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What Do You Think About ZDTV / TechTV / G4?

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Every single day, someone asks me “what do you think about G4 and TechTV?”. I always say “TechTV is no longer around, but I am”.

The bottom line is that we don’t need TechTV. TechTV needed us. By “us”, I mean people and the community. G4 isn’t so much about community, as it is about entertainment. If you want entertainment, then by all means – watch it.

Even though G4 has run some of my favorite movies, I have never watched them on G4. I’ve never watched a single thing on G4. I have no issue with G4 necessarily. But it’s as much like TechTV as the crust in my underwear is. TechTV is no longer around. Why not move on from it?

Those of us from TechTV have moved on, and most of us are doing far better things than we did back then. There will never be another TechTV. It’s just not going to ever happen again. There will likely not be a tech channel on television that is 24/7, and that is honestly a good thing.

With the Internet, who needs TechTV? The community has a chance to play along together and have new voices be heard. Different kinds of discoveries can be shared amongst ourselves. We shouldn’t look to TechTV or even G4, but to the memory of what TechTV was as we move forward.

I asked some of my friends what they thought on the matter, as well.

I really miss Tech TV. G4 is for no-life suckas! – Helen Sventitsky

I miss ZDTV and Tech TV. Was all over those before I even realized ow geeky I was. – The Amber

I never got to see TechTV even tho I lived in the Bay Area. They didn’t offer it on my cable system at the time. I don’t like G4 TV these days. – PC Easy

I loved it. Thought it was the best of tech and kept everyone up to date with great commentary. Then they switched the format so many times, it just died out with the suits trying to take advantage of the Internet bubble. Remember when they did Headline news style during the day for awhile with tickers? Loved Silicon Spin and The Screen Savers. – Eric @ CS Techcast

I enjoyed ZDTV, and subsequently TechTV as well. G4 pisses me off. A lot. They just destroyed everything that made that channel good. And now they’re going the MTV route and putting on a ton of shows that have nothing to do with the purpose of the channel to begin with. Pretty soon we’re going to get G4-2, with the promise that we really WILL get all those gaming and tech shows back…only to have it too overtaken by crap reality shows and cartoons in a few years’ time. – Amanda H.

I use to watch ZDTV and later Tech TV and think Oh wow! I need to check out this freebsd thing, or cool linux command line switches… Now its like oh, nice single entendre. I guess if I was still in my teens, or had absolutely no idea what that station used to be like I could watch some of the shows. – J. Abdul-Qahhar

The only thing on G4 that I watch is Code Monkeys, and even then it’s just because of the JoCo connection mroe than anything else. Oh, and Clarence. I loves me some Clarence. 😀 – Amanda H.

I remember scrolling through channels and when I saw the name Tech TV I had a nerdgasam. I started looking over all the shows they had and was hooked to a pathetic level. G4 lost my interest very quickly and now it is just plain annoying. Zero interest. Bring back the tech and I might pretend to care. – MarkCarras

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An UndoTV Update

In a matter of hours, DNS should be resolving for UndoTV.com. Before you rush the site (as I’m sure you will), please note that we’re only letting vetted talent in at first. Submit your email address to be added to the queue for invitation codes – which will start going out mid-November. You’ll see our temporary “about” page soon enough, but here’s what Leo and I have written:

Today, the idea of a tech-centric TV network has disappeared from the minds of Hollywood’s elite. Par for the course! Passionate communities are often kept an arm’s length away from their favorite broadcasted content in traditional media circles.

It’s time to undo that way of thinking, don’t you think?

TechTV alumni just wanted a place where we could all come together and funnel our independent efforts. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” keeps ringing through my head – not just our existing content, but NEW stuff (and NEW faces) as well. Leo Laporte and I have done our best to set the stage for UndoTV.

The blogger Steve Borsch commented in a previous thread: “So, who decides what gets ‘on’ UndoTV? Who the talent is? What emerges?” The UndoTV talent base is starting with the former ZDTV / TechTV staff, previous show guests, and vetted friends. Without a base of quality content, we’d be nothing more than a video portal clone.

Everybody is welcome here – and everybody retains 100% ownership of their own content.

The community (you) will determine the direction of our efforts. Certainly, some former TechTV talent has gone on to do fantastic productions far outside the realm of the tech industry. Everybody is welcome to help us undo the idea of television – helping reinvent the way community can influence the active development of a site, its content, and its superstars.

You are tomorrow’s network. You control the horizontal – and the vertical, too. As such, we only want to see your own creations here. If you want to upload someone else’s content, please do so elsewhere? It’s the community’s job to keep this community clean, cool, and collected. We hope you take that responsibility to heart.

Expect, in short time, new features and functionality, new ways to interact, and new ways to find a passionate audience for your own talents.

TechTV = UndoTV

TechTV was a television network that held within it so much promise, so much talent. We had an army of fanatics stationed all around the globe. The Internet-savvy did everything in their power to empower that very community – but many of those efforts fell victim to a traditional media mindset. We’re now on the cusp of a new media revolution, and I’ve begun to spearhead efforts to ressurect the ideals of TechTV.

When I seeded the idea about letting the community help us centralize, the response was overwhelming – both from TechTV alumni and our ever-present supporters. I’m here to tell you now: it’s going to happen. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but… that’s what makes it worth doing! The most difficult hurdle has already been overcome, in my opinion: we have an audience that is NOT being served effectively.

ZDTV/TechTV brought us all together, but that brand belongs to somebody else – to a completely different time and management style. It’s not the name that’s most important – it’s what we do with that name which will prove our validity and worth. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts!

Leo and I have discussed a few core values this impending structure must support, the most revolutionary of which is content producers owning 100% of their contributions. We want to enable former TechTV talent to upload new and existing content, and we want to bring new talent into the fold as well. Sales will also be an important part of this process, so we’d also like to help match sponsorship with these personalities.

The working (and likely final) name for this project is simple, poignant, and genre-neutral: UndoTV. I’ve registered UndoTV.com, Undo.tv, UndoTV.net, and UndoTV.org through GoDaddy. I believe that UndoTV.com will be the primary domain (with Undo.tv being a permanent redirect to it). It’s my hope to turn over UndoTV.net and UndoTV.org to the community, letting vetted leaders craft those sites with tools of their choosing. Perhaps one could hold within it a wiki, another could hold a customized version of MUWP (which I’m developing for Lockergnome.com anyway)? That’s completely up to you, my friends.

Why UndoTV? Several reasons:

  • Some former TechTV talent are no longer producing tech content.
  • We’re undoing TechTV’s untimely and unwarranted demise.
  • The television industry is changing, and we’re all helping “undo” it.
  • There are few preconceived notions with the word “undo.”
  • The CTRL+Z reference is geeky enough, but it doesn’t turn off non-geeks.
  • The appropriate domains were available.
  • Informal reactions to the “UndoTV” name were positive.
  • All TechTV/ZDTV fans will find us, no matter what we call it.

A good name is important, but not as important as what we make of that name. What did “Digg” mean before the community pushed it to a powerhouse? What’s more, we’re really trying to help people who are afraid of technology – and getting a technophobe to pay attention to “tech” anything is nothing short of impossible. Let me put it to you another way: how do normal people discover YouTube videos?

I’m confident that the timing for UndoTV is perfect. Leo and I have identified a potential platform to begin publishing through, but an actual launch date is still in the air. We have every element in line for success: an amazing community, a range of great talent, and a strong desire to push the media industry forward.

Could be the Peet’s talking, but… I’m excited. Next steps?

  • Draft a unique logo
  • Prep the site structure
  • Locate smart sponsors
  • Contact interested talent
  • Solicit community feedback
  • Identify organizational needs
  • Define necessary roles
  • Flesh out legal structure

Here we go. Let’s see if Dvorak likes the idea.

What Made TechTV Different

Television affects everybody – some, more than others. I couldn’t imagine my childhood without Saturday morning cartoons or afternoon specials. When I first heard about ZDTV, I was thrilled – though I was never in a position to receive it. The network became TechTV after Paul Allen’s aquisition, but its programming remained as remote as ever. Still, I wanted my TechTV like teens of the ’80s wanted their MTV. Music has mass appeal, but talking about technology has always been relegated to the lunatic fringe. We choose technology as a lifestyle, but often forget that most lifestyles have no choice but to use technology. In this sense, Hollywood is probably not going to serve our community needs half as well as we can serve ourselves. Yesterday’s rally is testament to the idea of a “TechTV” – not just the talent supporting it, but the very concept of technology content on the television screen. The Web is wonderful, but the TV is still socially legit.

Robert said… “TechTV is already here and it’s WAY better than what was on the real TV network. Did TechTV ever put videos up to teach you how to do something really geeky like use ASP.NET 2.0? No. They couldn’t have. They would have pissed off 90% of their audience.”

No, it’s not already HERE – it’s “all over the place,” and that’s only part of the problem. It’s true that you don’t need a lot of money to make something look good, but “talent” is equally as important (if not moreso) than the content itself. If TechTV ever put up videos about ASP.NET 2.0, it wouldn’t have pissed off their audience – it would have put them to sleep. Sometimes, all people need (and want) is a high-level overview. It’s the same reason why you probably only look at the first ten results from a search engine (and seldom scroll past the fold). Do you think the entertainment business would be in business if it wasn’t entertaining? I hate to say it, but knowing how to operate a camera doesn’t make you a photographer – just as knowing the difference between nouns and verbs doesn’t make you a writer. This isn’t about pissing off an audience, Scoble – it’s about supporting, embracing, and extending a community that was abandoned! 6,000 diggs is tough to ignore, dude.

The TechTV Alumni discussion list is totally jazzed – because we miss connecting with our ol’ community as much as they miss connecting with us (yes, even the people who hate me). As more details emerge, we’ll be sure to share them. The “TechTV” name is dead, but its spirit is still very much alive – and marching forward.

TechTV: Rebuilt by Community?

Looks like Leo may have let loose the flood gates: TechTV Reunion? It’s possible. I think it’s very possible. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that I want to help make it happen. I think we could make a good go of the idea on the ‘Net before taking it to a television studio – unless, of course, there’s a studio out there that understands just how much TechTV helped both technophiles and technophobes. That’s one idea.

I’m thinking we could do something a bit more permanent (at least, online). I believe the community can bring the idea of “TechTV” back to life. What we’ll need, of course, is YOUR HELP.

For starters, I’m looking for a centralized site where TechTV Alumni could log in, post a video via Flash controls, then have their recordings indexed (tagged? syndicated?) and streamed on-demand. There’s probably an open source app I’m not seeing at the moment, but if any of the TechTV faithful can help… we’re all ears. It could be a TechTV Variety video site – but can the community build it for us to use? We could likely do this through a video portal, but… I think a TechTV community-controlled (or directed) solution is the big win.

Until then, I’m going to knock on a few more doors to see if I can generate genuine interest – for sponsors and/or studios.