Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, May 9, 2003

Live Web Interaction Is Ready For Prime Time: How Can You Do Without It?

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How Can You Do Without It?
Live Web Interaction Is Ready For Prime Time

A constructive critical commentary of:

"Live Web Interaction: Is It Worth It?"
ZDNet Forums
By Timothy Hickernell
Meta Group
May 1, 2003

Though targeted and written primarily for the CRM (Customer relationship marketing) audience inside corporate and enterprise US-based companies, this overview provides ample opportunity to analyze complementary viewpoints and to expose the inconsistencies of some industry myths while providing a more comprehensive review of what the state-of-the-art Web conferencing tools can offer.

Web conferencing is only at its early stages of its long development and some of the industry assessments and expectations may be off the mark by quite a bit.

Timothy Hickernell reports for ZDNet:
"Typical live Web interaction technologies include chat, instant messaging (IM), video, voice (both voice over IP [VoIP] and initiation of PSTN callback), co-browsing, application sharing, and remote control."

There are indeed a few more things that it is wise to account for, at least in perspective of wanting to properly evaluate one product or service versus another one. Some features and facilities that have made their way to many mainstream Web conferencing tools are:

a) Session recording
b) Polling
c) Feedback facilities
d) Live annotation and markup
e) PowerPoint presentation facilities
f) File sharing/broadcasting
g) Multimedia playback
h) Event management

The list could go on but my insider stand offers me a view that is ahead of what most people will want or seek by at least one or two years. So I will limit it to the above.

*Text Chat.*
"Once a darling of the "eCRM" craze, online chat is experiencing sluggish growth due to an inability to satisfy inflated expectations among early adopters as well as the increase in service costs often experienced when it is rolled out to all customers, for any inquiry. Text chat has a poor capacity to convey information and has no capacity to detect or convey human factors (e.g., emotions, buying mood, satisfaction) without advanced text analysis."

Text chat is here to stay. What is happening is that people are finally realizing chat's own role and most effective application. While it is evident that chat proves to be highly unsuitable for meetings with more than 3-4 people, it is also not very useful when deep discussions and exchanges have to be made. On the other hand text chat is absolutely invaluable when providing a complementary communication tool to provide detailed spelling of items, URLs, names of files, technical specs, addresses, or specific step-by-step procedures.

Even during an effective videoconference the complement of text chat can be invaluable as many times attendees will want to submit questions on the spur of the moment, even while a presenter is delivering a short speech, knowing that their question will be picked up as soon as the presenter will deem it appropriate. Text chat is also in many cases the only means to provide instant feedback, uninfluenced by bandwidth limitations.

This can prove very valuable when the other party with whom you are Web conferencing is not aware of some technical problem limiting her communications. Through text chat the other party can easily prompt the user having difficulty to "turn on the volume of the speakers", "quite all applications" or whatever other appropriate action maybe necessary to take.

Finally, nothing could be further from truth when we read "Text chat has a poor capacity to convey information and has no capacity to detect or convey human factors (e.g., emotions, buying mood, satisfaction) without advanced text analysis.". Primitive text chat solutions may still suffer from such limitations, but modern day chat facilities have a lot more to offer in the way of providing the means and ease of use not only to convey information quite well, but also to express human emotions and feeling with astounding immediacy and effectiveness.

For conveying information let me give you a few examples that explain how text chat facilities can help in this direction.

a) Text formatting. This is a crucial feature which, if well implemented can significantly facilitate the end user ability to differentiate and highlight information appropriately.

b) Auto-URL detection. If I type a Web site URL, and email address or an FTP destination my text is automatically converted in an "active" clickable link.

c) Pasting images. If I can simply cut and paste small images, thumbnails or screenshots into a text chat I am further facilitated in making my information well understood.

d) Links to documents and resources. If inside the text chat window I can create links to other parts, resources or documents which are integral part of the live conference I have another great advantage.

e) Emoticons. Emoticons are small colored graphic icons which can express feelings, emotions, moods with much simplicity and extreme immediacy. Yahoo Messenger and other instant messaging and chat tools have long employed them. Emoticons are invoked by a text chat user generally through a special key combination or by direct selection through a visual catalogue. Emoticons can be static, animated and can even make sounds or pronounce words.
The use of emoticons provides for an extremely effective and easy to use approach to express human feelings and emotions in an online session. The ease of use and immediacy of this approach allows participants to be able to express and signal feedback and emotions in a much clearer and more natural way than if they were provided with full video and audio conferencing means.

d) Themes. Chat facilities can also benefit from the use of pre-designed skins, prepared to facilitate and support specific kinds of tasks or chat sessions. Such themes become therefore effective task-optimized superinterfaces, that can much better satisfy and complement the needs of specific online chat sessions by providing complementary tools, style and custom layout arrangements.

To read the remaining part of my full commentary of this ZDNet article please see my original live and uncorrected post or for a revised and more comprehensive review get the upcoming issue of MasterView International newsletter coming out on May 15th. Free subscribe to MasterView International at:

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posted by Robin Good on Friday, May 9 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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