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Grab a webcam and give lifecasting a try

  • Story Highlights
  • Tech enthusiast Chris Pirillo shares tips for "lifecasting" your daily doings on the Web
  • All you need is a webcam, a microphone, and an Internet connection
  • Justin.tv began with a guy strapping a webcam to his head and streaming it live
  • Consider pre-recording videos when you're starting out to get the hang of things
By Chris Pirillo
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(CNN) -- When I first heard of Justin.tv, I was insanely jealous. The idea was so brain-dead simple that a lot of people -- including me -- wondered how we hadn't come up with it first.

A self-admitted tech geek, Chris Pirillo is president of Lockergnome.com, a blogging network.

A self-admitted tech geek, Chris Pirillo is president of Lockergnome.com, a blogging network.

Nowadays, Justin.tv is a bustling hub of streaming video channels broadcast and viewed by dozens of thousands. But at its humble beginning only a few short years ago, it was really just one guy (Justin Kan) walking around San Francisco with a webcam strapped to his head.

It ran for 24 hours, seven days a week (barring technical difficulties), whether he was being interviewed by NPR or chowing down on a salad. It was like the "show about nothing" concept pitched by George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld and made real -- and it took off instantly.

I guess it's like television or the rest of the Web: If someone is interested enough to do it, someone else will be interested enough to view it.

One might wonder about the sort of people so easily drawn into following such an experiment, but there were tons of us. Yes, I say "us" because I have to count myself among its first flock of fans. An unedited, human-eyed peek into the life of another person? Color me fascinated!

It reminds me of how we'd sit glued to MTV in the '80s because, even if we weren't interested in what was on at that very moment, we were constantly in suspense of what might come next. Even if you weren't all that interested in going round n' round with Ratt, you might hang out for a while to watch Thomas Dolby get blinded with science. Anything could happen.

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But suspense is only part of the equation when trying to make sense of the phenomenon that is reality entertainment. I think part of the appeal is that it inspires us with the feeling that we, too, can create and participate. It's an unscripted exercise ripe with the potential for adventure.

You don't have to be an award-winning playwright for a crack at having your voice heard by a sizeable audience. A tiny green fellow I once knew would be proud that it's become more popular to "do" than to "not do" or -- worse -- "try." Ah, Kermit. I wonder what he's up to these days?

Thus inspired, like many of you out there, I'm one of those people who took the initiative and decided to give this "lifecasting" thing a go. Much of my day is spent in front of a Web cam, interacting with my viewers in an IRC chat room.

We throw ideas around (usually tech-related, but conversation can meander off into matters of pet care and the intricacies of quantum knitting. You just never know) and I try to help people solve the computer problems that make them go "hmmm."

Over the years, I've found that troubleshooting is something I'm good at doing. Being available on the Web for hours every day lets me help more people than I would have been able to even just a few short years ago. Best of all? I like to do it! In another age, I could have been a black-lunged coal miner or a scurvy-withered prison ship navigator.

Yeah, I think I'll count my 21st-century blessings.

My joy at having found a calling in the modern world must carry across to computer monitors around the globe, because I'm constantly being asked by my viewers how they, too, can get their foot in the lifecasting door. The will's way's been paved; technology has adapted along with lifecasting's popularity and it's actually easier than ever to get started.

All you need is a webcam, a microphone, and an Internet connection. Many live streaming services are free for personal use, though don't rule out pre-recording videos when you're starting out to get the hang of things before making the plunge into 100% live lifecasting. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from jumping right in with both feet, but some people find comfort in cultivating their front-of-the-camera craft before going public, and that's fine.

Build your self-confidence and mind your mannerisms, but always expect the unexpected. You will get caught off guard now and again, regardless of how much preparation you think you've done -- and that's fine, too. It'll thicken your skin.

Interact with your viewers. This will thicken your skin even more, but you might be surprised at how supportive people can be if they like what you're doing.

Think about broadcasting social events, but always get permission. Don't shove a camera in someone's face if they're not expecting it.

If you're not intimidated by any of this, then go ahead and give lifecasting a try. Have a reason to do it, even if it's personal. Don't be afraid to be yourself. Most important: Have fun, and don't take yourself too seriously.

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