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Technical Issues in Tonight’s Vidchat

November 28, 2014 By Giza Developer

A number of you reported difficulties over tonight's Black Friday live vidchat, with buffering and audio. There are probably several things going on, so let's address them:

1. It's a shopping holiday (Black Friday) during a holiday week, and we've seen weird slow downs of the net each year at times like this. We can't prove it, or even document it (to my knowledge), with any degree of certainty over why, but it does seem to be a pattern. Maybe it has something to do with the simple volume of financial transactions being somehow prioritized over streaming bandwidth, or maybe a heck of a lot more people are streaming and watching sports, movies, and other things. We're unsure, but not terribly surprised, if still disappointed.

2. We know that the ads the system puts in the video stream are no fun and we're actually working on a different platform altogether that's pretty much ready for the phase of testing and training. We may not have it implemented in time for the very next show, but as long as that show isn't during a holiday week, we're likely to be better off either way. The new system, if successful in meeting our needs, would be ad free. This means we may request volunteers to try it out with us during some practice sessions, and it will mean learning something slightly new - e.g. a different chat room window too (which we don't think we'll hear too many complaints about but, of course, whenever you do anything different or new...) Meanwhile, one viewer tonight said she experienced only minor buffering without the same degree of difficulty as others, and believes using a browser like Firefox with an ad blocker like AdBlock Plus or Ghostery installed in it helped. We can't vouch for that, or even suggest it, but you're free to try whatever you wish.

3. Dr. Farrell usually shuts down all programs, clears his cache, reboots, and then┬ámakes sure he doesn't launch any other programs before initiating a live broadcast. It's a good procedure, whether you're reaching out to dozens of people or just one, and it's been our experience that it helps on any platform. In an event where we experiences similar issues to tonight, what we'll probably do is pause the event, put a note in the chat room that says we'll be right back, and do that one more time, just to make sure some rogue software item isn't doing its dirty business with the memory on the broadcasting computer. It's new hardware, so it isn't likely a hardware issue, but things happen and, at the risk of pausing a show for a better experience, it's probably the best way to go. One benefit of the new platform when it comes out is it's supposed to work on any device, and it's powered by (if this is a hint) the only data centers that are probably more extensive than the NSA's. So you'll officially be the competition. ­čÖé

4. There are 3 parts to any such system - the internet bandwidth for the broadcast, the broadcasting machine, and the receiving network. Part of the issue may not be the current platform at all, which has 24 million users and about 14million live streams per year. In an overwhelming number of cases, when there is latency in a video broadcast, it is a) an internet connectivity issue (e.g. latency and/or packet loss) on the broadcaster's end or b) a pc/system issue (resource management) on the broadcaster's end. Of course, Giza doesn't have a local technician on site with Dr. Farrell for the broadcasts (our scope is supporting technology on the web site, not technology resident in his office), so we can't verify that those were the issues last night. We have seen internet latency issues from the same location in the past, however. A new platform may be more tolerant of a system with internet latency or packet loss issues or system resource issues, or it may not. In which case if we see similar issues in the new platform, it falls to the show's host to actually resolve technical issues with local professionals.

In the meantime, we'll keep working on the kinks and get a new system in place as soon as we can. May your holidays be truly happy and your post-holiday shopping experience no buffering or delays!