The real-time baby (what this means for media absorption)

If you were following my Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, or Flickr feeds you know by now that we had a baby on Saturday night.

Tonight, over on my Posterous blog, I asked the industry to give me curation tools so that I can tell you what I’m seeing on my screen and give you one place to find it all. So far the industry has ignored that.

But on Saturday night I tried to use as many tools as possible to bring you along on an event important to me. All in real time. What I learned was telling.

First, came email. That’s how we let our family know the event was close. What did I say in that email? “Watch Twitter.” Why email? Because most of my family and friends still like email the best for getting notified of things. They don’t get Twitter and FriendFeed. Some have gotten Facebook, though, but there I never know if people are seeing my most important updates, so we stayed away from that at first.

Anyway, I also checked in on Google Latitude, Gowalla, and FourSquare so that people would know we were at the hospital (I even Tweeted that, so people would know I was playing around). Mostly we did that for our social media friends. Our real life family and friends have no idea what those are and don’t use them yet. I did get a couple of surprised text messages from friends after checking in at FourSquare, saying they hoped things were going OK (they hadn’t seen our Tweets saying we were having a baby). Soon I had sent a message to FriendFeed and Twitter letting everyone know where I’d keep them up to date (I used FriendFeed for this, which pushed a single message over to Twitter — I knew that if I used Twitter too much I’d piss off a lot of my audience that really didn’t care that I was having a baby).

Which brings me to a point. Very few of my friends (even professional types) read Twitter all the time. A lot of people found out only today that we had a baby, even though our baby’s birth was retweeted hundreds of times on Sunday and by lots of people with fairly large audiences.

That’s the first lesson: even though you probably are getting sick and tired of hearing about something, like Michael Jackson’s death, which was retweeted by nearly every single one of my friends within the first 10 minutes of the news hitting (that’s what it seemed like anyway) the reality is that most of your friends haven’t even heard the news yet.

My brother Ben, for instance, didn’t hear the news until I called him because he was sick and wasn’t on his computer so didn’t get my email.

Which is the second lesson for media absorption: some people just are not reachable through modern media. If you want to reach those people you’ll have to do door-to-door knocking or calling campaigns. That’s why we got so many political phone calls last year.

Anyway, as the evening went on I’d occassionally Tweet. Things like “Ryan is playing games with us” or “baby’s arrival is tonight at earliest.”

Those Tweets traveled from Twitter to FriendFeed and over to a box on my blog. So anyone visiting one of those areas would know. I also let my Facebook friends know that a baby was on the way. That made sure I got as many people to know something was about to happen as possible.

Lesson three: get your message as much distribution as possible. Some of my friends only hang out on Facebook. If you don’t let them know, your message will arrive to them slower (it will still get there, due to people retweeting and such, but why make it hard?)

Anyway, as the evening wore on, things started to speed up. I tweeted about the drugs being better here than at Stanford (by the way, Sequoia is a WAY BETTER PLACE TO HAVE A BABY than Stanford is — our second son was born at Stanford and we can tell you lengthy stories about how much better the experience is here at Sequoia. Don’t believe me? Yelp backs us up).

Over the next couple of hours I tweeted “getting ready for C-section” and within minutes: “Gotta run, little Ryan is coming soon.

The big event was here. The doctors put me out in a hallway to wait while Maryam was prepared for surgery. It let me slow down, catch my breath, and I was able to use my iPhone to capture an image and post that up.

On my screen I could see how people were reacting to the images around the world. This was a big change from when Milan was born, two years ago (we tweeted his birth and posted photos too, but back then the real time web wasn’t so real time).

Anyway, in the surgery room I used mostly my 5D MKII. Mostly to make images for just Maryam and me. I wanted the first images to be high-quality, so I used my SLR. Luckily for this Maryam was almost asleep most of the time so I could watch the proceedure (the doctors watching me nervously because they know many guys faint at the sight of surgery — they had a screen up so that they could keep me from looking if they had to). Maryam forbade me from publishing in public any of these images. We had reached our privacy line, but I did make the images anyway — that’s the journalist training in me from photojournalism classes.

Soon little Ryan Soroush Scoble was out and crying and here I switched briefly to an iPhone, so I could get an image up right away to family. One family friend of Maryam’s told us today that it was incredible being able to watch in real time what was going on.

Over the first hour we gave little Ryan a bath, watched as he got his first clothes, first few checkups, etc. While Maryam and Ryan hung out together for the first time I had some time to upload those to Flickr and get out another email to family and friends.

Why didn’t I use Qik or Kyte? I’ve found those live video services don’t have enough quality, nor enough reliability, for what I wanted to do. Recording a video on my iPhone and uploading it to Flickr gives a lot better quality — yeah, Qik would have been real time, but it would have been a lot fuzzier. Funny enough I was expecting to use YouTube for that, but the iPhone uploader to YouTube totally sucks and failed on me three times, even for a short video. Apple needs to fix that. Luckily I had the new Flickr app on my iPhone and it worked for uploading the first time.

Also I wanted to choose the moments that get broadcast and Qik really is an all or nothing choice.

By the way, if you do this yourself, don’t forget to make an audio recording of the first cry. I did that just by using the audio recording feature on my iPhone and then I uploaded it via email to FriendFeed.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed sharing these moments with us.