How to organize, share, and discuss videos in groups

YouTube is amazing. It is a big part of the rapid transformations in how we communicate with each other in the modern world. Imagine if you met someone under 80 who didn’t know what YouTube was!

The problem is that YouTube is so dominant – and free – that people are trying to use it for more than it is designed for. It’s the obvious choice for sharing video privately because you can leave the video Unlisted, accessible by people who have the link. So you can share video privately by sharing a link in your group – on email or Facebook or whatever. [Fun fact: You can do this in Dropbox too, but for Basic (free) plan accounts you can only stream the first 15 minutes of a video.]

But there are some serious problems with using YouTube like this.
There are better alternatives that we discuss below.

There are so many kinds of groups that might want to share videos privately.

  • Sports teams wanting to share and discuss training and game footage
  • Teachers wanting students to watch and engage with video
  • Creative teams wanting to comment on drafts of videos and images
  • People in the arts and crafts filming themselves to get remote coaching
  • Musicians that want to critique their performances together
  • Businesses that want to record their employees’ performance to make sure they’re doing things right and provide coaching so they get better
  • and lots more…

We see at least three problems with using YouTube to share videos.

First, it’s not really all that private because if the link gets shared just a little too far, and then those people share the link, you’ve lost control and your only option is to take the video down. Maybe it can be posted again with a new link but then the cycle might start all over again.

Second, it’s cumbersome to keep multiple videos organized for the group. People often resort to another tool to store the links, like Facebook or Google Sheets. One high school basketball team, for instance, had a shared google spreadsheet with the names of the games they had played and a column with the link to the appropriate video. If you have a larger group with sub-groups, like teachers with groups in their classes, this gets really clunky and takes a lot of effort by the organizer. You can use YouTube Playlists, but you’ll have to provide a link to each one if your group wants to have multiple videos in multiple lists.

Third, while there are comments allowed on YouTube videos, they are only general comments, not tied to specific moments in the video. And they just appear in the chronological order they were made, so they’re not great for a group that wants to discuss what was happening and particular times in the video and have a dialogue about that, back and forth, asynchronously.

The solution  to these problems is to use a private video site that lets you import YouTube videos, organize them by putting them in playlists or assigning them to subgroups, and allows commenting and replies tied to specific moments in the video.

Here are some tools to do this (jump down to our recommendation):

  • Vimeo lets you do this. But you can’t import video directly from YouTube. And the timeline commenting is only available in the Pro version, which is $20USD/month for 3 users or $50/month for 10. Not really affordable for the kinds of groups that will be needing to store video on YouTube.
  • Frame.io is a nicely design video review app for creative industries. You could get a Pro account at $17/month and then have unlimited ‘reviewers’ so everyone in the group could watch and make comments. But they can’t upload their own video to the site or import from YouTube.
  • Ziflow is pretty similar. $18/user/month but you can also have unlimited reviewers with that one $18/month license. And same problem here: reviewers – group members -- can’t upload their own video to the site or import from YouTube.
  • Lumière is another one, designed for entertainment market research. You could use their free version, import YouTube only, and you’re limited to 25 people in the group. But their interface is really nice and even has pointers to spots on the video as well as timeline comments. The drawback is that those users don’t have accounts: you’re still just sharing a link even though it’s a Lumière link and you can put a set of videos in each ‘Activity’ that you share.
  •  VideoAnt was made by the University of Minnesota and still works, hosted free. It does have user accounts, connects to each user’s YouTube account, and has time-specific comments and replies. It even has groups. Not a bad solution at all. One disadvantage is that you can’t group videos together into playlists or assignments that your group members have to do. If you were running a pottery class and had students video themselves, upload to YouTube, and import to VideoAnt, your student videos would just be a jumble of videos on your catalog page in VideoAnt.
  • LookAt is another video review tool with pricing similar to Ziflow and Frame.io.
  • Dropmark might work. There’s a free version, which lets you bring in videos and other links, but to use it with a group you’ll need the Team plan at $5/user/month. And it looks like the commenting isn’t time-specific.

but our recommendation is...

We (of course) think WeVu is your best bet for sharing video privately, organizing the videos, and having discussions around them. WeVu is really free. All users get one free site where they can import YouTube and Dropbox videos. That WeVu site can contain multiple playlists and groups. You can invite as many users as you wish – up to 1000 per site. And best of all, when you log into WeVu you’ll see your own site and any other sites that you have been invited to. So you can be a site owner in control of one site but also be a member of other sites.

Please share with colleagues who could use WeVu!
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