Sean Gilligan's Blog


Amateur Tsunami Video Footage has Amateur Tsunami Video Footage and brief commentary:

In addition to the extensive first-person coverage of the tsunami disaster on blogs, there have been several amateur recordings of the tsunami from camcorders. Unfortunately, the network websites aren't making them easy to find and view. The videos are usually only available as poor-quality, streaming video like RealPlayer, and buried in popup windows and poor navigation.

Ben pointed me to downloadable versions of three clips. has a list of aid organizations.


Viva Poland!

Poles push patents off EU agenda | CNET

The European Union has again failed to ratify the software patent directive, after a crucial last-minute intervention from Poland.


This last-minute decision to remove the item is likely to please antipatent campaigners who were unhappy that the EU Council was planning to adopt the directive without vote or discussion.

The abuse of the patent system in the U.S. is out of control and the E.U. looks like it wants to follow suit. Thanks, to Poland for at least delaying the directive.


Free Speech (American or Otherwise) Will Win

Daniel Henninger in OpinionJournal - Wonder Land writes:

"American influence" is the great white whale of the 21st century, and Jacques Chirac is the Ahab chasing her with a three-masted schooner. Along for the ride is a crew that includes Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Vladimir Putin, North Korea's Kim Jong-Il, Kofi Annan, the Saudi royal family, Robert Mugabe, the state committee of Communist China and various others who have ordained themselves leaders for life. At night, seated around the rum keg, they talk about how they have to stop American political power, the Marines or Hollywood.

The world is lucky these despots and demagogues are breaking their harpoons on this hopeless quest. Because all around them their own populations are grabbing the one American export no one can stop: raw technology. Communications technologies, most of them developed in American laboratories (often by engineers who voted for John Kerry), have finally begun to effect an historic shift in the relationship between governments and the governed. The governed are starting to win.


Until recently, one-party or no-party governments had a standing list of answers for people with a different notion: a) we don't care what you think; b) shut up; c) we kill you. There's no sure cure for c, but Plans a and b are becoming obsolete.


Their problem--and the promise here--is that this stuff is moving the world's people, and fast, toward the one American product that governing elites really need to fear: free speech. Some at the Berkman conference worried this still isn't enough to "change things." Jeff Jarvis, one of this movement's most intelligent thinkers set them straight: "This is not about causes or organizing people. It's about us creating these tools and then simply having faith in people who use them elsewhere to do good."

(via Jeff Jarvis and Renee Blodgett)

From the perspective of a Nokia smart phone-carrying Open Source software developer, he's probably over-crediting both American technologists and laboratories, but his main point is well-stated. (He also fails to mention recent assaults on free speech in the U.S.) These are interesting times that we live in, and I've been forced to rethink some of my long-held beliefs, but free speech is more important than ever. In the ongoing battle to protect and spread free speech, there will be casualties of both the b) shut up and the c) we kill you variety, but don't despair: we will win.


Brewster Kahle of The Internet Archive at PARC

It's 2:00 am and earlier tonight, I attended the December SDForum Distinguished Speaker Series to hear Brewster Kahle speak about Universal Acccess to all Knowledge. A lofty goal - but he is well on his way to pulling it off. I took a few pages of notes and will provide details later. In the meantime, you can read Renee Blodgett's well-written entry which she had posted before I got home.

(Unlike Tuesday, this time Renee was able to blog about something cool before it happened. I'm glad she did.)

Where's the V(eef)?

I really do mean to put more V in this Vblog, and I do have some nice redwood tree footage sitting on a DV tape.

Not counting video comments made with a webcam or mobo-vblog posts from my camera phone, I haven't posted an original camcorder video clip since October 10th (and that was an unedited clip of a techie event.) Embarrassing. I really need to make a videoblogger vow. I also need to build a better editing tool for videoblogging. Hmm...

Iraqi Bloggers Mohammed and Omar Visit Palo Alto

Mohammed and Omar, two of the three brothers of the Iraq the Model blog were at an (invitation-only) Spirit of America event in Palo Alto on Tuesday. I wish I could have attended, but had to read about it on Down the Avenue.

Whatever your position on U.S. involvement in Iraq, if you believe in the power of free speech, you have to be excited about what these guys and the other Iraqi Bloggers are doing. Spirit of America is funding an Arabic Blogging Tool that promises to make blogging much more accessible throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Let's hope that Arabic bloggers will do their part to bring freedom of speech, peace, safety, and prosperity to the region.


Psychic Fails to Foresee Losing Battle With WikiPedia

A self-proclaimed psychic ran into trouble when he tried to write his own entry on Wikipedia.

From Slashdot:

Unable to accept that Wikipedia's policy of presenting a Neutral Point of View means that an article on Sollog would have to include both pro- and anti-Sollog material, and unable to force other Wikipedia editors to accept his version of reality, Ennis has taken instead to making hostile phone calls to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales at his home, and setting up his very own Wikipedia and Wales hate site.

Sollog's current Wikipedia entry is quite different from the original entry. Due to the controversy and resulting dispute, I had to look in the revision history to find a typical neutral entry.


RAND Corp's 1954 Model of a 2004 Home Computer (Hoax)

Scott McNealy, CEO of SUN Microsystems, without realizing it was a hoax, used this photo in a trade show presentation. Supposedly from a 1954 issue of Popular Mechanics showing what a home computer would look like in 2004, this photo, like all good hoaxes, just begs to be forwarded via e-mail to all your friends. has the details about this and other hoaxes. [via business2blog]
(Click to enlarge)


Jay Dedman and Kenyatta Cheese in Wired News

The Wired News article Video Feeds Follow Podcasting talks about Jay and Kenyatta's work on Vogbrowser and other RSS video aggregators, as well as what some of the companies like Feedster and Blogdigger are doing. Good work Jay and Kenyatta!

(Jay and Kenyatta are active on the Yahoo Videoblogging Group and Jay has been alpha testing vBlog Central and has given us a ton of feedback.)


Talking Heads Want Better Audio

Ryan Hodson, a talented artist and videoblogger, just posted a talking-head video comment, that she 'compressed the living hell out of'. If you ask me, she, like so many others, over-compressed the audio. Personally, I'd rather she made the video smaller and jerkier, but with higher audio quality. The most important part of this video is the sound of her voice, but the audio artifacts introduced by over-compression de-humanize human voices and drive me crazy. Am I the only one? I'm going to see if others in the videoblogging group agree with me and try to encourage people to not over-compress their audio.

Note: Since this video is a QuickTime demo it is only available in QuickTime format, unlike my other videos which are in multiple formats thanks to vBlog Central.

Ryan, being a video professional at her night-time day job, has access to and knows how to use high-end tools, like Cleaner 6. I decided to post an alternate, highly-compressed video comment for comparison. Since I don't have access to her high-quality master, I'm going to use my most recent video comment as an example. The video above was not automatically compressed on the server by vBlog Central, but was compressed 'by hand' on my desktop with the $29.99 QuickTime Pro version of the QuickTime Player and is hosted by vBlog Central.

Cleaner 6 gives excellent results with two-pass Sorenson VBR encoding that I can't duplicate with QT Pro (by itself), so I went for a really small video window. I used the same audio codec as Ryan, but decided to give more bandwidth to the audio to remove the artifacts. The table below compares the bandwidth used by this video and Ryan's video.

Rate Ryan Sean
Video Bit-Rate: 2.9 K bytes/sec 3.8 K bytes/sec
Audio Bit-Rate: 1.0 K bytes/sec 1.9 K bytes/sec
Total: 3.9 K bytes/sec 5.7 K bytes/sec

It's not fair to compare my video compression to Ryan's since she used a better tool. My point here is that if Ryan had given 0.9 K bytes/sec extra bandwidth to her audio, she would have had much better sounding audio. She could have slightly reduced her video quality or increased her overall file size by only 23%. This is why I'm asking videobloggers to not skimp on their audio quality.


Wikinews Beta

I don't have an opinion as whether this will work, but Wikinews is here. I'm usually wrong about these things, so I'll have to wait and see. (via Slashdot.)

Berkeley Blogger Dinner

Last night I went to the Berkeley Blogger Dinner organized by Mary Hodder (Mary was the subject of a recent article in Wired News that, according to Mary, took some poetic license.)

I had a great time: the people, ambiance, food, and conversation were all outstanding.

I had an interesting conversation with Mary, Esme Vos, and Damon Darlin about the learning curve for 'getting' blogging. I admitted that after maybe two years of dismissing blogging as a stupid tech fad, I finally gave it an honest look early this year. In January, I decided that blogs were a great way to publish video, spent a good deal of time learning about blogging, and read a good portion of Dan Gillmor's We The Media. However, I don't think I truly understood all the magnificent complexity and spontaneous order that is involved until after some of the questions and feedback I got when I photo and videoblogged the FCC Raid on Free Radio Santa Cruz in late September.

To a reader, a blog is little more than a regularly updated website; you have to actually be a blogger to truly understand the various feedback mechanisms and the conversational nature of blogging. This is what makes it so hard for many to understand why this is so different from other things that look same on the surface (forums, mailing lists, etc.)

It seems the 'understanding curve' for blogging is steep. Mary, suggested that with wikis this isn't the case, you can see the magic fairly quickly, as I did when I discovered the Wikipedia and made some minor grammatical changes to the podcasting entry. (I have to admit to being a little close-minded here, too: I was initially put off by wikis after having seen them used in a vain attempt to get a 'shoemaker and the elves' effect and have documentation mysteriously appear for some Open Source software development projects.)

But, I don't think that telling my Mom and Dad that to truly understand blogging they'll have to go play around with wikis first is a good idea. We concluded that maybe the blogosphere needs to evolve some mechanisms that help newbies really understand things more quickly. (Wish I had a good idea here, but all we've done is identify a problem...)

A note on video comments

I've posted two talking-head video comments on other people's videoblog entries (here and here). I don't really consider these stand-alone vblog entries: they should more properly be placed as video comments on the respective original videoblogs (here and here). A few (suggested, personal) rules for talking head video comments:
  1. They must be made immediately after viewing the video (to capture the emotional reaction.)
  2. They must be done Ed Wood style: one take, no script, no rehearsal, no editing. (Think of an interview with moviegoers at the premiere...)


Liquid lenses for camera phones

The Register has an article about Liquid lenses for camera phones that are currently under development. They promise to add auto-focus and optical zoom to camera-phone-size lenses, by 'Q1 2006 at the latest'.