Well, it’s been two and a half weeks since I blogged on the new #SM kid in town, Meerkat. As the #SXSW conference started, the buzz over this new live streaming video tool evolved into a roar. It became the darling of the conference, creating a new verb; “Meerkating”.
Thousands of #SXSW attendees downloaded the app and began meerkating their experiences, and the mercurial growth of this cool new app continues. I’ve been playing with the app, streaming my own stuff and watching what others are streaming. It was fun to see people log in to watch my videos, comment, like, etc… and also watch other folks experiment with the new platform, including Jimmy Fallon, who streamed several sessions during rehearsals and office work. While I’ve barely dipped my toes in the live streaming world, I’ve already learned a few things that may – or may not – have implications in the way crisis communicators get their message out in the future.
- Real time isn’t really real time; The app has a built in lag time, anywhere between 5-45 seconds it seems. Several factors probably contribute to this, bandwidth capacity, connection strength, internet traffic, and Meerkat infrastructure constraints.
- Conversations happen on Meerkat; A cool feature of Meerkat is the ability for the Meerkater (I just made this up) to see comments posted by those watching. They then mention the comment, respond to questions, and in some cases move change the direction or theme of their stream to address the comments. I’ve also seen a couple of sessions where a Meerkater asked a question of the Meerwatchers (I just made this up too) and they indicated their agreement by pressing the Like button on their screen. Curiously, the Meerkater’s responses to questions are often very brief, allowing them to move efficiently from question to question, covering several topics and/or addressing the same topic in depth from many angles.
- The connection often sucks; The video and audio occasionally cut out during a stream, replaced by a black screen that says “low connectivity”. It would be nice if there was a way to indicate where the low connectivity is located. For now, I’m blaming Meerkat and NOT the streaming user. Many of the streams are coming from homes or offices, where I’m assuming folks are connected to their “hardwired” broadband networks and not their wireless cellphone providers. Maybe I’m wrong?
- Newsies are really intrigued by it; News anchors and reporters are using the heck out of Meerkat. They stream their sets, what they are doing during commercial breaks, and explain how news broadcasts are done. James Spann, a noted Alabama radio station meteorologist, even Meerkated his production of his weekly weathergeek podcast WeatherBrains to show how he produces them.
- It’s still clunky; Besides the low connectivity issue, some comments get cut off, and other issues pop up from time to time. Meerkaters seem extremely patient at this point, understanding the platform is really new and still evolving.
- This app has serious “wow factor”; The fusion of Twitter and live streaming, coupled with the ability to share likes and retweets make Meerkat (and any future morph of the concept) an intuitively cool tool. Hence it’s explosive growth so far. It is even cooler to watch the evolution of this concept in real time every day.
I’m becoming more confident in thinking Meerkat…wait…no…. the concept of live streaming or “Tweaming” (another new definition!) through Twitter will soon become a broadcasting mainstay. The implications for #SMEM are only beginning to be discussed, and I can’t wait for the debate. Let’s hear your experiences Meerkaters!