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Riding the Future with Scoble and leMeur on the World Live Web

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, April 29 2008

I spent a few minutes in the future last night, having a late dinner at an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica with Robert Scoble of FastCompany.tv and Loic le Meur of the start-up Seesmic. Both of them are tech pioneers who are working in the emerging world of the world live web. And when they say live, they don't mean simply the part of the web that gets updated often, otherwise known as the blogosphere and the news-sphere. They mean the direct streaming of live events onto the web, along with live feedback from audiences that are highly networked.

You are far more likely to encounter Scoble and le Meur on Twitter, the instantaneous community messaging system, than you are to bump into them via their blogs. Scoble's handle is @scobleizer, and he has more than 21,000 followers on the site, which means he gets approximately one "tweet" per second. Le Meur is @loiclemeur; his new company Seesmic is still in its private "alpha" testing mode, but it is aiming to be a video-powered version of Twitter. (He also curates a fantastic conference in Paris called Le Web which is taking place this year on December 8-9.)

Where is this all going? Hard to say yet, but the answer may lie more in me showing you these guys in their element, rather than trying to tell you in words alone. Not only does Scoble do a technology show for FastCompany, he also frequently goes live on the web using Qik.com, using a Nokia N95 phone that is an amazing piece of technology. You can see the results below, where he streamed about a half hour of our dinner conversation. The visual quality is lousy because we were sitting outside in the dark, and using table candles to light our conversation, but the sound is near perfect. The thing to realize about using Qik is that not only was the video going straight to the live web, people who were alerted to Scoble's tweet that he was streaming to Qik (and at any given moment several hundred of Scoble's "followers" are probably online looking at their Twitter feeds) were logged into the conversation and their comments were appearing in a live feed on the screen of Scoble's Nokia at the same time! So, you can hear Scoble responding to the comments of his viewers as the video streams to them.

A lot of the resulting video is wine-fueled table banter, but Scoble does manage to interview me somewhat seriously about this year's Personal Democracy Forum. The conversation is also laced with inside jokes from my table-mates, who are "internet famous" and deeply enjoying their lives at the cutting edge of the web.

Now, all of this may appear (and is) pretty giddy and juvenile. But the underlying fact that it's now possible to stream live to the web with little more than a $750 mobile device and Qik.com and to instantly engage a plugged-in community of viewer-sharers who can spread the word about what is happening, and then (once Seesmic is open) create an ongoing series of video responses that can almost stream like a conversation.

Imagine a politician with a lot of supporters using this tool to put a message out fast, or a blogger covering a campaign doing the same thing? It took a few days for the Jim Webb campaign to turn the "macaca" video into a lethal problem for George Allen. Next time, it may only take minutes.