As those who have been following us would be aware, the coronavirus has compelled us to cancel all our physical meetings, including the opening forum originally set for 14 March.
We are determined to keep the forum, which has been running continuously since 2002, going despite this setback by delivering our talks and discussions using live video streaming. It also gives us the opportunity to build our audience well beyond the local area.
A variety of software tools are available for this purpose. The one we have chosen to use is StreamYard, one of several products recommended by Google as an alternative to their ‘Google Hangouts’ which they discontinued last year.
StreamYard seems, on initial impressions, to be most suitable for our purposes since it is tightly integrated with YouTube, Facebook and other platforms. It allows remote interviews and discussions to be streamed live to these platforms.
We plan to use YouTube, including the ‘Live Chat’ feature that allows you to comment and ask questions, with the ability of the moderator to select and display chat entries on the main screen.
Some of you may be familiar with Zoom, a widely used video conferencing tool in the enterprise and educational domains. While it allows streaming to YouTube etc it has the drawback that, according to their documentation, ‘Those viewing on YouTube can only comment via YouTube, and cannot interact directly with other webinar attendees, the same goes for webinar attendees as well’.
This seems like a show-stopper from our point of view, since we are very keen to build our audience and maximize the opportunity to participate.
In any case, we may change our mind about this, based on early experience. We have had to put this together very quickly in the past fortnight.
Participation is straightforward for both interviewees/discussants and audiences.
To follow the proceedings, you just go to the YouTube live stream at the appointed time. Here is the link for the inaugural event that took place at 4 pm on Saturday 28 March, where Professor Jim Allan spoke on The case for free speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Kmqr8hTfV4
Check the program page for descriptions of all the talks and links to view and participate in upcoming forums, and to view ones already held.
To comment or question, just type your entry into the live chat window. As each question is dealt with, it will be displayed on the screen.
One potential issue is that chat contributions are restricted to 200 characters, though you can add up to three contributions in any 30 second period. This may actually be a virtue in that it provides a strong incentive for conciseness.