Thoughts on the Brogan/Pulver Show
Yesterday, I took part in the inaugural Chris Brogan/Jeff Pulver show on Ustream. I was one of the early callers. I was very impressed with the quality of the video, and the fact that the video and audio stayed in synch for the whole broadcast, and never dropped out. That may sound more like "It didn't suck that bad", but seriously, if you've watched any live video on the internet, you'll agree that that's a significant accomplishment. Good on ustream!!
The chat stream did crash early on in the show and never came back, but to be honest, I didn't miss it much at all. I'm not a fan of chat to begin with, and this chat line didn't change my mind. Most chat is pure drivel because the motor-mouths drown out any redeeming content. Even when it was on, Chris didn't seem to be paying much attention to it, and it's perfectly understandable why. It's like trying to listen to a whole roomful of people talking at the same time.
When they had one caller at a time on the phone, the show seemed to really take off. I give both these guys major props for putting themselves out there. It must have been a bit like doing stand-up for the first time.
If the show continues as a call-in talk format, they should really get Skype integrated. They could host callers from all over the world at no charge, have multiple on-air at the same time, and still be in control of who was speaking. Who knows, maybe ustream is working on providing that capability as part of its site. That would be a great addition to the service.
In the aftermath, this has been hailed as a revolutionary event, a paradigm shift, a disruption to broadcast and cable TV. See Pulver's and Grayson's posts. Also, Steve Garfield, in his customary trailblazing role, started doing live broadcasts using his Nokia N95 using wifi connectivity a couple of weeks ago.
Now, I'm not trying to be wet blanket or anything, but I don't see these developments as a fundamental qualitative technology change. That is not to say they are unimportant. But rather, as many times happen in technological breakthroughs, the difference is quantitative; a change in degree but not in kind.
After all, web-cams and web-casts have been around for literally years. What's the difference now? I see these significant quantitative changes.
Ease of use. Just like blip.tv and YouTube did for videoblogging, sites like ustream have made it very easy to do web-casts of high quality.
Quality. As I noted above, last night's show was, at least relatively speaking, of very good technical quality. It's no mean feat to keep video and audio streaming without interruption or stuttering and with good synchronization. And I want to emphasize good synch. Good sound and good sound synch convey a subliminal but very strong quality experience. And that subliminal quality is what sometimes pushes a technology up over the bar of wide acceptance.
Inter-modal fusion. How's that for a phrase? :) What I mean is the mutual reinforcement of other internet modalities like Twitter, blogs and IM to flesh out the interactive experience and make it more than the sum of its parts. This is one thing that Internet broadcasting has all over conventional TV and that mainstream media may never understand. "It's the conversation, stupid."
In his post, Jeff Pulver emphasized the disappearance of the "gatekeepers" as one of the significant developments of last night's broadcast. But the internet has never had gatekeepers (and I hope, never will). The difference now is that you have nearly broadcast quality with no gatekeepers and no cost barriers to entry.
I was around for the Golden Age of Television in the 50s and 60s. The developments we have the privilege of witnessing right now are in many ways even more significant. The democratization of the communication channel is on a level with the development of the printing press. And therein lies a warning.
All through history, tyrants, despots, corporations and totalitarian regimes of all kinds have at one time or another outlawed, confiscated, destroyed or otherwise tried to suppress the printing press. For the moment, we seem to have beaten back attempts to destroy neutrality for the internet. But I don't think the the Lords of Old Media, facing prodigious losses and disintegration of their empires, will go that quietly. We need to redouble our efforts to secure net neutrality and universal access, or this wonderful revolution will fall to the forces of money, greed and power like broadcasting has before it.
Can't wait for the next show, guys!!