Video-based social media
- YouTube (including YouTube Live Stream)
- Facebook Live
- Google (Hangouts) Meet
YouTube is primarily an online video-sharing service owned by Google. It offers users the opportunity to do one or more of several things:
- to upload short videos, especially videos they have made themselves, for other people to watch. For example, some Quaker Meetings have filmed and uploaded onto YouTube videos they have made about Quaker life.
- to watch videos (short and long) on almost every aspect of human living and existence. For example, there are many short, high-quality videos examining aspects of Quaker life.
- to solicit, write and read comments about an uploaded video
- to ‘live stream’ material, say, a talk or live performance you wish to give, that can be watched live online by other people. This is akin to live broadcast radio / television.
- to watch a live stream event
- for viewers of live stream events to make written comments, maybe responding to prompts from the speaker/performer.
YouTube is a free-to-use service for both sharing and watching video recordings. It can be categorised as a one-to-many medium, because the communication largely goes one way. In the right circumstances the videos are an excellent means of communication. For example, there are a great many ‘how to’ videos on almost any DIY topic imaginable, including how to create a web page and upload it to the Kent Quakers website; performance (original or cover) of musical compositions; a young Quaker woman talking to camera about what it means to her that her Quaker Meeting House will be closing for refurbishment. To make a YouTube video generally requires the use of a digital camcorder, a microphone, and some video editing software. In general, the higher the quality of the equipment, the higher the quality of the resulting video. To upload a video to YouTube, a person is required to set up an account (which is free of charge).
YouTube videos can be watched at one’s convenience, and at any time of day or night. No special equipment is required to watch a YouTube video, although headphones or speakers are needed to hear its soundtrack. Users do not require an account simply to watch YouTube videos.
YouTube videos are not very good at obtaining high-quality feedback, and are, therefore, mostly to be seen as one-way, one-to-many communication.
Live streaming requires the live streamer to have substantial past and ongoing engagement, and also to remain “in good standing”, with YouTube. The live streamer must also recruit, probably by building up a following of, viewers, for otherwise, in the absence of significant publicity, there will be no-one to watch the live stream event. Basic live streaming is fairly low quality, giving the medium a reputation of being rather trivial. Higher quality live streaming requires a financial outlay for better quality equipment.
Facebook Live is a service much like YouTube Live Stream, but owned and offered by Facebook. Like YouTube live streaming, it is free-to-use. It requires the use of a webcam to broadcast real-time video to Facebook. Live broadcasters decide who on Facebook can see their video, which may be anyone, or may be limited to Facebook family and friends, or maybe even simply to named individuals. Like YouTube live streaming, it is a one-to-many medium (viewers can see/hear the broadcaster, but the broadcaster cannot see/hear the viewer) although anyone watching can send written responses and feedback by means of Facebook Messenger. Some therapists use Facebook Live to deliver online relaxation sessions to groups of clients. The only disadvantage compared to YouTube Live Stream is that both the broadcaster and any recipients must have Facebook accounts.
Skype is a communications service owned by Microsoft. It is used primarily for one-to-one, face-to-face communication. The video is live – in real time, not recorded. It is like a telephone call, but with the ability both to hear and to see the other person. Skype is very easy to use.
To use Skype, both parties require a Skype account, a computer screen, a webcam and a microphone. Most laptop computers, tablet computers and smartphones are adequately equipped, but a desktop computer might require the addition of a webcam and microphone. The Skype experience is identical regardless of the computer device one is using.
Once a connection has been established, both parties can see and hear each other, and can have as simple or as complex interaction as they wish, for as long as they wish. There are relatively few drawbacks, although, as the service is popular, sometimes the quality (video and audio) of the call can suffer. Skype offers video-conferencing for up to 50 users free-of-charge.
Skype also offers premium services, focused on making calls to landline telephones, and receiving calls from telephones, for which fees are charged. Skype offers business services for monthly and per-user subscriptions. Skype is not especially user-friendly if one wishes to record (video and audio) a call, although other software companies offer computer applications that will record a Skype call.
FaceTime is a free-to-use video telephone / video chat service similar to Skype and Google Hangouts, enabling one-to-one and group video calling.
Facetime’s significant drawback is that it can be used only using Apple devices such as the Apple iPhone, Apple iPad, Apple iPod touch, and Mac notebook and desktop computers; and even then, using only newer models and operating systems.
Although, technically, group Facetime calls can involve up to 32 people, in practice connectivity issues tend to make it hard to maintain contact with even small groups.
Google (Hangouts) Meet
Google Hangouts Meet, or just Google Meet, is part of a suite of Google applications, some aimed at consumers, others aimed at businesses. Some aspects of this suite are free-of-charge, whereas most are part of one or other paid-for packages. For some years Google has been realigning its software, a process that is likely to continue. At present the free-of-charge consumer-facing products are similar to Skype and Facetime, and the paid-for, business-facing products are competing with Zoom and higher end video-conferencing and video-streaming products. Whilst Google Meet is nowhere near as siloed as Apple’s Facetime, it strongly belongs to the Google world and is likely to suit those who mainly use Google products.
Zoom is a video-conferencing platform for one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many, face-to-face communication. As with Skype, the video is live – in real time, not recorded. It is like a telephone call, but with the ability both to hear and to see all the other people involved in the call.
A Zoom user requires a computer screen, a webcam and a microphone. Most laptop computers, tablet computers and smartphones are adequately equipped, but a desktop computer might require the addition of a webcam and microphone. However, unlike Skype, the Zoom experience is somewhat dependent on the computer device being used.
Zoom can be used for one-to-one calls, just like with Skype. For this use, the microphones are left on all the time. However, Zoom offers the demanding user much more than Skype, the result of which is that Zoom is more complex than Skype to navigate.
Zoom can be used for one-to-many calls: for example, delivering a lecture or leading a yoga session. This is excellent for online tuition. The ‘many’ can see the presenter, and the presenter can see each of the participants. The ‘many’ have the opportunity to make observations and to ask questions. However, most of the time the microphone of everyone other than the presenter is switched off so that the presenter can proceed without impromptu interruptions.
Zoom can be used for many-to-many calls: for example a Meeting for Business, or a Meeting for Worship.
Many-to-many calls/meetings require forward planning and organisation, as well as self-discipline while the meeting is taking place. Quaker worship and Quaker business methods are well-suited to the self-discipline required.
Every Zoom meeting requires a ‘host’, who is the person responsible for setting up the meeting, scheduling and gathering together ‘participants’, starting the meeting and ending the meeting.
To use Zoom for the first time, a person must register and then download a computer application. After that, as a ‘participant’, as with both parties in a Skype call, very little else is required. One is invited to attend the meeting to be held at a specified time on a specified day, clicks a web-link shortly before the meeting is due to start, and then waits for the meeting to begin.
To use Zoom as a ‘host’, on the other hand, a subscription is required. There are several levels of subscription ranging from free-of-charge to expensive. The more expensive the subscription, the more services are available for use. The paid-for subscriptions offer powerful meeting and conferencing facilities. Of significance is that the the free-of-charge subscription limits one-to-many and many-to-many calls/meetings to 40 minutes. Whilst some Quaker Meetings for Worship may be as short as half an hour in length, most are not, and most Quaker Meetings for Business are longer than 40 minutes. In other words, a Quaker ‘host’ is almost certainly going to require a paid-for subscription.
Whilst a recording of a Zoom call/meeting can be saved locally (say, on a desktop computer) with a free-of-charge subscription, one of Zoom’s premium services is to save a recording of a call/meeting online (in ‘the cloud’), which is rather more practical – for example, turning some parts of a presentation into a YouTube video.