Browsercast

Posted 2013-05-24 by Greg Wilson in Tooling.

David Wolever (a freelance developer here in Toronto) has released the first version of BrowserCast, an IPython Notebook plugin that allows you to synchronize a voice-over soundtrack with a step-by-step reveal of a notebook, thereby creating a screencast-style presentation in the browser. He has created two traditional (video) screencasts showing why BrowserCast is cool and how to create a presentation with BrowserCast, but if you really want to get a feel for it, you can use the bookmarklet that lets you give it a try with your own notebooks, or grab the plugin from GitHub and take it for a test drive.

Regular readers will know that I've been wanting something like this for a while. Long story short, the stuff that looks like text in a conventional screencast is actually just pixels painted to look like text; your favorite search engine can't look for the name of a particular class, you can't copy and paste code examples, and accessibility aids can't read it aloud. David Seifried and Jeremy Banks took a run at solving this problem last year using slideshows as their starting point (see this post for an early progress report, and this one for a later discussion of why our lives would all be better if someone made this work). BrowserCast comes closer than anything ever has to what I've been dreaming of; if and when we can add in-browser drawing (by integrating an SVG sketching tool into the IPython Notebook), I think it will be a world-beating platform for teaching people how to program. So check it out, and give David feedback—he'd love to hear from you.

Thanks to Titus Brown for supporting this, and to Preston Holmes for early work that convinced us this was possible.

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