Analyzing Streaming Media

Macworld 2006 Streamcast
Macworld 2006
I decided to check out the Macworld 2006 stream from January. It uses QuickTime streaming technology with MPEG-4 as its codec. It seemed to buffer very quickly compared with a progressive download of equivalent length (1:45 TRT); however after only 30 seconds it started experiencing quite a bit of video hiccups and occasional audio break up. Digital artifacts would frequently fill up my screen prohibiting me from seeing anything, I even had to pause and restart the playback a couple times. I was still able to understand most of the content but the glitches were very distracting. With Apple being the architect of QuickTime, I was surprised that the playback was so poor, especially now that the content is already close to 2 months old and probably has few people trying to view it simultaneously. The webpage that the video was linked from also had very little contextual information regarding the event. With QuickTime’s interactive capabilities I expected the clip to have some metadata, such as links to new feature products or software, but also found nothing. This would be an easy opportunity for Apple to market products and do market research on buyers’ interests. Overall, the advantages were that it was video on demand and that I could skip to anywhere in the clip. The disadvantages were the fact that I had little additional information to link to, no ability to preview what was ahead, there was no use of QuickTime’s interactive abilities and the quality was somewhat poor and stuttered often. In conclusion, I felt that the streaming experience of Macworld should have been far better than it was and did not to a strong job of presenting Apple’s biggest event of the year.

Next Level Streaming
Not only should metadata regarding additional content related to the clip be embedded in it’s presentation, but user participation should also be encouraged. Streams should have the ability to take user polls about the content, get feedback, and answer questions in the same realtime format. This could allow for true up-to-date media that would be far more interesting, and closer to a wikipedia approach to the truth. In a journalistic setting, for example the discussion of a hurricane Katrina, this could mean people on closely related to the hurricane could stream in their own audio or video responses to the event as it happens (assuming they have a connection to the Internet). Besides streaming just provide a realtime broadcast and optimized hosting for large sized media, it needs to open up the doors to live many-to-many way conversations. People should also have the ability to throw up links or additional information in a lower-third or side bar fashion in realtime. With the advent of 16:9 screens, it allows for another strip of information on the right or left of the main content or even the lower-third, this allows for a whole new level of information sharing that could come from amazing sources that the journalist might never have known about. Of course a small delay of some kind would have to be factored in to sift out any spam or low quality content from spewing fourth. Why not have open live chats in the side column where people collectively vote on what content gets played next and evolve the content on-the-fly? The possibilities are broad and so far little progress seems to have been made in streaming technology. The overarching goal for this type of media should be for it to increase people’s accessibility for media participation.

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