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Online Video Tools

The annual Weitzman Symposium is coming up and at work, which we stream live every year. So, I’ve been exploring where things have been going with online video. It seems like there are a lot of interesting developments.

In live streaming, I’ve used a bunch of different tools. I did a lot on QIK years ago. However, that got bought out by Skype and shutdown. A friend gave me a heads up to save the videos, but I believe I was too late.

Another live streaming system I used a bit was Ustream. This is what we use at CHC. I’ve always liked UStream and they continue to be reliable. They have new software for streaming, called UStream Producer. I’ve only used the free version, which does most of what I want. The paid versions, Producer Studio and Producer Pro add options like multi-camera support and audio mixing. Not much new there.

The other real workhorse in video streaming is Livestream. I’ve used this a bit as well. They appear to be the first of the serious livestreaming platforms to work nicely with Google Glass. However, they organize their content around events as opposed to channels like UStream does. I find the event orientation a bit clunky.

I’ve also kicked around Justin.tv, ooVoo and Bambuser. None of them really have been that compelling for me, so I don’t end up using them often. However, I did use Bambuser from Raspberry Pi, so that was pretty cool.

In terms of video conferencing, at work we use Vidyo. I’ve participated in various Vidyo conference calls, and it seems fine, but I never really got a chance to get under the hood, so I can’t say a lot more about it. However, at work on Friday, we took a look at zoom.us. I was really impressed with it. The free version is very powerful, and the paid versions are pretty inexpensive for the features they provide. It is interesting to note that key investors includes Qualcomm as well as Patrick Soon-Shiong.

The other software that I started playing with is ManyCam. This allows you to switch between different cameras on a PC, screen cast, and even do some funky effects. I used it for doing some green screen broadcasting going out into both UStream and Zoom.us.

So, any other online video tools I should be looking at?

What A Lark!

I listlessly deleted unimportant emails and paused to reread an important one. One of my coworkers’ sisters died. It was the second death of a relative of a friend that I received this week. I glanced at the empty walls of my office. Out the window, I could see blue sky. The cold rain had passed and it was sunny and warm for the first time in ages. There wouldn’t be much more productive work today.

On my way home, I stopped and took a brief walk around the Wesleyan campus. A group of students gathered on one section of lawn, perhaps it was a theatre class. On the labyrinth a handful of students stood in a semi-circle singing madrigals. On the grass around the labyrinth a larger group of students sat listening intently.

I had once sat on lawns like these, listening to friends perform. Those were care free days. Sure, I had my struggles as did my friends around me. I knew of the greater struggles in the world, but only abstractly.

In my senior year of college, one of the best classes I took was on Virginia Woolf; five hundred pounds and a room of one’s own. Of course that five hundred pounds, converted to current U.S. Dollars is about two thirds the price of a year at Wesleyan. How many of the students sitting on the lawn around the labyrinth had daddies who could provide them with the modern equivalent of five hundred pounds and a room of their own? From such a perch would they be able to see enough of the human condition to write great novels?

Yet it wasn’t A Room of One’s Own that came to mind as I strolled across the Wesleyan campus. No, the words that came to me were, “What a lark! What a plunge!” Yes, “Mrs. Dalloway said she would but the flowers herself.”

I thought of my friends who had recently lost relatives. I thought of the economic and health disparities in our country and the armed conflict around the world. “The war was over, except for some one like Mrs. Foxcroft … “

How does one hold all this in one’s mind, the beautiful spring day with the college students gathered around friends singing beautifully, the suffering of friends who had lost relatives, the daily struggles of the overlooked poor? Perhaps writing would help. Perhaps it helped Virginia Woolf, but was it enough?

I returned to my car and continued my commute home. Traffic on the Parkway was heavy, so I took the back roads. Switching roads and switching writers, I found myself on a road less traveled. Not two paths diverging in the woods, but getting off the parkway for the local roads. Yet, for me, like Robert Frost, that has made all the difference.

So now, I am home, having had a quick dinner. Next, I will head off to bed, for tomorrow will also most likely be another long day.

The Blocked Drainage Pipe

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. Another restless rainy night passes. It is foggy this morning, and I’m thinking about putting together a medley on Spotify of songs about wind and rain. Yet it was a busy day and I headed off to the long list of tasks in front of me. In the afternoon, the rain broke and it turned warm and sunny, feeling almost like summer.

Like many months, I’m starting off this one with the childhood invocation for good luck. April started off pretty sparse, but I’ve been managing to post more frequently recently. May is looking like a very busy month, with political conventions and various activities related to health advocacy. We’ll see if I can keep up my blogging. I’ll certainly have plenty to blog about.

When I got home this evening, I found the runoff from the rain washing out parts of the yard. I poked around and found the entrance to a drainage pipe that had been clogged by leaves. After clearing this, the water started draining much more nicely and the backed up water began to subside.

There’s probably a metaphor there, but I’m too tired to look for it.

Daddy's Girl

The clock radio awakened me from a disturbed sleep, and I stumbled towards the kitchen to make my daily oatmeal. I glanced in on my youngest daughter. She was fast asleep, sprawled out on her bed next to piles of stuffed animals beneath the posters of Dr. Who and puppy dogs.

They had predicted heavy rain, and the storm may have added to my restlessness, but it had never gotten severe, and we had gotten was very far from the devastating storms in the south.

With my bowl of warm oatmeal, I sat down to see what was going on in my friends’ lives. The first post hit me square between the eyes. “Daddy is gone.”

A story I had been following closely for two months had another big development. I had met Aliza several years earlier in Second Life and we stayed in touch on various social media sites. At one point, over the past few weeks, she asked for prayers for her father, and when people asked for his name, she said it was Myron.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else with the name Myron, but it jumped out at me, because it is my middle name. Now, Aliza’s dad, Myron, is gone. I read back through her journey of the past few months. I looked at the Throwback Thursday pictures of her and her father that she had posted, the view from her father’s hospital room. Aliza’s most recent post says, “I love you so much, Daddy. You always were and always will be my hero.” Bette Midler singing, “Wind Beneath My Wings” plays in my mind.

My family was never all that close. After my mother died, it has been my sister who has worked hardest to keep us all connected. A few months ago, my father turned 84 and right below Aliza’s post was my sister’s post about the independent senior living community she had found for my father. Perhaps 84 is the new 64.

This evening, as I write this blog post, my youngest daughter is taking a shower and I hear her singing along to one of her favorite songs. I glance at an end table with pictures of my two older daughters. One is now in Japan and the other is in Boston.

It’s still raining outside. Soon, I’ll go to bed, and tomorrow, the clock radio will awaken me to another bowl of oatmeal.

The Social Constructed Digital Native

One of the sessions at Podcamp Western Mass a few weeks ago was about social media and education. It was an open discussion hitting a lot of different points, and I found myself approaching it from a contrarian viewpoint that ultimately led me to start considering the idea of the socially constructed digital native.

One of the first people to speak was a college student, who was studying social media, and was frustrated that the courses focused on technical basics of using one social media platform or another, without getting into more important topics like search engine optimization. There was a discussion about how much social media is changing and how some of the social media tools that were discussed may not last more than a couple more years.

Personally, while I recognize some value of search engine optimization, I tend to view much of it as snake oil. I suggested that what is really needed is focusing on skills like understanding the audience and storytelling, because these skills matter, no matter what media is being used.

Others talked about cyber safety issues for kids or social skills like making eye contact, or giving someone your undivided attention. I trotted out Marc Prensky’s idea of the digital native and the digital immigrant and pushed the concept a little further. How much of the ideas that people were talking about were ideas from digital immigrants and how digital natives should live in a digital world?

Are kids without access to social media today viewed the way kids without television were viewed and treated forty years ago? Do we, or should we, value continuous partial attention? How much are these expectations socially constructed? And to the extent that they are socially constructed, how much are digital immigrants trying to maintain old world, analog ways of interacting in a digital world? How much are digital immigrants trying to get their digital native kids to behave as if they still live in the old analog world?

This is not to say that there isn’t value in certain old ways of interacting. The value of understanding your audience remains, whether it is a digital native audience, a digital immigrant audience, or some mixture.

Yet, perhaps, as we talk with people about how to behave digitally, we should take the opportunity to question which actions are really beneficial, as opposed to which actions are done, because that is the way things were always done in the old analog world. Perhaps, instead of prescribing behavior, we should be teaching students how to understand social constructs, and generate new, more pertinent social constructs that can evolve with our evolving technology.