Reflections on the ‘Radio FIR’ Skypecast

So we did our Grand Experiment yesterday – recorded show #142 of the FIR podcast as a Skypecast. And it was a great experiment.

Shel did a terrific job as MC and chief DJ, manipulating the Skypecast control panel, muting/unmuting people’s microphones on demand so that we had as much participation as we could. In tandem, a real-time Gabbly text chat on the FIR website was in action with participants adding comments and opinions to the topics being discussed via voice. We’ve captured all that chat here.

We had up to 24 live participants. Great to see so many familiar names joining in. Kevin Finch, Dan York, Josh Hallett, Sebastian Keil, Bryan Person, David Philips, Judy Jones, Luke Armour, Allan Jenkins, Sallie Goetsch… new names to me such as Nathan Reeve, Steven Loepfe, Josie Salkey… a real communicators’ hall of fame. I’ve not mentioned everyone. But thanks to you all who participated and became part of the experiment.

Some initial impressions about the Skypecast service and the event itself:

  • Connecting to the Skypecast was dead easy – just click on the ‘join this Skypecast’ button. If you’re not logged in to your Skype account, you’re prompted to do so; once you do, your Skype dials a special number and connects. You get a small pop-up window showing you and everyone else connected. Pretty easy to figure out.
  • Having said that, the Skypecast interface could definitely do with much more clarity on what to do when you log in to a Skypecast. It’s pretty bare bones, hence Shel’s lengthy explanation at the beginning of the show on what to do and how to do it during the session.
  • Skypecast is a beta yet I didn’t notice any major sound issues which you might expect from a beta service. As a listener, I could hear everyone participating, and with no lag.
  • A couple of times when someone else had joined in the voice discussion, their voice suffered major break-up. We guessed that maybe their own net connection bandwidth was suffering from so much going on simultaneously, with voice and the chat. We didn’t perceive it to be a Skypecast issue as such.
  • Keeping an eye on all the chat going on as well as my own notes and screenfuls of content we were discussing was quite a challenge. Kept me on my toes though! Shel had a greater challenge as he was also managing all the recording, etc, at his end.
  • Listening to the recorded show, it’s clear that the sound quality of my voice is nowhere near as good as it is when Shel and I record the show together via a normal Skype call. It’s still good, but you can hear the difference if you compare that quality with another show we record normally.

In all, I think it was a terrific experiment. I just loved being able to talk live with everyone who joined in the conversation at various times. Just like a radio show phone-in. Plus the real-time text chat that was going on, with people commenting about what was being discussed at that very moment. We were able to comment ourselves on those chats. Really great.

I hope we hear comments and feedback from some of those who participated to say what they thought of it all.

Would we do this again? I would say so, definitely. Maybe not on a regular and frequent basis but who knows. Skypecast is beta, as I said earlier, and if it develops in a way that combines great sound quality with ease of use for everyone involved, the hosts as well as the guests, then it could become quite compelling.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. David Tebbutt

    Hi Neville, Shel et al

    As ever, pushing the podcasting boundaries forward.

    I haven’t listened (you know me) but I hope that the chat was value-laden for your listeners.

    I am writing because I was thinking of blogging on the subject of “Is too much transparency counter-productive”. Then, I thought, why not comment here instead.

    I refer to the transcript of the chat. Do we really need all the detail to get the meat and the atmosphere? 1064 lines and 3987 words still steals readers’ time.

    Procrastination used to be the thief of time. Perhaps ‘Transparency is the thief of time’

  2. neville

    David, we didn’t need to include the chat transcript. Offered purely if anyone wants to read it. You don’t have to of course. Your choice!

    I think the most benefit from having the chat would be for those who were participating. So you can listen to the discussion as well as follow along and participate in the back-channel chat, thus giving you the complete participatory experience.

    But if you listen just to the recording, I am sure you will get a real sense of the overall atmosphere.

    And I think you’re right re transparency is the thief of time. Yet it is about your own choices. You don’t have to do more than you want to.

  3. David Tebbutt

    I have, by the way, listened to a lot of it now.

    I just wish I had a long commute to work.

    Walking the fifteen feet from the bedroom to my office or climbing a single flight of stairs doesn’t give me much time for podcast listening.

  4. neville

    We’re both in the same boat there, David!

    I’ve not yet had a chance to listen to all of #142. Long ‘commute’ tomorrow, though, on a flight to Vancouver. Great opportunity to catch up with podcasts…

  5. Sebastian

    Neville, I am pretty sure that the break-up of voices you refered is related to everybody’s own band-width. While on the call I once loaded something up, definitely stressing my line. The connection held for a while but then I just got kicked out. I finished my upload and got connected again no problem. Also, I don’t think it was a problem with the gabbly-chat bandwidth as some suggested in the chat.
    Great experiment, more comment to follow.

  6. Dan Karleen

    Neville, congrats to you, Shel, and all involved in the first official FIR Skypecast. I’m regretting that I missed it. Could you say a bit about why you chose to use Gabbly and not the built-in Skype chat tool?

  7. neville

    That makes complete sense, Sebastian, thanks.

    Dan, it was a good show! Re Gabbly, we’ll need to ask Shel that question as he chose the chat tool. A question for Monday’s show.

  8. Shel Holtz

    Dan, there were some issues with the built-in chat tool that required each participant to jump through hoops to be able to all engage with it simultaneously. With Gabbly, they just had to go to the page where we inserted the tool. It just seemed simpler.

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