You Got Questions, Ninja Got Answers

Cliff Urr writes "At a recent conference on the business implications of video blogging, it was observed that wildly popular online video blogs like "Ask a Ninja" and others were quite unknown to the businesspeople in the audience. But, says an article on the conference, the people behind these sites "to the average 15-year-old MySpace user...are heroes." Perhaps "Ninja Got Answers" could spark some ideas for reference services sites. For the article: YouTube's Limitations: "Can Web Video Make a Buck?" and for "Ask a Ninja""

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video tools

Ebsco's History Reference Center has 80 hours of video, which doesn't sound like much until you consider a lot of them are only 10 to 30 sec. snippets. There's also a service already out there that individuals can subscribe to which provides video tutoring on math, science, and other subjects (I can't find the name but I think they're related to the Discovery Channel). Libraries can subscribe too though the cost is pretty high I believe. This kind of tutoring is ideal because a student can watch and rewatch a certain piece until it sinks in.

Stuff like Ask A Ninja is funny but not very practical. The guy doesn't even answer the question very well and the fact is if you tried to answer a question like that in video form it would be too dull to watch. There are definite reasons to create video in-house like highlighting services and programs. But the time and effort is only practical if your doing stuff that won't be changed too often. If you don't care too much about picture quality and you have somebody on staff who is camera friendly then there are more possibilities but how many librarians are camera friendly? How many people in general?

Disclaimer: I've been exploring video at librarytv.blogspot.com

Good Points

Some good points, and thanks for the pointers to other resources, but I think one very useful implementation would be video responses to the same questions that are asked again and again. Some decent production values done by talented folks would also make it interesting, I think. Some of Ninja's responses are quite funny and hold one's attention, and in time he'll probably get better. A library could also offer a "question of the month" - something especially wild or wacky and what the response was, which may have PR value.

French Maid TV

There is also French Maid TV that illustrates how to do CPR or register a IP domain with lots of titulation to hold attention. Is that a route we want to go?Some decent informative videos make sense, but lets pick better models that Ask a Ninja. Geek Brief and CommandN both make better models.Screencasting makes even more sense. The skill set is less, it costs much less to create and makes sense for illustrating use of our online resources.

Re:French Maid TV

CommandN at least lets you watch a video without much hassle. Screencasting does probably take less skill and one of our consortium people is looking at Adobe's software for doing it. However, Sony's Vegas Movie Studio software is cheaper and while it doesn't do screencasts you can do stills and throw in a voice background. It doesn't require mad skills to use but it does put you on the path of using actual video. And with technology making it so easy to offer, if you're looking at offering video on your website it should be video with a face.

Re:French Maid TV

MS Photo Story can be used to tell a story with pictures and sound. I recently posted an idea about using a pre-set design with a couple of shots but empty spaces for user photos as a take-away from library sponsored events. The gaming night or lock-in, for instance.

This too is cheap and easy. A bit more involved than screencasting but the right tool for some projects.

Full video done, like TiKi Bar, just takes time, skill, and equipment. In some case it may be justified. In others even if justified it will be outside the scope of many smaller libraries.

Re:French Maid TV

Most smaller libraries don't have the time to do stuff like this, let alone the money or the equipment. One of the primary reasons for video on library sites is to explain access to resources, usually provided through state funding or local consortiums. The state or consortium should look into offering instructional clips on using databases and online catalogs. Anything more personal is going to depend on finding that golden volunteer with the digital video camera and home computer.

Re:French Maid TV

My point exactly. Full motion video is beyond most libraries. Screencasting and slide shows with audio are not. Work done at a state or regional level might have the quality but then lacks the local touch. An interested and skilled patron would be ideal for the full-motion video.

An interesting project, sharing video, is the Animated Tutorial Sharing Project (ANTS). http://www.brandonu.ca/Library/COPPUL/index.html Podcast and slides from the 2006 Access conference at http://www.access2006.uottawa.ca/?page_id=10

Re:French Maid TV

Well, no, I don't mean to say most libraries, just small ones. Full video is actually easily attainable for most middle-sized and all large libraries starting under $700 (not counting the computer your using). Its simply a question of necessity.

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