The changing face of TokBox

Today is a big day for TokBox.  We released a new version of TokBox that is the culmination of several months of hard work by our product and engineering teams.  This updated version of TokBox comes in response to all the feedback we’ve received over the last 3 or 4 months, about how we could improve things and truly become the simplest group video conferencing service on the web.

I wanted to take the time to explain not just what we’ve changed, but also why we did it and to invite your feedback.

The changes we made fall in to a few key categories.

  • Signing up to TokBox – We have re-organized our product line up so that you can make a straightforward choice about which product is right for your group video-conferencing needs, either Video Chat, Video Meeting or Video Conference.  All of these products are available via an affordable, monthly subscription with additional upgrades available such as increased audience size or dial-in functionality. See more on our Features & Pricing page.
  • Adding contacts to your TokBox account – There are 3 ways to add people to your account – connect to an existing IM or Facebook account, find people you know on TokBox, or invite people you know to join TokBox.  Our new contact list aims to make this quicker and easier. Find out more.
  • Inviting people to a TokBox call – There are also multiple ways to invite people to join a TokBox call – invite someone from your contact list, send out an email, share the call URL or even promote the call via Facebook or Twitter. See more.
  • Scheduling calls in advance – This functionality is now only available or even visible if you are a subscriber to either our Video Meeting or Video Conference product. For more information on subscriptions and pricing click here. (Currently you will need to sign up for a new account (using a new email address) to upgrade to Video Meeting or Video Conference, but we should have that fixed in the next couple of weeks so you can simply upgrade your existing account).
  • Organizing a call with an audience (formerly known as Broadcast Video Chat) – Earlier this year, we launched the ability to “add an audience” of up to 200 people to your video call.  We called it Broadcast Video Chat.  We have now called this product Video Conference. Same functionality, different name and more cost effective price. Find out more.
  • In-call features – The one change here is that the ability to share SlideShare presentations and collaborate on documents is now a premium feature, available with subscription to our Video Meeting product.  Sharing YouTube videos or Picasa/Flickr albums remains free with our Video Chat product.
  • Sending video messages – Video messaging functionality is now the TokBox equivalent of leaving a voice mail.  If you call someone and they do not respond, leave a quick video message.  You won’t be able to send stand-alone video messages anymore. See more.
  • Managing your TokBox account – All of the controls for managing your account have been grouped, under the rather obviously named “Account” in the top right hand corner of the page.  Here you can updated your profile, manage your subscriptions, change your camera, mic and privacy settings and even log out of TokBox.

Some of you may have experienced some of these improvements already as we have been testing them with select groups of users over the past few weeks to try and work out what was and wasn’t working.  If you have, we hope you enjoyed them and if you haven’t yet, we hope you do.

Obviously, I hope that you think that all the changes are improvements, but I can’t promise that we got it all right first time.  So, please send us your thoughts to feedback@tokbox.com or join me and the TokBox team in a TokBox call on Monday July 26th at 6pm PST to tell us directly what we still need to work on. Click here to join.

Micky and the TokBox Team

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Adding contacts to your TokBox contact list

One of the questions we often get from existing TokBox-ers is “How do I add contacts to my TokBox contact list?”, so I thought it would be worthwhile sharing the basics here.  In short, there are two ways you can add contacts 1) one at a time 2) entire contact lists.

Starting with adding individuals one at a time, here are the steps.

If you are looking for an existing TokBox user, enter their name or email address in our search box.  Once you have your results, you can add them as a contact.

If they are not a TokBox user, then you can click on “Add account” at the bottom of the contact list and choose “Add contact”.  Enter their email address and they will be invited to join TokBox.  Once they do, they will appear in your contact list.

Next, if you would like to add an entire contact list, you can add lists from Gmail/Gtalk, Yahoo, AIM or MSN Messenger.

Simply click on “Add” at the bottom of your contact list and choose “Add account”.  You will be asked to enter your user name and password for the account you are adding.  Once you do that, all the contacts from that account will appear in your contact list.  You will then be able to see when they are on or offline and be able to easily call them or send them an instant message.


We hope this helps and as always, feel free to send us an email at help@tokbox.com if we can give you any other pointers.

Micky

Top tips for a successful TokBox Broadcast Video Chat

Since we launched Broadcast Video Chat a couple of months ago we’ve had a lot of different people use it. There was of course the US Fish and Wildlife Service, our friends at Real Life Plus, the Critical Care team from a large national hospital and finally, this weekend the folks at Novoe Radio.

In talking to some of these people, we thought it would be interesting to share some tips on how to have a successful Broadcast Video Chat:

1. Make sure everyone has the correct URL for the chat

There are two URLs for every Broadcast Video Chat.  One is for people who are “on-screen” who will be doing most of the talking and presenting, the other is for “off-screen” participants who are going to be mainly watching and listening.

2. Ask people to check their camera and microphone in advance

This will save set-up time at the beginning of the chat.  They can simply go to tokbox.com, sign up for a free account, start a chat.  If they can see themselves and the audio meter is active, then they’re good to go.  Otherwise, they need to click on the “wrench” in the video chat to check the correct camera and microphone are being picked up.

3. Use an external microphone, particularly if you have multiple people in the same room, using the same computer

If you have multiple people in the same room, using the same computer, you should use an external microphone to help prevent issues with echo.  There are lots to choose from, but an inexpensive option is this Logitech noise-cancelling microphone

4. Set your privacy settings for Instant Messages to “allow from anyone”

This will enable you to follow all the text chat that takes place within the Broadcast Video Chat. Simply go to My Account and select Privacy.  Set the Instant Message option to “Allow from anyone”

5. Set up your media in advance

If you have presentations, videos or photos to share, set them up in advance to prevent any last minute panics.  Simply click on the “TV icon” at the top of the page for your Broadcast Video Chat.  Add the URLs for your videos, presentations etc. and click “Queue”.  When you come back to start the chat, they will be there ready for you to share.

6. “Plant” some questions before the chat starts

As with any conference, there’s always a little shyness on the part of the audience.  Ask a few people to think up questions and submit a video question in advance by clicking on the chat URL in advance and then clicking “Record a question”.  As the moderator you can then share this in the chat and inspire others to ask a question.

7.  Appoint an “off-screen” moderator

If you’re expecting a large crowd and for there to be a lot of discussion, you should try and appoint a moderator to field video questions, manage the sharing of presentations and generally make sure things run smoothly.  This moderator can produce the chat from off-screen so they can be multi-tasking and not appear distracted on-screen or take up valuable space 🙂

8. Have a ‘dress rehearsal’ with the “moderator” and “speakers”

Try and get everyone together in advance of the meeting and make sure they have familiarized themselves with all of the features and functionality, particularly if you are going to ask them to moderate the chat at any point.

If you’ve tried a Broadcast and have some more tips and tricks to share, please let us know or simply comment here on the blog post.

Micky
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Apple embracing video chat – it’s about (face) time

The announcement of the iPhone 4 with front facing camera has been long awaited by those in the video chat and video conferencing space, even before the leak a couple of months ago.  For us at TokBox, its something we have been hoping to see launched for some time. Here at TokBox, we’re huge believers in the power of face-to-face communication to create more engaged and engaging conversation between people in different places.  Our mission is to make it so easy for groups to video chat that those kinds of conversations and interactions happen everyday at home, in the office, or wherever you are. Mobile is a key part of that mission.

Until now every time a user has asked me if they can use TokBox on their cell phone, I have had to say no.  In the North American market, there just aren’t a lot of smart phones with front-facing cameras.  On top of that, carriers haven’t exactly been competing to be first in line to carry two-way video traffic.

Today’s announcement from Apple is clearly a step in the right direction.  Person-to-person video chat on the new iPhone will introduce more people to the power of face-to-face video communication and hopefully it will encourage other manufacturer to add front-facing high-resolution video cameras to their list of smartphone capabilities.

As front-facing cameras become commonplace and carriers step up to carrying two-way video traffic, we are looking forward to the possibilities of taking TokBox’s group video communication truly mobile – moving it out of the office and off the desktop.  We’re working hard on making that happen, but for the moment our engineers are under strict instructions not to leave anything lying around in a bar…

In short, we’re excited to see that Apple has finally realized what we knew all along – that face time is the future of communications. It’s personal, it’s engaging and it has huge potential.

Micky

National Small Business Week: Social Media and Small Businesses

National Small Business Week kicked off in Washington, DC this week and it looks like the next few days will be jam-packed for those attending.  Discussions range from the impact of Small Businesses on America’s economy to Innovation and Social Media, and of course they will be announcing the winner of National Small Business Person of the Year.

I for one am particularly interested to hear what they have to say about Social Media and Small Businesses.  Recently I have been talking to businesses of all sizes about how they are leveraging Social Media in more and more innovative ways.  One trend I see emerging is the use of new Social Media tools to build deeper relationships with customers, one that goes beyond 140 characters and one that drives true engagement with the brand.

I thought that in the spirit of National Small Business Week I would share some of the innovative ways in which TokBox is being used to do that with you.

Real Life Plus is a virtual world that is actively engaging with their community to build their product.  They haven’t launched yet, but they regularly get their community together on TokBox, using Broadcast Video Chat, to get feedback on features, to generate new ideas and keep their ears (and eyes) to the ground on what is happening in the gaming world.  They simply circulate the chat URL and everyone hops on!

Long-time TokBox user, Scott Jordan from Scottevest, uses TokBox video messaging a lot to send video messages to his users rather than just emails. Whether he is trying to introduce a new product or answer a customer question, it helps to put a face to the brand and makes him stand out from the crowd.   We were also interested to see self-confessed Marketing “geek” Lorraine Ball talk about using TokBox in the same way on the Marketing Tech Blog only last week.

The Marketing “geek” in me thinks that one of the most powerful ways to use TokBox to engage with customers is for customer service.  My own personal belief is that customer service is one of the most powerful tools that any marketer has.  If you receive high-quality service you not only form a positive opinion of that brand, but you’re also more likely to tell your friends about it.  Couple high-quality service with being able to offer that service face-to-face, rather than via ‘phone or email, and I think you’re on to a winner.

We have been experimenting with doing this ourselves, hosting Broadcast Video Chats on TokBox for anyone to join with their questions, comments or ideas.  We’ll be doing another one of those this Friday at 11am PST, so feel free to join us to talk about innovative ways in which you use Social Media tools, including TokBox, or simply to share your ideas with us! Just click on this link to join the call  http://www.tokbox.com/Micky/TokBox-Community-Call

I look forward to talking to you then.

Micky

Take a tour of new features with the TokBox team

A few weeks ago I invited people to join me in a video chat to show them our new moderation & scheduling features and give me their feedback.  It was a great chat and the people that participated gave me some interesting ideas to share with the TokBox team.  It also seemed, in listening to the Twitter-sphere, that there were more of you that would have liked to take part.  So, we’re going to do it again, this time with more advance warning so you can get it on to your busy calendars 🙂

So, join me and some other members of the TokBox team on Wednesday 31st March at 10am PST. Update: Moved to Wednesday 31st March at 2pm PST We’ll take a tour of some of the new TokBox features that will have launched the day before (they’re still a secret, for now), share some things that we’re thinking about doing and of course, our ears will be perked to hear your ideas and feedback.

So, join me next Wednesday, 31st March at 10am PST. Update: Moved to Wednesday 31st March at 2pm PST I’ll be sending the link out via the blog, Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday next week.

I look forward to chatting with you then.

Micky

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No more Public Posts

If you’re reading this, you are probably wondering one of three things:

  1. Why can’t I find Public Posts?
  2. Why can’t I make a Public Post or comment on an existing one?
  3. What’s going to happen to all the Public Posts I have made in the past?

So I am going to attempt all three of those questions here.

After a lot of discussion and healthy debate, we decided to remove the Public Posts feature from TokBox.  I know there has been a lot of discussion amongst the community about whether we were going to do this, as well as lots of great suggestions about what we could do to control the sometimes ‘inappropriate’ posts and comments.  We considered all of those ideas, but at the end of the day we decided to focus our energy on what we’re really good at – multi-party chat.

So, as from today, you won’t be able to make any new posts or add any comments.

But, if you created a Public Post in the past (or a video comment), don’t worry there is a way to keep it.  Here’s how.

Simply go to your profile, decide which of your posts you want to keep and click on “Forward”. You can then send the post as a video message to yourself, to keep forever.  (If there is a particularly special video comment you want to keep, you’ll need to watch the comment and at the end there will be the option to “Forward” the post).  You’ll need to do this in the next 30 days, as after that the posts will no longer be visible.

And, remember, if you do want to record a video message and send it to a group of people, you can do the same thing our with video message feature.

I look forward to chatting to you on TokBox soon.

Micky
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Micky O'Brien