Before someone put a massive damper on my mood I was going to make this a positive blog post. We shall see if I can, given the subject matter.

Some time ago I was involved in ENTV, or Edinburgh Napier TV (colloquially known as “Napier TV”). I’ve recently seen my alma mater posting videos under the same name (although they don’t appear to be aware that it’s a pre-existing brand) but that project is not the same one.

This took place in Q3 and Q4 2009.

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The project failed for human reasons but that wasn’t what I wanted to talk about today. The technical aspect was fairly interesting but it was probably ahead of its time, contributing to the collapse of the project.

The concept was a video podcast, shot by students, comprising numerous segments and a live show to tie it all together.

Each segment had its own remit and was to function relatively independently. These segments were known as “channels” and would sometimes be included in the main show, other times not (but still accessible on their own).

The live show was at the student union and used the projection system to air the segments with some hosting and audience participation elements. It supported both Twitter and texting allowing anyone in the audience to get in touch anonymously should they so wished (the phone didn’t store numbers for that very reason).

In terms of the show’s web presence the following options were available: Youtube, BlipTV, and iTunes.

You may have never heard of BlipTV – at the time it offered some rather impressive services. Whilst it had the standard flash video it also allowed us to upload numerous other variants of the show allowing us to provide HD video. Bear in mind this was before YouTube made 1080p video widely available (and most screens didn’t even support it!). We would also encode a copy of each episode specifically for iTunes so it could be viewed on iOS devices.

Speaking of video – our videos were filmed on Canon HV30/40s allowing some fairly impressive video quality for the time. Audio was only stereo but came through Shure SM58s providing excellent audio quality even in places with ridiculous background audio.

We lacked skills but the equipment had enough promise to not limit our progression, should things have survived.

Right, back to the web stuff – the show had a dedicated website powered by Drupal. I haven’t used the CMS since and such things may have improved but back then posting content was a nightmare for the average user. As such I implemented what I still consider to be an elegant solution (modest, I know!).

Blogs for each channel were provided through Google’s Blogger. They output their content for syndication via Atom (rather than RSS) so I pushed their feeds through another Google product, Feedburner. feedburner_logo_smFrom there I was able to use a feature called BuzzBoost to embed the feeds on each Channel’s page. It’s a clever bit of code that creates a bit of JavaScript embedding the blog’s posts anywhere (with configurable options).

Essentially this meant that any program that could publish to Blogger could be used to update channel content. Alternatively Blogger’s web interface could be used.

Similarly each channel had a dedicated Hashtag. At the time the concept seemed to confuse people, these days they’re used in jokes on How I Met Your Mother. Essentially a tweet could be posted to the channel’s page just by including a hashtag. Back then there wasn’t really support for that and with some help I was able to put together a PHP snippet that did the job.

The general idea behind this cellular structure was to allow students to contribute specifically to an area that interested them rather than forcing them to care about the audio/visual element.

Unfortunately it seems the concept behind it appeared too complex whereas in reality it was fairly simple. Contribute to what you care about and it’ll mostly assemble itself.

Far too few students actually cared or seemed to understand the point of the project though. That was their loss as well as ours though – I had so much fun doing Napier Subculture I had hoped to expand the concept and allow others to appreciate the benefits.

But then again I also have photos documenting my life ever since I was about 14. Otherwise our memories are like dust in the wind. I wonder how many interesting memories they ended up with from their time at university?

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