Monthly Archives: September 2013

This Time The (Broadcasting) Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Next time you’re standing waiting for a train or a bus take a look around and see how many people are staring down at their mobile device. Chances are that they are watching a video that increasingly is not just short snippets on Vine or Instagram but longer-duration content. Expanding data caps and the improvements in adaptive video streaming means that even a 30 minute 720p video from YouTube will only use ~ 200 MB of data. These changes are contributing to an increasing move away from passive consumption of content via television to time-shifted or video-on-demand consumption via smart devices.

Power To The (Watching) People

Since the mass adoption of the VCR, consumers have been voting with their record buttons to watch the content they want, when they want (and without commercials if they can help it). Until fairly recently, however, they had little say on where they watched it. If it wasn’t on the TV it typically wasn’t being watched. While DVDs have transformed how we have bought and watched movies they haven’t really changed how we access broadcast content – for most people that was still stuck on the trusty VCR which was attached to the TV.

The rise of standard and high definition tablets led by the iPad has had a substantial impact on how we watch content – we are no longer wedded to the TV in our houses.  Apple sealed the loop first with iTunes providing long-format video to buy, but we are now seeing both new content providers (in the US Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video amongst others) and traditional broadcasters (in Australia this includes ABC iViewSBS On Demand or one of the commercial offerings) step up and start offering alternative access.  Newer generation TVs and PVRs are also offering access to the same sorts of services that are effectively freeing consumers from traditional broadcast schedules.

Kevin Spacey recently gave the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival in which he talked about his critically acclaimed Netflix-first series House of Cards and how their “eat all you want” approach to viewing the show demonstrated how consumers will take (and generally pay for) all they can get when content is engaging and priced right.  He says it is a wake up call for TV.  Have a watch of these highlights – it’s an engaging talk.

The ex-PayPal guys who started YouTube saw the trend – short-form user generated video content that could be served to the masses (remember their original slogan was “Broadcast Yourself”).  Over time YouTube has expanded to serve a bunch of rich, long duration content with support for live streaming.  There are a range of other players in this market all aimed at enabling you to broadcast your content.

But, could any of them serve live video as well as 2,300 hours of video on demand from an Olympics? Probably not.

Windows Azure Media Services can and did for the 2012 London Olympics.

And, you could do it too if you wanted to (with an SLA to boot).  The same baseline services utilised for the Olympics broadcast are available to Azure subscribers today.  The scenarios enabled by this service are pretty mind bending.  True, you would need to build out the subscription and access components but you get all the plumbing stuff right there – just plug in your onsite feed (yes, I’m simplifying a bit here ;-)).

As Kevin Spacey says in his talk, between USD 300 and 400 million is spent annually by the US TV networks to produce pilots, many of which fail or never see out a single season. That’s a lot of money!  Now imagine how much lower the bar would be for a TV show’s financial viability given you can reduce distribution costs, immediately make your production available globally cross-platform as well as access analytics about the content in real time. Maybe we’d see a lot of more creative and riskier productions “green lighted” and many more content creators having control of the future of their ideas.  Again, refer to Kevin Spacey’s lecture – he didn’t want to do a pilot as he (and his co-creators) wanted their story to play out over time.

We have already seen instances in music where bands are successful online before signing onto more traditional distribution channels (see Arctic Monkeys).  Artists in other media are also taking matters into their own hands with US comic Louis CK leading the way in funding the recording of one of his shows before putting it up online and directly controlling the distribution himself – something that ten years ago would have been unthinkable (apparently he’s done “OK” out of it…)

You could leverage VAST and VMAP ad serving standards to help fund a production and broadcast (advertising built and sustains Google’s billion dollar business remember) and you can apply some control of redistribution by rights management where appropriate (interestingly Louis CK didn’t use any).  Maybe you want to live stream and then provide that stream as video on demand?  You can do that – it’s all the same URL too :).

The way we consume content is changing and for future generations (and many of us today) the concept of being wedded to a TV schedule is foreign.  Cloud services such as Azure Media Services offer any number of new players a platform on which to enter the market and to compete in a way that wasn’t possible even five years ago.

This Time The (Broadcasting) Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

Useful Links

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TechEd Demo Video Available Online

As previously announced I presented a session at TechEd Australia 2013 and anyone who came along will know I had some challenges with the demo component of my talk on the day. I thought it would be great to actually show you all how the demo *should* have run on the day, so to that end I’ve recorded a screencast that runs through the entire demo with a few tips and tricks along the way. I recommend you run it full screen!

You can also grab the sourcecode from this demo here:

The video is available on YouTube here: (and is embedded below).

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Use Tags to better manage your TFS work items

Updated: early in 2014 Microsoft released an update that now makes it possible to query using Tags.  See the full details online.

As many of you have found, at present it isn’t possible to customise work item templates to provide custom fields the same way you can in the on-premise version of TFS. While the out-of-the-box work item types mostly suffice there are cases where not being able to customise the template impacts your ability to properly report on the work you are managing.

To go some way to address this Microsoft released an update to Team Foundation Service in January 2013 to provide a ‘tag’ feature that allows users to add meta-data to a work item.

I must admit until my most recent engagement that I hadn’t looked closely at tags as I’d found that using a well thought through Area Path scheme tended to work well when querying work items. I’m now working on a project where we are performing a large number of migrations between platforms and must deal with a fair amount of variation between our source system and our target.

Our primary concern is to arrange our work by business unit – this will ultimately determine the order in which we undertake work due to a larger project that will affect availability of our target system for these business units. To this end, the Area Path is setup so that we can query based on Business Unit.

In addition to business unit we then have a couple of key classifications that would be useful to filter results on: type of the source system; long term plan for the system once migrated.

When creating our backlog we tagged each item as we bought it in, resulting in a set of terms we can easily filter with.

Backlog with tags

Which allows us to easily filter the backlog (and Sprint backlogs if you use a query view for a Sprint) like this:

Backlog with applied filter

The great thing with this approach is as you add a filter to a backlog the remaining filter options display the number of work items that match that element – in the example below we can see that there are 90 “team sites” and 77 “applications” that are also tagged “keep”. This is extremely useful and a great way to get around some of the work item customisation limitations in Team Foundation Service.

Filter applied

One item to be aware of with tags is that right now the best experience with them is on the web. If you regularly use Team Explorer or Excel to manage your TFS backlog then they may be of limited use. You can still filter using them within Excel but the mechanism in which they are presented (as a semi-colon list of keywords) means easily filtering by individual tags isn’t possible.

Excel filter

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