Personal safety a problem in ‘lifecasting’ – iJustine interview

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Las Vegas (NV) – At first glance, Pittsburgh resident Justine Ezarik looks like she’s talking to herself as she eats lunch, drinks coffee and drives her car, but she’s isn’t insane, she’s part of a new legion of ‘lifecasters’.  Broadcasting their lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you can think of these lifecasters as reporters that never go off air.  From mundane tasks like shopping in an electronics store to picking food for lunch, their actions are scrutinized, commented on and even criticized in chat rooms with hundreds and on a good day thousands of people.

 

Justine goes through life carrying a small Logitech webcam that’s connected to a Sony Vaio laptop.  With the help of Sprint’s EVDO network, the images from the cam are constantly being transmitted live to Justine’s, or iJustine as she likes to call herself, chat room at Justin.tv.  On an average night you may see 400 to 600 simultaneous users, watching Justine like they would watch an episode of the Simpsons or Battlestar Galactica, but there’s a twist because Justine is almost always reading the chats and tries her best to respond to her viewers.

Such is the evolution of the Internet, Justine’s room combines the immediacy and interactivity of a chat room with the video punch of her webcam.  And watching her can be surprisingly addictive.  Indeed, in the TG Daily and Tom’s Hardware offices, the morning hellos have been replaced with “What’s Justine doing today?”

But Justine doesn’t really consider much of what she does to be that exciting and she’s resisted changing any of her habits, just for the sake of the audience.  “I am always online a lot, which makes for boring tv – but it’s a lifecast.  I didn’t really want to change too much for the sake of everyone else,” Justine told us.

One thing, however, has changed.  Justine’s developed the habit of “talking to myself”, she told us in an interview.  Indeed to the uninitiated, it does look like she’s talking to herself, but instead she’s really responding to the people in the chat room.

Most of the time Justine aims the webcam at herself like when she’s typing on her computer or eating lunch, but sometimes, out of necessity, she points the cam away from her.  “I used to tell people that the camera was live, but now I don’t,” Justine told us.

And that’s made for some very interesting and tense moments, as people read off phone numbers, pin numbers or email addresses in Justine’s presence.  In mid-sentence, she’ll burst out and yell for people to stop, worried that the information will make it to the net.

“I not only have to worry about me saying stuff, but I have to be cognizant of what other people are saying around me.”

Justine said the webcam is pretty much on 24/7 and she only shuts it off when she’s in the shower and bathroom - that’s “off limits!!”  During the day, Justine works with xtrain.com, an online training company, and she will turn off the webcam during sensitive business meetings and phone calls.  Recently though, safety concerns during traveling have forced her to cut down on her lifecasting.  There’s even been days when Justine has left the webcam off, something that’s was unthinkable her early online days.

“I've had a lot of people show up places that I am, call hotels and restaurants that I'm at. Everything has to be taken into consideration.  I'm also very lucky that nothing bad has happened so far.  Makes me think I should quit before it does!”

Despite the safety concerns, Justine told us the entire lifecasting experience has been very positive.  “I’ve met some amazing people and learn a lot about myself in the process,” she said.  In random places, people have showed up to chat and give her gifts, something which can be somewhat ‘creepy’, but for the most part turns out ok.  “Some people even found me and gave me ice cream on my birthday,” Justine added.

So just how difficult is it having life being broadcasting all day?  “It definitely isn’t easy,” Justine told us, despite what other people may think.

“When you tell someone you’ve been streaming live for 3 months, they usually respond with ‘That’s it?’ Ha! That’s it? In life-casting time that’s equivalent to 3 years.  They have no idea!”