Ghosts Haunt Us All on the Periscope App

What is Ghosting?

Everyday, viewers of the popular live-streaming app 'Periscope' make reference to something called ‘ghosting’.

What this means is, the viewer can make a comment and the broadcaster won’t see the comment on their screen. In many cases the viewer has to tap out another comment again to be seen.

This has been happening on the Periscope platform for an unusually long time now. Many broadcasters with large followings including myself are left wondering why doesn’t Periscope fix this key aspect in their social network as they continually update the app with new features. Many broadcasters have even raised the issue with Periscope who flat out deny they've ever been contacted about this issue and it's the first they've heard about it. Conspiracy theorists start your engines!

Broken comments don’t seem to be an important issue while at the same time live streaming is seen as the new frontier for social media when ‘engaging’ with large audiences. Periscope almost seems contradictory for its purpose.

Live-streaming is a brand new form of media, users say its more open, honest and being present live is what makes it all that much more tantalising, probably because you can influence the camera operator as well. But it appears Periscope is kneecapping itself with a frustrating experience for those who simply want to chat to their favourite broadcasters.

Here’s some reasons as to what I think is going on. Without Periscope to comment all I can do is guess. Let’s start with the biggest and probably the most egregious reasons.

Chat Flow Moderation

Many people on Periscope don’t understand that it's very likely that comments are ‘ghosting’ by design. Tyler Hansen a Periscope developer (search for @tyhan1 on Periscope) has actually explained an algorithm Periscope have been employing since before July of 2016 (July 2016 was when Tyler made his broadcast). You can still watch the original video in Tyler’s recent broadcast list titled "Periscope Designer. I want to talk about “broadcast too full”. If he deletes it after my mentions I have a copy of the video saved.

Tyler cites various reasons for employing such an algorithm towards the betterment of busy broadcasts on the network. If there are too many comments at any given time, the ‘chat flow’ is managed and various comments disappear from the broadcaster’s view. That means they don’t see the comment, but the other viewers actually do.

Periscope through Tyler make the point that these comments that disappear are probably useless to the broadcaster anyway.

So the argument goes, the chat is far to busy for a broadcaster to reply to everyone, and the algorithm is making decisions for the broadcaster as to what they should be able to respond to. I hope many of you see some of the problems stemming from this already. As an aside, how does this even scale? I don’t have actual written proof, but Tyler had stated that only 1 comment in 30, in busy scopes are managed. Does this scale? If not, why bother? If it does scale, to what extent?

I wouldn’t call it censorship per say, but can you imagine the uproar if Twitter decided not to deliver all the tweets on their network or iMessage and Snapchat decided to actively choose what they thought was best for you?

Another part of the argument for the system to be in place is to manage foreign language comments. I agree there is no value when somebody is typing in Russian to an English speaker or vice a versa (I still get those guys though in my broadcasts). I don’t know how Periscope determines the language preferences of the broadcaster, but I would make a guess at the keyboard and language preferences on the device are being looked at

My issue with this at the moment is Periscope doesn’t know which languages I speak if I don’t set up my preferences  on the device accordingly.

My simple layman’s solution would be instead to deliver a pop-over message in the chat to a viewer that the language of the broadcaster is different to their own and any messages sent might not be understood. To me it’s more honest as the viewer understands whats happening much more clearly instead of just having their comments disappear. The experience is explained properly and they already have such a pop over when somebody types naughty words.

Removing comments doesn’t enhance the experience, it places blame on the broadcaster for being unresponsive.

There is a theory this chat management flow algorithm would benefit celebrities and gives viewers the illusion they can now communicate to their idols without hinderance. Maybe this is true, but it’s Periscope that is then actively ruining the experience for their platform. 

We are such petty creatures and it does the Periscope platform no favours if people do not have an enjoyable experience when they don’t understand why their comments are being ignored. Frustrated viewers are going to tap ‘x’.

I preferred back in the day for the chatroom to have the ‘broadcast too full’ sign, that way I knew I could relax and just watch. I don’t need to always chat, somebody would probably chat for me. As Tyler explains, Periscope have felt the pressure from many people emailing them expressing their desire to chat in ANY given broadcast. Did Periscope understand scale from the very beginning?

Periscope themselves still haven’t communicated this very important change to their platform even though their main periscope account has at the time of writing 9.2 million follows. Tyler with his 17,000 followers has been the only person on record from Periscope to discuss this. Why?

Its actually been up to Periscope broadcasters to continually inform others of these changes through their own broadcasts everyday whenever there is an issue arising in the chat when the broadcaster doesn’t see them. This is ironic given the nature of Periscope, you would think disseminating this important information in an official manner would be easy peasy.

Periscope have a history of being poor communicators, the big issue last year was not explaining the distribution of hearts to broadcasters. Broadcasters who had found out, did the work of explaining the changes to their followers. This situation didn’t concern me much, but changes to the way the chat operates is a major aspect of the apps operation. It shouldn't just be tinkered with, with hardly a mention.

This needs to be discussed to the whole community without it turning kafkaesque. 

Bugs

Before we demand Periscope spill the beans on its inner workings. People need to remember all the little bugs inside Periscope. How large a part do they play? Periscope is probably more likely to have various bugs because it is so cutting edge in its application. We as viewers have to accept the app is buggier than we think. We just do okay? People complaining about frozen screens, missing audio and scopes suddenly quitting have to realise they are at the forefront of technology.

I bet many people haven't given a thought as to what is happening in the broadcast, the video stream for example operates independently of the chat stream and hearts. This is why in some cases the video and hearts continue to work even though comments don’t load or have you seen that burst of chat activity once a video connection is applied again? Something has probably caused packet loss and the app is trying to re-sync everything.  This can explain why if you save videos to your camera roll, hearts and comments aren't saved also. It's a difficult technology to sync up.

Tyler in his broadcast has assured his viewers that mutual follows are unaffected by the chat moderation. Mutual followers are never moderated/filtered for their comments.

I doubted this at first, but then even in my own private scopes with less than 20 people watching, people would disappear and report 'ghosting' when messaging me afterwards. In some cases, all the comments and hearts stopped coming on my screen. Viewers are literally typing comments to me and I can't see them. My private broadcasts can’t be moderated during these broadcasts, these are bugs pure and simple, but I had to go through a long process to believe this wasn’t part of the designed ghosting experience that Tyler discussed.

My takeaway though is the user-end experience of such bugs in conjunction with the chat management features has us confused.

Periscope should be much more open to what they are doing on the platform. Audiences are reacting in real time now, we keep being told live-streaming is new media, but does Periscope truly understand how fast we can communicate now with this new media? Hear say becomes facts so quickly now.

Now, of course no company raises the issue of software bugs unless they are truly catastrophic, no software company will publicly address all the bugs and all the time. So things are better left unsaid unless its crippling the application in a very public fashion. For example, Periscope recently updated the app and DJI drones wouldn’t work through Periscope, somehow that bug slipped by and they had to reference it in the next update because it is a tentpole feature for broadcasters.

So why wouldn’t Periscope address the ghosting issue, it IS a larger issue for the platform beyond a few drones not being able to get on the network. Here are a few ideas

  1. It’s going to remain buggy.
  2. Periscope don’t care enough to fix it as they have other priorities. 
  3. The management of comments is exactly what they want.
  4. The chat flow management isn’t actually a big issue, as it’s being applied to only busy broadcasts with an undetermined number of viewers inside, the ghosting we typically see are actually just the bugs. 
  5. We as broadcasters are encountering something called the ‘Invisible Gorilla’ affect.

The lack of a true discussion of the chat management algorithm, the various bugs on the platform and the invisible gorilla create an even larger problem for Periscope. One where we conflate these issues into one against Periscope as wholly a conspiracy that they are manipulating the chat in every single scope. 

The Invisible Gorilla

This is now possibly too famous for people not to know, but if you don’t, watch this video here.

In this video we are asked to count how many times is a ball passed between players wearing the same colour shirt. While this is happening, a gorilla comes onscreen. Many people don’t see the gorilla until it’s pointed out after what they missed.

In a second study for people who think if they concentrate hard enough they will catch all the weirdness of the first video a similar test is applied. I’m not going to spoil it so watch it here.

The second video proves that even if people concentrate, it makes things even worse. How do you feel? Knowing you are going to miss comments regardless? We collectively don’t want to feel like we don’t have control over the situation do we?

I would say a similar outcome is playing out before our eyes while broadcasting. There is no escaping the fact we are going to miss comments no matter what and then later attribute this to Periscope ‘ghosting’ the comments. Of course with this Gorilla theory put forward, we have to doubt ourselves and give Periscope some slack.

Try this mental_floss exercise, watch your own eyes actively work against you as you try to see all the dots at any given time. Ain’t happening yo. Please remember, in the last video and the mental_floss article, you're aware to this trickery now. Imagine what it was like before.

It isn’t Periscope’s job to educate us to this path of disappointment for live streaming. It isn’t normally something we should have to deal with either. We are hitting the limits of human concentration. Just like the software bugs, we are possibly placing too much on Periscope's shoulders when determining how negligent they are being towards the community. 

Solutions

I don’t believe in complaining about something unless I’m providing a solution or solutions. This is what I think Periscope can do and should do. 

  1. Let broadcasters have control over the scroll speed in their own scopes, or at least slow it down in a way that’s managing the speed of the comments in real time rather than look at what comments should be there how or not.
  2. Turn off flow moderation, we can’t see all the comments even with 'help' from Periscope.
  3. Redesign the chat so the broadcaster can scroll through the comments, you don’t even need to change the visual aspects of the UI. Allow broadcasters with a swipe to go back and forth through the comments like they do on Facebook. Periscope is treating the comments as a people problem when it is actually a technical problem. This is the most baffling aspect as Facebook are using what I think is the answer even though Facebook operates at a much larger scale. What is the excuse here Periscope?
  4. Speak to the community properly and explain changes to the network otherwise hearsay runs rampant. Periscope have something that only Youtube has (From Periscope’s perspective Youtube would be a great case study in how not to piss off your community). Both social networks have love from communities in abundance, these apps should be a pleasure to use as a viewer and work like a charm for creators. Don’t make the community use your app only because there isn’t anything better out there.

These solutions should benefit everyone, if you disagree I'm listening. I didn't write this article out of dislike for anyone in particular at Periscope so please don't take this personal, especially Tyler, he's just the only one putting himself in the positions I find him in because HE also cares about the platform, we just need to understand each other better, hence my desire for Periscope to be more communicative. It can only bring benefits, again using YouTube as the case study, YouTube aren't open nearly enough towards their community and money IS involved between network providers and its creators. How annoyed are we going to be when the platform is monetized?

Periscope, you need to do what Apple does and control the message. It's one reason why I do my satirical fake features on Periscope, because I can get away with it, people believe any old shit and the rumours stick around for months on end. Some of you at PeriscopeHQ have noticed me by now, there is a serious point being served by my joke scopes.

I hope Periscope change their attitude as a whole before serious monetising of the platform occurs. If nothing else, explain comment flow moderation on your main channel and stop leaving your users in the dark. 

 

June Updates

Two blog posts in as many days, I know, such a treat.

Let's get into it, what did I do. Aside from the podcasts, which have been held back by scheduling arrangements, I did pump out a few down below for both podcasts.

Second, I've started doing little things on my YouTube channel (link in the top corner). I'm trying to make shorter videos for a secondary audience. Shorter means edited of course and I hope it pans out. It does slow my periscoping down somewhat because of the need to record almost all the scopes I make.

JPG Podcast (Subscribe here).

These are all Game of Throne related I'm afraid. There are three episodes, 49-51.

Hello From Hong Kong (Subscribe here).

The two highlighted here were made back at the end of April, episode #8 is with Nate Wong, a local jazz artist living and working in Hong Kong, the podcast features live music as well. The video of the same podcast episode is here and as a bonus, a video of the private scope chat is here.

#9 of HFHK is part of a larger project looking at the homeless situation in Hong Kong. I chat with Jodie in what was a private scope and then made into this podcast episode. The video of this interview is here.

YouTube Videos

From a bunch of videos I've made an ever expanding set of playlists for easy grouping.

A collection of interviews from this year alone on Periscope. This includes Sam's Tailors, Jeremy Monteiro and with Eugene Po and also Mikee discussing Transgenderism.

Tours of Hong Kong. There is only one, but soon an expanded list of edited Periscopes that streamline what was a live video.

A new fun playlist 'Trolls & Roasts' where I hit back at the trolls who live under our scopes ready to pounce, This playlist works in conjunction with 'Periscope Highlights' where I edited only the funniest and incidental of events from my live streaming. I can't expect you all to watch ALL my scopes from end to end now can I?

Going back further in Time to May, did you forget John Ho and myself went to Taiwan 2016? There is a whole album of videos that not only discuss the planning of this trip, but also all the great scopes from my half of the trip.

Finally we end with a reminder of what I've done to bring awareness to the Homeless in Hong Kong. More coming soon on this topic!

FAQ: About Donating to my Periscope Channel @JonathanJK.

There has been some criticism towards on desire to ask people to donate to my channel in order toe receive private scopes and be allowed access in Limited Broadcast scopes. I present here an FAQ on the topic so this doesn't become something I have to repeat over and over again. It also sheds light on what I want to do. If you don't want to read, you can also watch a video version here.

If you do want to donate you can donate via Patreon (I work with PayPal btw).

Questions from other members of the Periscope community are included for reference.

How much do I need to pay to get access to private scopes or limited chat broadcasts?

I have now introduced tiers, currently they are at $2 and $5, both offering different things. Newer tiers will be introduced at a later time. I tend to grandfather people in as well so the earlier someone contributes the more value they get for donating.

Since this is about me, what do I get?

Those who contribute at the $6 tier get:

  1. Private Coffee Time (private scopes generally [mostly coffee time scopes] are not saved or put on Youtube, I will say otherwise at the beginning of a private scope)
  2. A Troll/Heckler free zone.
  3. A less busier scope (which is a good thing if you want to engage with others).
  4. Access to chat in limited broadcast scopes, typically #scopechat scopes.
  5. A chance to chat with other big name Periscopers from around the world who decide to frequent the scope.
  6. I'll probably end up watching your scopes if I have the time.
  7. Early access to new guests where you can chat directly via Periscope (Public access requires submitting questions via Twitter).
  8. Heads up on any special scopes I have lined up. You can also contribute to the discussion.
  9. You're party to various other topics I don't share publically.
  10. I sketch in private scopes.

A $2 donation is different, check the Patreon page please.

Err, Jonathan, what about the 100 person chat limit for those paying?

Yes, that is interesting and is another issue. These donations I receive (with the ability to get access to the extras I just mentioned) will be limited. First come first served I guess.

Are these limited chats just for interview scopes? @technicolordreams

Currently this is just for my interview/#scopechat scopes. Interview scopes are usually only twice a month.

Will you lose viewers if you limit the chat? @SummerNorthbay

I probably will, but the quality comments from paid viewers will go up. If people are upset over this, they are basically saying their ability to comment is more important than anything I'm trying to do.

Don't you have a sense of humour?

You wouldn't ask that question if you knew me.

I disagree about limiting chats, you will lose. @SummerNorthbay

You are allowed to disagree. Time will tell. So far so good.

Your interview scopes will be dead. @jtchang

Your opinion versus my statistics tell a different story. Either way I have created a pristine piece of video (that will go on Youtube) and that is more important to my reputation in the long term.

Don't you think it is horrible? (referring to not being able to comment) @jtchang

Not as horrible if there are disgusting/stupid or pointless comments made in my scopes. Scopes which are supposed to represent my abilities to new people. Which is more important, your ability to comment or my ability to bring new people to my channel?

Delete the trolls and the sex bots then?@Classicallymish

Deleting trolls takes time. Deleting sex bots is something Periscope can do to save me time. This is about further managing my time and my Periscope channel looking professional to bring new people to the channel. Do I want to block people for the rest of my life while using Periscope? No.

This sounds like censorship. @hanseoulo

This is not censorship, do not conflate what is happening here with true censorship. If people want to comment they can use the share function inside the periscope app. Comments are not being removed they are being moved for those who do not want to contribute. 

I am your fan but why do I feel like I am being punished? @bayshore1whe

I am sorry you feel you are being punished. I can tell you I am not punishing you deliberately, but here we are talking about how you feel and how and you have reacted to my policy to make sure I can make more professional scopes. If people want to comment they can use the share function inside the Periscope app. Comments from people who do not want to pay are not being removed they are being moved for those who do not want to contribute. Contributing is an option.

They should have Auto-block for certain words. @beckseria

They could, but then that is censorship. 

Trolls can sometimes break your concentration while you are scoping. @boston_camera

Yes trolls do break our concentration which is what I do not want to have done to me any longer. Do I want my concentration broken every day for the rest of my Periscope life?

Do we have to pay you to chat in limited chat scopes? @jtchang

If people want to comment they can use the share function inside the Periscope app. Comments are not being removed they are being moved for those who do not want to contribute. YOU DO NOT NEED TO PAY.

But don't follow me back? @Classicallymish

And?

But Jonathan you don't follow anyone so I have to pay you now? @Jdavidmcconnell

If people want to comment they can use the share function inside the periscope app. Comments are not being removed they are being moved for those who do not want to contribute. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY.

Just ignore the trolls and block them. @boston_camera

I do not want to block people every day inside every periscope for the rest of my periscope career. Their comments are also publicly facing and represent my ability to control my social media environment.  

I don't believe in charging money for people to follow me. @boston_camera

Okay. But that is not what is happening here. I don’t charge for follows, I am asking for DONATIONS from people who want access to private scopes and the ability to chat in limited chat scopes. For me to offer extras, perks or incentives, yes I do need to follow them. It doesn’t mean I am charging for follows.

I will miss your interview/#scopechat scopes because you don't follow me. @Classicallymish

You will not miss any scopes if you are subscribed to my channel. Notifications are still working even for limited broadcast scopes. 

If the goal of your scope is to foster discussion you just have to be vigilant about blocking trolls @camelcameras

I do not want to block people every day inside every periscope for the rest of my periscope career. Their comments are also publicly facing and represent my ability to control my social media environment  

What if the trolls pay money @Jdavidmcconnell

Then that is a stupid idea. I have them blocked and I have their money. 

Just block the trolls @simontuitea

I do not want to block people every day inside every periscope for the rest of my periscope Korea. Their comments are also publicly facing and represent my ability to control his social media environment  

People need to have the thicker skin when it comes to trolls @boston_camera

This is not about needing thicker skin. I do not want to go through the motions of blocking people every day, inside every periscope for the rest of my periscope career.

Let me get this straight, you want a troll free internet experience? @hanseoulo

Let me tell you straight. I cannot have a troll free internet experience. This is not possible (it is if I limited ALL my scopes, but I am not doing that). You are being obtuse if you think otherwise.

It's a part of life. You can't you can't live in a bubble @boston_camera

I am not trying to live in a bubble, you can troll me via Twitter if you want from the share sheet in Periscope.

We can still watch the interviews, just not comment right? Kchoi

At the moment just the interview scopes. Only those who have contributed to the channel can comment during an interview/#scopechat, anybody else needs to send the comments to Twitter. I do read my Twitter while periscoping live. You can also comment on the video on Youtube.

Follow me so I can comment. 

No. Asking for a follow is just rude on various levels.

There was no one watching your restricted #scopechat. @jtchang1201

This is your opinion versus my statistics. You’re also thinking of the now, I’m thinking of the replay viewers who can’t comment anyway (they don’t complain) and the Youtube views.

I don't want to pay to see anyone on a free app. @boston_camera

You do not need to pay to comment. If people want to comment they can use the share function inside the Periscope app. Comments are not being removed they are being moved for those who do not want to contribute. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY.

Let’s change what you said slightly and see if it makes sense - 

I also do not want to pay for photography that I see on a free app like Instagram.

I also do not want to buy services from Amazon that I see from a free web browser.

I do not want to buy music I hear on a free radio service.

Some trolls will pay to troll. @hanseoulo

Then that is a stupid idea. I have them blocked and I have their money. 

Periscope is about interaction. If you charge for interaction, it misses the point in my opinion. @Jdavidmcconnell

It's actually serves the point. The level and quality of the interaction will go up. People can also follow a chat history that isn't as busy, I would argue it's a better experience.

I wish Periscope can give a broadcaster a way to turn on and off the limited chat during a broadcast. @akidesir

This technology would be very helpful. This technology would also upset other people. This technology still only works after an irresponsible comment has been made by the way. It doesn’t solve my problem of ‘scrubbing’ comments off a piece of work (digital video).

Why are you taking responsibility for someone else's actions. @ladderman421

It is my channel and it represents me and my ambitions. Imagine I run a car dealership and anonymous people passing by threw eggs on the cars I'm trying to sell. Do I take responsibity for cleaning those cars if I want to sell them?

It's probably good to give your guests a heads up about the comments. @ames_do

I shouldn’t want to be in a position where I invite people to Periscope and then give them a warning beforehand for the kinds of cruel comments they might encounter.

I would say those who want to make money on Periscope should get a job @boston_camera

These two things are not mutually exclusive I have a job a full-time job and I Periscope. Why am I not allowed to make money on Periscope or any other social media? I'd go further and also ask why can't Periscope be a full time job?

I scope and work full-time @boston_camera

Hello so do I. What is your point?

I do understand the problem I think you could do it for interview scopes, but leave the other scopes open. @jdavidmcconnell

At the moment only the interview scopes will be limited chat.

On limited scopes people can tweet questions so not a total block for people @judithkenosha

Yes in limited scopes people can still tweet questions inside the Periscope app.

This is just for JonathanJK to make a few bucks @jtchang1201

This is what is happening, but this originally wasn’t the purpose. It is about creating value (for you and for me) and removing people who do not recognise value and want to deface a piece of work or upset people live. 

Can somebody scope without comments @djwhite

Yes somebody can scope without comments, but then that is like TV. I acknowledge Periscope is not TV. People however need to acknowledge that they don't always need to comment. If people want to comment they can use the share function inside the Periscope app. 

It sounds like you're saying you just want to be considerate and hospital to your interview guests. @blockofwood

Exactly.

I don't really watch interviews anyway so whatever @jtchang1201

So this will not affect you. 

I follow all of you Hong Kong guys I can't pay for all of you. @jdavidmcconnell

If people want to comment they can use the share function inside the Periscope app. Comments are not being removed they are being moved for those who do not want to contribute. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY. Watching is still free to do except for private scopes.

I grew up in an environment where the ball busting is normal @boston_camera

I would like to add ball busting and trolling/heckling are two different things. Don’t try to equate the two together.

Realise that trolls sometimes are bored teenagers and you shouldn't give it so much weight @mtendstotravel

I do realise that trolls are sometimes bored teenagers, but their effects live beyond their presence in the scope.

I know how much you are earning I can see on Patreon. 

Yeah. I am not hiding this information. I wonder why.

Encourage your viewers to block and not wait for you to block. @mtendstotravel

It doesn't matter if other people block a troll or a heckler, I have to block them myself and the comments still show up on replays. 

Can you not report to the Periscope people? @ithinkimsean

So besides blocking people I now have to go and report them? This takes up EVEN more of my time. People who do not broadcast daily do not realise how repetitive these simple actions become.

So are you going to unfollow those who don't pay? @jtchang1201

No I also follow people who I think contribute to Periscope as well. This is my decision, MY subjective decision. The upside to this is some of the more famous Periscopers will frequent my private scopes. There’s value there for you as well since it’s more likely you can engage with them. Anybody I follow who hasn't paid is being followed because I find them entertaining or they have contributed in another way other than with money.

Yes when you open yourself up to the public you have to deal with criticism. @boston_camera

Criticism is valid as long as it is constructive. Trolling isn't. 

If you ignore them then they go away when they don't get any attention. @boston_camera

While I agree in principle, there would still be many comments imprinted on my videos which can mean that they are illustrating my ability to control my social media. 

Periscope is designed to allow comments on the stream, some businesses should use a different medium then. @jdavidmcconnell

The flaw is not the technology, the flaw is with people’s misuse of said technology.

That's a reflection of your customer service strategy. How are you manage your social media. @serenaLyn

Yes it is. It makes for a better periscope channel.