Disappeared into the ether

One of the shows we do over on Sidepodcast is called the Parade Lap and features Mr C and myself in conversation with the fabulous Alex Andronov for an hour before a Grand Prix begins.

It’s the kind of show that feeds off the audience – we ask for predictions and feedback, we play games and music, and it is generally a bit of fun and chaos before the racing action begins.

To keep track of the predictions that flow in from the live comments during the show, we started using Etherpad. It’s a real-time collaborative document, allowing all three of us to keep the show notes up to date. As predictions flow in, we post them to the document, as we read them, we delete them, so we always know what is left.

It’s a really great way of keeping track. Previously, Alex would try and keep on top of what was happening in the comments, whilst I worried about the music and Mr C worried about the cables. If I read something from the comments, though, it would be ad hoc, Alex would have to check his lists, and it would just be a bit confusing.

Real-time is the perfect solution.

This past weekend, it occured to Mr C and myself that we hadn’t been using Etherpad for the other live show that we do, when it would make perfect sense.

The process for those show notes went something like:

  • I make lots of notes.
  • He tells me some things he wants to talk about.
  • I print it out for him and use the on screen document for myself.
  • We do the show.

He does like to have physical show notes in his hand, but would sacrifice that for real-time editing easily. The last race show of the year, and we suddenly realise we’d been missing out.

Or had we?

We got about ten minutes into the show, finding it very useful to be able to make changes on the fly. It took Mr C a while to get used to his show notes changing in front of his eyes, but it seemed like it would be a good step forward.

Then it all died. Etherpad lost the connection and crashed. Boo.

I had to print out the show notes and we returned to our usual format.

Print = 1. Future = 0.

4 thoughts on “Disappeared into the ether

  1. The Etherpad thing has worked really well for us on the Parade Lap. Actually I think I lost the connection one time but a quick refresh brought it back.

    This does always highlight the problems in relying on web as a service.

    At my firm we are driving more and more applications to the web because of the collaborative nature of them. However We do encounter problems when users take their laptops out on the road. If they go through a tunnel on the train… No way of pinging back to the server. It’s the next big thing to solve.

  2. Why didn’t you use Google Wave instead?

    Personally, I don’t think it’s quite there as a tool for document collaboration. In my eyes it is more of an enhanced IM/email replacement.

    There’s no doubt it will be more in the future though.

  3. Personally, I don’t think it’s quite there as a tool for document collaboration. In my eyes it is more of an enhanced IM/email replacement.

    There’s no doubt it will be more in the future though.

    Hmm you have a point there – at the moment it just reminds me of an extended version of an ICQ chat (which I could do 10 years ago)…

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