99 Problems: The AV Information-Oriented Experience Problem

Welcome to AVP’s very first post in our 99 Problems series! This series focuses on the problems of current generation streaming platforms that are solved by Aviary, AVP’s next-generation platform for streaming audio and video content. (Did that sentence make you roll your eyes? Start here). Otherwise, if you are ready to dive in, let’s go!

The Production and Consumption of Text as Information

The point of this post will be to focus in on audiovisual content, but before we get to that, let’s talk about text because it serves as a useful reference point for comparing and contrasting. Since ancient times people have written things down and consumed written information under two primary paradigms:

  1. Entertainment-oriented: Writing as a form of expression and consumption of entertainment.
  2. Information-oriented: Writing as a form of documentation and consumption of information.

It is not to say that there can’t be some overlap between the two, either on the production or consumption side, but for the purpose of this conversation let’s use these two terms to speak broadly about these two paradigms. Let’s also focus on the consumption side of things and refer to these as an entertainment-oriented experience and an information-oriented experience. In other words, let’s look at this from the perspective of the consumer of content and what their intended experience is – to be entertained or to gather information.

Without getting into an arcane history of text or search, let’s look at a crude listing of some salient facts in rough chronological order:

  • Humans made marks on all manner of objects and materials
  • Text was written by hand on paper
  • Text was typed on paper
  • Text was typed and saved as digital information
  • Full-text search emerged that allowed people to retrieve the exact words they wanted to find within a digital document
  • Full-text search evolved, allowing people to find the exact words they wanted across a boundless number of repositories of text in all different formats

The emergence of full-text search transformed the consumption of text, and most significantly impacted the information-oriented experience.

In the entertainment-oriented experience we are consuming every word for the purpose of enjoyment. Search and navigation of this same text may become useful when we are performing certain tasks, but this use of the text would fall under an information-oriented experience. For instance, when we are at the library or online trying to find the next book we’re going to read, or we are looking for a specific piece of text to share with someone else, or there is scholarly work taking place.

Today it’s hard to imagine a time when we were not able to hit Command/Ctrl-F within a PDF or Word doc, or search instantly across documents on your computer or server, or Google things. Seriously, try for a minute to imagine what your life would be like without this functionality. This is a deeply ingrained user expectation today for text in all file formats and forms, regardless of whether it’s a book or a newspaper or a report or a website or meeting minutes or… you get the picture. EVERYTHING. We do not give an inkling of thought to the miracle of being able to search in a comprehensive and limitless way with little effort all day long, every day of our lives.

 

The Production and Consumption of AV as Information

Now, without getting into an arcane history of AV or search, let’s look at a crude listing of some salient facts in rough chronological order:

  • AV was recorded on analog media of various sorts with increasing sophistication and quality over time
  • AV was recorded and saved as digital information on physical digital media (e.g., CD, DVD, DAT, Digital Betacam)
  • AV was recorded and saved as digital files on hard drives (e.g., .avi, .wav, .mov, .mp3)
  • The internet allowed people to consume AV online with incremental levels of increasing sophistication in search and organization based on a small amount of metadata (e.g., title, director, producer, actor, date published, genre)

AV still exists in a pre-full-text world. Why is that? For as long as AV has been produced and consumed, it has been done for both entertainment and information reasons. The information-oriented experience with AV is equally as valid as the information-oriented experience with text. AV is news, lectures, presentations, meetings, the study of music, and… you get the picture. EVERYTHING. It is not just movies, television, commercial music, and other forms of entertainment. There are many billions of hours of recorded AV and a vast majority of it is not entertainment. In the same way that people have a need to search across their computers and servers and the web, across all file formats and all types of text, people have the need to search for AV.

However, every current-generation, widely available streaming platform* in existence gives users about 5-10 paltry fields of metadata on which we can search. The most common user experience when using AV in an information-oriented experience is not a quick Command/Ctrl-F that takes you right to the point of interest. It is clumsily jumping and skipping around the timeline of an audio or video recording hoping that you get lucky and find the right spot and that you aren’t missing something important. Or spending inordinate amounts of time listening/watching in faster-than-real-time to many hours. And forget the idea of even searching across millions of hours, across multiple types, file formats, and sources**. That’s not even a thought.

Compare the experience of searching text 30 years ago vs today and the experience of searching video 30 years ago vs today. While the text search experience shift has been transformative, the video (and audio) search experience really isn’t different today than it was 30 years ago other than replacing tape with disk. 

 
 
 
What searching text looked like 30 years ago.           What searching text looks like today
 

What searching video looked like 30 years ago.       What searching video looks like today – until Aviary   

 

What searching video in Aviary looks like

 

Conclusion

AV is a rich and valuable resource of information that has historically been underutilized due to the issues discussed above. These realities have created a great void, and even loss of understanding, perspective, and information that informs every aspect of our lives and world. Aviary closes that gap and elevates the role of AV as information. In Aviary, publishers of AV content provide and/or generate synchronized time-stamped metadata such as transcripts, indexes, and annotations, all of which are fully searchable. This enables users to quickly find and playback AV exactly where their search term is found across a nearly infinite amount of AV content. Publishers of AV and consumers seeking an information-oriented experience with AV no longer have to settle for less.

This comparison in user-experience and user-expectation between text and AV shines a bright light on both the challenges with current-generation streaming platforms and the primary  reason we refer to Aviary as a next-generation streaming platform.

Want to see for yourself? Find out more about Aviary at weareavp.com/products/aviary or try Aviary for yourself at aviaryplatform.com.

Still not convinced that we are justified in calling Aviary a next-generation streaming platform? Stick around for our next blog post addressing problem #2: the lack of democratization that exists with current-generation streaming and publishing platforms.

*  See next blog post on the lack of democratization problem for more on this topic.

** See future blog post on the closed loop problem for more on this topic

 
 

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