5 months ago I wrote a post about the beginning stages of our experimentation with Kaltura to provide an open source video management solution on our campus. The possibilities were extremely promising with the ability to stop offloading video hosting by faculty and students to third-parties like YouTube. The built-in support for media RSS feeds would be great for migrating the limited iTunes U content we had. And even today while playing around I managed to do some really amazing things using drop folders to grab archives of live-streamed video and publish it to a site. But the honeymoon didn’t last long and while previously getting things to work was mostly an annoyance I’m convinced after conversations today that Kaltura has very little interest in contributing to the open source version of their software. Any university considering using their product should consider the open-source version to be extremely limited and purposefully hindered to provoke people towards Kaltura’s hosted and paid solutions.I’m no stranger to open-source software, even software that is made open-source while still having a paid component existing. Our university uses Instructure Canvas who offers an open-source version of their product (though we pay for the hosted solution). Our department is a WordPress shop through and through and although certain things about Automattic’s WordPress.com solution annoy me within the community, it’s never been a hindrance. With Kaltura (and keep in mind this is the Community Edition which is open source), many of the settings and screens have dialogs asking you to contact Kaltura to upgrade your account. The entire piece of software is one big upsell, and it’s an upsell to a company that I’m starting to think has a vested interest in making sure their open source offering is buggy, unreliable, and broken.
Let’s start with the hidden SEO spam links in embeds. One of the most common uses we had for Kaltura was simply to upload video files and get an embed code. Yet right away I noticed that every embed code included several links back to Kaltura that were trying to provide Google-juice on a bunch of search terms for video management solutions. Take a look at this screenshot from the UMW Great Lives archived videos page to see how this denigrates the experience.
Notice how every single excerpt begins with these spammy titles? That’s the video embedded at the top of the post. Doing a search on how to remove these links brings up a forum post here from 2008 back on their old closed forum where a user complained of the unethical behavior. Their response?
We follow strict guidelines and make sure to include only highly relevant links that do not harm any of our publishers or Kaltura itself. Being open source anyone can remove the links, as well as change any other portion of the code.
Anyone can remove the links, and yet no information was given on how to do that. In fact I can’t find that information anywhere, only complaints from the community Kaltura claims they value. Funny that after 4 years they haven’t decided to act on any of those complaints and remove such an unethical practice. Their “Senior Director of Community” even tells me this isn’t a valid problem in their eyes because the forum link is old and again anyone can remove them.
— Zohar Babin (@zohar) January 9, 2013
— Zohar Babin (@zohar) January 9, 2013
Here’s a hint to all you budding “Community Managers” out there. Don’t treat me like a dumbass. If all you have in response to criticism is corporate bullshit than save it for another day and don’t waste my time injecting your two cents into a civil thread about media servers under the guise of wanting to “reach out and see if there was any help you could provide.” If a company wanted to really have a customer service win they would tell their Community Guru Nutjobs to get off Twitter and start responding to forum posts and emails with actual solutions to problems people face. If you’re defending your product on Twitter you’ve already lost.
Kaltura proudly proclaims that they have a 508 compliant player for accessibility on the web. Since I wanted to try out providing closed captions with videos I paid for a program that would write the necessary SRT files, uploaded them, and attached them to the video. And yet when looking around to find that “508 Player” that had the closed captioning toggles I couldn’t find it anywhere. I wasn’t alone. According to this thread there are a lot of people who don’t think it’s in the install at all. That thread is 8 months old and doesn’t have a single response from a developer for a feature that they claim exists in their software. Sound suspect to you?
I could go on and on with the various headaches that I’ve dealt with, giving this piece of software one pass after another but after my back and forth with them on Twitter this evening I’ve realized life is too short to give a shit. Don’t waste your time with Kaltura. Here’s a conversation I had with a few folks that includes links to a few other options I’ll be exploring over the next few months: