Meet the Makers: Q&A with Caleb Elston of Justin.tv

Aug 6, 2010
Tech

Talk about the challenges and opportunities associated with bringing Justin.tv to the iPhone. We wanted to make the interface feel natural and uncluttered, and we wanted to make sure that every live video on Justin.tv was available on the iPhone. We referred back to these ideas constantly as we made decisions about what to include […]

Talk about the challenges and opportunities associated with bringing Justin.tv to the iPhone.

We wanted to make the interface feel natural and uncluttered, and we wanted to make sure that every live video on Justin.tv was available on the iPhone. We referred back to these ideas constantly as we made decisions about what to include and what to ignore. Making an app intuitive is actually quite hard; it’s much easier to add features and add new elements to the screen, but that adds complexity and leads to an unfocused app. We worked hard to come up with creative solutions to provide what we think is the core Justin.tv experience on the iPhone. Making every video available on the iPhone required a massive effort from our engineering team to build a scalable solution that could transcode thousands of simultaneous videos to be watched on EDGE, 3G and WiFi.

How long was the development timeline for the iPhone app, and what were the biggest surprises along the way?

About 7 months, from original conception in August of 2009 to launch in March of 2010. We spent a lot of that time designing the interface for the app to make sure it would “feel” right. Transcoding and reliably delivering the video to iPhones around the world on networks of varying speeds were new problems for us. It took a long time to get the video to stream smoothly even when your signal strength wasn’t very good, but we came up with a solution that is the best we’ve seen so far.

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What does the term “media convergence” mean to you?

Information or entertainment can come very literally from anywhere or anyone. There are more options than any time in history for finding interesting things to watch, and at the same time experience it on more devices and in more places. Anyone with a smartphone or webcam can share their experience with friends, family or the world. With our app, you can choose from thousands of live broadcasts and watch them while you ride the bus or are in line at a coffee shop — that is powerful.

In what ways has the iPhone app impacted your thinking on the value proposition of the Justin.tv website and company at large?

We are pushing even harder on having the best mobile experiences for viewing and broadcasting across multiple platforms. It is clear that more and more people will be using Justin.tv from their smartphones and that it opens up the possibility for many more people to broadcast live on our platform. We want to make Justin.tv fun, easy and fast–it’s hard to argue that making it available anywhere–everywhere–isn’t a crucial part of that.

What are your current and future plans for distribution on additional mobile platforms and devices?

We are focused on iPhone and Android and we will have the best live video experience available on those platforms.

Particularly when developing mobile applications, describe the discipline required in executing a product plan in an industry that transforms seemingly by the day.

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The most important product plan is building an app that people will love. The technology of the phone, the operating system, and your app is just a means to an end. It is important to know what the devices and platforms are capable of, but ultimately users care about what the app can do for them, not how it is accomplished. Particularly in mobile products, it’s important to keep that end goal in sight.

How do you assess a return on investment for you iPhone app?

We look to see that users coming back to the app and the site on a regular basis. We want to be where are users are and provide them with the means to get the most from Justin.tv wherever they are. Especially with our upcoming iPhone update that will allow broadcasting, we want to see more people using Justin.tv to share live video on a regular basis.

Where do you see Justin.tv one year from now? Five years?

I see us continuing to build the best mobile live video experiences for people and making it easier and easier to share live video with the people they care about.

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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