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Nothing beats a movie for developmental biologists

Posted by , on 16 December 2010

If anyone is up to listening to lectures in French, and it’s not so bad, really, there are a series of excellent lectures in developmental and stem cell biology available from the STEM-Pole, a federation of Paris-region laboratories interested in stem cells from a more fundamental or more therapeutic perspective. These took place during an annual meeting in mid-November in Paris, that was live webcast.

Last year’s webcast, I was sick in bed, but not only was I able to listen during the talks but I even asked a question of two of the speakers. Some of those talks are also still online.

The EasyCast Nomad hard-/software that was used for the recording is among the lightest and easiest for the end-user that I have experienced. You not only see and hear the speaker, but also their slides in real time, coordinated with their talk.

I was privileged to participate in a preserved-for-posterity teleconference (good thing I forgot my webcam that day!) with a number of developmental biology educators about the Next Generation Embryology project in Newcastle, England. Go check out the project – it’s quite fantastic, really, even if you are not a human embryologist. But the software, as flexible and amazing as it seems (great for teleconferencing, really), is a bit unwieldy, and I manage to crash it on a regular basis even on replay only.

Nature Network, for its annual Science Online conferences, has made ample use of webcasting software to mixed results. I attended the 2008 blogging conference, so couldn’t say how casting went. The 2009 one, was at 3 a.m. from my point of view on vacation in the U.S., and so I literally participated in my pajamas, using the suggested Second Life interface. It was a bit gimmicky but somewhat functional – again, the software was too unwieldy for easy interaction with speakers, and the avatar business a bit distracting though with still a lot of potential. There is quite the Second Life science community over there at Nature Network, for those who are interested, with virtual seminars at the Elucian Islands.

Anyone have other webcast experiences to share, either examples to follow or to avoid?

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2 thoughts on “Nothing beats a movie for developmental biologists”

  1. Well, that’s interesting… I was at the 2009 Science Online meeting, and from the audience’s point of view the Second Life interface was just gimmicky and not very functional at all. There was one guest speaker who spoke *over* Second Life, and it was just absurd to see that weird alternate reality on screen.

    I prefer webcams and video conferencing over gimmicks like Second Life as an interface for this sort of thing. There are lots of places where you can broadcast a webcast of a meeting and just have people type their questions in a chat window. That works fine. Why the need for Second Life avatars?

  2. Yes, I remember the speaker who gave the talk through Second Life. It would be preferable to have real facial expressions, for example. I bet even Skype could do better – though there is a real lag, between participants in other places and the speakers, which makes live questions a little complicated. Written ones would be better. Somewhere there was a Twitter-style question submission thing, that I thought wasn’t bad, if a little fast and furious for the speaker.

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