Thursday, January 24, 2008

VodPod vs. WorldTV: VodPod wins

Summary: Both VodPod and WorldTV can help you organize and share your favorite Internet videos, but VodPod can do it better (at least, for now).

If you're looking for a better way to organize your favorite video clips from YouTube, Google Video, Viddler, BlipTV, and other video sharing sites, try these (free) services:Both VodPod and WorldTV let you collect videos from various video hosting sites and share your video collections with the world or a selected group of people (you, your friends, family) at your own custom URLs, such as these:
http://worldtv.com/YourTV
http://YourTV.vodpod.com
After playing with WorldTV and VodPod for a few weeks, I would like to mention a few things I liked and did not like about both and each service.

I like WorldTV's name: it is simple, understandable, and easy to remember. VodPod's name is unfortunate. I suspect that the pod part of the name is somehow related to podcast, but what in the world is vod? [UPDATE: Vod stands for video on demand.] I also like the term channel (like TV channel) used by WorldTV to describe a video collection. VodPod calls video collections pods, again one more confusing term.

VodPod and WorldTV use different naming schemes for video collections: VodPod puts your collection name in front of the address (as a subdomain), WorldTV keeps it at the end (as a virtual directory). VodPod's scheme is more appealing to me, but you can decide for yourself, which one is easier to remember: AlekTV.vodpod.com or worldtv.com/AlekTV.

WorldTV uses a very simple interface for its channels, but at reduced size, the screen elements tend to stack over each other and the aspect ratio seems distorted.


WorldTV's Welcome (home) page has a few design flaws as well. For example, the main navigation buttons (Go and View) of the Welcome page are not visible on my 14" laptop screen, even in the maximized browser. [The buttons are placed lower than the browser's bottom margin, but because the page does not show a vertical scroller, there is no way to get to them (in IE, the scroller bar lacks the scroller button, while in Firefox, even the scroller bar does not appear).] Also, it's impossible to know without rolling the mouse all over which elements of the Welcome page (and some other pages) contain hyperlinks.

For some reason, WorldTV's channels offer no way to see the list of videos in a collection; you only see a currently played video. Neither can you select a video without manually skipping the videos before it. So, to watch the last video from a 100-video WorldTV collection, you will need to click the Skip button 99 times. VodPod's interface, although cluttered, shows the list of video snapshots, using which you can browse videos and easily select the one you want to see.


Unlike WorldTV, VodPod cannot show videos in the full screen mode, but given the generally low quality of Internet videos, most of them will not look good maximized. Still, when more sites start supporting higher quality videos, this WorldTV's feature will become more useful. [Note to the WorldTV developers: when already in the Full Screen mode, the option to switch back should say something other than "full screen"; maybe "original screen", or "restore screen".]

WorldTV takes an unorthodox approach to authentication/authorization. Unlike most sites (including VodPod), which allow you to sign in with a user ID and password, WorldTV requires you to enter a pas... sorry, a "secret word" (that's the term WorldTV uses) for your channel (URL). To clarify: you do not have a user ID. This means that if you want to create multiple channels (say, you want to keep your collections of music videos and funny clips separate), you need to define a password for each one of them (password is only needed for administration, not for viewing).

Maintaining multiple collections in VodPod is easy because they all are associated with a single user account. Each collection will a have a different URL (Web address). You can use any name for the name of your collection in the URL as long as it is not already in use. For example, my (test) pods can be found at:
http://AlekEdTV.vodpod.com (technical, educational)
http://AlekFunTV.vodpod.com (humor, entertainment, news)
http://AlekMTV.vodpod.com (music, songs, dance)
At VodPod, once I sign in (with my user ID and password) at the home page, I can see and work with any one of my channels. At WorldTV, I sign in at... Hmmm... Where do I sign in?!! There is no sign-in link visible anywhere on the WorldTV's home page. It took me a trip to the FAQ page to figure out that to sign in (so that I can make changes), I need to enter the URL of the admin (editor) page of my channel, which, by default, is defined as the "editor" subfolder under your channel, such as:
http://worldtv.com/YourTV/editor
You can change the name of the of your admin page, but if you forget it, you may never find it.

WorldTV should work fine for a small video collection, but once the number of clips starts to grow, it will be harder to manage, because there is no way to categorize or filter videos. VodPod makes this job easier by letting you define tags and categories for videos. I haven't yet figured out how to use tags, but categories allow you (as a channe..., sorry, a pod editor) and your pod viewers to view only category-specific videos (a video can belong to multiple categories). For example, if you define two categories "Humor" and "Music" and associate them with your videos (some may belong to Music, some to Humor, and some to both), you will be able to view clips belonging to each category. Unfortunately, there is no way to select videos from multiple categories, such as "Music" and "Humor" (say, I want to watch "White & Nerdy").

VodPod lets you add comments to your videos. Comments can be handy if you want to explain why you liked a particular video, add trivia facts, links to relevant sites, and so on. WorldTV does not support comments.

For integration with Web sites (blogs), VodPod allows you to create widgets for your pods. When building a widget, you can specify its layout, title, category, and other options.


As I found out, not all widgets are created equal. For example, when I select a single-frame (so-called "button") layout (when only one video is displayed), the widget does not recognize the specified category; it will show all videos defined in the pod (see the VodPod widget in the right side bar of this blog). WorldTV does not offer widgets, although you can plug your channel into your Web site via an IFrame.

VodPod offers a whole range of social features, like ability to leave comments, follow other people's pods, ratings, RSS subscriptions; I don't care about the social aspect, but there are several non-social features, which I wish were improved. For example, it would be nice to be able to filter videos by (spoken) language. For example, if a collection includes Russian and English videos, non-bilingual viewers may want to watch only clips in the language they understand. There should also be a language-neutral option for videos, which are not language-specific.

A silly problem: inexplicably, VodPod chops the photo in my profile. I tried to add different photos (various sizes and aspect ratios), but they always get chopped (almost by half) at the bottom. And once you add a photo to profile, there is no way to remove it (unless you replace it with another one).

Another idiosyncrasy involves the video approval process. After I added one video from a non-standard site, it turned into a zombie: although it appeared in my pod, it did not play, making the pod look broken. The status of the video stated that it was approved but not encoded (in another place, the status indicated pending approval). The video was pending for a few days with no progress, so I eventually removed it. I'm not sure what went wrong here, but at the least, pending non-playable videos should not be visible to viewers.

Here is one of the most irritating problems (to me): I cannot find a way to show videos in a custom order, instead of the chronological order. I can re-order videos, and play them using default categories (random, most viewed, top ranked, and others), but there seems to be no way to play them in the same order they appear in the pod. Also, there should be an easier way to share videos between pods. For example, if a manage several pods, I should be able to publish a video from one pod to another (with the same comments, tags, and categories) via a simple mouse click.

I sent feedback to both WorldTV and VodPod, but did not get any response from either of them, so it should be safe to assume that you ain't get much support either.

[UPDATE: After publishing this article, I got feedback from both WorldTV and VodPod. VodPod people were especially responsive and fixed a few problems mentioned in the post. If you are interested in additional information, see comments.]

5 comments:

spencer said...

Hi Alek,

I'm one of the guys behind Vodpod, and hopefully I can help answer some of your questions.

First off, I'm terribly sorry we didn't respond to your support request. I went and looked through all of our support emails, and didn't see anything from you. Normally we're very good about answering questions within a day (usually hours), but it looks like yours got lost somewhere? In the future, feel free to drop me a line personally at spencer@vodpod.com.

As for the button widget, you can make it pull videos from a specific category on our widget configuration page, http://vodpod.com/account/blog_badges. If you tried this and it's still not working, let me know - there may be a bug somewhere.

The chopping of the photo is definitely a known problem. We're going to be redoing out settings page in the next month or two, and when we do, I'm going to make sure that there is a way to crop your photo - this bug drives me nuts too!

Regarding your AllthingsD video, what steps did you take to add it? That video should have never ended up in the "encoding" area. The easiest and best way to add videos to your Pod is to install our Firefox/IE extension (http://vodpod.com/vpbutton/install). Whenever you see a video that you want to add to your pod, you simply click the orange vodpod button in your browser.

You can also change the order of videos in your Pod. To do this, go to your Pod, and click "Organize videos". This will take you to the video organizer, where you can drag and drop videos to change the ordering. You can also drag videos to categories, and change metadata such as Titles, Descriptions, and Tags.

Lastly, you can add one of your videos to a different pod by going to the video page, and clicking "Add to my Pod."

I hope this helps. Drop me a line if you have any questions.

P.S. VOD stands for Video On Demand

Alek Davis said...

Thanks Spencer. This was quick. :-) I'll send you a response via e-mail.

worldtv.com said...

Alek,

first off, let me congratulate and thank you for taking the time to review both our site - WorldTV, and VodPod in such detail. You obviously took a great deal of time and effort to understand and use both services, something we and I'm sure VodPod and your readers are most grateful for.

I too should start by apologizing for the lack of response to your e-mail. Your e-mail was actually discussed widely within our team at the time, and in a most positive way (it was an inspiring e-mail). Regretfully it arrived the week of our launch party, and our reply to you was lost in the chaos of organizing this event.

As for your comments about the service, I can confirm that all of the issues you raise are to be addressed with updates and new features we are actively working on. An ambitious site such as WorldTV is always a work in progress, and we are working hard to offer the very best range of features and experience to online video enthusiasts around the world.

I'd like to personally invite you and any of your readers to try out some of the new features, and will follow up with you separately by e-mail.

A direct link for your readers to create their own channel at WorldTV can be found at worldtv.com/create - if they have the same problems you describe with the homepage.

Thanks again for a most insightful and illuminating post!

Alx Klive, CEO
WorldTV.com

Alek Davis said...

Thank you Alx! I appreciate the feedback/comment. Looking forward to seeing updates to WorldTV, I really like the service, just wish the issues I mentioned were addressed. Will be coming back.

ricardo rangels said...

http://worldtv.com/channgels

I prefer the Worldtv for one reason: Wordtv looks like a real tv channel and VodPod is just a copy of Youtube.

Thanks

emeene2@gmail.com