Customer Q&A with Sibme

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This blog post originally appeared on the Zencoder blog.

Congratulations to Zencoder customer Sibme on their launch. Internet video is a major component of the rapid evolution that is underway in education. While other Zencoder customers such as Khan Academy use video as an instructional tool for students, Sibme was founded by three former educators as a Web-based professional development tool built to empower teachers, administrators, and instructional coaches.

The following is a quick Q&A with Sibme co-founder Dave Wakefield on how the company uses video, and how it uses Zencoder.

Tell us about more about the work that you do at Sibme.

Sibme is a private video collaboration and professional development platform for teachers, instructors, and instructional support staff. Video is a powerful way to train and provide instructional feedback to educators. The problem has always been that it has never been that easy or efficient to implement in schools and institutions. While athletes like Peyton Manning spend a lot of time reviewing game tape to improve their performance, teachers rarely have enough time in the day to think about professional development. There are no reason teachers or instructors should not be doing the same. Sibme allows for more meaningful and frequent observation in schools in a private and secure environment. Many teachers are willing to use video to collaborate with their peers and improve their craft if they trust and respect the reviewer's opinion.

How do the needs of your customers and their consumers affect how you use video?

Our video tools have also been designed specifically for educators. For example, if your instructional coach notices that you missed an opportunity to compliment a student's answer at time 5:34 in the video, she can flag that exact moment and add a comment. Or you can upload a document with the lesson plan you were following, so your coach can follow along as you go. Our intention as educators was to design a product that had all the necessary features but remained simple, flexible and customizable to suit the needs of a small department, large school, or even a large institution.

What challenges did you face with video, and how did Zencoder help? Why did you choose Zencoder over other methods of encoding?

When we first imagined our service we thought about using public video services such as YouTube and Vimeo. However, most schools and districts do not want sensitive and private information like classroom video on public sites like YouTube and Vimeo, even when using their privacy settings.

Once we decided that we weren't going to use one of the video services available on the web, we knew that we needed to encode videos ourselves. We explored the idea of creating an encoding server on a LAMP stack using FFMPEG, the leading open source video encoding solution. What we found was that the knowledge and resources required to build the encoding server and keep it up and running reliably was well beyond what we could achieve with our limited resources. It just wasn't worth the time or effort, since our focus is on improving teaching and learning.

Zencoder is an API-based service. How did you integrate with us?

Our application uses a Java based uploader that uploads files directly to Zencoder. Once encoded, the video is uploaded to S3 and appears in the account that it was uploaded from. We have also developed an iPhone app that allows for more efficient uploading to supplement the java uploader.

What's your favorite thing about Zencoder?

Our favorite thing about Zencoder is how reliable it is. We've tried out some competitors but their encoding times and failure rates were not as good as Zencoder's. Educators don't have enough time in the day to deal with encoding failures. We love its reliability, compression speed and the fact that we can seamlessly integrate the encoding process with our application.

What excites you most about the future of online video?

Online video can be used in a variety of ways, not solely for entertainment or advertisements. We're very excited to see how video is transforming the Web in a variety of industries, and we think it is going to transform the way we currently do things, especially when it comes to professional development in education. Zencoder will play a big role in making this process even more efficient.