In his recent blogpost, Ian Stuart made some criticisms of TeachMeetSLF11. His post lists a number of concerns arising from having been a member of the online audience for the event. Whilst I agree with all of the points made by Ian, I feel I should point out a few things by way of explanation.

The prevalence of Ustream to broadcast TeachMeets of late is down to it allowing an unlimited audience, its ease of use (both for broadcasters and viewers), its high quality video (a massive improvement over flashmeeting) and the fact that it also has chat facilities to allow audience members to make comments/audience during the presentations.

On the night, as I hope who saw it will agree, the quality of the stream was excellent. My poor camera work not withstanding, it was a significantly improvement over flashmeeting, in my opinion. However, due to some technical problem the chat facilities did not work. More frustratingly they could not be made to work without dropping the connection, thereby losing the feed altogether. During the break the feed was restarted to try to resurrect the chat facilities, but again it wouldn't work.

In order to provide sufficient bandwidth for the broadcast the venue, Glasgow Science Centre, provided me with an ethernet cable connection for machine carrying the Ustream feed. This tied the machine to the auditorium used for the main presentations and made it difficult to provide a link to the round table discussions.

However, an attempt was made to link to the Ustream feed wirelessly using another machine from one of the round tables. Unfortunately there was not sufficient bandwidth to allow the stream to be established.

In hindsight, there could, and should, have been a contingency for this, and an indication on the wiki of which round table would be streamed. With luck, this won't happen again.

I agree entirely about the choice of speakers, but lately getting speakers at all has been quite difficult. The popularity of TeachMeets is certainly bringing people to the events, but few new speakers put themselves on the list.

I might be speaking for others too, in pointing out that I chose not to put myself on the list of speakers in order to give others the chance to do so. Had there been a return to the 'pot luck' method of choosing talks from a long list, I wouldn't have felt it necessary to step aside. I'd be happy to reinstate this approach.

On the subject of the Ad breaks, I wholeheartedly agree. I understand the need for sponsors at these events, having been involved in organising a couple, but the mentions became intrusive on the night.

As for the 2 minute sales pitch we all sat through, perhaps that is just a symptom of where TeachMeet has lost its way of late.

As Iain Hallahan suggests in his TeachMeet365 blog post there is a growing will to return the stripped down, low key, local roots of TeachMeet. I think that's almost what I was thinking about with my ideas about TeachMeet Unplugged, but I'm now prepared to go one step further.

I'm thinking about a small event, with about 20 - 30 people, in a free venue, probably a pub, with wifi for a twitter feed, but no web AV feed - it's a big hassle in my experience. All attendees will be encouraged/expected/compelled to do one or other of the following -

  • bring a friend who has never been to a teachmeet
  • have a 2 or 7 min talk to give 

All talks would be included in the list, but only 6 x 7 min and 4 x 2 min would be chosen. Recording of audio, video and stills could be achieved using smartphones, flip cameras or other devices and pooled on a posterous site, or using a piratebox on the night.

Watch this space.....