Tuesday, 28 July 2009

BrightTalk review - free webcasts on security, identity, privacy & many more subjects

I’ve just come across BrightTALK’s free webcasts. A webcast, as they describe it, is “an interactive, online audio/visual presentation (live or recorded) with audio and a synchronized slide show.” Here, you just watch via your browser.

Information security, privacy, identity talks

There are numerous “channels” including one on “Information Security” which hosts lots of webcasts on issues of security, identity and privacy.

Here’s their feed of upcoming talks on Information Security including e.g.:

Interestingly there are talks by lawyers as well as people from the technology industry, e.g. Privacy, Network Security and the Law - mostly by US lawyers, although there's one UK one, Overview of Legal Issues Affecting Web 2.0 Privacy.

Topic channels are not restricted to technology. Other channels include Media and Marketing, and Environmental Law, even Forensic Science and Financial Services. (There’s some duplication of certain content across different channels.)

General review / overview

BrightTALK is clearly aimed squarely at the corporate market for professional education and training – to register you have to provide job title and level as well as some information about your organisation.

They use the freemium business model. It’s free to register with BrightTALK to view live webcasts (which can be played back after the event). But if you want to run a live interactive broadcast of more than 30 minutes once a month, you have to pay a monthly fee (premium, enterprise), which gets you subscriber information / metrics too, and the ability to email subscribers (Webcasters’ FAQs.)

This of course provides good marketing opportunities for businesses – there were 58 people who listened in on the webcast this morning on “The Future of IAM is FIAM” (federated identity and access management), which I cover in another post on the new UK federated trust scheme British Business Federation Authority (BBAF).

While I’ve not worked out BrightTALK’s quality vetting mechanism yet (for the starter channel at least, it seems anyone can just sign up for free and just start broadcasting), I imagine that charging to webcast at more than just a basic level will restrict the “heavy” webcasters to serious businesses.

And indeed, from the organisation names I’ve seen in the Information Security channel, many are well respected enterprises.

How user friendly is it?

Really very intuitive. You attend or replay webcast sessions on any web browser that supports Flash, i.e. all modern web browsers will work. Click Details for info on the session. (Test your system; Viewers’ FAQs.)

As mentioned earlier, the webcasts are basically videos of slideshows with audio narration, and voting. Yes, broadcasters can run live polls and audience votes are tallied and displayed immediately. (Use the Vote button show above to review the questions and votes, including when playing an archived webcast.)

Participants can also type questions in live ("Ask a Question") and share webcasts (by emailing a link etc), and there’s even a Twitter stream per webcast with hashtag pre-filled in, so you can live tweet it during the event.

Some issues

Broadcaster information

I’ve not been able to find a webcaster profile yet, e.g. if you want to find out more information about the person who gave a webcast, like contact details. Maybe someone can enlighten me as to where they’re hidden, if I’ve missed it? In the “The Future of IAM is FIAM” talk the speaker said he would give his email details (presumably during the talk), but again I couldn’t see or hear any.

If I’m right and there are no “webcaster profiles” (there certainly weren’t any linked from the webcasts I’ve watched so far), I think that is very bad.

If I was paying a few hundred quid a month for the privilege of marketing my business, I’d want there to be a very easy way for my potential customers to reach me. I.e. click through to my contact info from the webcast.

BrightTALK really ought to provide detailed contact pages for premium / enterprise users, clearly linked to from all webcasts of that user, pronto (listing all the webcasts that organisation or person has produced).

Also, some details from certain descriptions were cut off when as a viewer I clicked Details. Again, BrightTALK should provide more space for paying broadcasters to set out their information and bio.

Searching / finding channels

You can search all webcasts, but I’d really like to be able to just search or browse channels. There are quite a lot to just wade through page by page (174!) and they aren’t even in alphabetical or hierarchichal-by-topic-and-subtopic order, as far as I can see.

Upcoming webcasts

The feed link for a channel isn’t on the main channel page. I found the link I gave above by clicking the “Share” button for a webcast, which enables you to enable a link to it to someone else, Digg it etc.

To me, “Share” for a particular webcast video isn’t the obvious place to look for a feed for the whole channel.

There needs to be a clear feed link on the page for each channel with autodiscovery.


They should allow subscribers to download the slides during (or after) a webcast. Again I couldn’t find any links.


Overall, though I think it’s an excellent service, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t actually making money from this. The webcasters seem to be mainly American, but anyone can sign up – I expect there will be more from the UK and Europe in time.

I certainly plan to watch many of the BrightTALK webcasts soon, especially those relating to Information Security.

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