Tinychat and citizen journalism

Have you ever been chatting with a friend online and wished you could see them in person? Skype is a great tool, but that is only providing both users have the software. While the download is free and relatively simple, tinychat, a new chat service, is a better alternative for achieving quick video chat without the complication of launching a program.

When I originally read the article that discussed tinychat on Mashable.com (http://mashable.com/2009/09/30/tinychat-p2p/), I wondered what complications could arise in terms of “launching” Skype. It is an easy-to-use program and it’s not like it takes an eternity to load. However; there are some issues that I have experienced regarding the quality of video. I do not need to be viewing a high-definition image, but I also enjoy seeing the person on the other end of the video without having to wait two minutes for the video to un-freeze.

Tinychat is a useful tool—especially because you do not need to create yet another username to sign up. I was able to choose my URL for my video chat, and type in my Twitter username to automatically Tweet the URL on my page. From there, you can invite your friends to your chat and set up a video chat to broadcast instantaneously.

This is a simple way to create a mini Vlog, or spread an important idea or message rapidly. Imagine being at the scene of the Hudson River emergency landing as the events were unfolding. Using an iPhone, you could log on to tinychat, Tweet the URL, and make the room an open forum so users could watch the broadcast and view some video from the scene before the larger news stations have put any footage on the air. This is citizen journalism at its best.

As more free tools and applications emerge that make the information collection and dispersion process simpler and more manageable, users with iPhones and other mobile devices that have similar features will be more likely and willing to take part in the reporting process. So what’s next? I say they incorporate a flip camera into a mobile phone, allowing the user to capture video and automatically send it out. Other ideas?


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