July 15, 2009

Nice try, but

For its 76th General Convention in Anaheim, which is going on now, The Episcopal Church touted its “Media Hub” as an effective tool to follow the proceedings. This Web site (at http://gchub.episcopalchurch.org/), was supposed to provide live video, video on demand, and links to other information related to the General Convention. As an Episcopalian who attended much of the 2006 General Convention but who was unable to go to Anaheim this year, I had looked forward to having a virtual seat for General Convention 2009 events.

It is perhaps an overstatement to say that the Media Hub is a colossal flop, but, at least for me, it has been a source of much exasperation and disappointment.

It must be said, of course, that the idea of the Media Hub was terrific. Collecting information about the complex, nearly two-week-long event all in one place was surely a good plan. I looked forward to seeing streaming video of live events, as well as video on demand of events I had to miss or wanted to see again. The links to ENS stories are helpful, and legislation tracking is helpful to a point. (The Media Hub provides a different view of the legislative process than does the site at http://gc2009.org/ViewLegislation/, which is probably the ultimate source for what appears on the Media Hub.) Some other features are less obviously useful.

Today, however, I have had it with the Media Hub, and I’ve learned that others have experienced the same problems I have. The video provides good quality picture and sound, but there seem to be more annoying freezes than from other sites. Perhaps the server and bandwidth resources devoted to the Media Hub are inadequate.

More annoying is the less-than-systematic posting of on-demand video. I caught the end of the evening media briefing on Monday, and I have been trying to see the entire event ever since. It was not quickly made available, and I wrote to the e-mail address provided for support. I have received no reply. Since then, more video has been posted, including, apparently, the event I wanted to see. Alas, when I try to view it, Internet Explorer suggests the file is loading, but nothing ever happens. Firefox behaves the same way. More helpfully, Safari quickly tells me that the file, whose path it displays, could not be found. Several other video clips are advertised as available but seemingly are not. Moreover, the listing of on-demand video clips is only approximately in chronological order and includes duplicates.

Most annoying, however, is the fact that there seem to be problems with the code behind the Media Hub front page. Internet Explorer indicates that the page loads, but with errors, the nature of which is unclear. Both Internet Explorer and Firefox display error messages related to scripts running on the page. These messages (or the underlying errors) can make it difficult to close (or use) a window displaying the Media Hub.

Even with its faults, I have continued to visit the Media Hub. It is, after all, the only game in town, for video, anyway. Unfortunately, what I must say to The Episcopal Church is, “Nice try, but you didn’t quite deliver what was promised.” Perhaps the church can do better in 2012.

Postscript. I have been reminded that much of what Episcopalians want to know about the General Convention can be found in its accustomed place, Episcopal Life Online. Episcopal Life Online even has some video and picture galleries. You may not find everything there, but what you do find works.

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