Live conferencing - So much happening right now

still_life_04_by_eisenrah_at_flickr_opt_.jpg It might be worth trialling a couple of these, as a comparison. It would be great to find some reviews where people have already done this.

High End Tools

The 'high-end' tools include: Elluminate, Horizon Wimba, and Centra.

(Have also heard of one called 'Meeting Place', but no reviews. And another known as WebEx apparently has real time meeting software included.)

More affordable alternatives

Both of these tools have voice and text communication, a whiteboard, ability to share presentations and web browsing:
  • DiscoverE (formerly "CompuEd", based in Perth, WA), is popular with Dorothy Waterhouse, (who runs the EquitE network, looking at techno-tools for ESL and literacy), and
  • iVocalize, which ACAL has been using for their Literacy Live room
  • Adobe has a little known product called Connect, which appears to cost around aud$50 / month

Other, less known, conferencing applications include

  • iVisit, an audio-visual application that is desktop-based, mac/win, and seeems affordable (they have a free 'lite' version, but you'll need at least 128k connection).
  • Vaestro, a free web-based "voice board", ie. threaded discussion through voice messages (not real time),
  • Userplane, a web-based voice chat room (packages 'start at free'). No whiteboard, just voice and text (real time), and also
  • NEW, an open-source conferencing platform, which claims to have whiteboard, audio and text chat. (Has anyone had a chance trial this one? Looks challenging to me ..)
  • Web Huddle is another 'emerging' open source solution. Seems to be in early development. Robin Good reviewed this one in Aug. '05.
  • Plus, DimDim, is an open source project, currently in "alpha" development (meaning not even ready for testing / beta). Could be worth keeping an eye on, though.
  • e-Presence is a mix of open source and commercial. Seems like their presentation software is free, but their live interaction is subscription only.

Other voice / phone tools

Day_58-365_by_martianmermaid.jpg There are other programs which sit on your desktop (rather than the web), and which enable telephone-like, voice-enabled meetings with a smaller number of people, eg
  • Skype, the big name at the moment, (which lets you set up a "skypecast", with up to 100 participants. Not sure if all can participate, or only be audience)
  • Google Talk, which has received good reviews for using open protocols,
  • Gizmo Project, which is now offering free calls to actual telephone numbers (*conditions apply :)
(These programs require more of your end users than the conferencing option, and have a limit of five people per room. On the other hand, they are hugely popular, and can be used to talk with a wider range of people, so .. this is partly a case of meeting room vs telephone.)

Associated applications, eg whiteboard, desktop-sharing

Instant message tools

Windows (MSN) messenger, and Yahoo messenger also have newly jumped into the voice side of things. Definitely worth trying out.

Articles and reviews

There's a good collection of slightly-reviewed links, at the UK e-learning centre.
A site called "Think of it" offers a huge list of links to real time conferencing tools, with basic info about each one. Good reference.

Michael Coghlan is one of the pioneering experts on voice online, and live conferencing:

You can also catch Michael in a session (in NetSpot / Horizon Wimba), called "Synch and Swim .. How to effectively facilitate Live Online events" - details at NetSpot (the session is slow to start, but you can navigate).

Robin Good is well regarded as a new technology reviewer - Robin has a guide to live conferencing tools (not free, but you can have a 'trial view', of some parts of the site).

(image: thanks for Day 58/365 by martianmermaid at flickr, and Still Life 04 by Eisenrah at flickr.)