Keeping up with streaming app updates

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Above: The latest update from stre.am now makes it possible to title your broadcast.

In a recent post, I confessed my love for stre.am but complained that it had one serious shortcoming: Since broadcasters could not title their streams inside the app, related tweets and Facebook posts offered only generic messages at launch and were thus insufficient for catching possible viewers who might be searching by topical keywords — as I do with Tweetdeck.

Well, those days are gone, thanks to a new upgrade (iOS, Android) which I tried for the first time while watching some wet weather sweep over Philadelphia last night.

I chatted with another member of the stre.am team inside that broadcast and learned that they also plan to enable commenting in the web view soon, which would be another important advantage over competitors.

I also learned that it was no accident that stre.am viewers remain anonymous until they comment. That had always been the case but I just hadn’t noticed — with so many differences to consider among the latest apps.

But I think I prefer the Periscope model on that point, where viewers are announced with an onscreen text message when they begin viewing each stream. I can also understand the counter-argument.

Meerkat

Meanwhile, I agree with Mashable’s assessment that the latest Meerkat update adds improvements but “still has much to fix.”

A brutal review inside the iTunes store begins: “I loved meerkat…until this last update,” calls the opening view “horrible” and concludes: “This is a zero star update, but they made me choose 1, so I did. But I’m being generous.”

Check my last post for a look at the latest Periscope upgrades.

In an upcoming post, I will also go over the ANGL app, which looks great at a glance but left me puzzled on first use.

What’s your favorite app for streaming video?

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Want to stream you life horizontally? There’s an app for that!

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Above and below: Roller skaters check out opening night at the RiverRink in Philadelphia. I grabbed these moments from my stre.am broadcast.

I like vertical videos and I am not alone. “Vertical videos are here to stay,” according to engadget.com. And digiday.com says: “It’s time to take vertical video seriously.”

There’s even a new app called Verdid, which journalism.co.uk says is setting out to become the “YouTube of vertical videos.”

And as I said in one of my earlier posts, watching Periscope streams on my big screen at home left me wishing that I had my TV mounted vertically.

3But of course I do not. Cable and satellite signals and just about everything else come in horizontally. And more than a century of Hollywood movies would have to be drastically cropped or downsized for viewing on vertical screens.

And there are lots of reasons to continue producing horizontal videos. Verticals still look ridiculously compromised on YouTube and on broadcast TV.

Citizen journalists using vertical video might find themselves starting with one strike against them if they want to make sales to news organizations, and will certainly be at a disadvantage if another producer has the same content in horizontal format.

Fortunately, we have stre.am, or #streamwithadot, which promises to help you “Share you world.”

streamI glanced at the app while gathering information for my first post on this site last month, but with much of the news coverage focused on competition between Periscope and Meerkat, I kind of forgot about the third option until one of their staffers reached out to me on Twitter last week.

That’s when I finally tried sending a test stream with the app, and guess what? It’s horizontal!

So, when I went down to the Delaware River to check out Philadelphia’s new roller rink last weekend — and found decidedly horizontal visuals — I decided to give stre.am a try in the field.

And I loved it for lots of reasons:

• First of all, the app saved a clean horizontal copy of my stream to my iPhone’s Camera Roll. I’m a journalist and producing horizontals just makes more sense for me.

• And stre.am enables easy Twitter AND Facebook sharing at launch.

• Tapping an aperture icon while streaming captures clean still photos to your camera roll, although there seemed to be a brief delay in the process. (I can do the same on Periscope by clicking my iPhone’s home and power buttons simultaneously, but that will also capture the hearts and comments. And sometimes I inadvertently put the phone to sleep if I get those keystrokes out of sync.)

• Finally, you can also post text comments while streaming, which can be helpful if you want to communicate while covering an event such as the solemn Ride of Silence, which left me whispering while Periscoping last week.

There’s one big problem but there’s a solution in the works and some pretty cool alternatives in place already.

• Unfortunately, you can’t yet title your stre.am stream before broadcasting; so, your tweet and Facebook shares will leave your friends and followers wondering. However, two stre.am staffers have promised me that will change in an upcoming version.

UPDATE: Stre.am CTO Jeremy Martin tells me they: “just submitted a new build with titles to the App Store today!”

Meanwhile, you can share more deliberately once your stream is underway:

• While you’re live, the top left menu displays your stream’s duration, likes and the number of current viewers. But if you tap the tiny icon in the top left corner, it opens a vertical menu with more options.

• There, you can turn on the flashlight or switch to your front camera but you can also craft and send a more precise tweet or Facebook post while maintaining the stream. You can also send a text or an email.

Some other observations:

• Viewer count compared favorably with my engagement on Periscope, but almost nobody commented. This could be due to any number of reasons but I am suspecting it may result from the fact that viewers need to tap a bubble icon before they see the comments.

• You can “Like” a stream by clicking a thumbs-up icon. It’s a lot more subtle than pouring your hearts out on Periscope but time will tell what users prefer.

• Instead of streaming, you can also opt to record a video clip for your “reel,” which will be attached to your profile for 24 hours. I haven’t figured out the point of this process but I will give it a try soon.

Tweeted streams seem rare; so, I have not been able to establish whether live web viewing is possible.

Update: Another stre.am staffer messaged me to confirm that live web viewing is possible.

Of course you can also rotate your device horizontally while streaming on Periscope, but the comments and hearts will display sideways.

Stre.am reminds you that your “Portrait Orientation Lock” must be off when using their app horizontally. Otherwise, it warns that you will be creating a “sideways experience” for your viewers and implores you: “Don’t be that person.”

Finally, since none of the new streaming mobile video apps presently enable embedding, I have been experimenting with capturing streams from my screen and redistributing them via Ustream, which produces an embed code but also sends out video in a horizontal box like we get when using YouTube. Stre.am solves that problem too.

Have you tried stre.am? What do you think?

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Simple test shows Twitter activity related to live mobile video apps

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Above: I set up several search columns for the test video below.

Does anybody else remember when Twitter was so new that it felt as if you could read almost every tweet?

Well, now you can sometimes catch just about every tweet related to Periscope, which appears to be the most active live streaming mobile video platform on Twitter, based on my casual observations and a little crude testing.

But volume isn’t everything, as many Periscope-related tweets are posted in other languages and thus not equally valuable to English speakers. While I have no simple method to quantify them, it appears as if a lot of the messages are appearing in Arabic and Turkish, perhaps followed by Italian, French and Spanish.

Back to my test: At around 9 a.m. EDT Friday, I created Tweetdeck search columns for “periscope live,” “meerkat live” and “stre.am live,” and captured the activity. The time-lapse video below shows 10 minutes of tweets compressed into 30 seconds.

This crude experiment is consistent with my past observations over time as well, but it may be most important to note that even the busiest stream is not so busy.

Of course, users can also broadcast without tweeting — at lease on Periscope — but I haven’t discovered a method to search or coherently monitor those streams.

You can set up the Periscope app to send push alerts to your phone when a stream appears from someone you follow, but that practice has had limited value for me because I have found that even the most active newsies still stream other activity.

I should note that some tweets with the necessary keywords but no accompanying video link can also creep into these searches, but the volume appears to be quantitatively insignificant.

Finally, here is one place to start searching, albeit crude: This search widget, checks for all tweets including “periscope,” “meerkat” and “stream.am,” but in safe mode, excluding sensitive content and profanity:


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Set up alerts to catch live streaming news video

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Above: Breaking news reporter Tim Pamplin tweeted from @nightcam when he streamed video of this fire in Detroit Tuesday night. The view shown above demonstrsates how it looked on my laptop browser, after I followed a live link from Tweetdeck to Periscope.tv, but the archive view will work only if you are reading this post on a mobile device.

Periscope exploded onto the scene as a breaking news tool on the day it was released, when users turned their phones toward a disaster in New York City. But what about news that doesn’t take place so close to our global media epicenter?

I haven’t yet spotted one of those articles telling me which newsies to follow — as we have seen with other social media platforms — although I suspect we will be inundated with them sooner or later.

For now, I am setting up Tweetdeck columns on my laptop with search words including “Periscope” and “live,” while sometimes adding “police,” “fire” or “explosion,” for example.

Then, I open column-specific preferences by clicking the icon at the top, right corner of the new search column I just created.

Click on “Alerts” and “ “Popups,” which — you guessed it — will make alerts pop up on your laptop screen whenever somebody auto-tweets their Periscope videos and uses those keywords in the title.

The Periscope app automatically adds “Periscope’ and “live” to the tweet. However, if the user doesn’t title the report with useful search words — or if they don’t set up Periscope to tweet at all — we’re pretty much out of business, as far as I can tell.

(I had been also experimenting with “breaking news” as a search term but a lot of people joke about it, for example when their friends take out the trash or do the dishes.)

Here’s a mobile trick, albeit imprecise: If you find a user who streams breaking news, you can swipe right while watching on your phone and click to “follow” them on Periscope. Then, you can go into your iPhone Notifications and set it to alert you onscreen when those you follow are active.

But I have to admit that I don’t think these strategies will scale if the practice grows in popularity, as I suspect it will. So, let’s hope better tools come along — and soon!

I have spent less time with Meerkat and Stre.am, and the latter product doesn’t even use searchable titles, although they tell me they will in an upcoming release.

Meanwhile, please leave a comment below if you have others ideas for tracking live videos and I will share them in future posts.

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Welcome to Streamalism

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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I’d have to be crazy to tell you that anything is the next big thing, but one signal has tickled me enough to launch this site.

When I share my enthusiasm for the recent outbreak of live crowdsourced mobile video streaming, I get a lot of sideways looks and disparaging comments.

And it reminds me of how I felt when I started working with Twitter for journalism, a little while ahead of some others.

As with all other social media content, journalists are going to have to figure out discovery, curation, authority, ownership, rights, legitimacy, terms of service, sharing, ethical dilemmas and much, much more.

But unlike much of anything we’ve seen before, the audience will be watching a great volume of crowdsourced news as it happens.

To begin, I am going to start working with Periscope, Meerkat, Stre.am, Ustream and Livestream, while catching up with live streaming developments on Youtube Live and perhaps everywhere else. Time will tell.

To get started, let’s think about this: With the new DJI Phantom 3, you can now stream live video footage from your drone to the internet:

If you use this link to buy yours from Amazon, you will also be supporting Streamalism.org at no additional cost.

Meanwhile, let’s get the conversation started.

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