As Naaman turns in his grades and contemplates pushing the limits of the web’s asynchronicity, I’ve been rather quiet. Mostly I was distracted. You see I was doing two things: studying how people stream their performances online with in-browser webcasting tools and launching (now the third version of) an instant messaging video sharing tool. More on the latter later.
Almost a year ago, I was wondering why many performers were choosing to webcast themselves. Why not get a paying gig? Or invite some friends over for an open mic night? At that time, two colleages and friends of mine (Nikhil Bobb and Matt Fukuda) were working on Y!Live (RIP). Live had several DJs who would regularly broadcast sets of house, hiphop, reggae – you name it. After some prelimiary data studies and several MySpace emails, Elizabeth and I had conducted a round of field interviews via phone calls, meetups, and got lost several times in South Oakland.
While the details of this study have many implications on communities online, performances, and webcasting, you can read all that in the 2009 Communities and Technology paper yourself (or catch me live at the conference). Or read Elizabeth’s complementary account. I would like to talk about ecology for a moment. Turn to Slide 43.
All of the DJs we talked to mentioned this club ecosystem. 1) They get people on the dance floor. Once the floor is filled, they stick with a genre to keep people dancing. 2) People get thirsty so they head to the bar, they will now try new tracks and styles to get a second wave on the floor. 3) Wave 1 goes to the bathroom, Wave 2 goes to the bar. They now search for Wave 3. 4) Repeat with Wave 1. But what do they do in a webbrowser?
In Y!Live, slide 45, you find the overall view count (embeds + chat room). Every DJ we spoke to, pointed right there and said ‘that’s my dance floor‘. Once that count is high, (next slide please) they turn to the chat to see the volume of conversation and maybe the topic. And finally, (next slide) they look at the viewers – checking for that head nod or hand tap. The DJs were quite realistic, knowing ppl are sitting on the sofa or at a desk.
DJs, who make their life around wiring and routing sound, had no problem using webcasting systems. I believe this is because it fits into their craft. Similarly, the scanning pattern and ecology of ‘gauging the club’ or ‘how am i doing?’ translated online from the DJ booth to the webbrowser. So, as we build tools for creative people, many people tell you ‘dont make tools that require individuals to deal with more things’. I’ll say something to the contrary. Feel free to add cognitive load, as long as it fits into the practice of their expertise.