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!