Mike MacDonagh's Blog

Somewhere in the overlap between software development, process improvement and psychology

Tag Archives: skype

Google+ review

G+ is a social network from Google to rival Facebook, twitter, tumblr etc. I’ve been trying it out and kinda like it. It’s intuitive, easy to use but also a bit surprising. The best feature by far is the circles (screenshot below) which allow you to segment your social graph, or more simply put your contacts into groups. Then when you share something like a post or photo you can choose who to share it with. That means you can have things like family, work, acquaintances or just people you follow all in one place.

The interface is nice and shiny with lots of drag and drop and nice little features and animations, but when you first load it up it can be a little disconcerting how much it already knows about you. If you’ve already got a gmail account, an android account, picasa etc. then all of that stuff is already there in front of you. When I first logged in it had my picture, suggested various people members I should connect with (based on my email) and once I linked in my blog account it put in my blog intro into my profile. Clever, but a little annoying as well.

I’ve read that hangouts (a kind of chat platform) are the killer app for g+ but I’ve not checked it out. If I want to video call I tend to use skype and even then I don’t really want to video call, I’d rather IM, text or phone than video call.

Overall, I really like it. The ease of use, the simplicity of controlling where content goes, the nice simple little andriod app and the shiny interface have me drooling like a geek with a new toy. If only it was 5 years earlier and there were more people on it. I can’t imagine it replacing Facebook and twitter in the short or medium term as the stable door has been open far too long and there’s an emotional investment that people have in those sites.

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Top tips for giving a good webinar

I’ve done a lot of webinars over the years. These tips are mostly specific to using Skype (for teleconferencing) and WebEx (for webcasting)

0. BE PREPARED

As with all presentations/demos you should know your slideware and demo inside out. And have practiced it on the machine that you’re going to use for the webinar!

1. If you can use two screens, do!

  • One for running the webinar WebEx window, chat window, attendees window and Q&A window (all easily undocked)
  • One for running your PowerPoint/demo
  • If you use multiple monitors and you’re not using UltraMon you really have no excuse. Go and get it now! Don’t let their rubbish website put you off it’s a critical tool for windows multiple monitor users.

2. Disable all bandwidth or screen interrupting widgets

  • Outlook, twhirl, yammer, IM, etc. etc.

3. I find that significant animation played well but it’s probably a good idea not to over-do it!

4. Run a PowerPoint optimizer on your presentation before webcasting (pptminimizer recommended)

  • It reduced my graphics heavy presentation from 19.8Mb to 6.3Mb

5. I use skypeout to call the teleconference on my USB speakerphone, that frees me up to use a keyboard/mouse properly

  • When entering the pin number through skype it will pick up your keyboard number pad as a phone keypad if you select the skype window first
  • When entering pins/passcodes using a keyboard do it slowly otherwise the teleconference software won’t understand it. If it rejects the pin try typing it again more slowly.
  • Buy yourself an awesome skype friendly USB speakerphone

6. If you try to login to WebEx before the event has started you need to refresh the page periodically to enable the Join button when the event does start

7. Once the host hands you the presentation rights you should select the Share menu and choose to share an application

  • In my experience doing WebEx demos over the years I’ve found WebEx desktop sharing to be a bit flaky whereas sharing multiple applications is easy and saves you any embarrassment of a popup window showing you message about your bank balance or last night’s shenanigans while webcasting
  • Have the front slide of your presentation up before attendees join so they know they’re in the right place!

8. If you’re going to demo in a browser or show your desktop remove all shortcuts, personal bookmark toolbars and disable content addons that you don’t want the whole world to see.

9. The Attendees window shows you how many people are logged in, when they’ve left at the end beware of them joining back in again if you’re having a private conversation afterwards.

10. If you mention something covered by a later webinar in the series then plug it (view the full set of the IJI webinars here)

  • In fact you should probably have a slide with them on a the end

Skyblaster USB skype friendly speakerphone rocks

I impulse bought this gadget in Homebase last week for £29, that’s only about $3000 these days 😛 , and it rocks. I’ve always had trouble with skype voice calls – I’ve got a really powerful top of the range PC with just about everything imaginable plugged into it and yet even after replacing the onboard soundcard with a top of the range games soundcard the microphone input (front or back) has always been just rubbish. I’ve tweaked all the tweakable settings to no avail, microphone’s just don’t work on my system.

So I bought this USB speakerphone. It doesn’t use my soundcard and all of a sudden people can hear my dulcit tones over the ewaves 🙂 It’s simple, cheap and works. It’s got buttons to call, hang up, navigate around skype etc. It’s also got inputs for plugging in your super stylish headset with microphone that makes you look like a bad 80s pop act.

Setup was trivial and well documented, and the best bit is that I can just use it whenever I want without unplugging/replugging speakers, microphones, headsets etc. My music still plays through my main speakers, but skype calls come through the speaker phone/attached headset. I’d buy it just to be a headset hub even if I didn’t want an answerphone!

SkyBlaster USB skype friendly speakerphone

SkyBlaster USB skype friendly speakerphone

Now I can finally use it I’m a skypeout convert!

9/10 Mac Daddy points for this great little (about 3in diameter) gadget.

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