Pushing the envelope on remote interaction: my talk, live, interactive

You may have seen the weird sounding item in the NESCent news feed (which I am syndicating in the left bar). This is the talk that I am giving tomorrow at noon (12pm EDT) at NESCent’s weekly Brown Bag Lunch seminar series, titled “Incubating Cyberinfrastructure: Community Building and Open Collaborative Software Development at the Transition Between Mostly-Off and Always-On.”

I will be speaking about my interests in open collaborative software development as a vehicle (in fact, in my opinion requirement) for promoting effective cyberinfrastrucure development, using various examples from our Hackathon and Summer of Code activities. In addition, I’ll connect these objectives to social networking, blogs, and related tools, and hope to instigate some brainstorming on how much we should be at the forefront of technologies that allow us to broaden participation much beyond the physical walls of NESCent.

Regarding the latter, part of the presentation is the setup itself. You can watch the talk — myself and the slides — live as a videostream, complete with audio, using most modern web browsers, without installing separate stand-alone software. Unlike the expensive and bulky Polycom that we have been using for video-conferencing, which only allows up to 3 concurrent client connections (and which has shown to be highly vulnerable to occasional network bottlenecks), this time we will be using much lighter equipment on the production end (in essence a video camera and a wireless microphone), and a much more powerful solution on the broadcasting end (Adobe Connect), allowing up to 100 (!) people to connect via their browsers. (Note that this will be a live stream only — it’s not a downloadable videocast, and there is no recording!)

This part allows you to watch and hear me. To make the possibility for remote interaction bidirectional, Brian O’Meara, the mind behind TreeTapper, will concomitantly watch and moderate our IRC channel (#nescent on Freenode). You are welcome to log on and rant about the talk as I am presenting it, or ask questions, along with those people who are physically in the room.

In the future, there are many more capabilities of the Adobe Connect platform that we might want to exploit. Aside from having a chat feature built-in (which we won’t be using this time), there is a shareable whiteboard, which would actually allow you to send sketches and other visuals back to the presenter, and to the other remote participants.

If you are thinking about watching, I just need you to be aware of one big caveat — don’t expect a very formal presentation. Coincidentally, internally we have just recently debated whether the BBL seminars shouldn’t be more informal as they were originally intended to be. Inadvertently I am going to set an example for that, too. I have spent the last couple of days with the Evolutionary Informatics working group, which has just had their 3rd meeting at NESCent, and so have had almost no time to spend on a polished slideshow. In fact, I may improvise and develop some cartoons on-the-spot on a whiteboard or flipchart; theoretically, a swift turn of the camera should accommodate that just fine for the remote participants. You have been warned :-)

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