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Joost: It’s The Metadata, Stupid!

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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.

52 Responses to “Joost: It’s The Metadata, Stupid!”

  1. Time on the n of the TV ( telewizja n)

    Television New Generation- n, then
    the Polish satellite television digital
    platform of the Group ITI. Users nbox HDTV, the decoders of the platform n have the access to new functions and the usług.Możliwości of equipment considerably they grew rich. We can now operate internet browser, internet nRadio. We will be also able to choose the programme or also the film
    emitted about the chosen time defining only his species. Connecting the TV sat to internetu will deliver us additional
    possibilities. While
    the inspection of the sport programme they will be displayed the compositions of teams, the achievement of teams. Our
    satellite television will be to deliver us music from a few hundred
    internet radio broadcasting stations then. As it would be this little, we can choose stations created through stars the musical scene in our nhdtv and to also execute the purchase of the wide library of films.
    Long winter evenings will be more pleasant in this way.

  2. Excellent thought provoking post.
    If anyone needs a Joost invite pop by my blog and leave a comment on the latest post with your full name and email (not published) and Ill be happy to provide.
    The Jooster

  3. John Voelcker

    Metadata (not only tags but rating / ranking / commenting / taxonomizing) most crucially raises the CPM value of UGV.

    If communities of users can go through and, in the aggregate, filter out problematic “naked people & American Nazis” content from UGV at large, large advertisers may have enough confidence to place their ads in front of UGV as well as large-media-produced content.

    But it’s not a new idea: Magnify Media is getting significant traction doing exactly that — and has been for a couple of years — see ….

  4. Janko, you’re perfectly right. Metadata is the game (as content as a diifferetiator between platforms won’t work). I’m not that convinced that Joost hat the right/only valid approach (but it definitely looks promising)

  5. I’m not much of a fan of “internet tv”…I don’t have the time or patience to try out new programming usually and I’ve got some high quality standards. But if you set up a system where people could annotate a show to point things out, I would be in all the way. There was a show I used to watch and then run to read the episode guide so I could see all the subtle things (or not so subtle things) that I missed. That helped me a lot and gave me a lot of appreciation for the show. If you could set up a system that would accomplish this while ensuring some kind of quality…I would be on joost everyday.

  6. Matsomo Hiricio

    Wonderful for sports programming, as we can comment amongst our own team fan base during the game about the plays and penalties, our choice to do so or just watch the game. It we can also facilitate legal sports betting, and online purchasing. It’s Joost interactive duplex television, not just passive viewing, at viewers’ choice. I love this!

  7. we call this vommenting on the N which is a cable channel at MTVNetworks

    hey we have been doing this for months on, which is one of our labs for new social media offerings within Viacom. If you want to see it in action with real audience (not just social media industry folks) hit this link

    it is a great feature and people love to use it especially when we run a contest to get the comments back up on air. check it out…….

  8. I think that’s exactly what are trying to do – you take a video from youtube, for instance, add your own comments on top of it in the form of text, images, links and so on. Then, when another viewer enters the same video, he can see the other comment’s users had on it and he can choose to turn it off.

    the idea already exists and even works flawlessly, but it’s still isn’t used in the way you’ve described.

  9. Joost “rocks” because of a possible feature that allows you to tag content that may be introduced at some unspecified point into the client based on a few blog comments…..?

    Come on… this is just tagging. The same thing that every other service in the world offers.

  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….

  11. 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.

  12. Janko Roettgers

    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.

  13. Brian Gillet

    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…

  14. 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.

  15. 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 .

    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