Sunday, December 12, 2010

On-line Meeting Options

Recently, a member of the Raleigh-Durham Web Design Group challenged me to hold on-line meetings for the group. I'm really interested in the the physical meetings, and remain a bit skeptical that on-line anything is a substitute for face-to-face interaction. Yet there are some interesting possibilities.

It makes me curious: what does "on-line" really offer us? The mundane features seem to be

  • screen sharing (with or without keyboard and mouse pointer sharing)
  • instant messaging
  • conference calling
  • videoconferencing
  • presentation or application sharing
  • session recording
  • whiteboarding

Personally, I've never seen a high-tech conferencing option that doesn't suck compared to the elegant simplicity of a low-tech in-person meeting. But that's beside the point: on-line services are not a substitute for human communication. The members who are asking seem to be saying that the costs of attending in-person meetings outweighs the reward... but some of them may be willing to put out some effort to meet on-line instead.

We are a volunteer group, so free or low-cost alternatives are attractive.  Members use PCs, Mac, and even Linux systems, so single-platform clients are ugly.

Some of the more obvious options:
  • GoToMeeting
  • Join.Me
  • DimDim
  • Yugma
  • Mikogo
Of these, Yugma's free offering stands out. It integrates with Skype, and allows up to 20 participants on-line.


We are looking for options. What are they?  Is there anything better for remote members than screen sharing? What's the latest and greatest in telepresence? What features are bloat and what do people actually use in practice? 

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