2008/02/03

Stickam: Testing Remote Connections for NEW NET Meetings

Today Luke W and I, with help from several midwest tech people, tested Stickam as a technology tool for remote participation in NEW NET meetings (Northeast Wisconsin Network for Economy and Technology issues).

As mentioned in a post last week, it was decided to work on coming up with effective tools for remote participation in NEW NET meetings. Luke and Andy M are generally the brains behind implementation of technology related to NEW NET. Today was Luke's turn. He and I took a hefty load of hardware to Tom's Drive In and spent a couple hours setting up and using Stickam. Stickam provides free storage and live services including photos, videos and webcams. Today was the first day Luke did much with Stickam and he did a fantastic job setting the hardware up (two laptops, a desktop, a Logitech webcam and a Sony video camera) and getting the software working.

Once Luke got everything set up to his satisfaction, he brought in some system testers from Madison, Wisconsin and Kalamazoo, Michigan, followed later by some other Wisconsin testers. There were a few glitches, as expected. Those glitches included the video camera losing its feed because of no activity (the tape we used to keep the camera 'active' ran out), Vista refusing to play nicely, and the bandwidth at Tom's, the inherent capabilities of Stickam or some other unknown combination of issues conspiring to give us an undesirable level of lag in both the audio and video streams. Overall, however, we were very satisfied with our initial trial of Stickam and remote connections at a NEW NET meeting location.

My main problem with today's test of remote telecollaboration tools was information overload. Too many input streams for my worn out brain to cope with. Two screens each with multiple windows open, chat going on Skype, Stickam and Gchat. Skype, Stickam and who knows what other audio streams combining into one channel of voices in my head. Working on email, websites and still photos from a digital camera while also trying to keep track of what was going on with Stickam.

Good thing for me that we didn't spend any time on the remote desktop interaction tools, such as Hamachi, Zolved or LogMeIn. If Luke had been controlling my laptop's screen and cursor while I was trying to keep track of everything else going on, there may have been a temporary meltdown of my overloaded gray matter.

During the next NEW NET meeting, we'll again set up for remote connection using Stickam with Skype and AIM as our backup/default communication tools. If Stickam continues to work well, we may then try to do some remote desktop manipulations with one of the tools mentioned above. If Stickam isn't cooperating on 05 Feb, we might try Oovoo to see how that works as a multi-point video conferencing tool. And when Andy heads to England in a couple weeks, we'll try Stickam and Oovoo to see how well those work overseas as compared to just within the Midwest. At some point we'll check out Yugma and other collaborative tools that may make remote participation in NEW NET meetings fun and useful.

After several years of talking about telecollaboration tools, it feels good to be using them. Thanks, Luke!

*****

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