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!

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!