May 282008

Last week I started fiddling with UStream. At first it was just a cool new technology that I was trying out, but it has evolved into a daily part of our lives at Ringside Networks. We’ve been streaming live video for about a week, which has been working out very well. For those team members that are remote (we have 3-4 depending on the day), they have been privy to the office conversation that they have always missed. Since we started streaming, those remote teammates have been clamoring for better cameras, and more of them.

You can view our live stream here. Note that there are portions of the day that are very boring. For example, at the moment, anyone that is tuned in will be watching my face as I type this blog entry and listening to Weezer. However, Twitter is a great tool for notifications. Whenever an interesting discussion is going on, I’ve made a habit of turning the camera outward towards my colleagues and the white board and logging a message on twitter with a link to our live audio/video stream. Follow me on Twitter if you’d like to get these updates.

The most interesting part of our use of this technology is that it pairs nicely with our open source development model. For those developers out there using our software, they can watch and listen while we discuss how to resolve a bug, how we will prioritize our work for the next beta release (every two weeks), or just get a feel for where we stand on a daily basis (our daily stand up meetings are at 2:30pm EST). Even better than watching live though, is that the community will have the ability to participate through the chat window in the UStream interface. For our remote team members, we’ve been using Skype to bring them into the live discussion. As users of our software, you could potentially have the same level of access.

To me, live streaming takes open source development to the next level of openness and provides an engaging experience that will ultimately result in better software and faster solution delivery due to the availability of this rich communication medium.

By the way, we also tried Stickam for a day, which offers group video chat capabilities. Our experience has been that Stickam’s availability is not as good as UStream’s. Also, Stickam’s user interface wasn’t very intuitive or descriptive. We have tried on two separate occasions to coordinate three video streams in the same session without success. Regardless, this service has great potential, and I look forward to improvements that are surely coming.

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