James Stanley

What is the most interesting thing live streaming right now?

Sat 17 September 2016

I had an idea for an interesting project: it would simply show whatever is the most interesting live stream available at the current moment. It ought to update the stream dynamically whenever a new more interesting stream becomes available.

By way of an MVP, I wrote a program to scrape https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4R8DWoMoI7CAwX8_LjQHig/featured, which lists a bunch of live streams on YouTube. The script then chooses the stream that has the most viewers, and updates an index.html file to embed that stream. You can watch it at stream.jes.xxx (it probably won't work on mobile). The page does not currently update to a new stream if a new one takes over (update 2016-09-18: it does now), maybe I'll sort that out in the future. Just manually refresh the page whenever you want to check for a new stream. There's a lot of scope to improve on this MVP.

So far today we've had about 8 hours of oily men (apparently the "Mr. Olympia 2016" ceremony was really really popular) followed by a football match between Etoile de Sahel and Mazembe, with Arabic commentary. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. This was followed by some live action of a guy with a goatee playing Minecraft, for about 5 minutes, followed by a guy without a goatee playing Grand Theft Auto.

Facebook Live is similar to this idea. Facebook Live contains more individuals' streams and less "organised" streaming. I think it would be great to incorporate Facebook Live streams when they are more popular than the YouTube ones. For example, it could switch to a stream showing the aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile, at the moment it becomes more popular than the oily men parade.

A handful of people have proposed ideas along the lines of selecting a stream based on the user's personal preferences. But I think the main appeal of this project is that you're not viewing the world through the lens of your filter bubble, you're just watching whatever is going on, live, that the most other people are interested in watching.

Using popularity as a heuristic for "interesting" is far from perfect, but probably good enough for now. Maybe a better metric would involve some measure of the rate of growth of the number of viewers.

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