Playing around with Periscope

Periscope, the new video app from Twitter, was released last week. If you’re not yet familiar, the basic principle is that it allows users to livestream videos of whatever they want or view and comment on videos being streamed by other users.

The way the app works is very simple. Start to stream a video and you’re able to watch people comment and ‘like’ your video (which they do simply by tapping the screen) in real time. You also have a visual of how many people are currently viewing it, and you’ll see animated hearts float up from the bottom right as you gain those all-important likes.

In order to make your stream available for replay you have to upload the video directly after the stream has ended; Periscope starts this process automatically, and your video’s then available to view for 48 hours.

Using the Periscope app

Once you get over the initial hurdle of deciding what exactly to film, Periscope is pretty straight forward — just give your stream a creative title (this plays an important role in ensuring you get views) and away you go.

I spent some time playing with the app at the weekend, filming a few random things to see what kind of reaction I got.

Fridges already seem to be emerging as an obsession for a lot of users, so, for my first stream, I filmed mine and titled it “Fridge”. I got a fair few ‘hearts’ and comments, but, disappointingly, not that many views.

My second stream, “Dog”, got a few more viewers and a few more ‘hearts’, as well as lots of comments on how cute the dog was. However, there were also some comments from people asking to see my fridge. Bizarre…

By this time I was up to about 100 ‘hearts’ in total and was averaging around 18-35 viewers at a time per stream. (Worth noting here that hearts are accumulative on your account — it’ll be interesting to see what purpose these could serve in the future.)

I then had a look at the most popular streams; none-too-surprisingly, titles with sexual connotations were doing particular well. So I decided to play on this with the aim of getting myself some more ‘hearts’.

I filmed my wife watching TV with the dog and titled my stream “Hot wife & Dog”; immediately I was up to 150 viewers and ‘hearts’ were flooding in. I ran the stream — in which she did absolutely nothing but stare off screen — for about 20 seconds, and, by the end, I’d received over 700 ‘hearts’.

My thoughts on the Periscope app

The service reminds me a little bit of Chatroulette, which you’ll recall quickly turned into a playground for voyeurs. Typically, Periscope is already being used in a similarly sexual way by some users. The fact that my final stream got the most ‘hearts’ by far just shows that users are looking for sexual content, and I myself saw more than my fair share of penises and boobs when I was using it…

There is a blocking function, but I fear this won’t be enough to prevent Periscope becoming a porn playground. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how — or if — Twitter responds to this.

I’m always interested in what I can do to manipulate and interact with new technologies, so naturally I looked to see if there was an API that I could connect with. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one, but am hoping to find a ‘backdoor’ in once I have a chance to delve a little deeper.

It remains to be seen how brands might attempt to use Periscope, but people like Paul Boag have already started to broadcast from it and it obviously offers plenty of possibilities for brands and organisations to do something a little a different.

I found watching random streams was strangely addictive, and particularly enjoyed it when someone from the same country was streaming the same TV program I was watching.

This got me thinking of how TV subscriptions services plan to combat people attempting to live stream the content they broadcast through the app. I’ve not yet encountered a limit on the time you can stream, so it could be that you could stream whole movies or football games to Periscope.

All in all it’s definitely an exciting service — and when I find that elusive ‘back door’ to the API, I’m hoping to utilise it for something interesting myself.