RockRMS 1.0 Released

rock1

Wow, it’s been a while since my last post! We’ve been incredibly busy working on Rock. Literally… not sure when was the last time my eye’s weren’t stinging… but… as of two weeks ago we released Rock 1.0!!! Below are a couple of links to help you understand what Rock is…

You might be asking what’s next… Trust us we’re only getting started. There’s still a ton to do. Check our road map for the details of the start of what’s next (there’s so much more that hasn’t been added to the roadmap yet). Be sure to follow the Rock blog to keep up with what’s new…

Command Center

After visiting LifeChurch’s Global Command Center our leadership team wanted to build a similar room to evaluate in real-time our remote campuses in Surprise and Scottsdale (opening soon).  Below is a quick overview of the technologies that we used to build the room.  Special thanks to Zach Gillium at LifeChurch for sharing their lessons learned with us.

The strategy of having a Command Center is to evaluate and assess how the service, especially the campus pastor announcements and communion meditations, are going at each campus.  It’s not to have a high-def, crystal clear, multi-camera, broadcast quality view of the service.  I like to think of it as virtually leaning against the back wall of the auditorium and taking in the service.

It all starts with a camera.  We used an inexpensive Sony HDR-CX160 (price $328).  It has decent low-light capabilities and a 30x optical zoom.  This camera is no frills, but again we’re going for practical and not broadcast quality.  We decided to try using the built in mic on the camera (a recommendation from Zach).  This keeps the configuration simple as it doesn’t rely on the soundboard or it’s operator.  The audio quality is actually pretty good in this configuration.

The camera is attached to a Teradek Cube 200 encoder (price $1,100).  This is by far the most expensive piece of the puzzle.  The Teradeks are a breeze to configure and are one of the few encoders that support HD streaming over RTMP.  They come in a compact package that can easily be connected to a camera. We mounted ours right to a Davis & Sanford camera mount.  We’ve been testing the Teradeks for over 4 months and haven’t had one issue.  We currently streaming 720p @ 6Mbps.  The image quality is fairly good.  We could increase the bitrate, but we’re trying to conserve bandwidth to the campuses (each already has a 25Mbps high quality stream going to the campus for broadcasting the message).

The RTMP stream from the Teradek goes to a Wowza server.  The Wowza server redistributes the stream to the various clients (in this case the Command Center room).  It also DVRs the services.  In the near future will be providing a website where pastors can go back and watch any service.

The Command Center view is provided by a Mac Mini driving a LCD TV.  The interface is a jQuery Mobile webpage loaded fullscreen. We use a cool AppleScript program to load the page on start-up full screen (the solution has to be pastor proof).  The page shows live video from all three campuses, Peoria, Surprise and soon Scottsdale in large thumbnails.  You can easily select which audio to listen to as well as select a campus and watch it full-screen.

Soon we’ll have the DVR interface complete which will work on any computer or mobile device.  You’ll also be able to email clips of the sermons for others to watch.  We might also look into Wowza’s transcoder features to allow for smaller streams to mobile devices.

Instapaper

Sorry for the drought of posts in the last few months.  Life has been pretty busy, but I’m making an effort to post a bit more often.  One topic that’s been on my list to share for quite some time (and perhaps I’m a little late the the parade for some of you…) is a service called Instapaper.

The Instapaper service puts a link on your browser’s toolbar entitled “Read Later”.  If you come across a webpage you’d like to read but just don’t have the time right then you simply click the button and the page is sent to your Instapaper account.  In your spare time you can then go to the service and read all of your articles.  While all of this is great (and free) in a web browser what makes it especially nice is their iPhone and better yet iPad apps.  These apps allow you to download your saved pages and read them anywhere.  You can now keep up with your clippings while waiting at the doctors office or at the end of the day in bed.

Here’s a few other reasons I love this app:

  • Simplification: The service has some pretty amazing technology to present you with only the main content of the page.  It strips off the pages navigation, footer, sidebars, etc.  Makes reading much easier.
  • Integration: Seems like everywhere I turn I see a new site that integrates Instapaper to help add features or make the saving of the page easier.  My favorite to date is the Google Reader support.  If you stumble across a larger blog post you can simply click “Send To” –> “Instapaper”.
  • Mobile Safari: Instapaper has instructions on how to save a page from inside of your iPhone’s (or iPad) Safari browser for later consumption.
  • iPad: Did I mention the iPad app… it’s is one of my most used iPad apps.

Try it out, I hope you like it as much as I do.

Firefox

E-mail is a Form of Gambling

This is a great thought on using e-mail effectively that I read at the end of Predictably Irrational…

200912012253.jpg “I THINK E-MAIL addiction has something to do with what the behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner called “schedules of reinforcement.” Skinner used this phrase to describe the relationship between actions (in his case, a hungry rat pressing a lever in a so-called Skinner box) and their associated rewards (pellets of food). In particular, Skinner distinguished between fixed-ratio schedules of reinforcement and variable-ratio schedules of reinforcement. Under a fixed schedule, a rat received a reward of food after it pressed the lever a fixed number of times—say 100 times. (To make a human comparison, a used-car dealer might get a $1,000 bonus for every 10 cars sold.) Under the variable schedule, the rat earned the food pellet after it pressed the lever a random number of times. Sometimes it would receive the food after pressing 10 times, and sometimes after pressing 200 times. (Analogously, our used-car dealer would earn a $1,000 bonus after selling an unknown number of cars.) Thus, under the variable schedule of reinforcement, the arrival of the reward is unpredictable.

On the face of it, one might expect that the fixed schedules of reinforcement would be more motivating and rewarding because the rat (or the used-car dealer) can learn to predict the outcome of his work. Instead, Skinner found that the variable schedules were actually more motivating. The most telling result was that when the rewards ceased, the rats who were under the fixed schedules stopped working almost immediately, but those under the variable schedules kept working for a very long time. This variable schedule of reinforcement also works wonders for motivating people. It is the magic (or, more accurately, dark magic) that underlies gambling and playing the lottery. How much fun would it be to play a slot machine if you knew in advance that you would always lose nine times before winning once, and that this sequence would continue for as long as you played? It would probably be no fun at all! In fact, the joy of gambling comes from the inability to predict when rewards are coming, so we keep playing.
So, what do food pellets and slot machines have to do with e-mail? If you think about it, e-mail is very much like gambling. Most of it is junk and the equivalent to pulling the lever of a slot machine and losing, but every so often we receive a message that we really want. Maybe it contains good news about a job, a bit of gossip, a note from someone we haven’t heard from in a long time, or some important piece of information. We are so happy to receive the unexpected e-mail (pellet) that we become addicted to checking, hoping for more such surprises. We just keep pressing that lever, over and over again, until we get our reward. This explanation gives me a better understanding of my e-mail addiction, and more important, it might suggest a few means of escape from this Skinner box and its variable schedule of reinforcement.
One helpful approach I’ve discovered is to turn off the automatic e-mail-checking feature. This action doesn’t eliminate my checking, but it reduces the frequency with which my computer notifies me that I have new e-mail waiting (some of it, I would think to myself, must be interesting or relevant). Additionally, many applications allow users to link different colors and sounds to different incoming e-mail. For example, I assign every e-mail on which I’m cc’d to the color gray, and send it directly to a folder labeled “Later.” Similarly, I set my application to play a particularly cheerful sound when I receive a message from a source I’ve marked as urgent and important (these include messages from my wife, students, or members of my department). Sure, it takes some time to set up such filters, but having once gone to the trouble of doing so, I’ve reduced the randomness of the reward, made the schedule of reinforcement more fixed, and ultimately improved my life.”

Based on this article I started writing Inbox rules to color code my e-mails. I also disabled the notification of incoming e-mails except from a few distinct individuals. We’ll see how it goes.

Autocomplete

Wouldn’t it be cool if when you type a web address into your browser it could autocomplete the page on a website. I know it does that with pages you’ve already visited, I’m talking about pages you haven’t. So once you finish the server name www.jonedmiston.com you’d get things like /blog…. /about… /coolperson… A web site author could define the possible options in a config file…. autocomplete.xml…. thereby giving them control of the various pages that are displayed…

That would be cool….

E-mail Testing

200907062325.jpgRan across Litmus the other day. Like many sites it can display your webpage in multiple different browsers… many sites now do that. What I found interesting was that it can do the same thing for HTML emails. It provides a screenshot in all major email clients and even web based clients like gmail. On top of that it analyzes your message for spam issues using both desktop spam filters (like Outlook 2007) and server-side filters (like Barracuda, Postini, etc). If you spend time creating a lot of HTML newsletters this service could be a huge time saver. In the past I’ve done this blind… it works but it’s very frustrating. To get all of those features you’ll pay $49 per month, but they have other packages that start out free.

Well I Had No Idea…

image I know Gmail has a lot of features that I don’t use.  But skimming through tips site today I found a few that I should be using.  I copy and pasted a few of my favs below:

  • Filter your email with personalized email addresses.

    You actually get more address variations than just "yourusername@gmail.com," all of which get delivered to you. You can put a plus ("+") sign and any combination of words or numbers after your name, like changing hikingfan@gmail.com to hikingfan+mailinglists@gmail.com or hikingfan+junk@gmail.com. Then you can easily add a filter to label and/or archive messages sent to the variations.

    Learn more »

  • Really…?  Cool!

    Update: This is REALLY handy for services that only allow you to have one account per email… cough… Twitter…

  • Set up canned responses instead of typing the same reply over and over again.

    If you find yourself typing the same reply multiple times, try turning on Canned Responses in Labs. Compose your reply once, save it, and easily use the same message later. If you want to be fully automated, you can even set up filters that automatically reply to specific messages with different canned responses.

    Try it out in Labs »

    Set up canned responses instead of typing the same reply over and over again.

  • I’m never sending a personal message again…

  • Add "(EOM)" to the subject of one-liner messages.

    If you ever want to send a quick note where the subject is the entire message (like "Want to grab lunch at 12:30?"), but are annoyed when Gmail prompts you to add body text, just type "EOM" or "(EOM)" at the end of the subject line (short for End Of Message), and Gmail will politely send the message without the extra prompt.

    Learn more »

    Add

  • Who needs the message body… no really this will be handy.  I send myself reminders all day from work to do at home.  Is it vain that I’m my own most frequently e-mailed person?  I guess I’m my own best friend…

    Google Voice

    image Just in case you missed it… Google rebranded and re-released their Grand Central acquisition  yesterday with many many new and exciting features.  I’m not going to even attempt to describe them so just go check them out yourself.  It’s really Gmail meets Voice… oh and it’s FREE!  I can’t wait for my GrandCentral account to be upgraded in the next few days…

    I’m kind of surprise by the lack of chatter on blogs and Twitter… I really think the world changed in a significant way with yesterday’s announcement.  Why?  Well first go check out all the features… OK… This is going to totally change the way we use the phone!  Calls where you want them when you want them with integrated services (voicemail, SMS, click to call) across numbers.  Not to mention FREE US long distant calls!  Crazy!  I imagine it won’t be long until the integrate Gmail, Reader and Voice into a single interface.

    I don’t think it will be long until we see the death of the corporate PBX.  Really why is it needed if we can redirect calls to cell phones by time / caller / etc?  Sure wireless needs to become a bit more reliable, but with cellular voice going IP soon I think quality is going way up in the next few years.  So why do we need a corporate PBX as we know it?  I think in the coming years it will only be used for unique business applications and even then it will be bridging to peoples cell phones not their desktop handsets.

    Maybe I’m stretching the impact of all of this… what do you think?

    Evernote API

    image Jeremy Hoff just shared this link with me tonight and it’s so cool I have to pass it on… Evernote now has an API.  Many 3rd party applications have jumped on it and created some very interesting integrations.

    Check out the integrations…

    While there are many cool ones, the one that strikes me as really interesting is the Tarpipe one.  Tarpipe allows your to create social applications/workflows by using drag and drop web interface.  Check out the video on the link above.  Very cool….

    Thanks for sharing Jeremy!