The best gadget I stole in 2008

Maryam wanted a video camera. She asked her friends and they recommended the FlipCam. She thought it was safe from me. She got an ugly one (orange and white) just to make it very unlikely that I’d steal it. After all, if it isn’t an Apple product, or cool and black, it probably was safe from her geeky husband, right?

But I tried it out one day and found that it gave me a lot better quality that my Nokia cell phone with Qik.

Since that day I haven’t given it back. All the recent videos on my Kyte video channel are done with it.

So, now she wants it back. Hah, I think I’ll buy her one of the new HD ones. And me too.

One tip: you MUST use a monopod (which is what I’m doing) or a tripod with this. It is too small to hold steady otherwise.

Why do I love it? It uses AA batteries so I can either use rechargeables or, if those are dead, some of the AA’s in the freezer.

It has a little USB plug that swings out the side. It works with any computer. So, if I take video of my friends’ cute babies, I can give them that video right there. Oh, and the video works with Kyte, YouTube, Viddler, Facebook, and a bunch of other services too. No reformatting or work needed.

Hope a bunch of you find one of these under your Christmas tree.

One problem? The local BestBuy is sold out of the HD versions so you might need to buy them online.

Mike Arrington is talking about his experiences with the Flip and other small HD cameras on his Twitter account. For me, it might be ugly, but it is the best thing I’ve stolen from Maryam all year.

HD war breaks out as Facebook, YouTube deliver new features

Tonight an HD war online broke out. YouTube appears to have turned on HD video. Now Facebook jumps into the fray with true 720p HD 16:9 widescreen video. This is HUGE for those of us who have HD camcorders.

But also Vimeo and SmugMug have turned on HD video before.

Why is this important? Well, a bunch of people just received their Canon 5D Mark II cameras that do HD video. So does the Nikon D90. Look at the video that SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill did with his. That shows off SmugMug’s HD goodness.

Or look at Joi Ito’s videos from his 5D which use Vimeo’s video system.

Of course, we have exclusive video from Facebook which explains these features. Here’s a video with Chris Putnam, who runs the Facebook video team.

TechCrunch also covers the new Facebook features.

We’re trying to upload a 720p video to all of these services to see which ones have the best quality and features. Which one are you going to use if you have an HD camcorder? We should have a test video up soon.

UPDATE: this news has already started a long conversation on FriendFeed.

UPDATE 2: Chris Putnam, who was featured in my video, has posted a blog post about these changes and TechMeme has more posts about Facebook’s new video.

Close look at Vholdr, sports video camera

Vholdr is a sports video camera designed for sky diving, skateboarding, surfing, swimming, including on RC helicopters, etc. If you are into sports, you should check out this very cool camera, here’s a short video I filmed on Friday with the founder of the company, Marc Barros, who showed me how it all works. If you visit Vholdr’s site you’ll see a ton of video made by their users with these cameras.

Why YouTube is going long-form

It’s funny, I have always been a believer in long form video. Heck, today I put up a 30 minute video with the hottest mobile social network’s CEO (Bluepulse).

But why is YouTube going longform, which is what Silicon Alley Insider just reported?

Easy: it’s much tougher to monetize short videos of, say, kids doing skateboard tricks, than it is to put some ads into a long video like the ones I do at FastCompany.tv.

Advertisers also will pay a lot higher rates for those long-form ads.

Why?

Because someone who’ll watch a 30-minute video is HIGHLY ENGAGED. They are far more likely to become a customer than someone who just watches a two-minute entertaining video.

Here’s why: long videos are a filter. Only the most passionate and most interested people online will watch such a video. Those who aren’t interested wouldn’t even consider watching a long video.

Think about the video I just put up. I bet that out of the tens of thousands of people who read this post over the next day or so that only 5% will be interested in the topic of mobile social networks.

But, if you ARE interested enough in mobile social networks to spend 30 minutes to learn more, think about what that says and the liklihood that such a viewer will be responsive to advertisments, especially ones that are contextual. Imagine that another company building something for mobile users, like Brightkite, put an ad in that video. If you spent 30 minutes interested in mobile social networks, wouldn’t you spend 15 seconds hearing about a new mobile tool that’d add onto Bluepulse? You sure would (at least in aggregate).

But, what kind of audience would show up on a skateboarding video? How likely would they be interested in hearing about Brightkite? Not nearly as much.

So, as an advertiser, which one would you rather spend money on?

Longform wins and wins big.

Oh, and don’t even start thinking about the buying process. If you do, you’ll see why Gary Vaynerchuk is the most brilliant marketer out there right now for starting Wine Library TV. I’m going to do a whole post soon just on what Gary is getting that even Google and Facebook aren’t getting.

Oh #2. Mark Cuban basically just posted the same thing I did, but comes at it from a different angle.

YouTube working on live streaming

I’ve been sitting here in the San Jose Convention Center where Google’s sales and operations team have been having an in-house event. Al Gore spoke yesterday and a bunch of bloggers were on a panel today. Anyway, random Googler’s have been coming by all afternoon while I’ve been using the wifi to keep up on the comments and Twitters coming in thanks to my redesign.

So, a few YouTube engineers have come by and I keep asking them if they are working on live streaming features. They are very aware they are getting outrun by streaming services like Ustream, Stickam, Justin.tv. They are more worried about cell phone videos like Qik, Flixwagon, Bambuser, and Kyte.tv. They tell me they see tons of people at concerts using their cell phones to record video and know that’s a big market that they’ll need to serve. Funny enough, several of them mentioned Seesmic and Seesmic’s new video comments. Since those are only five days old now, it’s surprising that they’ve gotten on the radar screen so quickly. Yesterday Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic, told me they are seeing huge growth and have hundreds of blogs who’ve already deployed those new comments.

The employees quickly add “you didn’t hear it from me” and aren’t willing to tell me dates or other details (the devil is in the details) but it’s clear that YouTube’s leadership realizes that they’ve slipped behind in innovation and are going to start putting out some new stuff to keep its brand fresh.

Looking forward to it. YouTube has a huge audience compared to all these other newer services, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do in response.