Lesson learned from the Plone Conference

8 11 2006

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.

Marketing

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.

Quicktime Setup

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.

Documentation

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.

Plone Conference 2006 in Real Life and in Second LifeVideo setup on RL location

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.

Conclusion

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.

Group Photo of Plone Conference 2006

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6 responses

8 11 2006
Jerry Paffendorf/SNOOPYbrown Zamboni

Nice write-up, Tao. Wish I could have made it inworld. As someone who’s worked on bunches of these mixed-reality conferences this was a thorough breakdown and it sounds like you did a great job (only piece I’m wondering about: how did the inworld interaction go? that would be another interesting bullet). This line in particular caught my eye:

> 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.

Ain’t it the truth though! You’re lucky you got a week!🙂 There’s always an element of adventure when working with the IT and crew on location.

Oh, and just reread this:

> 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.

My heart, and my stomach, go out to you. Quite familiar😉.

8 11 2006
Taran Rampersad

Pretty cool stuff, Tao. Hopefully I’ll be able to participate in the future.

9 11 2006
taotakashi

SnoppyB: What do you mean by inworld interaction? Right now we just had a screen where it was shown (pretty normal I guess). I just wish I would have had some announcement mechanism on the state of the stream (except my avatar).

Well, unfortunately I did not get a week on location😉 And it was a quite busy week nevertheless as I had to finish some RL work, getting ready for the trip etc. So next time I at least have the location sort of ready and the server is also up and running.

And yes, I guess these are the normal problems🙂

And SnoopyB, Taran, eventually we are streaming the belgian Plone meeting into Second Life. It will be on Nov 22 but I need to check the network details before. I will keep you posted.

9 11 2006
Mobil Avenue » Blog Archive » RL Data Visualization in SL

[…] One of the areas which has held much promise since the dawn of the Internet has been the field of data visualization. Four SL related posts caught my eye on data visualization. The first by Aimee Weber giving a sneak preview of the soon to be launched NOAA 3D weather visualization. The second by Andrew Burton sharing his hack for running presentations in SL to which Mitzpatrick Fitzsimmons posted a better alternative by way of a comment. The third by Akela Talamasca announcing Virtual Reality Networks (VRN) launch of Second Life News. The fourth was by Tao Takashi summarizing lessons learned from streaming a RL conference into SL. Each served to remind me how virtual worlds are still in their infancy and that we have only just begun to scratch the surface in exploring and re-imagining their potential. […]

9 11 2006
Jerry Paffendorf/SNOOPYbrown Zamboni

> SnoppyB: What do you mean by inworld interaction? Right now we just had a screen where it was shown (pretty normal I guess).

Ah, cool, you had a screen. Just curious about that kind of thing. Some events want to feature that, others just want to provide a window for SLers. So there’s that range of sometimes showcasing the SL projection and fielding questions from SL avatars to ask RL speakers, and then there’s the other side where the video is quietly piped inworld but there’s not much feedback. Was interested in your thoughts on that process.

9 11 2006
taotakashi

I had some sort of theatre. It’s actually still there as I haven’t had time to clean the space up yet (and we might need some sort of screen for further events nevertheless). You can find it here. We also did feed questions back to the speaker when they arised althought it only has been one occasion. One nice incident was though when a well-known developer was in SL and made fun of everything and told me all the time what to tell the speaker🙂
The thing was also that most Plone folks (as said, 350) have been at the conference or have been sleeping while it was on (e.g. because they are in Europe) and it’s hard to ask questions maybe for outsiders as the topics have been quite specific. This was also one of the hard things to decide: Which of the talks should be shown? Maybe more case studies for a general public but maybe boring for developers or the more technical stuff. So I tried some sort of mix here. If there will be a camera in each room next time this might be easier to decide. We could even have separate virtual rooms then for the separate tracks and virtually “switch” them as they not necessarily are taking place in the same RL room. OTOH it might be easier to simply follow the official schedule and people choose rooms as they do in RL.

I also would have liked some back projection into the conference but I am not so sure whether this might have worked or not as people might be disctracted then by following the commentary going on there instead of really listening. But we didn’t have a spare projector anyway (1 week, ya know?🙂.

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