Jerame Davis

Gay Geeks: How technology trumped LGBT issues and presidential politics

Filed By Jerame Davis | August 10, 2007 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Geeks, Marriage Equality, Media, Politics, The Movement
Tags: CBS News, election 2008, HRC, live stream, Logo, Viacom

I've said before that my two passions in life are politics (particularly LGBT flavored) and technology. Last night, there was a melding of those two passions that was unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. What was this magical marriage of politics, technology, and LGBT issues? Why, the HRC/LOGO Presidential Forum of course.

First, let me give props where they are due... HRC and LOGO put together a decent forum that was worthy of presidential participation. It's really too bad that many people who were interested in watching weren't able to actually do so.

Why would something as historic and unprecedented as having a bona fide presidential forum specific to LGBT issues be missed by so many interested people? Poor technology planning.

Let's look at what went wrong...

1. HRC and LOGO, which is an MTV-owned LGBT programming cable channel, were the sponsors of the debate. MTV is owned by Viacom, which used to own CBS until CBS spun off on it's own, so that's why you see them partnering with CBS News to cover the debate. (The point being, there were a lot of big companies and organizations behind this event.)

2. LOGO, a cable channel that is AVAILABLE (not watched) in only 27 million homes, had exclusive broadcast rights to the forum.

3. HRC and LOGO promoted the hell out of this forum generating interest across the country and even across the gay/straight divide. (Keeping in mind, the vast majority of the country doesn't get LOGO)

4. LOGO offered an online video stream of the debate for those of us not fortunate enough to have LOGO in our homes (in other words, the 90% of us who don't live in NYC, LA, SF or a few other select areas, had to watch online.)

Sounds like they've got it all covered, right? Wrong.

The online feed was plagued with issues throughout the debate. At times, the stream would just drop and I'd have to click to restart it. Other times, it came across like I was on a dialup connection at the North Pole, slipping, skipping, stuttering, and freezing. I switched from wireless to wired - I even plugged my computer directly into the cable modem! Same thing. I have heard stories far and wide of similar problems. In fact, I haven't found a single person who was able to watch the live online feed without major problems.

Folks, I've been doing networking for over 10 years and it's pretty clear to me that LOGO/Viacom/MTV was too damned cheap to pay for the bandwidth and server capacity necessary for the millions of us left out in the cold to watch this forum. The only limit to bandwidth and overall capacity for a stream is cost. Bandwidth is easily augmented in a streaming environment.

Live streams are handled differently than your YouTube type video content. Most live streams are contracted out to be delivered by a third party that specializes in that type of video distribution. I'd be surprised if LOGO didn't do the same. If they did, they should get their money back. Any live streaming specialist worth their salt would be able to judge the bandwidth necessary for this event, double it, then have backup capacity available if that still isn't enough. You only pay for what you use, so having extra available isn't really a problem.

The other option here is to reduce the size and/or quality of the video in the stream to reduce the bandwidth necessary to transmit it. I have to say, the parts I saw live were vivid and crystal clear, but what good is that quality when I can't understand what's being said because of the stuttering and stammering caused by the crappy connection? I think they could have cut down their bandwidth requirements considerably by reducing the video quality and shrinking the size by about 25%.

That's the problem with old media companies trying to play cool in the new media market. They just shoot themselves in the foot because they don't have a clue. Between MTV, LOGO, Viacom, and CBS News, I'd think someone could have ponied up the cash (or bought the expertise or whatever the actual problem was) to make sure that this event went off without a hitch. It's not like it was history making presidential politics or anything.

Oh wait, it was.


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Wilson46201 | August 10, 2007 4:51 PM

I watched the debate on my laptop fed off my home wireless network on cable modem. I noticed no problems...

Wow, Wilson, you're the first. Alex tried on four different computers in two or three different places. Others have complained as well. You got lucky, congrats.

The longest mine worked was 20 minutes at one stretch. I saw all of Obama and made it to Edwards' first question, but didn't get the answer. It was in and out from there on.

Will this forum be available as a DVD from Amazon.com for a mere $24.95? Maybe it will be re-played on cable as a pay-per-view product? Will it be available for us to download from iTunes for $11.95?

(If we are in the middle of a Hoosier cornfield on dial-up, can the download be completed before the new President is sworn in in January 2009?)

Screw "technology" --- with all those capitalist geniuses involved in all the big Fortune 500 communications companies, there's got to be some way that MTV/Logo/Viacom/CBS can take their cheapskate decision not to buy adequate bandwidth and turn it into an incoming revenue stream for them ... obviously, there is plenty of bandwidth available when it comes to money flying out of LGBT pockets and into the bank accounts of the fat cats.

I think I'm with you on this one, Allen. Who needs technology when you have sex?

My line was great...but I have a very high speed connection. :) Not one bit of problem with the feed.

Patrick ONeill | August 10, 2007 7:36 PM

I watched at home for an hour with no problems except for occasuinal "buffering" breaks.

(Very few and never a disconnect).

The went into local community center where a few people were watching on a couple of PCs without problems - except for thos occasional "buffering" breaks

I was really annoyed by how difficult it was to locate the link to watch in the first place though

Jerame, thanks for this post! You've shed light on a whole new aspect of the story -- I love the "gay geeks" angle (where identity and technology collide ... )

Well, buffering breaks are better than what I experienced last evening, but seriously, buffering breaks are really inexcusable too. How is it "live" if by the end of the forum, you're 10 minutes behind (or more) because of those buffering breaks?

No, for an event this big from companies as large as this, nothing but a smooth, error-free connection is acceptable. Of course, the stream being Windows media doesn't help much either. There are much more efficient streaming protocols out there.

I'm glad to find that there were many who were able to view it uninterrupted. I think it's amazing how different the experiences were. I have a great cable modem connection and rarely have the kind of streaming problems I had last night.

OMG Trying to watch it last night was horrible. The video kept stopping and starting and restarting and skipping. Ugh. I was so mad at the computer by the end of it, it was hard to remember who'd actually done well. We really missed a lot of Hillary's answers and I had to watch it back later today.

I was lucky enough to be at Uncle E's in Bloomington where they showed it live.. to a nice sized crowd of total political geeks. Of course, HRC has had a presence down there all summer working on ENDA and the Matthew Shepard acts.

If I'd been at home, I'd have had no access to this historic event. So in that I echo, Jerame's protests. Why couldn't MSNBC cover this, esp for the millions of gays BETWEEN the coasts?

Steve Ralls | August 12, 2007 3:55 PM

It would have been great to see VIACOM-owned MTV (one of the more gay-friendly networks) simulcast the event, so more of the country could have watched on TV, rather than online. We're lucky to have LOGO on Comcast here in Washington, but if I had to sit through a laptop broadcast, I think my head would have hurt even more than it already did watching on television!