Over the last few years, there have been an increasing number of public works departments, vendors, and organizations taking advantage of video sharing sites. This has been made possible by newer video cameras that now fit into a pocket and websites like YouTube. These new tools and technologies allow anyone to easily capture videos and upload them to the Internet. Fortunately for those of us working in public works, we not only can take advantage of these sites as viewers, but also as publishers of our own video content.
Today a search on YouTube for “public works” brings up 4,950 results. Of course not all are the type of “public works” we all know and love. But even after factoring out “Gotham Public Works” and art-related videos, we are still left with an awful lot of resources. Anyone can visit the site to watch videos. But if you create your own YouTube account, you can take advantage of many other abilities. People with accounts can add comments to individual videos, keep track of what has been viewed, create playlists and favorites, and connect to other social media accounts. For those intending to upload their own videos, YouTube also offers the ability to create and customize channels.
Some of my favorite public works-related channels are apwatv, Autodesk, CityOfCollegeStation, PublicWorksMagazine, TransportationTV, unitedutilities, and the one I set up at pwgroup. By subscribing to these channels, I can choose to receive notices when new content is added. I can also more quickly find content when I want to share it with others. With diminishing money in the budget for training, YouTube videos offer the ability to increase skills and knowledge at no cost, on demand, and without leaving the office.
Videos posted on YouTube are also easily shared by embedding or placing a viewer on another Web site. Below each video on YouTube is a “Share” button the viewer can click to share the video through e-mail, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. There is also an “Embed” button that when clicked will display a code. This code can be copied and pasted on any Web site to display a video player that will launch the video from that site. This is what I did to display one of my favorite public works-related videos below:
Companies and agencies can take advantage of this to regularly post videos with work-related content on their Intranet sites. Or if smart phones are used in the field, inspectors can consult a preset playlist of videos displaying proper construction methods.
For those interested in publishing, it really isn’t as difficult as it might at first appear. YouTube has an extensive help section to get you started. Of course, you will need some type of device to capture the video. While some phones now have this capability, you might want to use something like the Flip camera for this purpose. What I like about the Flip camera is it’s reasonably priced and easy to operate. There are two buttons ― one to turn it on/off and one to start/stop recording. To upload, I just use its USB connection to plug it into my computer. The software is part of the camera so I can plug it into any computer and the software is available. All of the more recent videos I have uploaded to my channel have been captured using my Flip camera.
While many agencies or companies are creating videos to offer information to the public, videos can also be created for internal training. A meter representative once spent about 10 minutes telling us how to take apart a meter. While I was able to write down what he said and create a guide using photos, it would have been better and easier to just video record his explanation and upload it to the computer. Videos can also be used to record underground utility crossings or other construction-related improvements, or examples of best practices. These videos can even be linked to a city’s GIS for later reference.
There are other video sharing sites besides YouTube such as Vimeo, Viddler, and even Flickr. If you are thinking of making your own videos, one of the best things you can do is watch what others have already done. And if you know of any great public works-related videos, make sure to send us the link!
Update: On April 12, 2011, Cisco announced they are discontinuing the Flip camera. Speculation has been that in an effort to reduce company costs, Cisco decided the Flip could no longer compete with smart phones.