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, 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.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Website Redesign - Sneak Peak

With spring coming up fast, we decided to refresh our look a bit. We're really excited about the results, so we wanted to offer you a sneak peak of the changes.

We're making the site more streamlined and modern with a cleaner, more minimalist appearance. The screenshot below shows the new form for creating a chat. You'll have to wait for the next release to see the other pages!

What do you think of the redesign? Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Communication is Key

We are in a state of transition. We have a new President, new members of congress, new department heads, and pretty soon we'll have a new Supreme Court Justice. That's a lot to take in, especially considering how divided our country has been. Whether it's about race, religion, or politics it feels like we're more polarized than ever.

So, what are we going to do about this? A lot, hopefully. Whether you plan to volunteer your time helping the needy, donate money to causes you believe in, write letters to congress, protest, or even run for office, there's one thing EVERYONE needs to be doing right now - COMMUNICATE!

We want to remind everyone that regardless of your beliefs, the best way to enact meaningful change is with constructive communication with those who agree with you, and those who do not. In case you were wondering, constructive communication does not mean a vicious back and forth on Facebook where the focus is on insulting whoever disagrees with you. We mean real communication - listening, hearing and understanding what others are saying and why they feel the way they do.

Yelling at someone until they've had enough and agree with you isn't a solution (or realistic). Neither is retreating inward and surrounding yourself with people who think just like you do. Instead you have to look outward towards those people who do not agree with you. Engage them! Make a sincere effort to understand their point of view, and then make a sincere effort to communicate your point of view without making them feel like they're under attack.

Lastly, make sure you communicate whatever actions you do take. Let people know what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how they can get involved. Social action is the vaccine, you are the carrier!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Resolving Your Resolutions

Welcome, and happy 2017! This is the perfect time to reflect on the past year - to spend time thinking about your accomplishments, shortcomings, and goals. If you're like most people, this process probably helped you create a few resolutions for 2017. And if you're like most people, you probably gave up on your resolutions about two weeks ago. That's OK, resolutions are tough! But they don't have to be. Here are some great tips for how to follow through on your resolutions!

One of the biggest barriers to achieving your resolutions is, in fact, the resolution itself. It's easy to get carried away with all of your hopes, desires and dreams. But reaching for the stars can easily leave you empty handed. Instead, try focusing on a few simple things you'd like to accomplish. Maybe call your parents or loved ones at least once a month, or give your pocket change to someone in need, or brush your teeth every night before bed (you should all be doing this)!

The point is, don't go crazy with resolutions you won't be able to keep.

Case in point - this year JotCast resolved to identify small feature improvements that will have a substantial impact on user experience, and to release those changes as soon as they're ready (in addition to our regular release cycle). And with that, we're proud to announce:

  • Network Disconnect Detection - We've all been there. You take the time to craft the perfect message just to hit send and realize you've lost your internet connection, and your message too. Well, you no longer have to worry about spotty or lost internet connections! You'll now be notified when your messages don't send, and you'll have the ability to resend them.
  • Automated YouTube Links - It's now even easier to insert YouTube links into your chat. We've cut out the media insert button, so you can now paste your YouTube links directly into the chat message.

We'll keep you updated with our resolutions as the year progresses. Feel free to comment on how your resolutions are working out for you!