Live video viewing and broadcasting service UStream appears set to unveil a dramatic update to its iPhone app, the first update the app has seen in many months. UStream, a deep-pocketed gamble on the future, really needs a better iPhone app. This new version looks a lot better; these changes are long overdue.
The company put up a post on its blog this evening with screenshots and details of the launch, but pulled the post, probably because the app isn’t live yet in the iTunes store. None the less, you can see the screenshots and highlights of the new version below.
For those of you with two phones in your pocket comparing apps across platforms, it appears that most if not all of these updates have been available in the UStream Android app for the past few months. Competition doesn’t sit still, either. Rumors emerged earlier this month that Apple’s MobileMe product might be remade as a Foursquare/UStream mashup of sorts. We’ll see. Given that the company has raised a fair sum of money and that live mobile video is supposed to be all the rage someday, ought UStream not have a little more than this up its sleeve for its first iPhone app update in months? Either way, I’m looking forward to it.
Highlights from the pending UStream release include:
- Broadcasting and viewing will now finally be possible through the same single app. UStream previously offered live mobile broadcasting through one app (last updated in November) and viewing other peoples’ live shows through another (last updated in July). Now there will be just one app for both. It’s much more attractive than either the broadcaster or the viewer, too.
- Featured content and sorting by categories. It’s hard to find good content on the UStream app, but the screenshot of featured live and recorded shows appears set to overcome this major hurdle in making the app worth using. In testing the old app just minutes ago, I was able to view live chatter between astronauts climbing around on the outside of the space station – on my phone! I was also able to see a well-endowed woman disrobe in front of a radio microphone while voices from off-camera shouted in Spanish about Wikipedia. Both live broadcasts truly were marvels of the modern age. Featured content will be a big improvement though, presuming there’s enough good things to feature.
- Users can now log-in with Facebook or Twitter, in addition to their UStream accounts. That’s a very smart change.
- Broadcasters will now be able to run polls from the app.
- Subscribers can sign up for push notifications for channels or events of interest being broadcast live.
Can changes like these help UStream move beyond the topless astronaut crowd? Time will tell, but they sure look like big improvements to me. I like the idea of being able to view and broadcast live video from my phone. I’ll test the app and report back on performance once it’s live.
The RootsTech conference has challenged developers to mashup social media and family history APIs in the hopes that developers will recognize genealogy as rich area for exploitation.
Here’s the challenge: use any open social media API, like from Flickr or Facebook, mash it up with any of the APIs from the five genealogy companies that offer them to create something which “demonstrates increased value to family historians.”
Although professional genealogists are up on the online offerings that can help them do their jobs, developers are not nearly as up on the challenges facing everyone from PhDs to grandma when they trace the long chain of family relations. So although the immediate goal is to to produce a tool of value to genealogists, the real point of the exercise is to capture the imagination of developers.
Fast and Dirty
RootsTech itself is pretty much the first of its kind, quickly arranged and feeling its way along. So its sponsors, Family Search, put the word out with only 48 hours to spare, a sort of bar camp or hackathon approach.
Unfortunately, the developers who did attend did not seem comfortable with that quick-fire development approach. One dev in the audience stated in no uncertain terms that 48 hours was not enough time to produce anything functional. However, as Jim Ericson, the Family Search marketing manager in charge of the challenge, said they “didn’t want to pull developers out of the sessions.” It showed.
Out of the 45 or so developers who came to the initial challenge session, only six or seven individuals or teams signed up and today, only three came to the session. Of those three, only two had functional mashups and, frankly, neither were worth covering in any detail.
One was a mashup that pulled down genealogical information onto your desktop from Twitter, but the hashtag gymnastics were pretty awkward and the question stuck out: why pull information onto your desktop at all given the increasing primacy of the cloud. Even if you did want to do so, wouldn’t an RSS feed and right-click save-as be easier? The other presentation felt like a commercial for the developer’s software company. If there was a mashup in there somewhere, I couldn’t find it.
The Take Away
For me, the take-away from this challenge was a renewed realization that if you want developers to take an interest in your industry, in your conference, in your passion, especially if it is one that is under the normal developer radar, you need to court the community. You need to get out in the community and make yourself known. You need to invite and entice. You need to vet the participants. You need thought leaders to act as attractants for other developers. You need to get the word out. And you need to sacrifice session attendance if you want a lot of quality developers to jump in headfirst.
The baby boomer generation is growing by the day and its members are moving into genealogical activities. Developers who are already in the genealogy space, or who get in soon, and who create appealing applications that make family historian’s work easier or more efficient, will see their users grow. But next time, RootsTech will need to make them a priority.
Editor’s disclosure: RootsTech covered Mr. Hopkins’ airfare and hotel.
eldavojohn writes “Sure, they’re stepping all over proprietary rights and copyright, but something must be said about the amount of bliss-filled nostalgia inside Exploding Rabbit’s Super Mario Crossover. If the plumbers never really did it for you, you can now kill those goombas as Link, Mega Man, Samus, Simon Belmont or Contra‘s Bill. Goodbye jumping and spitting; hello slicing, whipping, and shooting. Is this one of the early firsts in the new genre of video game mashups?”
Star Wars and vintage Japanese Jumbos form the basis of a modern mashup from San Francisco boutique toy shop Super7. A look at the making of the $300 colossal collectible and its vinyl brethren.