What, who, why the standard

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Transmission Metadata Standard

Zoe Young and Mick Fuzz December 12th 2007

Have you tried youtube, googlevideo, archive.org, blip.tv, narrowstep, current.tv and the rest, but still can’t find all the independent, underground, critical and ecological video we kinda need in days like these?

Do your own independent films barely reach their potential audience?

Is most video only online in some crappy format, not available for download, with some corporate making money and not you? Why is video on the net, that’s clearly so full of potential, still somehow just kind of failing? What we are missing may be the deep satisfaction achievable only with -


Good, clean metadata connects people with video, video with people, video with video and people with people

Why are clean metadata feeds important

Torrents and cheaper video hosting now enable large video files to flow around the net. Information wants to be free, and give or take the odd struggle, it probably will be. But how to sort through it all and find the films you actually want?

What is metadata

Metadata is "information about information". In this case it's the details that describe video files. 'Video Title', 'Video Producer',' Date Created' can all be considered Metadata.

A metadata standard for online video will allow the creating of search and importation tools for (open source) Content Management Systems (CMS) like drupal, wordpress, plone etc to easily search across the video data of other video websites that use the standard. The standard will ensure a common definitions for basic information such as title, date, author and language and (free) tags. This standard is to be used in video upload forms and Video feeds of data coming from each site.

What are media feeds?

If you are not sure what a 'feed' is and why it is useful then just look at the example of RSS feeds with Media enclosures and the tools an impact they have had.

  • Miro - http:///www.getmiro.org - is a Video player that shows you a selection of channels. These channels are actually created from RSS media feeds.
  • Podcasting - ITunes reads podcasts from wherever they are published and allows you to play the audio and video files downloaded from these podcasts. It also automatically checks back for new files as they are published. A podcast is another word for a RSS media feed.

Creating Video our own Transmission feeds and tools

We are starting small. Once the concept and technical aspects are proven, the more video publishers that adopt the standard, the better the existing sharing tools will work.

Why use the Transmission metadata standard when Media RSS already exists?

The range and detail of the information that any portal can search or republish is limited by the amount of details in the feeds produced by online video publishers. With more extended feeds, they can become detailed enough for users to be able to make more specific searches than the current RSS feeds allow.

The idea is to create tools so you can click on a keyword, or search by title, producer, date of video on any one participating site and you will find the video you seek, wherever in the network it is hosted.

Search tools

Sites using RSS media feed should be able meaningfully to share data about video files. So rather than going to one, probably corporate video website and seaching for ‘Oil’, ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Africa’ and coming up with mainstream news reports, porn ads and some traders getting drunk on a beach, you can search across the independent, grassroots media projects that participate in the Transmission network for the real deal info.

This is already possible with RSS media feeds. With the Transmission feeds, it'll offer more search facilities. The idea is to create tools so you can click on a keyword or enter a search term on any one participating site, find the video you seek, wherever in the network it is hosted.

Republishing tools

Using Rss media feeds, a site can search media feeds being imported into the site from its partners and other video sources.

Let's look at the example of ifiwatch.tv. Zoe Young the website co-ordinator wanted to use RSS feeds to update the database automatically. Ifiwatch is now a Drupal site which imports media feeds with links to the original video file (enclosures) into the site's database. The information is then pulled out the database to display pages for each video including the title, description, keywords, a thumbnails image and links to where you can watch the film online. The Drupal site can then sort lists of videos to present them according to keyword, source, date published etc.

There is a page outlining drupal media feed aggregation works here here. http://wiki.transmission.cc/index.php/Drupal_aggregation_of_Media_feeds

Again with the Transmission Metadata feed, we'll be able to share and display more data on each other's sites.

How does this relate to Deptford TV?

Say you’re looking for video on Deptford’s local history. What do you do today? OK start. Search YouTube for 'Deptford' - what is there? Someone’s new year party video. Stations passed on the Docklands Light Railway, a local talent show... Where to go for more? Maybe archive.org, a little bit worthier? There’s existing Deptford.TV stuff here, plus a pan across the high street and a bit of military history. Maybe Clearerchannel.org, Beyond tv or Visionontv, for more politics? Hmm, interesting, but no obvious way to search. Current.tv? Nuffink at all. Blip.tv? there’s an induction to the local library… BlinkX, a bit more stuff there, but it's mainly corporate media, and oh those ads are annoying... How long can you go on?

Once the standard is up and implemented, Deptford.TV can be sucking media feeds from one search for ‘Deptford’ in all the web video databases connected through Transmission, and displaying all the videos thus found on its own website. Thus it can become a free and open source local channel for the area, free from any one source of corporate or political control. And this new model Deptford TV could be just one of a million issue or region specific portals, each channeling specific media to existing communities with certain interests in common.

Is there more to this project than the Standard?

The Transmission standard is completely open-source – its code is in the public domain, it’s completely free to use and anyone with enough experience to be constructive can have a say in its future development. The standard is only part of the equation. For it to be useful there needs to be a fair degree of take up by video distribution websites. That's where the help of the Transmission network comes in.

The Transmission network emerged as a network of citizen journalists, video makers, artists, researchers, programmers and web producers, developing online video distribution tools for social justice and media democracy. The network is social as much as technical. The network aims to help video distribution site realise the potential of media feeds, and help them implement them in their systems.

In this way we can use decentralised hosting, aggregation and distribution of online video to avoid the risks of commercial or political control.

Corporations will never share like this. They offer free hosting to build their brands and somehow sell us as their own. They centralise, enclose and decide what happens to our video, they sell their ads on the back of it. Transmission, by contrast, is bottom-up, connecting media that needs a voice from grassroots movements and projects and networks. It is 'building identity round online community', rather than 'building community round online identity', as the multifarious brand builders on the net have decided it is their job to do.

What you need to do to implement the standard

If you are a video distribution site interested in implementing the standard please get in touch with the Transmission Metadata working group. transmission-metadata@lists.transmission.cc

We'll put you in touch with the help you need to update your input forms to produce feeds that meet the standard.

The blogs on Transmission.cc will offer occasional news updates, and the public face of the project will be http://transmission.cc/metadating.

And that is what Online Video Metadating ...is all about!