Tag: video

Remote Working: the Benefits, Disadvantages, and some Lessons Learned in 15+ years

Djurdjica-boskovic-G8_A4ZWxE3E-unsplash-776pxWith so many people now having to learn to work remotely due to restrictions related to COVID-19, what information can people share who have been working from home? Back in October 2019, I realized it was 20 years ago when I started working remotely, and so I sent out some tweets asking for opinions about the benefits of working remotely, the challenges / disadvantages, and then the lessons people have learned. I subsequently recorded podcast episodes on each of those three topics.

The links to the Twitter threads and podcasts are below.At some point I may turn them into longer articles themselves, but in the meantime, I hope they will help some of you with ideas for how to get adjusted to this new way of working.

And… I would suspect many of you might just want to jump directly to the lessons learned… 

Benefits

Many of the benefits were about no commute, the ability to be present with family, freedom to work and live wherever, flexibility, caring for family, and more.  (Note that a good number of the benefits mentioned (such as working from "anywhere") are currently NOT possible because of the self-isolation / quarantine imposed by the COVID-19 situation.)

Disadvantages

Loneliness, isolation, and the lack of social connections with colleagues topped the list of disadvantages, along with the lack of physical activity, home distractions and more.

Lessons Learned

Some of the key lessons that I have learned in over 15 years of working remotely, and that were common in other comments include:

  • Create a separate space (ideally, a separate room) - this is critical if you can do it.
  • Invest in a good chair and other office equipment - since you are going to be sitting in it so many hours of your day! (Or some people now have desks that let you stand, too.)
  • Make time for physical activity - get OUTSIDE if you can! Go for a walk. Go for a run. Or work out in a home gym. Multiple people suggested dogs being a great way to force you to do this.
  • Make a schedule - and STICK to that schedule - it is super easy to work many hours at all different times. Figure out a schedule that works for you,  your employer, your team, and your family - and then try to stick to that schedule.
  • Use collaboration tools - things like Slack are critical for your own sanity so that you are “connected” to other people in your organization. (Granted, you may need to figure out how to not be too connected to everyone and spend your day drowning in notifications!)
  • Take actual lunch breaks - step away from your computer and your home office. Get up and move around.
  • Sit with your face toward natural light, if possible - it looks better than artificial light… and you’ll get some Vitamin D, too. 🙂
  • Lighting IS important, particularly for video calls - you do want to have light shining on you in a way that works well for video. You may want to experiment with different lamps around you or on your desk.
  • Have video calls with other remote workers - make time to connect with colleagues, ideally over video calls. Even if it is just to chat for 5 or 10 minutes. It can help ease the sense of isolation - and they may like it, too! Sometimes if I have a question that I’m going to write in email or Slack, I’ll ask myself, “would it be faster if I just ask them in person?” And if so, I’ll ping them via a message to see if they are available for a video call.
  • Work in different locations - Try sometimes to get out of your home office and work in other parts of the house. Take a laptop and work in another room, or on a deck or yard if you have one. (Granted, this might be hard if you have many people in your household all working in the same building.)

On this last point, you’ll see in the Twitter thread and hear on the podcast all the comments about working from other locations. For example, working at cafes with WiFi, etc. That IS a critical lesson many of us have learned. Successful remote working can involve getting outside the walls of your home office - and outside of your home. Obviously this is currently NOT possible with the COVID-19 situation, but something to definitely think about if you continue working remotely once we are past all of this.

Other remote workers… what other lessons learned would you add?

Best wishes to you all as we all try to navigate this new world of social distancing and working remotely over the next weeks and months!


UPDATE #1 - over on Twitter, someone I know pointed out that this is NOT regular "working from home" (WFH). His text: "I've WFH 11 years. current situation is not normal WFH. you can't go to a coffee shop to interact w people, work out or take advantage of all sorts of WFH perks like normal.
self-quarantine != WFH
"

I definitely agree, Paul, this is NOT regular "working from home".


Photo by Djurdjica Boskovic on Unsplash. - No, that’s not MY desk… far too clean! 😏

Facebook Adds Stories to iOS/Android Apps to Try to Kill Snapchat

Facebook stories

Facebook truly DESPISES Snapchat!

As documented in a blog post today, Facebook has now added "Stories" to their main mobile apps. Just like Snapchat, these stories:

  • expire after 24 hours
  • can be either images or videos
  • have all sorts of filters and effects you can add
    • this includes a "masks" feature similar to Snapchat "lenses" that can change someone's face
  • can also be sent directly to one or more of your friends
    • and just like Snapchat, the recipient can view the photo - and then view the photo once more in 24 hours
  • can be created by simply swiping to the right to rapidly access the camera

If you reload your iOS or Android app today, you should see that the top of the app has changed. You now have:

  • a camera icon in the upper left corner that lets you open the camera
  • a "Direct" icon that gets you to images or videos sent directly to you. (Yet another messaging inbox.)
  • a bar of icons of all the friends who have posted Stories so far

And, as mentioned before, you can now swipe to the right to access the camera. If you don't have this feature today, you should within the next day or so.

Cloning Snapchat again and again...

Adding "Stories" to the main Facebook app comes as no surprise. It's been clear for a while that Facebook was jealous of all the people using Snapchat and wanted to bring them back inside Facebook's shiny walled garden. Facebook had already rolled out "stories" in their other Messaging apps:

  • Instagram Stories
  • WhatsApp Status
  • Facebook Messenger "My Day"

Of these, Instagram Stories has been viewed as successful. The WhatsApp and Messenger launches have been very recent and so it's not clear how many people will use them.

How will Facebook differentiate from Snapchat?

In their blog post, Facebook notes that:

Over the coming months, we plan to introduce new ways for the Facebook community to create their own frames and effects that can be used on any photo or video created with the new Facebook camera. Our goal is for the camera to be a home to hundreds of dynamic and fun effects that give you new ways to connect with friends, family, and your community.

We hope that with the new Facebook camera, Stories and Direct, it will be easier than ever to see the world through each other’s eyes

While it is possible in Snapchat to create a custom "geofilter", this teaser from Facebook sounds like a great bit more.

Facebook, of course, has a huge userbase. As I wrote in my "Directory Dilemma" post a few years back, users will use an app for messaging if the people they want to communicate with use that app. And the reality is that Facebook is the center of many people's communication.

So on one level, Facebook doesn't need to differentiate from Snapchat. They simply need to provide this functionality... and hope that this keeps people from opening up the yellow ghost app.

And of course, Facebook still supports regular text posts, photos, links, all of which last longer than 24 hours. They also have Facebook Live video streaming.

This is just really a way to bring "ephemeral messaging" (messages that disappear after a period of time) inside of Facebook's walls.

How many places can people post "stories"?

The question to me is really:

how many places can people realistically post their 24-hour "stories"?

Right now people have at least FIVE major options:

  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Facebook Messenger
  • WhatsApp

... and any other apps that are copying Snapchat right now.

The reality is that users won't post to all of them. They'll choose one... maybe two... and that will be it.

Many people will probably choose to stay right inside of Facebook's walls and use that. Or, if they are already using Instagram Stories, they may stay there.

But what about Facebook Messenger?

One curious aspect of this announcement is bringing direct messaging BACK INSIDE the Facebook mobile app.

Facebook has spent a couple years now moving messaging OUT of the "Facebook" app. They have forced people to use Facebook Messenger to send and receive direct messages on a mobile device.

Now using the "Direct" inbox, we can send and receive messages inside the Facebook app again.

Granted, the messages can only be viewed twice within 24 hours - and they are in the form of images or videos. But we do have messages in the Facebook app again.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook evolves these many different messaging and "stories" channels they have.

Which will YOU choose?

If you have read this far... do you see yourself using the Facebook Stories?

Or will you stay with Snapchat? or Instagram Stories?

Or are you using WhatsApp Status or Facebook Messenger "My Day"?

Or do you just wish this whole "Stories" format would go away? ;-)

Please do leave comments here or wherever this article appears on social media.


P.S. There are many other stories about Facebook Stories appearing today.


Facebook Messenger’s "Instant Video" Lets You Simultaneously Use Video and Chat

FB instant video

The messaging wars continue! Today Facebook Messenger added "Instant Video" to it's iOS and Android app, allowing you to easily share live video while still in a text chat. Facebook has had "video calling" since back in May 2015, but that requires both parties to answer the video call in the same way that Facetime, Wire and every other video app does it.

"Instant Video" is different:

  • VIDEO STARTS OUT ONE-WAY - Only the video of the person initiating "Instant Video" is shown. The recipient sees the video of the sender, but their video connection is NOT enabled. Now, the recipient can start sending video, but they don't have to.

  • AUDIO IS OFF INITIALLY - When the sender starts their video, the recipient receives the video without any sound. They can easily start getting sound by tapping on the speaker icon on the video, but this is great because often you are having a text conversation precisely because you don't want to use audio.

  • YOU CAN STILL SEE THE CHAT - The video overlays the upper right corner of the chat window, but that's it. You can still see the chat messages and continue having your chat.

This last point is quite important and useful. This "Instant Video" lets you add video to a chat, while still allowing chat to be the primary communication medium.

Predictably, there was a great amount of media coverage of this launch today. Some noted that this was yet-another-way Facebook was cloning Snapchat. Others called this an answer to Google Duo.

Regardless, I immediately saw a personal use case. Occasionally I will go to a local coffee shop to pick up muffins for my wife and I. The flavors are always changing. If I don't see one I think she'll like, I often wind up calling - or texting her with the flavors. But it would be actually a bit easier and faster if I texted her "which one do you want?" and then sent her a live video stream where I panned back and forth across the choices. Sure, that may seem a silly use case... but it immediately sprang to my mind.

For "Instant Video" to work, a couple of conditions need to be true:

  • YOU BOTH NEED THE LATEST MESSENGER APP - You need to have the latest version for either iOS or Android.

  • YOU BOTH NEED TO BE *IN* THE CHAT - This is key. You can't just open up Messenger and start sending video to someone who is listed in your contacts. You need to actually be in communication with the other person.

Once this second item is true the video icon on the top of the screen starts pulsating - at which point you can start sending "Instant Video".

I'd note that this is the same icon used to initiate a "regular" video call. However, when you are in a chat with someone else the pulsating icon means you can do this new "Instant Video" style of chat.

I found I really liked the overlay aspect. Here's the view I saw on my end:

FB Messenger video overlay

It worked very well to continue the text conversation while having the video right there, too.

It's an interesting addition as Facebook continues to try to make Messenger be THE tool that people use for messaging. Facebook has this advantage of having an absolutely massive "directory" of users (see "the Directory Dilemma") and so we may see this helping with keep people inside of Facebook's shiny walls.

What do you think? Do you see yourself using this "Instant Video"?

Facebook Live Video Streams Limited to 30 Minutes For Regular Users

After experimenting with Facebook Live video last week, I encountered an interesting limit:
Regular users are LIMITED TO 30 MINUTES per live video stream.

When doing a Facebook Live stream this morning, I suddenly found I started getting warning messages at the 25-minute mark. I captured a few of them:

Facebook live time countdown

Naturally I had to let it run down to be out of time... at which point my iPad screen got all blurry:

Facebooklive blurred screen

and stayed that way for a minute or so when it seems the app or Facebook Live service must have been post-processing the video, because the next thing I saw was a screen telling me that my video was posted to my timeline:

Facebooklive video finished

And that was that.

Now... in Facebook's Best Practices for Facebook Live, they say (my emphasis added):

7. Broadcast for longer periods of time to reach more fans The longer you broadcast, the more likely fans are to discover and share your video with their friends on Facebook. We recommend that you go live for at least 5 minutes and we've seen some public figures broadcast for over an hour.

Presumably this longer time is for "verified" accounts and Pages.

Searching in Facebook Help, I found this page where down under "How do I share a live video to my Timeline on Facebook?" has this (my emphasis added):

During your broadcast, you'll see the number of live viewers, the names of friends who are watching and a real-time stream of comments. Your broadcast can be no longer than 30 minutes. When you end your broadcast, it'll be saved on your Timeline like any other video.

Now, in all honesty, I don't know that the type of videos I could see personally streaming live with Facebook Live would be longer than 30 minutes. In our days of "snackable video", i.e. it's kind of like a quick snack of food, you're generally looking for really short videos of a couple of minutes.

I could see this for quick "person-on-the-street" interviews... quick updates during events, etc. For all of that, the 30-minute limit is fine.

BUT...

... for companies or organizations (or public figures) who might want to live stream a presentation, workshop, talk, etc.... those events might go much longer.

I would assume the path to longer video would be to get your page or account "verified" (and I may have to try this now :-) ).

First Look: Facebook Launches Live Video For All To Take On Twitter’s Periscope

Hey Twitter... your Periscope is in for some serious trouble! On January 28, 2016, Facebook started expanding their "Live Video" to all iOS users in the USA - and it's definitely a strong offering! Naturally, I had to take Facebook Live Video out for a spin:

Experimenting with Facebook Live Video...

Posted by Dan York on Thursday, January 28, 2016

It was extremely easy to use. All I had to do was go into the iOS Facebook app, press the button to start writing a status update, and then tap on the new "Facebook Live Video" icon:

Facebook live video start

After that you get a screen where you can see somewhat of a view of what you are going to show in the camera - and the ability to switch between the front and back cameras:

Facebook live video go live

Hit the "Continue" button, enter in a quick text description... and then hit "Go Live" to begin. That's it!

During the time of the live video, you can move the camera around, switch between front and back cameras, zoom in, adjust white balance... and everything else you'd expect to be able to do.

You also get comments coming in from people that you see on the bottom half of your screen. As you saw if you watched the video above, I could then respond to those comments during the live video stream.

When it's all done and you hit the stop recording button, you then get some stats and nicely have the option to save the video to your camera roll:

Facebook live video done

All in all it was a very simple and easy to use experience.

UPDATE - 1 Feb 2016: It seems that Facebook Live video streams ARE LIMITED TO 30 MINUTES for regular users. I just hit that limit while doing a live stream. Given that the Facebook Best Practices document mentions public figures streaming for over an hour, I'm guessing that "verified" accounts and Pages must have a higher time limit. (I wrote another blog post with screen shots.)

Initial Thoughts About Using Facebook Live Video

Here were some of my initial thoughts about using Facebook Live Video:

1. VIDEOS ARE SQUARE - Facebook nicely gets away from the portrait/vertical vs landscape/horizontal debate by simply making the live video stream square. It doesn't matter which way you hold the camera... or indeed if you switch the position of the camera. It just works.

2. COMMENTS DURING THE LIVE STREAM APPEAR AS COMMENTS TO THE VIDEO IN FACEBOOK - The comments people post during your live stream are nicely captured as comments to the video inside of Facebook. They are all right there for you to see - and for anyone else to see later. I like this!

3. COMMENTS DO NOT APPEAR DURING A REPLAY - My friend Tobias pointed out a down side with the comments... you don't see them in the video (as you do in Periscope) during the replay of the video. This means that comments that are made at a precise moment in the video no longer have the connection with the video. If someone is reacting to what you say by commenting "I totally agree", then I see it during the live stream and can react to that comment during the live stream. However, afterward there is now a comment to the video that says "I totally agree" ... that has lost all connection to its context.

4. LIVE VIDEOS APPEAR RIGHT IN YOUR FEED - When a live video stream is over, the video appears right in your regular Facebook feed... you don't have to do anything special, nor does anyone have to do anything special to find them. (In contrast to, say, YouTube where a live stream does go to your YouTube channel... but it's listed separately from your regular Uploads.)

5. YOU CAN SAVE THE VIDEO TO YOUR iPHONE CAMERA ROLL - When the live stream is over, you also have the option to save the video to your iPhone/iPad camera roll, so you can have a local copy that you can use in other ways.

6. FACEBOOK NOTIFIES PEOPLE YOU ARE LIVE - Similar to Periscope and Meerkat on Facebook, the people following you on Facebook get a notification in their NewsFeed that you are live. However, fans/followers can also subscribe separately to your live videos and get specific notifications whenever you go live.

Facebook live notifications

7. YOU CAN EMBED THE VIDEOS OUTSIDE OF FACEBOOK - If you use a web content management system (CMS) that supports OEmbed, such as WordPress, you can simply copy the URL of your Facebook video and paste it into your editor window... and WordPress will automagically embed the video for you. If you use a system that doesn't support OEmbed (such as TypePad, where this blog is still hosted), you can still get the embed code - you just have to work harder. When you display the video in Facebook in a web browser in the "theater" (lightbox) mode, you go to "Options" at the bottom of the window and choose "Embed Video". In some of the other views of the video there is an "Embed Video" link down below the video on the right side. Either way you wind up with the embed code you can post into your web site editor. One note: the live video needs to have a privacy setting of "Public" in order for the Embed Video link to appear.

8. YOU NEED TO REALIZE THE iPHONE HAS TWO MICROPHONES - If you listen to my first live video above, you can notice the drop in the audio level when I switch from the front-facing camera to the rear-facing camera. I honestly didn't realize the iPhone 5s had two different microphones. It makes total sense, but I just didn't realize it. The result was the difference in audio levels, something I'm now aware of and can compensate for.

9. LIVE VIDEOS ARE TREATED JUST LIKE ANY OTHER POSTS FOR PRIVACY SETTINGS - Just to build off of #4 above, a live video is just another post, so you can do things such as change the privacy from "Friends" to "Public" or vice versa.

10. LIVE VIDEOS ARE AVAILABLE TO FACEBOOK PAGES - If you have a Facebook Page, you can also stream live video. You have to have a "verified" Pages, but if you do, you can use Facebook Live.

After my initial test, I tried it out a bit more with zooming, adjusting white balance, etc., and was again quite impressed.

Are Periscope and Meerkat in Trouble?

In a word... YES.

First Meerkat and then Periscope made it drop-dead easy to stream live video and alert all your followers... but they're based on Twitter. As I noted recently, Facebook has an insanely huge number of users ... and so this brings that live video capability directly inside Facebook's shiny walled garden.

Keep in mind, of course, that this IS the end goal for Facebook - to keep you nice and happy sharing live video inside their pretty walled garden.

Just as Twitter wants you to use Periscope to stay inside their walls... and Google would like you to stream live video with YouTube to stay inside Google's walls. (As would Livestream.com and other sites offering live streaming.)

The game is to keep the eyeballs for the ads... and to keep growing the massive directories of ACTIVE users.

Regardless of motivation, Facebook Live Video is a strong new contender in the live streaming space. Right now it's only available on iOS in the United States but their announcement says it will be offered in more countries soon adn will coming to Android phones soon, too.

Note, too, that Facebook provides some tips/best practices for using Facebook Live that give some further insight into the product's capabilities.

I don't know that I'll be using Facebook Live Video all that often during my regular work weeks, but when I'm at events, conferences, etc., I could see this being a great way to add live streaming into the flow of content that I'm creating.

What do you think? Will you use Facebook Live? Or will you stick with Periscope, Meerkat, YouTube or some other streaming service?


P.S. Here is another example shot with the rear-facing camera on the iPhone 5s and experimenting with zooming and white balance:

Listening to the Apple Hill String Quartet at Brewbakers In Keene, NH

Posted by Dan York on Thursday, January 28, 2016

Wow! Cisco To Acquire Tropo’s Communications Application Platform

Tropo siteWOW! In companion blog posts today Cisco and Tropo announced Cisco's intent to acquire the Tropo team and platform:

As someone who was at Voxeo in 2009 and helped launch Tropo (and wrote many of the early blog posts about it[1], as well as some of the python samples), I'm thrilled for the team there now that this is happening.[2]

Congratulations to all involved!

Over the years since leaving Voxeo, I've written about Tropo from time to time and continued to watch its progress. I've continued to be very impressed by what they've done over the years. They've truly made it easy for people to create powerful applications using simple programming languages.

It looks like the Tropo website is struggling right now so here is a snippet of their announcement post:


Six years ago we launched Tropo with the idea to make it easy to power phone calls through a simple API. Since then, we’ve empowered thousands of developers to add voice and messaging to their applications.

From our very first sign-up in 2009, to powering thousands of mobile and voice applications, our mission has been the same: to make real-time communications more accessible and productive through great APIs.

Today we’re thrilled to share that Tropo is joining Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group. Together we’ll enable completely new ways of communicating by opening up Cisco’s collaboration products to every developer on the planet (and maybe some off the planet…hey, they need collaborative tools on the International Space Station!)  :)


Knowing a good number of folks at Cisco, too, I think this is a great win for them in that they'll be able to make some of their products and services more accessible to developers.

I remember well back in 2009 when Jonathan Taylor (then CEO of Voxeo) brought in the Adhearsion team and "Voxeo Labs" was set up. Tropo was the first of the Voxeo Labs products, along with a number of others that were released over the following years. I watched as Voxeo Labs was then spun off from Voxeo in 2012 as a separate company and then Voxeo was acquired by Aspect in 2013... and Voxeo Labs was renamed to Tropo.

I watched, too, as the Tropo team continued their heavy involvement with WebRTC and brought that technology even deeper into their various services.

Congratulations to Jonathan Taylor, Jason Goecke, Johnny Diggz and all the rest of the Tropo team on this acquisition!

I look forward to seeing what Tropo and Cisco will do together to make it even easier to create voice, chat, messaging and other kinds of applications!


UPDATE #1: Jonathan Taylor has published a post on Facebook that outlines some of the history that led to this announcement. He includes this information related to Cisco:

We were even more surprised when Cisco approached us about acquiring Tropo. Selling Tropo was the last thing on our minds. But the potential was clearly huge for both companies, and over the course of the discussion, the deal terms clearly quite attractive. So here we are today!

UPDATE #2: A number of news stories are appearing on Techmeme.

UPDATE #3: Writing over on NoJitter, Zeus Kerravala dives into more detail about the acquisition based on his pre-briefing with Cisco's Rowan Trollope. Zeus' article: Cisco to CPaaS Providers: Game On!


[1] Although in the time since I left in 2011, my account was understandably removed from the Tropo site and the author on all those posts I wrote between 2009-2011 was changed to someone else. :-)

[2] In full disclosure, I should note that I am a very minor shareholder in Tropo after exercising a few options upon leaving Voxeo in 2011. I had no knowledge of this acquisition and have not participated actively with Tropo since leaving in 2011.

Some Quick Thoughts On Periscope, Meerkat And The Era of Simple Livestreaming

Periscope 1Unless you've been offline or ignoring social media for the past couple of weeks you've no doubt seen the dueling "livestreaming wars" between the iOS applications Meerkat and Periscope. Perhaps you've viewed some of the streams... or broadcast some yourself.

Given that I do live streaming as part of my employment, I'm fascinated by these new and emerging apps. They also remind me of what Qik tried to do back in the mid-2000s before Skype bought Qik in 2011 and promptly shut the service down. (Only to have Qik re-emerge recently as a different kind of mobile messaging service from Skype.)

I've been playing with both Meerkat and Periscope and offer a few quick thoughts based on my own experience. I will be exploring these apps more... but want to record some comments for today's For Immediate Release podcast episode and want to use this post as a basis for that report.

The beauty of both of these apps is that it makes it absolutely TRIVIAL for someone to start live streaming. Just login with Twitter and press the a button to start broadcasting live to the world!!!

Here are some thoughts about both apps and then some thoughts on this larger new era of simple live streaming.

Periscope

Periscope was purchased by Twitter and apparently had the app in development for quite some time. Things I like:

  • Polished user interface.
  • The "hearts" that you can give to "like" something are fun.
  • The replay capability is useful... although it seems the stored videos are only available for something like 24 hours.

Things I am not as excited about:

  • The comments appear and then disappear... and there seems to be no way I could find to go back and see them again, without replaying the video. Given that in a couple of trials I was driving with my iPhone on my dashboard, I could NOT read the comments while driving.
  • No horizontal orientation... you have to hold the phone in a vertical orientation. Yes, you can turn the phone sideways and hold it horizontally, but all the comments and hearts still come in the vertical orientation.
  • Several people viewing my live streams indicated they had connection issues.

Meerkat

Meerkat was out before Periscope and captured a great amount of attention at SXSW and recent conferences. Things I like:

  • Comments are scrollable within the stream. You can read them later (during the time of the stream).
  • You can hold the camera horizontally.
  • Comments can be out onto Twitter.
  • You can answer comments by text within the app (although is this really important? I'm not sure).
  • So far no connection issues for me... but I've seen others have issues.

Things I am not as excited about:

  • Comments are gone after the stream.
  • No replay capability.

Changing Our Expectation Around Privacy

I think there is a larger societal question we need to be thinking about - that person walking down the street holding a phone up can be streaming everything they see live out onto the public Internet?

Intellectual Property

To that point... there are a whole host of intellectual property issues that I think we as a society will need to address. Nothing whatsoever technically prevents someone from streaming a concert or any presentation live. There are many artists and speakers who charge for their events and don't want them live streamed.

Cost

People in the mobile telecommunications companies have to be loving this - here are ways that people will generate a great amount of mobile data very quickly! Unless people have "unlimited" telecom data plans, they are going to be running up some good-sized costs. Great for the telcos... not so great for the producers. However, any event with "free" WiFi around could easily attract a good number of streams.

Bandwidth

All of these live video streams will create some interesting additional pressures on the Internet's infrastructure. Particularly in situations where there is "asymmetrical" connections, i.e. you have a faster download than upload speed. The streaming out of events could create a much larger requirement for upload speeds than there has been before.

Digital Divide

All of which feeds into a question about the "digital divide". The Internet users who are in regions with good Internet connectivity will be both able to produce/broadcast and also able to consume all these live streams. What about people in other parts of the world where bandwidth is much more limited? How will they be able to participate in this new era of live streaming?

Similarly, these Periscope and Meerket apps are right now only available on Apple's iOS platform... what if you can't afford an iPhone?

Ephemeral Moments and FOMO

One of the interesting elements of Meerkat is that once the stream is gone... it's gone. It's ephemeral like Snapchat... it's there... it's gone. You have to be there to see it and participate.

This leads to the "Fear Of Missing Out" (FOMO) and the "need" to be part of that.

Periscope allows replays, which changes it a bit. Now it's a recording available for some time. I'm not sure which is better.

[Side note: I don't know how truly "ephemeral" either Meerkat or Periscope is... the streams have to go through some server out there and the server could easily record any and all streams.]

Rich Interaction

What I did find very cool about using both Periscope and Meerkat was the rich interaction I could have with the audience. They were able to leave comments that I could react to right within the stream itself. They were able to guide the conversation... asking questions that I then answered.

In several cases friends I knew joined into my live streams. In one case this meant I switched to speaking German because I knew a German friend was watching. In another I switched the camera to view myself so that a friend I hadn't seen in a few years could see what I look like today.

It was great in so many ways to have this rich interaction during a stream. I'm looking forward to trying this out in some events in the future.

Final Thoughts...

... I'm very intrigued by these new applications. They make live streaming so incredibly simple and easy for anyone to do. I think we do have some of these larger societal issues and conventions to think through... but our era of ubiquitous live streaming is definitely upon us.

I see great potential for these apps in live streaming of events... for citizen journalism... breaking news... bearing witness to unfolding events... marketing/webinar types of events... indie musicians and artists... tutorials...

The reality of course is that we'll also see a lot of incredibly mundane and boring live streams. We'll probably see a good deal of porn. We'll see other ways to abuse live streams that will appall us. That's what always happens with any new service.

I will continue testing the apps. I want to see what else they can do. I want to explore more of the technical aspects - things such as their actual bandwidth usage. I want to know if any of them work over IPv6. (Sadly, expecting them NOT to do so.) I want to understand how secure they are.

So I'll be writing more... as I have time to do so.

Meanwhile, these are just some initial thoughts.

What do you think? Are you experimenting with either Periscope or Meerkat? Or some other similar app?

P.S. See also "Periscope and live video are changing the internet forever", a good take on how these apps are already changing live news...


If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:


Join Live Today at 9:00 CDT – Internet Video Codec BOF at IETF92

Ietf square 1Can we create a royalty-free (RF) video codec that can be deployed ubiquitously and become the new open standard for video communication across the Internet?

THAT is the fundamental question of the Internet Video Codec (NETVC) Birds-of-a-Feather (BoF) happening at IETF 92 in Dallas today, March 24, 2015, from 9:00-11:30 CDT (UTC-5). You can listen and participate live using the following links:

You also may want to view the presentation that will be used during the session.

The goal of the overall effort is defined as this:

  • Development of a video codec that is:

    • Optimized for real-time communications over the public Internet
    • Competitive with or superior to existing modern codecs 

    • Viewed as having IPR licensing terms that allow for wide implementation and deployment 

    • Developed under the IPR rules in BCP 78 (RFC 5378) and BCP 79 (RFCs 3979 and 4879)
  • Replicate the success of the CODEC WG in producing the Opus audio codec.

The BOF proposal contains more of a narrative:

The Internet needs a royalty-free (RF) video codec that can become the backbone for universal deployment of video related technologies. Royalty-bearing codecs put constraints on implementors that are unacceptable, but current RF codecs are not yet competitive with royalty-bearing offerings. This dilemma stalls innovation in the space and means large sets of consumers don't have access to the best video technology.

There are efforts underway by several groups to produce a next-generation, royalty-free (RF) video codec, including VP10 by Google and Daala by Mozilla/Xiph.Org. While far from complete, these efforts aim to surpass the royalty-bearing competition. Efforts within other standards organizations like MPEG to create RF video standards have been unsuccessful so far, but have showed that many consumer device manufacturers would support an RF codec.

The success of Opus from the CODEC WG has also shown that collaboration, based on the IETF's principals of open participation, can produce better results than competition between patented technologies. The IPR rules in BCP 78 and 79 are also critical for success. They impose a duty to disclose, and require exact patent or patent application numbers, in addition to basic licensing terms. This allows participants to evaluate the risk of infringement and, if appropriate, design work arounds, in any technology adopted, and assess the cost of adopting such technology. Because it does not force participants to agree to license their patents under RF terms, it helps to encourage participation even by those opposed to such terms (instead of guaranteeing they stay away). In addition to an environment which encourages third-party disclosures, this provides much better chances of success than SDOs which have a "patent-blind" process or which require blanket RF grants.

And the NETVC BOF agenda outlines the plan for the session today.

I do believe that creating this kind of royalty-free codec for Internet video is a critical step to enabling video to be used everywhere across the Internet... not just where people are able to pay to license royalty-bearing codecs. I'd like to see even more developer creativity and innovation unleashed with this action.

I'll be listening and participating remotely. I hope that many of you will join in as well. 9:00am US CDT today (10:00am for me on the US East Coast).

P.S. If you have no idea what the IETF is all about, you may want to skim The Tao of IETF first...


If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:


Join Me On VUC Today At Noon US EDT To Talk IPv6, IoT, WebRTC and more…

Today at 12 noon US Eastern (in about 3.5 hours), I'll be part of a panel on the VoIP Users Conference (VUC) talking about IPv6, WebRTC, the Internet of Things (IoT) and much, much more... you should be able to watch it live at live.vuc.me or embedded here:

VUC host Randy Resnick had a scheduled guest be unable to attend and so he asked a group of us to come on for what he is calling a "VUC Vision" session. I will be on there, as will, I believe, Tim Panton and a number of others. I expect the discussion should range over good variety of topics. It should be a good time... you're welcome to join in the discussion.

It's probably best to also join the IRC backchannel where links are shared, questions are answered and other comments occur. You also can visit the Google+ event page for the VUC session today where there may be additional links and info.

If you won't be at your computer, you can also call in via:

  • sip:200901@login.zipdx.com
  • +1 (646) 475-2098
  • Skype:vuc.me

The session will of course be recorded so you can listen/watch later.

Vuc vision 20141003


If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:


The Live Video Streaming Nightmare: What Do You Do When YouTube Won’t Start? (And Lessons Learned)

What do you do if you go to start live video streaming of an event - and the streaming service you use won't start??? How do let people waiting to watch know? How do you fall back to another service?

Last month at the IETF 90 meeting in Toronto I experienced this nightmare of anyone doing live video streaming across the Internet. We had a presentation at noon on Thursday that we had widely publicized in social media and via email. The cameras were all set up. The producer was all ready to do the switching and encoding out to YouTube. Everything was good to go.

Then at 11:45am, I went to do my part in the process. I needed to login to the IETF YouTube account and basically click the "Start Streaming" button inside the "live event". At that point the YouTube servers would accept the encoded stream from the producer's gear and the stream would go live.

BUT... instead I got this message in a bright red bar across the top:

Ytl maintenance 500 The message read:

YouTube live is undergoing maintenance. Events cannot be created, started or stopped. Events already started will continue to stream uninterrupted.

Yes... we had no way to START the live video stream!

Over the next few minutes I kept refreshing that page but the warning stayed up there. I was getting rather nervous as the launch time approached!

Now, as it happened, we had already planned to have a second live video steam going out for the event through a different service, Livestream.com, for a different reason.

Why The IETF Uses YouTube For Live Video Streaming

To explain a bit more, we have been using Google's YouTube live video streaming for some of the larger IETF plenary sessions for five reasons:

1. The live video stream is available over both IPv4 and IPv6.

2. The stream works easily across pretty much all desktop and mobile devices.

3. Google's live streaming infrastructure seems able to scale to whatever capacity is needed.

4. The recording of the stream is immediately available after the event in the IETF's YouTube channel.

5. There is no cost for using the service beyond our local costs to produce the content (and no infrastructure that the IETF itself has to maintain).

Of these, really the most critical reason for using YouTube live streaming is the first - that it streams out over IPv6.

The IETF is the organization behind the IPv6 specification and has declared that all new IETF standards need to incorporate IPv6. Therefore in the spirit of "eating your own dog food" the IETF tries to use services that work over IPv6 whenever possible. Other live video streaming services have met the reasons 2-5 above, but not the #1 reason of working over IPv6.

We have specifically been using what Google used to call "YouTube Live" but now seems to just be calling "YouTube live events" versus Google's newer "Hangouts On Air (HOA)". These YouTube live events are events you schedule in advance and can use with advanced video encoders. An advantage is that these events provide streaming configuration info that I can provide in advance to the company running the audio and video at the event so that they can be prepared in advance. YouTube also helpfully provides a countdown timer for people visiting the event page. We haven't switched to using HOAs because they haven't yet provided the advance configuration information we want.

Anyway it has all worked well for live streaming out plenary sessions for a couple of years now.

Google Doesn't Live Stream Into Germany

However, as we discovered again that week.... Google will not stream live video into Germany! It seems Google has a legal dispute with a German intellectual property rights organization (GEMA) and Google has decided that rather than run into trouble with GEMA they will simply NOT allow live streaming into Germany.

So, alerted to this issue by some IETF remote participants in Germany who were unable to watch the live video streams of the technical plenary earlier in the week, we had arranged to also stream this Thursday session out over the Internet Society's Livestream.com account. Now, unfortunately it would not be available over IPv6 because Livestream.com still only works on legacy IPv4 networks, but Livestream.com did not have the streaming restrictions Google had and so at least people could view the stream in Germany. As a bonus, all the "subscribers" to the Internet Society's Livestream.com channel would also get notified and potentially be able to watch the stream - but the primary reason was so that people in Germany could watch the video stream.

The great thing about IETF meetings is that a massive amount of Internet connectivity is brought into the meeting hotel (because you have 1,200+ engineers who do most of their work across the Internet!) and so there are NO bandwidth problems for streaming. We could probably stream out to a dozen different live streaming services simultaneously if we set up our local software/equipment to do so.

Making The Alternate Stream The Primary Stream

The good news for us was that this "alternative" live video stream set up purely for viewers in Germany could now become the primary video stream. I rapidly updated the Google+ "event page" for this session to note the new URL for streaming and we spread the word through IETF social media channels and email lists. It wasn't 100% seamless but we were able to get people watching the live video stream.

We were also able to direct people to some of the other IETF remote meeting participation mechanisms, including audio streaming and a conferencing system called "Meetecho" that streamed the slides and lower webcam-quality video.

Throughout the hour-long event I kept checking the Live Control Room inside of YouTube to see if we could start the original stream, but we were never able to do so. A couple of times the red warning box went away, but we could not establish a connection from YouTube's streaming service to our equipment on the ground there in Toronto. Finally, as the time went on it became clear that the connection wasn't going to happen and so I just gave up trying.

The good news is that the producer was also making a local copy of the stream that we would be able to upload later to the IETF's YouTube channel.

Lessons Learned

I took away from this experience three primary lessons for all future live streaming sessions. Do note, too, that I think of these as generic lessons for all live streaming services and events. It happens that this time the failure was with Google's YouTube live events service, but the failure could have been with Livestream.com, Google's Hangouts On Air, Ustream or any of the many other live video streaming services out there.

1. Always Promote An Event Page Separate From The Streaming Service

We were able to rapidly redirect people to the new location of the live video stream in large part because we had been promoting the Google+ event page as the place to go to watch the live stream. We had promoted this on the IETF's Twitter account, Facebook page, Google+ page and also over various IETF email lists and on various other websites. All the promotion pointed people to this page.

So the good news was that all we had to do was update this page with the new info and people could switch over to watch the new stream.

We had NOT been promoting the direct YouTube link for the stream. Had we done so, we could have still updated the page through editing the description of the YouTube video and/or leaving comments - but it would not have necessarily been as easy for visitors to see.

Promoting a separate page was a deliberate choice I made based on some previous bad experiences with live streaming where I had to stop a streaming session and restart with a brand new URL. For that reason I've been promoting a separate page.

In fact, for the IETF Plenary sessions, we've been promoting a separate page under IETF control on the IETF website - http://www.ietf.org/live/ - where we can embed the live stream video and also keep the page updated. At the IETF meeting it is possible for me or someone else to easily go in and update that page. Plus it is a very simple URL that we can promote widely.

I don't honestly remember why we didn't use the www.ietf.org/live/ page to stream out this Thursday morning sponsor presentation other than that the decision to live stream the session happened the day before and for whatever reason we went with a Google+ Event page as the page to promote.

Next time we'll probably promote the www.ietf.org/live/ page.

The key point is that you have a page separate from the live streaming service where you can post updates.

2. Have An Alternate Live Stream Either Active Or Ready To Go

As I mentioned previously, in this case we happened to be set up with a second live stream out through Livestream.com purely because we wanted to test the live streaming into Germany. Had remote IETF participants in Germany not asked about this after being unable to view the earlier technical plenary, we wouldn't have had this second stream active.

Next time, we will have a second live streaming service either active or at least on standby ready to go.

At the IETF meetings, we have the luxury of having an insane amount of bandwidth and so there are not the typical connectivity constraints you find in meeting venues. The software and equipment our producer was using could go out to multiple live streaming services. There is really no reason we can't run multiple streams.

For the IETF we still have the IPv6 requirement, which unfortunately Livestream.com does not yet meet. However, it occurred to us after the session that we could have streamed to a Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA) as that would have also streamed out over IPv6 in addition to IPv4. Of course, that would mean relying on two Google services and so you run the risk of having the technical issues affecting one live streaming service also affecting the other - plus there was the whole "streaming into Germany" thing.

We'll definitely keep investigating what other live streaming services may work over IPv6. There are a good number of live video streaming services out there and the number seems to be growing. The company producing the video stream for us also had their own streaming server that we might be able to use as a backup, too. And, yes, we can also have an IPv4-only streaming service available if everything else falls through.

Now, in non-IETF environments where I do have to worry about bandwidth constraints, I will at least have a plan for how I can rapidly spin up a second stream if the first one fails. That's really the key point. What is Plan B and how fast can you make it happen?

3. Have Access To Relevant Social Media Accounts And Other Methods Of Letting People Know

This is perhaps a subset of Lesson #1, but another critical part of our success in redirecting people to the second live stream was that we had access to the relevant social media accounts and other means of spreading the word. I had access to the IETF Google+ page and could make the updates there. Someone else was able to send out a tweet with the new link to the live stream. An email was sent out to all attendees and to other relevant email lists letting them know about the link.

The key point is that when we updated the event page with the new information, we could let people know!

In The End...

... the session was streamed live across the Internet. It was recorded and made available for later viewing. And... we learned a few lessons to make sure our live streaming infrastructure is more resilient next time so that this potential "nightmare" becomes nothing more than just a minor bump and redirection.

What about you? If you do live video streaming what steps have you taken to ensure you can keep streaming in cases like this?


I also recorded an audio commentary about this situation:


If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either: