Metacafe, the short-form video aggregator with 30 million monthly visitors, has unveiled a new feature called "Wikicafe" which addresses the daunting and ongoing problem of how to find exactly the video you're looking for and gain high-quality recommendations.
Now in beta and available to its registered users only, Wikicafe is philisophically similar to Wikipedia, which involves users in building the knowledge base around specific content. Similarly, Wikicafe's goal is to involve users in continually refining the metadata for specific videos. This in turn will yield improved search and discovery for subsequent users.
Wikicafe is an intriguing spin on video search which I have discussed a number of times. Last week I spoke to Eyal Hertzog, Metacafe's co-founder and now chief creative officer, who's leading the charge on Wikicafe. This was the first briefing Metacafe has given on the new Wikicafe feature.
Eyal notes that there are really two ways to tackle content navigation. One is through super-sophisticated algorithms and distributed hardware, an approach epitomized by Google. The other is community-based collaboration, an approach epitomized by Wikipedia. He is biased toward the latter because he believes that the likelihood that the original metadata assigned by the video's creator (and even subsequent metadata that may be produced by technology-based approaches) will never be as accurate as that which is produced by other humans with specific domain knowledge.
Thus the idea behind Wikicafe: if given the right tools, Metacafe's users will create and maintain the most accurate metadata for Metacafe's vast collection of videos. It's a classic "wisdom of crowds" approach. Of course, it also requires that users act appropriately or things could spin out of control very quickly.
Wikicafe is very straightforward to use. Once logged in, you simply click on "Editing Options" in the upper right corner of each video. Then you can start editing the video's title, tags, description and then save your changes. You can track your changes (and those that others add), be notified about subsequent changes and start a discussion about your changes. You can even translate your changes into other languages. As Eyal explains it, this "collaborative taxonomy" allows redirection between related terms ("PS3" and "Playstation3"), clarifies ambiguous words, resolves hierarchical terms and connects different languages.
In a sense, Wikicafe is a natural evolution for Metacafe, which has always emphasized community involvement in filtering which content gets added and promoted on the site. With a group of active, passionate users and Wikipedia as a model, it seems likely that Wikicafe will gain traction in the community.
What then becomes especially intriguing is the potential for carrying the Wikicafe approach outside of Metacafe's borders for the larger universe of broadband video. Could users eventually become an augment or even replacement to top-down driven video guides, the norm in today's cable and satellite offerings? It's an interesting vision to contemplate. First let's see how Wikicafe evolves in the Metacafe community.
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