Making ripples in a big pond: Optimising videos with an iTitle Twitter track

This post was originally published on the FOTE blog on the 1st November 2010

With 24 hours of video uploaded every minute to YouTube, your videos can quickly be lost within a sea of content. Not only this, but because videos have historically been difficult for search engines to catalogue, your drop in the ocean of content can become indistinguishable from everything else.
It’s not surprising therefore that the current kings of search and owners of YouTube, Google, announced that in March 2010 that video’s on YouTube would be auto-captioned. Whilst this announcement is pitched at improving accessibility for the hearing impaired, it also means there is wider accessibility in terms of how the videos are indexed and ultimately searched. Need proof? The following Google Search returns this video (which convenient also highlights the value of captioning videos for search engine optimisation).
But what if you have conference videos or other educational resources, like lecture capture, which isn’t on YouTube? There are a number of options to captions including: using standalone voice recognition software, various caption/annotation tools, professional captioning, or just sitting down and manually writing captions in a text editor. All of these potentially have a cost associated with them. If only there was a way you could crowdsource captions … hold that thought.
A well as the rise in popularity of video, conference delegates are increasingly using the micro-blogging service Twitter to share ‘What’s happening’ with other participants as well those further afield. For many this is becoming a valuable medium allowing the individual to find voice in a format which is usually dominated by whoever is standing at the front of the room. At the same time conference organisers are benefitting, from what is usually thousands of tweets, amplifying and raising the profile of the event.
The record of conference tweets is arguably a resource which is equally as valuable as any conference proceedings, papers, posters, videos, but the nature of a tweet means if not consumed in the moment then they can potentially loose context. And it is here that two worlds collide. Using what was said by the audience to caption a video of the presentation, contextualising ‘what’s happening’ with what happened.
The idea of Twitter Powered Subtitles for Conference Audio/Videos on Youtube was first proposed in March 2009 by Tony Hirst which presented a method for extracting conference tweets and creating a subtitle file for YouYube. Almost a year later in February 2010 the idea was revived in Twitter powered subtitles for BBC iPlayer which saw the publication of the online Twitter subtitling tool iTitle.
iTitle integrates with the JISC supported Twitter archive service Twapper Keeper to generate subtitle files in different formats as well as playing back video clips from different sources with subtitle overlays. Since March the evolution of this tool has been improved following feedback from users to incorporate features like backchannel filtering, embedding subtitled videos in other sites, and a RESTful interface.
A number of conferences have now enhanced their video archive with timed tweets  including the JISC Conference, ALT-C and the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW). FOTE10 is the latest event to get the ‘iTitle’ treatment and links to the videos are contained below:

The hypothesis was that providing providing a twitter subtitle track would improve the discoverability of FOTE10 videos. Does it work? Well if anyone is ever searching for an “ed tech jackanory” there should be a happy ending.


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