get our PR clients to give us approval to go beyond star bloggers

@JanetParkinson Brandseye: an online reputation management tool

PR clients don’t know enough about SMP

Clients will buy SMP expertise from those who already do it for themselves.

Not all brands should be in Social Media – some aren’t conversational

Bigger PR agencies need to be careful. A Twitter policy was needed. Personal comments seen as official. (By agency clients)

Clients find it difficult to deal with the idea of people external to their organisations trusting that Tweets are personal

@blogtillyoudrop a freelancer felt less free when she realised that some blog entries would be in conflict with clients

Start with firefighting, risk management. There is bad PR out there in SMP, so you need to be there to deal with it. Go to a new client and show them what people are saying on SM, here’s what we can do to manage it.

PR are trying to hire SM experts. How can you measure that expertise?

An SM danger: Don’t listen to a very vocal minority. Dell lost money by listening to Linux activists

Don’t forget that huge numbers of people aren’t part of SM

Session 3: A DIY approach to online monitoring
– A discussion amongst attendees moderated by @rachelclarke

What tools are we using at the moment?

Distilled have a reputation monitoring tool – gives you a single score for reputation – searches each hour – includes sentiment and context.

Attendee uses Google alerts and Yahoo inbound links twitter search – Google alerts for Twitter

How do you set up a instant response chain of command?

Kneejerk responses can cause problems. If you respond wanting to know more, you engage without committing, which is safer.

Clients want their Reputation Managed on SM first while being educated, they want to take the task on themselves after a while

Clients know they should us RM, but don’t know why.

If a PR agency uses a paid service to do Reputation Management, they can pass on the agency (their supplier) case studies to their clients

Free tools can’t deal with 400,000 mentions a day.

Brand discussions happen in ‘private networks’ – not catalogued by search engines.

RM tools make correct guesses about comment sentiment 70-80% of the time

Surveys are about attitude. (Give them what they need not what they want.)

RM terminology: SM = Sentiment Monitoring

SM tools can send specific ‘important messages’ to PRs – from ‘high-reputation’ posters

If you work for a large brand, monitor the effects of what other agencies (working for that brand) are doing – you can get kudos for RM if bad things happen (e.g. If a press ad is causing uproar on SM)

(Individuals) can do your own RM – do you try and influence people’s opinion – actively or reactively

On twitter recently, if you mention a brand their competitors follow you.

When doing your own RM, wait a little for followers to manage your reputation. (You many have people in your network who will go to bat for you)

Sometimes it is good to respond during RM by stating errors in fact – and that’s all

(In Telegraph newspaper) Innocent accused of Greenwashing. SM sprung to their defence

(As RM tools don’t search) forums, be careful – get to know the social scene too.

PR clients may not care about negative comments on Digg and YouTube – they like the traffic (if all they count is traffic)

You need to check the quality of traffic from Digg and YouTube – unless you are ad-supported

In pitches companies promise ‘10,000 positive comments in the blogosphere’

Agencies set up thousands of blogs with fake cross-references to generate ‘positive comments’

‘If our crap business has lots of SM traffic, all will be well’ – the KoolAid for the next five years

@alex4d – (People seem to be saying, for RM) Forum handling: Lurk, groom, bribe

i.e. forums of fans of a brand

Online people forget that many brands are predominately offline. Imagine if they got in touch with you when you aren’t in brand mode.

Out of hours RM – respond quickly to say that you are sorry, but you cannot respond until later

Apple seed support forums so the community will support itself, then leave them to do all the work

Be honest during RM – (A carefully worded response):

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