Wednesday 14 May 2008

How easy is sharing media online?

Today we have lots of ways that have been devised to let people share media online.   Whether it be Picasa or Flickr for photos or video sites like YouTube or GoogleVideo, or mechanisms embedded into applications such as photocasting or web galleries supported by Apple's iLife suite, there are many options for the net-savvy to share their digital stuff with other people.  But is this really what we ideally want?  My mum is still struggling with moving to a digital camera from film, and she's not alone when it comes to being less than confident or enthusiastic about the new online world and how it complements her new digital devices.  There are many 'mums' out there!

What I mean is that surely we would like these sharing methods to be more direct and intuitive.  Just knowing what is out there and good to use is baffling enough for many.  Most Flickr or Picasa users chose that particular way to share their photos because a friend already used it to share some with them!  It was by word of mouth or in some sense viral.  And it's not just about discovery of mechanism either.  

When my mum shared a traditional photo with someone, she probably ordered a copy of the print, and either sent it by mail or physically handed it to someone.  She didn't have to concern herself about whether the picture would fall into the wrong hands as a side effect of the sharing.  Neither did she have to worry about the capacity of the person storing a copy.  And there was often no need for her to point the copy out to the people she sent it to either - if it was included or passed on, it was self explanatory.  In the online world, all of these additional things often cross people's minds.   It's extra stuff to think about - and there is plenty more.  

In the far future, we want to be able to simply think about the idea of sharing media (and other things) with particular people and it happens.  When biotechnology advances allow this intimate interfacing between human and machine, we will be back to a more simplistic world of naturally conveying digital content between people.  The underlying mechanisms will simply make it happen, and utilise the appropriate networks and devices to achieve it.  

In the meantime, lets hope there will be some significant improvements in the way we deal with sharing the enormous and ever-increasing amount of digital content we are creating.  Storage will soon be a commodity item - it is how and to whom we expose what is stored that is important.  If such improvements are made, maybe more 'mums' will be comfortable with climbing fully aboard the technology train.

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