FtBCON starts today!

In just a few hours, we’re all going to go stark raving mad trying to pull together this new FtBCon thing. Brace yourself for glitches (we are) as we try to hammer out all the details.

If you’re looking for the schedule, it’s on FtBCON.org and also on Lanyrd. You can search Google+ for FtBCON and it’ll list us all; we’re also going to be posting youtube links to the ongoing discussions on the Google+ events, so I think you’ll even be able to watch everything just from that one page. You can join in the chat room to talk and ask questions; we’ll be watching that as we moderate the panels. You can also get there via irc.synirc.org and #pharyngula, if you’re using an IRC client.

If you’re participating in a panel or talk, please pay attention to these suggestions:

Advice to participants in FtBCon

What you’ll need:
A reasonably fast internet connection (WiFi works)
A webcam
A Google+ account
Headphones or earbuds
Good lighting

The last two are often neglected and regarded as optional. They’re not. If you just use your computer speakers to listen while you talk, you will generate annoying echoes that will reverberate between all the participants. Any kind of audio gear other than broadcasting sound that will be picked up by your microphone is necessary — but simple earbuds are adequate to prevent the problem.

Lighting isn’t difficult, either. You should be illuminated from the front: the worst case is to have a bright light source behind you, in which case you will be a dark silhouette against a light background, and no one will be able to see your face. Ideally, you’ll set up three point lighting, with two sources of light, one to your front left and the other to your front right, and a third softer light illuminating the background. But putting a lamp or two in front of you and avoiding bright sun or other bright illumination behind you will be adequate. (If you’re at all vain, though, the best thing you can do to make yourself look good is to have good lighting.)

Before the event

You will be given contact information for your facilitator, and you will have given them your Google+ ID. Get on Google+ 15 minutes before your talk/panel; your facilitator should be sending out invitations to join a hangout around that time. If you don’t get one, don’t hesitate to send urgent alerts to your facilitator!

When you’re in the hangout, you are encouraged to use the Hangout Toolbox on the left sidebar. Select Lower Third and fill it out with your name and (optionally) affiliation, and turn it on. This will put a bar on the bottom of the screen with your identifying information for anyone tuning in.

If you are using a PowerPoint presentation, set it up in the background, and switch back to the hangout.

During the event

Your facilitator will give a brief introduction, and then the time is yours or your panel’s. Allot 45 minutes or less for your talk, please — we would like to have a little time for Q&A, but if you use the full hour, that’s OK, discussions can be had in the FtbCon chat room.

If you are using PowerPoint or similar presentation software, you can display your slides instead of your face. Click on Screenshare in the hangout (it should be in the left toolbar), and when it asks which window to use, select the desktop. Then go to your presentation software, and start up the slideshow. Everyone else will see your slides and hear your voiceover.

During your session, the facilitator will be watching the chatroom and Google+ and Youtube channels for relevant and intelligent questions and comments, and will address the good subset to you during any Q&A. They will also compile those good comments/questions and email them to you, if you’d like.

Your facilitator will be present in a small window at the bottom of your screen during the entire presentation. They will work out any signals you’d like to get (for instance, waving wildly when you’ve only got 5 minutes left). If you’re using Screenshare, you won’t see them; you’ll have to get audio cues. The session will have to end promptly on the hour, since we’ll have other talks starting at that time.

I can’t emphasize enough how important using headphones or earbuds is — without them, we get echoes all over the place, which are really annoying…and the moderators will start muting you. Some kind of decent lighting is also important, because you’ll look bad if you’re all grainy and dark gray against a black background, or worse, a black silhouette against a bright white background. It’s easy to fix, too — I bought a couple of clamp lights and presto, I can illuminate myself adequately, just by sticking them up in a few places.


  1. David Marjanović says

    It’s easy to fix, too — I bought a couple of clamp lights and presto

    …It doesn’t concern me personally… but… not many people will be able to go out and buy that kind of thing in the few hours that remain till the conference begins.

  2. picklefactory says

    It’s easy to fix, too — I bought a couple of clamp lights and presto, I can illuminate myself adequately, just by sticking them up in a few places.

    Wa-hey! :D

  3. says

    i’ll very likely sleep through at least the first session. no way i’m getting to sleep before 2pm today *sigh*

    I just realized that my panel is in the evening, so the natural light that’s worked with the previous hangouts might not work this time. will have to steal borrow the boyfriend’s miniature-painting lamp.

  4. says

    You don’t live in a town with 4 hardware stores, David?

    Yeah, just grab some lamps from around the house and position them around you, then. Clamp lights are just such handy things for impromptu tinkering with lights…and 9/10ths of videography is lighting.

  5. Nick Gotts says

    Are the headphones/earbuds required for the chat room, or is that just typed contributions? (If the former, I’ll have to ask my son for a loan of his – I never use them!)

  6. D says

    If the IRC channel ops don’t already have them, it would probably be a good idea if they got vhost names.

    It might also be useful to have linked channels with user limits if the main channel is too chaotic.

  7. says

    Here in Germany, we have nothing but respect and awe for this great American state, as you can see in the following preview of a great homebrew western movie:

  8. randay says

    If there is an official, or other, video camera, make sure you have a good microphone link to it. The camera mike recording will probably poor and noisy. Maybe it will work if the camera has a highly directional mike attached. Insuring good sound quality is of utmost importance.

  9. randay says

    Neleabels #8, I like that Germans can also show all due respect to American leaders. This one is about the empty Texan cowboy hat that has now disappeared. Poor Johannes lost his job as Bush pilot.