With everyone at home and most in person events canceled, I wanted to find a new way to get together with my local OpenStreetMap mapping friends here in Salt Lake City. We usually hang out 1-2 times a month, at a bar or a coffee shop. I’ve been organizing these events since we moved to SLC in 2011 and I love it, and now I miss it.

After trying a Slack ‘hangout’ last month I wanted to try something new. I’ve been playing more PC games lately and spent some money on a nicer system and accessories like a gaming headset. This got me thinking, why not try streaming some mapping live on Twitch?

I asked around and with some tips and help I figured out a basic setup and just went ahead and did it. I had a ton of fun, 20 people watched and participated, I learned new things about mapping and streaming both, and I decided to do it a few more times to see how it evolves!

Because I am new to this streaming thing I had to figure a bunch of things out, and with some help I did, in the few hours I had between announcing the stream and starting:

  • OBS is a fantastic piece of software that connects seamlessly to Twitch and lets you stream / record from a variety of sources. It’s extremely tweakable and configurable but they make it surprisingly (for OSS) easy to get from 0 to 1.
  • Twitch does not support audio chat that I could find, so I created and advertised a ‘companion’ Discord server that people could join to hear my voice and talk to me and the other participants. Because of this, there was no audio channel on the Twitch stream. There is probably a better way to do this.. Please share your tips on Twitter or email.
  • A second monitor is pretty much indispensable. You need it to see the chat and deal with anything that is not in the window you want to stream. Having random other windows appear in the stream would have been annoying and it would be easy to inadvertently stream privacy sensitive things. You can stream one window instead of an entire display, but because JOSM has a lot of secondary windows pop up, that would not have worked.
  • OBS makes it really easy to incorporate a webcam stream as a picture-in-picture. I think this really added a personal touch to the experience and I am glad I grabbed it at the last minute.
  • People noted that the audio quality was very good. I thank my decent internet connection (xfinity 250/25) and my recently purchased gaming headset for this.
  • Initially I had my streaming monitor set to its native 4k resolution. This made everything tiny and impossible to read for viewers. I ended up setting the resolution to something like 1600x900. That makes everything look comically big on my screen, but pleasant for everyone watching.

So there’s quite a few things that could be improved for next time. Live streaming is not something I thought I’d ever do, but it was a lot of fun to do. People who participated tell me they liked it, and the setup is kind of fun to tinker with as well, so I have scheduled two more sessions, one on Tuesday 6/30 and one on Tuesday 7/6, both 1900 MDT. I will annoucne those streams a little more widely (Twitter, Reddit, lists) and hope for even more paritipation! Follow me and tune in on my Twitch channel. Happy mapping!