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:
- Atlanta Skeptics including Skepticamp Atlanta
- Chicago Skeptics Meetup
- Dragon*Con Skeptrack
- The Infidel Guy Show
- Rational Alchemy podcast
- Skeptically Speaking radio
- SkeptiCamp Colorado
- SkeptiCamp DC
- Skeptics with a K podcast (Merseyside Skeptics Society)
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:
- Create a free VodPod account if necessary or
- Log in to your VodPod account
- Click the “Add Video” button at the top of the site
- Paste the URL of your UStream.tv video into the box that appears
- Follow the rest of the prompts to save it
- Click on the video you just added to view it on VodPod
- Hover on the “Share” button below the video
- Pick “Blog” from the menu which appears
- In the dialog which appears, click “WordPress.com ShortCode”
- Select and copy the text that appears
You should end up with a piece of text that looks something like this:
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 “#”).