A Tale of Two (or Three) Web Sites and the Eagle Cameras
Thursday, May 14 2009 @ 03:42 PM EDT
Contributed by: richardpitt
A recent change to the links on the video windows used to view the HWF Eagle (and other wildlife) cameras has confused many people. This article will hopefully help you understand what is happening behind the scenes and why things changed.
The path the video takes to get to your computer is a complex one and involves 3 distinct companies/entities:
- Hancock Wildlife Foundation - we originate the streams, own the encoders and administer them
- Zaplive.TV - a live streaming video service company that is a service provider to a number of live stream providers
- WildEarth.TV - another live stream provider with a relationship with Zaplive.TV to host their own streams from Africa, and whom HWF has partnered with to host our streams this year (via Zaplive as well)
These are only the major players - the others include people like Doug Carrick and other site hosts for the actual cameras but read on for the rest of the story.
So the video you see on our site is from a web site hosted by Zaplive but owned by WildEarth.TV. the reason we're doing this is historic and pragmatic - money and inertia.
You see we have a web site already - and it has a lot of content from past years - this one you're reading this article on. We also have the discussion forum and a lot of members.
We've used several methods of providing video to you over those years because both the economics and the technologies are in such a state of flux that we've had to change that aspect of our site several times already - this is in fact the 4th such change if you count Infotec/Wavelit, Insinc, Neokast and our own video server, and now Zaplive/WildEarth.
The agreement with WildEarth helps both our causes - increased usage lowers their costs and their management of the advertising means we don't have to do it or invest in the infrastructure they already have. Everyone wins. We could also have done a deal with Zaplive directly, and maybe at some point in the future we may, either with them or the increasing crop of other video service providers that this IPTV world is spawning. People who know me personally will know that I've been involved with a couple of such companies for a while in my other business, so I'm keeping my eyes open for opportunities as they evolve. For the moment our current situation is working just fine for us.
The one thing to note is that there are aspects of the WildEarth.TV site that have, until recently, "leaked through" to our site. One of them is the chat that is on the WE site. The other is the Seekpoints that allow reviewing the stream at a later time. This access was due to a link that was incorrectly set initially and which has been corrected to what we initially agreed to just recently. In some ways this leaking has some unintended consequences and turning it off has other consequences. We may review this and see what can be done about it.
"But why don't we have access to the chat and Seekpoings?" you ask.
The problem is that these are aspects of the WildEarth.TV (Zaplive) web software, not our own - and they are tied to the accounts that are on the WE site, not the ones on our site. You are already likely familiar with the problem we have with two parts of our web having different password databases: Web and Discussion - well this adds a third such problem, the WE site.
Linking these separate pieces of web software, each written by different people or groups and hosted on different continents, is possible at some point - but it is not something that is easy and straight forward. There are both privacy and technical aspects, especially with any link to the WE software as it is hosted in Europe. Our two pieces are at least on the same machine in our NY colocation room (thanks Hancock House for allowing us access to your server by the way :)
We ARE looking at ways to tie things more tightly - and at any/all options as far as integration and changes are concerned but the major concern is one of time and, as always, money (I'll deal with this in another item shortly)
One thing to understand is that we have a wealth of information in our current web site that is not easily moved to other software; not impossible but not easy. This means we can't just adopt the software (or service provider) that WildEarth.TV uses. This wealth of information - your screen captures and video pieces as well as the articles and news items - get us an incredible amount of traffic - and this traffic sees advertising and dontates money to our cause. Our traffic this year is up over a THOUSAND percent over last year - and we needed a faster server to cope.
There are other reasons why we would not do this too - reasons hinted to above - this "active" web (Web 2.0 - user driven content) is still in a state of flux. Changing horses every time one piece of software has something that the current one we use doesn't would lead us into chaos. If we wait a bit the things we don't have but "they" do will be included in our own if the feature is worthwhile. Our new version of our main web software has a number of such features I've hoped for over the past couple of years - I just have to turn them on - or they're on and working in the background and you don't notice but things just work better (some security stuff is a good example)
There are things like chat modules in the works. We may also be able to share the Seekpoint interface with WE - but that is something we'll have to do ourselves - at a time when WE is not otherwise occupied fixing their own problems - hopefully soon.
Anyway - this has rambled on a bit but hopefully you get the picture. We are always trying to make your web experience better - but sometimes things get in the way. Please be patient and keep supporting HWF with your donations and by supporting our advertisers.