Posts Tagged 'webex'

Experiences with DimDim Free Web Conferencing

I decided of the three free web conferencing tools I’d looked at, I’d decided to give DimDim a try. The first time I tried it, I had issues with sharing my desktop, but I heard back from their customer service folks and they said to check the box that says “do not show this again”, so I did. The 2nd time I tried it, I still had to click the “Allow” button three times on the popup (after clicking the “do not show this again” checkbox) before it shared my desktop, but the third time I tried it, the popup didn’t even show up. It just worked!

What I like about DimDim:

  • You don’t have to install any software to attend a meeting! That’s awesome! The only thing that requires a software install is sharing your desktop. Attendees don’t even have to register. You only have to register on the site if you want to host a meeting.
  • They do seem to have given some thought to usability and the customer carewords factor. It’s got a very simple layout, with large, easy-to-find-and-click buttons and clear labels. They use icons very effectively to help users interpret the areas of the screen. The features are named with user-friendly words. You can see all the meetings you’ve scheduled, and very easily start or join a meeting.
  • Web conferencing is really easy. I’ve only done a couple quick tests, but we found we could draw on the whiteboard, and my participants could see and hear me via the video/microphone on my computer without dialing into a conference line. (I couldn’t hear them because neither of my helpers had a microphone.) There is a conference line available, though, so how does that work with the folks who are just using microphones on their computers? Not sure.
  • Chatting was effective and easy. I would say something through the microphone, and my helpers would chat back at me.
  • You can easily see who’s there in the list of participants on the left. I also discovered participants can change their “mood” to agree (thumbs up), or disagree (thumbs down), leave for a moment (be right back icon), etc. I’m not sure how many users will find that little feature because it’s not obvious, but perhaps it’s not that necessary either.

What I don’t like:

  • It’s awkward how the desktop sharing software installation happens without warning during the meeting. My friend was really confused when I quit talking and “disappeared” on her just when I said I was going to share my desktop with her. I didn’t know it was going to happen, either, because they’d been so adamant about “no software to install” on the web site, so it totally took me by surprise. 
    • A better way to handle this might be to inform the meeting host right away when they schedule or initiate the meeting that they will need to install some software in order to share their desktop during the meeting, and would they like to install it ahead of time. If it’s at the beginning of a spontaneous meeting, you need to inform the participants what’s happening (or better yet, let the leader of the web conference say something to their participants before starting the install). This is obviously something they didn’t usability test this or they would have noticed a glaring problem there.
  • It’s great that DimDim is browser based, but then again, the problem is that it’s browser based, so if for some reason your browser crashes (even if the reason is unrelated to DimDim), your meeting is gone. That’s scary if you’re giving a demo of some web-based application, for example. Maybe in some cases, installing software may be a good thing, at least for the presenter.
  • For some reason, my boss wasn’t able to join the meeting when I tried to use it for a real meeting. Yet, my other coworker (who’s in San Fran) was able to get into the meeting even after I’d given up and ended the meeting. My boss says he tried 4 times over 10 minutes and it wouldn’t let him in. I’m not sure what’s up with that, but now I can’t use it for any meetings with my boss. Sigh.

That’s a short summary of my brief experiences with DimDim. Overall, it’s a very usable tool, and it seems to work pretty well, once you have the desktop sharing software installation taken care of.

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A Few Free Web Conferencing Tools

I work remotely from home, so just about all the collaborating I do is over the phone or a web meeting. Last week I hosted a webex meeting with a couple coworkers, and one of them said “why aren’t you using a free web conferencing tool?” This week, I need to do another meeting, so I thought I’d better go look for a free tool. I found a few interesting ones:

  • Yugma: claims to be easy to use and cross-platform (windows, mac, linux). They have a version that’s integrated with Skype, but most of the comments I saw about it on the Skype forum are not positive. I installed it and like the interface for instant meetings, but the scheduling piece wasn’t as easy. I didn’t see how it integrates with Outlook–the scheduling appears to be via their web site. Yugma features desktop sharing, a free teleconference, annotation tools, and a virtual whiteboard. I didn’t like that the people attending my meeting have to register as a Yugma user before they can attend, and unless you have the pro version, you can’t hand control over to another attendee. Also, you have to install their software on your computer, as do all the attendees.
  • DimDimDimDim screenshot: DimDim is browser-based, so you don’t have to install anything. I like that idea, so I decided to give it a try with one of my friends and am very glad I did, because when I clicked on the “Share Desktop” button, I was prompted that I would have to install something on my computer the first time I share my desktop. So, in the middle of the meeting with my friend, I was installing software while she was wondering where I went. That was awkward. When I finally made it back to the meeting, she was still there (whew!), but when I clicked on “Share Desktop” again, I went into an infinite loop with IE asking me over and over if I wanted to allow this desktop sharing application to run on my computer. I had to go into Task Manager and shut down the application, which of course closed the browser and ended the meeting. I got a note from their tech support, though, telling me to click the “Don’t ask me again” box, so I’ll have to give it another shot.: I like their simple interface.
  • Vyew: Vyew looks interesting. It’s also browser-based, but it’s more of a virtual workspace than just a meeting tool. They allow users to post comments right on the presentation, document, or whatever it is you’re working on in what they call a “Vyewbook”. The Vyewbook can stay up there as long as you like, so people could go back and look at it, or even make comments. Vyew is integrated with freeconferencecall.com, so you can use that, or you can just click the “Push to Talk” button and talk into your computer’s microphone. It looks pretty neat, but how do I schedule a meeting? Is it integrated with Outlook? Also, when I was looking at their OverView (which happens to be a Vyewbook), I couldn’t find some of the buttons they were referring to on my screen. The free version allows you to have up to 5 Vyewbooks, and there will be banner advertising on your attendees’ screens. Also interesting is everyone in the meeting can show their mouse cursor, so anyone (not just the presenter) could point to something on the screen in a conversation–an interesting feature that seems very useful, but could get cluttered if you have a lot of people on a meeting. Also, how do you know who’s cursor is whose?

Does anyone have experience with any of these or suggestions for other free web conferencing tools? I’d like to hear them.