I’m beginning to discover the world of streaming webcams. For about two years I ran a webcam which showed the front of Somerset House in London’s trendy West End. Every 30 seconds it took a picture — 320px x 170px — of the road outside, at a crazy angle. This was because the tiny camera was perched precariously on the window ledge between the double glazing of my office in Brettenham House, off Lancaster Place.

Exciting it wasn’t. It did give a good view of the roadworks outside to strengthen Waterloo Bridge and add an access hatch to the Strand Underpass (which even has its own Wikipedia page). The downside was that you only got a glimpse every 30 seconds or so: even British workmen can move faster than that!

Look around the web and you’ll find lots of webcam sites. My favourite is the Times Square HD webcam, and I once made my own .gif movie prancing around in front of this one at 4am in the morning.

The best webcams obviously have the best views, but it’s not as simple as sticking a camera on some lofty building overlooking a recognisable landmark. Take a look at the Hoe Webcam which sits on Plymouth’s old aquarium site and points out over Plymouth Sound. It’s a lovely view, but nothing (much) happens.

In formulating a policy for placing webcam feeds we quickly come to several conclusions.

  • It must be a good view
  • Something must happen
  • It must be of sufficient size

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