What do you need for a successful meeting?
A Weblog is what you need for a successful “no travel” meeting?
Robert Scoble: “Video is not what most of you need. Keep in mind that four years ago I was pushing video very hard for Winnov, which makes video capture cards and other devices that help you communicate on the Internet with video. I also started DevX's NetMeeting Zone. I've talked with people in more than 40 countries and studied videoconferencing very hard. It just isn't what most companies need.
You'll find that most of your “no travel” meeting needs will be met by a content management system (er, the technology used to create this Weblog).
Not to mention that NetMeeting's video will only work point-to-point (er, in English, between two people). That is, unless you buy an expensive MeetingPoint server from the CUSeeMe folks (even then you'll need good Internet connections between all participants, something that even the “bigCos” can't guarantee).
So, what do you need?
1) You need an agenda. You could send this via email, but once you send it via email you can't change it. We found out two weeks ago how much our plans can change. So, why don't you put it on the Web and send everyone a pointer to it? I've found that I update the agenda during the meeting too to take notes.
2) You need to take notes. Live. And have everyone buy off on the notes. Especially action items. Why not type those all on the Web in real time? Just like here using Manila?
3) You need slides. Note that I didn't say PowerPoint. But, you need some way to outline your presentations and help drive home specific bullet points. After all, the point of a meeting is to have people remember what you talked about (and be able to share that information later on). Manila can do that too.
4) You need privacy. If you are having a company meeting discussing financial numbers, you don't want the entire Web looking at those, so you need some way to keep other people out that you don't want there. Using Manila you can set permissions and keep people off your sites that you don't want to be there.
5) You need ability to survey the meeting. “Should we increase the budget or decrease it?” Stuff like that. You can do that with Manila too.
6) You need to be able to talk to the meeting's participants. This requires a telephone meeting, or an audio streaming server and software. NetMeeting really won't hack it unless you buy a MeetingPoint server. Oh, Manila doesn't do that.
7) You need some way for your meeting's participants to talk with you. (Either on telephone, or if you're audio streaming out, via a text-based chat room). Manila really isn't good for that. I use instant messaging for that here. Stuff like http://www.icq.com or MSN Messenger.
Optional, depending on meeting's purpose:
Optional 1) You might want some way to share applications. NetMeeting only can share to 16 participants (and that's if you're on NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP).
Optional 2) You might want video. Video is useful if you are discussing something physical. (That's why the porn industry uses it so often). But, just seeing a talking head shot doesn't add anything to the conversation. If you're not going to be using visual things (playing a videotape, or discussing changes on a physical part or something that needs to be seen) you can skip the video and save some money). Video always takes more bandwidth and creates more problems (it's harder to play a video, for instance, than to play streaming audio — many of your corporate systems just don't have OS's or media players that were designed for video and you'll have lots of tech support problems).
Optional 3) You might need a digital whiteboard where what you write on a physical whiteboard will show up on your computer screens. I've used these too, but found that they were very expensive toys that rarely got used (I donated one to Fawcette and they never found a reason to use it).
So, what are the best systems to use? I'll let you decide that. Here's some things to look at though:
1) How easy is it? If you have a Web server, do you have to have everyone load FrontPage to put content onto it? Or, do you have a content-management system that lets you log in and add content from any Web browser (Disclaimer, I work for UserLand Software, and we sell just such a content management system. In fact, this page was done with our system, named Manila).
2) How affordable is it? Economic times are tough right now. Think you'll get approved to buy a $10,000 videoconferencing system and server? Sure, the big companies are doing that cause they have the money. I take that back. Even the big companies employees are telling me they don't.
3) Does it work with your corporate firewalls? This is a big problem for NetMeeting and application sharing. Most video and application sharing programs don't go through firewalls.
4) Does it allow you to keep your private stuff private? Sure, you can publish using FrontPage on a Windows 2000 server. I used to run one on my home server so know it's very easy. Ever setup security on such an animal? I have and it ain't easy, particularly if you don't have an IT guy around. Here, try to break into my Manila server here. Try to post to it. I bet you can't. Ever think about why? It's very easy. When I setup this site, I got certain permissions that you don't have. If I wanted to keep you off of this site, I could. And it takes me literally 10 seconds to set those.
5) Is it easy for everyone to publish to? A meeting should be interactive. Folks should be able to publish their ideas and words for others to see. Pictures. Drawings. You've seen me put all sorts of stuff up here live for you to read. So, you know it's easy. No HTML needed. No knowledge of FTP servers, or streaming media servers, or IP addresses. Just log in, click “Edit this Page,” type, and click “Post Changes.”
6) Is what you're buying used by a large number of people? This is important cause companies right now are in shock. Their tech support lines are getting overwhelmed. If you join into a large community you can still get support — from other users.
Anyway, I could go on all day on this topic. I've used instant messengers of all stripes. I've run chat rooms for one of the most-listened to radio stations in the world. I've run events with 165 speakers, almost none of whom I had ever met face-to-face.” [Scobleizer]