On the bleeding edge of videoconferencing
Unlike previous videoconferences I’ve done for smaller seminars (audience up to 30 who can fit into a dedicated venue) presenting to a big event like this posed lots of difficulties, though most were satisfactorily resolved at the end. After initially giving assurances that they could handle a videoconference, the venue advised that they didn’t have an ISDN line, or any adequate alternative, and that installing a line would cost thousands of dollars. We looked at various computer-based options, but eventually decided that we would be unlikely to get sufficient reliability and video quality that way, so I stepped back from the frontier and made a DVD of my presentation which I mailed to Adelaide. Even that fairly low-tech approach created some problems, as playback of computer-burned DVDs turns out not to be 100 per cent reliable. There was a scramble to find a setup that would play the DVD, but it all went well in the end.
The plan was to take questions by audioconference, and this was incorporated in a panel discussion where questions were addressed to several speakers. The organisation on this point was a bit ad hoc, and the sound quality was very poor. Fortunately, perhaps, the format only allowed for one or two questions per speaker.
A benefit of going this way is that it’s reasonably easy to make a podcast. Unfortunately, my slide design, which works fine on standard projection equipment, and seems to have gone OK in the DVD, is very hard to read in a small movie format. Even with this poky format, 30 minutes of video turns out to be too big to upload. I’ll have to split it into parts. I’ve attached the presentation for the moment, but even that is 8.3MB..
Overall, my experience here is an indication of some of the kinds of adjustments that need to be made if videopresence is going to replace air travel on a large scale. None of them are huge in themselves, but they reflect the marginal status of this option When the problems are overcome, the advantages, such as the permanent availability and reusability of the video and podcast will be substantial, but at the moment, it’s still on the bleeding edge.