All you have seen of BlogWatch so far have been articles written by its blogger-writers on a vast range of topics on the different candidates, as well as various interviews or fora. Not much is known about what Blog Watch is really all about – ordinary citizens, who just happen to be bloggers, using technology within our means, to bring voter education to netizens (citizens on the net).
Let me take you behind the scenes and give you a flavor of what BlogWatch is all about.
Tools of Our Trade
Blogging is our craft. And every craftsperson worth his/her salt has certain tools of the trade which are almost like second skin to him.
We don’t carry all these tools all the time but let me give you a rundown of what you would find inside our backpacks or bags if you had x-ray eyes:
1. Laptop/netbook – Brand is irrelevant (Windows or Mac, we have it!). As long as it’s WIFI-capable, we’re good!
2. DSLR/Digital Camera or Videocam – These can range from the DSLRs with large zoom lenses to the point-and-shoot ones that fit in your pocket. The memory cards we have range from as low as 2 GB to as high as your pocket can afford.
3. Camera Phones with 3G and Livestreaming Capability – It used to be that camphones were enough. Take a picture and send it via MMS. But with more advanced phones, we can now download software and actually stream anywhere and anytime using 3G signal to a channel on Ustream, Justin.tv or Qik.
4. USB stick/s – A BlogWatch blogger must always be ready for the worst – WIFI down during interview day. This actually happened when we had Kapatiran as guests. Ustream was down for over an hour, forcing us to switch over to Justin.tv until Ustream came back up. A prepared blogger, who normally has to have internet connection when telecommuting, carries at least one USB stick (no need to say which carrier – some of us who are more paranoid than the others have all three carriers’ sticks).
5. Peripherals – And then, there are the odds and ends that some of us keep permanently in our bags: tripod (to keep the camera steady), extension cords with multiple sockets (for those out-of-the-way outlets in places we use for interviews), multiport accessories (to plug in several devices into limited laptop ports), card readers, flash discs, extra batteries and yes, the chargers of all our devices.
The Livestreaming Setup
The equipment behind livestreaming and podcasting makes a whole lot of difference in terms of the quality of streaming. BlogWatch is very lucky to have as our ‘partner-in-tech’ the CreatiVoices team headed by Pocholo Gonzales.
Whenever we have a livestreaming and podcasting session, Pocholo and his band of techies painstakingly set up their equipment. These are not your usual amateur stuff, mind you. These are professional (and expensive) equipment. Their mike is able to pick up sounds from several meters away. Check this list out:
SAMSON Audio C03U Recording/Podcasting Pak USB Condenser Mic (Plug and Play) (Standard Mic)
SAMSON GO Mic Portable USB Mic for Recording
Panasonic PV-GS500 3CCD Video Camera
Panasonic PV-GS250 3CCD Video Camera
Panasonic PV-GS400 3CCD Video Camera
2 Webcams for Backups
2 to 3 Laptops
Blog Watch in Action
When the interview starts, we roll the webcams and livestreaming/tweeting begins.
As the interview progresses, we monitor the number of viewers coming online. Our Ustream channel has a chat room where we see the viewers’ comments and questions. We also interact with those who use our Twitter hashtag #blogwatch.
Noemi Lardizabal-Dado, our project editor, who is an advanced iPhone user, serves as our backup livestreamer in case the WIFI goes down completely. In many of our presidential interviews, you would catch Noemi and her white iPhone streaming all or parts of the interview or taping it via her flipcam. I have also recently learned to stream using my Nokia E71 and my Qik.com channel. While the streaming speed is not as good as Ustream’s, it has served me well during instances when livestreaming was called for.
Ambidexterity comes in handy during times like these!
Picture this. While asking questions of the interviewee, we simultaneously tweet, plurk or post on Facebook. It is not uncommon to see us holding up a camera in one hand while holding a mobile phone in the other for livestreaming; or holding a videocam up with one hand while singlehandedly tweeting rapidly on a laptop with the other hand.
The portability of most of our tools allow us to report live from any scene, whether it is at a press conference, a forum, or an interview. During the recent PDI Presidential Forum, for example, we were watching the presidential candidates speak while we tweeted the proceedings live.
BlogWatch draws its strength from being an unusual blend of netizen-observer-writer-technology enabled. We are ordinary citizens, empowered with the right technologies, to send out real-time updates; stream raw, unedited video; and act as our own writers/editors. While we have not perfected everything and bloopers will surely happen time and again, that’s all part of our learning curve as citizen journalists.
The next time you see us in action, remember – the same technology that empowers us is in your hands as well and, when used responsibly, can go a long way in ensuring that our electoral rights are not violated.
You can find BlogWatch on:
Justin.tv: http://justin.tv/blogwatch (Update: This site was closed down Aug. 5, 2014)
Qik.com: http://qik.com/blogwatch (Update: Qik was absorbed by Skype and its features incorporated into the latter. It is no longer operational as of March 24, 2016)
Photos by author. Some Rights Reserved.