Web Conferencing Jungle Tour

jungle.jpgI went into the jungle today with a group of folks led by Robin Good (aka Luigi Canali De Rossi) of MasterNewMedia.org.

Of course, the jungle is just a metaphor. It was a pretty incredible cross-platform experience that led us through a number of web conferencing platforms. There were about 8-10 folks from all over the world- Italy, S. Africa, Portugal, US and Canada. Robin wanted to show us alternatives to expensive platforms like WebEx and the former PlaceWare- now Live Meeting.

He assured us that he was not getting paid by any of the providers- he was doing it because he believes in the tools and wants others to consider them.

It all started on Nancy White’s Online Facilitation Yahoo! Group, where folks were discussing web conferencing systems. Robin Good had previously shared a wealth of information and mentioned the Jungle Tour idea. People were interested and Yahoo! Groups quickly became the wrong way to coordinate such an event.

So, Nancy started a QuickTopic discussion to help us organize times, etc. From there, we settled on a couple of times and got most everything straight.

Robin asked everyone who was interested to add him as a buddy via Yahoo! instant messaging (IM) and said that we’d all meet on IM at the agreed-upon time. Nancy and I experimented and got Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) working with Yahoo! IM and joined the session with Robin.

Once we chatted for a bit on Yahoo! Robin began the tour. In the IM he provided a link to our first stop: Voxwire.

Voxwire allows web conferencing starting at $15/month for up to 5 people. It’s not good for application sharing, but does a good job with VOIP and co-browsing on web pages (we all listened to Robin and watched him browse through the web). It does not require high bandwidth and can be on all day for constant voice contact. To talk, we just held down the “ctrl�? button. It works with dial-up modem speeds too.

Our next stop was Voice Café. We logged out of Voxwire and into this application with info Robin provided. Again, this platform provides VOIP, Co-browsing and whiteboard capability. The VOIP was really clear and stable for me at least.

Next, we stayed in Voice Café and Robin opened an application sharing (as opposed to web page sharing) tool called Glance.

Glance doesn’t provide anything but application sharing- no VOIP. He showed us how he could share an Excel file and annotate the page with highlights, lines, freehand, etc. At one point, he shared his whole desktop and we saw the yahoo IM window where participants we asking him backchannel questions (just kinda cool to see in a geeky way). Glance does require at least a 56k modem connection.

Robin also mentioned Milori for training and PageShare for application sharing. We returned to Vox Wire and chatted for a bit and I had to sign off.

The tour gave me some exposure to some really affordable ways to have live meetings online. As a former heavy user of WebEx, I think these tools can compete, especially on a cost/benefit basis. I really appreciate Robin’s time and expertise- he is really on top of these tools.

I couldn’t get over all the tools we used… Yahoo! Groups to Quick Topic to Yahoo IM to VoxWire to Voice Café to Glance with VOIP and IM holding it all together.