In the dark

“Technologically impaired” ought to be an official category of disability. With all the world wired for instant access, those of us who are completely flummoxed when we click an icon or a hyperlink and nothing happens are at a true disadvantage.

Last night I wanted to listen to what other people thought about the county’s proposal to raise the sales tax a quarter of a cent per dollar. Behind in my work, I didn’t want to take an hour to drive to Hillsborough and back and sit through the parts of the county Board of Commissioners meeting I wasn’t keenly interested in. I planned to keep the live streaming of the meeting on my computer while I worked and tune in only to the good parts.

So I went to the county website, clicked on the video linked, downloaded the special software required for live streaming and rebooted. I went back to the website, clicked on the meeting link and on the “view event” link, and was met only with silence and a black screen.

I clicked on and read through a few of the documents under the “help” section, but nothing worked. I tried starting from scratch again, rebooting, reloading and rebooting, with no success.

My husband stifled a sigh and tried accessing the meeting on his computer. He got a blue screen with an icon on it, but no audio.

We checked the public access channels on TV to see whether the meeting was being broadcast live. It was not, at least not on the cable channels we get.

I’m not ruling out operator error, that there was some setting I needed to change to be able to watch the meeting on my computer. But the county offered no clues on its website or in its troubleshooting documents.

Not everyone interested in what our county commissioners are up to has the time or child-care arrangements to attend county Board of Commissioners meetings in person. And residents shouldn’t need a technology geek to access what goes on at meetings.

Score one for the commissioners, working harder to keep voters in the dark.
– Nancy Oates

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8 Comments

  1. Steve Brown

     /  August 19, 2010

    Orange County transparency at its best, just like the Obama administration.

    I wonder how much the county spends on IT every year, and for whatever that number is, can’t they stream their meetings?

    The answer is only if they want to, right?

    Vaya con Dios.

  2. Mark Marcoplos

     /  August 19, 2010

    Maybe a journalist will make a phone call or two and find out why this glitch happened.

  3. David Hunt

     /  August 19, 2010

    First, the BOCC meeting recording for Tuesday night (8/17/10) is available online at the link below.
    http://www.co.orange.nc.us/occlerks/granicus.asp

    The most recent regular meeting (8/17/10) is also on Time Warner Cable digital channel 180. Meetings run at noon and 7:00 p.m. See the link below for additional information.
    http://www.co.orange.nc.us/manager/Cablecasting.asp

    Many of the local government entities meet at a single/permanent location. This makes it easier to set-up and stabilize infrastructure for recording and cable casting meetings. Orange County is sort of a traveling show alternating between the population center, Chapel Hill and the county seat, Hillsborough.

    Currently the Hillsborough meeting location is in the recently opened Department of Social Services building in the old Wal-Mart. As this is a temporary BOCC meeting location, a direct link to Time Warner Cable has not been installed to run live meetings on cable TV. The recorded meeting is usually available the next day.

    Multiple items can potentially halt a live production if any portion fails to function at the start of or during a meeting. Testing full infrastructure is a challenge. The cameras and recording equipment which provide the feed are provided by an outside service. The cameras are set-up just prior to the meeting and removed immediately after the meeting.

    The live web casting feed did not work on Tuesday night. The web casting service provider has acknowledged issues which have been resolved.
    We apologize for the inconvenience and are working diligently to provide quality web casting for future meetings.

    David Hunt
    Orange County Deputy Clerk / Information Specialist
    919-245-2126

  4. Nancy Oates

     /  August 19, 2010

    Thanks for the explanation and the apology. I appreciate your efforts to make it work better next time.

  5. Frank

     /  August 20, 2010

    This post sums up the problem with bloggers: they’re not journalists. This question could have been answered with a simple phone call or email. I had such high hopes for this blog. Do we have any decent Chapel Hill/Carrboro bloggers at all?

  6. Steve Brown

     /  August 21, 2010

    Yes, Frank. This blog is good plus Squeezethepulp.com is very good as far as sorting out the facts.

    If you want perfection then maybe you should use google to look for some sort of pictures of Movie Stars.

  7. Steve Brown

     /  August 23, 2010

    Or, you could check out Orangepolitics.org, Frank- they had a post about 3 or 4 days ago, but it was spam, which is actually quite fitting. But, they are the best according to the Independent. Yeah.

    Maybe you could start your own blog!

  8. Geoff Green

     /  September 8, 2010

    The line “Score one for the commissioners, working harder to keep voters in the dark” was an unwarranted cheap shot. Kudos to David Hunt for providing the explanation and apology for the access issues, and to Nancy for apologizing.

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