Live Streaming Events

Last night I helped present a webinar for folks in the Code for America network about live streaming their events. Most of what I learned about YouTube and live-streaming came from my friend Lon Seidman whom I helped film and edit with at CES a couple years ago. You can spend a lot of money on live streaming but ultimately the goal is to get a decent picture of your presenter and really good audio.

If you are using an iPhone you can get an inexpensive lav microphone and a long cord, along with a tripod and mount to record individual speakers. However you can also invest in some fancier equipment. The equipment I used included:

  1. Elgato Camlink - connects camera to laptop for livestreaming purposes.
  2. Alta Pro Tripod - to better position the camera
  3. Sony a6000 camera
  4. Zoom/gun microphone for focused audio
  5. MacBook Pro
  6. OBStudio
  7. Facebook Live

When recording I faced several challenges. The first was that the camera only transmits audio over HDMI when it is in video recording mode. Due to some EU regulations, video recording mode automatically stops on the a6000 after about 30 minutes. So I had to keep re-enabling recording mode. Another issue is that the a6000 does not recharge from its regular charging port while it is on. So having a backup battery or Sony’s official wire would have made it easier.

Ultimately it took a lot of tinkering to get to a setup that worked well and to understand the potential kinks. I strongly recommend testing your setup before trying to live stream for real.

Decoupling Myself

One of the biggest challenges I face on a daily basis, especially at Code for Boston, is trying to remove myself as a dependency from the organization. There is a difference between success because you are good at something and success because you have built an organization that is good at something. As Al Gore is fond of saying, “if you want to go quickly go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”

The hardest part of decoupling is effective delegation. As you try and remove yourself as a dependency you quickly realize that the vision in your head of what needs to be done does not exist in everyone else’s heads. Yesterday I put up some community asks to the folks at Code for Boston and after I put up those asks some members asked me about them. I then realized I had not given everyone all the information they needed to fulfill those asks. Delegation is not a free activity.

The individual hero is the opposite of organizational success. If you want to test whether you have succeeded in decoupling yourself you might try to step back when a big project is due. It can be challenging to step back and watch something you are a part of fail. However that failure is and should be a signal to the rest of the world that the team you are on is not resilient to your absence. In the words of a co-worker of mine, your team has a bus number of one.

Tools for Journalism

One of the places I think is ripe for innovation is journalism. That is why I have been working on some side projects with Doug and Christine of CTNewsJunkie. Last week we launched, a tool for sharing your opinion about activity in the Connecticut legislature. We are using software as lever to help inform the public about their world.

Over a year ago I worked with them to launch the CTNewsJunkie Voter Guide. The idea behind the voter guide was to better make available to the public information about the candidates running for office. The app has seen large year over year growth, especially as we focused on providing information on municipal candidates last cycle. People are clearly starving for information about their communities and they want something that is a little more authoritative than Facebook.

Check out my two apps and share any feedback you have in the comments below.

The Decline of Social Networks

Up until a few months ago my primary outlet for writing has been on Facebook. Facebook provides a great user experience and importantly to me has an integration with the sharing features in macOS and iOS. This made it easy to copy a quote from an article I found and link it to my friends so they could get a glimpse into my own thinking. Unfortunately due to recent changes in the news feed and maybe the progression of life, it feels like Facebook is turning into a ghost town. I find myself spending more time on Twitter.

While I do not dislike Facebook and other social networks as much as some people, I have decided that in the long run it is better to own my content. Going forward I will talk more about my work and my experiences at Code for Boston along with interesting writing and videos that I find.

Review of the Herman Miller Aeron 2

In March I developed some back issues while sitting in an old office chair. This lead me to finally give in and decide to order a new one. After reading this article I made the decision that buying an office chair is an investment and procuring a cheap one would leave me disappointed. Once I decided upon that I just had to pick the right chair. While the Steelcase Gesture was favorably reviewed, I never had a chance to try it. I did try some Aeron’s at the local start-up. They felt comfortable to me and given that I run hot, it seemed like the better fit. Since I was planning to own this for a long time I ordered the Aeron v2 with the following features:

  • Adjustable armrests
  • Leather armrests
  • Forward tilt
  • Posturefit XL

I am convinced that despite costing extra money, each of those four features made my new Aeron noticeably superior to the older stock models that I tried at the start-up. The leather armrests are incredibly comfortable compared to the stock ones and look great. I also never realized how much I would adjust my arm rests. They can swing in to support my arms while typing and then swing out when I want to more freely move my arms. The height adjustability is critical to sitting in a stance that is comfortable for me as well.

I also decided to spring for the forward tilt option. I am glad I did. I never realized how much time I spend leaning a bit forward focusing on my screen as I type. This feature lets the chair easily support me in a perching position. The experience makes it vastly superior to all the other office chairs I have used. If there is one feature you do not want to skip, this is it. I am currently writing this review with my Aeron in a forward tilt position with the recline locked so it supports my back.

Furthermore I find the PosturefitXL unit to be superior to the regular lumbar support I tried at the start-up. It felt more natural and supportive. I have not made any adjustments to it, but in its stock configuration it makes it feel like I can sit in my Aeron for hours without problems.

Sitting on Herman Miller’s proprietary pellicle material is more comfortable than other mesh materials. I feel well supported. Having sat in both the original Aeron and the Aeron 2, I think that the update to the pellicle material is a noticable improvement. However I do not believe an original Aeron owner will find they are misisng out on much. Both the original and Aeron 2 are much better than regular mesh.

Once you figure them out, the adjustments are logical and easy to change. I find myself modifying my chair for my mood multiple times a day. Sometimes I like the chair to recline, and other times I want something that will hold me in a position. If I’m typing and my arms are fatigued I can swing the arm rests in to support me, but if I want to send them out of the way that is easy to do as well.

I do not think the Aeron will be the right fit for every person, but I think that someone considering an Aeron today should try the newer version with all the new features before deciding whether they might want to get it versus something else. Along with a keyboard tray it has made using my computer at my desk a much more pelasant experience.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.