Now anyone can become the host of a live internet talk show with software from the Hollywood-based startup company Operator 11. Using a home computer fitted with a webcam and headset, hosts, called netjockeys, use Operator 11’s web software to produce, mix, and broadcast shows. In a new twist on the online video model, netjockeys can patch in live video of audience members, who thus become guest stars on the show without having to share a studio with the host. The software further encourages social interaction by running a chat room in conjunction with each show, where people can make comments without appearing on camera.
Operator 11 CEO Josh Harris says he sees the company as a video version of MySpace. While some shows have themes – comedy, music and video games are popular subjects – people are primarily using it for video chat. (Operator 11 does host some off-color chats, but Harris says all shows are monitored for content the company deems inappropriate.) On a particularly busy night this month, 130 shows were created.
The band Killola, for example, uses its Operator 11 shows to stay in touch with fans, sometimes hosting shows from their laptops while on the road. “We’ve been doing … chats for a while,” drummer Dan Grody says, “but never had this kind of platform to use.” Fans can watch the shows live via the Operator 11 Web site or the band’s MySpace page, and can appear in them if they have Operator 11 accounts.
Though the site’s platform puts a lot of control in the hands of the users, Harris says this is currently a blessing and a curse. “We’re asking too much of the audience at this point,” he says. “…You’ve got to have the webcam, the right computer, the will to do it, and the ability to get over a little bit of a hump in using web software.” Would-be users have to learn, for example, how to use the Operator 11 interface to mix feeds from different participants. Though project manager Guillermo Platas has been streamlining and improving the user interface, he says it’s still difficult at first for most newcomers. Harris says users typically start by watching shows and participating in chat, before becoming full-fledged producers. “On the third day,” he says, “you can see they’ve discovered lighting, makeup, and hair, and have figured out how to produce their own shows.”