Time to extend the idea of bookmarks?

What is Bookmarking – , the simple act of storing a URL, whether in a personal store or on a cloud, revolutionizes our online participation. From being passive consumers of information, the act of bookmarking turns us into collaborators in extending this information. Those that we liked, that evoked a reaction in us, something that we could identify ourselves with, something that we would like to keep track of are all transformed by the expression of our interest in it. Especially when the bookmarks are centrally stored on a server somewhere.

Current Services – Online bookmarking services are dime a dozen. I use del.icio.us for all my(user name maheshcr) bookmarking needs. StumbleUpon is another popular service.

What is wrong now – However most of these services allow bookmarking of URLs and nothing more. Of course the URLs themselves could point to literally anything that could served on the Internet. These include text, images, audio, video etc.  But the URL that points to rich media, say audio or video files cannot pin point a location beyond the start. Let me elaborate.

What would be ideal– How about a particular riff within a song that I want to highlight? Or a quote within a video? Currently the best that we can do is to mention the time when the point of interest starts, and optionally ends. So we say, ‘watch at 1:10mins’ or ‘hear at 2:29’. As much as these are useful the fact is that user attention is not a decently engineered mechanism, accuracy and consistency is seldom guaranteed. If we could delegate this task of highlighting something in a larger body of work, to a machine, we should be better off.

Some compromises that exist today – To be clear some of this is done in latest video players where specific time points are highlighted on the timeline. This though is done by the producer of the content and does not allow the user to participate by marking areas as they see it fit.

Google’s ‘answer’ to this problem – Google seems to have attacked this problem with its Google Elections Search Video Gadget. Where a certain video is mined for text by recognizing audio and the resulting content attached as metadata. This comes very close to the problem I have discussed but feel it does not go the full distance. More could be done.

Wrap up – Has this problem been solved already? If not, would solving this add value to how we consume, discover and remember online information? What do you think?

[Update: The very next day I posted this entry a new service gets profiled on LifeHacker called Splicd. It lets one mark a specific portion of the video within YouTube. Interesting service. Have not played in detail yet, will keep you posted on how it turns out.] 

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