While Twitter allows users to communicate in 140 characters or less, its new app Vine extends and enhances that brevity while retaining the social networking roots of Twitter.
So what is Vine, exactly? It’s a service that lets you take super short video clips and share them with the world of Vine users. Plus, it lets you connect Vine to your Twitter feed so that you can tweet your Vine videos to your Twitter followers — but you don’t have to use Twitter to use Vine.
6 Seconds? Are You Kidding?
Before you really think about it — or experience it — 6 seconds seems far too short to be useful at all; however, it’s quite a long time in practice. Since the average attention span of humanity has been shrinking every time a person looks at a smartphone screen, 6 seconds might be the new length of a sitcom by the middle of 2013. If Two And A Half Men were posted on Vine each week, I’d still be a fan.
Joking aside, Vine says that its GIF-like video posts are all about abbreviation.
“They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas, and objects that make up your life. They’re quirky, and we think that’s part of what makes them so special,” Dom Hofmann, Vine cofounder and general manager, explains on the company’s blog.
How quirky and how special? Well, that remains to be seen. Some posts are quirky and some are special, and some of the posts I viewed seemed so bright and fast and jerky that they made me shy away from focusing my eyes for fear that doing so would induce a seizure.
Preview in a Browser?
While Twitter can be functional without an iPhone — or any smartphone — Vine is really useful only if you have an iPhone and you installed the Vine app. Otherwise, you don’t yet have any real ability to discover Vine videos. The only discovery conduit is through the app itself.
Once you download the app, you’re prompted to create a profile. Like Twitter, you need the profile so you can follow other Vine users, comment on their Vine posts, and connect the Vine service to your Twitter account. In fact, you can sign into Vine with your Twitter account and then grant Vine the ability to send posts to Twitter. Some early users had some trouble logging in, but this may have been due to a massive blast of people trying out Vine all at once. For me, it was seamless and easy.
Finding Vine videos, however, was easy but not particularly satisfying. As of right now, there’s a lot of dumb videos. Fortunately, there’s at least one editor on the Vine staff who creates Editor’s Picks, but that person still has to find cool stuff. A few thousand people liked a “Banana #magic” post by a guy named Dave, as did the “Editor” of Vine.
It’s basically a banana that incrementally disappears in slices really quickly. It’s not exactly magic, but it’s indubitably a banana, and for all you Twitter users out there, you can immediately see the connection of “#magic” with how the hashtag world of Twitter works.
The hashtags let you search on topics, or you can simply search for people you know, too. Try searching for Ian Padgham who made a Vine post about a staring contest that a) made me laugh out loud, albeit briefly, and b) made me realize that 6 seconds is quite a long time. He used the #comedy hashtag but did not mention “staring contest” at all in his brief description, which brings up another key point Vine: It’s currently undercooked.
Or perhaps that’s not quite fair. It’s certainly minimalistic. Either way, as near as I can tell, you can’t edit or delete any Vine post that you post live to the world. Once it’s there, it’s there forever. Unless you email the somebodies behind Vine, via the minimal Help page.
If you email them, well, who knows what will happen exactly or how quickly. So if you do a line drawing face on your belly button and film it in an argument with a piece of chocolate cake, don’t expect to retract it from the world anytime soon — or even when you sober up.
Along a similar line of thinking, there isn’t a way to send, show, or publish Vine content privately. If you create a Vine video and post it, it goes out to everybody on Vine. If you tweet it, Vine will create a short vine.co-based url, which will let people view your Vinevid in a minimalistic Web browser-based window.
Here’s my first one ever, and yes, that is my real voice with a real grunt, and while I wish I could edit it to sound smoother and slightly less harsh, it’s there forever: http://vine.co/v/b5PYLpZ3wt7. And sorry it’s not my belly button arguing with a piece cake. (I couldn’t get the lighting right and hold the iPhone while acting out the parts.)
But don’t let me shy you away from Vine — there are some very creative people out in the world, including this kid’s “HULK SMASH!!!!” vid: http://vine.co/v/b5PqdxaUUPa.
How to Create Vine Videos
Fortunately, using Vine is intuitive and easy. To create a Vine video, you point your iPhone camera at something and touch the screen. While you’re touching the screen, Vine is recording. When you stop touching the screen, Vine stops recording.
This pause lets you cut to a new scene, cut to a new subject, or move an object. Touch the screen again, and you’re recording again. Stop touching, you pause, and you can switch scenes, subjects, or adjust your content. In this way, you can compress a concept that takes a lot more than 6 seconds . . . down into 6 seconds. So yes, there’s some brilliance built into Vine.
The down side is that Vine doesn’t let you do any retakes. If you get 5.5 seconds shot perfectly — but then screw up the last half-second — you’re stuck with it . . . or you have to start over and get it all right in one (albeit potentially staged and fragmented) take.
Still, there’s something cool going on with Vine. At the very least, some creative Twitter users will use Vine to add thousands of words into their short Twitter tweets — via a Vine vid. For everyone else, well, it’s kind of like most social media apps . . . it could explode into something amazing or get displaced by an app that gives you 9 seconds.