Our First Project: WordCamp Videos

It’s been pretty quiet around here, but it’s been busy behind the scenes as we worked through budgets, tax requirements, legalese and reviewing the ways in which the Foundation could be of most use in helping to promote WordPress and provide education to the WordPress community. Our first program is centered around making it possible for all interested parties to benefit from the presentations and workshops given at locally-organized WordCamps around the world.

WordPress.tv hosts all WordCamp video free of charge as a community service, but not every WordCamp is able to record sessions, as organizers and volunteers don’t have access to the proper equipment. Moving forward, the Foundation will be working on making it possible for every WordCamp to publish their session videos by providing video kits.

We used WordCamp NYC as a test drive, and bought a handful of Flip HD Slide cameras and gorillapods, thinking that small, easy-to-use cameras would be the easiest for volunteers to operate, as well as the safest to ship back and forth between WordCamps. However, we found that the Flips had four serious problems:

  1. Though the Slides were chosen because they can record up to 4 hours of continuous video, the fact is that the battery does not last more than 2 hours. They didn’t put that in the ads! WordCamp NYC was a nightmare in this respect, with Flip operators constantly needing to trade out cameras so they could be recharged, because….
  2. You can’t plug a Flip into an outlet while it is in use. We bought a couple of wall chargers, but plugging the USB connector into the outlet charger still means the camera can’t be recording at that moment (and when it’s plugged into a computer’s USB port, it’s obviously out of rotation).
  3. The USB connector that flips (ha) out is not as sturdy as other Flip models, so that when it is plugged into a computer port or a wall charger, it is precarious, wobbly, and stops charging (and downloading video) when the connection is interrupted.
  4. The sound is terrible unless the camera is right in the front row during a presentation, and you can’t connect an external microphone.

Because of these issues, we’re going to go with a slightly more complex, but vastly more reliable solution. We’re buying kits containing a Canon Vixia camcorder that records onto SD cards, a compact, expanding tripod, an external microphone, and a hard case to hold it all. The cases will provide protection for the electronics during shipping, and we’ll put together a simple user guide for the volunteers to learn how best to record the sessions.

We’re ordering the first of these kits now, and once we confirm that the components we’ve chosen are definitely the best ones for the job, we’ll buy more kits so that we can cover multiple tracks at the larger WordCamps and/or multiple smaller WordCamps. For now we’re going to begin with WordCamps in the U.S., but hope to expand this to support international events in the future. Since WordCamps are some of the best educational WordPress events around, it will be awesome for people around the world to be able to watch the sessions whenever they like for free on WordPress.tv, overcoming the barriers of geography, economics and time that might prevent them from attending a WordCamp in person.

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19 Responses to Our First Project: WordCamp Videos

  1. The Frosty says:

    That’s great to hear. Would love to test this out at WordCampLA come 2011!

  2. So awesome! Proud to be part of the WordCamp / WordPress community, you guys are doing a phenomenal job.

  3. David Bisset says:

    Would love to see this for smaller WordCamps, like WordCamp Miami 2011. :)

    Seriously, how does work? Are the kits on loan or given away? And how do you determine what WordCamps get them initially?

    • jane says:

      They will be on loan to approved WordCamps that are in contact with wordcamp.org (i.e. me for now), and will need to be shipped back immediately following the end of the event. If we run into a situation where we have multiple WordCamps requesting the kits and we don’t have enough, we’ll either buy more or look at the speakers/program and prioritize the one with more original content (not just the same speakers that seem to hit every WordCamp).

  4. James Collins says:

    Sounds great Jane!

    We would absolutely love to be able to use these for WordCamp Melbourne in late February 2011.

    We are very close to booking a venue, so until then the dates aren’t 100% set in stone yet.

    What do you think the chances are of having kits available for use internationally by then?

    Thanks :)

    • jane says:

      Probably not great; the kits are heavy, and international shipping in two directions would be very expensive. I’m looking into alternatives for international use. In the meantime, I do recommend publicizing the need for video on your event web site; usually there are at least a few attendees with decent cameras who are willing to pitch in. Ping me in early January, and I should know more about our options/plans for supporting video for international WordCamps then.

      • James Collins says:

        Thanks Jane, will do.

      • Hi Jane,
        Can’t wait for that alternative plans. WordCamp in Indonesia at the end of January, and I am looking forward to this chance. Love it! As a consideration, WordCamp for Wellington, Melbourne, and Jakarta will be held on January/February in early 2011.
        Thanks.

  5. twrl33 says:

    This gives me some hope out here, trapped in the back wash of history where the endemic people don’t know they aren’t educated and shoot themselves in the foot at every election. Also, haven’t had oppty to choose iPhone, cable is a monopoly, censoring anything not already aired, can’t use computer-phone systems, pbs has cartoons all day every day and never replays programs, ISP can’t tell you if it is a cable, DSL or LAN, etc. Hungry out here for info from the Good Guys.

  6. Thomas says:

    Great idea, especially when you consider that wordpress.tv isn’t really providing a lot of new videos lately.

    • jane says:

      Staffing issues, but we’re ramping wordpress.tv back up now, and will be looking for some volunteers to help make it better. It had been being run by Automattic to get it all started, with all the design, code, video uploading and moderation being done by Automattic employees as a contribution to the community, but at this point I think it’s time to shift it over to being a more community-operated site, as another way to contribute to the WordPess open source project. I’ll be posting for volunteers to help soon.

  7. Perfect first project filling in a core mission and community need at the same time. Can’t wait to contribute and see what sessions people contribute to the project.

  8. Sounds like exciting stuff Jane and I have got my fingers crossed you’ll come up with a possible solution for using the kits outwith the USA! :) I sure wouldn’t like to think how much it’ll cost to get something over to the UK, or the likes of Melbourne as was mentioned further up?

  9. Angie Meeker says:

    We would love to represent the midwest in this project next June at WordCamp Columbus (Ohio)!

  10. Definitely a great idea. I ran into this same issue when I ran WordCamp NY 2008, and ended up paying a bit more than I had wanted to get it recorded – but finally got all the coverage I wanted.

    It would have been really nice to have it all pre-packaged and ready.

    Keep the great ideas comin’!

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