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Video Killed the …. ?

2009 November 18
by Jimi Bostock and Silvia Pfeiffer

Jimi Bostock and Silvia Pfeiffer have been commissioned by the Taskforce to undertake a scoping study into the feasibility of a whole-of-government online video service.

So, yes, please shout out with any thoughts, let’s get this right. What have you seen has worked for your agency or similar organisations – what hasn’t worked? Any expectations that you have toward a site?

While not belittling what governments have achieved, the steps into the video world have been tentative. We must remind ourselves that many of the steps we take today that we think are big steps will be seen in the future as almost trivial. Such is life in the digital revolution.

Most agencies have an enormous amount of existing or potential video material – educational content, marketing content, news content, recordings of events etc. Most of this content barely makes it to the Web. Even agencies that would seem a natural fit for mass online video effort seem to have not rushed headlong into it. As example (and not singling them out), the National Archives in the USA are somewhat restrained in their use of YouTube and their official site does not seem to feature video at all. We can only imagine how much video they would hold and how much public interest there would be in it.

So, what is the hold up? Kids are making and uploading videos at a startling rate. None of us live long enough to watch even a day’s effort. Video is, by far, the fastest growing media being consumed online. So, why are we not seeing from government anywhere near the volume that general trends would suggest we should be seeing?

Agreeing that government needs to publish more video, the next step is a decision on how to publish all this content.

Most agencies have decided to use video sparingly on their site – only where it is absolutely called for to make it a modern presence. For example with the introduction of a new service as an addition to a press release. One such example of an Australian federal agency’s video effort is the recently launched Social Inclusion Website, which features videos of conferences and launches around Social Inclusion.

Other agencies have decided to step away from having to solve the technical challenges associated with hosting video and make use of the free YouTube service, even though YouTube has been blocked for many government departments. The Department of Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy for example runs such a YouTube channel.

Incidentally, YouTube is very good at making sure the videos get a wider exposure, since YouTube is the default video search engine on the Internet, but may be a precarious situation for a government agency to be potentially seen to endorse a third party service.

In any case, it is actually a big challenge to even find videos that have been published on government sites – and they can help make government so much more accessible, which is our main motivation in analysing the possibilities of a For an agency, the motivation may be different and part of it may be to take away the need to solve the technical issues related to publishing videos.

So, let’s assume that the call is made by the powers to be that a site be developed. How would people in the Gov 2.0 community go about this? Should we go with a mega-YouTube presence and does it have the tools to make for a flexible and well-structured Or should we be thinking one of the more ‘commercial’ service offerings? Could we build it from scratch? Would this be commercial or open-source? Could we find an off-the-shelf offering that could get us underway instantly? Should it be a centralised hosting site, like a “YouTube for government” or should it be an aggregation site that pulls in feeds from all the agencies and makes content available in a standardised and searchable format?

Or should it be a hybrid of all of these with a Twitter on top?

We would love input on these questions!

So, wish us luck and please do let us know your thoughts on the stuff we have raised here or any other areas you think we should be looking at, remembering the scope of our brief. Please feel free to post here or email us directly.

34 Responses
  1. 2009 November 18
    Gordon Grace permalink

    Silvia -

    Thank you for your timely post.

    Video hosting site’s ability to embed video in third-party sites allows for an appearance of decentralization (an agency can appear to ‘have’ a video on their site) whilst outsourcing the hosting / conversion processes. This could be a workable architecture for other shared government services.

    Further issues for consideration of a shared online video service for government may include:

    - Support for audio-only files (podcasting, streaming, etc.)
    - Ease of metadata entry (not unlike current third-party video sites)
    - Bulk upload support
    - Progressively-enhanced approach to embedded player (to take into consideration a wide variety of private and public SOEs):
    >> 1. Download 2. Java-based player 3. Quicktime playback 4. Flash-based player 5. HTML5 support
    - Ease of embedding in third-party sites
    - Support for synchronised text equivalents (which I imagine would make searching for a frame in a video signalling the start particular phrase from many hours of video a far more straightforward exercise)
    - On-demand synchronisation of transcripts to video
    - On-demand Auslan conversion of captions
    - Automated conversion to multiple video output formats from any one of a number of video input formats
    - Support for multiple audio / video tracks in a given video
    - Per-agency player “branding” of embedded player
    - Automatic thumbnail generation
    - Support for multiple caption languages
    - Support for high / low bandwidth and downloadable versions of video, with consideration for mobile devices
    - Licencing that would not exclude additional distribution
    - Support for indexing / spidering by external search engines
    - MediaRSS feeds for video from agency|topic|date
    - Analytics for agencies on a per-agency and per-video scale, tracking:
    >> Total number of plays
    >> Bandwidth used
    >> Embeds
    >> Variant used (alt. video/sound/caption track)
    >> Dropout / drop-in timecode
    - Automatic generation and insertion of intro / outro titles, based on:
    >> Presence of licencing restrictions
    >> Attribution
    >> Presence of vision / audio of indigenous Australians

    And to stretch the shopping list further, video content served up by sites should not be subject to usage metering by Australian ISPs (an ambitious goal, I know).

    should it be an aggregation site that pulls in feeds from all the agencies and makes content available in a standardised and searchable format?

    For agencies that already have already invested in online video and have plenty of video available online (e.g. this may be a suitable approach. I suspect that these feeds are few and far between, though.

    For citizens, the concept of having to manually retrieve government video solely from a dedicated government video site may not be as intuitive as:
    1. Being able to search for “getting a passport” or “rudd apology video” and viewing a thumbnail / preview of results right there and then.
    2. Continuing to visit existing sites and observing contextually-relevant instructional / information videos direct on the ‘host’ site.

    Good luck!

  2. 2009 November 18

    Before addressing the technical questions I think it’s vital to consider why the government should establish a video aggreagation and distribution service.

    What would be the benefits to the public and to the government?

    How does aggregating videos from a diverse set of government departments benefit audiences? Will there be demographically based clusters of video material to support people in finding appropriate related material that they might choose to watch?

    Will this service be more accessible than existing and well-developed commercial services? Will it be more usable? Will people use it (where the market studies on this indicating that much of the community is looking for a better online system for viewing government videos?

    Would agencies be able to customise their presences – and to what extent? Would appropriate statistics tools be integrated? Ratings? Comments? Would video-based competitions be supported – which would mean having the public upload their videos to such a service – or would it be for passive audience viewing alone?

    Does developing a government-owned (and maybe operated) service run counter to government principles of not competing in areas where effective commercial providers exist?

    What are the real barriers or issues that government agencies are seeking to overcome in order to deliver more video content does this service seek to overcome?

    The shortage of government video content may not be due to a shortage of cost-effective distribution technologies (after all a multitude of free services already exist) – it may be due to the costs and complexity of video production to current government standards, due to agency research that has indicated that video isn’t the best medium to convey certain government messages or due to a variety of other factors that building a video distribution system would not address.

    It’s also important to consider how such a service would restrict agency activities by becoming a gatekeeper for video distribution or whether it could meet adequate SLAs – and who would fund it. Would government agencies be required to host their videos on this service? Would they be allowed to host them on other services – existing or emerging? Particularly where other services have greater market reach.

    I don’t see a great argument for this project, as I’ve stated before – just as I’d not see a great argument for government to replicate other services which are already provided effectively and equitably by the community or commercial concerns.

    I see much greater arguments for tools such as a centrally funded whole-of-government web reporting system – a capability that costs agencies money and is required for them to access the effectiveness of the online channel, or for CMS and social media platforms that make it easier and cheaper for agencies to manage their websites and introduce new media elements quickly when necessary.

    But let’s see what Jimi and Sylvia come up with.

    • 2009 November 18

      Hi Craig,

      Thanks for all the good questions – certainly all worthy things to consider.

      I know you are not a fan of and have said thus for a long time. However, you may misunderstand the possibilities of such a site and the importance of video in communication with citizens. How much government video have you so far viewed? Maybe it’s not much, and maybe that’s because they are not indexed and a proper part of public communication? Have you thought of the needs of people who prefer visual communication over text? Or those who try to find how-to instructions and have to walk up to information booths at government agencies to get basic things explained?

      We believe, can provide a important new means for citizens to browse for information about government and their services – just like YouTube has become such a source of information more generally.

      We also believe that can at the same time solve a lot of the technical challenges for government agencies that surround video publication. Whether the technology should be provided to government by a commercial entity or not is a completely different question.

      Currently, every government agency uses a different method to publish video (if they make the effort). Every video player is different, provides different capabilities and every video has different kinds of meta data associated.

      Looking at it from an accessibility viewpoint: when I come across a government video, I cannot be certain to find audio descriptions, or captions, or even a transcript, even though there is a minimum requirement on government published video to at least provide transcripts (which, IMHO, are completely insufficient for accessibility). Further, every player has different interaction means and most are not keyboard accessible or integrate with assistive technology. Mostly these shortcomings have to do with a lack of capabilities in the agencies. A central service that would provide all this functionality and would be available for agencies to use could completely do away with such issues and provide improved usability and accessibility to citizens (remembering that not everybody is the same).

      Looking at it from an archiving and findability point of view: since every video is published with different or no specific meta data, archiving them in any meaningful manner such that they are findable again becomes impossible. A central site that would aggregate all video across agencies and normalise their met adata would solve these issues.

      Further, we go into success measurement: there are a plethora of modern video metrics available – including engagement metrics and the identification of hotspots – which are not currently measured when publishing video. Thus it is impossible to tell which videos and which scenes in videos perform well and which don’t. A central site could provide standardised success measures.

      There are many other issues that the agencies should take care of but are not when dealing with video, such as the branding which should not endorse a third party site, or the provisioning of an RSS feed on videos, or the announcement of new videos to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, or the delivery of videos to mobile and TV.

      Ultimately, search, browse and find are the key advantages to citizens, and also to government employees. Remember that the concept of does not have to live at a separate Web domain – it may well be that the best way to provide such a service is as part of the site. Further, the search results of every government agency Web site could be improved if videos were provided with improved meta data and indexed on that metadata – the search engines could simply integrate this information from

    • 2009 November 18
      Jimi Bostock permalink

      Well, just back from being with Silvia and glad to see some feedback.

      I suppose I could cut to the chase. Gordon, I just don’t agree with the fundemental argument you put but would be keen to hear your thoughts on Silvia’s rebuttal.

      • 2009 November 18
        Gordon Grace permalink

        I’m not sure I’m in any disagreement with Silvia.

        My fundamental argument would be: if it’s going to happen, and meet the majority of governmental and accessibility requirements, these are the issues that a service would likely need to tick off.

        It would appear the automated comment filter has removed one of my references in the final paragraph.


        For citizens, the concept of having to manually retrieve government video solely from a dedicated government video site may not be as intuitive as:
        1. Being able to search for “getting a passport” or “rudd apology video” and viewing a thumbnail / preview of results right there and then.
        2. Continuing to visit existing sites and observing contextually-relevant instructional / information videos direct on the ‘host’ site.


        For citizens, the concept of having to manually retrieve government video solely from a dedicated government video site may not be as intuitive as:
        1. Being able to search *A SEARCH ENGINE OF THEIR CHOICE* for “getting a passport” or “rudd apology video” and viewing a thumbnail / preview of results right there and then.
        2. Continuing to visit existing sites and observing contextually-relevant instructional / information videos direct on the ‘host’ site *AS EMBEDDED VIDEO*.

      • 2009 November 18
        Jimi Bostock permalink

        Oops, I meant Craig, no idea where Gordon came from. Long day, lot of travel

        • 2009 November 19

          Hi Jimi,

          In response to Sylvia’s points.

          I’m not against video from government – I’m very much for it. Video is a fantastic way to transmit many messages and I’d like to see use of it broadened from mainly communications purposes to other uses – such as ‘how tos’ in terms of completing government forms, applying for government services and for educational purposes.

          I view a great deal of video from government (a substantial percentage of it at Youtube) and agree that there are differences in accessibility, metadata and formatting that does present challenges.

          However I don’t believe we need to build/buy a video content management system for whole-of-government to address these technical issues. They could be addressed within an updated AGIMO Web Guide by providing guidance and minimum requirements for government video and some support on how to meet the minimums.

          In terms of archival needs – I think the NAA needs to take the lead with the National Film and Sound Archives to define the format and requirements for archival video purposes. I would expect that these requirements would not specify a format or distribution channel as they would be focused on the content and maintaining its accessibility over long periods of time. Video formats will come and go.

          In terms of metrics, again – putting in place a whole-of-goverment web reporting system which agencies can use would address video metrics – as well as metrics for ANY other form of online government content.

          To me that’s a more elegant and more useful solution that really supports consistent online measurement across government.

          In terms of discoverability – there’s some assumptions here from Silvia:

          1) That people would search for government videos specifically (rather than searching a topic which would include textual, video, audio and other materials).

          2) That existing search technologies don’t work in locating government videos.

          3) That having viewed a video on a given topic, people would want to view similar government videos – and if they did they’d want to do so within a government video site.

          I have not yet seen any research on or evidence of any of the above. They are great statements for a research project, but unless you already have some evidence in my view are not a sound basis for building a business case for spending public money on a whole-of-government video system.

          In short, my feeling is that this project is seeking to solve a standards issue with a technical solution – before determining whether the issue being addressed (video distribution/storage/presentation) is actually an issue anyway.

          Why not:
          a) establish the standards and work with agencies to ensure compliance.
          b) do some research to see whether there is a market need for a new system.
          c) assess the cost and market impact.


          d) look at building a video system if it makes sense for the public purse.



          • 2009 November 19

            Hi Craig,

            There is one big assumption in all your comments: the assumption that we need to build a video content management system.

            We are not starting with our investigation from that point. We are starting where one should start when figuring out whether and how to build a new service: determine the needs and the requirements.

            Only when we have the needs and requirements can we even start to assess the different options through which the service can be realised.

            Different options for realising a central government video service and portal (these may, in fact, be two different services – also something that still needs to be investigated) are: build from scratch, use a free service, buy (a system or a service), use open source, or a combination of the above.

            Part of our duty is to analyse all these options.


          • 2009 November 19
            Jimi Bostock permalink

            Ah, my dastardly plan worked and you have delivered with some excellent points. As soemone who is so well steeped in the issues, your input is invaluable Craig.

            Hopefully you will be comforted to know that everything you mention as considerations are things that have already been well noted and we are working on them. I can even say that they reflect quite a lot of what we have been briefed on from the TF/AGIMO

            But there is some crucial things that are emerging that I would love you to put in your thinking processes and help with your thoughts. I am moving across some key agencies now and starting to gather thier thinking. Also in conversations with other countries and we are already hearing some interesting stuff. As suggested, we also have been recieving some excellent ‘intellegince’ from Peter Alexender who I think would pretty much agree with all your most recent post.

            So, the things that look like they are bobbing up for our attention are, as example, the potential across a completely dispersed system for standards to be very hard to adhere to in the video space. As you know, its one thing to make text accessible (and hw do people get it wrong??) but another kettle of fish when it comes to video.

            Heck, even I am confused by all of that and imagine there is more of the story to come as we move forward the next decade.

            So, is this an indication that a solution is looked at on the basis of sharing and even taking most of the load when it comes to standards.

            Also, what if there are a lot of agencies who just find it all a bit hard to contemplate. I feel for these agencies because I know that their Ministers will be looking for a deeper video engagement. The pressure from both ends could see some real problems emerging with quick dashes.

            So, if that is the case, maybe some really top notch platform might be a god-send.

            Now whether that is a build, rent, or buy, I am pretty sure that is the really hard question that we are going to have to grapple with.

            In some ways, the more ‘industrial’ nature of online video needs to be considered in this whole discussion.

            After all, I am on public record as being very wary of centralised systems. I have fought against these at many a turn on our shared journey. But, I am starting to see some glimmer of wisdom in this one and I think that times have changed since I wore my opposition as a badge.

            So, let’s keep talking, brain dump as much as you can, we can not have enough of your insights, you have been there, seen it all, and that is gold in my books

    • 2009 November 19
      Kerry Webb permalink

      Many of us will recall the early days of Web publishing and the concept of the “stuff swamp”, exemplified by the concept of “What do we have that can be put up on the Web? Oh, there’s some. Let’s publish it.” And be damned to any sort of publishing strategy.

      In the rush to be relevant and 2.0, I think we’re getting into the same dangerous waters. The most important thing that you should ever ask at the start of an endeavour is “What are we trying to achieve?” If you can give a good reply to that, well and good. If not, rethink.

      Sure, government agencies have engaged video production companies to create video material over the years, but the question should be “Is it worth the effort to publish this (outdated, uncatalogued and in an unsuitable format) material online?”


      • 2009 November 19

        When you start a blog, you don’t normally start by re-publishing stuff you’ve written in previous years – or at least not everything.

        Government publishing video is not about pulling out old stuff an pushing it out. It is about getting involved in a space that is highly relevant in Web 2.0.

        YouTube is the second largest search engine – yes, *search engine*, not video search engine – on the planet, right behind Google. People look for almost as many videos as they look for Web pages on Google.

        Unless we make video a top priority for online for government, as much as twitter and other engagement methods, we will miss communication with a large amount of Internet users.

        All this resistance here against video tells me one thing: Australia hasn’t understood the value of video yet – it’s not just government that needs educating. Obama got it – just see the amount of video content that he created during the election and is continuing to create across agencies. How come we see value in twitter, but not in video? It eludes me.

        • 2009 November 19

          The reply might have been too harsh – we are looking for input and considering what content needs to go up is indeed important.

          I am just reacting to the continuing resistance I get about video – not just here, but in other places, too, and might have over-reacted. Apologies.

          • 2009 November 25
            simonfj permalink

            Hey you,

            Take a deep breath. You know, I’m probably about as passionate as you are for AV. But after teaching it going back 30 years, I can’t see it’s strength as a content publishing device. If we’re thinkin web 2.0, then we’re not publishing, we’re trying to encourage siloists to get in the sharing (collaborative) mood. AV’s real strength, I believe, is when we get into the idea that a mic/camera is for capturing a programme, not producing it.

            Now don’t go Australian on me and think I’m saying its one or the other. But the real strength which it could have, if .gov producers were as imaginative as Pia, is supporting distributed conferences, streaming and recording, and blending the ‘capture’ with some professional AV production and social networking tools.

            The real challenge, apart from the differences in expectations and bandwidth, is where the archives are kept. On a web site? Of course! It’s a published medium after all. Do us a favour with this one will you guys; don’t jump to the usual conclusions; that each agency should become a publisher in their own right, just like every uni does. Just consider “the community” as something made up of input (and output) from .gov insiders and outsiders, so it needs it’s own TV station- it’s social hub around which the records are kept. I could give you a few ideas from the EU, but they’re not as inventive as Aussies can be. I’ll just leave the idea here.

            I think we’re getting to the point where even Aussie bureaucrats might be allowed to videoconference with their (Digitally engaging) peers OS, and they should stream and record everything by default, which, if they took feedback immediately, would be a nice easy way of including people who are usually left out of three silos of consultations, especially if it was ported to a broadcast station.

            Just a few references for your interest.
            The terena approach
            Maybe we should just train a whole bunch of people to use a camera and ustream.

            • 2009 November 25
              Jimi Bostock permalink

              Thanks Simon for the post. Meaty stuff. Good points.

              I think you can be sure that Pia’s work in part of what we are looking at. I have never met Pia, which is really quite funny, but Silvia and Pia are very close and they worked together on all the amazingly wonderful stuff you point to.

              I won’t do the old aussie thing you warn against but I am wondering if it might end up being do one thing, then do teh other. Does that make sense?

              I would love to do a bigger reply but we are flat chat on this, as you could imagine. Thanks heaps for your enthusiasm, your support of the general notions, your prodding on the social media and the real meaning of web 2.0.

              As I am saying to the many enthusiastic and excited friends that are waiting for the results, this is an intial scoping, we are going to try our best to fashion a good step forward that is achievable against the current thinking of agencies.

              Thanks for the links, I was aware of them and I am sure that Silvia is too. Will have another closer look now that you bring them to our attention, thanks for that.

              If you want to fire any fleshing out of your thinking to us, that would be great. email is the word me located at my two word name dotty com


            • 2009 November 25

              Our mandate is to look at publishing, not at live streaming, but yes, live streaming is also an important source of content that can then be published. Indeed, Pia and Senator Lundy are showing how it can be done and done well on a budget.

              I actually wouldn’t want to restrict anyone in what content they have to produce – indeed it is important to encourage people to experiment. Jimi and I want to provide an initial list of ideas of what people could record, just to stimulate the senses. But we are looking forward to all the experimentation that will happen.

            • 2009 November 25

              Simon, btw, this activity might be of interest to you: the European Commission is undertaking a pilot assessment of Video Codecs in eGovernment, more precisely for live video streaming of parliamentary sessions.

              They are seeking contributions which they will publish openly. The Xiph contribution on Ogg Theora/Vorbis/Speex/CELT codecs has just been made, see .

  3. 2009 November 19
    Jimi Bostock permalink

    Firstly, I have come to see, over a 15 year relationship, that Kerry’s inherant pessisism (which is really not even the best word) has a very important role to play in our thinking across the issues being dealt with in gov 2.0.

    Kerry has seen it all, so to speak, and is in a very unique position as the key player in the relatively small ACTPS. He is able to get an overview picture easier by having a smaller pool of players to interact with.

    Over the years, after some pretty good disagreements :) , I have come to appreciate Kerry’s guidence.

    So, against that background, Kerry is extremely right. We have to start at the why and, even, what.

    Good news Kerry, Silvia and I have started there and are working on these questions as we speak while getting some technology ducks in a row.

    One thing I should stress is that we deliver in just over three weeks and so people like Kerry will likley be dissapointed at the report as it may not go deep enough. We always have to remind ourselves that as we explore the bleedinbg edge that there is a whole lot of people we have to bring up to speed on things we know likethe back of oour hands.

    Silvia and I are already dredging up out thoughts from 15 years ago into this so we can’t be too concerned at revisiting old ground for the newbies, can we?

    Having said that, I look forward to Kerry’s continuing input.

  4. 2009 November 23
    Neil Henderson permalink

    I feel very strongly about video being used as a channel for distributing government information & services – we have to embrace it & use it where we know it is effective.
    We have to remember that different people communicate differently, according to a course I went on many years ago in London there are 3 maps of communication that humans have. If you want a human to effectively understand your message then you have communicate in their map (not yours). I still think this is correct.
    So, some of our government audience communicate best in the visual & auditory map, we may have many channels which satisfy that map but to me the video channel is the obvious one, so can we please try it?

    An example, last year I needed to find out how to disassemble, clean reassemble the automatic choke on the carburettor in my classic car. I read the manual & wasn’t at all sure that I understood it & carbies aren’t things you want to mess around with – one mistake can be very expensive. So I searched (Google’d) & found a guy in Michigan who had made videos in his companies workshop on how to do what I needed to do – I watched his video on YouTube, went out to garage & followed the video – I was done in 30 minutes with nothing broken. Yes I communicate in the visual map….

    • 2009 November 24
      Jimi Bostock permalink

      A great real world example Neil. There is no doubt that processes can be better explained by video. We are ecrtainly engaging with some selected agencies looking at how we might provide some instructional style videos.

      It’s going to be a long road ahead for government video engagement and there is going to be a need for champions in agencies. Hope you can be one within your agency.

      • 2009 November 25
        simonfj permalink

        I hope you play you part in chipping at the silo walls. Perhaps we could have the PR people in selected agencies involved with a series of public sphere conferences; recorded, streamed, edited and archived in one spot of course.

        The topic is; “How three levels of Australia government work together“. Just a ten minute instructional would be handy, thanks!

      • 2010 April 1
        Nigel Ward permalink

        Agree entirely. Same thing with tinkering with replacing/upgrading things on my netbook. It’s fine to read instructions but show me someone doing it via video and THEN I understand.

        I wonder whether that can apply to things like understanding and accessing government services like centrelink.

        Web video is not the miracle cure, but it’s a very powerful channel.


  5. 2009 November 27
    Neil Henderson permalink

    Hi Simonfj,
    That would be a very short video I think :-) , I’d prefer to see
    a) What you need to do now that you child is born
    b) What you need to do with government to seup your new business
    c) Who the departments (agencies) of government are & what services they have that could be useful


    • 2009 November 27

      Hi Neil,

      Great suggestions! Exactly the kinds of things we were thinking of. Can we cite you in the report as a “citizen” expressing what you think would be good content?


  6. 2009 December 7
    George Bray permalink

    Jimi, Silvia

    What a great effort, I’m really behind it.

    My background is setting up large video capture/delivery systems for web use, and I’m currently consulting to the Swiss academic institutions to work out a similar plan for multiple (hundreds) of institutions to share and archive their audiovisual media.

    In some ways it’s a similar problem. For Switzerland, the aim of the project is to enable each organisation (universities, CERN, etc) to easily make their material available to the national audience. Like any collection of organisations, some will have a strategy for THEIR org, some will be thinking about accessibility, some will be thinking about longevity. All, however, need a common approach to a shared solution that will live long and prosper. We’re talking here about making sure that 2D video presentation from the Prime Minister is available in 200 years on a 4D TV.

    There are standards wars being played out now. Both in media formats and metadata schemas. Now is certainly the time for deciding which to use, and that choice really needs to be made with reference to how long you’re expecting to have the media available, and how (if at all) the national libraries and archives are involved for long term availability/searchability.

    In the Swiss project we’re considering different approaches, but the most viable model is to require little or no technical changes to an institution’s systems or procedures. Rather, put the engineering effort into building a large aggregation service that pulls material to a central point or references it in-place. Coming up with a coherent metadata plan for all players is a hard part of this. But in the end, the aim is to allow an organisation/department to easily contribute to the pool of nationally shared material.

    The central aggregation model can also work well if it’s designed as a clearinghouse. By requiring that all media available from the aggregator conforms to agreed technical, metadata and downstream usage licenses it becomes an environment where the decision to “release” a new piece of media to the public is easy for everyone. Whether those standards can be agreed to is a different matter!

    Some existing efforts in this area are the Steeple Project (Oxford), and maybe OpenCast

    George Bray
    Managing Director
    Sand Consulting Pty Ltd ABN 34 003 208 231
    Landline +61 2 6100 8121 Mobile +61 411 111 606

    • 2009 December 7

      Hi George,

      It is amazing how your architecture matches with a lot of the thoughts we have had as well.

      We also don’t want to force massive changes on the agencies, but instead allow them new video functionality within their given Web CMS. A central video solution would provide the functionality of video publishing, but could be delivered through either simple embedding/HTML widgets into a given Web CMS, or through plugins written for a Web CMS.

      We are also thinking about a central aggregation/syndication place. It could be a clearinghouse for metadata and rights.

      As what concerns video format standards: we are indeed in a turbulent time right now. With HTML5 and the new video and audio elements coming out, Ogg format (as is being used in the Open Video example you pasted later) is the most open and freely available format and is now given a chance to succeed on the Web. Right now, H.264 in Adobe Flash is the most widely spread codec format – but it will require payment of royalties from 2011 for Web publishers, so is not open and free.

      In my mind, the format in which we publish audio and video on the Web will still change for another decade or two until we will reach a state where we can transfer audio and video at their highest quality and picture-size, compressed almost losslessly. This is the state that JPEG has got into and it’s not really necessary to invent any more image compression formats. So, we just have to deal with the situation that our publishing system will need to be able to change underlying compression formats for the binary data and make sure that the rest of the system (upload, transcode, metadata storage, captioning, audio annotations, etc) will continue to work even if the file format changes.

      As for standardizing on an archiving format: I believe you have to archive the source material in the highest possible quality, so you can re-create compressed publishing format from them at any stage. Fortunately capturing formats are digital format these days, so they should be simple to archive and also simple to transcode without or with little loss of information to another digital capturing format. If possible, we want uncompressed source material. Given today’s storage sizes, an archive should be able to cope with such material.

      It’s great to see educational projects thinking along very similar lines to what a government video system needs – and in fact it will also apply to the needs of large corporates IMO.

      Thanks for sharing, George!

  7. 2009 December 7
    George Bray permalink

    Why Open Video?

  8. 2009 December 7
    George Bray permalink

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply Silvia.

    Agreed, the choice of archive video format for the long term needs to be flexible over time, so that you can ingest everything today and have a mapping/transcoding to whatever might be used in the future. It’s an ongoing decision over the life of the archive.

    For example, Parliament House has over 30,000 hours of material on tapes going back to 1987. They currently squeeze current material out to today’s broadband viewers, but in 8 years they’ll probably need to be delivering SD (720×576 @25) or more to home desktops.

    I have great hopes for HTML5 being able to standardise browser video. Right now, it’s a mess. We’re putting the finishing touches on this ACT Government site that provides searchable access to audiovisual speeches in the assembly chamber.

    ACT Legislative Assembly Daily on Demand

    This site uses RTSP for the video delivery mechanism primarily because we need fast, random access to multiple stored videos. It delivers H.264 via the quicktime architecture. It works OK for the current retail broadband scenario. (although criticism gratefully accepted).

    However Australia’s future is a high-bandwidth one on the NBN. I think if the NBN multicast architecture is sound, a video archive could deliver the same speed and random access of RTSP. But more likely is the current methods of delivering H.264 in a flash or HTML wrapper via HTTP will overcome the access/seeking deficiencies.

    Yes, GOV, EDU and COM all have the same problem. Each have their own tweeks, but agencies/departments/colleges just need to have a single thing they contribute to. All these organisational entities have some degree of ability and material, so the key is to cause them as little pain as possible. In EDU, some unis have their own lecture recording system, some use an external service, some cobble, some have none.

    Interesting times!


    • 2009 December 7

      The mere fact that you are bringing parliamentary recordings online is to be congratulated. Nice work!

      I do wonder what guided your choice of technology. Most video is published using Adobe Flash these days and it requires only a small server-side extension to provide random access. I would think that rolling out a RTSP base solution is technically more challenging – the more to congratulate you on the success! Were there any other reasons for choosing a QuickTime based solution?

      I agree, we are in very interesting times – just like when the first Web content management systems emerged and everyone wanted to get on the Web, but it wasn’t clear what the best system choices would be. Right now, a central system that would relieve everyone of having to solve the hard problems (format choice, encoding setup, video player design, accessibility, statistics capture etc.) indeed seems to make a huge amount of sense.

      BTW: A few open source video management systems are starting to emerge with VideoPress, Kaltura CE and Fez/Fedora (the latter more of a general content archiving and publishing system).

      I think we will see a lot of innovation in the space in the next few years, not just because of HTML5, but encouraged by it. Our NBN is coming at the right time to help us focus on high quality content that should even be re-usable on IP-based TV with a good experience.

      • 2009 December 7
        George Bray permalink

        We chose QuickTime for DoD as it’s an extension of the existing live webstreaming service. When the assembly sits, it’s broadcast by multicast throughout the ACT Gov offices and unicast to public internet users via RTSP.

        The media is available in DoD within an hour after broadcasting, three times a day. We wanted to avoid transcoding during the workflow.

        In our tests with a few different temporal techniques, RTSP won out for me because it’s a documented standard.


        Your point about the MPEG-4 H.264 license is interesting and troubling for many. On the positive side, it’s everything we’ve ever wanted:

        * standards-based
        * widely deployed
        * scalable from phone to broadcast
        * efficient

        However with an unending license fee for use of the standard within open video archives (EDU, GOV) it requires the licensee to assess their future usage (a simply impossible task for a nationwide, long-term service).

        It would be good if there was a government-wide license for use of the MPEG standards, meaning that individual agencies would not have to deal with the problem.

        The OGG alternative is a great contender for desktop use. But I’d contend that it compares poorly to the utility that H.264 yields across current telco/broadcast deployments.

        Thanks for the compliments on the service. Yes, the focus was on the video engineering so we’re in need of some CSS love.

        • 2009 December 8

          That completely explains your choice of technology – I assume you are using Apple’s open source Darwin Streaming Server to serve the videos, which in this case would have also been my choice.


          I agree with your analysis that Ogg hasn’t seen the industry uptake yet that H.264 has. I am expecting this to be a matter of time, since not many commercial services around Ogg have been developed yet.

          I believe in future Ogg will serve the lower end market – anyone wanting to host videos cheaply – and H.264 serving the upper end of the market – anyone in need of DRM and other functionality.

          I am expecting government ultimately to be using Ogg, but there will be a transition period, where the lack of commercial uptake of Ogg support will simply slow down uptake of Ogg.

  9. 2010 April 13

    Now i know the Home Loan Hints site isn’t a gov, but let me give the example of our company which has users who aren’t use to engaging with a considered “boring” industry.

    What we are in the process of doing (especially for first home buyers ) is create more of an interactive process. We are going to the streets and asking people questions then referring them back to the site. Getting their views on topics, and asking for their comments on the videos.

    In today’s age – you have to relinquish control and allow for social commentary.

    I would assume if the government was to embrace online video technology, they would have to go into it with an open mind. Not the heavy moderation one would expect.

  10. 2010 April 14
    Madeleine Kingston permalink

    Hi everyone

    I am a little hesitant to join this discussion since my technical background is not up to input on technicalities.

    However, from the perspective of a non-tech who does a lot of browsing, enjoys accessing information generally and not always with a particular purpose in mind other than personal development, I use search engines like Google a lot.

    I often stumble on information that I would never have come across simply by doing a broad search on search engine.

    At other times if I am looking for government information of a particular kind, such as slides presented at a public meeting, I am most likely to go directly to the government site where it is likely to be available, if at all.

    Not every government agency puts out there what would be invaluable to the public especially if it has been in the public arena and presented to those who were actually able to get along to an advertized public meeting.

    When responding to formal consultative initiatives if time permits I really like to get to videos,, PowerPoint present and the like that are relevant to that consultation in addition to reading as many earlier submissions or discussion papers. With enough notice, this is an ideal way to be better informed in making considered response. Most of the time, it is a mad rush just to read the issues paper let alone anything else.

    I love the idea of being able to get government information readily from more than one source, but motivation to seek something particular out will always take me to the government site eventually, even if I have sourced the material by doing a general goggle search.

    So from a consumer viewpoint I like to have options, and despite my under-developed web media skills and rusty Boolean skills, the idea of being able to access video-related material is very appealing. Quite often the written word or even a well designed PowerPoint presentation cannot deliver the same impact as a video. The power of a person’s voice and delivery cannot be adequately replaced by the written word.

    Having said that I would always expect to have access to a written transcript as well of any such presentation.

    Hope that helps identify that there may be a range of preferences and that information-hungry people like lots of options. This of course disregards the costs involved in making such options accessible.



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