As some people might know we streamed the Plone Conference 2006 in Seattle into Second Life. The timeframe for that was rather short though as only 1-2 weeks in front of the conference it became clear what the actual bandwidth available would be. So I quickly created a Second Life location for it consisting of a theatre for the stream and 4 video booths for existing videos. This was done rather quickly as I had the theatre already in my inventory.
More work was getting the word out. Contacting people and repeating information is a time consuming task which should be taken into account if you plan such events and want people to talk about it and attend. Results might vary though and might depend on the topic (maybe it helps to sponsor a blog but that’s maybe more something for non-open source projects 😉 ). I also was planning on some machinima on it but time was too short for that.
Then the Darwin Streaming Server needs to be installed. Fortunately this is quite straightforward and easy to use. One note though on automatic scaling the video in Second Life (via About Land/Media tab). It seems to be better to turn that off and align manually via the Edit window. Otherwise some people see the video upside down while others see it right side up. It’s a little strange but disabling auto-scale seems to have helped here. One problem was though that our server was in Germany and the conference in the US. There was a plan to install another server in the US but due to time constraints this did not happen. But it will hopefully be ready for the next streaming opportunity in the US.
Next up was creating some SL primer for Plone people new to it. This was done as a wiki page but unfortunately without screenshots. This is probably something which could be enhanced next time (and actually be prepared).
Additionally I created a page for streaming directly via the web using the quicktime plugin. All in all the pages could be structured better next time as target groups have gotten mixed a bit. On the one side we have Second Life users who might be interested in Plone and want to check it out and on the other side we have Plone users who are new to SL and either want to view the stream via the web or want to check it out in Second Life. So next time these groups probably need different starting points.
That was all I could prepare from home and thus I went to Seattle. The conference most of the time consisted of 4 simultaneous tracks in 4 different rooms. In two of them we had professional videographers taping the sessions. The idea was to hook up to them with a firewire cable to my Mac. In the end we did not do that because they used 2 cameras, one
for the speaker and one for the slides. When streaming we would need both views together though. So the solution was then to simply use my camera and zooming around between the slides and the speaker on demand. That was probably a good decision but also meant that I had to be present at all times. Sound usually also is a problem at conferences. Thankfully the video guys had a wireless mic with them which they borrowed me. It certainly makes sense to improve my setup to include something like that esp. for conferences. Unfortunately such stuff is expensive.
Network setup on location
While fighting my jetlag I also made first checks on the conference network during the pre-conference training. Unfortunately it was WIFI and no ethernet cable was available. A quick streaming test worked well, though. It looked different when the conference started. Suddenly we had 300 people on the WIFI and the ISP did not bring a big enough router to cope with that. The result have been dropping connections which is apparently not good for streaming video. It changed the next day when they brought a new router. I also got another laptop to have a separate one for running Second Life on that.
Doing the streaming
Doing the actual streaming turned out to be quite some work. Apparently with only one cam and laptop for streaming I had to decide which talk to stream. I think this should be improved next time in that every room should have a camera. Also moving the camera around was a bit stressy as it additionally included 2 laptops. During the talks I was then busy either helping people on IRC to get on the stream or help people in Second Life to do the same. Additionally I gave an interview to SLNN and explained to some other people what Plone is. This resulted in not really be able to get much of the talk 😉
Another problem with moving around all the time was that it was unclear which talk was on. So for the next events without a camera per room and multiple rooms we should think abount some announcement system for Second Life as well as for the web page. It should also show status as the stream is apparently off when moving from one room to another.
Given the amount of time and amount of people involved (mostly just me 😉 ) I think we can nevertheless see this as success. Feedback about it also points in that direction. Many Plone people now know about Second Life and many Second Life people now know about Plone. And apparently those to things just belong together 😉
We also identified improvement opportunities which we will take into account for the next event. If you are planning to do some streaming it might be helpful as well I hope.
If you have any comments feel free to leave them here.
We also will provide the taped videos (either by me or by the video crew) for later viewing on the Plone Conference plot on Theta.