Saturday, March 3, 2012

Added a new page to this blog: LiveCast Presentations...

Howdy everyone!

I've added a new page with a Livestream widget on it to my blog called LiveCast Presentations. That's where you can go to join in on my Livestream presentations most weeks. The date and time varies depending on my attendees' schedules, so check my twitter feed @cacallahan, or join my Facebook group  "Callahans SPF 4 Admins Events".

Now, for some backstory as to why I created the page, apparently out of nowhere...

I've been doing a lot of free, live, online webinars and livecasts for my SPF 4 admins group on Facebook. The "channels" I've been using to do these sessions changed over time. I started by using the LiveMeeting account that Microsoft gave me as an MVP. But, the moment I didn't get renewed at the beginning of 2011, all of my recordings (about 7 of them, really good ones I was proud of) were deleted. There was no way to download the recordings locally (or to record a copy locally while broadcasting).

That left me distrustful of using LiveMeeting. People had kindly offered to let me use accounts on their servers, but none let me control my recordings, which left me grateful but uneasy. I decided to explore other options just in case.

But since I have to use free offerings (none of these session generate any income), that left me with a lot of work and experimentation to find a product that wasn't LiveMeeting, but would be good enough for all of my users to use, without the interface (or its advertising) being too distracting.

I started with a product called "Freebinar," which worked pretty well, and was very dependable. I could also download the recordings to a local drive for backup, which I appreciated. Then it had a change in management, "direction," whatever, and was "rebranded" as "Anymeeting." They made changes to their service, that made it, in my opinion, harder to use. In addition, it just didn't seem as dependable as before. However, Anymeeting did (still does) have some really, really great features like customizable invitations, registration pages, and surveys. I just had issues with crashes while I was trying to teach stuff.

During all this, I had been messing with Livestream, a site that hosts live streaming events. The learning curve is a little steeper, the software a little more challenging, and it's primarily for broadcasting- so no webinar focused mechanisms like invitation mailing lists, registration pages, or surveys. Also, the advertising can be annoying. (Think hulu, or the many videos you see on sites that have ads you have to watch before you can see the show)

I really wanted to make Anymeeting work, but I did have a Livestream page just in case. Then one day, mid-session, when I couldn't get screensharing to work in Anymeeting, I simply had my viewers join me at my Livestream page. I set up a different microphone, started the encoder, and simply started streaming from my laptop. The attendees could chat using the livestream chat window, like they were doing with Anymeeting anyway. The video and audio quality seemed pretty good, and overall it was a success. It automatically recorded a local copy as well as one for the site. I can also have much more control over the video and audio quality (although that's still a work in progress)- which is an improvement over Anymeeting.

I have been using Livestream for a number of sessions now, and I think I really like how it works, despite the loss of some cool features. My attendees seem to be able to become comfortable with the interface pretty quickly, and I think the quality of the video streaming has improved, and the recording quality seems to be better too (although I am not sure of that, not enough people have given me feedback on that yet).

Now, I mentioned being annoyed, personally, by the advertisement that sometimes is shown in the video area before you get to watch the presentation. I have been messing with blocking ads and cookies and stuff because of the whole Google is being evil thing lately, and discovered that if you use an adblocker, like adblock plus I use as an extension in Firefox, then you don't get any ads in the video (I thought it just blocked ads on pages, silly me)- so ad problem solved.

Because I plan on doing more work in livestream, I thought I'd make it easy for my audience to access my streams. 'Create a page that I had more control over than the Livestream page-- or at least a page my audience can use more easily if they choose. Thus I've added a page to this blog, and stuck the code for a Livestream widget pointing to my streams on it. I will keep you updated on how it's going here on the home page, but at least now you know why this blog has a listing on the top, right side that is titled "Pages" and only lists Home and LiveCast Presentations. Please let me know if you're interested in any particular topic, I'm always wondering what people might need.

And feel free to check out the presentations I've already recorded at or click the Videos button in the widget on the LiveCast Page to be taken to my Livestream channel's video library.

Friday, March 2, 2012

TechDays San Francisco. Nifty small conference everyone should attend.


I don't know about you, but for me, money's just getting tighter these days. I can afford to attend fewer and fewer events. Despite their being the best way for me to connect with other IT professionals; meeting readers, meeting other industry experts, speakers, and trainers, I just can't afford to go to all of the events I used to, year after year.

Now I have to pick and choose.

As for information, training, insider tips, and simply finding someone qualified, that I can trust, to ask questions and get real answers-- I now mostly depend on the internet. Which, as all of you know, can be hit or miss.

I wish I were independently wealthy. I wish I could go to every industry event out there. Go to every party, every session, every mixer-- but I can't.

So, this year, I am going to go to TechEd. I will be (hopefully) volunteering again to staff the hands-on labs. Hopefully, I will also get to staff the labs at the SharePoint Conference later in the year. And, hopefully, I will be selected to speak at the SEF event in Stockholm, SE again in November.

I didn't get to go to SPTechCon, or the MVP Summit. I won't get to go to SPCincy, or WPC (Worldwide Partner Conference). I'm going to have to skip a number of SharePoint Saturdays too. Times are tough.

So, when I find a bargain, I like to pass it along. I am going to be speaking at a small, community driven, two day event in San Francisco call TechDays, run by the PacIT Pros (Pacific IT Professionals user group) in a couple of weeks. This two day event is going to be jam packed with the very people who do keynotes and incredible sessions at TechEd and other high profile events. People like Stephen Rose, Mark Minasi, Darren Mar-Elia, and Joey Snow.

Mind you, this is a Microsoft topics event, like TechEd, so the sessions won't just be about SharePoint  but will cover content from Windows Server 2008 R2 and the upcoming Server 8, IIS 7.5, DNS, MDOP, Deployment, Exchange, Linux, Hyper-V, System Center, Forefront, PowerShell, and even SharePoint (thanks to yours truly). This is the time to get some insight into those products you need to know about, while you're working day in and day out with SharePoint. Each speaker is doing two sessions about their favorite subjects, so you know they'll be good.

Ever attend a large conference and wish you had a chance to talk to the speaker, but there were too many other people around and not enough time? Maybe you attended a session at TechEd given by one of the people listed to speak at TechDays, and had a question you wanted to ask during the session, but the room was packed with hundreds of people and there was no way to get noticed before the session ended?

Well, now's your chance. That's the point of these smaller, shorter, cheaper events. They have the same great, experienced, professional speakers, at a fraction of the cost. And you aren't away from home for a whole week. And you get excellent, useful, sessions to learn about all kinds of Microsoft products from people you can trust. People who know what they are talking about.

The site for the event is:
The date of the two day event is March 22nd and 23rd.
The cost for two, session packed days is just $400 (that's sessions from 9:00am to 5:00pm, with a meet and greet party the first night- when does anybody get two days of real expert training for just 200 dollars a day?!).
The location will be the Microsoft Office in downtown San Francisco at 835 Market Street, Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94103.
The hotel that PacIT pros has a group rate with is Diva Hotel, within super easy walking distance from the event (I've really grown to love those Personality Hotels in San Fran. Ask me about Hotel Union Square. Adorable!).
There are a whole lot of seats still available. So quickly click the link to the event and sign up before it's too late.

I would dearly love to see you there. I am currently checking to see if Wiley can send me some free books to give away. So this may also be a rare chance to get a free copy of my Mastering Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 book (and get it signed), since I'm not going to be out speaking at as many events this year.

TechDays San Francisco- like bow ties, being there is cool. :)