Web conferencing redux

I’ve got a meeting scheduled for next week where I’ll need to give a tour of of Facebook features. I thought we’d use Yugma, and I was looking forward to using that as a test platform for the tour. Yugma’s “10 connections for free” make it an attractive web conferencing system for AAUW applications…

But, Yugma just doesn’t seem to work well. I had trouble getting the client window to respond at all (seemed to depend on whether I started the session “now” or “later” and when I had the guest connection join the session). When I brought up the annotation tool, I couldn’t find a way back to the main window. I needed to use Task Manager to kill the session when things went squirrelly. Not a pretty picture to think about having members use software like that.

On a lark, I did a Google for “yugma worst” and got review that was relatively positive, but it did point me to Glance.net. Now this is interesting — an excellent example of “less is more”.

Glance is “a simple, quick desktop sharing tool for hosting live web demos, sales presentations and more.” It supports up to 100 connections.
It’s a quick download of the software (Windows or Mac) for the host. During the registration process, you choose a URL (e.g. yourname.glance.net). The download puts an icon on the taskbar (on Windows — I haven’t checked it on a Mac).

Starting a session means clicking the icon and getting a session id. [There’s an indication that you can choose the session id, but that didn’t seem to work for me on the free trial.]

To join a session, a guest simply goes to the host’s selected URL and enters the session id. No muss, no fuss.

What’s left out (compared to other web conferencing systems):

  1. A list of participants. Guests don’t have to give any info, and the host doesn’t see any info.
  2. The annotation toolbar.
  3. A way to display just one window/application instead of the entire screen.
  4. A chat or text window that can be used for notes. Since the entire screen is being webcast, it would be difficult for the host to take notes in another window. Will have to think about this one.
  5. There’s no feedback on the screen resolution of the guests. Guests can zoom in if their screen is much smaller than the presenter’s — and then scroll to see different portions of the screen. It appears the host needs to fine tune the window that’s being screencast to be the right size.
  6. No integrated phone conferencing. They just point folks to freeconference.com (and see #1).
  7. A way to transfer control to another’s desktop, not just give a guest mouse/keyboard control of the host’s desktop (with the personal edition). This may be another sticking point.
  8. Session recording. This always seems like a good idea in a training application — but is it really the best way to produce an online resource?
  9. No way to transfer control to a particular guest — everyone or no one has the option to take control of the mouse keyboard.


  • $49.95/month for individuals and small companies. Host one session at a time. All hosts install the client and register it to the one account.
  • $119/month for larger companies. This allows for one session at a time, but, unlike the personal edition, there can be multiple ids registered with the account. Additional concurrent sessions are $99/month — so it makes sense to purchase personal editions for the heavy users. If there’s a need to see a guest’s desktop that can be implemented by giving them a temporary account on the corporate plan.
  • There are discounts for purchasing an annual plan.

Random comments:

  • The window scrolling seemed pretty jerky.
  • There were times when the the connections went flaky.

Both of those might be attributed to using two machines on one home network for the test — but maybe not. I’ve used the same two machines with other systems and haven’t noticed delays like the ones I saw with Glance.

Overall, Glance looks like a reasonable solution. Will probably use the free trial for next week’s test rather than continue to fight with Yugma. [Though Yugma does seem to be working better after a reinstall and reboot.]
I should probably check Michelle Murrain’s references again, and double check to see if there’s an Idealware note or more recent info at TechSoup. Anyone with other suggestions?

Lessons learned on Google Docs

Recently, I’ve been part of a group that’s using Google docs to discuss a particular topic. While we’ve got a draft document as our deliverable, we’re still at the stage of figuring out what the outline of the document should be and drilling down in to a few fundamental questions. Essentially, we’re using Google docs as an “asynchronous chat room”. Here are a few lessons learned:

  1. Make sure everyone knows how to use the “insert comment” feature. That automatically signs, time-stamps and color codes comments. [Some folks were using the highlighter tool to color-code their comments.]
  2. Encourage folks to use a separate section of the document for “discussions” and to indent comments to show how the thread is evolving — e.g.

    Mary makes a comment on section xx

    Jane comments on Mary’s comment

    Alice replies with another comment on this same topic

    Sally starts a new thread

    Try to get people to keep separate topics separate. You can then do some quick cut and paste and/or indenting to show the “conversations”.

  3. Use the print icon to print the document with comments. At least in Firefox, print from the browser or Preview/print shows just the document, not the comments.
  4. Once you get to editing the document itself, you can also use comments and go back and “accept/reject” them, or make the edits in the document and uses the revision history to track the who and when.

If you’re doing this in a Facebook context, look at the Zoho application (like Google docs, but integrated with Facebook) or the Box application (uses Box.net) to share files of types that Facebook doesn’t allow you to upload directly. It might be easier to have the “discussions” on Facebook and leave the “document” as “just a document”.