Why did you start shetlandwebcams.com?
The original idea was to generate traffic for shetland.org as part of a digital destination marketing strategy. Supported by an amazing crowdfunding campaign, private investment and commercial sponsorship, Shetland Webcams was reimagined in the Spring of 2018 and has been undergoing continual development since.
Is there are specific audience for the website?
Today it delivers on its promise as a progressive and innovative digital audio-visual experience for those living here, the Shetland diaspora, and the people planning to visit. For those who have enjoyed their time here or have headed away to distant places for work or to study, it provides a powerful emotional connection to our amazing islands.
How is it funded?
Commercial sponsorship, advertising and donations have kept us online to date but a challenge these last 12 months like so many businesses.
What cameras do you use?
The most asked question that we never answer. The reason is simple - we start with a view…then we look for a camera that brings that view to life in the way we desire. In a harsh environment like Shetland, we have been disappointed more times than we have been impressed. We don’t want to be tied to any brand simply for commission or discount.
Is it expensive to run this platform?
We deliver around 75TB of video data each month from our privately owned content delivery network (CDN) – it’s just a number but…try, if you can, to imagine 115,000 ‘old’ music CD’s (Google CD as its ancient tech these days) sitting on your desk…that is the equivalent amount of data. Our network requires multiple 10gbps ports (datacentre internet connections) these days to cope with the impact of streaming live aurora at short notice so, yes, it’s an expensive operation.
Why do you not use YouTube of Facebook Live for streaming as its free?
We have and do use social media platforms primarily for our live events such as Up Helly Aa but a decision was taken early on to manage our own streaming platform as many of our viewers have never used Facebook. YouTube and Facebook have made live steaming accessible to so many and it’s a great service, but we are at the mercy of their own business model(s). It was never our intention to place in-stream video advertising and we operate multiple 24x7 streams for which Facebook and YouTube were not designed for.
What is the point of the Disqus chat?
I ask myself this question on a daily basis. Disqus has its issues (it is also operating a global network) and has to keep the chat synchronised - it often falls apart. It has been plagued with spam campaigns and it’s a fulltime job to manage it. It frustrates as often as it pleases so the jury is still out as to whether it will continue to be a part of any new platform.
Why do people post pictures of stuff that is not relevant to Shetland?
I really do not know. Sometimes, but not as often these days, it becomes more like Facebook, and we do try to manage it with posts being deleted or some of my unwelcome sarcasm. The site is not monitored 24x7 so sometimes we awake to pictures of cake competitions. We do take a pragmatic approach and moderation has been light touch in recent times as we all deal with the impact of a global pandemic. I posted these guidelines 3 years ago but they are still relevant.
Are these ads really necessary as every site seems to have ads?
In an ideal world I would not have 3rd party ads however these ads are a necessary part of the revenue mix to allow us to maintain, repair and develop our infrastructure and to keep the site free for the majority. We generally use the space around the Disqus forum for 3rd party ad placeholders which I think is the best compromise. Disqus frustrates and it also incurs monthly costs to keep their advertising off the site, so I feel better about placing our ads near the forum.
What is the RedEye Club?
The RedEye Club is a throwback to our 2018 crowdfunding campaign where those who donated £100 or £250 received some promotional items in return for their support. We have maintained this as a way to continue to provide those original supporters as well as those who have continued to support the platform with donations. Simply put it is a “donations-with-benefits” one-time life membership and we provide some additional streams and enhancements for those who are taking the time to support the platform. Any donation is welcome but it’s worth pointing out that with various transaction fees mean that small donations don’t make much of an impact when they reach the account as everyone takes their cut along the way.
Why do you not have sound on all the streams?
We originally installed sound at a number of our locations, but privacy was an issue and in many ways the sound was just far too good. We have invested in Binaural Audio, and this is the default experience for any new sites where we enable sound. We do have advanced plans for more locations but some obvious locations such as Eshaness Lighthouse do not work as you might expect. The location is exposed and the majority of the time it will be wind noise which is not pleasant to listen to for long periods.
What is 60 North Radio?
60 North Radio was relaunched in 2018 to provide a soundtrack to the original development of shetlandwebcams.com and has become popular with music lovers who just like the music to watch webcams or to help their home working activities. Both platforms cross-promote each other but although the station is broadcasting from Shetland it is primarily now an internet only radio station with an increasing audience outside Shetland. The station sponsors the Visual Radio stream to primarily promote the aurora cams. A new visual radio stream is currently under development.
Why did you create Transmission Takeover?
Transmission Takeover was something we launched during the early lockdown at the start of 2020 as a means of keeping ourselves busy (or was it sane) as the enormity of the global pandemic was being realised. Tom Morton had introduced 3 local people into his Beatcroft Social radio show, and he had increased his broadcasts as we were all sitting at home. From there he promoted the opportunity for others to get involved and send in playlists for broadcast after his show. Time has moved on and Tom has paused his live shows, but we have maintained the community involvement but on a wider scale with listeners all over the world submitting their 1 hour shows. Can’t say how long we will continue this feature as we all emerge from lockdown and make up for lost time. Radio listening may not be the same priority as it was, and Transmission Takeover will continue as long as there is interest.
What are your plans for the mobile 60 North Radio App?
The App was an attempt to try and bring the webcams and the radio streaming together and also return to some live broadcasting from our studios in Lerwick. However, lockdown and current restrictions mean that live studio broadcasting is no longer on our immediate radar. We can now do this remotely as Tom Morton demonstrated with his show coming from his attic every week. At the moment the app provides a simple way to receive the radio stream and also watch the webcams – with no ads! So, if you want an ad-free experience then the App is the best way forward. Our original plan was to have three radio streams, but recent events have meant that we have shelved those plans and focussed instead on one radio stream. Work in progress I think is the best way to describe the iOS and Android apps.
Do you have plans for more cameras?
There is perhaps room for one more location in Shetland, but I think we’ve reached the maximum and anything new may be at the expense of removing one of the existing streams. Some locations will need upgrading so there is plenty activity planned but the current live streams give people a pretty good insight into the place and will continue to provide a real-time window from which to view the Shetland landscapes, weather, wildlife and the community.
Is it true you’ve seen UFO’s?
Our cameras have frequently seen all sorts of identified aerial phenomena; shooting stars, fireballs, satellites, high altitude aircraft and in 2019 we captured «– this text has been redacted –»
What is the best time to visit Shetland?
Anytime – I really mean that. If you watch these live views all year round you will know what I mean. Do your research and decide for yourself.
Get some popcorn and watch the Shetland series. Find out all about these Islands of Opportunity at shetland.org. Check out some beautifully crafted publications from Misa. Take your car on Northlink Ferries or Fly here with Loganair. Browse the LPA for visiting Cruise Ships…and Tall Ships and please consider a Polycrub when you get back home to impress the neighbours.
Do you still need donations if you have sponsors and advertising income?
We still rely on the support of donations as our sponsors primarily support the ongoing running costs for the locations that they sponsor. We are still looking for sponsors for The Drongs, Sumburgh Airport and Lerwick Town Hall so this is where the RedEye (donations-with-benefits) allow us to run those locations as well as fix things when they break – something that is sadly guaranteed. Donations also allow us to do new things such as system enhancements and experimental locations. If you enjoy what you see then please consider supporting its development. Thanks so much.