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The methods to contact people have changed considerably since we have embraced the Internet. Social Media along with other software and hardware advances have changed the face of communications and continues to change.
My search for the “perfect” collaboration service/software began in early 2008. At that time I wrote some articles and did a lot of research to find which services were available. I am currently in the process of updating all of that information.
This process started by trying to find a way to stream my computer user group meetings and presentations to members and non-members, who could not attend the meeting but would like to see and hear the presentations.
Many of the services have since gone away, merged, improved, or completely changed in the last few years. Also our needs have changed. The advent of smartphones, the acceptance of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), faster Internet connections, more bandwidth being available, and more of us wanting to use the latest means of communications has increased our communication wants and needs. However we are finding it difficult to determine the correct service to use.
I have been trying to categorize the services and come up with the following:
This is basic communications. One hundred years ago it was meeting in person or sending a letter through the mail. Later people were using the telephone. Now cell phones have given us mobility and free long distance calls. The latest smartphones are actually small computers.
The Internet brought us e-mail and many of us started using that as our main means of communications. The bad guys figured out how to take advantage of the services and we got junk mail and our addresses being stolen, as well as using e-mail to tempt us in ways to give up our money or information.
We have moved on to communicating through social media and making our messages public through such services as Twitter, Facebook, and others. We are using the Magic Jack through our computers or such services as Skype with our computers. Microsoft thinks Skype is so important that they paid $1 billion dollars for the service.
I have already mentioned some of the recent ways that we are communicating to many people at once. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Blogs, personal websites, are many of the most popular. We can also mention podcasts, either audio or video. Webcasts fall into this category where someone presents a program, information, or training from one computer to any number of people who are interested.
We would use this service to make presentations to a group, such as a computer user group, utilizing one or more presenters and having it projected to an audience in 1 room. Some services require payment per “seat”, and in this instance, the audience is considered one, but could be many people in the room. The presenters may be in different locations, and each would require a “seat.”
Using this category would require more equipment and probably a person dedicated to controlling the communications flow. This would be more like a television or radio show with an undetermined audience. Using these services might include several presenters in various locations, some type of presentation, live or recorded, and being moderated by these presenters, instant messaging by the audience, and having a wide audience.
This is similar to One to Many, but can include several presenters to a wide audience or a meeting, such as a board meeting where all of the participants can communicate between themselves. It can be a teacher conducting a class where the students can communicate with the instructor and/or with each other.
Many of the available services include audio and video. Some are only audio. There are some that are only video, and audio is supplied by an additional service or a third party, such as telephone conferencing. Some allow audio through the Internet and some by telephone, with others making it possible for both to connect with each other.
Each of these categories will be used in evaluating and reviewing services in the coming months. Don Singleton and I will be testing various services in the coming months and publishing them. I will update and maintain a chart to compare these services. No one service solves everyone’s concerns or needs. You will have to examine each service to see if it fits your requirements.
Some of your requirements may include:
Which category fits your needs? Which category might fit for you or your organization? In the coming months you will see the results of our research and testing. I will post a comparison chart soon and will be keeping it updated.