My last research topic before leaving Nokia was related to intelligent content companions – smart software to get metadata, search, relevance, recommendation, timing attention, and general enjoyment of your own and other’s content just right. Charged with setting the research topic agenda, university collaborations, external funding, and alignment to corporate strategy all in place, I set to the adventure with (initially) 5 research teams in tow. We narrowed this down to multimedia content, and then photos (it was a safe bet for the organisation – albeit the opposite of my instincts to make impact by novelty for innovation value and more defendable patents). And we ended up narrowing this down to sharing with family and friends to make the whole thing more explainable and easier to justify specific university collaborations – which again made much sense inside the distorted reality field of Nokia Research Center in 2011 but removed the opportunity to do something genuinely new and interesting. Information retrieval for sentiment, textual and user analysis went out of the window while we refined the plan (and became ever safer for keeping this research project alive in a research organisation chopping off heads all over the place). As did sophisticated plans for searching out best “mastery” templates and guidance to ensure both that the content you captured started brilliant and was tweaked better, and that you got to search and refine the distributed “quality evaluation” (recommender) models as you interacted with templates, your content and content from close and distant people. In fairness, brutalising the exciting stuff out of the research project goals like this did make the difficult job of decoupling myself from Nokia Research somewhat easier when I volunteered to jump ship.
But now Google have taken on an element of this in a very smart way that I wish Nokia would have been open to. The rather cool Directr web service throws templates at you to make great very short videos for a wide ranges of topics very fast and easy (and cheap and repeatable and…). It’s very much the kind of template initiated mastery we initially hoped to get to for all user content (and then just photos). Only Google have had the good vision to recognise this and they’ve bought them. It may just be an opportunity to give youtube more serious or better quality content, but more likely it’s part of Google’s spate of content company related purchases and a bigger strategy. Either way, Google scale for such a smart approach to making personal content better from the start is going to be a big favour to most digital natives out there.