This week I have been making heavy use of streaming video to virtually visit several different conferences. Both SAPPhire 2008 and JavaOne2008 have been streaming ( and recording for playback) portions of their conferences. This also led to my lament that the third conference I wished I could participate in (a PMI conference in Chicago) was NOT streaming any of it. For a handful of reasons I could not travel this week, but if I had been able to- I would have been making a choice between these conferences, rather than staying here and participating in more than one of them.
I am no newbie to online video. My fiance currently lives an hour away (for another 2.5 weeks) and we frequently use online video to communicate. My parents are on the east coast, about a 12 hour drive away from their grand kids- we use online video to supplement phone calls and visits to stay connected. I participate in chats, watch Qik and UStream shows and even occasionally talk to complete strangers with online video chat. I have participated in live video Concert Events ( Deep Rock Drive, Live Earth, AT&T BlueRoom, etc) But almost all of what I have use online video for has been either for intimate personal use, or TV type viewing of a concert or event. Using it for a learning situation is a little different. Following is my list of changes that would make the perfect tool from my viewing experience thus far:
1) Dual Camera options. In most cases, I would like to have two screens viewable at all times- one closeup of the slides being shown, the other of the speaker. Trying to read the slides behind the speaker is a headache. Having the cameraman decide when to switch back and forth is really annoying. If having them both as live video in my browser window is problematic. Give me the slide deck on the web page and let me page through it without leaving the page or losing the video also playing.
2) Close Captioning. Truth? We really need this in every video tool.. personal, corporate or otherwise. The Hard of Hearing/Deaf community want to video as well. But even for a good hearing person like myself, close captioning would be great when listening to presentations from people around the world. ( actually.. if you could perfect this.. you could sell it to colleges who could use it live with TAs who can not speak the language well.....)
3. Resize. Most of the current tools have an "in page" fixed window size or "full screen" modes. Let me just say this: use the pop-out feature on Hulu, resize your window a few times and you will understand what I want.
It is true that if someone could perfect the tools, there are times that I would pay to have video access to a conference. I said this on Twitter and immediately started discussion. Let me be very clear. NOTHING beats attending a conference in person. 90 percent of what you get from a conference, you get from the networking. From bumping into people, meeting new people and getting a chance to have live face to face discussions. This is invaluable and can never be replaced. But the truth is that budgets are limited, I can get every trip I want approved.. some years none at all. I could potentially sell online access when I can not sell travel to my management. I do not want, nor do I envision video conferencing replacing the real conference gathering- but it is a great potential supplement- if it were done right and added complete value, not frustration.