The latest in online video sharing

by Eszter Hargittai on December 1, 2006

An important aspect of scientific research is that others should be able to reproduce the work. This is significant partly, because it serves as a check on the system, but also, because it allows others to build on previous achievements. Replication is not trivial to achieve, however, given that studies often rely on complex methodologies. There is rarely enough room in journal articles or books to devote sufficiently detailed descriptions of how data were collected and procedures administered. Moreover, even with adequate space for text, many actions are hard to explain without visuals.

This is where recently launched JoVE comes to the rescue. The Journal of Visual Experiments publishes short videos of procedures used in biology labs. Former Princeton graduate student Moshe Pritsker created the peer-reviewed online journal with Nikita Bernstein. The inspiration came back in his graduate school days when he had often been frustrated in the lab while trying to conduct experiments based on others’ descriptions of the necessary methods. The goal of the journal is to assist others with such tasks. The publication has an editorial board and submissions are reviewed before a decision is made about publication.

What a great use of the Web for dissemination of material that would otherwise be difficult to get to relevant parties.

[Thanks to Mark Brady for pointing me to the Nature article – that is now behind subscription wall – about JoVE. That piece served as the source for some of the above.]



Gracchi 12.01.06 at 6:10 am

What a great idea. I am a historian and find the way that new technology is effecting what I can do, the number of sources I can look at is amazing. The fact that in EEBO now a digital library of tracts has come online so that any historian from anywhere in teh world can examine tracts from the seventeenth century in England or the fact that digital cameras have revolutionised the way we all look at manuscripts is astonishing. I suspect that checking articles in the future may become much easier because there should be increased usage of hyperlinking from them to texts. One consequence of this is that the traditional market of journal publishing might be in trouble- I don’t know and am only speculating but the conjunction of new technology and scholarship is only getting going and I suspect the next twenty years will be exciting.


eudoxis 12.01.06 at 10:02 am

The protocol movies are tremendously useful.
Visual information about protocols is so much more efficiently transmitted compared to written or verbal descriptions.

Protocol websites have entries with videos and there are journals with videos attached to the papers – something that is increasingly common. The drawback is that it takes effort on the part of the researcher publishing the video.

See also OpenWetWare, set up by students at MIT a little over a year ago.


bi 12.01.06 at 1:36 pm

This is beyond cool.


Maynard Handley 12.01.06 at 2:27 pm

Hmm. So:
– no downloadability, only streaming.
– the use of a completely moronic codec/playback engine that does not allow for for easy stepping fwd/bwd, playing the movie at different rates, cutting and pasting parts of it, playing backwards; and generall all the things you PARTICULARLY want to do when you are closely studying something that, by definition, is supposed to be on the site because it’s tricky in some way.
Count me completely unimpressed.

I don’t know if it’s that these people are UI morons, video morons, or have visions of somehow enrolling the underpants gnomes to get filthy rich, but this start does not impress me in the slightest. They seem to have no understanding of either standard scientific practice (being able to store the movie, extract parts of it to use elsewhere, manipulate how it is viewed) or modern video technology.

I joined Apple in 1991 with the specific goal of adding to QuickTime the ability to manipuulate MPEG video as fluently as one could manipulate other types of QT content — and for a brief while I succeeded, with QT able to play MPEG backwards, providing frame-accurate cut/and paste, etc etc. Then Peter Hoddie left, and QT management became uninterested in these abilities and yanked them from later revs of QuickTime.
The world moved on to MPEG4, now finally with a sane file format able, trivially, to provide for most of these features, but QT is still not especially aggressive about pushing them.
Meanwhile the world is full of people doing their damndest to make digital video as crippled and limited as broadcast TV, and hoi polloi, rather than reacting in outrage, are cheering them on as great benefactors: “please, please take away my choices, my control, my rights. thank you so much for creating a web site that cripples my abilities”.

There’s something about video that appears to cripple the brain-functioning of 100% of management, 98% of the population and 80% of the engineers in the field. I left the subject 2.5 yrs ago, and alll I’ve seen since then is more of the same stupidity, in ever varied permutations. Next up in this unending parade of idiocy is bluray.


Eszter 12.01.06 at 2:49 pm

That’s harsh and unnecessarily so. It’s possible to give constructive criticism – which I suspect the creators of this sytem would appreciate – without dismissing all of their hard work that they probably did without much/any compensation and completely on their own time. And it is useful to some people even if it is not as useful as it may be with some improvements.


Maynard Handley 12.01.06 at 6:11 pm

Eszter, suppose a new eJournal started which released all their articles in some proprietary eBook format which could not be printed, did not allow for copying sections of the text, and appeared on the screen as blue ink against a black background. Would you be complaining that criticism of their work is “harsh and unnecessarily so”?

As for this being volunteer work; to do the job RIGHT, ie choose a sensible codec (MPEG-4 is probably the best current choice), and have downloadable files, would be far LESS work than the streaming script-based thing they have put together. I see no reason to cut anyone slack when their additional work dimishes rather than enhaces value. We’d all be better off if they had not “worked” so hard.


Jake 12.01.06 at 8:27 pm

For better or for worse, FLV is the least common denominator for video out there, and generally works good enough. Lots of things are better, but everyone doesn’t have them already installed or the desire or capability to install them.


Chris 12.04.06 at 12:29 am

I think the point here is that this is the first step towards reform, whether you think that (a) they therefore ought to get it right because of querty effects or (b) it’s going to be buried by later changes anyway. The point is that bugger replicability, every single psychological experiment needs to be videoed and the video made available in order to reduce lying and allow the possibility of alternative explanations. The loss of information in reducing an interaction to refereed journal format is so great as to be intolerable.

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