What a great thing to read in the New York Times this morning! C-SPAN as you may know stands for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, and is a set of networks that broadcasts nothing but government proceedings and public affairs programming. Now this network has taken “virtually every minute” (according to the New York Times article) of its archives and made them available on the Internet.
The archive Web site is available at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/videoLibrary/. The site currently has more than 160,000 hours of footage dating back to 1987. C-SPAN actually started in 1979, but according to the NYT article much of the early broadcasts are not available. There are about 10,000 hours of footage available pre-1987 which, the article notes, will have to be formatted for the Web before it can go online.
The front page of the C-SPAN archives actually has many ways you can browse the video; you can look at the most recent video as well as the most shared and most e-mailed video in a variety of categories. There are a few articles, too, pointing to video content. But I always like to start with a nice simple keyword search. And I knew exactly what to search for.
Let me nerd out on you for a minute. I taped the Enron hearings. You remember Enron? The energy company that also generated massive amounts of bogus accounting? Yeah, them. They were the subject of Congressional Hearings in early 2002, so I did a search for that (maybe I can toss these tapes.)
The search results were divided up in several ways — as you can see from the screenshot I got results from people (Skilling, Lay, Watkins, etc.) and by program. You can sort programs by relevance, newest, or oldest. So while I did eventually find the Enron hearings, I also found Jeffrey Skilling testifying about electricity deregulation in 1997, and Ken Lay participating in a forum about energy regulatory issues in 1990. The individual pages for videos are nice — there’s an in-page player with links to embed the video on your own site if you like, and links for sharing on Facebook or Twitter. There’s also a list of related videos and of the people who are in the video.
Oh yes, people have their own pages as well, though sometimes the archiving is a little off (if you do a search for Yahoo you’ll get Jerry Yang in the list of people in Yahoo-related videos, but there’s also one appearance from that lesser known Yahoo co-founder, Jerry Young.)
Take Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO and current candidate for Governor of California.
Her page is at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/person/58256. Here’s you’ll find links to her latest appearances (and an RSS feed!), a list of people with whom she appears, a photo gallery, and a list of appearances by year. I wish they had a similar person gallery for companies — I would love an RSS feed of a specified company’s representatives appearing before Congress.
There were a couple of other disappointments with the video archives as well. Many of these videos are fairly long — an hour plus. Many of the videos I looked at did have transcripts with time stamps, so if you wanted to find something in the video you could go through the transcript, find it, and then pull the player slider to the appropriate timestamp. But I wish that appearances of people had been marked in some way so you could jump to different places in the video.
Overall, though, the video pages are nicely organized with a ton of information, the people pages have RSS feeds (RSS for search results — how cool would THAT be?), and the promise of more, older archives to come. I can’t decide who’s going to have more fun with this archive — Jon Stewart or The Gregory Brothers.