Tag Archives: technology

The Best Live Streaming App for Private Events and Social Distancing Broadcasts

As you can see, this was one hot ticket!

This January, when I had my daughter baptized, I couldn’t invite any friends or family because of the pandemic. I still wanted to invite folks to see the ceremony and join with prayers remotely. This seems like a really common circumstance in 2020 and 2021 but I struggled to find an app that solved this simple problem. All I needed was:

  • An easy-to-access live stream — I couldn’t put older relatives through software downloads and didn’t want to sack folks with social media account sign-up hoops. I just wanted a link they could go visit on any device.
  • Free or inexpensive — being a very small audience, I couldn’t justify a large cost (although after hunting for solutions for hours, I got pretty close to paying whatever it would take)
  • Mobile-friendly — honestly, my iPhone 12 is probably the best all-around camera I own so the software had to be a mobile-friendly app
  • Private — I don’t want to share this stream widely — it’s basically an invite-only, private virtual ceremony I want to email to only family and friends

I went to all the usual suspects but none came even close to fitting the bill:

  • CONFERENCING SOLUTIONSZoom, BlueJeans and Google Meet are kind of the first thing you think of during these social distancing times but all of them are really optimized for two-way communication and I didn’t want folks talking amongst themselves or to require people to download special software.
  • CREATOR PLATFORMSTwitch and YouTube are known for quality live streaming but because they cater to creators, they didn’t work. YouTube doesn’t allow mobile live streaming unless you have thousands of subscribers. Twitch wants you to reach an audience so their interface makes you share the broadcast into a channel — last thing I need are gamer trolls watching my baby’s baptism.
  • SOCIAL SITES – I tried Instagram, Facebook, Periscope and Twitter but all of them required you to broadcast to a select “group” for a private stream. It’s all part of their growth hacking obsession and switching cost manipulations: they want you to invite friends to make an account or continually prove the value of their network effect to folks who are already signed up.

The winning solution

I was shocked at the ultimate perfect solution: IBM Watson Media Live Streaming. I love it! I haven’t thought of IBM as a go-to problem-solving purveyor in years. You may as well tell me that the best solution is a product from Texas Instruments.

I believe the product is meant primarily for corporate live streaming but that pretty much made it an even better lock for private, secure, reliable streaming. That also means it’s probably outrageously expensive — but that’s okay for you and me and our one-off private events because they have a free 30-day trial!

IBM bought Ustream years ago and this mobile app and desktop interface is the result of that acquisition. Here’s what you get:

  • Private place to stream — generate your own private link where the stream will live, in advance, and you can even password-protect it
  • Seamless mobile app — so I can take advantage of the great camera (and decent audio capture) on my iPhone
  • Customize interactivity — you can allow or remove comments and social sharing to your liking

One important downside: the free trial only lets you have 5 live viewers of your stream. But this should be plenty for a small event where grandmas and grandpas are probably sharing devices from home anyway. You can also publish the video when it’s through which allows unlimited viewing afterward, on-demand. If 5 viewers is still too restrictive, their full account is $100/month.

Other solutions that came close

I’m sure there are others out there Googling and researching desperately as I was. If IBM isn’t the right fit, here’s what else I considered:

  • Livestream — Livestream.com was purchased by Vimeo and actually, many churches use their service because it’s so great for this use case. For whatever reason, Vimeo has bundled this in with their highest-tier $75/month account, which I came close to plunking down for, even with my small event.
  • Microsoft Stream – From what I understand, this is included free in business Office accounts, which nearly every professional has. I, unfortunately, have a “home” subscription so it wouldn’t work for me — even though that’s nearly the same cost as the business version. Microsoft should seriously reconsider this policy because it would be a nice add-value for families.

5 Unexpected Things Every New Dad Needs – Expecting Father’s Baby Gift Ideas

If you (or someone you know) is expecting a newborn I can already predict that their baby registry is packed to the gills with ironic onsies found on Instagram and useless organic baby bath salts. What’s NOT on the registry are these five things. And these five things are the dad gifts that will actually be useful to your expecting father friend.

These items are weird. In fact, if you put them on your baby registry, your relatives will be perplexed. And yet I’ve found them absolutely indispensable after 6 weeks taking caring for a newborn baby. These 5 purchases were essential to my newly-“dadded” man-brain and they were absolutely overlooked by Blake Lively or whatever blogger’s top ten gifts for dad list, so that’s why I’m sharing them here.

1. 50X Blue Surgical Huck Towels

By far and away the most useful thing in our entire household for 6 weeks straight has been all 50 of these simple reusable surgical huck towels. What the hell are surgical huck towels? They’re basically just uber cheap towels the use in the ER. This may seem straightforward so stay with me for a few paragraphs…

The idea of using a towel completely changes when you have 50 of them. When you just depend on the dozen or so “burp towels” you might get in a few gift baskets, you’ll subliminally limit your usage to just the dozen. When you feel like you have infinite towels, you will finally. be. FREE.

And you are going to need infinite towels. Towels for messes. Towels to protect areas from messes. Towels to cover up areas already covered in messes.

Basically, every time you do something with a newborn, you should start first by laying down a towel to contain whatever hazmat they might inflict on your world. When you have 50 of them, you’ll keep them in every basket, cabinet and drawer within arms reach of baby activity. Use them like paper towels, only they’re washable, soft and reusable.

2. Mini “Button Lamp” LED Lights

You will be amazed as how critical light management is. Even the slimmest shaft of light from the crack of a doorway will startle awake the little one you just spent hours shushing to sleep. So, your job as a dad is to create very simple and non-disruptive lights for essential tasks that take place late at night.

Your old man used motion-activated night lights. The best new solution are these simple mountable LEDs with a basic switch. LEDs are so low-power that they don’t need a wall socket so you can affix them anywhere — both discreet and right where you need it.

These are surprisingly bright for a single-bulb running on a hearing aid battery. You’ll want to stick it in a hidden-away spot both for aesthetics and because it’ll help your light “bounce” more softly into the right position.

These are both your “oh shit” lights and your crucial partners during regular nighttime chores. Here are the essential places we plunked them:

  • In the master bathroom so you can sneak in to pee without lighting up the whole room
  • Right next to the crib for emergency spit-ups
  • Above either side of the bed so that we can feed her at night without waking her too much
  • Behind the changing table because sometimes you can’t quite see if things down there are clean
  • Above the kitchen sink because you’ll be washing bottles, pumps and pacifiers at all hours

3. Temporary blackout shades

For like $5 each, you can buy the most impervious blackout shades available and then just toss them when you’re done. These are temporary disposable ones that stick anywhere with paint-friendly masking-tape-like stick.

Like I mentioned above — you need to prevent even that slender strip of streetlight from peeking between your mini-blinds and the window sill… and on to your newborn’s face.

The master bedroom’s baja chic window treatment is not going to cut it for the next few weeks while baby co-sleeps. Dad’s going to have to buck up for this temporary fix in a few rooms. Just layer them over the terrible light leaks. It’s a little ghetto but you’ll only need it till she sleeps in a more permanent place.

4. Hatch devices — more importantly, their app

My wife and I got on the Hatch train much too late for their epic smart scale to come in handy… I remember thinking, who the hell would want to weigh their baby so frequently? Well, new parents quickly learn how crucial the newborn’s weight can be to their happiness and sound sleep.

You can do two things with a baby’s weight: 1) get a sense of generally how long they can go between feeds because a heavier baby sleeps longer (in other words: estimate how long you can sleep without interruption) and 2) find out how much they’ve actually eaten on a given breastfeeding session (by weighing them before and after).

Another key: The Hatch App

Even if you’re not using the Hatch tech (we also like their sleep light) everyone can benefit from using the Hatch app — and it’s free. You can track everything from diaper usage, weigh-ins at the doctor’s office, nap times and feeding durations. What gets measured gets managed! And you’ll like managing your baby’s stats for two main reasons:

  1. COMMUNICATION – You, your partner and (God willing) some other helper/relative will all be caring for this baby. It helps enormously with communication if all parties know when the most recent diaper change happened or how long the last nap was. For instance, late at night, if one partner skips a diaper change, when then next partner wakes, they can just see on the dashboard what happened rather than waking their snoozing friend.
  2. ANALYSIS – Maybe, just maybe… you can begin to read the tea leaves of the child’s schedule, detect patterns and better diagnose the troubles that ail them and cause all the fuss and crying. Good luck with this one but sometimes we’ve had epiphanies looking at the “Schedule” tab. If anything, it will help you estimate the number of diapers to order on Amazon.

5. IKEA smart lighting with Alexa

Okay, I’m back on the lighting thing! But this is less about maintaining the oh-so-important mood lighting in your home and more about being hands-free.

When you’re angrily hot-stepping across your home with a flailing baby in your arms, it’s a huge win if you can plop her on the changing table, grab a wipe in one hand, a diaper in the other and holler “Alexa, turn on the lamp!” If a stubborn child is growing drowsy in the perfect position in your arms, you can hands-free ask Alexa to turn on white noise to further lull her… or your favorite podcast to lull you!

I’ve found IKEA’s lights to be very buggy but cost-effective enough that you’ll convert nearly your whole home in a weekend. Once a new dad has an inexpensive Alexa device and a few bulbs installed in the nursery, the family is pretty much kitted-out with hands-free automation.

Still not inspired? – More Dad gift ideas

It should go without saying but please PASS on the ironic onesie or the plush corgi and if all else fails, buy your expecting dad one of these things:

So those are the top 5 gifts I give every dad now that I’ve had a newborn myself! People will buy a new father all the other crap he needs so I’ve skipped that important junk. These 5 things will come in true handy and are at my fingertips when a new colleague or friend has a little one coming.