[Cu-wireless] Re: advice on software for online debate

Stephane Alnet stephane at shimaore.net
Thu Mar 18 13:13:02 CST 2004


I will be happy to answer any questions you may have on voice-over-IP 
and help in any way possible. However I don't have at this time the 
depth of conferencing *product* knowledge required to readily answer 
your question, although I'd be happy to do additional research if you 
want. More importantly I can't ethically do a recommendation since I'm 
working for a vendor selling VoIP products and doing so would 
constitute a conflict of interest. But as I said I'll be happy to help 
in any way. :)

I'm forwarding your request to our larger distribution list so that if 
anybody is interested in researching the topic they can work on it.

In the meantime, here are some thoughts I had while reading the 
document you sent (sorry if you already know any or all of this!):

* besides the software you are using, quality of the voice is going to 
be affected by:

   - the audio equipment you are using; using a headset with attached 
microphone is better than using a microphone on the PC and speakers, 
for example;

   - the speed of the computer you are using; for example, a 
recent/faster computer will be able to provide smaller latency (the 
time to transform the audio signal into packets that go on the network 
and vice-versa), especially if you are using complex codecs (like 

   - the speed of connection to the Internet; since you cannot control 
the delivery of the audio streams over the Internet, you should at 
least allow for a connection at 128kb/s. (The requirements for FWD[1] 
are a decent guideline.) Although technologies are available to provide 
better transmission quality over an IP network, these are not deployed 
on the Internet backbone; providing higher bandwidth at the endpoints 
is one way to mitigate this kind of issues.

[1] http://www.freeworlddialup.com/support/faq/networking#328

Note: All of these can be tested independently from the "conferencing" 
part using Netmeeting or any similar peer-to-peer voice software.

* reading through the document it seems you are looking for a solution 
that (from a voice standpoint only) allows:
  (a) four participants to actively talk at any time;
  (b) an arbitrary number of participants to listen.

In this scenario I would highly recommend that you separate the 
"conference" server from the audio endpoints. Ideally that conference 
server should be located at a point (on the Internet) where it has a 
"lot" of bandwidth available; then the active audio endpoints only need 
to have a two-way connection to the server (not to each of the other 
participants, and definitely not to every listener!), and the listeners 
can listen-in using some form of audio streaming. (Again, since I don't 
know much about products in this area, it is possible that Sametime 
already provides this. Or not.)

You may need different components to do the audio bridging (ideally 
under control of some website, based on the larger proposal), and the 
audio streaming. So maybe something like this:

          active        active       etc.
          participant   participant  ..
            ^              ^             ^
             \             |            /
              \            |           /
               v           v          v
               ------------------------    ------------------------
               | audio bridge         |----| web-based management |
               ------------------------    ------------------------
                    | streaming    |
                     /  /  |  \   \
                    v  v   v  v    v
                  Listeners listeners..

Thinking of it, there are "service providers" that provide similar kind 
of services (for example for online press-conference / earning reports 
/...). Maybe it would be worth investigating what product they use for 
that purpose.

Once again I'm not an expert in this kind of solution, so these are 
merely pointers. Hope you find them helpful!

PS: Remove "nospam" from my email address to reply directly. Or simply 
reply to the list if you feel so! :)

On Mar 18, 2004, at 10:19, Jerzy Celichowski wrote:
> Hi,
> I have learnt about your listserv and I am writing to ask whether you
> would be able to direct me to someone with VoIP/software experience to
> help us develop a project (online debates) or just forward it to the
> list.
> I work for Open Society Institute, which, broadly speaking, supports
> various democratisation projects, and the idea of online student 
> debates
> is one of them. We would like to identify/develop software that would
> enable online debate between kids from divided areas such as Kosovo,
> Palestina/Israel or Armenia/Azerbaijan. I am attaching terms of
> reference to give you a better idea of what we have in mind.
> Many thanks for your help!
> Jerzy Celichowski
> deputy director
> Information Program
> Open Society Institute
> http://www.soros.org/initiatives/information
> 1051 Budapest
> Oktober 6. utca 12.
> Hungary
> mobile +36 20 4546 548
> phone +36 1 327 3135
> fax +36 1 327 3042
> Jerzy Celichowski
> deputy director of Information Program
> Open Society Institute
> <TOR final--debate software.doc>

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