Demo or die


Last night Robert Scoble demoed Dave Winer’s latest thing, FlickrFan. FlickrFan is a cute software trick that taps Twitter and Flickr’s API in order to feed tweets and pics to your home entertainment center via Apple’s MacMini. While many a good man has been humbled by a software demo gone bad (this writer included) the way the demo was delivered only compounded the muddle.


Robert used Qik to webcast the demo via cell phone. The Qik page displays the video feed and hosts a chat window. The fact that all of the chatters were anonymous (Qik is alpha and I’m sure many like me were using it for the first time last night.) meant that the chat room was more than a little boisterous. Maybe it was the holiday spirit.


On the surface, Qik appears to be a great mobile solution. Simply use your cell phone to upload live video. Unfortunately, the quality of the video was awful. If Loren Feldman has a problem with Seesmic, he’d be apoplectic over Robert’s attempts to show FlickrFan running on a large HDTV display. The image was worthless, and the software remained a buggy mystery. Such is the life of an unscripted demo god.

Dave Winer called in mid-demo. Rather than use a mixing board or some other way to capture phone audio, Robert just put his iPhone on speaker and held it up to the cell phone that was taking the video. Oy, even for telephony, the audio quality was painful to listen to. Dave didn’t stick around very long. I’m not sure if the chat comments put him off or the overall slapdash nature of the demo wasn’t comfortable, but after a brief chat he said “I really don’t need to be here right now” and hung up.

The chat room was baffled, Scoble scrambled to fill air time and I was left wondering why Dave didn’t at least stick around to describe his vision, talk about the opportunities with the current crop of APIs, discuss how media companies might use his Radio 8 based FlickrFan. Dave is a very articulate guy I just wish he stayed around long enough to tell us why we should care about it.

As far as Qik is concerned I’m very forgiving of alpha software. It appears to be a useful tool but as with all media, production values must be paid attention to. Better lighting, better audio and less hand held camera work. Still I applaud Robert for using alpha software to demo alpha software. It really takes brass balls to do that.