Tuesday, August 01, 2006

YouTube Comes of Age

I know it seems like I've abandoned the blog, I haven't. I put it on hiatus for a while as I worked on The Garden City, the citizen-journalism venture I'm working on with Kristine Munroe. If you haven't seen it please take a look.

In any case, I've been watching YouTube come of age over the past couple of weeks. When I left for vacation on July 21, the video site was a place to go and see kids jumping their dirt bikes over homemade ramps. But now it's a place people turn to in order to find home video from the urban battles in the Middle East. Frankly, the phenomenon of Internet video telling the story of a crisis is nothing new; during the tsunami most of the video came from places like BitTorrent, but now people can add comments, tag it and make it easier to find and discuss.

Not long ago I watched a great documentary on YouTube about the idea of "Gold Farming" in China. That is, places where people play video games all day so they can sell the stuff they win online to Americans. It's called a "preview" in the title, so my guess is that a longer documentary is coming. But as I was watching it a question popped into my mind: can I trust what I'm seeing?

If I were watching NBC News, I know there is an organization behind the video that has a certain element of trust built up, one that has earned that trust with its audience. But how do I trust that this is real?

There are those who would argue that the blogosphere is self-correcting, and if this wasn't true, the comments and other bloggers would point that out. Perhaps, but it's going to take us some time to get there. And when you're watching a video in Newton, Mass. said to have been shot in China, who can help correct the record?

Regardless, there is now talk that YouTube could be purchased by a major news outlet like TimeWarner or even News Corp. Whoever ends up as the owner, and however this site makes money, I'll be watching for video from the next major crisis.

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