YA Clicks February 2009
REBECCA PURDY AND THE WEB SURFERS FROM THE CENTRAL RAPPAHANNOCK REGIONAL LIBRARY
How does any online video site compete with YouTube? Some try and many fail, but here are a few that do better than most.
YA LIBRARIAN’S CHOICE
Demand Media, Inc.
4I 4R 3U J M S
Want to learn how to change your oil, dance like Beyoncé or play the didgeridoo? Expert Village provides more than 120,000 free how-to videos to teach you almost anything. The general public is not given privileges to submit a video; only “experts” can upload. I was unable to locate how the experts were identified, but the site provides a brief résumé for each. The videos are not necessarily high quality—many seem homemade—but the information is clear, concise and easy to follow nonetheless. This site is definitely paid for with ads; there’s one before every video starts. Although the ads are tolerable and somewhat expected, it is really annoying to search the site and have “Sponsored Results” at the top of the search page. A careful reader will discover successful search results further down, but many could mistakenly think there were none. Despite this flaw, Expert Village is a great place to learn!
Mytoons: Everything Animated
2I 5R 4U M S
This site was dangerously fun to review at work! As soon as you arrive, you are treated to the mytoons teams’ favorite animations. If you want to pick and choose what you watch, it’s easy—put your cursor below the video screen and click on another or change the channel! Choices include HAHA, SuperCool, Action, Classics (featuring Tom and Jerry), an Anime channel (with Cowboy BeBop and Bleach episodes), and many more. If you watch an animation you really enjoy, it’s easy to find others by that creator. Everything you need to know is below the video screen. Like most online video sites, there is a social networking aspect, but no login or other commitment is required to begin enjoying!
THROUGH YA EYES
Funny or Die
Funny or Die Inc.
1I 3R 3U S
Funny or Die is great for finding the videos about which people are talking. The site is well designed and very entertaining. There are a few videos that are somewhat twisted, but they are easy to avoid. It could be a bit easier to use—the first time it was a little confusing to navigate. As the name would suggest, it’s hilarious. It’s also a very liberal site, which means it is not a good choice for those who are extremely conservative. This site is definitely for fun, so if you’re looking for research on a school paper, it won’t be helpful.—Elizabeth Chase
2I 5R 5U M J S
Although YouTube still dominates Internet video, Hulu is quickly emerging as a competitor. It is the best Web site available for high quality digital videos and has a slick, easy-to-use interface. Hulu has most TV shows and updates new episodes regularly. These shows include ongoing series like Family Guy and Heroes and syndicated programs such as Arrested Development and Speed Racer. Hulu is also a great way to watch free movies legally—a plus for film fans everywhere. The only downside of Hulu is that videos are only updated once a week. Due to this delay, the selection is still a little small but it is sure to grow in time. Hulu is not a video sharing site, but it is still the best place to watch TV shows and movies.—Simon Watts
JibJab Media, Inc.
2I 5R 4U S
JibJab is first and foremost an outlet for animated videos created by founders Evan and Greg Spiridellis. They release a new video every couple of months. These videos are the site’s best feature, particularly those that cover the current political environment, which form the core of the site. Although few in number, they are of a very high quality. True, the videos are made to look like amateur cut-and-paste jobs; face animation, for example, is limited to bottom jaws moving up and down. However this technique is done with great success for comedic effect. The videos are well written, with goofy yet poignant comments on politicians and other “celebrities.” More recently, the site has added other forms of media, including photographs, e-cards, and animations that can be personalized with user-uploaded images and then shared with friends and family. These additions are less of an accomplishment as stand-alone pieces of “art,” but they achieve their objective of creating a smile on someone’s face when, for instance, he sees a video of himself break dancing. The interface is clean and easy to use, with a remarkable dearth of typos and meaningless profanity. As a completely private domain, a self-contained video site like JibJab is extremely refreshing when compared with the saturation of dribble on sites such as YouTube that consist of thousands upon thousands of mostly low-quality user videos. JibJab isn’t so full of material that you could spend days browsing through it, but it occupies a very nice niche in an Internet full of nonsense. The videos are topical, funny, and certain to create laughter. The JibJab e-cards, however, are probably the most unique part of the site, as they offer a wealth of opportunity to create shock and awe using personalized images.—Dylan Vasey
[Editor’s Note: Some of the material on JibJab is exclusive to subscribers and requires users to upgrade and pay a fee for various services.]
3I 5R 4U J M S
Metacafe is a useful video-sharing Web site that allows users to search for videos on many different topics. Black Eyed Peas music videos appear alongside clips from CNN and videos of Yundi Li playing Chopin’s “Fantasie-Impromptu.” The search option allows you to choose the category of video for which you are looking. For instance, if you were to search for videos of Maria Sharapova playing tennis, you could restrict your results to the “sports” category and avoid having to sift through her numerous commercials. Metacafe also has a “travel and outdoors” category that has interesting videos of the Louvre Museum and many other areas of cultural significance. Users are able to rate videos on this site and have chosen rather mediocre videos such as “Ski Jump Crash Landing” and “Girl Soccer Tricks” as the best videos. If Metacafe takes steps to distinguish itself from other video-sharing sites, it could become a much more interesting and perhaps more useful Web site. There is not a lot more information to be gleaned from this site than can be found on YouTube or other video sites.—Chuhern Hwang
KUDOS FOR LIBRARY TEEN SITES
Los Angeles Public Library
Few homepages grab you as graphically or creatively as this one. During your brief wait for the site to load, someone appears to be drawing a line from one point to another on a torn piece of notebook paper. Once it’s loaded, you’re faced with a notebook covered with graffiti, a few reminder notes, a fortune from a cookie (“[a] book will change your life”), a pair of ear buds, and a cell phone that flashes photographs. Of course many of those things are hot links, but most of the links are the tabbed dividers of the notebook itself. The content hasn’t been sacrificed. This site has program information like all library teen pages, but it offers more links than most as well as other features. The “What Do You Think?” page allows teens to submit book reviews, offer suggestions, and answer polls. From the homepage, teens can chime in on the “Hot Topic”; January’s question was “How can you make life better for someone?” In the “Homework Help” section, there’s a brief article explaining the differences between the Internet and databases. There’s even a game, “The Goodhue Codex.” Teen Web does it all, gets your attention, and then delivers the content—a perfect balance.
[Note on the Kudos section: If you think your library blog, wiki, podcast, or site is worthy of consideration, please e-mail me at email@example.com. The Web Surfers and I will surf submissions and choose one to showcase for each column.]
Rebecca Purdy is the Youth Services Manager at the Headquarters Library of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Web Surfers are a collection of teens willing to volunteer some of their time to see their names in print and help young adult librarians find good sites for their library blogs and Web pages.