Ed and Steven look back on how our first Geomob online went. Does this format work? What could have gone better? Ed rants about how annoying video editing was. Please note - when we recorded we still had a few open speaking slots for the 6th of May event, but those have now all been filled (see the lineup) - but we always need speaker volunteers for future events so please do get in touch if you would like to speak in June or some other date in the future.

The Geomob podcast is hosted by Ed Freyfogle, co-founder of OpenCage, and Steven Feldman, of KnowWhere Consulting.

Every week we discuss themes from the geo industry, interview Geomob speakers, and provide regular updates about our own projects.

Autogenerated Transcript:

Ed 00:01 Welcome to the geomob podcast where we discuss geoinnovation in any and all forms. Good for fun or problem. Welcome back. We are here again for another episode of the geo podcast today, my cohost Steven -inaudible- and I will be discussing how our very first geomob online went. Um, so we held our first event on the 7th of April. It was a bit of an adventure. So we're going to share some of the details of how we found the event and also some of the behind the scenes challenges that we faced. Stephen, welcome. How are you doing?
Steven 00:36 I'm doing well and really good, lovely sunny day here in London and I'm looking forward to recapping on what was a great first year mob life.
Ed 00:47 What about you? Doing okay, but we're now in week, I guess week five of quarantine and you know, it's starting to starting to feel the effects. It would be also the quarantine here in Spain is a bit more strict, I guess, than what you guys have in the UK or in many other countries in that we're not supposed to go outside at all. So we can't come for walks, we can't go for a bike ride. So you know, that's, that's a bit rough and not least because I have two, two young children. So, you know, it's a struggle.
Steven 01:17 So locking yourself in the spare room for three quarters of an hour to record a podcast is a little bit of therapist.
Ed 01:24 Exactly right. And indeed. So as GM of online, so I guess, I guess let's, let's recap a bit by setting the scene. So yeah, we were supposed to have two geomobs in March, one in London at the middle of March, and then one in Munich towards the end of March. And of course obviously both had to be canceled, which was very frustrating, particularly frustrating for me was the geomob Munich being canceled because it was going to be my, I was going to speak at that event and it was going to be my first time attending Juma, Munich. And so I didn't get to go, obviously it didn't get to speak. So then we thought, well, why? Maybe we should try to do an online event. And so luckily we were able to get, I think we had six speakers, I'm sorry. I want to say big thanks to the speakers who if you do the experiment with us, four of whom were from the London zumab and then we had two from the Munich gum up. And so I guess if there's one silver lining to the whole problem, it's that the two different, I enjoyed the fact that the two different communities came together and actually amongst the attendees, we had people from Lebanon, we have people from Munich, we had people from Barcelona. But we also had people who, you know, who wrote and said that this was great cause they never are able to physically make it to a GM up. So, so I guess that's one, one positive aspect of the whole thing.
Steven 02:34 I think that was a massive positive. I think you're understating it. You know, it was, you know, there were people from, from at least three communities there, there were people who can't get to the event. You know, this is big, big deal. You know, I mean particularly the moment, you know, when everybody's shut down and sort of craving a bit of community and a bit of entertainment, a GMO bottom line provided most of those things for a couple of hours, one evening. You know, I, I think it was a great achievement. You know, we should look at what we achieved, what we did, what we can do better and start thinking about how we go onto the next one.
Ed 03:11 That's right. Cause the next one is actually already scheduled. So it'd be on the 6th of May. Everyone should please, please try to join us however that is contingent on, I need to find a few more speakers. So we have two people who have volunteered so far and uh, I'd like to have at least two more. Ideally maybe three or four more. So yeah, if when this goes live, if you hear this podcast and you'd like to speak, please get in touch. Steven, what was your overall impression of the event? How'd you find it?
Steven 03:34 Okay, so let's start by just talking about the tech. Well, the technology worked pretty damn well, you know, I mean there are a few glitches and we'll get into it, but it worked pretty well. 50 attendees, it seemed, it was very effective. I think there's stuff we can learn, but you know, there was a sense of, yeah, the speakers were good, they were clear, they had the slide decks came up and worked perfectly. You know, all of that stuff worked well. Look at the end of the day, sitting for an hour and a half and listening Hmm. To six with their slides with very limited interaction. It's not the same as being at a live GM up. Yup.
Ed 04:15 Absolutely not.
Steven 04:16 The jokes don't work the same way across the internet. The questions, you know, and we'll get to how we handle the questions, but it's not the same. Yeah. And I think we can, you know, one of the things that maybe we'll talk about later is what could we do to go a little bit further to recreate the experience of being at a live event. Is there any way that we can do that? But overall, I thought it was brilliant. You know, I thought there was some great speakers. I think what one thing that occurs to me from, from that last year more pause, there were one or two really outstanding speakers. I'm not going to call out the individual speakers and then say the others weren't outstanding, but there were one or two who were outstanding and who I was absolutely captivated by what they were saying by their slides and everything.
Steven 05:11 There were one or two who were less ad. It was much more difficult to keep my attention focused on them when they either less entertaining speakers or their material was less interesting. But the reality for me is that that's no different to being at a light like GMO. You know, often when we go to it, when I go to a GMO, there are one or two speakers where I just cannot, I don't get what they're talking about. I'm not interested in what they're talking about or they're not particularly good speakers and I might lose focus in a live event as well. So I think that's, that would be my feedback.
Ed 05:52 I agree in that regard. It is no different than the actual event because you know we tried to get a very good diversity speakers and actually I think this time we had a good diversity and by the very nature of that some of the things you're going to be very interested in. Somethings you know may be new to you and you get interested, but some things perhaps you're less interested. I do think it does create a real challenge for the speakers. It's, it's difficult first of all to get up and talk in front of an audience under all circumstances, but doing it in the format where you're just kind of talking into your screen and you don't, you're not able to see the visual feedback, you know, of the audience. It really makes it probably more challenging for the speakers. So again, big thanks to them for running with this experiment and trying it. And I thought as you said to some of them did, did a great job. So
Steven 06:37 you make a really good point there ed, about when you're speaking to a live audience, you get visual cues from your audience. You know, whether your humor, your slot is working, you know, whether people's attention is wandering. You know, if you're an experienced speaker, you can read your audience and you can take cues from them. You just can't do that when you're talking in an online event, even if you've got a screen up, which is showing you the little pictures of the speakers, it's not the same. And this all credit to the speakers.
Ed 07:14 You know, I called, I asked people to send me their feedback, both out the event and via Twitter and stuff like that. And one person actually gave me a very interesting bit of feedback. He said one of the things he missed most was that there was no way to applaud after the talks because we had, because we every, we had with a hundred attendees or Arbor, but we had 50 attendees. But you know, we had everything, everyone muted except for the actual speaker. So as a result, there's no way for the to give feedback in that regard in terms of applauding or, so yeah, I'm not sure how we solve that. I guess we should maybe talk about, um, what, go ahead.
Steven 07:50 Well, I think we could do, eh, at the end of each tool, take the questions and then before we introduce the next speaker just for a second, unmute everybody and say let's, let's show our appreciation for the speaker and everybody could clap. It will be a bit chaotic, but it'll at least we give people the chance to applaud.
Ed 08:14 Yeah. Maybe we should try that next time. I guess we should set the context. So in terms of the software that we use, we use zoom, which I guess has been one of the big winners of the, uh, the crisis and the work at home revolution in the more and more people are jumping on zoom and it worked well. But because it's become so popular in the, the week leading up to the geomob online, I attended a, an event on zoom and it was zoom bombed. So this was, I follow a guy on Twitter, he's a history professor and he's been organizing these lectures where he goes every night someone, one of his friends or history professors give a lecture. And so I signed up for this event and there were 200 of us in the forum and the guy had just started just lecture.
Ed 08:56 And then all of a sudden someone came on and started drawing on the screen, all kinds of offensive things and they had a chat window set up for the attendees so people could ask questions. And you know, that immediately filled up with all kinds of very offensive material and people were screaming. And I think it was a real disaster actually. And, and as a result, you know, after about 30 seconds of the who's trying to deal with this, he just kinda gave up and said, you know, look everyone, sorry, we're going to have to end the event. And it was really frustrating because, you know, a, a, I looked forward to the event and as hundreds of other people, and second of all the speaker, I'd obviously put in a lot of time, he was going to give kind of a 45 minute lecture. And anyway, so, so that all happened about a week before the geomob online. And so I was very scared that we were going to have something like that happened. So I think we went with a very kind of restrictive setup, you know, where we, everyone was on mute. Um, and actually I think zoom has now implemented many of these things by default because they've had so much negative publicity around these types of things. Um, I mean there's some horrible stories about, you know, schools and stuff being June bombed, which I mean, yeah.
Steven 10:07 And a civic organ Northwest London was holding their Friday night service and it was being broadcast on zoom to all of the congregants in their homes. And that was attached by people with the most disgusting stuff appearing in the chat and everything else. You know, and it's been terrible. And, but I think zoom has responded very rapidly and actually all of the features that you need to lock down a zoom call all there, they're just that they're not, they weren't on by default and we didn't know what, why we needed all of those features. I think we've learned now and I think next time when we run the event, for example, I think if you've got a waiting room and you manage the process of people coming in from the waiting room to the, to the room where the event is going on, you probably can't switch the chat back on and try that. I like to try that.
Ed 11:03 I'd like to try it as well, although I wonder how much, how distracting it is to people. This event that I attended before the zoo bombing occurred, there was a chat and people were chatting in it and, and it was just, it was like your worst Slack channel ever because it was like, you know, so many messages were coming in and then someone would post something and then you know, 10 messages later, someone would try to respond to that guy's thing. And it was just, it didn't really work frankly in terms of having any kind of meaningful discussion and conversation and, and I found it actually quite distracting. So, I don't know. You need to find the balance there and, and certainly I wouldn't want, you know, obviously the speaker when the, when the person is speaking, there is no way they can look at the chat because it would be way too distracting. So yeah, I'm not sure what the solution is there.
Steven 11:50 I mean what we did, people listening to us we did was we had the Twitter channel going sort of along side with the hashed year mop hash tag being used and there was quite a bit of chat chat in that channel and maybe that's a better way of doing it. It keeps it off. It doesn't pop up in the zoom session. Most of the people joining will be on Twitter. It's just a little bit disconnected cause you've got to switch from one thing to another. But maybe that's a better process. We'll see. Did you do trials with the speakers beforehand? Cause they all seem pretty slick to me.
Ed 12:24 Yes I did do a trial run with each speaker just to make sure they had zoom installed and that they, you know, could knew how to share their screen. And things like that. So that worked quite well. And I think it's one of the reasons that the actual event went smoothly. On the other hand, it costs a lot of time, you know, so I had to arrange calls with each speaker and then do a ton minute trial run with each figure. So you know, you've got to find the balance there of how much time and effort to put in. But actually now that I know how it works, so maybe it's, it's probably worth doing
Steven 12:53 more and more people are used, uh, using zoom. It's become the probably the most popular of these video conferencing tools. And if you've done a few zoom calls and you shared your screen once or twice, you know how to do it, you know, I mean, if I was coming onto onto one of those, I wouldn't need anyone to show me how to do it. So I think you might find that when we do the next one in may. You know, the last question is, have you used zoom to present before? And if they say yes, you can say fine. And if they say no, you can then say, do you want to have a quick run through with me? And gradually, you know, if we do two or three of these, it'll get to a point where everyone's saying that'd be stupid. Of course I know how to use it.
Ed 13:38 Yeah, let's hope so. Let's hope. So let's talk maybe about some of the things that could've gone better. Steven. I mean, I guess I can start. So first of all, we, we bought a zoom pro account and that allows a hundred attendees. So you know, I set up this whole signup list where people could sign up and say they wanted to be invited and a hundred people signed up. And actually we had a kind of a waiting lists. And then on the, at the day of the event I sent everyone the email saying, okay, here's the, here's the zoom event. And then in actuality, I'm not sure how many people actually showed up. Maybe it was like 60 or so. And so that's kind of frustrating because then there were some people who had been on the waiting list who didn't, weren't able to attend, but you know, because other people have said they were going to attend and then didn't attend. So I think we need to change that next time. I think next time I'll create a list and you know, if more than a hundred people sign up, we'll send everyone the email and then it shouldn't be the first a hundred who show up get in. So yeah,
Steven 14:37 definitely cause you're always going to win a free of them where all you gotta do is sign up and give your email address and a couple of other bits of info. You're always going to get people who sign up and then can't make it on the night. Yeah. Yeah. A typical show, drop out rate might be 30 or 40%. So, um, I reckon if we get a 150 people signing up and send the link out, not all of them will answer. So yeah, that's certainly something we should do. I've got one that we absolutely must change for the next time we do this, which is -inaudible-. When you did the sign up form, all you captured was I think an email address.
Ed 15:17 Yeah,
Steven 15:17 and the problem with that is when people were in zoom, you have a waiting room, you don't go straight into the room where the meeting's going on you. You have to sit in a waiting room and be admitted by the host. And I was doing that admissions process, like having a registration desk at an event and you go to the desk and keep your name and they tick you off the list. Much like we have often at our gym of events. But if all you've got is the email and then they log in with their personal name, you've got to read the, you've got to go through the emails and try and decode from an email that that person might be the person in zoom. So I think one thing I would ask when we do the sign up next time is that people give their first name and their second name and if they go to sign into zoom with a different name for any reason, they get that as well or, or something like that because that would've made it a lot faster for me running the, uh, the waiting room.
Ed 16:22 Yeah, definitely. So yeah, next time we'll, we'll ask you to put a name as well. So just a basic oversight, I guess the other thing then we did record the a event or a, well, I mean, first of all, yeah, I made a stupid mistake and I didn't start recording until midway through the, the very first talk, which was no reflection on the talk, sorry. It was just an oversight because there thousand things to keep organized. So, so yeah, if anyone did miss the event, you can, you can find the videos over on the webpage. They're all linked there and they're up on YouTube. But I have to say, dealing with these videos was a big pain in the ass, you know? And partially that's because it's just not my skillset. But that was a bit of a very steep learning curve as well in that, you know, you click record on zoom and it records, but what I hadn't appreciated does it creates a monster big file.
Ed 17:10 So then trying to do things there, you know, like the file was too big to upload to YouTube. So then we had to find a way to chop the file up, which is also way more complicated than it should have been. Which in the end I gave up and luckily you were able to take that over. But then you know, getting the YouTube account authorized, you know, they have all kinds of or or validated or whatever their term is and also was verified. Yeah, it was less, less, less simple than it could have been, I guess. Yeah, really. I mean, thank you very much for doing the editing there, Steven, because I got so frustrated with trying different software solutions to this that I, you know, after wasting two on this for something that I thought should have taken 10 minutes
Steven 17:55 sitting back going, sending you infuriating messages effectively say, well how difficult come to this Bay. And of course eventually I, I stepped in and said I then the big fall to me alone, I'll have a go. And when I had to go thinking this can't be that difficult, it was bloody difficult. There are loads of tools out there which apparently can do this, but of course say -inaudible- they're one, they're very, they're very complicated to most of them cost quite a bit of money and that's not something that we really wanted to spend money on. And the trial versions are limited in some way and -inaudible- downloaded a trial version of something to see if it will do what you want and then you try and do it and it doesn't do it. It's a real hassle. But I have to tell you ad don't give up because eventually I found the solution. The solution is an open source product called handbrake. Anybody who wants to do some simple video editing and particularly compressing and reformatting. This is a brilliant tool and I already had it, I just hadn't thought to use it because I use it too press media rather than to edit it. But um, actually it does the job perfectly. And -inaudible- next time we, we record a GMO online, it'll take me 1520 minutes to set up the process to split and compress all the videos. So from now on it will be a dotted,
Ed 19:25 well also we learned the correct way to do it is you, you click record in zoom when the speaker starts and you click again when they stop and then it saves it as one file and then you click a, you know, you start a new recording for the next speaker and as a result then you have several smaller files instead of one ultra gargantuan file that, you know, YouTube point accept and things like that. So, so we live in, we learn. And of course you know the, the benefit of all this is now we're fully multimedia. So yeah, please go watch those videos because there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears involved in edit.
Steven 20:04 Say about the videos that is, cause you, you said to me offline, particularly frustrated by the whole process. Is it even worth it? I think it really is worth it. I think one will build up an archive of all of these videos over time, which I think people will come back to and use. And the evidence for that is phosphide gene because at first for G for the last few years we've been having a semi-professional team helping to record the videos and the slides and doing a very professional job of it. And all those videos get posted onto a channel where they're all stored for. So we've got, I think the last six years of FOSS4G, the majority of the presentations are up there. And I've questioned in the past whether the effort and the cost of doing this was worthwhile and actually -inaudible- these videos are getting hundreds and hundreds of views. Some of them are getting thousands of views. So if you're trying to reach, share the GM, MOBE goodness with a lot of people, this is an important way to do it. And so I think we should persevere with it.
Ed 21:13 Well I, I mean yes, I agree. If if professionally made video, I mean this has always been my whole point is that the trying to record at a live event, of course if it's done well and professionally and you have good cameras and things and a sound system, then it's great. The problem is, you know, if we do it in kind of half-assed way, which you know, given our budgetary constraints and our skill level is probably the only realistic level that we're going to get to you, then the question is, is it worth it? But that being said, I mean I think they did turn out well enough that someone could get some, some value from the videos. So, so please, dear listener, go watch those videos, go watch those videos. I guess. So moving on, like my main complaint with the geomob online is, you know, for me the, the talks are really only half the event, Stephen, for me.
Ed 22:02 And when we have a GMR in person, of course the talks are very interesting, but, um, and I often learn things from the talks and, but, but they're really the conversation starter, right? And then we go to the pub and that's where like, I find that the real exchange occurs both amongst the other, you know, with the speakers but also with the other participants. And that's where you meet people and you've learned like, Oh, you know, you hear all kinds of things and who's working on something, who's looking for a job, who's starting something new, who's hiring all these kinds of things. And obviously there's no, we, we certainly haven't succeeded in replicating that. So how could we do that in an online format? Or is that just a dream that you know is unfulfillable what do you think?
Steven 22:45 Well, first of all, I absolutely agree with you. I mean GMO is not just four or five speakers speaking for 1520 minutes. A few questions and we all go home. The whole point about geomob is that we go to the pub afterwards and we have an hour, hour and a half of chat and drink and that's where we've built a community and there's a real community around GMOs. You know there's a core of people who come almost if not to every every one. They come to sort of thrill three out of four of them. So there is a real community and it has real value and you're not going to get that stuck in front of a screen. I mean I think we could set up,
Ed 23:22 yeah.
Steven 23:24 Then to leave the zoom channel open, maybe I wonder if there's different tech that we could use. You and I are, look, we're both looking at a different technology for running this kind of an event which might be more suitable for those sort of post event conversations. So I think we need to look at it. I mean at the very minimum I think you could leave the zoom channel open for half an hour or an hour afterwards and allow everybody to unmute themselves so the people could chat with each other. It wouldn't be the same as being in the pub together, but it would be better than just the abrupt clothes that we had. People drift away -inaudible- shut it down to half an hour later, go back and shut it down half an hour later. You don't even have to monitor it.
Ed 24:13 Yeah. The problem, I think it's very well intended, but once you have more than 10 people or so, it's just impossible cause it's like, you know every person who tries to talk at the same time. And then I found it madness. So I'm not sure how you write. You know, cause the thing is when we go to the pub, there are 50 of us at the pub, but it's not that all 50 are standing in the circle having a one conversation, you break into groups of three or four and they're 20 simultaneous conversations and I don't know how you do that.
Steven 24:42 You can't do that on zoom. You can't do that on Hangouts. You can't do that on GFC. All of those, those conferencing facilities rely on. One person has the mind, and if somebody speaks louder than that one person, they may take over the mic, but you can't have multiple conversations. You know, I meet up once a week or I used to meet up once a week with a group of men from around here and we'd meet for coffee on a Tuesday morning and that'd be about 10 or 12 of us. We'd have a long table and we split, just like you said there, you know, into, there'd be three or four conversations going on, we'd swap and we'd move. But yeah, so we've switched to doing that online and these -inaudible-, these are people who know each other really well and -inaudible-. They've got lots of things to say to each other, but it just doesn't work the same way because it's always one person speaking.
Ed 25:42 Yeah. I don't know that whoever, I mean obviously it's a huge usability challenge, but whoever solves that, they will make a fortune. Because you mean clearly every single event is now going online and we'll have this problem of how do you, how do you let people break out into smaller groups? How do you let people, and the magic of it is at a geo of event. It's not that, you know, sometimes I go there and think, Oh I need to talk to so-and-so about such and such. But you know, then the spontaneous conversations where you're just, you know, you're working your way through the crowd and someone says something and you're like, Oh yeah, you know, and I don't know how you, I just don't know how you solve that. So,
Steven 26:22 so I'm sitting in on a demo this afternoon of a tech where they have, it's a, it's a conferencing software application and they've got a networking facility where you could go into micro networking sessions. I, they're one on one chats with another person and you can either have them preplanned or you can have them random and that might, that sort of -inaudible- -inaudible- Mike work to create -inaudible- way where you could have those after event conversations and you just chat for two or three minutes with somebody and then you get put in front of somebody else and you chat with them. And if, if you, there's a way of exchanging details in these chats so that you can follow up with them afterwards. I'll let you know how it goes cause I'm going to sit in on a demo test of it this afternoon.
Ed 27:16 Right. Good luck. Good luck. I'm curious, is that because you're, you're, you're doing this for FOSS4G or,
Steven 27:22 absolutely. Thanks for the prompt. Um, so we're gonna run a with G UK online event. I don't know whether you heard in the last couple of days, the FOSS4G Europe event of decided to postpone the event that was going to be in July too. Sometime next year. They haven't set a date for it, but there won't be a foster kitschy Europe this year. And so not just because of that, but because we've been talking about it anyway for a few weeks. We decided at the beginning of this week that we're going to have a FOSS4G U K online event, probably the end of may, maybe the beginning of June. We haven't set the date yet. The call for presentations, workshops, demos, whatever is going to go out in the next day or so. Um, so I'm researching the technology that we might use to run that event because to run a day long conference, which just has people sitting in front of screens watching other people present sounds a little bit doll and sterile.
Steven 28:28 So we're exploring other technologies that might enable us to have more of an interactive field. I don't know how far we'll succeed, how good it will be, but we think it's one, we think we need to do something this year because there's a gap in the calendar and people want something to happen. But two, it just seems to make sense at the moment. Start thinking how would we run events in the future because I think there's going to be less travel. Certainly there's going to be no travel this year. I think there'll be less travel next year. So how do you run a global or a regional conference next year? You know, will there be a state of the map next year? Um, and if there is,
Ed 29:12 who knows. I mean the this year is also going to be a virtual state of the map in July. Yeah. Well good luck. Keep us posted. Obviously once you knew the date, let us know. We'll put it in the geomorphic newsletter and um, and get that out there. I'm curious how it goes. I guess that's a good point to wrap it up. I mean, I guess all that's all that's left to say is of course if anyone has any feedback on the geomob online that we had, if you haven't gotten to us yet, please, please send us your feedback and hopefully please join us at the next one, which will be on 6th of May. And I said we're still looking for a few speakers there, so if anyone wants to volunteer, please get in touch.
Steven 29:47 And if you missed out on the first year mobile online, you can find the [email protected]
Ed 29:57 right? Exactly. Exactly. All right, well stay healthy everyone and see you soon. Bye.
Steven 30:02 Take care. Bye.
Ed 30:05 Thanks everyone for joining us today and listening to the geomob podcast. Hopefully you've enjoyed the discussion. Please don't hesitate if you have any feedback for us or any suggestions for topics that we should cover in the future. You can get the show notes over on the website, which is at -inaudible- dot com while you're there, if you're not yet on the mailing list, please do get on the mailing list where we once a month send out an email announcing future events, summarizing past events and just generally sharing events that you may find of interest. You can also of course follow us on Twitter where our handle is geomob. You can follow Steven at Steven Feldman. You can follow me Freyfogle, you can check out Mappery at -inaudible- dot work and of course, if you need any geocoding, please check out my service, which is open cage data.com. We look forward to you joining us again, and if you try episode Oh and of course seeing you at a future geomob event. Hope to see you there soon. Bye.