I was chatting with my publisher, talking about organizing writing events, and I had an idea. I said, “Maybe I should do a twitch stream of me writing!” I was totally joking, imagining people watching me stare at a computer screen with a look of focused concentration. (Or, you know, look at Twitter.) But he said, “It might actually be fun to do something like this for everyone one afternoon. ‘Watch our Authors at Work.'”

I thought a little more and said, “Maybe we could make up a stream that has cameras watching the authors like Hollywood Squares with word counts visible while we do sprints.”

At first, I speculated that it might be complicated enough to do this that I should look for a student or someone to do it but, upon reflection, it proved to be relatively simple to set up. Maybe there are easier ways, but here’s how I did it:

First, it assumes the writing will be in a text file called “obs_sprint.txt” in your home directory. To write the file, I use atom.io with the autosave-onchange plugin turned on. But other editors would be possible.

To do the word counts, I wrote a bash script: “obswc.sh”

#! /bin/bash
while [ : ]
do
	echo Words: `cat ~/obs_sprint.txt | wc -w` | tee ~/obs_word_count.txt
	sleep 30
done

Every 30 seconds, this script outputs the word count to the shell (so you can see it) and saves it to a second text file called “obs_word_count.txt”. The script runs until you kill it with control-C. (Note, we could easily change the delay if 30 seconds isn’t frequent enough.)

Next, I configured OBS Studio to have a Text “source” reading from the word count text file. Then I made the text big (200pt) and placed it up a bit from the bottom (so it won’t be covered by the Zoom controls). Finally, I used “Start Virtual Camera” and selected the virtual camera in Zoom. (Note that in Zoom, the preview it shows you of yourself is flipped horizontally, but other people will see the correct view).

Now I can start the script, empty out the obs_sprint.txt text file, and start writing. Every 30 seconds, my word count will be updated on screen.

Now if we can just get John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig to go head-to-head!

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