Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Other People’s Platforms

June 17, 2016 Leave a comment


Mashable posted an article about an attempt by the Australian government to hold a live political debate via Facebook. Sadly for anyone interested in watching the debate, the quality of the livestream was terrible, largely due it seems to the low overall quality of connectivity in Australia (the article lists them as 48th in terms of global internet speeds).

There are some lessons to be learned from this exercise for the enterprise user. First, it’s important to consider the likely end user experience, and be extremely aware of the outside factors that can influence it. They cannot be controlled, but they must be accounted for. If you’re going to deliver a live event, are you prepared for the possibility that end users might have a terrible experience? What steps can you take, perhaps with your CDN provider, to provide extra capacity to ease the loads? Are you set up to field complaints properly, both by phone and social & email outlets?

Second, are you prepared to put yourself at the mercy of someone else’s infrastructure? Not everyone can or should build or buy livestreaming capacity, especially if it’s not something you intend to do very often. But are you prepared to risk a major (or even minor) live event on Facebook’s or YouTube’s live delivery options? These are wonderful platforms to be on, and your audiences are certainly there to be reached, but there are risks involved in depending on these tools as your sole delivery mechanism. You have to trust that in the midst of everything else these platforms are doing, your event will receive the attention it deserves.

Finally, think about the level of support you want to have when something goes bad. As the Mashable article indicates, even a Buzzfeed chat with President Obama went sour and they had to shift away to a YouTube feed. If a major media source and the President of the United States couldn’t get their problems sorted by the provider, how much better service will your organization get? Companies like Ustream and Livestream do this as a sole function (and I’m not shilling for either) for large-scale events; they can provide one-off services if these are only needed occasionally; and as part of an arrangement with them it’s reasonable to expect a high level of service in the event of a failure.

By all means leverage every tool at your disposal, and go where the audiences are. But be sure to understand the potential for problems is high, and in the end you get what you pay for.

Image courtesy of Mashable from the article Australia’s first online leadership debate marred by buffering complaints


Be Your Own Project Advocate

May 19, 2016 Leave a comment

ID-10081312If there’s one challenge for production/creative managers in the enterprise space, it’s the struggle to define, implement and operate a new technology system for their productions. Many communications leaders are specialists in the creation and development of high-value video and audio content. They are well versed in scriptwriting, lighting, shooting, pacing and the other key aspects of film production.

Where many of these managers get tripped up is in the proper implementation of the increasingly complex delivery systems available to share their creations online. Whether the system is homebuilt or vendor-driven, leaders suddenly find themselves in complicated discussions of bandwidth, streaming protocols, ideal bitrates, transcoding and every other detail of properly instituting systems for delivering video content. There’s a tendency on the creative side to defer these questions to the “experts” – let the IT guys work that stuff out, I just have to focus on providing the content.

That kind of attitude is understandable, but can do enormous damage to the project and possibly kill it altogether. It’s imperative for even the least technical manager to get both interested and informed about these details as if the project depends on the managers understanding and discussing them intelligently. There are a number of reasons for this, but it boils down to your advocacy is the only one that will focus completely on the project meeting its goals successfully.

The first driver of project success is focus – the team needs to define goals to meet the business needs, layout essential functionality and see that the project stays on track. Ostensibly the Project Manager assigned by the IT department for the project will handle those efforts. In reality, my experience has demonstrated that even the most well-intentioned and skilled PM is juggling at least a half-dozen projects at once. Yours may not be the most complicated or the most high-profile, and by definition it will settle down to the bottom of his list. The tech team doing the initial due diligence is likewise swamped, and broadly speaking are unlikely to be experts at first in the details of streaming video. Moreover, there’s often a distance placed between the project’s business owners and the guys in the trenches, and every layer in between guarantees details will be lost in translation. The high-level sponsors of projects are fire-and-forget – they stand up to support a project, but they usually don’t want to know anything until it’s all done (or they have to yell at someone). The vendors are focused on many things – they want you to use and love their products, but often they have limited staff trying to manage multiple clients and thus their goals are different. In the end, you’re the only one invested enough to keep pointing like a laser at getting a working product that you’ll be living with for the foreseeable future.

Another key concern for these projects is the distance between the promise and reality. Again, you’re the one that has to work with these tools daily. Everything always sounds good at the kickoff meetings, but too many of the stakeholders there don’t have to deal with the actual day-to-day function. Practically it makes no difference to a VP that it takes 14 steps to deliver each piece of video out to the audience – but your team is going to lose productivity in massive chunks if the design doesn’t take your processes into consideration. Something as critical as metrics can be a major stumbling block if it’s not considered early – can they deliver what you actually need to know and report out to the stakeholders?

In the end, no one should know the needs and the uses better than the direct owner of the systems. These concepts may  be foreign to you, but it behooves you to learn them and be able to discuss them intelligently. No one will show more concern for the success of your project than you will, and the more you can direct it, prod your partners and shape the final results the better it will turn out.

Image courtesy of stockimages at

Mobile Video and the Enterprise

February 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Long Tail Video has an interesting post today about the state of live streaming to mobile devices and specifically issues with the Android platform:

The Pain of Live Streaming on Android

The group over there know their streaming, and if you’ve never heard of their flagship JW Player, head over to their site and check it out. I’ve worked with it before and it’s a highly configurable, simple and elegant solution for video playback.

What Ed Wolf points out in the blogpost is probably one of the greatest pain points for online video delivery across the enterprise – delivering quality video experiences to end users regardless of platform. It’s by no means a simple solution for on-demand viewing, but it becomes even more complex for live events. The introduction of HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) was (as Ed indicates) supposed to solve this issue and make the delivery across platforms and devices simple, but as in all technology simple is a relative term.

As the bring your own device (BYOD) universe in the enterprise increases exponentially, the need for simple, manageable standards for delivery become even more critical. Of course, developing standards across competing brands and OS universes is not simple, and at the best of times standards-making bodies don’t act swiftly. So what’s an enterprise production house supposed to do to handle the inevitable requests for viewers using specific platforms?

The answer depends on your organization and your approach to video. The simplest, though not necessarily most cost-effective solution is to deliver video using a third-party provider and work closely with them to make certain they can handle the most popular devices. There are many reasons to use a third-party anyway, so it’s one more question to raise with them when evaluating vendors. Like every other decision, make sure you test it out thoroughly with all of the key platforms before committing to the vendor right before the big live event with the CEO.

The other option is simply not to offer it at all.  Again this depends on your organization, the maturity of your online video efforts and the company’s position on BYOD. I’ve been in the position of managing live event streaming, but we did it so infrequently to such a small audience that struggling with multiple platforms wasn’t worth the effort. We offered recommended configurations and warned users that it was likely to be a problem if they were outside that scope.

Long term this isn’t really an answer for a company and program that are serious about online video delivery – you will eventually have to find a way to offer the same content to users regardless of platform. Unfortunately we’re still a ways away from finding a single approach that will work universally, but at least there are some options to deliver live content everywhere.

Mobile Data Traffic

February 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Very Cisco-oriented couple of days – thanks to the brilliant Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) I stumbled across a series of presentations yesterday for Social Media Week ( from the Cisco group, which led me to follow a bunch of twitter accounts, so I have a bit of ammunition for some blogging. There was a terrific presentation from Jeanette Gibson (@jeanetteg) that I wanted to talk over, but I can’t find a link yet so it’ll have to wait a bit.

One piece to come out of yesterday’s event was a link to Cisco’s new Visual Networking Index containing their predictions for mobile data traffic over the next several years. There’s a lot in there about usage, devices, trends, etc. but the tweet that caught my attention referenced this line as written in their exec summary:

Two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2016. Mobile video will increase 25-fold between 2011 and 2016, accounting for over 70 percent of total mobile data traffic by the end of the forecast period.

The emphasis is theirs, not mine, but it is worth noting. As I posted last year in reference to their report on internet traffic, I feel it’s necessary to distinguish between the volume of traffic and the value of that traffic to the enterprise. Once again, more data does not necessarily mean better or more important data.

What it does mean for the enterprise media manager is the importance of ensuring cross-platform availability of your content. You need to go where the eyeballs are, and those viewers are at least equally if not more likely to be on mobile devices as on desktops. For your outside viewers your opportunity to reach them and gain traction in the marketplace depends on their ability to find your content no matter where they are. Similarly, your inside audience will be accustomed to receiving their video content anytime, anywhere and will expect the same behavior from their corporate learning, messaging and communications.

Practically speaking, there are some necessary considerations to prepare or maintain important work processes:

  • Transcoding needs to be built in or scaled to ensure the ability to deliver multiple output formats
  • Streaming servers or vendors need to be prepared for proper format delivery and increased volume
  • Online learning platforms may need to be upgraded or configured for mobile delivery

While it may be a brave new world, the mobile universe is just one more delivery outlet media managers will need to understand and prepare for.

Super Bowl Numbers

February 8, 2012 1 comment

The fine Tim Siglin at follows up on his earlier post and digs deeper into the numbers of online watchers of the Super Bowl:

Super Bowl Streaming: 2.1 Million Served

I’m not smart enough (or willing enough) to verify Tim’s math, but I have no reason to doubt what he’s crunched, and the anecdotal evidence indicates it was not a great experience for those who tried to watch online. I don’t expect much from NBC publicly about it, but I imagine they’re reviewing internally and I hope they’re learning from what happened. I’m certainly with Tim that the “Last Mile” (i.e. user error or local problems) argument doesn’t hold a lot of weight if the problems were pretty universal. I do hope they continue to do these kinds of online efforts, but I also expect them to learn and improve on them.

If there’s a takeaway for those doing this on a smaller scale, be sure to learn from your failures (assuming you still have a job after something blows up :).) Obviously if someone screwed up, acknowledge it and change your protocols to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  If something unexpected happened, be sure to dig deeply into it to identify the cause, and make changes if needed to prevent a repeat. Above all else, don’t stop delivering content this way – accept these as growing pains as you work to constantly improve services and delivery.

Streaming Major Events

February 6, 2012 4 comments

Tim Siglin over at has done a thorough review of NBC’s live stream of the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Streaming Fail

As you might have guessed from his title, Tim does not have  ton of nice things to say about the effort to deliver one of the world’s most-watched sporting events over the web. There’s a lot there and I strongly recommend you read the whole thing, but here were my key takeaways from the article:

  • The quality of the stream was poor for large parts of the broadcast
  • The technology was limiting for many people on some widely used platforms
  • Cluttered display did not enhance the viewing experience
  • The time lag for online viewing grew to unreasonable levels

Naturally one would ask some questions about the event, and I think there are some important things to think about before streaming one’s own live event.

I imagine none of us will be streaming an event with a TV audience of 111.3 million (117+ million by the end of the game), but that doesn’t mean our audiences of several thousand (or even just a few dozen) want to struggle with a difficult or poor user experience. Presumably NBC was not looking to do a poor job, but one does have to ask if they had thought this all the way through before they opened the stream up to viewers.  So what should we consider before going live? Read more…

I guess it’s time…

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m giving up my fight and I guess I’m going to start Tweeting on a regular basis. Which is to say more than the three times I have in the previous year. Follow me (or not) @dansokolow.

In the interim, for some genuine content, the fine folks who brought you the JWPlayer (a highly configurable and powerful embedded video player) have taken a close look at the state of HTML 5 and its impact on the online streaming video world.  The short version is that browser penetration is good, but until legacy IE browsers pass from the scene coverage will still be partial.

As an aside, let me note that a decent chunk of those older browsers are living in corporate environments that can be slow to adopt. I’m aware of one organization that only shifted away from IE6 in the last year or so, when Microsoft is pushing IE9 – clearly they are running behind. Take a moment to ask about the state of your organization’s browser experience – are they keeping their employees chained to an old version?  How much are they missing due to outdated technology? My own involvement in online video began with a simple question – what version of Windows Media Player is the organization’s standard? The answer made me the video guy I am today, so sometimes out of date technology can help the universe. 🙂

Back to the report on HTML 5 – there are a number of specific functions that are not supported completely by all browsers, but it’s safe to say the three biggies (covering 75% of the market) – IE, Chrome, and the sadly fading Firefox – will meet all needs going forward. Read the rest of the report for more details.

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