2008/02/07

NEW NET Stickam

Stickam was used for remote participation in the 05 February 2008 NEW NET meeting (Northeast Wisconsin Network for Economy and Technology issues), but it didn't go quite as smoothly as I'd hoped.

There were several shortcomings or issues that came up regarding remote participation during the 05 Feb meeting that we'll work on for the next NEW NET meeting. Those items were:
  1. Sound -- it was nearly impossible to hear people who connected remotely via Stickam.
  2. Hardware -- we decided we brought more hardware to Tom's Drive In than was worth the benefit that hardware gave us.
  3. Agenda -- an agenda, or plan for specific tech activities during the first half hour, will likely make things flow a little better during the next meeting's remote participation.
  4. Camcorder operation -- we need to figure out a good way to keep the camcorder rolling during the entire 2 hours of the meeting.
Even though the sound level and lag in audio makes it a challenge to carry on a technical discussion, especially with more than just two locations connected, it's still nice to be able to hear the people talking who are remotely connected. On 05 Feb, it was almost impossible to hear the one or two people who logged in to Stickam with a microphone on. To address that problem, we'll do two things. First, we'll bring along one or two amplified speakers for group locations so we can appropriately adjust the volume for best hearing. Second, we should have a standalone mic for each location that has a group of people so there aren't multiple audio streams from one location.

For the 12 Feb meeting, we'll leave the desktop computer and its LCD monitor at home. Something like that is not needed if most people bring a laptop. We'll also only use one video stream from the host group location, rather than having both a group camera and individual webcams at the host location. Having only one video and one audio stream per location should decrease the lag and provide a better overall experience.

To make the first half hour move smoothly, we'll try following an agenda for the beginning portion of the meeting. The first five or ten minutes will be used to get everyone logged in using whatever remote connecting technology we're using. After getting people logged in, we'll try to do a video capture of each person participating in the meeting introducing themselves and telling the group where they're connecting from.

It might be good to try different approaches for agendas, but the initial plan for the first agenda is to next review the top five tech issues for the previous week in terms of impact in the tech world, coolest new technologies, or the most unexpected news. After discussing the five items from the issues list that seem to be the most significant, meeting participants will be asked to bring up other tech news items from the previous seven days they feel the rest of the group should be aware of. Last, we'll plan a short software demo during which the session leader connects to at least one computer at each location, then demonstrates some software program or useful tip or technique. Our long-term goal is to be able to connect to everyone's computer regardless of where they're located. The concept is to demonstrate something of interest which involves controlling a computer at more locations than just the one where the session leader is.

We'll try to capture at least the first hour of the meeting on video, with the idea we'll make some video clips and post them on our own websites or on a video site like YouTube.

Before 12 Feb, we'll work on getting a way to have the camcorder keep broadcasting continuously for at least two hours, preferably two and a half to three hours. It would be good to start the broadcasting at 6:00 or 6:30 PM so we can have everything running smoothly before 7:00 PM when the meeting officially starts. We need to figure out a setting to keep the camera from going into standby, or we need to put a tape in at a recording speed that will last 2 - 3 hours.

Please join us in our adventures of remote collaboration for NEW NET meetings.

We need all the help we can get...

*****

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