Sunday, April 6, 2008

Startup@Singapore Web 2.0 Talk - Failure to Winner

So I was at S@S's last installment of its Emerging Industries series of talks, talking about Web 2.0, with NTT. I have to admit that I was largely attracted to this talk because Kevin Lim was speaking (not that I'm attracted to him la shit but I always love to hear what he has to say). And the other two speakers, Vanessa Tan (Van Tan) and Stuart Tan, were also familiar names to me, so I thought it would be pretty fun.

It was quite a large audience. Interestingly a whole group of students who didn't seem any older than JC took up two centre rows of seats.

S@S, however, did a dismal job of webcasting Kevin over. They were doing it through Skype, which I would concede as the optimal consumer solution, but projected onto the wall, Haysoos Christ Kevin looked worse than a eboy picture. Nevertheless I was impressed with his casting setup - him with two PiPs - one with a side view of him and another with his theorycast logo. And that's not all - he had a scrolling ticker tape at the bottom which he could dynamically change on the fly. You'll see how he used it later on in this post.

But back to the S@S people's setup. How motheringly bad can your set up be? There are plenty of technically adept people to consult even if you don't know how to create smooth webcasting. Kevin had the view of only one cam, the laptop's webcam, and it was facing not the audience but the speakers on stage. Could have done a PiP like he did. They were using the laptop's built-in mic for Kevin's audio. Could have routed the audio out of the mixer in to the laptop. But noo! Built-in mic. For tech's sake you people you aren't small fry. Get yourself some bloody help la. Freaking give a student a $50 angbao to help you with the setup.

Having said that, I still think S@S should be duly credited for even trying such new and somewhat unpredictable technology. Other companies or organizations would have given up a first-choice speaker because he's halfway round the world; S@S went ahead and failed spectacularly at it, but I do hope they learn from it, because when pulled off, its just amazing and maybe, just maybe, awe-inspiring.

And then there was the moderator, who introduced himself as a first-year communications student, and who looked as though he was frantically called at 5 in the morning because the original moderator came down with a 41-degree fever. Then again, there's a chance that that happened.

First-year? Panel moderator? Seriously? Is it that hard to find a final-year? Or a toastmaster even???


He failed to intercept when a member of the audience booed VanTan (not that we were entirely pissed at the booer, who turned out to be Bill Claxton aka itr8, but still he wasn't doing his job), he seemed to be always caught unaware when the panelists finished answering, and was just generally not quite up to it. But, I like to see good in people, and at the very least, he was well-spoken and articulated.

Because of the earlier described setup, Kevin had a horrible time hearing questions - he mostly heard painfully loud white noise and static, as evidenced by the short recording he posted after the conference. Only the moderator walked down to the laptop to repeat the questions, and it was quite amusing when it was Q&A and he went. "If anyone has questions for Kevin, please come down to the laptop."

Enter NTT, itr8, micamonkey, and me! While the other three started Twittering Kevin the proceedings of the panel (some with opinions, some plain reports... micamonkey relied solely on her Nokia 3100 to Twitter. Talk about fastest fingers first.), I with my usual rational mind decided to turn myself into a speech-to-text machine, transcripting what was said to Kevin via Windows Live Messenger. For awhile, I struggled to type coherent sentences on the 9" Classmate PC, but then thankfully NTT swapped his Macbook, so I had the relative luxury of a 15+" keyboard to type on. It felt surreal and somewhat accomplishing, 1) pushing a part of myself to the limit (make what you will of it, but I just don't type that fast), and 2) seeing the concepts Kevin taught me come to life before my geeky bespectacled eyes, notably crowdsourcing and the gift economy.

I think I had to Twitter something, and koped the Classmate back for awhile. NTT found this so amusing that he took my camera to snap this priceless picture. I guess multi-tasking and four desktop spaces just isn't enough for my social whoring needs.

Meanwhile, Kevin was being a riot on screen with his ticker tape. Just look at his crazy statements!

He said later on Twitter that he felt he had to stop all his crazy tickertape statements because he felt he was ruining the whole discussion with his mean one-liners. Well I agreed with half of it. Which half? Go figure. :)

Kevin's since told the Tech65 team that his secret is this downright awesome Mac application called CamTwist. For free, this gem allows you to create PiPs, display pictures, logos, watermarks, RSS feeds ticker tape, and plenty of other plain cool effects. So Mackies, be sure to check it out, and Windowers, if you beg and plead enough I guess they'll make a Win version.

I can't emphasize enough how unprofessional I felt S@S was, but I'm not blacklisting them just yet, and hey, you shouldn't too. I think it's only fair to give them more chances, and we all learn some time or the other. Just for this event however, Kevin's madness and our indirect participation in the panel really made the event do a sharp about turn, from a doomed failure, to a priceless winner.

Just for us, at least.


NTT said...

Now, I really wish my 13.3" macbook has a 15+" keyboard... But nah... :(

Farinelli said...

Well thanks for that very discreet correction. haha :P

Vanessa Tan said...

Nice shot. I was wondering how we looked like on stage!

Thank goodness for Twitter and you guys. I think the organisers had a couple of dry runs but Murphy's Law prevailed in the end, as it sometimes does.

Farinelli said...

Sometimes??? "Sometimes" is a ginormous understatement... :P

Thanks for dropping by. :)

Kevin said...

I had fun, and it's great that you're sharing the POV of the audience. Actually the real stars are the active participants like yourself. I'm but a mere puppet ;)

Yes, let's give credit to the S@S team for trying something new. As for us, Twitter and IM do come in handy in emergencies like these!