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Spicy Ideas: I'm Not Dead Yet!—The Past and Future of Online Video

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A quick search for the phrase "bring out your dead" on YouTube will find the classic exchange between John Cleese and Eric Idle from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (I’ll take a brief pause while you go look this up and have a good chuckle. Go ahead, I’ll wait here.)

As you just saw, or recited from memory, Idle is carrying a cart through a medieval English village during the Black Plague pandemic of the 14th century. An old man tries to convince Cleese and Idle that he isn’t dead yet, doesn’t have the plague, and actually wants to go for a walk. As happy as the old man feels, Cleese pays a fee and Idle obliges by whopping the old man on the head and adding him to the cart of other dead bodies. "See you on Thursday," says Idle. Watching this I can’t help but make the comparison between the old man and videos from years gone by. What have we dumped on the cart over the years, and how can we share our stories in the years to come?

From the world’s earliest surviving 2-second film from 1888 (watch it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundhay_Garden_Scene) to the 13 hours of video loaded onto YouTube every minute today, video has captured our stories for the last 120-plus years. The oldest and newest videos are strangely similar: short clips of people leading their lives, with no plot, budget, or actors. For every Zapruder film, Casablanca, and Three Stooges short, there are countless videos that have never seen the light of day. 8mm reels of the family stashed in a box in the attic, feature length films never finished, and digital videos stacked up on hard drives are all dangerously close to being tossed on the cart. It’s time to start sharing our past with our future, and I have two easy steps to make it happen.

Take Your Videos for a Walk
It is easier now than ever to put videos online. Go create a YouTube, Veoh, or Viddler account and start sharing some of those gems that you have lying around. Most of the popular social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo are providing their own video-sharing tools as well. Even photo-sharing sites like Flickr have jumped into the video-sharing game. You can upload a video, tag it with relevant people and places, and then watch others join in the conversation.

Ultimately, the joy in seeing your videos go for a walk comes from having others interact with the stories and, in turn, sharing stories of their own. I can’t wait to see that television pilot that should have made it or Grandma telling stories on Christmas morning. Start sharing, and enjoy the conversations you start.

Share the Stories
My daughters love Sesame Street and especially Elmo. As a matter of fact, they had never seen an episode of Sesame Street without the furry little red guy, and they definitely had never heard of The Muppet Show. I have had the chance to share both the Muppets and those great Jim Henson characters that have been relegated to history with my girls, and they love it! They have seen the classic drum solo battle between Buddy Rich and Animal on YouTube, The Muppet Show episode with the cast of Star Wars, and a hilarious exchange between Fozzie Bear and Victor Borge. Thanks to Hulu and lots of other online sites, I can share stories with my family that may have been tossed on the cart. Find videos, films, and clips that have changed your life and share them with others.

If anything can be learned from the "bring out your dead" scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it is that we shouldn’t get rid of something just because it is old. As the rapid changes continue and video becomes more prevalent, we will be tempted to whack our past on the head and toss it away.

But the stories of the past are more important now than ever before. The video storytellers of old were a select few, but advances in technology have given us all the power to share our stories. And while the tools to create professional-quality video are now easy to use, it’s the content of the stories, not the bitrate of the video, that makes them successful.

As we share and explore the past, we should also be creating our own stories to share with the future. Whether it’s sharing a smile and the Muppets with your kids or capturing your kids doing their own shows, I think we will be bringing out our dead for years to come.

"I feel happy ... I feel happy." [whop!]

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