It’s been a little while since I blogged, and that’s due to a combination of factors, including visitors, conference preparation, and a little bit of karaoke experimentation. The last of those will be the focus of this post, cause I’d rather just ….SING!
There have been a bunch of different iterations of karaoke over many years, dating back to the heady days of ds106 in 2011. It started with the idea of Karaoke Friday’s on ds106radio in March 2011, and Tim soon figured out how to bring the magic to ds106.tv. The push for online karaoke re-surfaced during the pandemic, in particular as OER20 was forced online and Reclaim wanted to help figure out how to do online karaoke. Tim’s awesome because he’s never satisfied with good enough, and in the following video he talks through the KaraOERke setup for the great OER online conference pivot of 2020.
That KaraOERke session for OER20 was really a lot of fun, and in many ways was the impetus for more karaoke experimentation, not to mention joining forces with ALT for OERxDomains21 (a high watermark of online fun) and ultimately the birth of the “Watch” platform Chahira and I are using for Reclaim Karaoke at the Rockaway Club. It’s a good reminder that all these little fun, seemingly throwaway experiments can lead to amazing things when you have the right people working together for a given time. And it’s always about the people working together, whether Tim, Lauren Hanks, Maren Deepwell, Michael Branson Smith (MBS), Tom Woodward, or Bryan Mathers, magic can happen when folks believe and time and focus allow.
Anyway, the experimenting with online karaoke continued in 2020 with ALT’s Summer Summit, in which I was seeing if I could substitute Jitsi for Zoom, but at the time Zoom proved more capable when it came to audio. In the Fall of 2020 we did a session on Streamyard for Digital Ocean’s Deploy conference, and that started us thinking through a pretty slick, fully online setup using Streamyard, YouTube, and Discord for OERxDomains21. That’s when we teamed up with ALT and brought in MBS, Tom Woodward, and Bryan Mathers to make the design, code, and art happen.
In my mind the success of that conference was directly linked to all the small, half-baked experiments and experiences that led up to it. In fact, the night before the conference officially started we had an OERxDomains21 karaoke session that keynote Rajiv Jhangiani joined, amongst others, and really set the tone for what would prove an amazing two days. It always goes back to the karaoke!
I got another shot at Friday Night Karaoke for the OEGlobal online event in December of 2021. For that setup I used a combination of Zoom and OBS to stream to Owncast, which was the the first non-ds106.tv based karaoke event.† This setup worked quite well given the chat and stream are combined for an integrated homepage. I had them map the URL karaoke.oercamp.global (now dead) to the container, which in retrospect was overkill, but at the same time I was excited by the possibilities of Owncast. In this iteration the goal was to minimize the window complications of Zoom in OBS, to that end singers joined Zoom and everyone else can watch and chat on Owncast. Having everyone in Zoom can create issues with feedback and open mic problems, but the biggest issue for me on the streaming side was how confusing windows in Zoom prove to be, making it hard to focus on just the singer and their shared karaoke video.
That pretty much gets us caught up to the latest (and greatest!) karaoke setup we’ve been playing with these days. Not surprisingly, the work we’ve done with the watch site for Reclaim EdTech, which was born of OERxDomains21, significantly informed this most recent setup. Chahira and I ran a final test using Zoom, but have since decided we are all-in on Streamyard given it handles the screen sharing with audio just as well. It also removes the need for OBS, which is huge. Another thing I love about Streamyard is when folks enter they’re immediately placed in a waiting room to prevent potential bad actors. And then there’s the way Streamyard uses video templates to make it easy to move between shots while still being able to participate in the fun.
With the Zoom and OBS setup I often felt like I needed an additional person just to help manage the video production and streaming—I could never have enough screens. With Streamyard it’s all in one browser tab, which also makes the audio setup simpler than with Zoom.* In short, Streamyard is the bomb.com because it does just enough of what both Zoom and OBS do, making it a more cohesive, streamlined solution.
For the current setup we have been pushing the karaoke stream directly to YouTube live, which I’ll talk about more shortly. From there, the live YouTube URL is added to a headless WordPress instance that Tom Woodward created as part of OERxDomains21. We have used that same setup for subsequent online workshops like the Domains 101/201 workshop a year ago, as well as all of Reclaim EdTech’s flex courses thereafter. So Reclaim karaoke is yet another page on reclaimed.tech that the domains reclaimkaraoke.com and rockaway.club re-direct to. This also allows me to pull in the chat from the Reclaim EdTech Discord channel that is designated for the Rockaway Club (I decided on Rockaway so I could repurpose Bryan Mathers’ amazing Rockaway Hosting art).
The club metaphor obviously jives with this idea of going to an intentional space to experience something, whether music, film, some fun with friends, etc. This whole two or three year exploration around this setup has focused on “integrating” with tools like Discord, Streamyard, Youtube, or their open source counterparts like Mattermost, OBS, or PeerTube as a mashed-up prototype. The model can be reproduced in all kinds of ways, but I like the idea of trying to tie it all together with a headless WordPress backend that folks can use to quickly generate and schedule sessions that can stream seamlessly to and from a variety of tools. What’s more, we can further design out the TV Guide metaphor MBS already created, which is pure magic. I feel like the pieces are all there to move to some next attempt at integration, but in the interim I’ll karaoke!
As you can see in the Watch site above, the scheduled karaoke sessions are above the video embed, the Discord channel to the right, and the stream from Streamyard to the left, it is quite tight. When I add a new date with the appropriate YouTube link pre-scheduled, it will automatically go live when the stream starts in Streamyard, it is pretty cool, and live stream comments come through Discord. But this extends beyond karaoke because I was testing this setup out with Olia Lialina for her online keynote for the virtual conference in July, and we both agreed that this setup is good enough for the multimedia she’ll be sharing to discuss 30 years of the web. See, it’s never just playing, the fun matters.
The last piece to discuss here—and it’s pretty important—is the live streaming to YouTube. I’ve been down the slippery slope of copyright controls with video in the past, so I know how that ends. In fact, during our first and second sessions using YouTube live they interrupted the stream based on copyright claims. That means the stream goes off-air until the song is over, and if we were being serious about this for academic sessions where we may need to study culture, an alternative to mid-stream copyright claims is crucial. While right now Streamyard can stream just about anywhere, including PeerTube, the Watch site only embeds YouTube videos, so we would have to re-visit that because PeerTube is a solid substitute. In fact, my whole streaming setup for Antonio Vantagiatto’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much class session was run seamlessly through that platform.
That session worked in large part because of some variation of this setup to share clips, talk over them, and then stream the film for all to watch from OBS and PeerTube. No copyright-driven interruptions from Youtube. The hybrid piece of the class was difficult given I could not see them without cameras in the room, but if it was all setup right—it could be magic. My only regret is using Zoom, but we can fix (or rise above) that Blackboard of the 2020s. In that spirit, the first piece of development would be to get PeerTube to work in the current Watch site, and even abstract that out so any link/embed could work when you schedule something, but that’s another post that Taylor Jadin could write better than me.
Anyway, I guess this post was supposed to be about Reclaim Karaoke, but it turns out to really be about the possibility of integrating the Reclaim Watch site to work with various streaming and discussion platforms to make it less custom. But I’m happy to report that Karaoke (save some YouTube interruptions) works swimmingly with the current setup, but it would be even better with PeerTube for so many reasons.
*Given Zoom is a different application you need to ensure audio is pulled into OBS for streaming, suffice to say it quickly gets complicated—but Streamyard simplifies so much of that.