Over the past several days a number of us Macromedians conducted an experiment
by using a simple
FlashCom video communications applications to blog about the Macromedia
DevCon developer's conference. Several community managers were equipped with
WiFi laptops, cheap webcams and microphones, and access to a simple Flash/FlashCom application
where they could in real-time record and store video blog messages.
The experiment was a success. There
were 27 video blog entries (of varying content and quality), and over 51,000
total views of all of these videos. It's just fantastic to see that thousands
of people were able to tap into the crowd and people at DevCon through this
The project was a great example of distributed video journalism that extends
tidbits from a conference for a couple of thousand to thousands more people.
Additional experiments conducted included the CF Community Suite cam, where
any CF'er in the world could tune-in to discussions in the community suite via
a simple Flash application. And Mike Chamber's live broadcast, where he strapped
a webcam and microphone to his back and marched around with his 802.11, broadcast
conversations to the world.
There was also a lot of feedback on the experiment, noting both editorial and
technical challanges, as well as suggested features for future experiments like
this. These included:
Not enough meat. A number of people commented that the value
of the video was lost when the video comment was short and without substance.
They say they'd rather read text. This underscores that video communications
requires more than just a sound-byte for an astute technical audience. Other
environments might tolerate this more -- e.g. clips of a basketball coach yelling
at his team, or a player bragging about their game. It also underscores that
quality comes from content, and capturing meaningful thought on video requires
Quality. There is a trade-off between time-sensitive, or near-real
time video blogging and quality, because the video encoding is lower quality
than what can be done with professional encoding tools. These entries lack editing
and polish that comes from professional video. This is somewhat analogous to
the world of weblogs in general, where most writers do not have a lot of polish,
and often the entries are short, unedited, and not meant to be replacements
for full on reporting or commentary. My own belief is that the sort of scrappiness
of weblogs is consistent with ad hoc video blogging that we've seen here.
Form-Factor. Some people commented that they'd like to view
and see this type of content, but that they don't necessarily want the full
video if it isn't that high-quality. A good suggestion was just audio with a
still imagine. This is pretty easy to do with FlashCom, and in fact the DevConBlog
utility offered the publishers an audio-only option, which none of them choose
to use. But I agree that more form-factor options for both publish-time and
view-time are a good idea.
Overall, this was a good experiment and something that added value to a community
event. We'll no doubt continue these experiments and incorporate a lot of the
good feedback. Whatever the case, video communications is still in its infancy
and it will be exciting to see what the Macromedia developer community brings
forward with Flash communications applications.