My excellent friend ActionGirl hung out with me today. We did a dual-channel livecast using ustream.tv.
Livecasting, if you're not familiar, is one of the newest internet fads, but it's also NOT new. Technology has advanced to the point that the average joe has the ability to broadcast his or her life effortlessly and without cost (except for the obvious costs of computer, webcam, broadband connection, etc).
Similar to quasi-scripted MSM shows like MTV's "The Real World", people now have the ability to leave a camera running and pointed at them as they go about their daily business. Some people livecast from work. Some people livecast from home. Some people livecast on the move with EV-DO modem cards and laptops, like Sarah and Lisa do on justin.tv.
I became intersted in livecasting after watching Drew Olanoff's feed from PodCamp Philly. It was fun watching Drew roam the hallways and run into conference attendees and presenters. There was something cool about interacting with this live show that was going on, NOW. :) It was different because you could actually affect the course of the show, assuming the host was monitoring the text chat room. It was different because you could call your friends that you saw in the background and have them come over and talk to you on camera. It was cool because you were receiving information RIGHT NOW, just like everyone that was actually in Philadelphia for the conference.
So I wanted to check it out, and ActionGirl was down to experiment with me..... um.... was down to join me in my livecasting experiment. :)
We started out outdoors, utilizing free WiFi in the area. We were streaming about one frame per five seconds. Our video was choppy and our audio wasn't much better. Some glitch occurred where ActionGirl had bars of wireless signal, yet was unable to connect to the internet at all. Strange. Next, I tried receiving signal via my EV-DO modem card and sharing my internet connection with ActionGirl via airport. That was really slow, but I've never tried that before, and I think it was due to my card not connecting properly. I didn't have this diagnostics entry in my taskbar that I should have had, so I don't figure the card was functioning optimally at that point.
We retired indoors and used WiFi connections to stream from each of our macbooks. Connection was quick, and I was able to embed both of our streams plus a text chat on one page and run that from my site. I later added our friend Chris' stream, so we had three simultaneous live streams on the page.
Livecasting is tough to do properly, IMO, without monitoring your chat room(s). I suppose there IS no 'proper' way to livecast, since it's really "anything goes", but in order to interact with your audience, you have to read what they're typing to you. If you're not planning to interact with them, clearly, you don't have to bother with that. I found myself responding late to comments because while we were saying something, the text chat was scrolling up and I'd have to read up to notice what people said minutes before.
I think the audience is as important as the host... Meaning that if you have the right audience, even if that's 'only' one or two people who actually know you or are genuinely interested in what you do, livecasting can be a fun and rewarding experience. The best times today were when our friends were on, even just for a few minutes, and we got to interact with them and answer their questions. OTOH, when the audience isn't prime, it's tough, if not impossible to get revved up to deliver your best 'performance'.
For me, *teamwork* is key. I'm not interested in doing my own solo livecast. If I know I'm going to be around interesting people or at an event that would be of interest to people I know, then I'm glad to broadcast it. It also helps if you actually like and enjoy the person you're livecasting with so you know that even if NOBODY shows up, you're going to have a good time that day. :)
Eventually, we called it a night. I felt pretty exhausted by then, actually. When we shut our feeds down, it actually felt strange to me to NOT be on camera. Once we came inside, we were on from around 6pm to 9pm, and even that felt like an eternity. I'm not sure how (or why) people do that during their every waking hour. I guess you have to be the type of person that enjoys random people interacting with you. I suppose some people do it for the fame or notoriety.
I don't know that there's going to be a way to monetize lifecasting. I experimented with product placement, including beverages and t-shirts. It's tough to do well, live, trying to get products in front of a tiny webcam lens in the optimal size, focus and location. Still... A lot of people like to broadcast their lives, and a lot of people like to watch those broadcasts, so we'll see where this fad takes us next. :)