Over the years I’ve had a number of engagements where my focus was identifying and recommending the best videos in a particular niche for a client who was looking to curate them. Often part of my gig was doing the curation myself. The search for good videos has always been tough, and, as I’ve recently found, it isn’t getting any easier.

I’m a resourceful researcher, and good at it. I love finding and organizing cool stuff. Being a quality filter. And putting it out there where people can find it. The only thing I’ve found that’s harder than finding and identifying great enthusiast video is smartphone apps (more on that in another posting).

In crafting the content for my new Dawn Productions website I decided to include a video offering, showcasing the best of the best in a number of categories. My goal was to find gems that entertain, illuminate, inspire, inform. I scoured the web, and used multiple resources. (Be sure to check the videos out, and post a comment about others to include or reactions to my selections.)

This posting is in two parts. In this first one I identify and discuss the main video search engines, Blinkx and Truveo. In the second part I cover the major video portals as well as some niche enthusiast video sites. I’m sure I’ve missed some.

Blinkx is the best known of the search engines. The site is well designed, with good UI and navigation if you explore it using Blinkx’s video categories.  In that case what you get is an editorial selection with underlying criteria I’ve never been able to understand. This is good for browsing and seeing what’s new (or new to Blinkx) but isn’t helpful for pure research of the kind I’ve been doing. This feature is a nice alternative way to browse as opposed to something like YouTube, and a good way to find a collection of unusual titles though you’ll miss out on the social features you find on other sites.

My problem with Blinkx comes up when I try to use it for more than just browsing. Blinkx spiders scrape the web and bring results they find anywhere and everywhere. This leads to a multiplicity of duplicates which appear in Blinkx search results in no apparent order, identified only by the icon of the site where Blinkx’s spiders found the video. Very confusing. Very. The listing is totally random. And even the dates are misleading; they are the dates a particular site first ‘published’ the video, not the date it was initially deployed by its producer.

Here’s an example. One of the playlists on the Dawn Productions website is Enlightening Talks. An obvious place to look for awesome videos of talks is TED Talks.  So I did a search on Blinkx. Useless. The search for TED Talks returned 17,000 videos. In seemingly no order, and with no information to help refine the results. There are actually around 600 videos on ted.com, so Blinkx’s results are redundant. As an aside, ted.com does a stellar job helping visitors sort through their offering. Check it out for sure.

Now let’s see how the competition does. Truveo is a true search engine, and it provides more useful results pages. The site itself also has a much more current look to it in terms of design, UI, and functionality. Truveo also has a fairly functional iPhone app. The ‘Most Twittered’ option is a great way to see what’s hot now; Truveo has a ‘mashup’ partnership with Twitter. Some of the result pages have a ‘hot searches’ sidebar, and the hottest are listed under the main search window.

When you input a search (let’s say for animation, which is one of our Dawn playlists), you’re given a number of options to refine the search. And the search itself is fairly robust. The results page offers a number of ways to configure the results, including most popular, top ranked, most recent, and highest rated (based solely on Truveo views). To further refine your results you can also select what channels you want to see results from. All this makes the discovery process much easier.

Truveo draws from all of the leading professional news, entertainment, sports, and informational sites, as well as the viral sites such as YouTube. And I’ve found little or no duplication of titles, unlike the mess over on Blinkx. Just to check I did a search for TED Talks. 1,630 videos were returned, but many of these are news pieces about the conference which are easy enough to select out by unchecking some of the source channels. Of course in this case I’d still go directly to ted.com – which surprisingly isn’t an option from Truveo, though the TED channel on YouTube (which is prominent on Truveo) is pretty robust.

It’s all still overwhelming, and it takes a lot of time (and viewing) to find the gems. But Truveo is the one I’d recommend and the only one of the two I use.

Please comment and discuss. I’d love to get a conversation going.

In my next posting I be reviewing some of the video sites themselves through my search lens. Check back, or even better follow me on Twitter (@crispopenoe) or sign up for our RSS so you’ll get a notice as soon as a new posting goes up.

The Best Videos – Where Are They? And How Do You Find Them. Assessing Blinkx and Truveo

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