Tiny House Hour real time chat with audio/video conference
I was just thinking of a sort of online tinyhouse conference and how you might host it.
It could be text only like e.g. IRC, audio or video. Just one way could be to try to mimic the coctail party scenario, where there are groups of people, with however many people in them that can communicate at once without it getting too hectic, and you can hear or see what is going on in other groups, talk to each other at a different volume, etc. Turns out there is nothing like that out there that I could find.
I looked around, and there are a great number of video conferencing options, usually limited to 6-16 people per room. Then there are various pieces of chat software, less sophisticated than the conferencing stuff, but maybe still usable.
Before I started searching, I decided on the following features that seemed like a good idea:
-Multiple rooms (a lobby area), ideally with the ability to see some of what is happening in each room.
-Voice capable for people why are slow typists.
-Shows you what has been said when you come in the room, allowing you to join the discussion faster.
-Web based, no installation and multi-platform.
-Can cost money, but should have a free trial to verify it works, I’d pay for the first month, then there could be a paypal donate whip-round if people want it to continue.
I think, rather than setting up the system and just leaving it up and on all the time, it might be a better idea to have a designated time, like 6:30 pm wednesdays, or whenever the largest fraction of the english speaking population starts to watch TV, or whatever. Otherwise, with no agreed upon time and place, people may come at all random hours of the day, see there is no one else around, and leave. No discussion happens. People stop checking and the concept dies. With a designated time, people are much more likely to show up at the same time.
Below is my take on the software options I found, I started out not taking notes, just assuming I would keep looking until I found what met my requirements, but then I realized it didn’t seem to be anywhere, so I started keeping track, to decide on the best one. Just go straight to the demo if you want to see what it is, the websites are usually not very good about telling you.
erooms.com, this is one of the first ones that I came across that looked good, but the number of people supported is too small, plus they want a lot of money for it.
123flashchat.com Seems to have a lobby feature, but doesn’t seem to allow the users to create new rooms, rather the moderator has to. I don’t like that. Would be a lot of work for the moderator to do a good job on that, and more than likely it just takes power away from the participants. Unclear whether it supports video or audio. It is the only one I saw that shows you what has been said in the room when you first come in. Untested.
Parachat.com, Audio but no video. Multi room support. Many users supported, if the conference grew, something like this could be needed.
http://tinychat.com/ seems to work okay but only supports a single room and doesn’t show newcomers what has been said, still, we could simply post in the comments of a blog post Tinyhouseroom1, tinyhouseroom2, etc. as the rooms fill, though that isn’t perfect because you still have to join a room to see what is happening. Funnilly enough, this might be the best, I think.
http://www.mebeam.com Doesn’t seem to work, no error message or anything, just doesn’t work, tried it on 2 different computers
webex.com Does not support multiple rooms, but might be worth looking into deeper. I tried the free demo, and it’s pretty buggy.
http://www.oovoo.com/ looks like only offers one meeting room 6 people max.
http://www.ivisit.com same deal, one room 6 people.
http://www.megameeting.com Tried the live demo, doesn’t seem to work, also only 1 meeting room.
Yahoo chat groups, at an appointed time.
Audio only using skype “group call” feature, if someone wants to call in from a land line, though, that costs 12 cents a minute or so, per person calling in, which the host of the group call has to pay.
It’s frustrating to realize that the sort of features you thought were basic requirements are not available. It didn’t occur to me that *group* meeting software might only support 6 people at a time without the hassle of getting and paying for another software license or something.
The tinychat-based approach looks like the best, though, I think. Now to decide on the ideal time. Any ideas?