Due to a recent incident that involved a bad actor’s inappropriate behavior (read more here), we are introducing the following changes to combat and hopefully prevent such incidents in the future.
Here are some of the upcoming changes to the virtual meeting setup:
Every meeting will have a new and unique URL.
Please pay special attention to the new link in EventBrite (Fig #1) and Meetup (Fig #2).
MS Team Meeting changes
Meeting option changes include Lobby, Presenters, Allowed resources for attendees, etc…
All participants will have to register (provide name and email) prior to joining (Fig #3)
Once you register, you will receive the following “Join Event” button to join the meeting (Fig #4)
Waiting Room (Lobby)
All participants will have to wait in a virtual waiting room before being allowed to join the main virtual meeting. The host of the meeting will admit participants individually or all at once.
We reserve the right to deny access (Fig #5) to and/or kick out (Fig #6) anyone whose sole purpose of joining the meeting is NOT to teach/learn about technology and data topics.
Only the host, co-host, and presenter(s) of the meeting will be able to share their screen, web camera, and microphone while participants will not be able to share anything (Fig #7) unless the host grants them permission to do so.
Description of Incident: On Wednesday, February 15, 2023, a virtual meeting was scheduled to take place at 7PM PST for Los Angeles Data Platform User Group virtual meeting. The meeting was attended by about 20 virtual attendees who had logged in from various locations using a video conferencing platform.
Shortly after the meeting started, one of the attendees, who had joined using a pseudonym, began sharing their screen and displaying inappropriate adult images. The individual also started screaming and using foul language, making it difficult for other attendees to concentrate on the meeting. The behavior of the bad actor was causing significant disruption and distress to the other attendees.
Response to Incident: As soon as the inappropriate behavior began, the meeting moderator tried to remove the bad actor from the meeting, but they kept rejoining using different pseudonyms. The moderator then attempted to mute the individual, but they continued to display inappropriate images and scream.
Given the severity of the situation and the inability to remove the bad actor, it was decided to end the meeting immediately to prevent any further distress to the attendees. The moderator informed all participants that the meeting was canceled due to technical difficulties and advised them to disconnect from the platform.
After the meeting, the incident of session hijacking was reported to the platform’s customer support team, who were able to identify the user’s IP address and take appropriate action.
Conclusion: The incident was deeply concerning, and we apologize to all attendees and speakers who were subjected to such inappropriate behavior. We are taking steps to ensure that future meetings are conducted in a safe and secure environment. This includes improving our meeting security protocols, implementing more robust user authentication measures, and training our moderators on handling disruptive behavior. We thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
May 18, 2022, marked the day of LA Data Platform User Group’s first attempt to augment the MS Teams environment by live-streaming our user group meeting to a LinkedIn and Twitter using Restream.IO without OBS Studio. Restream.IO Studio allows you to simply live-stream your session content within the browser.
Since MS Teams can’t directly stream to social media, you need a “man-in-the-middle” like Restream.IO to connect between your screen & audio share and social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In Restream.IO, you would need to create destinations for your social media channels (See Fig #1) connecting to your existing social media accounts.
Once destinations are all working, you would need to decide how to live-stream your content – using Studio (read: internet browser) or OBS Studio.
In a more sophisticated streaming setup, you would be using OBS Studio which supports picture-in-picture (PIP), external sound sources, and even adding a green screen. What if you didn’t need that many options? What if you just need to stream your audio and video as simply and fast as possible?
While OBS Studio provides a great way to screen capture video and audio content, it’s feature-heavy and has a learning curve. Additionally, it still requires you to grab a Streaming Key from Restream.IO (Fig #3) and connect it to OBS Studio (Fig #4).
Introducing Restream.IO with Studio (not to confuse with OBS Studio). Restream.IO Studio allows you to simply live to stream your video and audio from within the browser. You don’t need to download anything and configure it (Fig #5).
Just select a few input options such as camera, and microphone, hit Enter Studio button and you are all set to start live streaming (Fig #6). Don’t worry, you can change those options later as well.
Now click the Share Screen button, choose an Entire Screen (this is the only way to stream both video and audio), checkbox on a Share system audio, and click Share button (see Fig #7).
To start your live stream, toggle visibility and click Go Live button (Fig #8). You are all set.
As you probably see on the right panel, you can also add bells and whistles like Overlay, Backgrounds, or even a video introduction (Video Clips), but those are all extras. If you did everything correctly, you are now live-streaming your content (Fig #9).
Don’t forget to hit the End Stream button to finish your live stream.
To conclude, what did we gain from using Restream.IO Studio? We have avoided an overhead associated with OBS Studio and went from thinking of live-streaming to actually live-streaming in just a few minutes.
Digital content is the king. Record, run video editing software, upload to a resource like YouTube or Rumble, and it will stay there forever. There are many benefits in recording and sharing knowledge via video: it can improve the speaker’s ability to deliver material, anybody can see it again and again. This blog post is going to cover a number of easy-to-follow steps to do video editing using TechSmith Camtasia.
Let’s talk about video editing. Making video content is usually split into 2 phases – pre-production (recording) and post-production (perfecting). While recording video is fairly obvious and mostly involves hitting the red record button, perfecting video is usually a time-consuming and scary process. Let’s make it easy. The following steps and screenshots will help you to get up to speed in creating video content as quickly as possible.
Add media artifacts
Start with downloading the mp4 from MS Teams. Now proceed with opening Camtasia and add a thumbnail, downloaded video, and intro (see Fig #1).
Add media artifacts to a track
Drag and drop media artifacts from the Media Bin into Track1 in the following order intro, thumbnail, and then video (Fig #2). Make sure that all 3 are stacked up one after the other, meaning that there is no space between them.
Edit the video to lose anything that is not important
Left double-click on the video, drag the red time tracker, and then choose Cut (Fig #3).
Apply noise reduction audio effect to remove any undesired noise from the recorded video by Clicking Audio Effects, choosing Noise Removal, and dragging and dropping it to the video.
Make sure your video is perfect
Left double-click on the intro to bring back the triangle-shaped time tracker to the beginning, and hit the play button (Fig #5) to watch the entire video to make sure it’s all perfect.
Make it a video file (mp4)
Choose Share from a menu item above, and then click on Local File (see Fig #6). Depending on your machine, dimension, and format as well as the TechSmith version, this step might take between 30-90 minutes.
Create a YouTube account with a channel, upload your mp4 file, and let everyone know that it’s ready for public consumption (Fig #7). Don’t forget to make it public.
Syndicate your content
While YouTube drives most of the viewers to channel, others platforms like Rumble are becoming more and more popular. Why not push your content to other platforms?
While you might think it’s not worth the time due to an effort that involves re-uploading your content, in reality, most YouTube competitors have a syncing capability built-in. Make your content available on YouTube, create an account in a competing platform, give that platform permission to access YouTube, and walla, your YouTube content will become available on the other platform as well.
This blog post is made possible by two great products Snag-It and Camtasia by the TechSmith Corporation.
There is a number of factors that affect your User Group attendance: good luck, great content, meeting consistency, ease of commute, and advanced notice messaging to members.
While controlling luck is virtually impossible, everything else on that list is a fair game. Great content involves inviting popular speakers and sessions while meeting consistency is built around keeping the same day and same venue. Securing an easily accessible venue requires as a minimum a commute as possible (the best fit here is a virtual meeting) while advanced notice messaging assumes a schedule built in advance. This blog post is going to provide key points to help build your User Group schedule efficiently way ahead of the next monthly meeting.
Building a schedule is time-consuming. Reaching out to speakers is time-consuming. Reaching each speaker with a personal message is even more time-consuming. Luckily, copy-and-paste is here to help.
Build and grow your personal network on LinkedIn and Twitter
Do not be afraid to personally reach out to people that never heard of you
Learn how to deal with rejection
Make a template – have a small generic message that you can send to any speaker (see Fig #1)
Focus on quantity vs. quality – send as many messages as you possibly
Be responsive and book sessions as fast as you can (see Fig #2)
Make a placeholder for a speaker with no session (see Fig #3)
There is plenty of free and paid content available online already and yet tomorrow we will see even more content available. That begs the inevitable question – why bother with recording and sharing on YouTube/Rumble? The main reason is, it’s a one-time investment that continues to pay off forever. This blog post is going to dive into how to minimize the overhead of the post-production process, i.e. the most time-consuming part of making content.
Where do you find the content? How to record? How to do post-production and how to make it visible to the public?
That being said, the most important question is how do manage the overhead – how to make content consistently and efficiently?
Let’s talk about solutions.
Your User Group meetings and SQL Saturday event have speakers and sessions. All it takes is to ask permission to record. Most if not all speakers would love to be recorded as it promotes them and their content.
If you are running virtual meetings using Zoom/Teams, you already have that capability built-in. Just hit the record button once your presenter gives you the green light and hit the record button once again to stop recording. Don’t forget to download that recorded video once it’s ready.
You don’t need to be a professional Editor-in-Chief to edit video. If you have never done that before, you just need patience, tons of patience. While initially, you are not going to enjoy the steep learning curve with all new techniques and vocabulary that you might not be familiar with, on your second and third video, it will get really easy, copy-and-paste easy.
Thinking in economic terms, what is an opportunity cost here? Once you become familiar with software like TechSmith Camtasia, it will take you somewhere between 30-60 minutes to produce each video.
Once you are done with perfecting the video (removing noise, making cuts on both ends of the video, and adding intro), you are ready to make it an mp4 movie file. Once you have that file, feel free to upload your newly minted content to YouTube where it will stay there forever. It will stay forever to promote the content, speaker, and event.
Just to give you an idea of what LA Data Platform and SQL Saturday in Los Angeles video stats are looking like.
January 19, 2022, marked the day of LA Data Platform User Group’s first (and also first successful) attempt to enhance the MS Teams environment by opening up our user group meeting to a broader audience. This blog post explains how to add a Facebook Live (live stream) option to your existing MS Teams set up.
While MS Teams provides a great way to run virtual meetings, it is limited in its distribution. Unfortunately, MS Teams is not designed to play well with other distribution platforms (other than itself). MS Teams allows people with a meeting hyperlink to join using either a desktop app (full experience) and/or a web browser (limited experience). Both of those options keep users locked into a Microsoft ecosystem, but what if you wanted to invite users beyond Microsoft?
The main problem is how Teams handles Real-Time Messaging Protocol (“RTMP”). RTMP is the standard protocol that allows Teams to send A/V data to the server. Unfortunately, as of now, Microsoft does not expose any server details. This is where OBS Studio and Restream.io come in to bridge this gap.
Introducing Restream.IO (freemium) and OBS Studio (free). Both tools allow our User Group to escape the MS Teams “bubble” and to live stream our session to Facebook Live (and more social media channels in the future). In nutshell, we will use OBS to stream MS Teams while using Restream to connect OBS stream to Facebook.
Restream.io – Restream allows you to broadcast live content to 30+ social media channels (free tier is limited to 2 social media channels).
You would need to visit https://restream.io/, create an account, and set up your feed destinations (social media channels). Hit Add Destination button and proceed to your selected social media channel. In our case, we added the LA Data Platform Facebook account.
OBS Studio – free and open-source software for video recording and live streaming. Works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Download it from here – https://obsproject.com.
While the main purpose of OBS Studio is to help record content, we are going to use it to capture screen/audio and stream it in real-time to restream.io services. Essentially, we are using OBS capture and stream MS Teams window (see Fig #2).
To make OBS Studio work, you would need to decide on the display capture and set up the streaming.
Under OBS Studio sources, you will find Display Capture that allows you to select the Display that is going to be captured (see Fig #3).
Click on Settings, then Stream, and choose Restream.io service from a drop-down (see Fig #4).
Now, click on the Get Stream Key button which would lead you to the restream.io website to copy Stream Key (see Fig #5) which you would need to type/paste to a Stream Key textbox.
If you did everything correctly, you are all set now (see Fig #6).
To conclude, what did we gain from Facebook Live? Despite the fact that we didn’t gain any immediate Facebook likes/follows, our Facebook Group got much more visibility now in form of # people reached and # engagements. Here is what our User Group January 2022 session live stream looked like on Facebook (see Fig #7).
This blog post is partially based on the following resources:
After enjoying a 6+ months of free forever service by MooSend, the new owner (SiteCore) decided to remove that option (see Fig #1). We are back to MailerLite. Luckily for us, we were familiar with MailerLite, didn’t close our account and still familiar with the interface. This blog post is going to cover all the needed changes to go from MooSend to MailerLite.
Moving email platform is nothing new to us (this is our 4th move), but here is what it takes to move between the platforms. If this is your first-time, you need to allocate somewhere between 30 to 120 minutes.
You can move to your new email marketing platforms in 5 easy steps:
Email List – copy list with all the email addressees
Signup form – create a new hyperlink to allow people to subscribe your contact list
DNS records – adjust MX setting to improve email deliverability
Test email campaigns sending it to test accounts
Export contacts from MooSend (see Fig #2), downloaded the list, and imported that list into MailerLite (see Fig #3).
Recreate email campaigns and since MailerLite doesn’t allow custom-HTML option with a free account, we just recreated all the building blocks to match as best as we can our current 5 email campaigns and most importantly copied over all the unique images used in email campaigns (Fig #4).
Create a new form to allow people to subscribe by adding their email address to a main email list (Fig #5)
Follow instruction on MailerLite and make adjustments to you web site DNS records. You would need to add/update your MX, TXT, and CNAME records prior to getting everything green (Fig #6).
Enjoy your new email marketing platform – MailerLite.
The Communication Team at the Data Driven Technologies is using the following freemium services to keep LA Data Platform User Group and SQL Saturday in Los Angeles relevant on social media. We choose those tools primarily due to their price and ease of use.
To send all our email campaigns, we use a combination of Moosend MailerLite and Sender.
MailerLite.com is a freemium service (completely free under 1000 email contacts with less than 12,000 emails a month) to schedule and compose email newsletters. We use it to communicate with Los Angeles Data Platform User Group members. It’s more important for us to constantly engage our core User Group members, so we stay under 1,000 subscribers while sending as much volume of emails as possible. We send over 10+ scheduled email campaigns every month which translates into close to less than 12,000 emails monthly, so with MailerLite we can achieve email volume for free. Sender.net is a freemium service (free with 15,000 emails monthly limit) to schedule and compose email newsletters. We use it to communicate with 1.5K+ SQL Saturday in Los Angeles members. We send about 5-6 scheduled email campaigns for 3-4 months prior to an event in June and 2-3 campaigns after the event, so we want a limitless contact list while we can compromise on a total monthly volume of emails.
To manage social media posts, we use a combination of Buffer (free with 3 social media channels and 10 scheduled posts) and Planoly (free with 2 social media channels and photos only). Buffer.com is a freemium service to schedule posts to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more while Planoly.com is a freemium service to schedule posts to Instagram and Pinterest. We have 2 separate accounts (one for LA Data Platform User Group and one for SQL Saturday in Los Angeles) to separate 2 activities.
Another great freemium service (a free account is more than enough) that we are using is Linktree.com. Linktree.com manages all our digital touchpoints in one single place as well as collects views/clicks statistics. We keep all the essential links for both LA Data Platform User Group and SQL Saturday in Los Angeles members and use 2 separate accounts for each.
Many sponsors are asking us for the audience numbers to make decisions, so we need an easy way to communicate those trends and numbers. This is where we found a handy Databox.com freemium service (free with 3 social media sources limit). Databox.com makes dashboards to highlight different social media KPIs. We have one account for each: LA Data Platform and SQL Saturday in LA.
Tweetdeck.twitter.com is a completely free solution (TweetDeck is owned by Twitter) to manage and organize multiple Twitter accounts. We occasionally use it to like, retweet, mention, and participate in interesting topics from @LASQLBootCamp, @LADataPlatform, and @SQLSatLA Twitter accounts.
mxtoolbox.com is a freemium monitoring service for your MX records to check on your email deliverability. We use it to check on our LA Data Platform and SQL Sat LA email campaigns.
https://uptimerobot.com is a freemium monitoring service for your HTTPS, website. We use it to check on our web site up-time.