What Lies Ahead for Periscope - Discoverability (Part Two)

What lies ahead for Periscope - Monetisation. Discussed the issue of monetisation for creators; how they shouldn’t wait for Periscope to build in monetisation features. I advocated the idea to create their own revenue streams now, so as not to be solely dependant on Periscope. This came about because creators on YouTube had their channels demonetised. Those creators (on YouTube) that haven’t suffered, have other sources of revenue as a fallback. Periscopers should do the same. 

Part 2 deals with Discoverability, Part 3 deals with the quality of the live-streams present on the Periscope platform.

Discoverability

One of the largest concerns from the community since late 2015 has been one of search and discovery; finding the best broadcasters possible. The Periscope app hasn’t made any real progress towards finding consistent, and quality, live-streams in its two year history. 

One implementation that was seen as a step towards allowing viewers to simply find something to watch was the VIP program. The VIP program enables VIPs to give the Periscope editorial team a heads up on live-streams they think are worth promoting (a VIP can in fact notify Periscope and the editorial team will review it live in order to feature it).

Currently the most fruitful way (in terms of quantity) of finding a live-stream involves looking at the list view. The list view provides thumbnails and titles of broadcasts, all streams sit equally on the list (unless featured), much like your homepage on the YouTube app. The immediate difference though to the YouTube app; those videos on the YouTube app are a mixture of what the app thinks you may want to watch and from those creators you already subscribe to.

Pictured above are the four main screens with which to find broadcasts on Periscope vs the three screens from YouTube pictured below.

Aside from the list view on Periscope, you can find streams on the world map (streams are seen geographically). There is also the ‘TV’ tab, showing the recent broadcasts of those you follow. This aspect of the app does have some variation to it. If a stream is of importance, Periscope can push it to your device to ‘feature’ above the existing replays on that list and provide a category bubble further letting viewers understand the context, it may be ‘Travel’, ’Politics’, ‘Culture’ and so forth. These featured scopes depend on a 24 hour editorial team. 

This is short summary goes towards explaining what discovery currently is on Periscope. As there is no true search capability (category search) and understandably, looking for something live is quite a task due to the nature of the stream ending at any moment. Search has to lean on the broadcaster rather than the content. Finding something to watch on YouTube is no contest because it’s the largest video library in the world; with videos also having less ephemerality and tagging built in compared to broadcasts on Periscope.

How does discoverability get better? I’m aware of a Twitter endeavour to algorithmically determine the content of live-streams to make the identification process easier. That aside (which isn’t out yet) what is the solution? A similar intent is being made towards nudity.

Something that could have been implemented in 2016 was the ability to let the scoper decide on their own category bubble, from that, a basic form of categorisation could be collectively formed by broadcasters and used as another form of search by viewers. The implementation of this type of tagging and categorising towards broadcasts can also be organised in a summary based on the last five streams. 

If I made five streams with a tag like ‘travel’, then I’m in the travel section of a gallery list of other likeminded topics. I could automatically transfer over to politics if (because I’m in Hong Kong and Hong Kong people protest as a past time) the next three streams were tagged ‘Politics’ (three more streams puts me over the middle of five as the preceding last two would still be travel related).

This would also solve the existential issue broadcasters might have if they think they fit in more than one category. The app decides dynamically, balancing the broadcaster’s position based on the frequency of the tags . If the user forgets, the system ignores the scope, until the majority of untagged scopes takes you out of any category.

This way, viewers have an extra avenue in search functionality towards discovering other broadcasters and the proposal is simply extending the existing system used by the editorial team. It isn’t wholly a brand new form of discovery to design, develop and test for, for the Periscope team. The algorithm isn’t complex either, it simply sorts broadcasts on a weighting scale determined by broadcasters willing to tag their broadcasts.

The VIP Program and Search Results

The VIP Program is supposed to be the other way of discovering and boosting the visibility of Periscopers on the platform. In retrospect the VIP Program seem to be a solution that goes the long way round towards enhancing discoverability on the platform.

The VIP Program requires a lot of behind the scenes effort to implement and maintain by the Periscope team, its been in operation for quite some time now, with VIP scopers reflecting on its actual aims. I’m one of them and I’ve always thought the VIP system would come in phases, currently it still seems to be on phase one of an implementation, like it’s still unfinished.

One of the benefits of the platform is to be given “Prioritisation in people search results, so people can find you more easily” (as stated on the VIP sign up page). I don’t know how true this actually is as I can’t make comparisons to my status before the program.

I do know, that those following is a factor, type ‘Jonathan’ into periscope and i’m 10th, the results are in ranked order because of following. All twenty in the search result are twitter verified with myself in the middle. If I type ‘jonathanjk’ all my accounts show up regardless of their VIP status in the top twenty.

If I type ‘Hong Kong’, I don’t show up in the top twenty, the placement depends me putting ‘hong kong’ into my profile. Just like followers is being counted (and number of followers being counted as part of the search placement results is dynamic, if I over took Jonathan Ross from British TV, I’d be first), I think location should as well, without me putting it in my description. Changing my profile description to include ‘#hongkong’ actually immediately places me 6th on the list.

What also caught my eye was my New York Times editor friend, he’s ninth on the list and never scopes, he has over 1k following because of his Twitter verification and twitter presence (huge). A lot of Twitter verified users do show up in the rankings, while I have no beef against that on the surface. I wonder how active those accounts on the whole are. My friend’s isn’t at all and it got me thinking, if following numbers have an impact on search results, why can’t the regularity of when someone broadcasts have an impact as well? Surely if a person is interested in following a scoper from Hong Kong and wants to know more, does the platform benefit by throwing up accounts that are hardly used? Surely active accounts should get a higher ranking. How often a scoper broadcasts is even in the requirements for the VIP program.

Periscope is in the business of connecting viewers with broadcasters, so do it!

Now does any of what you’ve read help with the perception of quality broadcasts? No, this is just one piece of an already large pie when discussing discoverability. We will return to this in part 3.

The PET (Periscope Editorial Team)

It strikes me as odd that the Periscope team feature types of broadcast that have a limited appeal to viewers or regularly feature similar looking scopes. Looking at the watch time would illustrate the video featured isn’t of interest and I’m not sure how many sunset scopes or lovely walks in the country side I can take anymore, .

Simply put. I have five minutes, I’m looking at my home-screen, where do I use those minutes? On the YouTube app where an algorithm gives me what I want, or a live video (if it’s still live) of something a human has curated for me on Periscope. The live experience counts so much, but typing is extra work on Periscope, for YouTube, it’s an after thought.

It’s been made clear to me from a member of the team at Periscope that Periscope won’t feature replay broadcasts. I would argue against that somewhat as YouTube is mostly all replays. Second, are the 6-7 scopes featured, really the best of what the Periscope platform offers? With featured scopes also staying on my phone for roughly 24 hours. Do you know how fast YouTube works to cater to my flippant tastes on its home-screen?

YouTube is All About the Replays!

I want to suggest a doubling of the number of featured scopes. To save time for the viewer, split them across two feature boxes as opposed to one. Later, with time, feature a greater variety of broadcasts and dedicate the feature boxes to single categories? With watch times in these scopes amounting to 17 seconds to a 1 minute, there needs to be more featured content because people drive through them almost instantly. The average watch time proves this.

To further this suggestion of featuring more broadcasts, (in order to better flesh out the app, and keep people onboard) VIP scopers are somewhat at a loss with the fact that Periscope makes no effort to help scopers with providing residual value to their replays (how can they be shown again). Though to defend Periscope first, it wouldn’t hurt broadcasters to figure out a way where they the broadcaster themselves could indulge in a little bit of self-promotion by their own means. I know Periscope is about the live experience first, but this only goes so far towards entertaining users when there are only so many live scopes at any one time. Why can’t their be a‘Remember This?’ or ‘You Missed This’ feature which do in fact show replays. Is there really any harm in having a replay section to feature more entertaining scopes? To provide even more variety Periscope has to look back for great replays that were never featured live. If you want to get technical, featured live scopes are featured longer on the replay than they are live anyway.

Broadcasters can be happier because there is a potential for further discovery and second, there is more content to keep people on the app. The editorial team in theory should be able to pick even better scopes because the scopes don’t need to be live and you can use ‘watch time’ as a metric for scopers who want to submit broadcasts to this section of the app.

To Conclude

There isn't really a conclusion to this as part 3 directly continues and concludes on part 2. Part 3 will directly address the issue of quality broadcasts through a more in-depth discussion of watch time.

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Hurdles of Live-Streaming with a DJI Drone on Periscope

Having owned a DJI Mavic since December 2016, it think it's valuable to share my perspective on what it takes to learn how to pilot a flying robot with cutting blades, across one of the most densely populated parts of the world.

I'm in a unique position, in so much as being one of the very few live-stream broadcasters in Hong Kong showing the sights and sounds.

I live-stream on the Periscope platform. Most live-streams are a private broadcast for patreons, and once a month, I also share a public scope with non-paying viewers. For those interested in knowing more, click the link. There is also a schedule at the top of the page.

I also make and upload some drone videos on to my YouTube channel.

I wish I could solely make videos for the YouTube platform as it's much easier than live-streaming on Periscope. All I need to do is select a location free of signal and legal interference. This isn't anything to do with the in-built option of streaming on YouTube with the DJI Go software, it's down to the fact that live-streaming with a drone on Periscope has so much more to set up behind the scenes in order to pilot it.

No native solution for Periscopers. Need to use RTMP to set up a drone as a seperate device.

No native solution for Periscopers. Need to use RTMP to set up a drone as a seperate device.

Things to Consider Before Flying Using Periscope.

  1. Location function is turned off. Viewers can't follow you along on the map that's normally provided in periscopes and the viewers end up constantly asking pilots where they are flying*.
  2. You need two (iOS) devices. I have to create a hotspot from one iPhone to another iPhone to be able to stream on Periscope (actually I don't need to hotspot, I just need 2 unlimited data connections you know?!). I have a spare iPad, but as others have reported to me, hotspotting to iPads doesn't work. Luckily I have a second iPhone paid for by my patreons**.
  3. The DJI Go app doesn't natively support Periscope. If it did, I'd need only one phone. So now I'm looking at two screens (if piloting alone) while a dangerous flying robot with spinning blades is hovering over Hong Kong. The current solution I feel is basically a quick fix.
  4. Periscope Producer (PP) requires more bandwidth by default. Normal scopes broadcast at 380p. PP needs at least 960x540, so more cell bandwidth is required. Luckily I have unlimited LTE in Hong Kong. You're out of luck if you're on a plan with a GB limit.

These four items I hope, are simplified by Periscope at some point, however their hard-on for 360 VR Periscopes know no bounds and the development team I'm repeatedly told, is small. I am going to assume technical changes will be coming later rather than sooner. Phone calls to DJI are certainly required. Kayvon the co-founder of Periscope has never even flown a Mavic on his own platform. I wish he would do, and then realise how ridiculous the current solution is.

So why do I live-stream on Periscope then?. It's just live-streaming is so attractive, and I have overcome these hurdles in spite of Periscope's attitude towards drone broadcasts. I continue to stream because of the engagement factor, it's a massive incentive to narrate and engage with an audience. This is why it's mostly a paid affair. Should this extra work be given away for free?

Other things to consider.

  1. I need near perfect signal to stream. Another Periscoper "Penguinsix" with his YouTube channel, created a short video to display the actual signal strength from an iPhone. I've learnt for Periscope broadcasts with a drone, that I need a minimum of -90 to ensure no stuttering is present during a scope. Anything above that might not even work!
  2. Legal issues. I'm not allowed within 50 meters of a structure or a building, flying at night is a no no as well.
  3. Hong Kong is extremely dense. Signals from wifi, radio signals, metal, satellite TV, other GPS devices, interference from buildings, it goes on and on. Even with Ocusync and a signal booster, signal strength is going to be severely limited in and around Hong Kong. So far I can get around 400-500 metres in a given direction near the city when I'm lucky. Over open fields and water, I can get 2km.
  4. Don't forget mother nature! A pilot needs good weather and low wind speed. 

"I am one with the force, the force is with me".

I'm still learning how to stream with enough signal ( the '-90' required simply to enable periscope transmissions). It's my biggest obstacle that I can't pre-plan for. I'm learning only through trial and error; taking notes of signal strength in and around the city as I travel. It's slowly becoming a sixth sense. It's a different intuitive mind map aside from just knowing where to just fly a drone legally. 

Hong Kong itself is almost an island city state, I'm lucky with open areas to fly over busy shipping lanes, near city structures, islands, massive religious statues (two Buddha statues exist), abandoned villages, peninsulas, bays, mountain peaks and open fields. I want to fly all over it using Periscope if I can. It's still the best live-streaming platform for showing the world, Hong Kong.

My hope is that people find these brief technical descriptions useful for flying near a city while using Periscope. I also hope there is a better understanding between viewers, and those who create 'drone scopes' because of the amount of technical knowledge required just to provide another form of entertainment that can be dismissed away by tapping an 'X'.

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* Periscopes made with drones need 'Periscope Producer', but 360 periscopes, regular periscopes get the option of including location. Periscope have responded to requests that 'most' scopes are inside a studio and don't need the location option. The big deal behind this however is discoverability is lowered dramatically. So spend thousands on technology only to be penalised in the process. The most mobile type of a Periscope live-stream ironically doesn't feature the ability to know to viewers where they are.

** The Phantom 4 required one smartphone to broadcast. Location was also available, so on some technical levels, live-streaming with a drone on Periscope has retarded.

Airbnbers Don't Know How Good They've Got It.

DISCLAIMER - I write this not as a slight against the service which at the moment seems very fashionable.

I also write this having already given up on the frustrating experience I encountered while on couchsurfing.com. It didn't matter how many I hosted, my profile never seemed good enough to just be able to find myself a host for myself when I needed the service.

The system after all was based on goodwill, I thought I had plenty of it in the bank.

The odd thing is, because rejection is so high, travellers would send multiple emails to would be hosts to maximise their chances of being accepted. On the flip-side, hosts would get upset on one level or another at not enjoying a personalised handcrafted digital mail. Hosts would deliberately leave breadcrumbs in their profiles to make sure travellers read their profiles and if you made a single mistake you can be rejected again.

I know, I also did this, people just do not read profiles, and they head for the most obvious button to click that grants them access to your house with minimum of pain.

I grew sick of the rejections from hosts when I wanted to travel and ran out of patience with the constant ignorant requests from travellers. I quit this year after being on the site since 2007. By the way, I can't 'delete' my account, I can only 'deactivate' it.

Along comes Airbnb and I thought, 'Ah, money is involved, things will be different". I signed up in July 2016, I'm quitting the service as a host in August 1016.

After the third request from Airbnbers to provide a discount I thought, 'fuck this'.

Things on Airbnb.com were certainly different compared to Couchsurfing.com

I just don't understand where Airbnbers come from because: 

  • Hotels are always more expensive, so you're saving money compared to using them, even though the quality of service is so much more (article regarding Airbnb in HK - Hong Kong hoteliers may become vocal opponents of Airbnb).
  • There are smaller (safer and with established services) hotels that are equal to some random Airbnb host.
  • There are also other Airbnbs that are cheaper than mine, but aren't private (in many cases).
  • I offered a discount at the weekly (10%) and monthly (15%) levels (this was after the first request for a discount) thinking I had done something wrong and now I entered this game/lie of raising the price in order to provide a discount therefore a perception that people were getting a good deal now if they booked with me).

These things apparently aren't enough, the price needed to be even lower and whatever attributes that attracted people to my apartment were, aren't really a selling point, it's actually a starting point to enquire and claim a discount for it. Cheapskates will be cheapskates.

The thing is, I didn't do Airbnb for a profit, I did it to make the rent and because I'm open minded, I am not one of the professional renters in Hong Kong that are creating a business on top of the Airbnb platform. I was just someone open minded enough to share my modest and well located apartment in order for people to help me make rent.

I'm British, I don't haggle, it's not in my DNA, I just move on and find something else if all I'm going to do is work on price.

In Hong Kong, you build up a relationship with those you perform transactions with before even considering the discount, this notion will not work on Airbnb. It's also alien to me to ask if nothing has been established, you know something like trust, or a long term relationship.

Just asking for a discount upfront means nothing. Whats the point of setting a price in the first place only for it to be ignored? The worst part would be then allowing the cheapskates into my house that they don't value for whatever their stay would be. 

I remember, my dad dealing with suppliers to his hotel, his hotel always paid cash on the day, with that itself there's nothing special, but compared to other hotels in the same town who would pay with credit or at the end of the month. Since they paid on delivery, they gave his hotel a discount. I could understand giving a discount for repeat travellers, but the chances of that are slim, especially when everybody is operating on price alone.

So for me, instead of the overhead of dealing with multiple requests and discussing prices while travellers were completely ignoring the prices I had already set, I've decided on getting a stable long term room mate again for simplicities sake. Forgive for taking all this personally, but I thought that was part of the appeal. Forget being a host on Airbnb, it literally isn't worth it.