Some of you might remember the days when I used to run Google Hangouts-on-Air weekly, where I taught my audience how to cook Malaysian food via Live video. You can still watch replays of these broadcasts on my YouTube channel –
I was one of the pioneers of using Live video as a platform to do what was effectively a cooking show (however sad the production value).
If you check online you’ll find that Google Hangouts-on-Air was launched in May 2012. Guess what else happened in May 2012? I gave birth to baby Noah. In fact I got contacted by Google Australia while I was in hospital right after I had delivered Noah via emergency caesarean.
They wanted to talk to me about possibly using this new product of theirs to showcase my cooking. Noah’s prospects were extremely bleak at the time (he had what’s known as hydrops fetalis, which I was told was not survivable for babies with Down Syndrome). On top of that he needed lifesaving bowel surgery and open heart surgeries (two). I didn’t know it at the time but he would end up spending the first 217 days of his life in hospital.
If ever there was an excuse to turn down Google’s proposal, that was probably it. I gave it some thought (not much) and decided to push forward. So I Skyped with Google Australia from the neonatal ICU ward.
After that meeting, I made an announcement about running what I was confident would be the world’s first Hangout-on-Air from a restaurant kitchen so the world could see what goes on behind the scenes at Jackie M’s.
Not one to do things by halves, I also invited a bunch of my regulars to come and dine (on the house) and bring their laptops and other devices along so they could JOIN my Live broadcast from the restaurant dining room.
There was very little information about the technical requirements of running Hangouts-on-Air but as a former Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) I approach technology with a bit more bravado than your average, I guess, restaurateur.
Besides, I’d been running its earlier incarnation, Google Hangouts (ie. a group video conversation that doesn’t get broadcast publicly), for months before that, and I was completely comfortable with the platform.
When the evening arrived for my first Hangout-on-Air, my restaurant guests showed up with their iPads and mobile phones etc. in tow, asked for our restaurant WIFI password (big mistake), and prepared to join in the fun.
I announced on social media for the rest of the world to tune in “right now” to watch. Then I hit the “start broadcast” button.
As soon as I did that, my laptop started freezing up. I stared at the screen for minutes trying to troubleshoot the problem, before my computer shut down altogether. This happened several times. When I did manage to reconnect, my video lagged badly.
Meanwhile up front, my guests couldn’t connect to my Live broadcast – they kept getting booted off.
After trying for maybe 45 minutes, we all gave up.
So what went wrong? I would find out later that –
- running a Hangout-on-Air was much more processor-intensive than a regular ol’ Hangout (ie. I needed a more powerful laptop than my 3-year old Acer).
- I needed much better bandwidth than what I was getting from my ADSL2+ Internet connection.
- the bandwidth issue was exacerbated by the fact that several of my patrons were sharing my WIFI thanks to my brilliant idea of getting them to join my broadcast.
- you couldn’t (in the early days) join a Hangout-on-Air from a mobile device (and yes that included iPads) – I didn’t know since it wasn’t a limitation of the non-on Air version of Hangouts.
I wrote off that evening’s failure, finished off our kitchen shift for the evening, then retired upstairs to a barrage of YouTube notifications. I’d forgotten that one snazzy feature of Hangouts-on-Air was that they automatically got recorded and uploaded to my YouTube channel.
That crappy, laggy, broadcast that kept freezing was online as my latest YouTube video upload and I was getting abused by YouTube trolls – Wtf is she doing? Why is she staring at the screen? Go back in the kitchen and cook something. Etc.
I mustered my Hakka stubbornness to plough on with Hangouts-on-Air for the next couple of years, during which time anything and everything that could possibly go wrong did, the more memorable being –
- Running entire broadcasts without realising the audio wasn’t working and nobody could hear me (this happened multiple times)
- Tripping the power in my building (and with that, my internet connection) when I turned on a tabletop oven for one of my cooking demos, effectively ending my broadcast midway
- Having Noah in his highchair nearby while I was cooking – which generated complaints of child endangerment/child neglect (take your pick)
- Having Noah in a baby walker around my studio – and knocking over some stuff behind me – generating probably the most thumbs downs to date of all my 200+ videos
- Spilling boiling water all over myself when I forgot to place a bowl underneath a colander that I was tipping the contents of the saucepan into.
Despite all this, it was Telstra that got the better of me (My Case Against Telstra — a third world service run by first class bullies) – and the reason I had to put my Live broadcasts on hold.
I found out earlier this week that Google has decided to close down Hangouts-on-Air. Technically you can still run them, but everything will need to be set up and launched from within YouTube itself, as YouTube Live.
It might be the end of an era with that platform, but I honestly believe my best Live video days are ahead of me. However laughable my broadcasts have been in the past, they did manage to build my online following from 8,000 at the start to what it is today – over 1.9 million – and positioned me as the #2 most influential Australian chef on social media.
I’ve had the privilege to be invited overseas to run Live broadcasts, and through getting noticed by TV producers, I’ve appeared on numerous TV shows as a food presenter.
I’ve now signed up for a paid platform – https://www.crowdcast.io/jackiem – and this is going to be my medium of choice for my next series.
I’ve got a VERY exciting announcement coming up in my next post about this new show, which is going to be professionally produced with a new, expert, collaborator, but in the meantime do check out Crowdcast and follow me there 🙂