All that video stuff and government too

Are people really consuming more online video? Over the past two years we've been building up the video content on the BCS website, and the answer seems to be: yes and no. A very balanced answer.

Some of our videos are very popular, easily outstripping article views, but others get about the same number of views as the average blog post. And this is a very average blog post.

Of course the million dollar question is what is the formula for determining what will be a successful online video? Here at BCS we need to answer that question without resorting to publishing someone's lame Yoda impressions or cute things that a cat has recently done.

When I look at the stats on our reporting software I find some trends emerging: name interviews are very popular (and we enjoyed going to Boston to interview Sir Tim Berners-Lee) and people like to learn about Green issues. But then some odd tings happen too - we did a video debate recently about programme management and it was really widely watched.

As you can no doubt imagine we journos enjoy some subjects more than others, but in our intrepid quest to cover the best of IT we need to go beyond our narrow self-interest. So it was with programme management. I wasn't really looking forward to the debate, and I really wondered if it would be viewed much. As it transpired, not only did I learn a lot of things myself (it is necessary to do some research first...), but the debate was incredibly popular.

Government

Of course, it helps when people say interesting things. When we interviewed Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales he talked about the use of the internet by government, and some persistent misunderstandings:

'It's definitely the future of political campaigning. One of the things that I think we should keep in mind is that the government produces vast amounts of information for its own consumption and we should really be insisting that if you are producing information, put it online, make it accessible and make it really open. You know, sometimes I talk to people in the government and they say "well we want to make this database available, but we realised it was going to be a $12m dollar project to build a gorgeous, beautiful website that the public can come and browse and so on..."

'I said "don't worry about it, just stick the data online and forget aesthetics. Just stick the data online in the most raw, ugly form and entrepreneurs will find it, or hackers will find it. People will find it and build amazing things out of it. It doesn't have to be the job of the government." The job of the government is to be transparent. Give us access to the data, let things bloom. Don't try to still have a search interface that controls everything. So I think there's progress being made in this area.'

Likewise Sir Tim spoke about the internet and government: '2009 has been the year not just for putting data on the web, but particularly in pushing government data onto the web. So we've got this project where the Cabinet Office has put data onto the web in the UK, which is really exciting and there are lots of people in UK government and around the government who get it and they know and are excited about linked data.

'As we talk, we are accumulating data sets linking them together. I think that's very exciting: it's very nice that there is a mirror initiative, different but also very strong, in the US. The Obama administration has made it mandatory to put government data online and there's data.gov and recovery.gov, which are places where the government has been transparent about what it’s doing by putting data out there.

'I think the value of having government data out there in the end will be huge and people will use it, not just to hold the government accountable, but because it's valuable data. It’s useful data for industry, so I'm hoping that once government has put data on there industry will realise "actually, if we put our stuff on there as data, the whole market will run much better, the whole industry will run more efficiently".'

Anyway, I don't know the magic formula that makes for a compelling video, but in the true modern interactive way I'd be keen to hear who you'd like to see interviewed (in the IT context, of course) and what subjects you think may make a worthwhile video debate.

www.bcs.org/video

 

About the author

Brian is Head of Content at BCS and blogs about the Institute’s role in making IT good for society, historical developments in computing, the implications of CS research and more.

See all posts by Brian Runciman
April 2018
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