Owncast Newsletter, March 2024

In This Issue

A Note From The Editor

It's really amazing how hard January and February seem to have just blown by. I know it wasn't just me, because the Owncast chatrooms were also more quiet than usual. Indeed, life is that thing that happens while you're making other plans, and it's amazing how even positive disruptions to your life (in my case, a kitchen remodel and a partner's book launch) will still throw off the daily routine until things that need bricks of free time will just fall off.

But, happy March! We're here, and it's now. This newsletter is a little different from the others, in that we don't have Owncast releases or events to cover. So, instead, we're taking the space to feature the projects of our dedicated community members. On the technical front, there's a review of Tlapbot, an engagement-enabling chatbot. On the big feature, we're shining the spotlight on an experimental music collective that's successfully made Owncast part of their online presence.

It's always a special treat when people come forward to feature their work. One of the best parts of Owncast and DIY culture in general is the way that community members share tools, techniques, and inspiration, so keep those submissions coming!

Technical Feature: Tlapbot

A great deal of digital ink has been spilled on the basic technical challenges of operating an Owncast stream...server provisioning, supporting streams at different quality levels, capacity planning and scaling, etc, etc, etc. Anyone who's streamed for even a modest amount of time, however, knows that, even after the technical challenges are answered, there's the equally difficult and less-often discussed challenge of audience engagement.

Commercial streams like Twitch are backed by large corporations with a vested interest in keeping "bums in seats", and this is manifest in the fact that they have teams of professionals dedicated to providing streamers with audience engagement tools. For the independent Owncast streamer, though, everything is do-it-yourself. So, what's a streamer to do?

Owncast streamer and developer Tlapka has developed an Owncast chat bot designed to help keep audiences engaged and enthused. The project, called Tlapbot, implements a system similar to Twitch's "channel points" system, were viewers are awarded points for time spent viewing. The points can then be spent on whatever fun engagement the streamer has set up; typically these take the form of requests and challenges from the audience to the streamer. Tlapbot is a comprehensive solution, including a points leaderboard, menu of rewards, and queue for active requests and challenges from the audience so the streamer doesn't forget one.

Tlapbot v1.2.2 was recently released, adding compatibility to the current version of Owncast. Tlapbot's a perfect tool for anyone operating a stream that involves a streamer's live performance. Gamers, musicians, DJs, TTRPG live plays, improv performers, and more can easily use it to add a new dimension of engagement and fun to their channels.

In 2001, self-professed "live art liberationists" Nick Rilke and Tony Rimbaud, presented a live experimental electronic music performance in Brighton, UK, with the intent of showcasing some affiliated experimental electronic music projects. This event was the beginning of Spirit of Gravity, a collective of over 15 dedicated artists. The group's commitment to artistic experimentation and collective organization has led to a tenure of over 20 years and an output that spans from live performances to a music label to a regular radio program.

Gravitons is the streaming wing of Spirit of Gravity, and given their focus on expression-over-commercialism and community engagement, Owncast was a logical fit for them. The backbone of their streaming schedule are the regular Spirit of Gravity performances from the Rossi Bar in Brighton, but members and friends of the collective also use Gravitons for their own special events streams. It's no surprise that Spirit of Gravity members meljoann, Rashamon, and alienalarms (under the name Remember Glaciers) were all critical contributors to last January's Radio Free Fedi New Year's Day Parade, all of them streaming via Gravitons.

Spirit of Gravity, including Gravitons, is supported in part through a grant from Arts Council England, which defrays their server costs. Of course, there's more to a music collective than just keeping servers running, so if you're a fan of experimental electronic music or a musician yourself, check out the Spirit of Gravity and Gravitons websites for some inspiration on how you can become a supporter, contributor, streamer, or new associate.

Closing Remarks

This newsletter is the product of, and a service to, the community of Owncast developers, streamers, viewers, and enthusiasts later. We cannot be a sounding board for the community without your support. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with interesting project news, events, or other news of note, and if you'd like to help build the social fabric of the Owncast community, please consider checking out the #owncast-community channel on rocket.chat.

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