Sunday, June 18, 2006

One of the services we provide is what is called a 'contact management system' for people who contact various radio and TV stations. 'Contact Management' is a way of ensuring that letters, emails, SMS messages and phone calls are all dealt with promptly and that the people doing this can know what contact has happened with an individual viewer or listener before. The radio and TV stations we help have tens of thousands of contacts per year, so this kind of thing is important. It is also important that the information is kept private and confidential.

When we started providing this service about just under two years ago the numbers on the system were pretty small, but have grown out of all proportion and now the two servers we had handling this system were really not coping very well. Every time one of the people doing listener support would click on a page of information it could take up to 30 seconds to display. They were getting very frustrated. As a clue the BBC home page takes about 7 seconds to display everything... this was a text only page and taking 4 times as long!

This upgrade has been long in the works, if you have followed th saga of the motherboards you will know it well. But at last this week we managed to upgrade the main server and at last all the parts have arrived to upgrade the backup server.

One of the things we also do is research new technologies to see how they can be used for communicating around the region. This week Peter showed me something that as they say 'blew my mind away'. We have been streaming audio for some time and doing trials with video streaming, including streaming video to some pretty large numbers of people from various conferences. But to my mind video on the Internet is pretty lame. If the material is not available elsewhere then I guess it's OK to watch but I'd much rather watch satellite TV.

However... Peter showed me the new Reuters website with embedded video. The quality was stunning and smooth [often Internet video is jerky] with good sound. The technology used for this is Flash video and uses Flash Media Server software.

Funny enough this has come along just at the time we need it for a project we have discussed for some time, and has grown closer to actually happening while I was in Egypt. There is a TV programme on one of the satellite TV channels about a couple of small groups of people who each meet together in their homes to worship Jesus. As you can imagine in some places in the region this is the most appropriate way for followers of Jesus to meet.

The desire is to create an Internet 'home' that people can come to who see the TV programme and who want to know more and want to link up with others who feel the same as they do. I use the term Internet 'home' because the aim is to be much more than a website, with lots of things on offer and eventually live linkups between people who cannot meet physically. We had already decided to use Flash technology, but the Media Server technology will make it much more open and friendly for those coming to the site. Of course dreaming the idea is only 1% of the work!

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