Skepticamp Atlanta 2011 Live (plus some UStream.tv tips)

This weekend (June 11 and 12) brings the third Skepticamp in Atlanta, presented by the Atlanta Skeptics. I will be presenting on Saturday June 11 at (changed!) 2:45 pm EDT (18:45 GMT).

Barring technical problems you should be able to watch it via a live video stream below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Or you can click through to watch on UStream, where you can join in via an online chat.

If you want to learn some technical details about how to work with UStream feeds, continue reading after the break. I’ll show you how I embedded that video above (despite WordPress.com claiming not to support UStream). I’ll also tell you how to connect to a UStream text chat for a video using an IRC client.

Skeptics live on TV!

As the technology gets easier to use, more skeptic groups are live streaming their events using UStream and other services. All it takes is a laptop or smartphone with a camera and a reasonably decent internet connection. Viewers can watch using the website, or on their smartphones as well.

My completely unscientific survey of skeptic UStream channels turns up the following interesting list:

There are probably more. In watching events on these (and other) UStream channels over the last couple of years, I’ve learned a few tricks about how to work with the UStream service.

Embedding UStream in a WordPress.com Blog

This blog, like many skeptic blogs, is hosted for free on WordPress.com. In order to offer this service for free (and for some security and business related reasons) some features have to be left out. That includes the ability to put arbitrary code or widgets in your posts. (These limitations do not apply to blogs that install their own copy of the WordPress code on their own server. Those are referred to as “WordPress.org blogs”).

And so, when you embed a video on one of these free blogs, you have to use what WordPress calls a “short code”. Only a limited list of popular video services is included in the list of short codes. A few of them are listed in the video embedding popup, more are listed in the help. UStream is not currently on the list.

So how did I embed that video above?

It turns out that one of the services WordPress.com does support is the video curation service VodPod. That site lets users collect videos into their own playlists regardless of what site the video is on. And VodPod supports UStream.tv videos! So that’s the trick.

Here’s the procedure for embedding a UStream via VodPod:

  1. Create a free VodPod account if necessary or
  2. Log in to your VodPod account
  3. Click the “Add Video” button at the top of the site
  4. Paste the URL of your UStream.tv video into the box that appears
  5. Follow the rest of the prompts to save it
  6. Click on the video you just added to view it on VodPod
  7. Hover on the “Share” button below the video
  8. Pick “Blog” from the menu which appears
  9. In the dialog which appears, click “WordPress.com ShortCode”
  10. Select and copy the text that appears

You should end up with a piece of text that looks something like this:

[vodpod id=Video.10722476&w=425&h=350&fv=]

Paste that directly into your WordPress blog post while in HTML editing mode, and you should be good to go. (Don’t do it in WYSIWYG mode).

Chatting on UStream using IRC

One of the nice features of UStream.tv is the chat window to the right of the video. It allows viewers to engage in a discussion while watching the presentation. Some live events solicit questions from viewers this way. Tip: in order for others to see your name when you chat, make sure you are logged in to UStream.tv.

It turns out that despite being visible as a modern widget on a web site, that chat actually uses a much older technology in the background called Internet Relay Chat. This means that if you want to, you can connect to one of these chats using your own software, such as a client that runs on your smartphone.

Why would you want to do this? One reason is if you are in the room where the video is originating. You might want to participate in the chat to solicit questions for a Q&A, without actually downloading the video on a slow local internet connection. Another would be to take advantage of the logging or other features of your favorite IRC client. Another would be to use the chat from your phone instead from a computer.

The exact configuration instructions vary depending on the IRC client you use. But here is the essential info you will need to enter:

  • Server: chat1.ustream.tv
  • Port: 6667
  • (Some clients combine the above: chat1.ustream.tv:6667)
  • Username: (your ustream.tv login name)
  • Server password: (your ustream.tv login password)
  • Join room: atlanta-skeptics

The room name is the same as the last component of the URL for the video on UStream.tv. So if your video is located at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/skeptically-speaking, you would join an IRC channel called skeptically-speaking. (In some clients you must prefix the channel name with a hash character “#”).

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4 thoughts on “Skepticamp Atlanta 2011 Live (plus some UStream.tv tips)

  1. Roland

    Hi Tim,
    Great tip. I found your blog while searching for a way to embed our church’s Ustream broadcasts in our WordPress.com posts. A few days ago I signed up on Vodpod and followed the procedure you described. Worked great, but today the video doesn’t appear in WordPress. Any idea what might have changed? I noticed too that when I went back to your page that contained the Vodpod instructions, there was a blank space at the top where a Ustream was supposed to be. Hmmm.
    Now I notice that Vodpod will not generate a WordPress shortcode for my video. Earlier today it would, Is Vodpod pretty reliable?
    One anomaly I noticed when I first embedded our Ustream was that the black background that our off-air slide show usually has was not there. I used div to make a blue background on the page that matches our WordPress theme, however, so it looks great – when the stream comes through.
    Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  2. Roland

    I can’t believe the coincidence. Seconds after I clicked the Post Comment button, your Ustream appeared. I checked my WordPress blog and mine looks normal now too. Think this is a glitch with Vodpod? Sorry to be a bother, but it had been off all afternoon and I was getting worried. Thank you.

  3. Tim Farley Post author

    I got an email recently from VodPod that they had been bought by Lockerz.com and were integrating with that service. Quoting from the email:

    “Over the next few weeks, each Vodpod account will be migrated over to Lockerz.com. At that point, trying to login at Vodpod will redirect you to login at Lockerz instead, where you can use your Vodpod email and password.”

    I suspect the weird behavior you saw might have something to do with this migration. I’ll keep an eye out and probably do a follow-up post on this tip if the details change when the migration is complete.

    1. Roland

      I do recall seeing something about Lockerz in searching the Vodpod forum for help, but I didn’t make the connection. Thanks very much for your help.

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