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Friday, February 1, 2013

Twitter into Vine

All you Bible readers know that Jesus' first miracle was the transformation of water into wine at the Wedding at Cana. I think even non-Bible lovers can agree that is a pretty legit miracle.

Not to be outdone, Jack Dorsey has transformed Twitter into Vine. Or maybe it's vice versa. Either way, I'm not quite as excited about this one.

Vine is a stand-alone video-sharing app that Twitter launched last week. The application allows users to create videos that play on a loop and share them on social media sites. The maximum length of a Vine video is a whopping six seconds.

In its first week of existence, Vine has been busy. It has managed to awake the sleeping Facebook giant, as that particular social  media platform refuses to allow Vine to find a user's Facebook friends on the new service. It has experienced service outages and "bugginess." And it has a "porn problem."

#porn indeed. In the first few days post-launch, critics declared the early Vine videos "boring." So human creativity did what human creativity does best, and it started shooting six-second "graphic" videos. Or what plain-speakers like to call #porn. A #porn video was even featured in Vine's "Editor's Picks" category. Now the service has had to disable the #porn tag and issue a warning about inappropriate content.

Because who would have thought that people would use an Internet service to share porn?

I'm not here to cast stones or evaluate tech glitches. I live in a glass house, and I am a tech glitch. Not to sound "out of it" or "older than 30," I'm just here to say this:

We all need to calm down.

All these experts and advisors and consultants who are shouting about "new opportunities for businesses!" and "an enhanced way to connect with your audience!" need to calm down. All these would-be Annie Leibovitzes and Steven Spielbergs need to stop it with their "it's the Instagram for videos!" All these people who are going to tell me I need to be active on Vine if I want to fulfill any of my writing aspirations need to think before they speak.

When I first read about Vine, my reaction was an out-loud laugh, followed by an out-loud sigh. The laugh was because, um, are we serious? How much more social, exactly, do we need to be on social media? I already know everything about you, from what you watch to how you dress to why you dislike string cheese to who you voted for to where you go for pad thai to when you plan on changing your clothes. Because you've described it to me in 140-characters or less, checked in via Foursquare and linked that to Facebook, photographed it and filtered it for maximum dramatic effect, pinned it, tagged it, liked it, gif'd it. Am I forgetting something? Probably. I probably am forgetting something.

Moreover, where's the real technological breakthrough we're all rushing to embrace here? As referenced above, when I can't get enough information from your words, I can already get a leg up through the assistance of pictorial representations thanks to:

  • The still camera on your phone.
  • The video camera on your phone.
  • The Instagram application on your phone.
  • The animated gif functionality on your phone.
  • The encyclopedia of emoticons on your phone.
Am I forgetting something? Probably. I probably am forgetting something.

It is hilarious to me that we all get so excited about, and feel so beholden to participate in, a technological evolution that Darwin himself would have had a hard time pin-pointing. I am for sure late to most of these parties, and am for sure only marginally attuned to the full power of these do-hickies and thing-a-majigs, but here's how I see it:

  • Tumblr is Instagram, just without the filters and the interface with Twitter/Facebook.
  • MySpace is Facebook and/or Tumblr, but with worse business people.
  • Facebook is Twitter, but with more room to brag about your children or detail the affliction/infection you seem to have contracted, and with less famous people in the audience.
  • Blogs are journals, except you want people - especially strangers - to find and read them.
  • Twitter is texting, only for ideas that are a propos of nothing and meant to convey wit as opposed to usable information.
  • Pinterest is your high school yearbook, only prettier.
And Vine? Vine is the worst of the worst! Vine isn't quite a stand-still picture, but it also isn't quite a video. It's slightly longer than a gif, but it's basically a gif. Vine is really just a subtle way to insult the artistry of the maker and the perceptiveness of the viewer. Because who, seriously, can create visual content meant to inform or inspire in the amount of time it takes to say "Hi, I'm Abby"?

Now before you go all high-and-mighty on me, I know. I KNOW. I'm a shameless self-promoter and interactor on almost all of the media addressed above. I've drank the Kool-Aid, jumped on the bandwagon, become an all-out lemming. That doesn't mean I like it. It doesn't even mean I understand it. I just means I'm desperate and will do almost anything you tell me to.

So here's where the out-loud sighing comes in. Someday, in the not-too-distant future, I know that I will install the Vine app on my phone, and I'll start taking six-second videos of my son trying to eat a football and my daughter dancing to Pitbull's "Don't Stop The Party" while watching her reflection in the window. And I will start taking off-kilter micro-documentaries of myself at my computer, powering through the writer's block, so that you can see art in action. I'll do it because I'll believe I'm missing out on an opportunity to cash in on the connectivity the Smart People say the Internet is there for.

Today, though, I'm sighing because fortune and early-retirement were staring me in the face and I missed the boat. All I had to do was say "Hey, wouldn't it be great if that 45-second video was shorter and less descriptive? Why are we limiting ourselves to content that has the benefit of telling something of a story or conveying something of a message? I'm not content with mediocrity - let's push the boundaries and go for the truly meaningless!"

(Not for nothing, please be on the look-out for Fliterog, my supremely awesome invention that allows users to post a picture of something that blinks and then overlay 3 words of text that that either (a) tells readers how the photographer feels about the day; or (b) shares a new way to bake a brownie. Coming soon to an app store near you!)

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