Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Direct Replies Are the Helpful Tool You Don’t Know You Need

Direct replies are here, and they’re more beneficial than you realize

Imagine you’re at a party with your friends. At some point in the night, a small circle forms as a group begins discussing something like the latest binge-worthy show. Everyone enjoys the discussion, but there are those… conversational hazards. That is, those small, unavoidable faux pas that annoy everyone, but are never spoken of aloud.

You know them. There’s the awkwardness where two people start talking at once and then spend the next few minutes in a politeness showdown as each insists to the other, “You go. No, no, go ahead.” This is sometimes done twice or -- please, no -- three times in a row. Or there are the times when someone says something funny and you missed it, and it’s the sort of thing that isn’t funny when it’s explained. Then there’s the thing where you have something to contribute, but you were talked over or cut off and it’s not worth the effort to get everyone’s attention and repeat yourself.

These things happen in groups, so we’ve learned to laugh them off and move on. There are similarly frustrating things that happen in a group chat online, even if it’s moderated. For example, a moderator might be answering a question when another moderator publishes a new comment. This can make the conversation hard to follow.

Enter the direct reply -- that little curved arrow which allows a moderator to post their reply directly underneath the question or comment they’re answering.

With this feature in the toolkit, conversations become easier to follow. As the eyes naturally scan down a webpage, the indented reply can be identified easily and quickly, especially if multiple moderators respond to a single comment. Direct replies also help the chats run more smoothly for multiple moderators because everyone is alerted when a moderator is typing a reply to a message.

Then again, sometimes it’s nice to be able to go back, to say the thing that popped into your head five minutes after the discussion has moved on to a different topic. Maybe it’d be nice to expand upon something you said earlier, to offer a more nuanced answer. No problem -- a direct reply can be posted after a message has been published. If a direct reply is added after a message has been published, all readers are alerted, making it less likely to get passed by as the conversation goes on.

And we haven't even gotten to the best part yet. Our favorite aspect of our new direct reply feature is that it came from our clients! We had a few different clients  suggesting this as an improvement. We listened, and we’re glad we did. We’ve got plenty of other initiatives we’re working on, but we’re always excited to hear from our users. Who knows -- our next upgrade could include a feature you came up with!

Monday, March 25, 2019

5 Benefits of Our Private Messaging Feature

Get the most you can out of JotCast’s latest upgrade.

In case you’re not aware, it’s official: JotCast now has private messaging! Please note, this is different from a direct reply -- another new improvement! -- which allows you to publish a response directly under a specific comment. Instead, the private messaging feature allows a moderator to send a message to a reader that pops up at the bottom of the intended reader’s screen. The reader can respond and continue the personal conversation, but only a moderator can start or end one.

But why?

Obviously, a group chat works best if there’s… well, a group. It’s fun to see the wide range of opinions and the interesting exchanges between everyone. Even so, there are times when the ability to privately communicate would be helpful. Occasionally, it might be a necessity. Consider private messages if any of these issues come up in a chat.
  1. A reader sends in a message with sensitive information.
    There are readers that sometimes will pose moderators a hypothetical or a general question, and there are also readers who will ask a more personal query. If you get a message from a reader that inquires about a more personal matter, it doesn’t need to be publicly published to be answered. Instead, you can choose to respond to that reader by sending them a private message. This means that it’s easier to discuss more sensitive topics on JotCast.

  2.  A reader is having technical issues while trying to participate in a chat.While technology usually tends to make life easier, it’s not without its own frustrations. With the private messaging feature, if a reader’s comment mentions experiencing any difficulties with joining a third party presentation, or participating in the conversation, a moderator can suggest possible troubleshooting measures for them without derailing the focus of the chat.

  3. A moderator needs to discuss something with the other moderators that doesn’t pertain to readersWhile we’re all for transparency, there can still be times where moderators want to keep the discussion just among themselves. Do their readers really need to read messages about how these chat statistics are looking in comparison to last week? More importantly, even if they could, would they want to? A private message would mean that the business end of a chat -- issues important to the hosting company -- could go on as needed during the chat, and readers will be none the wiser. Instead, they’re focused on getting the details on the topic they care about -- and that’s what we’re here for in the first place!

  4. A moderator needs to remind a reader about the rules or guidelines of a chat.
    Sometimes, people become emboldened behind a screen, and suddenly feel comfortable expressing themselves in a way that they wouldn’t ever dream of doing face-to-face. While moderators can block users who make inappropriate comments repeatedly, it might not be necessary for a reader who typed something during an intense debate that crossed a line. A first-time offender, so to speak, can be let off with a warning. Better still, a moderator can give that warning without embarrassing the reader by calling them out in front of everyone.

  5. A moderator wants to interact more directly with a particular reader.It’s possible to… ahem… click with someone you meet online. If there’s a reader in a chat that makes comments that are particularly clever or insightful, why not send a private message so you can delve into the topic or bounce an idea off them? Readers often enjoy feeling like they’re getting to know the moderators they follow consistently. Since moderators are the only ones who can initiate and / or end a private conversation, there’s no need to worry about unwanted interruptions or about starting a sidebar you regret.
What other ways have you been using private messages?  Let us know in the comments!

Monday, March 26, 2018

JotCast Unveils New Features

Hi everyone!

We know it’s been a while since we’ve posted, but don’t mistake our lack of noise for a lack of work. We’ve been working hard on creating some new features that we're excited to announce.

The first feature we've added is themes. Themes give you the ability to customize the chat using your choice of colors and fonts. We've also added support for in-chat advertisements, with a few different options on how to configure and display them. Finally, we've added the option to brand your chats with an icon from your website or organization.

These improvements should give your chats a better experience overall. With the ability to customize how it looks, your chat can be consistent with the style of your website. Or you can create an entirely different aesthetic -- it’s up to you! Advertisements provide you with the possibility of having sponsored chats and more directly monetizing your user base. Embedding your brand’s logo in the chat window allows participants to easily go from JotCast back to your website.

To try out these new aspects, check out our support guide to help get you started.

Many of these features were created in response to feedback we’ve gotten from you, our users. We truly value what our users have to say, and when they say they want features, we make them! Let us know if there’s any other features or improvements you’d like to see on JotCast. You never know… it might just end up in our next release.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

JotCast Math: Addition and Subtraction in Our Latest Release

This past weekend, we released a new version of our software. We've added features and subtracted unnecessary complications. We're hoping the changes we've made will improve the user experience exponentially.

First, let's talk about the new features. It is, after all, about numbers and statistics. We've added a new page containing chat analytics. You'll be able to see how many questions were asked and how many you answered in a given chat. There is also data on the number of readers in your chat and how many read the transcript afterward.  Not only are the raw numbers there, but the data is visually represented using graphs. We believe that the more information you have about the chats you host, the better you'll be able to determine what topics draw the biggest crowd or which time of the day people are more available.

Now, the subtraction. In the previous version of JotCast, users had to use the media button to embed images and videos into the chat. In our new version, that button is now obsolete, and so we went ahead and removed it.  We'll now automatically detect any images or videos in your message and embed them for you.

We believe that small changes can make a big difference. If you'll recall, that was our resolution for this year, and we're sticking to it. Feel free to let us know what you think. We'd love to hear your thoughts, and they may even be incorporated into one of our upcoming releases!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Why We Love Online Meetings (And You Should, Too!)

Ok, I'll admit it - I don't like meetings. Not such a shocking statement, I know. Meetings are a significant part of a lot of professions, and since many of us spend hours a day both in and preparing for them, we should try to do them right.

Which brings me to my main point: I love online meetings!

That's not to say in-person meetings aren't useful. Sure they have their time and place, and can be better for activities like whiteboarding, meeting clients, or collaborating with physical objects, for instance. But there are many perks that make online video meetings #1 in my heart. To name a few...

Video camera control - Have to sneeze? No problem, turn off the camera. Delivery at your front door? Just turn off the camera! Have an annoying boss that you want to make silly faces at? You know what to do.

Enhanced punctuality - If you're stuck in traffic or your train's delayed, hop into the nearest coffee shop for an espresso, a table, and free internet. When you sleep through your alarm after a long night, just pull on a shirt, comb your hair, and fire up that laptop.

Ease of communication - Walking to someone's desk can be a nice break if you're sitting all day. But if you frequently have to communicate complex ideas and you don't want to wear running shoes to work or spend 10 minutes typing back and forth, consider having a quick video call. Maybe even with screen sharing! You don't always need to tell people what you mean when you can show them.

The awe of technology - How amazing is it that you can have 30 people in a video chat room and still see everyone clearly?! Next step - virtual reality!

Build connections - More people are able to permanently telecommute than ever before. But that doesn't mean we have to wait for conferences and holiday parties to get to know our coworkers. Video chats make it easier to have casual "face to face" conversations, especially while waiting for others to join. I've worked with and gotten to know people all over the country through our regular video chats.

Built-in amusement - Some video chat platforms allow you to add accessories like hats, sunglasses, mustaches and more to the people in your meeting. Have fun turning your coworkers into pirates! Don't forget to check whether or not they can see your doodles, and keep it classy.

As great as video chats can be, there are a few potential problems. Sure no one's perfect, so look out for...

Lag - A slightly delayed video can be infuriating. It's not enough to abandon the video chat altogether, but it's more than enough to have everyone constantly interrupt each other. Before you invest in video chat software, make sure it can handle your usage needs.

Staying focused - It's much easier to get distracted during online meetings versus in-person conversations, even if it's by other work. I've been in several meetings where a question is asked, followed by several seconds of awkward silence until someone eventually admits they weren't listening. Don't let that happen to you.

Have I sold you on video chats yet? If so, here are some platforms that support online video conferencing you that should consider:

  • Zoom - Free accounts support 50 people for up to 40 minutes per meeting.
  • Google Hangouts - Talk with up to 10 people for free, no time limit!
  • Skype - Up to 10 people in a video call, and 25 for audio.
  • Lifesize - An enterprise level HD quality conferencing tool geared towards connecting conference rooms plus individual users.

And if you don't love video chats, feel free to let me know why. Now get out there and meet people - online!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

What if Supervillains had JotCast?

Easy, clear communication helps everyone -- even supervillains. While the heroes band together to fight evil in various groups like the X-Men and the Justice League, their nefarious nemeses are also gathering, taking questions from fans and minions. Their meetings take place in cyberspace, though, on the JotCast platform. Let’s join the conversation.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Expanding Your Reach

We've all been there (and many of you still are). You have a terrific product, service, Halloween costume, etc that you're extremely passionate about. You're sure it's a game changer. First-page-of-Reddit worthy, in fact! But, you're struggling to reach your audience. The internet is a place crowded with many interesting, bizarre, and sometimes scary things. How do you break through all that to find your market. Or rather, how do you let others find you?

Step 1 is making sure your website (step 0 is build a website!) implements the best practices for basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This can span a number of areas, from your URL structure to what you have on your page.

But lets say you've checked off all the basic TO-DOs. What's next? Today, it's all about content. Even Bill Gates agrees that Content is King. You need great content to drive people towards your site, which means you need content that people want and are excited about. That's the tricky part -- generating unique and valuable content that your audience craves, even if it doesn't directly lead to a sale.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can generate content and expand your reach. And a lot of them allow you to express yourself as an individual, not a faceless corporation. For example, you can start a company blog and encourage individual employees to make posts. They don't even need to be related to what your company does. But by showing the human side of your organization, you're going to connect with...wait for it...other humans! So unless your target market doesn't include homo sapiens, strongly consider creating a blog.

Podcasts are another exciting way to create material and let people learn more about you. It doesn't take much to start your own. You can create it directly through iTunes and record from your personal computer. If you have the time and energy -- and ideas you want to share -- go ahead and do some research on podcasting tips and tricks, then give it a whirl. Or if you don't want to start your own podcast, search for existing ones in your field and try to make a connection with the owners. Listen to a few of their podcasts and see if you can come up with a topic the host and their audience would enjoy hearing about.

Another often underutilized method of finding people is to physically walk out the door and start looking! No, I don't mean meeting random people off the streets. But sites like Meetup and Eventbrite let you search for all types of activity and networking events. These can be kind of hit or miss since you don't really know who's going to show up, but then again, you never know who's going to show up. You might make a terrific business connection or a new friend, or you might have fun hanging out and learning about other people. It's kind of a win-win. And by interacting with a diverse group of business leaders you're bound to come up with some new ideas for generating information.

In case you were wondering, we're not just giving out random advice we don't believe in. We practice what we preach. We go to meetup events to find new and interesting people and we participated in our first podcast recently. Clearly, we're fans of blogging, too.

So get started creating content and connections. You'll be amazed how much your reach can grow.