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Monday, January 30, 2006


One of the ideas for Mashpit Dallas was BarSpy, a DiggSpy-like real time view of an entire Bar Camp as it happens. The idea is that all the captured information in the session (and eventually the entire conference) is timestamped and geolocated and presented in a unified interface. The video stream, the irc chat log, user ratings, contributed links, the speaker bio, the current schedule, everything is marked with the room where it took place and a reasonably accurate timestamp. A sort of Bar Camp Mirror World. Not only does this give attendees (local and remote) a good overview of the conference, it also allows for some very cool "event playback" options.

Imagine this: you're reviewing the video stream from a particular session two weeks after the event. You hit the "auto-fast-fwd" button and the video playback becomes synched to the density of comments in the irc chat log. Sections with few comments fly by, but 10 seconds before a burst of comments, the video slows down to normal speed. Evidently political analysts already do that sort of thing with focus groups, but it would certainly help in wading through 20 hours worth of conference sessions.

But there's no reason to wait till after the event. Let's say the density of session backchannel chatter falls off (or people start hitting the "I'm bored button", whatever) Suddenly, the powerpoint on the projector changes to scenes from Monty Python, thus increasing the overall entertainment level of the presentation. Or let's say things are getting a little too exciting (A python-vs-ruby war breaks out) : calming scenes of kittens appear[1], cooling the tempers of all involved with their cuteness.

Of course, the idea is not to write an entire system from scratch, that's the kind of old-school thinking that gets you a team of 20 developers working for 2 years. There are enough cool tools out there already so that it might just be possible to get an 80% solution together very quickly, I'm thinking in time for a production debut at Bar Camp Austin in March. Or, heck, sooner.

[1] Chris Messina though of the kittens, not me. I'm allergic. In fact, Chris may have thought of all of this, it's kinda blurry. I was exhausted from the day before and a little punchy. But that's the beauty of a Mash Pit. Maybe puppies? Focusing on details is missing the point, we're talking grand experiment in social control here.

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Anonymous Todd M said...

(For reference, is me.)

That idea sounds cool; I even have 4 hours of footage myself.

The only thing is, I would thin you'd be hard pressed to find any combination of available tools that gets you 80% just out of the box. Certainly there are libraries that would get you alot of the functionality, but it seems to me that not every problem can be "80%-ed" in that manner.

I'm going to have to track down all the barcampdallas blogs out there.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous ToddM said...

Sorry about borking up the link...

12:34 PM  
Blogger cks said...

Sure, lots of possibilities for disappointment, but you've got plenty of good technology for video playback in a browser, and lots of good ways to post blogs, comments, votes and other metadata to the web (presumably annotated w/microformats.) There doesn't appear to be anything outright impossible, at least. Suppose it's best to try get something up and running fairly quickly and see what the stumbling blocks are...

12:56 PM  

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