It’s time to start playing with the narcissystem! Last night, as witnessed by dozens of people from ’round the world, I spliced together five separate technologies to create a unified communications experience:
When I started, it was nothing more than an innocuous fascination with a service that I learned about a few weeks ago: Ustream.tv. Their idea is not really new, mind you – seems as though Stickam has been doing something similar for quite a while (although the Web interface for Ustream.tv doesn’t put you on sensory overload). I just wanted to stream video and audio from my webcam live over the Internets.
Setting up an account was easy enough, but getting anybody to pay attention to a live event requires some sort of “flash mob” tool – which is where Twitter came into play. I let my 1,500 followers know that I was doing nothing and streaming the entropy live. Within moments, I had a few dozen people tuning into my digital insipidity.
Just as things were starting to pick up, an earthquake struck Acapulco. Local twitterers started tweeting – and Scoble picked up on the trend. Before long, a Mexico City blogger (who had experienced a 6.0 aftershock) was connected to the Ustream chat. I requested his Skype ID for a video chat – and we were connected within minutes. More people tuned into the live A/V stream, more people re-twittered the link, more people became active in the Ustream chat room, and #twitter on irc.wyldryde.org also started to receive a flurry of activity.
At some point during this convergence, I had started a live (free) teleconference using the LiveOffice service. Dozens of people were talking to one another in real-time, while watching me speaking with a man in another country about an event that was unfolding quicker than could be covered by traditional media outlets.
I hit the “Record” button in Ustream.tv once or twice, not knowing what would happen with that recording. Pieces of last night’s experience are still visible through my account on Ustream. Don’t expect any award-winning performances. This isn’t about creating well-polished presentations – it’s about the real-time Live Web.
Took me five pieces of technology to put it together, though. Think the average person would have been able to connect those dots? You need a perfect storm of tools at your disposal – and a fair-sized audience to draw attention for your efforts.
Web streaming, technologically speaking, isn’t the greatest challenge. People have been using it for years (to various degrees of success). The hurdle, my friends, is connecting the “media” element with the human one. Justin.tv has it figured out – but “what comes next” is where my interest lies.
Two-way audio and video conversations, recordings including backchannel chatter, community-induced flow and direction, etc. It’s all attainable. The question is: will it ever get any easier?
I cannot rely on a single tool (or vendor) to provide me with the experiences I seek. I rely on widely-accepted platforms (Skype, IRC); I rely on where my non-contiguous community is attentive (Twitter); I rely on powerful media delivery and connectivity tools (Ustream.tv, LiveOffice). Color me pessimistic, but I don’t believe any one company could ever deliver those various needs to me. That would be next to impossible – though if anybody could pull it off, it’d probably be Google.
So, I kept my webcam running in the “background” all day today – which would explain my relative silence in this blog. I’ve been figuring out how to make “continuous partial attention” valuable to both me and people who follow me (whether through Twitter or any other social network). It’s still running live – and may continue live for quite some time, with no specific direction or directive at hand.
Twitter answers the question: “What am I thinking now?” Ustream.tv answers the question: “What am I doing now?” IRC (and Skype, potentially) answers the question: “What are we saying now?” These are all questions without specific answers – and in that chasm, I stumbled into an inelegant solution that came off quite well.
And so the neverending story continues…