I just spend the last hour and a half using the virtual chat feature on the Suncoast site talking about competition details and issues for the FTCC. Let me tell you, the chat works awesome. I mean, it actually works. This same functionality from 37 Signals' Campfire product costs about $49/month (for 60 simultaneous chatters), but with the shoutbox plugin for Wordpress (actually Pierre's Wordspew, which is a modified version of the Jaleneck AJAX Shoutbox), it's totally free. Here's what the message window part looks like:
I set the reload time to 0.1 seconds (from 4 seconds originally), and didn't experience any hanging or waiting issues. Plus no one had to sign in. You just pick your name in a little box above the send window, and voila. I also modified the CSS of the chat box so that it would fit on a page rather than a sidebar. (The original shoutbox is styled like the image below.)
However, that said, a meeting is a meeting. If you aren't prepared, or if no one has an answer to anything, or if there are some unsolvable issues that will be difficult, the meeting is going to be just as frustrating online as in person. However, virtual meetings have several added handicaps:
However, virtual meetings have advantages:
This Thursday at 7 p.m. we're going to have a fun member meeting (not an administrative issue meeting). All members and non-members of the Suncoast chapter (Tampa Bay, Florida area) are invited. Others can listen in I suppose. I'll also post a transcript of the meeting afterwards. Overall, I'm pretty excited about virtual meetings. If you can type fast, and you have remotely located members, it works quite well. I'm hoping it will appeal to all those members who aren't coming out to the in-person meetings.
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.