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Summary:

When talking about Joost, people tend to focus on its P2P infrastructure, its media center-like interface and its content deals. Now those are all valid points, but the real key to Joost’s success may be something else: A metadata framework that might just revolutionize the way […]

When talking about Joost, people tend to focus on its P2P infrastructure, its media center-like interface and its content deals. Now those are all valid points, but the real key to Joost’s success may be something else: A metadata framework that might just revolutionize the way we watch television.

Joost itself has been fairly secretive about upcoming features of its internet TV client. The company doesn’t schedule any interviews for the time being, and official news releases simply repeat the mantra of combining “the best of full-screen television entertainment with online interactive and community benefits.” Yawn.

But don’t let such empty PR speak fool you. Joost has been hiring some of the brightest minds in the field of creative metadata wrangling, and there are indicators that they are working on some mighty magic.

“What’s metadata?,” you might ask. Think of it as a layer of data describing content. In Joost’s example this could be anything from a simple timeline to tags to a full-grown programing guide.

The notion of using this type of data for some creative mashups first came up on the Ironic Sans blog, where a Joost fan by the name of David Friedman brainstormed about a feature that he would like to see in the client: The ability to share comments on the programming based on each show’s timeline. Says Friedman:

“Imagine watching a show like Heroes once, and then watching it again with comments turned on to see what other people caught that you missed.”

The concept of annotated television is definitely intriguing – especially if you package it into an easy-to-use application. But it wasn’t just the idea itself that made Friedman’s post interesting. Notable was also the first comment, made by someone who identified himself as Matt Hall:

“We’re already working on it. :) So far we have a rough passive version — a few bits of content have “trivia” that pops up at specified timestamps — but we plan eventually to allow timestamped tagging, commenting, annotation, etc.”

To be fair, we can’t know for sure if this is the same Matt Hall who works as a software engineer at Joost’s offices in Leiden. We do however know that Joost also hired Dan Brickley, who is one of the inventors of FOAF – a RDF-based metadata framework that makes it possible to transform simple web pages into machine-readable social networking nodes.

We also know that Joost makes extensive use of such metadata frameworks to build the programming and community features of its service. To quote Joost developer Leo Simons: “Not a day goes by without some of our developers swearing about ‘RDF’ or ‘metadata.’”

So what can these metadata frameworks be used for? Timestamped comments and tags are certainly one interesting possibility. Combine this with FOAF-like social networking structures, and you got yourself a whole new way to explore TV programming.

Imagine a personalized TV channel that only serves you shows your friends are literally talking about. Or think about the way this could transform programming itself. What if the Lost folks didn’t do their next Alternative Reality Game on the web, but in Joost itself, allowing you to collaborate with your friends and collect clues while watching the show?

Now that’s what I would call combining the best of TV and the net. And to be honest: The couch potato in me couldn’t care less if Joost’s content is distributed with or without P2P. What really matters is the creative use of metadata.

  1. Many people from the Apache foundation and Asematics also work for Joost and theres this page that describes all the open source projects they are involved with and that are used in Joost .

    http://www.asemantics.com/staff.html
    http://www.apache.org/foundation/members.html
    http://opensource.joost.com/

    Joost is big on the sematic web stuff and I expect you will see more once the Joost API is relased .

    Robin Berjon is developing the Joost API http://wiki.svg.org/Robin_Berjon

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  2. This goes to one of the most significant challenges facing online video: content discovery. The web has completely revolutionized content discovery for text, of course, but entertainment video and home video defies robust indexing. Key-word tagging helps, but not by much, and the vulnerabilities of this technique to spoofing are too well known to warrant rehearsal. Most online video portals lack robust taxonomies, and typically partition their content into no more than a few dozen channels. Curiously, no one seems to have noticed that news, the single most popular form of online video, is also the one for which the content discovery challenge is most readily resolved. A text transcript of the news segment, associated with the video of the segment, provides a robustly searchable content discovery mechanism.

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  3. Having a tagging system for Joost or any multi-media site would be promising for helping define “my channels.” Dealing with lots of user-defined tags at work and searching through many of the social networks to find content, I believe there is going to be a rising need for a standard list of tags for different genres/strata. Maybe with the brainpower coming online at Joost they could establish a global tagging standard???
    BTW, does anyone have a beta invite for Joost, I have read quite a bit about it, but no invite yet…

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  4. i am not so sure comments work well in video — after all, when someone comments outloud in a movie theather, they are usually told to shut up

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  5. Janko Roettgers Saturday, April 14, 2007

    Alessandro, maybe that’s because you can’t selectively listen to certain comments in your local theater. :)

    Brian: I believe this is actually one of the strenghts of tagging. People that use different tags for the same content often do view that content differently. So yes, you might have some loss, but you are also gaining lots of very valuable information about subsets of your audience.

    Just think of different geographic origins. Not everyone speaks English, and not every joke / cultural reference translates well to different languages and cultures. Such nuances would be completely lost with a standardized taxonomy.

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  6. I think the metadata is just one part of the puzzle. Without the content or the technology, the metadata on it’s own just wouldn’t make it compelling.

    You could see this evolving into a new type of media. Imagine following a murder mystery and maybe even have use input (aggregated over a defined group maybe) affect the ending or progress of the story.

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  7. Great innovation ! Sure this will reinvent television completely.

    Is there any chance the automated video search technology from Blinkx might add value in this respect?

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  8. [...] NewTeeVee » Joost: It’s The Metadata, Stupid! Imagine a personalized TV channel that only serves you shows your friends are literally talking about. Or think about the way this could transform programming itself. (tags: media collaboration metadata joneses WRTJ) [...]

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  9. content streams need not be only video ;-)

    http://neurokinetikz.com

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  10. This will work well for complex mystery shows with multiple storylines ( Lost, Heroes, etc) .I’m not sure I woould like this on a sports match, or a news cast.

    OT: Anyone know if Joost works outside the United States ? I have yet to try it ( no invite) but I would like to know if they do any kind of IP filtering….

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