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Review: Vine

July 8, 2013 Blog 2 Comments

ling fluentVine is a video app developed for Twitter that likes to tout itself as revolutionary, but apparently the revolution will not be archived – at least not with the correct date.  I got a chance to review the app after it was finally released on Android last month; my grievances are aired below. Bottom line? Vine will allow video activists to efficiently bear witness via  6-second, GIF-style videos, but saving them for the long term will not be as easy…or fun.

If you aren’t familiar with Vine, there’s a good primer by Chloe Albenesius at PC Mag, and I enjoyed John Muellerleile’s more intimate post on his personal experience with the app.  As an artistic tool that uses little storage space (think of it as the video version of Twitter’s 140 character limit), Vine has great potential for collectors and creators of activist content. My review focuses on the three areas to look for when identifying an archival-friendly digital tool: technical metadata, file accessibility, and usage rights.

Some things I noted after spending a few hours with the app:

Grey Blocker
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  • Buggy local storage capability.  Once you have created the video, you are asked if you want to turn on sharing to Vine, Twitter, or Facebook. You can turn off all sharing and, according to the Vine help pages, the video is only accessible through your phone’s photo and video library. I had intermittent success with locating a file I created. The app created a folder within my phone’s DCIM folder, but of the six or so videos I created, only one actually ended up in this folder and only after I mounted an SD card into my phone. I’m not sure if it’s related, though, because the folder was created on my phone’s local storage, not SD card storage.  A second video uploaded after mounting an SD card also did not land into the folder. The user has no control over manually saving the file anywhere else on their phone. So, you got me.  At one point, retrieving the stored file off my phone was so befuddling that I finally just shared the video to Twitter and then downloaded the MP4 video by right-clicking and saving the file off the web.
  • Technical metadata is sloppy. The most glaring development oversight is that the technical metadata, according to Exiftool, sets the create date of my dog video to February 6th, 2036. Many of us activists on-the-go rely on the technical metadata of our digital files to tell us what we might have failed to set right in the midst of action. I sent a tweet and a bug report to Vine, so we’ll see if there’s an update soon. You can view the technical metadata report of the video here.I should note that the date issue was the case in both the file downloaded off the internet, and the one file that ended up being  stored locally on my phone.
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  • Rights are not as bad as they could be: The Terms of Service agreement that Vine users will sign, usually without reading, are icky, but not atypical.  Vine reserves the rights to disclose your personal information when it deems necessary and to alter and use your content as benefits their corporate adventures, all the while taking care to let you know it’s not responsible for anything that happens to your data. It does claim, interestingly, that it has the right “to preserve” your content. This definitely not a word used in the Youtube Terms of Service (which uses the word “retain” in a similar context). I may be reading into the usage too much…but by using that term, does Vine grant itself rights to submit data to, say the Library of Congress as its parent, Twitter, does each and every one of your tweets? All in all,  it is generally not recommended by ActArcs to rely on profit-driven services to hang on to your data for a long period of time; Vine’s terms of service offers no exception. If you are storing any valued content on Vine,  keep a copy locally.

I created a Vine video of my dog  languishing in the heat on a hot summer day; my observations are based on shooting this video with an Android Photon Motorola XT897. As usual with these things, if you aren’t a phone app developer – and I am not – it can be difficult to tell if the problem you are having is with your phone, with the app, or some combination of the two. Take it all with a grain of salt and do let us know in the comments section if you have had different or comparable experiences with Vine.

Update: After other ActArcs played around with Vine on their iPhones it seems that iOS users will not have the same issues with the app as I did on my Android.  Technical metadata is sound and the files they created went directly to their usual camera roll.

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  • Phil Harvey

    Using an incorrect time zero for dates in videos is unfortunately not too uncommon. ExifTool 9.25 or later contains a patch to work around this.

  • Activist Archivists

    Great news! Thanks for the tip.