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Friday, 19 October 2007

Full disclosure

Of course we did have glitches of varying problematicity over the week. In no particular order but my memory:

  • screensavers! We used our normal log-in to run the Skype stations, and so the screensaver kicked in every 15 minutes. At one point I fixed it to kick in only every 30 minutes; sekrit IT codes or something were needed to make it not kick in at all, and everything was always too hectic to actually get around to this.
  • speaking of hectic, it was the last week of term before end-of-year exams. I don't think the "too busy studying" thing actually had that much effect, but on Friday the "too busy getting drunk" thing definitely did.
  • in testing, a couple of us had weird video effects, like a yellow translucent bar down the middle of the screen; or our preview image showing pink; or video freezing. Perusing the Skype forums suggested using the older but more stable version - we switched accordingly and never had the problem again.
  • dropped calls for mysterious reasons. This often required one library phoning another as not all stations were visible from a service desk so they mightn't be aware of the problem. Hypotheses included mischievous students messing with it, screensaver issues, and gremlins. Once it was our wireless connection failing (though otherwise it behaved impeccably all week).
  • a couple groups of students making rude gestures and saying ruder things. Well, there's always a couple who'll drag the rest down.
  • quality was better at some libraries than others - blurry images, timelag, sometimes voice and image out of sync. Don't know whether this was equipment/computer-related, or bandwidth-related.
  • webcam out of alignment with screen, so eye contact fails. Not much way to fix this with present technology, but the problem was magnified for those of us who projected onto larger screens.
  • a computer blowing up. I didn't hear the full story behind that so like to think that it was just one of those things that happens, nothing to do with Skype, move along now...

Also - not a glitch exactly - it was only between two libraries at a time. Using different software that'd connect one-to-many, or many-to-many, would increase possibilities for sharing events. Of course at this time of year we were all too busy to think about extra events. And also one-to-many would make it much less private for students who wanted to talk to a friend or family member in another city. So, pros and cons; but it's something worth exploring if we do anything like this again.

And there has been talk of doing something like this again, perhaps in a different time of year - for example during Orientation, or after the settling-in period. So obviously it hasn't all been bad. :-) For myself, it's been a great buzz seeing it all come together, watching the students get so much use out of it, and each day meeting face-to-face more of the librarians who've made this such an amazing event.