New site shows the best of YouTube’s worst
We watch more than 2 billion YouTube videos every day, but let’s admit it — we’re usually viewing a top 25 clip, a video forwarded by a friend or an old standby like David After Dentist (some of those 66 million views must be repeats).
But what happens to the gazillion other videos that are uploaded to YouTube only to languish in obscurity?
The sheer volume of stuff on YouTube — 24 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute — means that for every breakaway, million-view hit, there are thousands of clips that almost nobody ever sees.
Luckily, we now have Zero Views, a new blog that scrapes the bottom of the YouTube barrel for the most entertainingly awful clips. At the time they were discovered on YouTube and re-posted, each of these videos had attracted literally zero views.
Internet addiction: How about a 5 day online rehab?
It’s finally happened: people are getting so sick of the Internet, they are beginning to make it a point to publicly unplug from it.
One of the better examples of this is comedian Mark Malkoff’s bid to go without any web contact…for five whole days…while remaining in his bathroom. On his blog he describes why he’s decided to go through with a stunt that would amount to sadistic torture for anyone born after 1990.
“It’s a struggle to get anything accomplished because of my addiction which includes: Email, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and especially online news sites.”
So Malkoff is instead spending this week in his bathtub — not leaving it at all, where he says he will accomplish things like reading Gravity’s Rainbow; memorizing all the U.S. Presidents in order; and learn how to play “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” on guitar.
Ironically, these pursuits are at least as pointless as anything he could do on the Internet, but that’s besides the point. What he’s really aiming at is showing his findings in a video on comedy website My Damn Channel on Sept. 8.
M.I.A’s new video ‘Born Free’ banned from YouTube over graphic violence (video)
In a case of Erykah Badu Deja Vu, M.I.A.’s new video “Born Free” is so graphic its been pulled from YouTube. The Sri Lankan rap star’s nine-minute short film has been banned from YouTube.com due to its disturbing scenes of graphic violence.
The controversial footage premiered on M.I.A.’s official website on Monday, but the hitmaker revealed shortly after that thanks to bosses at her label UMG, the video is not welcome on the world’s leading video sharing website.
In the “Born Free” vid, military police round up red-headed boys in a series of violent raids and beat them to death. In one particularly disturbing scene, a 10-year-old boy is shot in the head in an effort to force other children to escape the concentration camps.
Reviewers have said the video is a commentary on the genocide of ethnic minorities and profiling and “the trampling of personal liberties, the bullying of the powerless by those with authority,” according to MTV.com.
I personally think it has a powerful message and shouldn’t be banned.
German studio wants YouTube to ban Downfall Hitler parodies
Could this be the end for one of the Internet’s most enduring memes?
The German movie studio behind the film Downfall has demanded that YouTube remove clips from the production subtitled by users to make it seem as if Hitler is ranting about anything from Michael Jackson’s death to the iPhone 4G leak.
Downfall’s director says he considers the parodies a compliment, but Constantin Film’s lawyers are taking a harder line, Mashable notes.
According to TechCrunch, the first Downfall parody to be taken down was the one about the iPhone 4G leak, but other popular parodies followed. At four million views, “Hitler Gets Banned from Xbox Live” was one of the most watched and thus among the casualties. The remaining videos might get taken down soon as well.
Here is one example. In this rant, Hitler finds about the Hitler rant parodies all over YouTube:
Wanna bet XBox sales just peaked? (video)
Whoever is running the marketing campaign for XBox should fire all market researchers and creatives ASAP. Youtube has just made selling XBox to teenage boys (and grown man) a breeze.
Gents, meet Tahiticora, the model who loves to play XBox in her undies (kind of NSFW):
High school student stalks Maxim model to be his date for prom… and it works
Connor Cordova was just another ordinary high school student — up until a few weeks ago, when he managed to land his dream date for prom, Maxim model Arianny Celeste.
How did Connor convince the foxy older babe to accompany him to a high school prom? The old fashioned way: sick dancing, an incredible mullet, appeals from mixed martial artists, and, most importantly, the power of YouTube.
To accomplish his goal, Connor launched a borderline-stalkerish video assault on the UFC vixen, pleading with her in a YouTube campaign that will, when all is said and done, certainly prove to be one of the internet’s most epic. Arianny, understandably, couldn’t turn down Connor’s impassioned entreaties.
Here’s Connor’s initial video:
Arianny didn’t respond, so he had to up his game. So he got a haircut:
Unfortunately, that didn’t do the trick either, so he created an elaborate news program parody and lampoon the entire endeavor while still begging Arianny to be his prom date:
Did it work? You’d better believe it. Arianny did have one condition, though…Connor had to find a date for her friend. He was happy to oblige. Connor turned it into a contest on the MMA blog that he runs.
Connor eventually picked his buddy Tyler and prom with Arianny Celeste was a go.
Thanks to Urlesque.com for the story!
Nikon cameras are racist, Hewlett Packard computers too
When Joz Wang and her brother bought their mom a Nikon Coolpix S630 digital camera for Mother’s Day last year, they discovered what seemed to be a malfunction. Every time they took a portrait of each other smiling, a message flashed across the screen asking, “Did someone blink?” No one had. “I thought the camera was broken!” Wang, 33, recalls. But when her brother posed with his eyes open so wide that he looked “bug-eyed,” the messages stopped.
Wang, a Taiwanese-American strategy consultant who goes by the Web handle “jozjozjoz,” thought it was funny that the camera had difficulties figuring out when her family had their eyes open. So she posted a photo of the blink warning on her blog under the title, “Racist Camera! No, I did not blink… I’m just Asian!” The post was picked up by Gizmodo and Boing Boing, and prompted at least one commenter to note, “You would think that Nikon, being a Japanese company, would have designed this with Asian eyes in mind.”
Nikon isn’t the only big brand whose consumer cameras have displayed an occasional – though clearly unintentional – bias toward Caucasian faces. Face detection, which is one of the latest “intelligent” technologies to trickle down to consumer cameras, is supposed to make photography more convenient. Some cameras with face detection are designed to warn you when someone blinks; others are programmed to automatically take a picture when somebody smiles – a feature that, theoretically, makes the whole problem of timing your shot to catch the brief glimpse of a grin obsolete. Face detection has also found its way into computer webcams, where it can track a person’s face during a video conference or enable face-recognition software to prevent unauthorized access.
The principle behind face detection is relatively simple, even if the math involved can be complex. Most people have two eyes, eyebrows, a nose and lips – and an algorithm can be trained to look for those common features, or more specifically, their shadows. (For instance, when you take a normal image and heighten the contrast, eye sockets can look like two dark circles.) But even if face detection seems pretty straightforward, the execution isn’t always smooth.
Indeed, just last month, a white employee at an RV dealership in Texas posted a YouTube video showing a black co-worker trying to get the built-in webcam on an HP Pavilion laptop to detect his face and track his movements. The camera zoomed in on the white employee and panned to follow her, but whenever the black employee came into the frame, the webcam stopped dead in its tracks. “I think my blackness is interfering with the computer’s ability to follow me,” the black employee jokingly concludes in the video. “Hewlett-Packard computers are racist.”
The “HP computers are racist” video went viral, with almost 2 million views, and HP, naturally, was quick to respond. “Everything we do is focused on ensuring that we provide a high-quality experience for all our customers, who are ethnically diverse and live and work around the world,” HP’s lead social-media strategist Tony Welch wrote on a company blog within a week of the video’s posting. “We are working with our partners to learn more.” The post linked to instructions on adjusting the camera settings, something both Consumer Reports and Laptop Magazine tested successfully in Web videos they put online.
Still, some engineers question how a webcam even made it onto the market with this seemingly glaring flaw. “It’s surprising HP didn’t get this right,” says Bill Anderson, president of Oculis Labs in Hunt Valley, Md., a company that develops security software that uses face recognition to protect work computers from prying eyes. “These things are solvable.” Case in point: Sensible Vision, which develops the face-recognition security software that comes with some Dell computers, said their software had no trouble picking up the black employee’s face when they tested the YouTube video.
YouTube commenters expressed what was on a lot of people’s minds. “Seems they rushed the product to market before testing thoroughly enough,” wrote one. “I’m guessing it’s because all the people who tested the software were white,” wrote another. HP declined to comment on their methods for testing the webcam or how involved they were in designing the software, but they did say the software was based on “standard algorithms.” Often, the manufacturers of the camera parts will also supply the software to well-known brands, which might explain why HP isn’t the only company whose cameras have exhibited an accidental prejudice against minorities, since many brands could be using the same flawed code. TIME tested two of Sony’s latest Cyber-shot models with face detection (the DSC-TX1 and DSC-WX1) and found they, too, had a tendency to ignore camera subjects with dark complexions.
But why? It’s not necessarily the programmers’ fault. It comes down to the fact that the software is only as good as its algorithms, or the mathematical rules used to determine what a face is. There are two ways to create them: by hard-coding a list of rules for the computer to follow when looking for a face, or by showing it a sample set of hundreds, if not thousands, of images and letting it figure out what the ones with faces have in common. In this way, a computer can create its own list of rules, and then programmers will tweak them. You might think the more images – and the more diverse the images – that a computer is fed, the better the system will get, but sometimes the opposite is true. The images can begin to generate rules that contradict each other. “If you have a set of 95 images and it recognizes 90 of those, and you feed it five more, you might gain five, but lose three,” says Vincent Hubert, a software engineer at Montreal-based Simbioz, a tech company that is developing futuristic hand-gesture technology like the kind seen in Minority Report. It’s the same kind of problem speech-recognition software faces in handling unusual accents.
And just as the software is only as good as its code and the hardware it lives in, it’s also only as good as the light it’s got to work with. As HP noted in its blog post, the lighting in the YouTube video was dim, and, the company said, there wasn’t enough contrast to pick up the facial shadows the computer needed for seeing. (An overlit person with a fair complexion might have had the same problem.) A better camera wouldn’t necessarily have guaranteed a better result, because there’s another bottleneck: computing power. The constant flow of images is usually too much for the software to handle, so it downsamples them, or reduces the level of detail, before analyzing them. That’s one reason why a person watching the YouTube video can easily make out the black employee’s face, while the computer can’t. “A racially inclusive training set won’t help if the larger platform is not capable of seeing those details,” says Steve Russell, founder and chairman of 3VR, which creates face recognition for security cameras.
The blink problem Wang complained about has less to do with lighting than the plain fact that her Nikon was incapable of distinguishing her narrow eye from a half-closed one. An eye might only be a few pixels wide, and a camera that’s downsampling the images can’t see the necessary level of detail. So a trade-off has to be made: either the blink warning would have a tendency to miss half blinks or a tendency to trigger for narrow eyes. Nikon did not respond to questions from TIME as to how the blink detection was designed to work.
Why these glitches weren’t ironed out before the cameras hit Best Buy is not something that HP, Nikon or Sony, when contacted by TIME, were willing to answer. Perhaps in this market of rapidly developing technologies, consumers who fork over a few hundred dollars for the latest gadget are the test market. A few years ago, speech-recognition software was teeth-gnashingly unreliable. Today, it’s up to 99% accurate. With the flurry of consumer complaints out there, most of the companies seem to be responding. HP has offered instructions on how to adjust its webcam’s sensitivity to backlighting. Nikon says it’s working to improve the accuracy of the blink-warning function on its Coolpix cameras. (Sony wouldn’t comment on the performance of its Cyber-shot cameras and said only that it’s “not possible to track the face accurately all the time.”) Perhaps in a few years’ time, the only faces cameras won’t be able to pick up will be those of the blue-skinned humanoids from Avatar.
Tomorrow is YouTube porn day, thanks to 4chan
It looks like 4chan has found its first major target of 2010. In a message sent to what is presumably a huge amount of undisclosed receipients, 4chan is announcing that this coming Wednesday, January 6, is going to be a very special event: YouTube Porn Day.
The move comes in response to one account, Lukeywes1234, being suspended by YouTube. Apparently this was just a regular YouTube user who caught the eye of 4chan and they proceeded mass follow him and make tribute videos to him.
I would like to say we do not condone this (yes we do), and advice you to keep your kids off YouTube at least until Thursday.
If you would like to … ehmm… ‘help’, here are the directions as posted on 4chan: