Keyboard Cat is Cool, But Changing Video is Cooler

I’ve met a host of people this summer as a part of my internship with Shelby.tv and while most in the early stage tech community tend to see the huge potential in what we’re doing, a few question the application of such a technology to do anything consequential other than keep friends up to date on the latest memes that are circling the internet (I’m looking at you, courage wolf).

Founder’s Fund published an article recently with few really interesting points, one of which is that “we wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters."  While it’s true that I’d love to see more truly transformational tech companies, I tend to agree more with Chris Dixon that the “next big thing" will look like a toy at first.  After all, Twitter seemed like a toy (and still does to a bunch of people), but it has profoundly changed the way that people communicate and interact with one another.  In its current form, Shelby is somewhat of a toy (one that I happen to love) and while she can certainly be used for spreading nyan cat love far and wide, I’d say that our vision of the future of Shelby is far more than that.

Internet video shouldn’t just be a medium that’s relegated to tomfoolery and humor.  While I love that stuff as much as the next guy (probably more), when you think about the sheer number of people in this country that sit on their asses and watch TV for hours a day, there’s a huge opportunity to put some really interesting and engaging content in front of people that might not otherwise see it.

I’ve already discovered a ton of video in Shelby that I wouldn’t have taken the time to notice otherwise. Here are a few quick examples from the past week or so:

  1. Educational Content - I’m a huge fan of TED talks, but there’s such a wide swath of content on the TED website that it’s often difficult to get through and figure out what I want to watch.  Not so when my friends are filtering that content for me - I’ve got the best of relevant TED Talks (like this one) delivered to my feed in Shelby.
  2. Climbing videos & extreme sports videos - these have inspired me to set ambitious goals for myself in terms of summiting mountains and pushing myslef to get better at the things I do.  I also find the cinematography in videos like this absolutely breathtaking and when viewed in HD on a great monitor, they’re a nice escape from the concrete jungle of NYC.
  3. Political content - I’ve been out of town for the last few days and as such I’m not spending as much time keeping up with the news as I normally do. I signed into Shelby and was quickly able to see highlights on what is going on in London with the riots and the financial markets. I also found the occasional comic relief.
  4. Creative content from Tumblr - If you follow more than a few people on Tumblr, you probably realize that the Dashboard is not the most effective way of viewing video content.  Most videos go unwatched since I quickly scan my Dashboard only once or twice a day.  Since we’ve been testing tumblr integration recently, I’ve stumbled across a few fun and educational gems: "carnivorous plants" and "vortex bubbles."

These videos have captured my imagination and inspired me to make the most of my time outside of the office and away from the computer.  They require less than 30 minutes of my attention a day.  Shelby can be that kind of “video sherpa" for all our users.  All this content is accessible to everyone for the first time thanks to the internet (sorry, cable, you still kind of suck) and given the rate at which this stuff is growing, it’s even more important to help people find the video that moves them and the people in their lives.  

Sure, some of you may think I’m just trying to justify my love of the memefilled internet, but I really do believe that video is an incredibly engaging and interesting medium that can help change the world.  Just like music, video can transcend language barriers, connect, inspire and educate (just ask Salman Khan about that last one).

Video is a young art form - it’s been around a fraction of the time that music, literature and theatre have.  Much like Gutenberg’s printing press did for the written word in the 1400’s, the internet is enabling video to be widely and cheaply distributed in a way unlike ever before.  And if video is still so young, then the future is bright. Sounds like music to my…err… video to my eyes.