Welcome to the JotCast blog — your home for everything JotCast and chat-related. Find updates on new platform features, tips for hosting improved chats, as well as developments in the online community engagement space.

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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

For Your Eyes Only: JotCast Launches Enhanced Privacy Features

New features like password protection, message encryption, and controllable search engine indexing make privacy options at your fingertips when chatting

Forget diamonds; the internet is what’s forever. Public chats can be found by anyone looking for them, and sometimes – either due to a sensitive subject (like questions for a medical study) or concerns about anonymity, for example – that sort of openness might not be ideal. Sometimes, it’s better to have a little privacy.

Thankfully, JotCast now offers enhanced privacy features to keep your chats confidential. We currently have three layers of protection: password protection, message encryption, and optional search engine indexing. You can choose to enable these features when creating a chat. When creating a private chat, you’ll need to choose a secure password. This allows only the users you share the password with to attend your event. Even better, you can retrieve or change this password at any time from the edit chat page.

Even with password protection, extra protection is needed to make sure that messages aren’t intercepted. That’s why, in private chats, all messages — including private messages and discussion board messages — and all user aliases are encrypted using industry accepted best practices. Furthermore, private chats aren’t indexable by search engines. It’s important to know that while all public chats will have their results indexed by search engines after the chat is completed, you can disable this when creating your chat, or by editing a chat you’ve previously created.

This feature had been in the JotCast queue for a while, but advanced in priority due to feedback from our clients. JotCast takes client suggestions and requests very seriously. 

Still, just because we’re listening to the needs of our clients doesn’t mean those clients want the public at large to listen in to their chats. Now, JotCast enables you to have full control over not just the conversation, but also your participants. Happy chatting!  

Monday, February 7, 2022

7 Remote Collaboration Tools and Tips to Improve Virtual Meetings

For better or worse, remote work is here to stay, which means virtual meetings are also here to stay. However, meeting remotely comes with a host of communication challenges and potential pitfalls. Organizing and executing successful virtual meetings requires planning, intentionality, and an arsenal of tools. The right remote collaboration tools and processes allow teams to interact virtually as effectively as they would in person. Avoid wasted time and digital miscommunications by using some of the best communication tools and tips for remote teams:

1. Clearly Establish Scope of Work

Before you start setting up meetings, it’s important that everyone understands why they’re necessary. This is basically two bits of advice rolled into one:

  • Create an agenda for the meeting and don’t deviate from it. Use a remote collaboration tool like an agenda setter if you need to. This will help everyone come prepared for the meeting and contribute more effectively.

  • Meet only to execute work that participants can’t do individually. The common refrain, “this meeting could have been an email,” holds true in the virtual age as well. Clearly differentiating between collaborative work and individual work means you’re respecting everyone’s time and improving remote productivity.

2. Use the Right Conferencing Tool

Your conferencing platform is probably the most important remote collaboration tool in your arsenal. There are certainly lots of them to choose from — Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and more. Use the one that works best for your organization. Think about conferencing features you might need, like breakout rooms, screen sharing, or unlimited recording, and more. You’ll find that using the right platform can unlock significant productivity for all the participants and help you get more done during your meeting.

3. Use Moderated Chats

Moderated group chats are one of the best communication tools for remote team collaboration. How often have you seen conversations on ‘work’ chat groups devolve into meandering personal exchanges and spam-fests? A moderated chat platform like JotCast is a great way to have on-brand, productive discussions that are still lively and engaging. There are a number of reasons why you should think about using one for your company:

  • You can moderate the chat content in real time. With JotCast, you can assign multiple people within a chat as moderators to police the content. You can even message someone privately for a one-on-one discussion that you don’t want to be made public. 

  • JotCast helps improve engagement during webcasts and long presentations. Features like live Q&A, polls, and quizzes can help make your meeting a two-way interaction and allow you to quickly source audience feedback. You can directly embed a JotCast chat on your website and even customize the theme to mimic the look of your website. 

  • A remote collaboration tool like JotCast creates value even post-meeting. You can export transcripts of your chat, making it easier to maintain meeting minutes. The tool also gives you access to meeting analytics so that you can review audience metrics quickly and easily. 

  • Interactive features like the ability to add images, YouTube videos, and real-time tweets help keep the discussions fun and interesting. JotCast supports chat in 11 different languages, which is perfect for companies with remote employees distributed worldwide.

4. Implement Project Management

A good project and workflow management tool is critical for remote collaboration. If your company doesn’t use one already, you should consider investing in one. You’d be surprised at how much the tool can help avoid redundant check-in calls and emails, improve efficiency, and boost productivity. They’re broadly similar, although each will offer you a little something different. Canvas a few of them to see which one best suits your style of work.

5. Schedule Well

When multiple people are involved in a meeting across time zones, scheduling a date and time slot that works for everyone is half the battle. You can try doing it by email, like in the good old days. You’ll likely end up with a million back-and-forths and a line of nested emails to drive you up the wall. Try using a scheduling tool instead. Remote collaboration becomes a cinch when all you have to do is send out an invite and the tool automates follow-ups and scheduling for you. Create a link for your JotCast chat and attach it to the event so that your chat is easily accessible for attendees.

Don’t ignore scheduling etiquette either. Plan the meeting far enough in advance so that your employees have time to prepare and rearrange priorities. This is especially important if you have lots of remote colleagues and contractors working flexible hours. 

6. Use Visual Collaboration

A visual collaboration platform is one of the best communication tools for remote teams to collaborate, brainstorm, and ideate together. It serves as a centralized reference point for everyone in the meeting. It’s particularly useful when you want to continuously record your work progress during a meeting and come back to it when you need to.

7. Follow Up Effectively

Once the meeting ends, make a note of discussion points and action items that you can share with everyone involved. Try to keep your meeting minutes concise. This will encourage people to actually refer to them to keep track of their to-dos. If you’ve had particularly long meetings or you simply need help maintaining an accurate record of everything that happened, consider investing in an auto-transcription tool. This helps remote collaboration in that nothing gets missed, and if people want a verbatim account of everything that was said, they can automatically receive an emailed transcript of the meeting once it ends. With JotCast’s built-in functionality, you can easily export and share transcripts of your conversations with coworkers or employees.

Make sure everyone’s on the same page when it comes to your collaboration technology. You could be using the best communication tools for remote teams and still struggle to see traction simply because some of your team members might not be comfortable with it. Invest in technology that improves engagement rather than dissuades it.

Try out JotCast’s moderated remote collaboration tool for free or upgrade your plan for a more advanced user experience. Learn more about the features that JotCast offers to drive productive conversations among your team members. Feel free to contact us with any questions. 

Monday, November 1, 2021

Smile -- JotCast Now Has Emojis

 A picture is worth a thousand words, and emojis are fun!

Here at JotCast,  we believe communication should be as clear and easy as possible. Sometimes, though, things can’t be expressed only in words. That’s why we're happy to announce that in addition to photos, videos, and music, you can now add emojis into your chats. In other (lack of) words:


Besides easy and clear, communication is best when it’s dynamic. Emojis allow for all of this and can add personality to a wall of text. When there’s a complete absence of vocal intonation, emojis can convey the intent that might otherwise be misconstrued or missed completely. Sarcasm, emphasis, and humor can now be displayed with flair.

You can insert the icons you need -- on both mobile and desktop -- by clicking on the smiley face in the text area. Now, you can give chats the same friendly, comfortable tone of a text message between friends, but without sacrificing control. Your events become more personable, which makes them more memorable.

Moderators, it’s also worth knowing that you can feature emojis of your choice so that they will be shown above the text box of chat participants. This can encourage your audience to express themselves in a way that you feel best fits your event. Of course, these pictorial emotions and objects are not beloved by everyone, so featuring them is optional.

Whether you choose to incorporate the featured emoticons or not, we’re happy to offer the choice. Have fun with this new feature, and let us know how it’s impacted your chats in the comments.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

JotCast is now more interactive than ever before

Two new features will allow both moderators and participants to interact with each other in exciting ways.

Hi JotCasters,

Here’s a quick question for you to answer:

JotCast now has….

A: The ability for moderators to create quizzes

B: The ability for users to send each other private messages

C: All of the above

D: None of the above

We’re proud to say that C is the correct answer. Private messaging between users and a quiz function are both now live on our website.

Moderators can create quizzes under the Polls tab in the moderator panel. The moderator can decide if a question has a single correct answer or multiple right responses, and they can also choose to have the quiz go live in the chat all at once or to publish each quiz question individually to keep users engaged throughout the event. As users begin to answer, moderators will be able to see statistics for each quiz question showing the total number of people who responded, the total number of people who responded correctly, and the percentage of correct responses. 

When new quiz questions are published, your users will be notified via the quiz blinking to alert them. Moreover, users who stop mid-quiz will be able to automatically continue where they left off. As always, quizzes are optional and users do not have to participate. To that end, the quiz window can be minimized so that it occupies a very small portion of the screen.

In other news, users also have the option to private message each other now. If someone says something in the chat that you find interesting and want to respond to, there’s no need to wait and hope the moderator publishes your reply. Instead, you can message that reader directly. Moderators can enable this setting when creating a new chat.  As always, moderators can disable this new ability if they’re not interested in it.

That’s all for now.  Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

3 New Features Available

Pinned messages, chat subscriptions, and unmoderated chats are now available with JotCast

Hi JotCasters,

We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy in these challenging times. Here at JotCast, we’ve been working (from home, of course) to create features that will make your chats even better. We’re now very excited to share that we’ve unveiled three new features: Pinned messages, Chat Subscriptions, and an Unmoderated Chat option. Details below!

1) Pinned messages
The point of JotCast is to allow you control of the conversation (sound familiar?). We want to make it easy for you to convey the information that your readers need to know. Since it’s possible -- and, in fact, likely -- that readers will enter and leave chats throughout the discussion, if there’s important information that you want every reader to see, a pinned message is a great tool to ensure this. Moreover, the pinned message can be closed by readers after they’ve read it so that it doesn’t become distracting. If a reader closes a pinned message and then a moderator creates another one, it will reopen. This way, nobody misses vital messages *and* nobody is stuck staring at a message they no longer need. 

2) Chat Subscriptions
Fret not, JotCasters. We are still a contract-free service. The subscription option is a simple way to help increase traffic to your chats. Readers can choose to subscribe to any chats hosted by a specific moderator. With this new feature, regular readers can opt in to receive email reminders 15 minutes before a chat owned by that moderator begins. Now, readers won’t worry about missing and / or forgetting about a chat they wanted to participate in.

3) Unmoderated chats
“But,” we hear you wondering, “isn’t JotCast specifically a moderated chat service?” First, moderated chats are still available. We’re simply offering the option to directly publish messages from all readers -- not just those with “trustee” status. Moderators can turn this option on and off as they please. Moderators can allow a period of time for readers to talk among themselves if they need a break, or if someone’s looking to start a chat but doesn’t want to moderate everyone’s messages, they don’t have to. The way we see it, more options are always a good thing. 

So, there you have it. Three new enhancements for you to use -- or not, it’s your choice! As always, we want to hear how your experience with JotCast is going. Are there features you need or questions you have? Let us know! Until then, we’ll be working (from a socially safe distance) to make JotCast the best it can be.

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 readers.
    While 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!