Sasha Griffin 2014-02-11 11:31:10
At the 2013 CoSA/SAA Joint Annual Meeting, the Archivists’ Toolkit/Archon Roundtable (ATART) successfully streamed its meeting to roundtable members who were unable to come to New Orleans. The ATART meeting is highly attended, averaging around one hundred attendees in 2011 and 2012. This year was even more impressive with two hundred people in the room. The Idea With the imminent release of ArchivesSpace and recent announcements that Archivists Toolkit (AT) and Archon will no longer be supported, the ATART discussion list had been buzzing with questions. In particular, conversations on the list centered on ArchivesSpace’s membership and governance structures. As a result, 2012–2013 ATART Chair Cassie Schmitt led the Steering Committee in gathering feedback and organizing it into a community letter to the ArchivesSpace project team. Although the ArchivesSpace team addressed ATART member questions in a detailed response, the Steering Committee thought it was important to invite the team to the roundtable’s meeting in New Orleans to participate in a Q&A panel to clarify any lingering or new questions. In addition to the ArchivesSpace panel, the meeting agenda included a discussion about the identity of the Roundtable as ArchivesSpace continues to develop and replace AT and Archon. Member engagement on the discussion listserv rose dramatically during spring 2013, so the New Orleans conference proved an ideal time to host a participatory-based meeting. This meeting was an important opportunity for ATART community members to weigh in on how the roundtable’s goals and mission might evolve. Because many of the 1,358 members—including current and incoming members of our Steering Committee— would not be attending the CoSA/SAA Joint Meeting, we wanted to provide an opportunity for everyone to participate. With the announcement earlier in the year that the 2013 Annual Meeting would offer wireless Internet, the idea to stream our roundtable meeting was born. The Method There are several different streaming providers that allow for broadcasting via webcam, including Google Hangouts on Air, Livestream, and Justin.tv. I chose Ustream because I was familiar with it. Ustream offers a free account that is ad supported, allows for 10GB of video storage, basic social sharing, and a video display resolution of 480p SD for live broadcasting and recording. On the day of the ATART meeting, I arrived approximately an hour beforehand to set up the computer, streaming software, and AV, and also to troubleshoot problems. However, the setup was quite easy and took five minutes. My only hardware was a Macbook Pro with an embedded webcam, and I made sure that I was within reach of a power outlet. Even though the setup was as simple as clicking “Start Broadcasting,” I learned a number of logistical lessons. Lessons Learned Lesson #1: Use a designated streaming laptop. We needed to use my laptop to display the agenda and meeting information via the AV projector and to stream. To make matters more difficult, the provided display cord was very short and limited the laptop placement to the podium. I decided to use the projector screen as if it were a dual monitor and positioned the laptop below the podium, facing up. Although not the most flattering perspective, it did the trick! When it came time for the Q&A Panel, I turned the laptop toward the participating panel members, and then returned it to its original position after the segment was over. In hindsight, a separate laptop should have been used for projecting. The streaming laptop would have been better positioned at the front and center of the room. This also would have assisted the computer microphone to better pick up audience comments and questions. Lesson #2: Run a test broadcast. I did not run a test before I arrived to the meeting room, and that was a mistake. About five to ten minutes into our streaming broadcast, some individuals Tweeted that there was no sound on the users’ end. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I believe it was related to browser and Flash settings. Ultimately, I ran the old version of the Ustream broadcaster, which caused some glitches but fixed the sound problem. If I had run an initial test with friends earlier, I would have caught the problem ahead of time and adjusted my settings accordingly. Lesson #3: Remember to hit “Record.” I began streaming about forty-five minutes prior to the start of the ATART meeting to distribute the URL via our discussion list. However, I did not realize that I had forgotten to hit “Record” until about thirty minutes into the meeting! This did not affect the live streaming, but users who watched the video on demand were unable to view the beginning of the meeting. Lesson #4: Consider if and how Internet viewers will communicate with you. We used Twitter as our official means of communication with our audience. We asked that they use the hashtag #SAAATART to direct any questions or comments to us. While this worked for many ATART members, not everyone tuning into the meeting had a Twitter account. Ustream has a built-in social sharing/chat widget, but we were unable to moderate that space because we had only one computer doing double duty. Unfortunately, that resulted in losing some of our viewers’ comments. Next time, we will investigate other ways that feedback can be offered, such as having a Google Form available for viewers to add comments, regardless of platform and with optional anonymity. We’ll also have a designated person to moderate all of the communication channels to prevent lost comments. Lesson #5: Be prepared with a backup Internet connection. The idea of streaming the ATART meeting was possible because there was free wireless Internet in the meeting rooms of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel. Without knowing exactly how reliable or fast the connection would be, I came prepared with a Mobile Hotspot MiFi device. This device is provided by my institution to help defray travel costs related to professional development. If you don’t have access to a MiFi device, many smart phones today offer Mobile Hotspot capabilities as a free service (though it will Most likely count toward your data usage). For our meeting in New Orleans, the wireless connection was reliable, so there was no need to use the MiFi. However, for future meetings, wireless Internet isn’t a guarantee, so I’ll be bringing my MiFi just in case. Conclusion Despite being highly experimental, streaming the ATART meeting resulted in increased member engagement by keeping our community connected across physical locations. Through streaming, we increased our “attendance” to the meeting by nearly 85 percent. Our streaming broadcast had 29 unique live viewers, and the recorded video had 113 views by the end of the day and more than 140 views by the end of August. With the Council’s adoption of “Principles and Priorities for Continuously Improving the SAA Annual Meeting,”1 wireless Internet will be a stated need for future meetings. I hope that our successful broadcast inspires other SAA component groups and committees to do the same in the future to enhance participation opportunities for those unable to attend the Annual Meeting. Notes 1 http://www2.archivists.org/news/2013/council-adopts-principles-andpriorities- for-continuously-improving-annual-meeting?
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