Amplifying Making it Matter

Last week I managed to hook up with old friends, Kirsty and Rich Pitkin from Event Amplifier when they helped me with streaming a one-day workshop I was organising.

Room set up at start of day

Room set up at start of day

The workshop (Making it Matter: Supporting education in the developing world through open and linked data) took place on 16th May at the Friends House in London. The aim of the day was to bring together software developers, educators and individuals from the development community to see how they can work together by using open and linked data to support education in the developing world. We recognised from the start that many of the people we’d like to participate weren’t going to be able to make it. Some of these people live on the other side of the globe and wouldn’t be able to come up with travel funds for a one-day event. Streaming the day and, possibly more importantly, making the videos from the workshop available online became high priority.

Here’s a summary of what we did.

Pre-event

We created a Google doc so that those interested in participating remotely could register their interest and add comments on areas of interest.

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We also created a remote participation page for the event. This included details of the programme, an embed of the streaming, a form for questions from the remote audience, a link to the etherpad to be used for the break-out group session, information on the hashtag (#mim14) and an embed of the Twitter stream.

A couple of days before the workshop we contacted remote speakers and provided them with details of what was required. They were asked for the email address associated with their Google presence, a copy of their slides and any links they might wish to show and an alternative contact route (e.g. Skype name, mobile telephone number). All speakers were asked to share slides in advance. The day before Kirsty ran a rehearsal hangout for the remote presenters so they could familiarise themselves with Google hangout features, check their settings and ask any questions. We then scheduled a Google Hangout on air for the entire day.

During the event

Kirsty and Rich have lots of useful equipment (cameras, mics, extension leads, tape etc.) so they brought this along to the venue and we set up the room. We had a laptop at the front with the slides on for presenters to use, a camera (1) at the back of the room for general recording of the day and a second camera (2) near the front, which would be connected to a laptop logged in to Google Hangouts and streaming using Google Hangouts on air. The venue provided a projector and speakers. We also had a microphone reasonably near to the lectern at the front. Later on we switched to a lapel microphone when drilling noise outside the room became a little too much.

The Google Hangout setup - camera 2

The Google Hangout setup – camera 2

Speakers presented from the main lectern and were asked to try and stand reasonably still. They were filmed on both cameras, but camera 2 provided the feed for the Google hangout.

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As mentioned some of the speakers presented remotely. Two did this by recording a video in advance and this was sent directly to the Google hangout and simultaneously played on the main projector in the room. The other two presented directly in the Google hangout – they were asked to turn up 20 minutes before their scheduled presentation time. For these presentations the hangout was opened up on laptop on the lectern and shown to everyone.

There were 3 breakout group sessions during the day. Feedback from these was also streamed – this is the first time I’ve seen this happen. Remote participants were able to join in the conversation remotely using an event etherpad.

Post-event

After the workshop the video footage was chunked up, given a title page and uploaded to YouTube. They were then shared along with the slides on the LinkedUp website. All outcomes from the breakout group groups was summarized in a blog post and the choicest tweets were pulled into a Storify.

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Any small problems?

At one point due to a problem with the speakers we ended up with the Google hangout people ahead of the people actually physically at the event. Kirsty and Rich were able to play music during periods when there was nothing being streamed – this let people know they were in the right place.

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In the middle of the afternoon the Google Hangout crashed. Unfortunately the only way round this is to start a new hangout. This meant a new code had to be embedded in the remote participation page and shared with those watching via Twitter. Luckily due to the two cameras there is no break in the final videos of sessions.

The wifi at the venue was fine but we still had a few teething problems when Google hangouts was shared with those in the room. We got it to work eventually after a little faffing but had to show the slides separately and move them on manually at the presenter’s request – good job we had them in advance! Whenever you have a technical hitch the problem is always when do you decide to drop something from the schedule because it’s just not working.

I scheduled lots of tweets in advance to save myself time, this was fine but we were a little over timing wise so people got to hear the details a little early.

A few top tips

Have a master programme with details of what is happening for each talk, this should include links to the slides in various formats, links to videos and details of whether someone is presenting physically or remotely. Our master also had all the login details for accounts – just in case. We had an offline version and an online one. The online had quick links to all the slides, which I’d uploaded to the website in pdf version as a back up.

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Have a back channel for event amplifier communication during the event as you’ll probably end up ignoring your emails.

The hashtag I picked for the event turned out to be shared by quite a few other events including the Memphis in May barbecue championships! Luckily none were on the same day. Next time I’d probably go for a more unique hashtag – though that might mean using up a little more space in tweets.

Get your post-event stuff (blog posts, slides, videos etc.) up as soon as possible after the event – that way there is still momentum from the day. Big thanks to Kirsty and Rich for being super speedy with the video processing and for all their other help!

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