MediaThread: Help us jump-start a community

MediaThread is a media analysis communication platform we announced back in January.  At the moment it sports a number of central features:

  1. annotating images
    large images on any web page, Flickr, and some specific collections like ArtStor (for subscribers)
  2. clipping video into an annotation
    YouTube, quicktime, flv, flv pseudo-streaming, realmedia, h264, and preliminary ogg (when the browser supports it)
  3. embedding your image and video annotations into a multimedia essay
  4. discussing collected images and video (we call them assets) in a space where you can also embed annotations
We find this kind of communication affords and encourages deep analysis and "brings the laser pointer to the essay." Instead of just referencing a video and describing the scene, you can embed the exact moment and let the reader view the evidence directly and immediately.

We would love for this platform to grow beyond the walls of Columbia.  Fostering a community for a new open-source project is always a bit of a challenge, so please contribute with questions, suggestions, code, experience or insight.  The MediaThread forum will not just be for developers, so if you are using MediaThread, then tell us about your experience.
Perhaps it's worth relating a bit of history about how MediaThread came to be:

MediaThread grew out of a grant with WGBH to archive video from their documentary about the Vietnam War.  WGBH already had a nice platform for searching and browsing their video collection.  They also had internal media analysis tools, but the communication structure did not match well with using these tools in a class setting.  In a class, you want to see what your fellow students are doing automatically, but not what people in other classes are doing (sometimes it's important that it's impossible, even)

We considered working on their open source code, but I had just come off a project that integrated image annotation into a large archive.  We pulled it off, but the complexity of supporting both customized annotation and collection search/browse capability seemed to give the site too many features. Figuring out how to keep the site simple (both for users and programmers) was a big challenge.

There was another issue.  Some of our faculty partners wanted to use additional video in their class that was not available in the WGBH archive.  One option would be to include the video inside our instance of the WGBH site.  However, this yields more problems: making it clear what came from WGBH and integrating our separate videos with search/browse.

Out of these challenges was born the idea of making a separate site just for the course-related media-analysis and discussion. At the beginning, the WGBH archive site had an 'analyze this' button on an asset page. The user would click the button and the asset would be ported over to their MediaThread course.  For collections that are conscious of MediaThread, that is still possible, however, now we encourage using a bookmarklet ( which can be run on many archives across the World Wide Web.

This approach has some incredible advantages. Instead of the annotation and analysis tools being tied to any single collection, MediaThread allows users to integrate assets from many collections and sources into a single project.

Between other projects, I've been working on MediaThread for about a year now.  We've had other media annotation projects at CCNMTL (Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning), but MediaThread seems to have some wind in its sails as a platform, and we're excited for others to try it out and lend their experience to its development.  Please join us.