The great mhvlug streaming experiment

Last Wednesday, we did a live stream of the MHVLUG meeting for my Git presentation.  This was an experiment to try new ways of getting people engaged in the group.  Most people seemed to think it went quite well, though there were dissenting views that didn’t like the stream quality.  I think part of the dissenting view was because the expectations were that this would be a full on replacement for coming to the meetings, which I did not intend.

We used ustream to do the streaming, which has the advantage of working quite nicely with Linux and the Logitech 9000 webcam I’ve got (at some point I’ll do a detailed writeup on that).  Ustream’s streaming app is written in Flash, which is quite clever, and means all you need is Flash 10 to start broadcasting.

My goals for this experiment were pretty simple:

  • see if the tech got in the way of the experience of the people in the room.  If it was too intrusive, the experiment failed.
  • see if people connected to the stream that couldn’t make it.  At our height we had 8 people on that weren’t in the room.  That added to the 25 or so in the room.
  • see if there was a reasonable interaction pattern between people on stream and people in the room.  Pat was able to ask questions via Joe, which I answered back directly.  Even with the 4 seconds of audio lag I think it worked quite well.  It’s actually a quite interesting communication model.
  • see if the audio pickup was in any way reasonable, which is was.  I was really impressed by how good the audio was actually.
  • see if the video was passable.  This is where there was a difference of opinion.  Some people wanted much higher quality here.  My feeling was the quality was about what I was looking for.  You got a sense of what was going on in the room, you could hear the speaker and the room well, but the slides were kind of hard to make out.  The fact that my talk was diagram heavy exacerbated this.

The conclusion: streaming of meetings will probably happen from time to time from now on, based on speaker preference, as many speakers don’t want their presentation going beyond the room.  The meetings are optimized for people in the room, as that live audience, and the interaction pattern there, is what people come out for, and why we are able to get good speakers (the first question I get asked when bringing in someone externally is what the audience size is).

We’ll see how it affects the group longer term, and if it exposes more people to what we are doing in the LUG.  We’re nearly 7 years old now, and looking at how we use new tech to get the word out is always something to consider.