Timed Comments in Video

There’s a lot of interest from new video startups in making video into a first class web 2.0 citizen by bringing tagging, commenting, and responses to videos at a sub-video level of granularity. While the old skool video sites like YouTube, Revver, Metacafe, Magnify etc. let you add tags and comments to a video, the new breed of video services such as Viddler, YouTube Streams, and The Click facilitate timed tags and comments to video. There has also been some recent academic interest in how people can interact with one another through commenting and chatting around video. This CHI 2007 paper from CMU is a good first step in understanding chatting behavior around videos.

Today I took a closer look at one of the newer attempts at highly granular commentable video, viddler. Here’s a screenshot of their interface, which despite some great features also suffers from some usability issues. All in all the timeline is pretty good though, you can clearly see where people have left behind comments and an easy to understand “+” graphic allows the user to access a menu and select the addition of a comment, tag, or video response. The downside here is there is no time extent associated with the comments or tags, they are simply added as point anchors. At the same time, this does simplify the interface by not requiring the use to select and in and out point; ideally I think the point anchor should be extendable to cover a time period if the user so chooses.

One of the problems that the interface suffers from is that comments sometimes obscure the video. Although they can be expanded and contracted as necessary, this just seems tedious. Furthermore, to see all of the comments that have been added to the video (as a list), almost half of the video is obscured. Perhaps the goal is to have the comment track and video mutually exclusive as they distract from one another anyway? What is nice is the voting mechanism for comments which is used to determine which comment shows up while someone is watching if there are several comments or responses at that point in the video.

Viddler Screenshot

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